Those of you who know the history of Dungeons and Dragons well may have already made this comparison, but right now Diablo IV development feels the same as when Wizards of the Coast revealed they were working on "D&D Next", which eventually became D&D 5th edition.
If you're unfamiliar with D&D history, let me give you a quick TLDR; (glossing over many details here…)
- D&D 3.5 was the primary version of the game for some time, and loved by the community.
- Wizards of the Coast was bought by Hasbro, and quickly released D&D 4.0, which had many problems after dumping many 3.5 systems, and generally wasn't well received.
- Several D&D devs left Wizards of the Coast, founded a new company, and created a competitor to D&D called Pathfinder, which is mechanically likened to D&D 3.5++. It quickly became the best selling table top roleplaying game.
- Wizards of the Coast hired back many old devs and created D&D 5th edition. 5th edition plays mechanically like 3.5 (except even easier to play), and brings back many other monsters, items, and elements from older editions of D&D.
One of the most important things Wizards of the Coast did during the development of "D&D Next" is that they released alpha and beta playtest packets to the community. In total, I believe there were 15 playtest packets released during this time period. The playtest period lasted for approx. 1 year, from around 08/2012 – 09/2013, although the public playtest lasted longer than this I believe.
The goal of releasing these packets was to gather feedback from a wide variety of different gaming groups, and give the developers fast feedback on the systems they were creating. The packets included some of the basic rules, pre-generated characters, and an adventure that the Dungeon Master could run their group through.
As you may know, Blizzard has announced that they will be doing regular, quarterly updates on the progress for Diablo IV. I don't know if this is the plan, or exactly what Blizzard plans to show us, but my hope is that Blizzard is taking a page out of Wizard's of the Coast's development of D&D Next, and plans to gather specific, frequent feedback from the community. Perhaps a short demo each quarter, with pre-generated characters and all, to gather feedback specifically on certain mechanics, encounters, and itemization. For example, the demo could showcase a single dungeon. At the end of the demo, each player would be presented with a feedback form, which they could fill out.
The era that the Diablo community is in feels the same as the development of D&D Next. I hope that means the community is able to be involved in frequent and fast feedback to the developers to make Diablo IV the best game it can be.
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