Behind “Diablo: Immortality”, the anger of “Dark Father” and the collapse of “Blizzard Myth”

Perhaps David Brevik thinks that “the Blizzard he is familiar with” is no longer there, or perhaps it never existed.

The key may not lie in how good or bad “Immortal” is as a mobile game, but in why a classic game series chose such a development path?

“So is this a game that you can rub in the bathroom?”

In November 2018, after the announcement of the production of the mobile game “Diablo: Immortal” (hereinafter referred to as “Immortal”), the game’s chief designer Wyatt Cheng was asked this question by a reporter from Gameinformer in an interview. He laughed and admitted that “Immortal” is a game built specifically for fragmented play, and they are already designing a 5-minute fast mission for mobile games.

“Immortal” is the orthodox sequel to the well-known dungeon game “Diablo” (hereinafter referred to as “Dark”) developed by Blizzard. In the 2000s, “Dark” once captured the hearts of many players with its distinctive Gothic art style. The equipment system and skill tree settings it created have influenced countless games to this day. The “Diablo 2” released at the turn of the century is the pinnacle of the entire series. It not only led the transformation of the turn-based system set by D&D to real-time, but its groundbreaking system also laid a solid foundation for the development of subsequent online games. Base.

In 2012, the third game in the series “Diablo 3” was released, 12 years after the previous game came out. Players see the “Diablo 3” completely lost Rui Yi Chong- new, with an attitude of conformism play the security card has successfully been on the road. But in all fairness, what “Diablo 3” lacks is only fresh game mechanics. Its production level still maintains the high quality that Blizzard once had, which is unmatched in dungeon games. Because of this, “Diablo 3” has reclaimed the feelings of many old players after the release, and has renewed the series of lives.

Now, almost 10 years later, countless players are eager to have a new generation of “Diablo 4” recast series glory, and at the same time help Blizzard find the “Blizzard produced, must be a boutique” label, but they are waiting , But it is “Immortal”.

Behind "Diablo: Immortality", the anger of "Dark Father" and the collapse of "Blizzard Myth"

▲ “Immortal” promotional image / image source: Blizzard

In 2018, the news of the mobile gameization of “Darkness” was made public, bringing Blizzard’s worst reputation since the establishment of the company . Three years later, on July 15, 2021, “Immortal” ushered in the first pioneer test of the national service. This game met domestic players for the first time. On the whole, “Immortal” is a fairly mediocre mobile game. Perhaps even the loyal players of the “Diablo” series can’t appreciate the “dark blood” and feel the essence of the game’s heritage— —Because it almost changed the most important skills and equipment collocation of the Diablo series, and became a game that is more powerful than numbers. For most players, today when the “equipment brushing” game mode has flooded, “Immortal” no longer has any uniqueness other than blood.

Most players who have played mobile games know what a “free game” means. The tricks and elements of conventional mobile games are not lost in “Immortal”: fast-paced game flow, irrelevant story background, eye-catching novice guidance that allows players to play as long as they have sound hands and eyes, and always stay somewhere Staring at in-app purchases in the player’s wallet.

Therefore, the key may not be how good or bad “Immortal” is as a mobile game. But why did a classic game series choose such a development path? If you have an impression of Blizzard, then you should know that this company has indeed made some great games. If you are an experienced game fan, perhaps you can also name the groundbreaking inspiration brought by the “Dark” series to RPG games. But why is this company turning such a prestigious game series into a frivolous game snack? When taking this question to revisit the development of “Darkness”, we will find that all the original effects have been planted in the beginning.

“Tanzi doesn’t know how much love we have devoted to the game”

In 1994, the air of the California Bay Area was filled with the breath of an exciting game entrepreneurship boom. That year, the 26-year-old game producer David Brevik had a whim and determined to make a turn-based dungeon game “Diablo” that pays tribute to the classic game “Rogue”. This game plan was taken by the same young game company Blizzard, who agreed to support his studio development, but asked him to make two major changes to the game: One is to change the turn-based system to real-time combat; The second is to join the online multiplayer mode. David Brevik, whose turn-based thinking was denied, was dejected. One morning after the meeting, he silently modified the code in an empty office and became the first person to try the real-time combat version. A few hours later, David Brevik realized that he was addicted to the game he had developed.

On November 2, 2018, an embarrassing and ironic joke will be staged at the Anaheim Convention Center in California. At that time, Blizzard was no longer a fledgling game company, it created too many names remembered by players in the first 20 years of the 21st century. BlizzCon is the day, the players whose names come to expect Blizzard to arouse their first face Tyrrell oath, Swarm Queen’s declaration of war bulletin and Erie excitement when Dan howling. However, in the finale, Wyatt Cheng, the director of the “Dark” series, took the stage to announce the news of “Diablo: Immortality” (hereinafter referred to as “Immortal”)-a “Dark” mobile game without console porting or interoperability plans. And half-jokingly asked the players in the audience amidst boos: “Don’t you have a mobile phone?”

Between these two things, the “Dark” series gradually developed into one of the most important series in the history of video games. Its “Diablo 1&2” released in 1997 and 2000 respectively set a record for the sales of electronic games that year and created a new game branch of “Dark Games-like”. After more than ten years of polishing, “Diablo 3” was launched on May 15, 2012, once again proving the vitality of the “Dark” series. It was the hottest game of the year and it became what Blizzard showed to shareholders in a conference call. A model of work.

Behind "Diablo: Immortality", the anger of "Dark Father" and the collapse of "Blizzard Myth"

▲ The game screen of “Diablo 1” laid the classic layout of left red and right blue / image source: ubergizmo

“Diablo 1” is the pioneering work, and how many games have been borrowed from, and how many games have become a source of inspiration . Perhaps even David Brevik, who created this game, has no idea. But the most important legacy left by this series to RPG games is the creation of a “skill tree” system and a complete set of equipment-driven game design ideas: including random map generation, random equipment drops, and access to specific levels. Specific equipment, and even the “white, blue, purple, and orange” equipment grades have also been used for reference by a large number of games due to the success of “Dark”. It can be said that every game that needs to be refreshed today is considered a descendant of “Dark”.

In the year that “Diablo 1” was released, Blizzard was still a new-generation game company. In order to give David Brevik complete control over game development, Blizzard specially established Blizzard North Studios, focusing on the development of the Diablo series. Until the release of the latest console DLC “Rise of the Necromancer” in the “Dark” series in 2017, Blizzard’s parent company changed from Vivendi to Activision, and Blizzard North had long since disbanded, the three creators of the Diablo series. Both have left Blizzard and “Darkness” was handed over to Wyatt Cheng.

From the public information, we don’t know what the director who transferred from the World of Warcraft development team to the dark department has experienced. We only know that he participated in the development of “World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade” before, and he was in EA earlier. The Canadian branch has participated in the development of three generations of “FIFA” games from 97 to 99. In short, one year after “The Rise of the Necromancer” went live, Wyatt Cheng and NetEase reached a joint development of “Immortal” cooperation.

Behind "Diablo: Immortality", the anger of "Dark Father" and the collapse of "Blizzard Myth"

▲ “Don’t you have a mobile phone?”-Wyatt Cheng/Image source: imgflip

After the announcement of the mobile game news, he accepted an interview with Gameinformer, expressing his desire to “complete the dark worldview story through mobile games” and “open up a market for millions of mobile game players”. When the reporter asked about the development of the game Whether the job was performed by Blizzard or Netease, the chief designer used “commercial secrets” to prevaricate the past. It was not until the Alpha test of “Immortal” was released in February 2021 that Wyatt Cheng admitted in an interview that the game was developed using NetEase’s game engine and declared that NetEase’s Messiah engine has reached the industry standard that can be benchmarked against Unity and Unreal. Level.

In this interview, he revealed more about “Immortal” and said that it might be built as a mobile MMO game in the future. As a free mobile game, in-app purchases are natural and the key is how to set the form of in-app purchases. Wyatt Cheng stated that Blizzard will ensure that in-app purchases do not disrupt the game balance to the greatest extent, and will also add a pass (Battle Pass) mechanism, but paradoxically, Wyatt Cheng also admitted that the pass can provide players with game guidelines and “a large number of reward items”-obviously this design is to encourage players to buy passes.

As for whether the word-of-mouth disaster 3 years ago brought resistance to game development, Wyatt Cheng vaguely stated that “yes but no”. In response to players’ questions, he moved out the familiar “hater gonna hate” Speaking, and bluntly: “Tanzi doesn’t know how much love we have devoted to the game.”

The inexplicable “Teddy Bear” mission

Since Wyatt Cheng wants to talk about “Developers’ love for games”, let’s talk about this topic. In 2016, David Brevik told the development story behind “Diablo 1” at the Game Developers Conference:

In 1997, only 8 months before the delivery of “Diablo 1”, Blizzard’s headquarters just finished “Warcraft 2”. They began to care about the progress of the Diablo project team and asked David Brevik how the “multiplayer mode” they were asked to join was developed.

At that time, David Brevik was still developing for Ontology, but the management told him that the department designed a networking architecture called “” for the multiplayer mode. They hoped that David Brevik would use to achieve “Diablo”. 1″ multiplayer game function.

So, from May to December 1996, David Brevik started working overtime for 8 months. He gets up at 4 a.m. every morning, drives to the company, picks up a few of his colleagues on the road, and then writes the code to go home at 12 p.m. This cycle repeats, with only one purpose: to make “Diablo 1” be released before Christmas in 1997. At that time, David Brevik’s wife was pregnant and the due date was December. Because he was busy developing games, David Brevik almost missed the birth of his daughter.

Behind "Diablo: Immortality", the anger of "Dark Father" and the collapse of "Blizzard Myth"

▲ David Brevik, known as the “Father of Darkness”/Image source: wiki

After the game was released, David Brevik took a rest for nearly 3 months before recovering. But soon, his team had the first head-on conflict with the investment company. Blizzard’s investment company D&A at the time was very satisfied with the commercial results of “Diablo 1” and began to urge the David Brevik team to start the development of the follow-up DLC, hoping to continue to make money through DLC. But David Brevik and the team are more inclined to develop “Diablo 2”. The two parties were in a dispute, and David Brevik had to hand over the DLC “Hellfire” design of “Diablo 1” to another development studio invested by D&A. The latter made the “Darkness: Hellfire” titled “Darkness”. . Until 2016, when David Brevik talked about the matter again, he was still a bit angry: Hellfire did not adopt the design documents provided by the main creative team, and also stuffed an inexplicable “Teddy Bear” mission in. He has been reluctant to “Hellfire” like Such hastily launched to meet with players, and does not admit that this DLC is the work of Blizzard North.

The reason why David Brevik compromised was naturally to stay in the north of Blizzard and continue to develop “Diablo 2”. But at the time he did not expect that the rush for “Diablo 1” is nothing. In this company, he will usher in the worst overtime in his life: from 1999 to 2000, in order to develop “Diablo 2”, David Brevik And his team worked overtime for one and a half years.

Behind "Diablo: Immortality", the anger of "Dark Father" and the collapse of "Blizzard Myth"

▲ The Diablo development team in June 2000, they were working on “Diablo 2″/Image source: Reddit

How fast is the development of “Diablo 2”? According to Erich Schaefer, one of the founders of the “Dark” series, at first the game did not even have complete development and design documentation. The original source code of “Diablo 1” was also reduced to only 1%, but even so, this The initial version of the game was still evaluated by testers as “similar to the original works”. Investors are keen to let Blizzard North continue to create “fresh and exciting experiences”, and overtime has become a daily routine. After 12 months of “extremely difficult”, “Diablo 2” was born.

A similar plot was staged again during the development of “Diablo 3”, but this time, employee complaints directly flooded the office. In June 2003, the three founders of the studio, David Brevik, Erich Schaefer, and Max Schaefer, left Blizzard North at the same time and set up their own new studio. As a result, the “Dark” series was silent for nearly 10 years.

Creative myth vs toilet myth

After breaking up with Blizzard, David Brevik still did not cut off from the company. It was not until the announcement of “Immortal” in 2018 that David Brevik spoke about two major changes in Blizzard in a webcast:

First, the relationship between Blizzard and Activision has undergone subtle changes in 2018. Although the relationship between the two parties on paper is “Activision acquired Blizzard”, in fact most employees tend to “Blizzard acquired Activision”, because Blizzard has a greater proportion of both the team and the game development leadership. And advantages. Therefore, in the first few years of Activision’s acquisition of Blizzard, Blizzard’s developers still had enough freedom to make the games they wanted to make. But the “Immortal” mobile game as a landmark time node means that the company’s power structure has changed. Activision has gradually mastered the right to speak, and Blizzard can no longer do the games it wants to do.

Second, Blizzard no longer attaches importance to technical personnel, and the treatment of developers is getting worse and worse. Employee benefits are better than nothing, vacations are pitifully few, and overtime has become the norm. There are also developers who are dissatisfied with the work environment, but Blizzard’s attitude is: dissatisfied people can resign by themselves, so one-third of the old employees chose to leave. Mike, the founder and president of Blizzard, who announced his retirement that year, did not retire normally, but was squeezed out by the top management.

Behind "Diablo: Immortality", the anger of "Dark Father" and the collapse of "Blizzard Myth"

▲ In-game screen/picture source of “Immortal”:

In the live broadcast, David Brevik bluntly said: “I think Blizzard made NetEase make this game a weird decision. I thought that Blizzard attached great importance to the experience and professional development knowledge of mobile games, which is why I understand why they put ” “Heartstone” is ported to the mobile phone-this is an attempt to make a larger mobile game. But why did they choose-as far as I know-to change the skin of a certain NetEase game into Diablo Mobile game? It’s not like Blizzard.”

Perhaps David Brevik thinks that “the Blizzard he is familiar with” is no longer there, or perhaps it never existed. Blizzard chose the logic of making “Immortal” a mobile game, and there was not much difference between the logic that they chose to rush to make the “Hellfire” in the first place. Nowadays, the various unbearable situation of employees has not changed much in essence compared with the time when the founding team of the Diablo series was forced away.

Maybe it’s time to burst the marketing bubble of Blizzard’s “creative myth”, and it will also burst on its own at some point: maybe when the most popular anchor of “World of Warcraft” switched to “Final Fantasy: 14”; maybe it was Blizzard When I had to abandon “StarCraft” and “Heroes of the Storm”; perhaps it was the time when “Overwatch” was abruptly played; then why not now? After Blizzard poured a lot of love, “Darkness” became a It’s a “game that you can rub in the toilet”.

Reference article:

David Brevik 2016 Developer Conference speech

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