The way of viewing monsters in Diablo as inhabiting a living world is awesome to me, I recall being 13 years old and super fascinated with the lore surrounding each and every monster in the game, finding favorites that I still remember fondly now in my 30’s.
That’s why I felt delighted to hear the Diablo 4 team explain that they view the monsters in D4 as being part of monster “families”, as I understood it, in an attempt to give the monsters more of a natural context and personality.
The monsters in the demo did not disappoint, granted I couldn’t see the personalities of individual monster types being expressed very well in their tactics, movement and mannerisms, but then again its early in development and the models did look awesome!
Then I got to see the different bosses being displayed and while I do realise they are act and world bosses or something of the equal and that it is a demo, they seemed so misplaced.
First off they were Humongous! Not just Ashava, the other ones too. While size can seem intimidating, it is only scary at a glance, when you engage the giant monster and realize it doesn’t kill you in one hit, the size become redundant and the boss run the risk of being just a slow moving, unresponsive wow boss with some cool looking attacks and giant aoe.
I can guess why you are making the WoW bosses though. You want a bunch of people fighting the boss at once, and every one of them have the right to the same boss experience right? The players will be taking down the boss together, using coordinated tactics and team effort, and in that you have replayability, like in WoW.
But if you break the player out of the fantasy to do it, you won’t create replay value that lasts beyond the leader board grind.
Besides, do all the players and their different characters really need to have the same boss experience?
The answer to that question is no. We don’t. We’d rather like having to create new characters to be able to have different boss experiences with the familiar bosses. Over and over. A different personal fantasy for each character I create.
A “world boss” (or similar), should be the exciting hard fought climax to a long adventure and if the boss is not of the same world as the adventure leading up to it, how am I expected to stay engaged in the fantasy? [They can’t all be Diablo himself].
One of the devs used the old school Butcher as an example of one of his favorite diablo monster encounters. An awesome boss that I bet all who played D1 or D2 remember.
The Butcher seemed giant and terrifying when you encountered him, not because he took up most of the screen, he wasn’t much larger than the character you were playing, but because he fit into the world!
The same goes for the D1 skeleton king, he was huge! But when I first met him I was playing as a warrior.
I’d been hacking my way through skeletons like nothing because I was a bad ass warrior and so when I saw the skeleton king I ran towards him in bravado! I soon got to know the taste of my own heart though, as it jumped right up my throat when that mastodon blade of his struck me. Seconds later I was dead, and had adrenaline pumping out my ears. That’s how you make a giant boss!
The two boss examples I just used are not the only ones from d1 and d2, there are loads of these encounters, and I bet you I still remember almost all of them.
When I first met the Skeleton King I ran towards him, cause I was as big and bad as him, or so I thought. But that would not have been the case had I met him as a rogue or sorc. The role playing changes depending on my character and the way I choose to play the game. If all the world bosses are big as five story houses or more, I should want to run like hell with all characters. It all can becomes very monotone, fantasy wise.
You might counter my arguments by bringing up the d2 act bosses, and while these were big, they were also mobile and their tactics catered to the environment in which you fought them. Very different to what I saw in the demo.
Among the world bosses in the d4 demo I saw one exception to the “too big for fantasy” thing, Duriel.
But Duriel is supposed to be big. He doesn’t have a bunch of aoe attacks and when fighting him you’re confined to a small space and have to dance around his feet in order not to get skewered on his giant Hydralisk scythes. But you can’t design all world bosses like this, that would be boring too.
When I’m on the topic of bosses I might as well tell you about what did mess with the fantasy around Duriel in the demo. He’s little cute children spitting at you are neither gross nor frightening, both values that Duriel embodies. Duriel is not a father on paternity leave, he doesn’t care about his spawn. Hell, he would even crush them under his feet and slimy fat body if they happened to stand in-between him and the character I’m playing.
The Diablo 4 team used the buzzword “fantasy” a lot at blizzcon, but do they really grasp its meaning in the context of the role playing game Diablo? I’m not too sure, but I really hope they do.