When I met Jay Wilson today, Blizzard's lead designer on Diablo III, I opened our conversation with two loaded little words: Art direction.
I didn't need to say any more, of course, because Wilson already knew about the fan-fit I was referring to. "It's a complex issue", he said. "It's been a big issue online, but for the most part, the response we've gotten has been very positive. We've got petitions, a few people on forums [who are]very loud, but it's really more of the 'squeaky wheel' syndrome".
"Certainly, internally there's no doubt. I would tell people who don't like the art style that probably, getting the art style was the hardest thing".
But there's a careful method to all of it, Wilson explained:
Wilson said that what we see now is the third iteration on the Diablo III design. As with many of the decisions the developer makes, much of the art design issue was based in gameplay principles.
"Diablo is a game you play for, hopefully, hundreds of hours, and one of the rewards is a variety of different-looking environments". People looking back on old Diablo, he said, may have a selective memory. "People remember the Act I dungeons... but they kind of conveniently forget the green fields of Act I, and all of Act II... and it's palaces, its bright deserts".