David Brevik GDC 2016 Diablo 1 post-mortem
edited September 2016
David Brevik's GDC2016 classic game post-mortem for Diablo 1,
http://www.gdcvault.com/play/1023469/Cl ... Postmortem
I've watched it a couple times already. It was a nice and informative talk.
Half-Life 1 and Diablo 1 are the greatest games of all time imo. I probably put Diablo 1 even before Half-Life 1. I would give a lot to go back in time and feel what I felt when I was watching my older brother play Diablo 1 when I was 9 in the winter of 1997. Excitement, thrill, awe, happiness, role-playing. Sadly, I will probably never have that feeling again. Still, For those feelings, I should thank David Brevik.
This talk made me think about the context of time and place. Context really matters. Sometimes we forget it and compare games from different eras. However people changed, the world changed, tastes changed, technology changed, we're changed and some.
If I have to criticize today's games, nowadays it's all "gameplay". Better low-level designs, advanced mechanics but there's no harmony. There's no soul. Without Diablo 1's hellish mission of triumphing the ultimate evil and the time's wonderful and realistic immersive graphics, Tristram's church design, the graveyard, those burning inverted crosses and pentagrams, dismembered bodies on stakes, child sacrifices, Tristram being in Earth instead of some fantasy land, fantastic voicevers, spot-on npc designs, attractive scrolling quest text with a superb font and ofc Matt Uelmen's out-of-world music, there would be no Diablo as we know no matter how good it's gameplay would be. In the same time, Diablo also had equally important tile-based completely random levels, random items, random monsters (actual different monsters), random quality quests (I still remember Halls of the Blind and Chamber of Bone), satisfying monster animation and sounds, skills that feel powerful and top quality cinematics. The gameplay was top-notch and genre-creating too.
It was just a big harmony and the harmony was perfect. That demonic atmosphere, story, gameplay, sounds, graphics, music. I believe everyone in Condor/Blizzard North was at the right place at the right time. Ofc, David Brevik created the concept of Diablo and lead the Blizzard North as the President, co-founder, lead programmer, lead designer etc. so the biggest credit goes to him. However, everyone in that team really mattered a lot and David Brevik himself gave them the credit and talked about how unique and talented that group was in that infamous interview which lead to ex-Blizzard developers' angry and childish responses, swears and insults towards him. I think they didn't know David Brevik as the creator of the ARPG genre and Diablo franchise or the fact that Diablo wasn't created by Blizzard but bought 6-9 months before it was released. They probably thought he was just one of the senior designers on a Blizzard product like Jay Wilson... Anyways, all of them were eventually fired from Blizzard. Some even left the game industry.
Back to the topic, still, even a top-class game with the perfect harmony would not be enough to invoke the same feelings I had 19 years ago. Hence, I think sometimes we're hard on today's games and exaggerate those games in 90s. But more often that not, it's the other way around. Today, people just focus on gameplay and graphics' technicality and don't care about the technological advancement and the context of game industry and gamers' taste back then when making comparisons.
Shortly, today's games try to play into our brain and reflexes while old games played into our emotions first. Sure, there are exceptions in each era but that's not enough.
Which one is better? It's a personal taste. I like competitive games that need good reflexes, quick thinking and grand design because I'm good at them. But I think I "love" games that are immersive, atmospherical and play into my emotions.
This made me think about Hellgate London too. I think HG:L failed because of the early release but it would never be a classic game although it's high-level design (David Brevik was the principal creator again) was perfect. At the release, the gameplay was not good enough to cover for the lack of soul. Atmosphere, music, story, level design, sound, voiceovers, even small things as scrolling quest texts of Diablo series were simply non-existent or very poor. Before the collapse of Flagship, HG:L's gameplay was really good but it was not enough to attract more players... All big names and most of Blizzard North was at Flagship... Then what went wrong? I think no matter how small the missing few bricks on the wall they created back in Blizzard North, once they were göne, the wall was collapsed.
I dragged this a lot more than necessary
Simply put, gameplay is not everything. Let's not forget the harmony, do we? And, we should bear the context in our mind whenever we make comparisons of anything.