David Brevik, the project, design and programming lead on Diablo and Diablo II, has given us his thoughts on Diablo III, saying that the game's focus on grinding for gold over searching for items "loses a lot of what the game is about".
Speaking to us at Gamescom in Cologne, Brevik – who is now president and COO of Marvel Heroes developer Gazillion Entertainment – revealed that he and his team had begun design work on Diablo III, which was originally intended to be an MMOG. Clearly, much changed in the intervening years, so what does he think of the finished product?
"I wouldn't have made the same game," he admits. "They did some stuff that I thought was great, that advanced action-RPGs in a lot of ways. I think their story presentation was much better than we'd ever done it; I thought that the [ability to] teleport to other players, to group rapidly [was] really good.
"But I wouldn't have made the same choices that they did for some of the item stuff. The way that they did the skill selection really kind of changed, making it more of a loadout that you would find in a shooter or something.
"I thought that being able to change your build on the fly was almost too flexible. So I felt like that took away from some of the replayability, and the lower level cap [did] also."
Diablo III's most divisive feature in the run-up to launch was the real money auction house, and since the game was released that feeling has, in many ways, intensified, with players feeling like the endgame presents them with a stark choice: grind for enough gold to buy the more powerful items, or cough up real money and buy them from the auction house.
"It became more efficient to grind for gold than it did to find items," Brevik tells us. "The point of the game is to find items; if you make the point of the game to grind for gold instead, it really loses a lot of what the game is about.
"[Blizzard has] done the auction house stuff before. I think they did a fantastic job with it in WOW, so I'm not quite sure why there was so much stuff lost in translation in Diablo III."
Brevik's diplomacy personified here – by his own admission, this is the "sober version", and differs markedly from what he told Blizzard's Rob Pardo and Mike Morhaime one night at E3 in June. There's no bitterness about his original design vision being compromised: indeed, many elements of that vision have followed him to Gazillion been implemented in Marvel Heroes.
"A lot of the same thought processes went into doing it," he tells us. "A lot of people that are on the Marvel Heroes team are people that worked for me at Blizzard when we made Diablo II – we have a lot of people that have participated in [making] this kind of game for a while now."