The Making of Diablo

Most of you are probably already familar with the birth of Condor Games'/Blizzard North's original Diablo, but if not, there's a four-page "The Making of Diablo" editorial ready for your scrutiny over at NowGamer. To sweeten the deal, lead designer David Brevik contributes quite a bit of commentary:
You might wonder where Blizzard got the idea for such a game. Brevik lifts the veil, (There were many, many games that influenced Diablo's design, but if I had to narrow it down to a handful, I would say that Moria a Unix-based text game and Warcraft were the biggest,) he confesses. (Moria was a big influence on the core structure of the game: it had a single town with a few shops and an infinitely deep, random dungeon down below. It also had lots of random items, and a second version of the game sported named unique monsters. Warcraft was an influence because of the twist it had put on traditional gaming: what was turn based in the past, Warcraft made real-time. This is the twist we applied to RPGs with Diablo.)

It was that real-time twist that changed mainstream perception of RPGs, forever. Rather than engage you in turn-based or pseudo-real-time bouts, Diablo allowed you to fiercely attack multiple enemies, often simultaneously. And how did it do that? Well, first, by abandoning the traditional Dungeons & Dragons framework. (Because of the mechanics of Diablo's real-time environment, we had to change how the numbers worked for this sort of game,) explains Brevik. (It had to be balanced in such a way that it was action packed and involving. With pen and paper RPGs, fights can take a long time, because each round can last ten to fifteen minutes in a normal-sized group. As a result, the numbers are different. You don't want there to be 25 rounds, but you might want that out of a Diablo boss monster.)


Usually when developers put so much energy into creating absolutely flawless gameplay, the story can often take a back seat. Not Blizzard, though. It put a lot of thought into creating a new, darkly refreshing fantasy setting, far from the Tolkien reruns that gamers had become overly acquainted with. (We wanted to make a less warm-and-fuzzy type of game and put RPGs in a darker place,) Brevik says. (I was never a big fan of elves, unicorns and dragons. I thought that a zombie-infested game with demons was a far more attractive prospect than the Tolkien-esque stuff. We wanted a far grittier atmosphere to the game. I never really set out to make it strictly for a more mature audience, but we made it the way we found most interesting and different.)

If the gothic art direction wasn't enough, Diablo's unforgettably haunting guitar-and-synth music walked all over traditional fantasy scores. Brevik concedes that it was all part of the plan, (It was all about the mood. We wanted to twist up everything,) he says. (Matt Ulemen is a brilliant composer who did a fantastic job with the game. We knew we would end up with something unconventional when we hired him. It helped us break many of the traditional RPG clichés.)