Diablo Immortal has come a very long way. This was a game who's announcement started with the infamous "do you guys not have phones moment" at BlizzCon 2018, a moment that has been immortalised in memes and often sullied the reputation of this very free-to-play mobile experience. But Diablo Immortal has survived this test, and has continued to grow and improve over the years, something I've followed to quite an extent thanks to a variety of hands-on sessions in the past. Now, Diablo Immortal is almost here, and to learn some last minute details about the game, I've recently caught up with senior game designer Scott Burgess and lead artist Hunter Schultz from Blizzard to chat about the PC version, wacky cosmetics, and about what the future holds.
To this very extent, I decided to ask the pair about the elephant in the room right off the bat: the PC version, and how, if at all, the decision to bring Diablo Immortal to PC affected development plans.
"As we went forward we realised even more that players are going to be playing this on PC anyway," Burgess said. "There's plenty of third-party emulators that they can be downloading and playing, and so rather than having that questionable experience where we aren't in control, we thought why don't we just make a PC version ourselves so players have that Blizzard polish that we want them to have."
"The conversion process, as far as the actual gameplay was very good. Obviously we had to change some of the UI elements to make sure it matched the PC monitor, rather than having giant UI that you normally see on a phone, and we also added the point and click element with keyboard and mouse so that traditional Diablo players can play it the way they are used to."
Burgess continued, "That's one reason why we're keeping the beta tag right now, because we made all these changes, it might be a little rough around the edges, and we want to make sure that players, if they find any issue, they can let us know."
Keeping on the topic of platforms, I asked about the generally quite rapid development of mobile devices, and if the frequent new tech would see Blizzard looking to move on from supporting Diablo Immortal on older devices. Burgess told me.
"Our approach with the phones that we are on is to cast a wider net and to be accessible across more phones. As more phones come out, I'm sure we're just going to say that's more phones you can play Diablo Immortal. We don't have any plans to say this phone is too old, get off that phone. We're more about getting Diablo Immortal into more hands rather than less."
Schultz then proceeded to add "As phones get more powerful, we're going to be continuing to add more content and also polishing the game. Who knows ten years down the road what phones will look like and what we would be capable of in the game."
The idea of potentially keeping a game alive for ten years is quite the promise, one that would need the game to be successful both in the eyes of players but also in a financial sense. So, I asked Schultz about whether we can expect some wacky crossovers and cosmetics, as is the case with a lot of live service projects these days.
"That's something that we have obviously talked a lot about. One of the main goals, I think across the board with game design and art design is we want to make sure we retain the style and the mood in the world. We want players to think they can exist in Sanctuary. So maybe adding or bringing in something from another IP or say a holiday, and you just plop it into Sanctuary and it's going to feel like what the hell is it doing there. We're obviously going to make reference to a lot of things that would feel familiar, but we're always going to try and ground it in the world."
Following up to this, with Diablo Immortal being a live service game, I asked about the future plans and what that might look like for the game.
"So I can't tease anything in particular," said Burgess before Schultz hopped in to add, "We can tease that we're working on it."
"We want to be introducing every few months, either a new dungeon or a new zone, and this is going to expand the story going forward," Burgess then continued. "We're also, with the Helliquarry bosses, our goal is to add a new Helliquarry boss roughly once a month, and we're going to have live content and updates throughout the year to make sure that the game feels fresh."
Schultz then clarified, "When I say we're working on it, I mean we are actually at the moment, it doesn't mean, we're working on it, we'll get there. We are in the future right now, we're not pausing at launch, we're not going to dust off our hands. We are already way ahead."
Looking to the future again, with the surprising PC release in mind, I asked about potentially bringing Diablo Immortal to consoles, especially since the Nintendo Switch seems like an ideal home for the game. Burgess briefly told me, "We think about everything. We talk about everything, but we have no plans right now to release on console."
With Diablo Immortal's launch being almost here, I posed a final question to Burgess and Schultz, asking about what parts of the game they were most excited to see fans getting their hands on. For Schultz that was framed around the narrative and storyline.
"The game is a very real, in-depth, Diablo story that takes place between Diablo II and Diablo III. If that's all you want to do, it's there, and you can just start up and enjoy that aspect of the game."
As for Burgess however, he was just excited for players to truly get a chance to see Diablo Immortal for what it really is: a Diablo game through and through. But Burgess also went a step further by exclaiming and doubling down on the title, even going as far as saying that it is set to become one of the top mobile games of all-time.
"We developed the game trying to make sure we had great content and a lot of content, but when you take a step back and you look at the game, you realise, 'wow, this is the biggest Diablo game yet'. It may be on mobile, but it's a true Diablo experience and that's the thing that excites me when players play it, they're going to be like; 'this is Diablo'."
Burgess continued, "It's not just a mobile version of Diablo, it is a Diablo game on mobile and it plays well across the board, and I'm just excited for players to experience this game. Because I think it's going to be one of the best mobile games ever. That's a bold statement, it's quite a bit biased, but I'm just excited for everyone to experience it."
You can check out Diablo Immortal for yourself on June 2, when the game officially launches on iOS and Android devices, and on PC in its beta form.