The Story of Blizzard's Diablo Junior

Earlier this year, we got a chance to learn that between working on Diablo and Diablo II, some Blizzard North employees had plans to put together a so-called Diablo Junior game for Nintendo's portable Game Boy console. Not a whole lot is known about this short-lived project, but this recent Nintendo Life article manages to shed some light on it. The article features a number of quotes from Diablo Junior's developers, an early sketch, and even a UI mock-up. A few sample paragraphs:

The team came up with several story ideas before deciding that Diablo Junior would be a prequel to the first game. There would be three major cities, each leading players toward the center of the world and encounters with hordes of monsters and bosses. "The original idea, I think, was there were going to be three or four classes, and which class you picked determined which city you started in," Alan recalls.

They planned on three heroes, and each would start their adventure in a different city. After leaving their starting city, players would enter one of two common areas. For example, a knight and spellcaster might enter plains reminiscent of Diablo II's first act, while another class would set foot in a desert. "So you could play as the knight and you start in a different city. It's a unique area for you, but then one area is shared after that, and then another area is shared," Alan explains.

Jon and Steven created a development environment on their computers. Alan and Stefan created art assets for characters, items, and dungeons that resembled the cathedral stages from Diablo. They committed to nothing. Early assets were meant as experiments, quick and simple tests they threw together just to get the hang of developing for Game Boy and following the Blizzard North model of getting a prototype running to see how it looked and played.

The team had just hit a major milestone, getting a character roaming through a dungeon, when Blizzard South contacted the bosses with concerns. "From what I remember the Blizzard South guys ran it through the accounting and determined that it was too risky financially," says Steven.

The article was penned by one David L. Craddock, who you may know as the author of Stay Awhile and Listen - a non-fiction book that explores the origins of Blizzard North and Blizzard Entertainment. And in fact, the article itself is an excerpt from the second entry in the Stay Awhile and Listen series that has December 10, 2019 listed as its publication date. If you're interested in a bit of well-researched Blizzard history, you should consider picking it up. Here's the official description:

Orcs and Humans. Angels and Devils. North and South. Harmony and Discord.Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II – Heaven, Hell, and Secret Cow Levels continues the saga of the two Blizzards—Blizzard Entertainment, creator of the groundbreaking WarCraft series of strategy titles, and Blizzard North, architect of Diablo's digital hellscape—as both studios struggle to find their identity and forge a path forward.Threatened by competition in the space they popularized, Blizzard Entertainment looks to the stars to build a new franchise and evolve into a well-oiled machine. No longer the underdog, Blizzard North takes Diablo out of murky dungeons and across deserts, jungles, and snowy mountaintops.Success comes at a cost. Corporate greed threatens to overshadow artistic breakthroughs, new talent throws company cultures into flux, and a passion to be the best result in brutal work schedules, broken relationships, and creative burnout that incapacitates visionaries and leaves their teams directionless.Weaving together the making of bestselling products and the crucibles of the people who made them, Stay Awhile and Listen: Book II tells the story of two teams that formed an unstoppable juggernaut even as they proved too combustible to co-exist.