When it comes to gaming conventions, I've stopped trying to track the variousmega-gatherings on my Google calendar. There's really no point. It's not because there's been some sudden upwelling in desire between publishers, journalists, and gamers to hang out, sweat, and get their pictures taken next to Space Marines and Booth Babes. No, there's just really no need to schedule these things anymore. The imminent arrival of The Convention is always heralded by a particular smell, emanating from the rumor mill like a hunk of rotting meat in your backyard. And you can thank Blizzard for that.
I swear, I hear rumors for Diablo III at least 6 times every year. Er, rather, that's the number of chunks, all perfectly timed to coincide with the next, big, Blizzard-attending event. The rumors themselves must number in the thousands by now: Rob Pardo sneezes, and it sounds like the word "Mephisto," so Blizzard is making Diablo III; Blizzard updates its website with an image that looks vaguely similar to the chat room gem, so Blizzard is making Diablo III; a third party suggests that Blizzard would never abandon the Diablo franchise, so Blizzard is obviously making Diablo III. Et cetera.
Since every gamer under the sun has his and her takes on the situation, here's mine: of course Blizzard is making Diablo III in some capacity. Maybe it's 98% to completion. Maybe it's in production. Maybe someone wrote "Staff of Apocalypse pewpewpew" on a napkin in the lunch room. Somehow, somewhere, Diablo III is coming to fruition, which means I'll have to start asking Future US if carpal tunnel syndrome is covered by our health plan.
As for the announcement of said game, well, don't get your hopes up none soon. Starcraft II is the name of the day; there's no way Blizzard would launch all its bombs in one salvo, especially for the hotly desired piece of IP that is Dee-ahh-blow. I mean, Blizzard's own success would be competing against itself for publicity rights. Why waste your ace in the hole?
But that's ok though, because Diablo III better shine like a socketed weapon by the time Blizzard's ready to jam a crystal in the head of gamers worldwide. And you know what that means? There better not be subscription fees. Listen, I know that's the accepted practice nowadays -- all this micro-transaction, subscription, pay-more-than-just-a-one-time-fee-for-the-damn-box stuff -- but it just sucks. Suck-sucky-sucks. It's fine for games that actually make sense on the model, like MMOs. I don't mind paying $10 a month for the ability to jump into Ogrimmar and form a giant, walking train with tons of other people at once. Servers cost money, and if a company like Blizzard's hosting them, well, that's cool. We can't all be as awesome as Guild Wars.
I swear, nothing will kill the enjoyment of the Diablo franchise faster than if Blizzard pulls a Hellgate: London. For the uninformed, Flagship Studios's Hellgate: London game (a fancy-looking Diablo clone, ironically) is one of the first non-MMOs I can think of that's pulling, essentially, an MMO-themed subscription model out of its ass. Because really, what else is there to say about a game that, for all intents, is going to be amazing... provided you pony up $10 a month for said game's "elite" version. Whatever happened to just releasing a game with the sweet features intact as part of said game's, you know, appeal? Well, apparently Flagship thinks that there are enough fools out there willing to buy into this new, bastardized subscription model. And if the success of overpriced Xbox Live items is any indication, gamers don't mind tossing money into the fire on small, incremental amounts.
But I digress; that should be a blog post in its own right. I just worry, ever so slightly, that Blizzard is going to set up huge expectations with minimal returns. And I say that in the most complimentary way -- Diablo II and Starcraft were two amazing pieces of work, games that are still being played, updated, and obsessed over to this very day. Hell, I still have a 60+ Frozen Orb Sorceress (yes, a cookie cutter. Sue me). But after watching the trailers for Starcraft II -- which look badass, don't get me wrong -- I just don't think that there's enough of a leap between it and the original. Sure, the graphics are prettier, but I have yet to see any truly mind-blowing elements of gameplay or mechanics that make me think, "Wow. We have reached a new plateau of gaming."
Yes, I realize Blizzard is following a formula that's completely tried-and-true. And when (if) Diablo III comes around, you can expect to see the exact same formula, plus a new character class or two. I'll still play the game, and you'll still play the game. But for all the hype, and all the failed "They're really going to announce it this time" articles I've read, I hope we see something of substance, come that fateful day when it's time to hack-and-sla... er... point-and-click the Prime Evils once again.