One of the methods by which I “check my progress” in development cycles, is by testing whether I can reproduce the effects of other games within my system. This morning, I was thinking about Guild Wars and Diablo. Setting aside the former for a moment, I want to talk about Diablo. Yeah, I know Diablo 3 just came out.

I haven’t played it. I watched some demo videos, but I haven’t played.

I have played the first two games though, and quite a lot. Like, lots a lot.

I want to talk about the first Diablo game. Diablo is fun, but it isn’t a very good game. It’s difficult to quantify exactly why it isn’t a very good game, except that it’s probably a better game than its direct sequels, and it did pretty well for its time. Just saying. It takes lots of frustrating shortcuts when it comes to gameplay.

One of those things is in styles of play. The three character classes you can choose from play almost identically, with varying degrees of suck. The warrior sucks the least in the beginning because he relies on hit points, which are easily replenished, and he does lots of melee damage, where most of the game takes place.

The rogue sucks a little bit more in the beginning because the game doesn’t allow running, and the monsters will run up to you while you’re trying to shoot them with your bow. Melee combat will happen, and the monsters will rush and block you. The wizard sucks the most in the beginning because mana is harder to come by.

This is inverted by the endgame because mana comes cheap and easy, and the wizard becomes virtually indestructible with a combination of the mana shield spell, and numerous high-damage, multi-target attacks that no one else can use as often or easily. And it’s still a melee-oriented game, so you kill things before they reach you.

Right, so now that we’ve covered all this – it’s important to point out that this is what makes Diablo “not a very good game.” Just because it has a dynamic that inverts itself over the course of the game, does not make it interesting or versatile. Every character class plays the same way, they just suck at different parts of the game.

Part of my progress check this morning was asking myself how I would build Diablo using my game’s engine, and the answer was basically, “by cutting lots of stuff out.” That’s the answer I want, that’s the answer I always want. I’ll get into how I would make Diablo using my game engine a bit later. I’ve been neglecting some work that needs to get done.