When Sony announced its PlayStation 4 last month, it had a few surprises up its sleeve that caught many attendees off guard, including the announcement of such new games as Killzone: Shadow Fall, Infamous: Second Son and DriveClub. But the real bombshell dropped in the second half of the showcase, when Activision Blizzard came out and formally announced that Diablo III, a best-selling title that left its mark on PC last year, would be coming to the console, along with PlayStation 3.
This got the community buzzing in a huge way, but a few people were left wondering just how the conversion process would work out. After all, the Blizzard side of the team hasn't dabbled much in consoles as of late. Sure, back in the SNES era it was performing admirably, with releases including Blackthorne and The Lost Vikings. But with this generation, we haven't really seen much of all. In fact, the last attempts we saw, Diablo on the original PlayStation and StarCraft 64 for Nintendo 64, came up a bit short compared to their PC brethren.
Some people have a slight sense of doubt on whether the game could work on consoles, but we here at Prima Games decided to put your minds at ease, because it isn't really as complex a process as you might think. In fact, Diablo III's move to consoles could be one for the better – and may even pave the way for future Blizzard/Sony junctures to consider for PlayStation 4…
The multiplayer aspect of Diablo III is one that'll be easily covered. First off, Blizzard has already confirmed that the game will have off-line play available, in case you feel like having friends over to dungeon crawl with you. This is good news for those who don't feel like setting up a LAN party in a spare room of your apartment, instead going through the convenience of a single game console.
If you do prefer online play, Blizzard should have you covered there as well. The team has done a commendable job keeping online functionality going with the PC version, and the same should go for the PS4 version, especially with Sony promising to optimize its network better than ever before, and even allow the option to stream – so others can see what kind of fun you're having and jump right in.
As far as the PlayStation 3 is concerned, there may be a bit more limitation than the next-gen version, mainly because of how the current PlayStation Network is set up. However, that isn't to say that Blizzard can't get it working. In fact, it could easily configure options well enough that people could hop in and join parties. The only true question is if Cross-Play between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 could be done. We're guessing not – but some dedicated multiplayer options are certainly better than none.
Depth of the Game
There's no question that Diablo III is a VERY deep experience, with the number of classes available and the vast world that you'll be exploring for hours at a time. So can it all fit into the PlayStation 3 and 4? Actually, yes.
The PS3 format is capable of holding 50 GB of space, through its Blu-Ray format, so it could easily fit a strong portion of the game – hidden areas and all – onto the disc with very little problem. In fact, Blizzard could also introduce a more compact version on PlayStation Network, a demo that would entice players to invest in the full version.
As for the PS4 edition, sure, it can handle it with ease. Featuring a PC-like processor that could easily upload massive worlds in a matter of seconds, it could handle the likes of Diablo III, its lighting effects, and its enormous battles with ease. We have no doubt that Blizzard knows what it's doing here.
This is probably the hardest portion of Diablo III that Blizzard is going to have to figure out. The PC version consists of "click to move around in the world" style of gameplay, and converting that to consoles isn't always an easy process – just look at what happened with StarCraft 64.
However, there is another solution, and typical players may find it more to their liking. What about adding direct control of on-screen characters? That way, instead of having to click to go anywhere, you can just use the directional pad – or analog stick – to move about. The right analog stick could be used for fine tune aiming – especially when you're holding down the button that limits your movement in combat – and you could easily assign your best abilities to select buttons on your PlayStation 4 controller.
If you do prefer the classic PC style of play, Blizzard could also introduce a control method that utilizes the PS4 control pad's mini-touch screen. Obviously it wouldn't be as well-realized as, say, using a mouse, but you could easily direct a player somewhere with a roll of the thumb, then select your attacks with the push of a face button on the pad and go to down on the army of demons.
Maybe Blizzard could even configure a system that uses both, with the touch screen acting as an item wheel where you can quickly select your technique, while keeping movement of the character regulated to the left analog stick. Granted, that may be too technical, but we're just shooting the breeze here, talking about what can be diversified to make Diablo III stand out over the likes of, for instance, Gauntlet clones. But with its vast class line-up and online options, chances are it's taken Atari's franchise for a loop already.
No matter what Blizzard decides to do – and it's likely to talk more about its strategies during its panel next week at PAX East in Boston – Diablo III is an ambitious project, one that's going to help boost the PlayStation 4 during its launch, while at the same time keeping PS3 owners happy with their own special version. It's the best of both worlds – even if you've managed to get used to the PC version.
We'll revisit this game when Blizzard reveals more details on it. It should arrive sometime in holiday 2013/spring 2014.