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I loaded up Diablo II last night, because I realized I still had it on my laptop and I figured, "Why not?" One thing that struck me was the character select screen -- all those characters arrayed there are proportioned in a very straightforward way. They basically just look like normal humans with crazy armor and weapons.
And I was at Blizzard office recently, and there's a plaque on the wall with the official artistic principles of Blizzard: "Bigger is always better. Less if never more," which evokes the WarCraft look with its much more heroically exaggerated characters. It does strike me as two different philosophies, at least to some extent. How much of that do you think about?
Julian Love: Well, obviously, there were two very largely different groups of artists. Some of the artists from D2 are still working on the game today.
I think what you're seeing there is a Blizzard philosophy that may have been there but may have not been disseminated across the entire company, which is, "You find the line by crossing it."
I think we've gotten really good at that now, allowing ourselves to push things to a point where they go too far, and then you look at them and you say, "Oh, okay. Now we know where the line is." But if you're trying to just edge up to the line, you might never find it.
That's the goal here, to push things as far as they can possibly go. So you're seeing things that are progressing maybe a little bit beyond where D2 was.
But definitely, I would say that our proportional sense for Diablo III is far, far less than let's say what happens in a game like WoW, where armor doesn't even look like it could function. We still put a lot of effort in to try and make sure the armor looks a lot more functional, that it doesn't look like it's just insane and total high fantasy.
In the case of StarCraft, there are plenty of RTS games each year. With World of Warcraft, there are a million MMOs every year. There aren't actually that top-down action RPGs. Torchlight is coming out, for one, but there are not as many examples. What's it like working in a genre like that where there aren't a lot of yardsticks?
Kevin Martens: Well, frankly, Diablo II is still on the PC sales charts every week. Over and over again, you have a big Christmas rush, and it bumps off, but then it's back on in early January again.
I think Diablo II is the standard for this kind of game, so largely what we're thinking about is making sure that we do the series justice -- which we feel that we are -- and making sure we're trying to expand the market. Personally speaking, I hunger for a game like this, one that's going to last for a long time -- something we can play for ten years, like Diablo II.
I think there's a massive market for it, but I also know the games are kind of hard to make and, really, it's hard to beat Diablo II. So that's the tricky part, and that's one of the reasons that there are not that many games out there. There's still a definitive one that's on the charts every week. That's the one that we have to beat. Luckily, we know a lot about it.
And more broadly than that genre, there is of course always widely-publicized pessimism about the PC platform, and has been for a long time. Does that concern you ever, either in a long-term sense for Blizzard as a company that is so devoted to the PC, or otherwise?
Kevin Martens: It has never affected us yet. The death knell of PC has risen and fallen over the years, and we keep releasing PC games, and they keep doing incredibly well. I think that there is a market out there for PC games. The latest consoles are great; it's easy to get the game running and all that. They're useful.
But everyone has a PC, and we try to keep our system requirements down as low as possible. That's one of the ways that we can make sure to appeal to enough people. Some of the really cutting edge games that come out for PC require a brand new video card and probably more RAM at least, if not a new CPU as well. That's really rare with Blizzard games. I think that's one of the reasons we still keep doing well.
Kevin Martens: If I could add to that -- the best evidence that the PC market is not actually dying is the 20,000 people that showed up this year at Blizzcon, and the fact that those tickets sold out in one minute flat. That doesn't seem to me that it's really good evidence of a platform with a problem.