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Interview The Tragedy of Leonard Boyarsky: "Diablo III was going to have branching storylines"

Discussion in 'News & Content Feedback' started by Infinitron, Feb 27, 2014.

  1. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    Tags: Blizzard Entertainment; Diablo III; Leonard Boyarsky

    After the shutdown of Troika Games in 2005, its founders, who were co-creators of the original Fallout, each went their separate ways. Tim Cain would work on the MMO Wildstar for six years before eventually reuniting with his old co-workers at Obsidian. Jason Anderson had short stints at both Interplay and inXile (where he was involved with the initial design of Wasteland 2) before joining up with Turtle Rock Studios, creators of Left 4 Dead. And Leonard Boyarsky...well, he joined Blizzard to work on Diablo III.

    Yeah, I know. It's been eight years now and we're still scratching our heads over that one. Well, the folks at PCGamesN were curious about this too, and they had the opportunity to ask him about it at a recent event. Here's what they learned:

    Suddenly, it makes sense. Why, in the early days of Diablo III, did Blizzard hire Leonard Boyarsky - one of the originators of the Fallout series, and later lead developer on Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines - to head up story on a linear action RPG?

    Here’s why: an early version of Diablo III had a branching narrative, and a sliding moral scale that opened up new player choices. But it was not to be.

    “That was one of the roads we went down early on when I first started,” Boyarsky told PCGamesN at a recent Reaper of Souls event. “And that was one of the reasons I think that they were interested in me joining the team, was because I had experience with that kind of RPG, and we were really interested in exploring that.”

    Boyarsky has remained Diablo III’s lead world designer for the past eight years - but in that time he’s come to believe that “you really can’t have an action RPG that has player choice”.

    “It’s because it moves quickly, but I think the bigger issue has to do with multiplayer,” he explained. “Because if we offer you two different paths and I want to take a different path to my friend, how do we then reconcile that?”

    Boyarsky noted that other multiplayer RPGs released since Diablo III have attempted solutions to the same problem - but in the process rendered choice-making “very superficial”. And that’s not something the man who designed Fallout 1’s endings is interested in.

    “If I’m making an RPG where you have choice, I want it to matter,” he said. “And it was really not possible to make it matter and to make this game.”

    During Diablo III’s development, the story team would have multiplayer meetings every two weeks - and every time they’d leave with “headaches and no answers”.

    “Because every time we came up with a solution it was like, ‘Well, what happens when your friend does this’,” said Boyarsky. “We just never really came up with a good solution.

    “If you’re making an action RPG, especially a multiplayer one, it really makes it impossible to go down that road.”

    Players would have had branching conversation choices - and a ‘corruption’ system would have seen players gain access to different conversation options as their characters fell from grace.

    In the end, though, Boyarsky and his colleagues told a linear story that was easily skippable for the portion of Diablo’s playerbase who were solely interested in loot.

    “I think eventually we came down too hard on the side of the players who didn’t really want a lot to do with the story,” said Boyarsky. “And that was very problematic because our story started out as something a lot more complex than we could probably tell in the context of what we were doing.

    “And instead of us realising that soon enough and really stripping that down, we continued to try to tell that story.”
    What a waste.
     
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  2. SuicideBunny (ノ ゜Д゜)ノ ︵ ┻━┻

    SuicideBunny
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    fuck you, blizzard.
    party leader morality/choice based game instance. blizz team should have played more gw1.
     
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  3. Gragt Arcane Patron

    Gragt
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    What a shame.
     
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  4. evdk comrade troglodyte :M Patron

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    Ask Sven, Leonard.
     
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  5. Crooked Bee (no longer) a wide-wandering bee Patron

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    Not even a branching storyline and morality meter would've made me play Diablo III. Too bad Leonard couldn't have worked on a different kind of RPG altogether instead.
     
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  6. Infinitron I post news Patron

    Infinitron
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    The PCGamesN guy mentions that too:

     
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  7. Scruffy The janitor Patron

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    I'm failing to see the problem here. What does "different paths" mean? That eventually you couldn't have access to the same cities/dungeons/whatever than your friend? Or what? Like, you're playing together and suddenly because of some previous choice, you can't go on the same quest together and stuff?
     
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  8. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

    SCO
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    Massively multiplayer is very different than normal multiplayer. Notably, fault tolerance and partitions come into play, and then shit's all fucked up.

    It's not like it's impossible, when different segments of players have different views of what the 'world' is like, you can reconcile them by making that 'part' be exclusive to the segmented player, but it probably wouldn't be pleasant to think about the typical blackisle scripting soup applied to that paradigm if you tried to rejoin the sections later.
     
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  9. Zed Codex Staff Patron

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    Not that it's particularly good or anything, but I must say Diablo III is at a pretty decent place right now as far as hack-n-slash gameplay and item design goes (which honestly goes a long way for a game like this).

    The level scaling + new difficulty levels they implemented actually improved the game. I never thought I'd say that about level scaling.
     
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  10. SuicideBunny (ノ ゜Д゜)ノ ︵ ┻━┻

    SuicideBunny
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    d3 isn't massive. you are playing with 3 other people tops. it really is no different from gw1 in that regard and there is absolutely no reason why they couldn't have one player be the designated party leader/instance setter gw1 style, which would work even for drastically different gameplay experiences due to choices.
     
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  11. thexspr Educated

    thexspr
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    Take bandits from poe, basic choice and simple consequences, but even something as primitive never could have made it to d3 for the fear of confusing their target audience, your senile gramma.
     
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  12. Darth Roxor Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis

    Darth Roxor
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  13. SCO Arcane In My Safe Space

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    Anyway, another good reason to avoid multiplayer like the plague.
     
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  14. Scruffy The janitor Patron

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    I... I don't play MMOGS, because I'm not a gigantic faggot. I googled that and some stuff about vendor recipes and difficulty came up and so i know as much as i knew before. Ah well.
     
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  15. SuicideBunny (ノ ゜Д゜)ノ ︵ ┻━┻

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    Serpent in the Staglands Dead State Torment: Tides of Numenera
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  16. thexspr Educated

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    It's not that complicated. Three bandit lords and player's given a choice of either wiping them all or helping one to finish another two, obviously with different rewards. Irrelevant to choice, player also recieve an item to continue with mainline quest, so it's just simple branching. Oh and in party some pvp ensues if members choose different lords to help or one could simply wait out his party in town.

    edit: bunnies are faster.
     
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  17. Scruffy The janitor Patron

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    so... would i be correct in saying that the solution in this case was to make choices pretty much inconsequential?
     
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  18. Ninja Destroyer Arcane Patron

    Ninja Destroyer
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    The decline started with Diablo II, the third part was a final result of that process. Branching storyline is not what I seek in a good hack and slash. Nothing would help in that case , the graphic style, loot randomization and AH killed a half of the game. Another half was killed due to the lack of any atmosphere and climate.
     
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  19. dnf Pedophile Dumbfuck Shitposter

    dnf
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    Fixed for you.
     
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  20. Kron Arcane

    Kron
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    After the terrible emotional burn out that was Troika for Boyarsky, I'm not surprised that the guy has settled for "a job that pays my bills". I doubt it satisfies him creatively; and I bet he is convinced his "glory days" are over and far away in the past.

    On a side note, branching storylines would not have fixed Diablo 3. Diablo 1 & 2 did not have that, and they were by far better games. Mainly because D3 is a WoW-inspired abortion, with butt-ugly art direction; an uninspired game all over - clearly sharing design teams with the rest of Blizzard's new cashgrab games, which look all exactly the same.
     
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  21. curry Arcane

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    What is he working on now?
     
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  22. SuicideBunny (ノ ゜Д゜)ノ ︵ ┻━┻

    SuicideBunny
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    fixed as a diablo sequel, sure, but with them the game could have been something interesting on its own, kinda like ds3.
     
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  23. General Maxson Arcane

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    I'd like former Troika to gather together in another studio. Maybe Obsidian? That would be glorious, only if they would make games with depth, though (as creative projects, like PE, while doing AAA like New Vegas to stay afloat).
     
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  24. Kron Arcane

    Kron
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    If nobody else has realised it already, all the "nerd geniuses" from Troika and Black Isle are either burnt out or have definitely lost their edge. This shit happens; it happens to artists, directors and writers.

    Hell, it has happened to a lot of the videogame designers who created all the cult classics.
    Plus, it seems that the next generation that is supposed to follow them in making great games is nowhere to be found.
     
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  25. Tribal Sarah Arbiter

    Tribal Sarah
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    still hope that one day there will be another vampire sequel
     
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