Diablo Immortal and Diablo IV: What an MMO should be
Diablo Immortal was announced as an MMOARPG (or massively multiplayer online action roleplaying game). However, there weren’t many elements we could see of this in the BlizzCon demo.
You never saw other players cross paths with any of the livestreamers while traversing the Bilefen. Only when they queued for the dungeon as a Group, did we see other players.
Of course, this is only a demo; and Wyatt Cheng mentioned you can see other people in the Westmarch capital city.
However, how much of a MMO features are we really going to see in Diablo Immortal when it comes to seeing other ungrouped people in the world? Better yet, why is the world of Sanctuary not a real world?
As I pointed out recently in a tweet addressed to @Diablo and in a forum thread at Diablofans, when I hear the term MMO wrapped around a Diablo video game, I have very steep and high expectations.
I knitted together the full map of the Bilefen by taking screenshots of the BlizzCon Diablo Immortal livestream by Bahjeera and Kraxell. For an “MMO” this doesn’t look like an MMO open world. I coined it a spaghetti string that goes from Point A to Point B.
Of course, we are used to that same map design in Diablo II and Diablo III; but does Blizzard really need to copy everything from both Diablo games to make an MMO feel like a Diablo game? Or can there be liberties?
When I see the term MMOARPG wrapped around Diablo Immortal, the social aspect is not the only thing that comes to mind. I have played World of Warcraft since beta 2004. I have a pre-conception of what an MMO should look like in terms of exploration and navigation.
When I see the word MMO wrapped around a Diablo video game, I would like to think of a true open world of Sanctuary with explorable zones, quests, daily quests, optional side-quests. A world with multiple zones that I can either teleport around or walk the old fashion way. Occasionally, I might see various ungrouped solo players, or groups pass me by or even assist me if I am in trouble, or maybe they will toss an invite to tackle the same target.
Come to think of it. Sanctuary is a vast landmass with multiple zones full of recognizable landmarks that I can memorize in future adventures without the need to open the map every 5 seconds. The outdoor world should be a whole continent knitted together by zones. Think of it as Kalimdor in World of Warcraft. A full massive explorable continent.
The dungeons, however, I don’t mind if they use the Diablo II and Diablo III map design that looks like a long string from point A to point B. Dungeons are mostly randomized building or cavern interiors.
More importantly, I would like to see consistency in terms of map and an open world in Diablo Immortal and in Diablo IV. Diablo Immortal takes place 5 years after Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. If I visit the Dreadlands in Diablo Immortal as a full open world, I expect to see the same spot in Diablo IV — and I go: Ohh, this spot looks like this 5 years after LoD, and it looks like THIS 20+ years later.
Or I am at this cave entrance behind this waterfall in Diablo Immortal, and I go to Diablo IV at the same spot, and maybe the waterfall is green oozing with demonic corruption. The cavern entrance is sealed after my adventure in Diablo Immortal.
Continuity is key when a video game is fashioned around the fact that both games are in two different time eras; and to do that effectively, you need to make a full open world in both Diablo Immortal and Diablo IV. Not a spaghetti string with a bunch of solid black background on the edges.
Blizzard doesn’t need to build the entire world of Sanctuary at launch. Xiansai, Skovos, The Swamplands, Scosglen, the Dreadlands, the Torajan Jungles, and Entsteig — these could be released as separate expansions or DLC packs adding new adventures and further expanding the world of Sanctuary for years to come.
We are accostumed to playing Diablo games’ storylines as Act I, Act II, etc. A linear questing progression. A Diablo MMO shouldn’t necessarily follow that scheme. There could be some fixed major story arcs, but in between you could start a zone of your choice to explore, and even find quests via exploration of the open world.
The leveling experience should be fixed instead of random. Randomness could be welcome for end-game content. In World of Warcraft, the World Quests and Assault World Quests have a randomness to it, including jumping between Kul Tiras and Zandalar zones. Something like that could be interesting in Diablo Immortal and Diablo IV as bounties.