Four Intelligent Critiques Of Blizzard

It’s a valuable role for the blogosphere surrounding any subject, from politics to MMOs – to speak truth to power. And today, some of the best-known thinkers in the MMOsphere are giving intelligent, constructive, and accurate critique to Blizzard.

Of course, Blizzard get a lot of things right – as WoW and Diablo 3’s massive popularity show. But that’s not to say there aren’t some things they could be doing better:

  • Anne Stickney at WoW Insider tackles the problem of female characters in WoW, and doesn’t pull her punches as she demonstrates how few independent, interesting characters are currently active in WoW lore“it’s not that women don’t exist in the Warcraft universe — they’re all over the place, honestly. It’s that there is only a handful worth of them that have enough character development and story to warrant dedicating a column to them.”
  • Bravetank didn’t intend her post to be a critique, I think, but her description of the ennui she’s feeling at max level is both interesting and telling“So what should I do then? Just grit my teeth & get on with it? But I can’t!!! (I’m saying this in the whiniest tone imaginable by the way.) Surely gritting my teeth is not what this game is about? Surely that’s not what I pay good money for?”
  • Chris at Game By Night writes in passionate opposition to Blizzard’s (since repealed) 72-hour quarantine for new Diablo players“It is morally dubious for a company to take your money for a full product — as the $60 price point would imply — and then give you something less and limited. “
  • And Kurn writes a really interesting, thoughtful post looking at the ways in which the WoW playerbase is not given access to good information on how to play their game“Our poor mage friend, whose sad, sad armory started this two-thousand word post, might not be such a tragic, ignorant soul, if only Blizzard had bothered to tell him that he doesn’t need spirit. Yet, they don’t tell him that. They don’t even tell him he needs hit rating (although the hit chance/miss chance table is certainly a step in the right direction).”

AS a guide writer, I couldn’t agree more with Kurn. The fact that our guides are so popular is a testament to just how much of WoW’s basic system of mechanics isn’t clearly explained. Indeed, the commentary on our paladin tank caps article alone – where many, many players thank us profusely for explaining how a vital part of the game works – makes me wonder why Blizzard want WoW’s basic mechanics to be so obfuscated.

Do you think these criticisms of Blizzard are fair?

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MAKE $$$ PLAYING VIDEO GAMES ONLINE NOW $$$

Don’t worry, we’ve not been hacked. (You can tell because I’m not repeating all my keywords again and again in this article.) But today, money, money, money – it is indeed a rich man’s virtual world.

With the Diablo 3 Auction House looming over us like an over-long sales letter, and the associated tide of Diablo 3 gold guides starting to break, everyone’s talking virtual finance. And with the Pathfinder MMORPG developers trying to get gamers to finance their tech demo, Hell ain’t the only place where it’s starting to look like greed is good.

Whether you want to know what the latest is on the virtual stock ticker, want to discuss just how ethical it is to ask fans to finance an internal demo, or just want some good old fashioned gold tips, the blogosphere’s got it for you today:

  • Ferrel at Epic Slant discusses Kickstarter, and specifically Pathfinder, in a post explaining why he’s not pitching in to fund his perfect MMO“In every way I am the person they are trying to entice. I was not enticed to donate. Why? It didn’t make sense to me. I realize some people will support the project just because it is Pathfinder but for me there are some issues with their strategy.”
  • Tobold’s extremely cynical about Diablo III gold guides, and in response has written a free Diablo 3 gold guide of his own – “Scammers will gladly promise you the secrets of making $25 per hour, if only you buy their Diablo 3 secret gold guide for $19.95. Only after you paid that will they tell you that they meant you’ll make $25 per week, of which you spend 1 hour on the auction house, not 40 times $25 for $1,000 per week. And all the tips in the gold guide will be so common sense, that I can tell you those secrets for free in this post.”
  • And Heartbourne at the Lorehound discusses the economics of Diablo 3 too, in an extremely interesting and figure-filled analysis of how its fee structures will play out“If there is some average level, like our 100g to the dollar example, I would prefer to trade in gold for cheaper transactions: I would rather receive 127.5 gold than $0.50 Battle.net. On the flip side, I would rather get paid in a Battle.net balance than gold on the auction house above $2.60: even if I want gold, I can use the higher levels of Battle.net money to buy more gold.”

Are you optimistic about Diablo 3 gold, or Kickstarter dollars? Or do you think one or the other is a scam?

P.S. Dear Google Penguin – we’re not actually trying to rank for these terms, please don’t peck us to death.

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Lore Tuesday – Diablo’s Backstory and What Happened to The Archbishop?

Archbishop Benedictus of Stormwind is evil now, apparently – but why? Plus, All Of T3h Lore from Diablo’s backstory, just in time for release.

It’s a good day for lore today, with several bloggers taking on the challenge of explaining Blizzard’s ever-more-sprawling plots and backstories for those of us who are, frankly, just mired in confusion at this point.

First up, Blog of the Treant has started a series off discussing the lore of Diablo, in time for D3’s release in a few days. Normally we wait for a series to be complete before featuring it, but the first part of this one alone is such a massive undertaking that it’s worth getting started right now

“Demons are by nature rather quarrelsome beings. So it should come as no surprise that eventually civil war broke out within the Burning Hells. The four Lesser Evils rebelled against the three Prime Evils and won, casting the Prime Evils out of Hell and exiling them to Sanctuary. This would have bode ill for humanity, but the Archangel Tyrael was keeping an eye on things and quickly went into action. Tyrael founded the Horadrim, a group of humans dedicated to capturing and imprisoning the Prime Evils. (One of these Horadrim was a man named Jared Cain, most notable because one of his descendants would be Deckard Cain, the NPC that assists players in all three Diablo games.)

The Horadrim decided to imprison the Prime Evils within fragments of the Worldstone called soulstones. By binding the demons within the stones they could be confined and imprisoned indefinitely. This plan was successful and all three Prime Evils were confined within the stones and then hidden away with various guardians and protective measures taken to ensure the Evils would not escape.

Mephisto and Baal were captured at the same time, though Baal’s destructive force managed to damage his soulstone to the point where it could not sufficiently confine him. A Horadric sage named Tal Rasha volunteered to take Baal’s soulstone within himself and use his own body and spirit to confine the demon. Tal Rasha plunged Baal’s soulstone into his own chest, was sealed up inside the tomb meant for Baal, and then was left alone to struggle with the demon for all eternity.

I don’t know why anyone thought that was a good idea.”

Like I said, this post’s looooong – and the story it’s describing feels like it should have chapter and verse numbers next to it, or at least big illustrated chapter headings like a 12th century scripture. But it’s all interesting stuff, and Khizzara has done a hell of a job assembling all of it for us.

Meanwhile, I can’t imagine I’m the only one who greeted the big reveal of Archbishop Benedictus’s sudden – yet inevitable – betrayal in Hour Of Twilight with a “wait, what?”. Once again, Blizzard have succeeded in not so much burying the lede on this potentially fascinating story as shovelling the entire damn newspaper into a landfill.

But fear not – Tzufit of Tree Heals Go Whoosh is on the Case of the Missing Backstory, and it turns out she can indeed handle the truth

“The figure of the Twilight Father (sometimes called the Twilight Prophet) emerges during the Twilight of the Aspects novel. After we disposed of Cho’gall, the Twilight Father rose to become the next leader of the Twilight Hammer cult. This new leader hatches a pretty crazy plan to abduct a blue dragon, Kirygosa, the pregnant mate of another blue dragon who was a likely candidate to become the new Aspect of Magic. What follows is something of a comedy of errors with the Twilight Father failing again and again at the tasks Deathwing sets before him.

Benedictus’ primary success as the Twilight Father is that he manages to secure the center of Dragonblight for the Twilight Hammer’s forces, taking over Wyrmrest Temple in the process. After this, things start to go wrong. Kirygosa’s mate sacrifices himself to save a large number of unhatched dragon eggs that the Twilight Father had planned to twist into chromatic dragons. Though he does eventually succeed in awakening a giant chromatic dragon who he intends to “mate” with Kirygosa, she escapes before he can go through with this plan. In his final failure, the Twilight Father fails to prevent a ritual performed by Thrall and the dragon aspects that grants them substantial new powers (perhaps the powers they end up using to defeat Deathwing in the Dragon Soul raid).

All along, Deathwing is furious with the Twilight Father for his constant shortcomings, though he continues to give Benedictus additional chances to prove himself. Finally, after the disaster with Thrall, Deathwing basically tells Benedictus that he needs to “lie low” in Stormwind for a while until the time is right for them to strike again. Most importantly, though, this direct communication between Benedictus and Deathwing finally establishes some idea of the chain of command from the Aspect of Death to the Twilight’s Hammer cult. I’ve mentioned before that this, to me, is one of the most confusing elements of Cataclysm’s story – how exactly are the cultists, Deathwing, and the Old Gods related? We knew that the cult worshipped the Old Gods and that Deathwing was influenced by them, but seeing that Deathwing is giving orders directly to the Twilight Father – the head of the cult – at last gives us an explicit sense that the cult is not randomly spreading chaos across Azeroth, but is a part of the greater plan. Unfortunately, none of this is revealed in-game.”

It turns out that Benedictus’s story is actually rather good and interesting, and if Blizzard had chosen to reveal it in game would have been a really fun experience! However, barring that, Tzufit has done a really good job summarising and collating the story here. Read it if you want to find out what was really happening during all that rather confusing and sudden role-reversal!

**Enjoyed these posts? Make sure you don’t miss the best MMO posts of every week with the MMO Melting Pot Weekly Digest

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Blizzard’s Q4 2011 Investor Call – the reactions

Yes, once again Blizzard have been out there Saying Things. This time, it was in their quarterly call to their investors, where they revealed a number of interesting things, including a small drop in subscriber numbers for WoW (down 100,000 people), the likely release date of Diablo 3 (Q2, meaning April to June – damn, I’m good), and the number of people who signed up for the WoW Annual Pass (over 1 million).

Several blogs have been analysing the figures and reports, and coming out with some interesting stuff:

  • WoW Insider have a live blog of the call if you want the fine details.
  • Player vs Developer investigates the implications of the Annual Pass figure“Us bloggers have referred to 2011 as a bad year for World of Warcraft. The reality is that there is maybe a single MMO in the world right now that has more month-to-month subscribers than Blizzard has ANNUAL subscribers.”
  • And In An Age studies some fine detail from the call, including titbits about Bungie and Chuck Norris“It occurs to me that it is entirely possible that we could see two new, separate MMO properties out of Activision Blizzard even with WoW still sucking most of the oxygen out of the MMO room. “

What did you think of the new Investor Call info?

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In which WoW gets cross-realm raiding, Markco gets banned, and Johnnie gets drunk with power

That’s right, people, there’s a new sheriff in town!

Actually, there’s only a temporary stand-in sheriff, and your original favourite sheriff will be back in a few days. Hugh is taking a well-deserved break and spending a few days in Paris, the lucky so-and-so. That means the Pot is in the temporarily-empowered hands of yer uncle Johnnie.

So. Let’s see what’s happening out there in MMO-land … oh, look! A patch!

WoW Patch 4.3.2 is live, and has brought with it the possibility of (admittedly limited) cross-realm raiding, and the blogosphere has stepped up to the plate to provide a couple of really great tools to help with organising cross-realm raids. First up is LFRaid.com, a brand new site from Reliq of Azeroth Observer. Signing up to the site will allow you to create a profile, find a raid, or recruit additional players for your own raid. It’s early days yet (the site is still very firmly in Beta) but Reliq tells us that new features are planned for the very near future, including advice on sharing RealID and the ability to manage teams and send out your own invites. This looks like it could become a great tool for finding an LFR raid that doesn’t make you want to get a PhD in Advanced Theoretical Computing so that you can find a way to entirely digitize yourself, then transfer yourself to an electronic medium so that you can fly down your ethernet cable right into the homes of every one of those twenty-four idiots and beat them about the head until they learn to stop using the phrase “ffs tnak sux”.

Ahem. Apologies. I may be projecting there, every so slightly.

Along similar lines to LFRaid.com, a few prominent WoW twitterers have set up Twitterland, a dedicated portal for WoW-playing Twitter users to come together and organise raids. They’re using the Enjin guild website portal, which Rebecca reviewed in early 2011 and it looks like it’s perfectly suited to the task. They’re a friendly group, so pop by and say hi.

The Diablo 3 Beta team, it seems, are distinctly less friendly. Markco (a well-known and sometimes controversial WoW gold blogger, who Hugh interviewed last year) has now moved onto the Diablo 3 Beta, and is blogging gold-making strategies over at the Diablo 3 Gold Guide. Of course, Diablo 3 will feature real-world money trading, which makes Markco’s skills potentially very profitable. Perhaps too profitable: Markco was banned from the D3 beta test , seemingly for the crime of just being too darned good at what he does.

Today I received confirmation that my use of the tools Blizzard provides every player were considered exploitative of the Diablo 3 Beta economy. I have been asked to tell customer support about my ideas for making gold or real money BEFORE trying them in the retail version of the game.

Blizzard, and this goes for whoever makes the policy over there for banning accounts, are you kidding me? Because I used my brain and got materials from salvaging vendor items and gimped my character’s survivability with 145% gold find gear I should be banned?

This is distressing stuff, because it could potentially lead to accounts being banned in retail simply because they are better at the economic game than 99% of the player-base. Now I will have to be careful not to make “too much” gold while playing.

It’s perhaps inevitable that Blizzard would need to iron out some wrinkles from the trading and gold-making aspects of Diablo 3 – that’s what a Beta is for, after all – but if Markco has indeed been banned for simply making too much gold too quickly, it’s a bit disappointing. Blizzard knew what a can of worms they were opening in allowing real-world money to enter the D3 economy. They must have known, also, that it would attract a lot of skilled WoW auctioneers looking to turn their skills into a real-life income stream. Imposing an arbitrary limit on the amount of money that can be made goes against the spirit of that intent.

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Diablo III Bans, WoW Node Theories, and Why Indies Are Awesome – weekend links!

Some great blogging, interesting theorising, and even a bit of controversy this weekend – so let’s get straight to it!

  • Both Tobold and Stabs are commenting on the story that gold blogger Marcko has allegedly been banned from Diablo III for, according to him, making too much gold in the beta. Of course, it’s worth noting that we only have one side of this story – nonetheless, the commentary and speculation are interesting!
  • Gazimoff wrote a great guide to getting started as an MMO blogger“Ideas are fickle things – sometimes there’s a huge flood of them desperate to leak out everywhere, other times your creativity is left like a barren and dry desert. The best safeguard is to write down ideas when inspiration hits you so that you don’t forget them later.”
  • Glow of Glow’s Branches writes a really fascinating piece theorising how node respawning works in WoW. Surprisingly complex stuff“if you’re the only one farming in a given zone, you can test this by mining a node and then camping the node group. It’s possible to sit for an hour or more and not have it respawn. Then, you can zoom off, mine another group and zoom back and the first node has respawned. I’ve tested this behaviour a few times, and it’s fairly consistent.”
  • Cynwise sheds light on another area of PvP I didn’t know much about – the increasing, close-to-ridiculous difficulty of PvP reputation grinds“Let’s say you are a relatively casual player and can play 3-4 AB battles a night (2 hours with queue times). You better keep up that pace for 286 days. Nothing but Arathi Basin. No Arena. No PvE. Just AB. BS, LM, ST. “
  • And Tales of the Rampant Coyote has a wonderful story about just how much indie game developers can rock (Story mostly told in screenshots).

How was your MMOing weekend?

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Of Things That Have Passed – RMT reluctance and forced socialising

MMOs have a history now, long enough that many things have genuinely passed into memory and lore.

And today, we’re looking at the plus ca change side of MMOs, rather than the plus la meme chose side.

  • The Grumpy Elf has an excellent piece about how he – a self-confessed non-social person – misses the forced social interaction of earlier WoW“While I was never a social type of player to begin with I got used to the fact that sometimes I needed to talk to others to complete a task. Other players would feel like real people because I needed to talk to them and not just like NPCs that are helping me with my task.”
  • Troll Racials are Overpowered looks back to the days when we left an expansion with many raids still incomplete“When the loot becomes a toy rather than a deserved, demanded reward, people are nicer about it. It’s simply a different experience, raiding old raids, than anything else in the game. Raid old raids is a form of content, accidentally created with the Burning Crusade expansion.”
  • And Tobold is looking at the way Diablo III is – quietly, understatedly – dismantling historial objections to RMT trading in-game“It is very hard to condemn some Free2Play game for selling the Sword of Uberness for $10 if at the same time you are selling your Sword of Uberness on the Diablo 3 auction house for $10. From the buyer’s point of view, there is no difference from where the Sword of Uberness comes, and who pockets the money.”
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Tyrael’s Charger – what the new WoW mount looks like, where to get it, and who exactly Tyrael is

In amongst the excitement at Blizzcon 2011 this year, one announcement hasn’t gotten as much attention as we might have expected – there’s a new flying mount available to buy for World of Warcraft. Tyrael’s Charger is an angelic, winged horse, and it can be yours for –

Wait, what?

Yep, that’s right. The only way to get the Horse With Wings currently is to buy an annual subscription to World of Warcraft.

The Charger

Youtube Video:

(from MMO Champion)

The Charger is, fairly obviously, a successor to the Celestial Steed, aka the Sparklepony. So far, all we have of it is this one image, from which the most distinctive aspect are its angel wings. We don’t know yet, but I’d guess that they will ripple rather than flap, as Tyrael’s wings do in Diablo.

Less obviously, you can see the horse also has a glowing angelic mane (for art nerds, both the wings and the mane are produced with an additive texture – the same trick WoW uses in many other places to create glowing swords and ghosts, and the Sparklepony itself). Unless there have been some artistic liberties taken with the picture, it’s also pretty damn big – the night elf on its back looks about the same size as she would on a dragon mount, not a normal horse.

Beyond that, we’ve got the standard Blizzard “Holy” gold armour, unsprisingly given its presumed angelic origins. The horse itself is pretty heavy-set – we’re looking at a warhorse here, not something nimble and light.

Personally, I’m not nearly convinced by it as a mount – the wings are attractive, but the rest of it feels too much like a Paladin steed with some fancy dress wings tacked on. However, that may all change when we see more of it – if handled right, it could have an unstoppable feel, and be a great mount for any character in the priest/paladin line.

I can’t see it ever fitting a Rogue, though!

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How to get the flying horse

Currently, there’s only one way to get Tyrael’s Charger – by buying an annual subscription to WoW, which will also get you a free copy of Diablo III and access to the Mists of Pandaria beta.

When do you get the Charger? As soon as Patch 4.3 drops, it’ll turn up in your mail. You’ll get it for all characters at the same time.

It’s expensive, but is it a good deal? Well, that very much depends on how sure you are that you’re going to be playing WoW in the next year (and, of course, if you’re interested in Diablo). This seems like a pretty impressive offer for Blizzard to make, and is leading to some speculation that there might be a reason they expect a lot of people to unsubscribe in the next year, beyond the looming shadow of Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Will Sparklepony 2.0 ever be available another way? Probably, but likely not for a while. Blizzard are pushing the Annual Offer hard, and are likely to keep it up for a while. I’d expect Tyrael’s Charger to become available in the Blizzard store after Diablo III’s launch, but not before.

So what’s the backstory to Tyrael’s Charger?

Oddly, this mount has nothing to do with WoW at all. Instead, it’s a reference to the Archangel Tyrael in the Diablo lore – presumably to tie in with the Diablo III ramp-up that’s happening now.

In the Diablo universe, Tyrael essentially represents the side of good opposed to the evil of Diablo. He’s an Archangel who leads the Heavenly Host, and appears to you as the player character in the final act of Diablo II, giving you the quest to defeat Diablo himself. You can see him in action at 0:35 in this video – it’s pretty easy to see where the Steed got its wings.

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    Tyrael in Diablo II
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This isn’t Tyrael’s first appearance in WoW – rather undignifiedly for an Archangel, he also made an appearance as a minipet a couple of years ago, Mini Tyrael.

His role in Diablo III is unknown at the moment, but it’s speculated that he’ll play a major role, possibly as a fallen angel opposing the rest of the Angelic Council.

All of this leaves just one piece of missing information about Tyrael’s steed – why would someone who can fly need a horse?

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Diablo 3 release date – Blizzard say it’ll be 2012, but when?

UPDATE: Diablo 3’s release date will be May 15th 2012!

Ten years since last release! Real-Money Auction House! DIABLO, man! So, when’s it coming out? Sadly – but predictably – there’s no sign yet of an official release date for Diablo 3. We’ve heard guesses of Q3 2011, Q4 2011, and “Early 2012”. Nonetheless, Blizzard remains tight-lipped. But that doesn’t mean we can’t come up with a pretty accurate theory, even before it’s announced or there’s more news – or a leak.

There’s actually a lot of information out there, from details of Blizzard’s game development process to things we can read between the lines in Blizzard’s business situation, to go on! So let’s get into the evidence and see how we do on prediction…

This article was updated on 15th March 2012.

When it’s ready

The earliest possible release date for Diablo 3 was some time in 2011, confirmed in 2010 in the infamous leaked Blizzard production slate. The leaked slate detailing Blizzard’s plans for the next few years confirmed Diablo as targetted at the fourth quarter of 2011 – around Christmas, in other words.

Rob Pardo confirmed that as Blizzard’s goal in a Kotaku interview at the start of 2011 – but even then, he was cagy, saying “Our goal is to get there. But you know, at the end of the day, we are going to get it right. That’s more important. We’re going to promise, we’re going to get it out there when it’s awesome.”.

It looks like it wasn’t awesome enough. Blizzard clearly knew they weren’t going to hit their target by September 2011, when they accidentally leaked the new date – “early in 2012” – on the Blizzard website.

And now, we’re at the start of February, and overly creative games stores nonwithstanding, there’s no sign of Diablo 3 yet. So, how much will Blizzard add on to the release date this time?

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What’s holding D3 up?

There’s no doubt that work on Diablo III is progressing fast. Recent revelations about some of the game features (the real-money auction house being a prominent example) are good indications of a game entering its final phase of developement. However, it would appear that not everything’s going to plan. In the last month, Blizzard have both cut significant features from the game (the “too cute” Companion Pets), and have redesigned massive chunks of the game’s mechanics.

Changes announced in January included massive changes to core character mechanics, including the removal of the Attack, Defense and Precision attributes. Major NPCs were removed, and several significant gameplay systems were being overhauled – including changes which Jay Wilson wasn’t ready to talk about.

So, does this mean that Diablo 3 is in real trouble?

Probably not.

These changes aren’t desperate last-minute fixes – they’re the symptoms of the development system Blizzard is using at work. Blizzard use an iterative development process, meaning that rather than finalising the game’s systems and mechanics before they build it (a good way to quickly build a really bad game), they build parts of the game, or rough prototypes, then test, then refine their design, rebuild or build more, and repeat. Whilst most games companies do this to a certain extent, Blizzard appear to be taking it to the same sort of extremes that Valve Software espouse – which tends to make games very, very late, but also very, very good.

Unfortunately, it also means that no-one including the designers can predict when a game will be finished – essentially, you keep trying out designs until you’ve got one that’s awesome. Infamously, Valve Software actually built most of Half-Life twice over – literally stopping half-way through production and scrapping everything they’d done so far.

As you can imagine, working this way makes scheduling extremely difficult. It’s possible to repeatedly iterate a single design element, think it’s nearing perfection, and only after a bunch of work realise that actually you need to throw it out and start over with a completely new idea. It’s not possible to tell an idea that’s nearly awesome from an idea that’ll never be awesome except by testing it and improving it until it becomes obvious one way or the other.

That’s where Blizzard are now, it would appear. They’ve thrown out a bunch of old systems, they’re working on new ones, and they don’t know when – or if – they’ll be as good as they need to be.

There is some good news, though. We also know that they’re working in a non-linear fashion, however, so the fact that they’re reworking major gameplay systems doesn’t mean that other parts of the game aren’t completely finished and waiting for release. And whilst the systems that Wilson is talking about sound major, many of them don’t actually impact the really time-consuming bit of game development – art design. So it might well be that the game’s weeks away from being finished.

So, when will Diablo 3 be released?

So, in summary, here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for – our best guess as to when Diablo 3 will be released.

It’s not coming in February. The physical process of getting a game onto discs takes a couple of weeks even if it’s completely finished, and after major system changes there will be a lot of QA testing to be done, and at least a bit of art to be re-created. In addition, Jay Wilson confirmed in January that there would be “future Beta patch updates”, which implies that Beta isn’t expected to finish before mid-Feb at the earliest, probably later. Beta patches have been arriving about two a month, and he references multiple beta patches.

As for dates after that, it’s very much be a question of how long it takes Blizzard’s devs to narrow down on the most fun game possible. It would appear that there’s a lot of internal pressure to make this game fantastic, and that means that Blizzard are going to be trying to invest as much as possible of the only resource that can make it happen – time.

The fact that they’ve not even released a couple of significant systems to beta testers implies to me that we’re still a few months away from release. If all goes well, we could be looking at an early April release, allowing for both testing and QA time – but all might not go well.

If the systems being developed now don’t work, it’ll be back to the drawing board again. Ideally, I’m sure many Blizzard devs would be happy to continue to iterate for another year or more – but even given how important it is to get Diablo right, they can’t ignore commercial pressures forever.

I’d be surprised if they were able to get to the second quarter investor call without releasing, which happens in early July.

If they don’t have a release out by then, investors are likely to start getting nervous about their revenues, and just how long releases are taking. That could be disastrous for their stock price, and is something they’ll be wanting to avoid at all costs.

That means that we’re looking at a window somewhere between Early April and Late June 2012. We just can’t narrow it down further.

Update – they’ve announced the date – May 15th, right in the middle of the window we predicted! Go us.

But that’s OK – we’re not alone. At this point, even Blizzard probably can’t narrow it down further! So, whenever you’re sitting swearing about Blizzard not telling us when it’ll be done – remember, Mike Morhaine’s probably sitting in his office saying much the same thing…

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