Jason Schreier is a journalist with a lot of sources, and one would do well to listen to what he has to say, especially if you're a Diablo fan. He recently published a long and well-researched article about the Diablo franchise over at Kotaku, where he has interviewed 11 current and former Blizzard employees, and it's interesting reading to say the least.
Among the more interesting tidbits of information is the fact that the second expansion to Diablo III was scrapped so the team could start their work on Diablo IV, and because the higher-ups in Blizzard felt the developers had made a mess of things with III.
"What they told the team was, 'You've finished Reaper of Souls, it's really good. But we think the best thing for the IP is to move to Diablo IV in whatever form that'll be,'" said one of Schreier's sources. "The overall sense on the team, at least in my impression, was that there was a vote of no confidence from the executives. They thought Diablo III was a giant f***-up."
The Diablo team has also at some point worked on a project called Hades, which was supposed to take the franchise in a very different direction. It was a gothic dungeon crawler, a sort of Diablo meets Dark Souls, with an over-the-shoulder third-person perspective. The team worked on this project for two years, before that too was scrapped.
After that, in 2016 they started work on a project called Fenris. According to Schreier's sources, Fenris is Diablo IV, but don't get too excited just yet! Although they have been working on it for the past two years, they still have a long way to go - they still haven't decided on whether they'll go for an isometric camera like previous Diablo games, or use the over-the-shoulder third-person perspective they made for the canceled Hades project. We probably won't get our hands on the game until 2020 at the earliest either, but they have a clear idea of what they want to achieve with the new game:
"There's a lot of people who felt like Diablo III got away from what made Diablo Diablo in terms of art style and spell effects," said a current Blizzard employee.
"They want to make this gross, make it dark, [get rid of] anything that was considered cartoony in Diablo III... Make what people were afraid of in Diablo II, but modern," added another.
The team also wants to make the game more social, maybe adding hubs filled with other players instead of NPCs, and draw inspiration from games like Destiny and their own MMO-giant World of Warcraft.
"The question that kept getting asked is, 'If there's going to be a 'strike' equivalent, where you're forced into a very story-focused, well-designed level of a dungeon, what does that look like in Diablo?" said one of Schreier's sources. "What if we still had a core Diablo game that just happened to have a bunch of people on the map to do other cool stuff?"
It'll be interesting to see how many of these ideas make it to the actual game, but it's obvious that we have to wait a while until we know anything for sure. That said, it's good to hear more positive news about the franchise given the very controversial announcment of mobile game Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon earlier this month.
Does this soothe some of your worries about Diablo IV?