Blizzard talks about the history of an action game

Leonard Boyarsky and Brian Morrisroe look surprised at the number of people sitting in the audience as they troop out on the main stage of the Paris Expo. The place is Blizzard’s 2008 Worldwide Invitational and legions of click-happy monster slayers crowd into the space, desperate for any new information regarding the just-announced Diablo III. The (respectively) Lead World Designer and Art Director for the game are here to discuss building story into the game and how the team came up with its art style, things most folks would say isn’t all that high on an action gamer’s list of priorities. Of course, Diablo isn’t most action game franchises and Blizzard isn’t most game companies.

“There’s so much unexplored potential for storytelling in the Diablo franchise,” Boyarsky says at the beginning of his discussion. He couches his words in a direct address to the action game fans who make up Diablo’s core group that this isn’t about slowing the action down in any way. Instead he’s “…looking to give some context to the player’s actions. We want to have more driving the player forward than just new loot and a new level.” It’s not that these things aren’t important, he adds, it’s just that experience can be so much richer when there’s a coherent world behind the action and a rationale for all the mayhem.

Boyarsky points out that even the lighter story of the first two games has generated a certain level of attachment from the fans. He uses the example of the fate of the angel Tyrael, which tends to be the thing that they’ve gotten the most questions about from fans. Apparently Diablo III will take place 20 years after the last game. In that game the angel Tyrael was helping humanity defend against an invasion by the forces of Hell. This was against the wishes of Heaven and he apparently knew that his destruction of the World Stone wasn’t going to make him many friends on his own side. Two decades later, no one’s seen or heard from Tyrael, the invasion that Deckard Cain was convinced was inevitable hasn’t happened and nobody knows why, and the events of the first two games are considered legends or myths. These are questions that Boyarsky took into consideration in the creation of the next game, though he’s mum about any details beyond that. 

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