Turns out, it's never too late to do the right thing. Last week in San Francisco, the Game Developers Conference held a postmortem for Diablo, the classic PC game released in 1996. Headlined by David Brevik, a co-founder of Blizzard North, the presentation gave a fantastic behind-the-scenes look at how the action role-playing game came to be. You can read more about that here, or even take a look at the original Diablo pitch document here.
At the end of the postmortem, there was a Q&A session. One man, Shivam Bhatt, got up to ask a question. That's when an idea popped into his head.
"I asked a question about Battle.net and while he answered, I started checking my wallet," Bhatt told me over email. He counted $US40 — around the amount Diablo would have cost back in 1996, when it was originally released — and, in front of the GDC attendees, he told Brevik that he was going to pay for the copy of Diablo he pirated in 1997.
"I was 16 years-old, and my friend had gotten his first ever CD-R drive (1x)," Bhatt told me. "It took something like four hours to copy a game or music CD, and the discs themselves were hella expensive. We were just excited to try it out.
"My friends and I used to drag our PCs and monitors to each others houses for LAN parties, and we didn't always have the games that everyone wanted to play, so boom, we learned how to copy games to play. Diablo was part of this trend, because Battle.Net meant not having to lug our boxes around. We were all huge fantasy fans, and Warcraft 2 fans, so the idea of a new Blizzard game that was like D&D was just incredible.
"As high schoolers, we didn't all have much in the way of money, and my mum wasn't about to buy a game like Diablo for me, so copying was the way. It was one of the first games passed around my group like this."
It goes deeper than that, though: Bhatt told me that the friend who first lent him the Diablo disc passed away of cancer.
"Diablo was our favourite thing to do together," Bhatt said. "I felt that thanking the creator of our shared passion was the best way I could honour my friend's memory."
I think Brevik appreciated the gesture:
— Shivam Bhatt (@elektrotal) March 18, 2016
That was incredible! I was stunned. Thank you so very much! https://t.co/FGpynruv66
— David Brevik (@davidbrevik) March 19, 2016
The entire thing wasn't planned, though — it was all spontaneity, inspired by the great talk Brevik gave.
"Seriously, who plans on going up to one of their favourite game creators in public and saying 'Hi, I stole your game 20 years ago!'" Bhatt joked.
"Diablo 1 is one of my favourite games, and if my gesture brought Mr Brevik even a fraction of the joy his game gave me, I'll consider it entirely worth it," Bhatt said. "We all do dumb things as kids, and when we see the chance to rectify some of our mistakes, we should."