This might have been a column about all of Blizzcon but really what’s to talk about? I like to hold out hope each year they’ll finally get around to announcing Warcraft 4 or a keyboard that dispenses chocolate milk or something else cool but alas. You already know going in that there’s a new Hearthstone set, new HotS heroes and skins, new SC2 co-op hero and skins, new Overwatch hero and skins, new WoW skins (every year it’s more Heroes and Skins, what is this, late 2000’s television?) and the Diablo fans get to eat shit. This year they announced Warcraft 3 Remastered to the great shock of bloody no-one since if they’re already doing Classic WoW and BW:Remastered then obviously War 3’s getting redone (still holding out hope for a Lost Vikings remaster, fingers crossed!). The only bright spark was Diablo: Immortal or to put it more accurately: Diablo: Dead on Arrival. And what’s really to be said about that? I mean, shit, a Diablo game with no blood or gore in it? That’s like taking the giant floppy tits out of Dead or Alive!
Actually the discussion surrounding D:I is kind of interesting, or at the least extremely funny. See, whenever a gaming company does a whoopsy there emerges two camps: the dev defenders and the gamer mob. Generally the former look for any and all opportunities to call out the latter as a petulant, entitled, horde of shrieking, easily offended howler monkeys and frequently the mob obliges them. And I often side with the dev defenders. Game development seems like a fucking shitty job. Crap pay, long hours, crunch time, tremendous stress, projects often going bad all to make a product that through some tiny detail or two, no fault of most of the dev team, leads to it being roundly savaged by a pack of arseholes who would never appreciate good work if they saw it. Granted, a lot of dev defenders happen to write for gaming outlets and probably have a lot more riding on positive relationships with game companies than you or me and there’s a shitload of condescension that often goes into being cross at gamers.
Which has led to something of an ambivalence surrounding D:I. I’m extremely sympathetic to Wyatt Cheng and the rest of the Blizzard dev team. They don’t deserve to have buckets of vitriol sent their way, or to have that thing happen where one guy pushes you and someone’s hunched over behind you so you fall completely on your arse. If anyone does it’s whatever executive thought signing off on this was a good idea and I reckon there’s decent odds they’ve donned a false moustache and a fake passport and have made it to Argentina already. Those poor devs probably had an inkling this wasn’t going to go down too well and whilst I doubt they reckoned it’d be this bad, well, to put it mildly it’s definitely not great either. But I’m certainly not against being critical of Blizzard; Blizzcon is an event where you pay to go and get advertised at (among other things, I know) and while that seems like a pretty terrible service, if you’re left underwhelmed it’s not your fault. When the band pissses their pants on stage is it really the audience’s fault for booing? Live by the hype, die by the hype I say! Gaming companies should know by now- after CnC: Rivals and Dungeon Keeper Mobile- that if a popular PC franchise hasn’t had anything new for a while then announcing its continuing on as a phone game is going to go down about as well as dead baby jokes on the maternity ward.
Ultimately though, it’s just so damned funny. Seriously, for the past few days r/Diablo has been the funniest site on the wide, wide world of web. Look at these threads! Petition to cancel Diablo: Immortal (yeah, good luck with that), this is the greatest scam in all video games (a mighty boast for a product that has made literally 0 sales), Blizzard has big plans for the mobile space (not necessarily a bad thing, Hearthstone’s led a new wave of digital card games and probably helped secure WCS funding. And it’s kinda fun at times) 300k+ dislikes on the Youtube trailer (since the larger a mob is, the more righteous it is. That’s just mathematical science, it’s the sixth postulate). Hell even the dev defenders have had some pretty shitty takes (my favourite one being an attempt to conflate disgust at PC -> mobile as some sort of sexist attitude. I mean, elitist definitely, there’s no such thing as the Mobile Gaming Master Race is there? But not sexist, come on now).
And the great tragedy of it all is if the game turns out to be actually good. The third position in all this is the detached cynic whose disgust at games that are hyped up but no-one’s actually played should, on principle, extend to giving even games that look bad from a distance a fair shake. I’d like to say I’m one of them but my phone’s a rusted faulty slab of garbage so, you know, damn. I mean, it really does just look like Diablo though and I can already play games like that for free on my computer. Like Path of Exile. Or insert torrented game here!
I suspect Blizzard will be just fine, these large publishers generally are. They do have a good track record of responding to meme-y criticisms of their work. Tracer’s bum a bit too prominent? Yeah, agreed, we’ll fix that right away, can’t have an Englishwoman behave even mildly sexy it’s far too culturally inaccurate. You think you want WoW: Classic but you don’t. Actually you do, let’s work on that post haste. Falstad Wildhammer got overlooked? Not too hard he’s a dwarf after all, haha. but you’re right Red Shirt Guy better patch him in. No LAN mode for Starcraft 2? Eight years on and the technology still isn’t there yet (though we did get resume from replay after Marineking stole that GSTL game from Parting so there’s that). They’re not perfect but I’d safely wager there’s renewed interest internally in an actual proper bit of content for the Diablo fans (honestly quite surprised they haven’t milked Diablo 3 for cash more aggressively. It sold like over 20 million copies, what’s going on over there lads?).
So is the moral to this story that the squeaky wheel gets the grease or that online fanbases are a fickle and chaotic bunch? Both, probably, which is a mildly disappointing for me since a consistently pissed off online fanbase is wonderful in its way (unless their fandom is Fascism in which case they probably just start killing people sadly). But I feel the lesson here is more of a reminder that PC gamers are an elitist bunch at heart and if they’re not being catered to directly than they will be upset. I seem to recall back when Hearthstone was announced it was met with more than a bit of cynicism but back in 2013 it’s hardly as if Warcraft fans lacked for content (and the War 3 fans had already moved onto SC2 or just accepted War 4 is never fucking happening). I suppose that’s all then, good night.
Oh yeah and well done to Serral, the next Zerg Bonjwa.