I’ve been a Diablo fan for a while now, and just this month I bought the Battlechest as the first game I played through for hours. I’ve been around the franchise since the first game was given to me as a kid and really admired the work that was put into it all these years. For me, it is more of an experience spanning multiple forms of media and not just the games.
Many, many years ago grade school me received a gift for Christmas. It was a video game on a compact disk. It was a very rare occurrence because we lived in the province, far from the big city. I was a kid that loved tinkering with computers on that young age and I’ve always asked for games from my parents’ officemates. This particular game had a red demonic figure on the front with the flaming letters of ‘Diablo’. Why anyone had the bright idea to give this to kid I do not even know. The back of the case told stories of heroes on an adventure of defeating evil forces. It also talks of something called the ‘Internet’ where you can play with other people with the same game. Those were equally fascinating to me. I vividly remember that one time I installed and opened up the game on a weekend afternoon. I had the sounds turned all the way up. The music was ominous. The atmosphere of the town was dark. All these characters, they were talking… with voices. “Stay a while and listen,” said the man at the center of the square. The name on the box noted: Deckard Cain. I listened to all their stories. From the blacksmith, the witch, the healer, man on the river, and others. Eventually they lead me down to the Cathedral. And it was intimidating. I faced the cackling skeletons and snarling demons… and my character died. Again, and again, and again. The scary mood of the game got to me. I thought the gameplay was a bit slow and the results were mostly frustrating, so I put it down. I think it was mostly the brilliant sound design that really got to me. This wasn’t the last time I played the game, though. I know I had reinstalled it a few times at home and even later years on my mom’s work computer so I can play it during lunch from school. I never progressed to far, though. I don’t even recall facing the iconic Butcher. But the experience of being creeped out by this one game will always be with me.
Fast forward to high school. I had friend I always hanged out with and he told me he was playing a game called Diablo II. A familiar name. This didn’t only happen once though. Over the course of a few weeks, he spieled about how he and his brother played this game with a huge story. They had characters of their own, traveled through different landscapes, having intense battles with grotesque demons. Of course, I had not played any of this, but I stayed and listened to all his impressive tales. Isn’t it amazing how we can experience gameplay through others just from their stories? Over the years I tried to install Diablo II but the hype wasn’t the same because it looked dated for me and there was no community I was a part of.
A few years later, I was at the height of my Warcraft III modding ‘career’. The WC3 mapping scene was at its prime and I was fortunate enough to have been swept right into the middle of it. I was a veteran at some forum helping, and making some of my own projects. It was a vital time where I sharpened my game programming skills. One day, Blizzard showed one icy teaser on their website. Everyone in the community was hyped. For the next few days we were intently waiting for the next cracks in the ice. It was for Warcraft IV right? It was ice. Those eyes, that has to be Arthas Menethil with the Frostmourne in the Frozen Throne. It has to be. The following week it was announced that it was going to be Diablo III, but the hype around the WC3 community did not stop.
It was on the following months, and years, that I experienced one of the most awesome moments of the fandom. Based on teaser videos and trailers alone, the elite mappers banded together to make Diablo III custom games inside the Warcraft 3 engine. Modelers and scripters created huge projects trying to emulate the look and feel of the upcoming game. It was an inspiring sequence of events for me, as a programmer. Fans were doing this for free, these were passion projects. It was as if new life was given to the Warcraft 3 engine. Those guys were pushing it to its limits and doing something really creative. Even if I wasn’t part of any of those popular ones, I watched those teaser videos over and over trying to pick out ideas I could implement in my own maps.
I followed the Diablo III development closely for the following years. Every new snippet of the story, new characters, new gameplay. I still remember when I heard about the Rune Stone system being implemented in demos. As an aspiring, and current, game developer I have watched the videos detailing Blizzard’s signature art direction and design philosophies. I just held it in high regard as one brilliant production from very talented people.
Diablo III then released, then the expansion. But I still had not played it. It’s actually quite curious how I had avoided major spoilers about the plot up to this point. I eventually ran out of development material to read through, I didn’t want to scour the wiki and be spoiled unexpectedly, so I turned to the novels. I read the entire Sin War saga over a week or two a few years ago.
This month I finally bought the Battle Chest edition of the game. I played through Act IV with my first character. I wanted to read the novels first before heading into the expansion so I stopped playing for a while. I finished The Order just last week. Today I am done with Storm of Light and ready to play Reaper of Souls. A few months ago I found these two copies of The Book of Cain and The Book of Tyrael on the local book store, I just had to get them then and there. I’ve only read a few pages from Cain as of now. Since I can’t carry these around during commutes, it might take a while to finish. On a next blog post, I’ll cover some more in-depth thoughts about Diablo’s fiction which I found very interesting.