I have a tough time with second-hand embarrassment.
For those not familiar with the term, second-hand embarrassment is when you witness someone else enter into a highly embarrassing situation. It happens all the time in movies – the protagonist rips their clothing at an important formal event, says the wrong thing during a debate, messes up before a large crowd, gets rejected by a romantic interest, et cetera. And while many have no issue with these scenes, I can’t help but cringe and turn away a little – real or fake, I don’t want to see anyone go through moments like those.
Which is why I’ve had such a difficult time watching the live presentation and subsequent Q&A session for the newly-unveiled Diablo Immortal, revealed live at Blizzcon 2018.
Diablo Immortal is the latest thing to come out of the Diablo franchise, a series of top-down/isometric Hack and Slash RPG’s that have received great praise in the past. Diablo 1 and 2 were among the most highly-praised titles in Blizzard history, and despite Diablo 3’s mixed reception by many of Blizzard’s most core fans, it was still a title loved by many others.
Diablo 3 released for PC in 2008, which means its been ten years since the unveiling of ANYTHING for the franchise. And when Diablo Immortal was revealed to be an MMO for mobile phones, there was a massive uproar from fans.
One might say a ‘hellish’ reaction. Heh heh.
The backlash comes from a few different areas. For one, there’s a general assumption (that holds true in many cases) that mobile RPGs are free-to-play and pay-to-win, featuring a game experience that is purposefully made unrewarding if played normally so the player will be more tempted to purchase ever-increasing amounts of in-game loot in order to progress at a fun pace.
Second, there are harsh limitations set upon a mobile RPG that would not be set upon a PC RPG. Due to the nature of mobile phones, the design team is far more limited in what they can do graphically with the game. They are also limited in the degree of complexity with which players can be expected to control their characters; Being given only a small touchscreen to implement move commands means that enemy monsters must have simpler patterns because the players cannot be expected to dodge more complex ones. This lowers the skill level required to succeed at the game, which makes the experience feel more dumbed-down and more reliant on who has the highest attack and health values rather than player skill.
The backlash resulted in the first time I have ever heard booing at a convention reveal. Some reveals have been disappointed in the past, but I’ve never heard of loud, public disapproval before in any reveal in any convention. If this isn’t a true first, it’s certainly a rare occasion.
Blizzard has taken a moment to speak back against the backlash they’ve received regarding the game. In an interview with Variety, they noted that they did not expect this level of hate from fans, and encourage them to hold their opinions until more information regarding Diablo: Immortal has come to light.
When asked about future projects, the team did not specifically mention “Diablo 4”. However, Blizzard Senior VP Allen Adham had this to say:
“We think we know what you’re hoping to see. We want to remind you that we have multiple Diablo teams working on multiple projects. Good things come to those who wait, but evil things sometimes take longer.”