There's a large part of me that never wants to write or read anything along the lines of "Diablo 3 announcement coming?" ever again. However, we are approaching something of a critical mass, so one more time... The Blizzard Worldwide Invitational hits Paris at the weekend (I'll be there, trying not to stare at girls dressed as elves), and tradition dictates there'll be an unveiling of a new game there. Well, we already know about Starcraft 2 and WoW: Anger of the Zombie Monarch, so everyone's inevitably shouting Diablo III. There are, though, a ton of alternatives - Warcraft IV, Starcraft: Ghost, World of Starcraft or, heaven forfend, A New IP.
So what's it gonna be? Blizzard have been openly teasing fans for the last couple of days. The basts.
Notably, they've posted a slowly changing splash image on the front page of their website. It's either ice, a magic crystal or Superman's Fortress of Solitude (which is sort of both of the above), but either way it's cracking open to reveal... what? WHAT COULD IT BE? I really hope it's some very long, detailed patch notes about minor statistical changes to Tailoring in World of Warcraft. That would rock.
While the icy theme would seem to support some sort of new revelation about Fury of The Undead Prime Minster, Blizzard fans have somewhat higher expectations. There's a hint of something runic beneath the splintering crystal, which apparently bear significant resemblance to sigils from Diablo. And also from WoW. Sigh. There have also been hidden art files found in Blizzard.com's .css files, which appear to be building up into something Walrusy. Which again suggests the revelation is something to do with Rage of the Ghoul President. God! Blizzard do, of course, have a habit of leg-pulling - their annual April fool's gag for instance, so it's very hard to ascertain what to take from any of this.
Diablofans (the site formerly known as diablo3.com, that URL recently having been purchased by Blizzard - "They acquire new domains all the time", apparently) has a startling amount of detail/speculation on the matter. It's a little scary but worth a read, as they're amassing a ton of possible evidence.
On the one hand their elaborate, almost ARG-level theories on what's going on are convincing because they've so much more knowledge of Blizzard game mythos than I.
On the other hand, comments such as "The speculation was true: D (04.jpg - fourth letter of the alphabet) and today's image O (15.jpg - 15th letter of the alphabet). At this rate the image numbers will reveal DIABLO. Tomorrow's image might be named as any of these file names ... 01.jpg (standing for the first letter of the alphabet: A), 02.jpg (standing for B), 12 (standing for the twelve letter of the alphabet: L) or 09.jpg (standing for the nineth letter of the alphabet: I)" sound like the ravings of madmen. So I really am none the wiser.
A further gobbet of detail which excited me the most was someone stumbling across the personal site of Blizzard artist Peter Lee, which, alongside concept art for existing Blizz games, recently sprouted an empty folder marked with a coming soon message and called 'Hydra'. Could this mean a new game? Oh, if only. It's been a long, long time since Blizzard ventured outside of their holy trinity. I do miss their old diversity. Here's hoping - though more likely Hydra's a codename for whatever sequel the weekend's revelation turns out to be. Soon after the discovery, Lee's site was replaced with an "under construction message." I do hope he's not dead.
Really, it's hard to think it'll be anything other than a Diablo game - to throw another War or Starcraft into the mix right now just seems confusing and excessive. But what do we even want Diablo III to be - a straight, shiny sequel, or something more MMO esque? That it'll be a darker affair than WoW and SC2's cartoon gloss does at least seem a given. It would, after all, be a sequel to a game whose conclusion involved the player forcibly ramming a crystal into his own skull to contain the titular villain, only to have the bugger then possess him and head off on a killing spree.
Anyway, all will be revealed at the weekend - so here's hoping it is the expected, and we don't ever have to run any more Diablo 3 rumour stories.