Blizzard has set the internet ablaze with its announcement that Diablo III is to be released... sometime.
For days prior to the announcement, they had mystifying splash screens up on their major sites, with tantalising clues hidden in the pretty pictures. One was a rune from Diablo, sparking rumours of Diablo III, but the next day there was an image containing the Protoss symbol from Starcraft. Cries of "Starcraft 2?" were heard echoing through the intertubes (despite it already having been announced). A third image with what appeared to be a pair of enigmatically glowing eyes set the rumour mill off again, with people claiming that they were the eyes of Diablo, or of a Protoss Zealot, or the Lich King from the Warcraft universe. A symbol appeared that appeared to be from Blizzard's 1992 side-scroller Lost Vikings.
But no agreement was reached. Internet scuttlebutt reached absurd levels.
Players were up in arms over a rumoured shift to RTS-style play for the Diablo franchise. Others were adamant that a Diablo MMO was on the cards. The arguments raged back and forth, one forum poster even saying: "**** me. The world is am exploded." Finally the official announcement was made.
Diablo III was indeed the mysterious game, and it would retain the game style that helped make its predecessors so popular.
With Starcraft II still a distant speck on the horizon, despite its official announcement coming in May of last year, fans knew they'd have a while to wait. This didn't stop them from flaming each other to Hell and back on discussion boards around the world when the first screenshots and gameplay videos from Diablo III were released. "Vivid colors, beautiful forests with colorful vegetation, shinny (sic) and beautiful waterfalls" were among the features that would allegedly bring about Armageddon. Forgetting how colourful the original Diablo was, and how much criticism current generation games have attracted for their dreary colour palettes, fans immediately began to demand that the graphics in Diablo III be made more depressing. An online petition was started. Screenshots were photoshopped to look more like Diablo III "should".
And my soul died a little more.
Some opined that the gameplay might perhaps be more important than the graphics. Such hopeless souls were quickly shouted down.
The claims were that Diablo III looked more like World of Warcraft than Diablo. I don't know where these people got their impressions of World of Warcraft, because in all the Diablo III material out there, I have yet to see a bipedal cow in a wedding dress attempt to seduce a pink-haired gnome in the ancient forest of elves.
The genre debate resurfaced with many questioning Diablo's classification as an RPG, causing many others to spend much time not caring at all about crap like that. The graphics debate evolved from its original "don't make it like WoW" roots into the sort of "I am entitled to my viewpoint for the following reasons" mish-mash that tends to typify online arguments that have outlived their usefulness. Those who dared to suggest that the game will likely kick seven shades of shit out of everything else anyway - regardless of how much bloom the graphics eventually have - were duly ignored.
Out of the blue, the whole community buried the hatchet, fired up Diablo II, and went on a big nostalgic romp through lands with pleasing levels of colour and lighting. Or lack thereof.
The unavoidable conclusion here is that people really shouldn't be allowed to have opinions. They clutter up the place.
Now: Serious conclusions?
I may be beating a dead horse here, but I'll say it anyway. What we've seen so far is a tiny portion of a game that's likely more than a year away from release. Things are likely to change in that time.
People are complaining about textures - and even some scenery - being lifted from World of Warcraft. I'm inclined to believe that some of these are WoW items. But as placeholders, not as final details. It stands to reason that they'd use the odd bit from WoW if they needed textures and other bits for an otherwise playable build that they were intending on demoing and releasing videos of. Did they jump the gun in doing so? Perhaps they did. I imagine that the decision was made to make the announcement at the Blizzard Invitational, and the devs were told to crank out a certain amount of Diablo III content by that date. Sometimes compromises are made in order to meet deadlines.
But this is Blizzard. You can bet they won't rush a crap game out the door. While they're big on their running fixes, I honestly don't see them releasing this looking like it is.
When I say that though, I'm not saying that it looks shit. Far from it. In a few places the detail is lacking, some parts are definitely a bit unDiabloish, but overall it looks like an awesome game. Things like the brighter outdoor areas I think make a great contrast to the dark underground tombs. In the twenty years since the vast decimation of the events in Diablo II, it makes sense that the world would be looking a bit less dreary in places. It makes the transition into the really messed up bits more jarring and atmospheric, in this writer's humble opinion.
As always, I'll have to reserve judgement until I see the release version, but at this stage I'm still optimistic. I think Diablo III will rock.