There are few things scarier in this world than an angry gamer. More disturbed than Freddy, freakier than the largest spider and more persistent than a starving lion, an angry gamer is a force to be reckoned with. Even more frightening are the group of hardcore fans of a franchise – dare I use the term “fanboys” – who feel they’ve been wronged. When an army of loyalists feels their beloved product has been tampered with in an unfit way, the wave of backlash can strike with shocking power.
When Diablo III released, Blizzard developers felt the full wrath of this latter group, and while there were myriad small complaints, the fiasco that was the Diablo 3 auction house had put Blizzard in die-hard Diablo fans’ crosshairs.
That was two and a half years ago. Take a look at Diablo III now, and the game, though still recognizable as the product it was at launch, has been reinvented as a smarter, smoother version of itself. But to sit here rambling on about the fantastic improvements Blizzard has made to Diablo 3 would only be telling part of the story, and it would be a disservice to the developers.
In every move they’ve made, Diablo III’s development team has done something that, in theory seems easy, but in practice doesn’t always show: They’ve listened to their fans.
The anger, frustration and overall disappointment that the auction house represented was something Blizzard took to heart from day one. Recognizing fans’ discontent, the company issued statements outlining coming changes. They didn’t always have the answers at the time of their announcements, but through a network of open communication, the development team kept their loyal fan base abreast of new developments and ideas. They even asked for and encouraged feedback.
After the release of the Reaper of Souls expansion, the team didn’t stop with the updates. In fact, the updates became more frequent. Each change to the gameplay brought with it a slight improvement, not always perfect, but always a step towards a better game. Even more astounding, with the exception of RoS, every update has been free, and the patches aren’t merely simple fixes.
In Patch 2.0, Blizzard introduced a slew of brand new content that altered gameplay dramatically. New environments, legendary items, improvements to existing items and alterations to each class breathed a sense of new life into Diablo III. Along the way, the developers opened up the Public Test Realm and gave players the chance to experiment with new changes, all the while receiving feedback and ensuring the game was stable. At the same time, they kept a running log of the pending changes, even going so far as to explain where something may or may not change depending on player reaction and its effect on gameplay.
The results have been a magnificent, invigorating show of true passion for the game the developers have created and the fans who love it. Diablo III’s development team could have easily taken their excellent sales and run. After all, the team created a solid game that earned buckets of money. That’s not what they did, though. Instead, the developers kept working on their labor of love, showing everyone that they’re more than just great developers; they’re fans of gaming too.
There’s nothing scarier than an angry gamer, but in the culture we gamers have carved out for ourselves, there’s nothing more incredible than a happy gaming community. Blizzard hasn’t had to go as far above and beyond to make Diablo III as great as they have, but they took the time and effort to do it anyway.
Because they’re passionate about their creation.
Because they care about their fans.
And because they’ve listened.