Diablo + Space = Starblo (Calm Down, It Doesn’t Exist)

By Alec Meer on October 24th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Starblowing, across the universe

It’s been a long time since Blizzard added a new string to its bow o’universes, but not so long ago a fourth franchise was on the cards. In the time-honoured tradition of fantasying up Warcraft into Starcraft, so at one point was Diablo to be sent to space, in a game that never quite made it past the unfortunate portmanteau working title ‘Starblo.’

This lost chapter of Blizzard history arrives courtesy of ‘Stay Awhile And Listen’, an impending unofficial book on this behemoth among PC game developers, by one David Craddock. He shared some details with Shacknews, which intended to publish a full chapter of the book soon. Craddock claims that, after Diablo II came out, the Diablo team split into two arms – one carrying on with Diablo stuff, the other pursuing new ideas. The apple rarely falling too far from the clicky-click tree, That idea turned out to be a sci-fi Diablo.

“The project earned the nickname Starblo for its mix of a space setting and the action-RPG formula that made Diablo so successful,” Craddock told Shack. “Like Diablo 2, Starblo would take place over several acts, but rather than journey across a single world, players would board their customizable spaceship and travel to new planets, killing and looting the space creatures they found there.”

Gas-powered Games had a crack at space-Diablo, with the ill-fated and abominable Space Siege. I still wonder at how and why that game was quite so awful to this day. But I really wouldn’t mind seeing what Blizzard could do with that setup.

Apparently a few playable builds were created, though a less stupid name was not, but the lead minds behind it left for pastures new in 2003. Maybe that idea still lives within Blizzard somewhere, though even if does that firm’s wheels turn so damn slowly we probably wouldn’t hear about it for another 20 years.

Wonder what Blizzard’s next big move will be, actually. With all three of Blizzard’s franchises currently going concerns, surely it can’t be long until they take the wraps off something new.

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59 Comments »

  1. c-Row says:

    So, basically Crusader: No [Suffix] but outside?

  2. pupsikaso says:

    I wouldn’t mind a Diablo like in space. I think that would certainly spark up my interest in this genre again.

    • f1x says:

      Yeap, I imagine it sort as Crusader: No remorse but with loots
      :D

    • c-Row says:

      You could add the starship sections from Unreal 2 as well to replace the town in Diablo. Instead of a weaponsmith, a healer and a chest to keep your loot in, you would have a weapons lab guy, the medbay and a locker with various weapon/armour sets.

      • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

        That’s the first time I’ve ever heard anyone say that something needs to be more like Unreal 2.

      • Dominare says:

        If its going to be like Unreal 2 then at least one of the shopkeepers needs to have inexplicably gigantic knockers on display for no apparent reason.

    • x1501 says:

      You could play Space Siege, but I don’t think it would do your interest in the the genre any good.

      • LintMan says:

        You *might* be able to play Space Seige. Or not. I bought it during a Steam sale back in the Windows Vista days, and it turns out the game was incompatible with Vista (and of course, Steam support was useless). I checked up on it in the forums every 6 months or so, with no luck. Eventually, Win7 came out but around that time I stopped caring, so I’m not sure if they ever did get it working.

    • ChampionHyena says:

      You could also play Phantasy Star Online. Not exactly a 1-to-1 with Diablo, but it does have small parties, instances, tons of loot (some of which must be identified), portals back to town to vend said loot, and real-time-ish combat.

    • qrter says:

      Or you could try Drox Operative. from the same people who made Din’s Curse and Depth of Peril.

      http://www.soldak.com/Drox-Operative/Overview.html

  3. Troll says:

    Looks photoshopped tbh.

  4. The Random One says:

    I’m glad this went nowhere, or I would have to rename the alien prostitutes in my Star Trek fan fiction.

  5. frightlever says:

    Isn’t Soldak doing something like this?

    Ah, here we go:

    http://www.soldak.com/Drox-Operative/Overview.html

  6. coldvvvave says:

    Anyone remember Warcraft 2000?

  7. Splatterpope says:

    How about Harbinger? About as close as you can get to Diablo in space.

  8. Miltrivd says:

    I’m gonna go and say that if Blizzard made it I wouldn’t look forward to it so much. I haven’t really liked their games since Warcraft III.

    The idea is appealing tho, but It would really need to push the genre forward for once, since melee weapons wouldn’t make much sense in a technologically advanced scenario, and everyone pew-pewing would make it an isometric Borderlands (which would be hilarious since Borderlands is Diablo with weapons and first person).

  9. ChampionHyena says:

    The GPG misfire was Space Siege. Starsiege was the mech-stompy forerunner to Tribes.

  10. BreadBitten says:

    “STARBLO…I choose you!”

  11. povu says:

    ‘With all three of Blizzard’s franchises currently going concerns, surely it can’t be long until they take the wraps off something new.’

    In the end, there’ll just be Starblocraft.

  12. InternetBatman says:

    It was probably kept around and morphed into Project Titan.

    Speaking of space rpgs, I wish more ARPGs were like Zax.

    • Shuck says:

      “It was probably kept around and morphed into Project Titan.”
      Probably not, really. None of the people who worked on this are still with Blizzard. Whatever “Titan” is, it’ll be something completely new. (And not in the Diablo 3 way where they threw out the existing game and started over with a new team, but a new idea that coincidentally also happens to be sci-fi.)

  13. JademusSreg says:

    This reminds me; the StarCraft 2 mpq files (the MoPaQ archives which store the game data) contain, among other things, an incomplete file named “Stariablo”. This article provides some much needed context.

  14. fco says:

    raise hand if you automatically read ‘Stay Awhile And Listen’ in proper Cain voice.

  15. misterT0AST says:

    I liked Star Siege.
    I thought the atmosphere was remarkably creepy. Remember the two twins that share one brain and talk in unison?
    It took me two or three visits to them before fully realising how actually terrifying that concept was.
    Everything was colorful and dark at the same time, and some things gave me an utter sense of dread.
    Like the fact that you can amputate your own body parts to get bionic limbs, but every time you lose a percentage of “humanity” and the ending gets a little worse.

    EDIT: that was “Space Siege”, not “Star Siege”, sorry. My mistake, Move along, nothing to see here.

    • Beemann says:

      Edit: NVM misread your edit
      From what I gathered concerning the game, the combat wasn’t very good and I remember hearing some things about atrocious bugs

      The whole amputation-changes-the-end bit does seem like a very Chris Taylor mechanic though, and I’ve always been somewhat curious as to how the game turned out, given that I’m a huge fan of Supreme Commander and played the crap out of the first Dungeon Siege (I have a signed copy of it somewhere)

  16. smeaa mario says:

    I know I keep saying it on every possible occasion but what the heck, I will repeat it again. Blizzard is fully dead to me now after what they did with D3. I will not even slightly consider purchasing any of their work ever again. They literally and criminally betrayed us all. They sinned and deserve to be shred into pieces by the claws of the actual lord of hell.
    Well, I shouldn’t even have bought that piece of crap just because of the always online DRM anyway.

  17. BAshment says:

    Pulling mob’s with a tractor beam, defiantly getting nerfed.

  18. Skabooga says:

    All the space actors in their cosmic clubs doing starblo.

  19. Shuck says:

    Funny/sad story: when Blizzard North was shut down, some of the team working on this developed a new version, which they tried shopping around to various publishers. None of the publishers they talked to would touch it, explaining that “sci-fi RPGs don’t sell.” Fast forward a few years and Mass Effect came out, proving the publishers wrong, but by which point the developers had already moved on to other things.

    • Lacero says:

      The publisher model is broken. Kickstarter just proves it.

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        Kickstarter is still dealing in peanuts compared to publisher coconuts my friend

        • Lacero says:

          I would say not funding niche games there is demand for at a less than $10M is broken. It’s a huge gap in what the existing model is capable of.

          Paradox are the only publisher who operate in this way, everyone else is racing to the AAA top as fast as they can and leaving a lot of customers behind.

          • Shuck says:

            Unfortunately Kickstarter doesn’t really address the failings of the publisher system as it’s so far outside what publishers do. First of all, it doesn’t actually fund games. Most successful Kickstarter campaigns raise a few thousand dollars. That’s not a game budget. Less than 1% raise more than a million dollars, and of of those, only a couple have raised amounts for even small game budgets. Also, it shares some of the same failings – look at the projects that raised even those modest amounts. They’re by well-known developers doing more of the same of what sold in the past. So the dynamics are the same, even if the amounts of money are different.

          • Caiman says:

            I’d still like to know how much of these publisher-funded multi-million dollar AAA budgets are the costs of having to deal with the publisher, including regular publisher meetings, reports that need to be made, changes that need to be made due to “interference”, their “cut”, etc etc. I would imagine it’s not insignificant. It makes some of these studio-based KS budgets a little more realistic, I think.

          • Shuck says:

            Although I’ve worked at companies where it felt like there was a whole layer of upper management that existed only to deal with the publisher, the costs really aren’t that huge in reality. In fact, Kickstarter could be more expensive in that you have pump out information, screenshots, movies, etc to update your backers instead of the publisher, plus without a publisher, you have to take on all the marketing costs as well. Game dev costs are pretty straightforward – lots of people are working for a long time on the project, and you have salaries, benefits and office space. Most of these Kickstarter devs are living off day jobs and savings, not their raised funds. I’d be curious to know how many developers on Kickstarter have offices, but I’m guessing it’s not much more than 1%, with not all of them able to use Kickstarter funds to pay the rent.

  20. Freud says:

    Usually space RPGs are pretty much fantasy in space, where some sort of psi abilities get to replace magic. Not that it’s automatically a bad idea, but it’s not all that original.

    • jpvg says:

      Usually Fantasy RPGs are pretty much scifi on a single alien planet where some of the magic abilities get to replace psi. Not that it’s automatically a bad idea, but it’s not all that original.

    • Dominare says:

      They can call it what they want, but its still just magic. See e.g. Mass Effect. Scifi weapons, magical powers.

  21. Foosnark says:

    I so wanted Hellgate London to be Cyberpunk/Horror DIablo. Alas.

  22. fish99 says:

    Darkspore wasn’t *too* terrible.

  23. briktal says:

    They made a Diablo in space. It was called Freelancer.

  24. Ahtaps says:

    I would love to see Blizzard do something like Greed: Black Borders. The game was clunky but not that bad and the music was fantastic so I reckon that Blizzard could take the idea to the next level.

  25. MadTinkerer says:

    ” I still wonder at how and why that game was quite so awful to this day.”

    As Space Siege’s #1 fan(in that it’s definitely not in my list of top 100 favorites, but overall is a game I definitely enjoyed), I’ll say it’s pretty simple. It’s not a diablo-like. It’s a FPS with Diablo-like controls. It has more FPS mechanics than Diablo-like mechanics, and those Diablo-like mechanics are barely implemented. The levels are laid out like FPS levels, and not randomized. There’s even explosive barrels and such.

    If they had just gone all the way and made a FPS and kept most of the mechanics and levels and plot the same (fixing or just dropping the Diablo-ish stuff in favor of something more Half Life-ish or whatever), people might have been commenting about how it’s the missing link in between System Shock 2 and Dead Space. Instead, it’s what I consider to be one of the biggest missed opportunities of all time.

    It’s not so much a good game as a “guilty pleasure”. Parts of it are competently made. Other parts are broken or horrifically mediocre (such as weapon customization). If you don’t mind trying a game that’s definitely not “one of the best”, it’s a good example of a broken experiment whose team had their hearts in the right place but faceplanted on liftoff.

    I could totally see someone taking the core ideas and making a sequel that’s actually good.

  26. d32 says:

    “Doom: Fall of Mars” is best Diablo in space! Two doses of nostalgia combined, plus one dose of fun.
    Too bad it didn’t get finished.

    “Shadowgrounds: Survivor” also almost fits this category and is a good game.

    Apart from that… Greed and Siege and Hellgate are not very good and I didn’t find anything else to scratch my need for Diablo in future :(

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