Publisher Blizzard Entertainment (US), Sierra Entertainment (EU) Developer Blizzard North Format PC Release 2000
“After Diablo, we were in a rush to make Diablo II, but we were a little burnt out. My second child was born three days after Diablo launched, and that last six months of putting in the networking code and all that, then delaying it and missing Christmas – which was a big deal – was a stressful time. We thought we’d missed our chance, and we didn’t know if it was going to sell. We hoped we’d sell 50,000 copies. Then we’d be golden. But it did all right in the end [laughs]. We didn’t know if we want to go through it again, but a few months after the launch, we found a bunch of stuff we wanted to fix.
By this point, the cheating was rampant, so I really wanted to make a secure version. I was sick of walking around town; I wanted to be able to run. And everybody keeps talking about this hidden cow level, so let’s put one of those in! We kind of started to get excited about the idea of doing this project. And some of the other ideas we had just weren’t fleshed out enough, so we decided to go back and make a sequel.
We redid so much of the technology. There was a big debate whether to make it 3D or not, because 3D games were just emerging. In the end, we decided not to make it 3D, and we also decided not to make it 24bit colour and just stick with 8bit colour because of speed. One of the guys down south, Mike O’Brien, who later went on to found ArenaNet, made this palette-optimising program that allowed us to make it look like 24bit even though it only had 256 colours.
Development started really well, and we knew it was going to be a great game. We had a lot of support, and things were easier on the company in general, because we had StarCraft, Warcraft, Warcraft II and Diablo out there – we had three years to work on the game and it felt like we could take our time. About six to seven months before the end, we thought, ‘Wow, we’ve got a lot left to do. We still haven’t finished act three, and we have another act after that. We should probably start crunching…’ And so we started working pretty much every day, averaging maybe 14-hour days.
When you’re that close to something, you can’t see how far you have to go, and about a month before we thought it would be done – we were aiming for Thanksgiving – they said, ‘You’re not going to make it.’ We were like, ‘No, no, we’re going to make it, we swear!’ As we got closer, we realised that wasn’t the case and aimed for February instead, and kept the crunch going all the way through. Then February wasn’t happening, and it kept going all the way to May. So during that period of time, I basically crunched for an entire year, with three days off.
Then Diablo II came out, and it was not super well received. There were a lot of problems: there were technical problems, server problems, duping problems – all these things that people found, because thousands of people find bugs a lot faster than a couple hundred. We scrambled even though we were exhausted and burnt out, and it was a nightmare. Things eased up a bit after that and we were able to fix some of the bugs and whatnot, and then start on the expansion. After the expansion, which fixed a lot of things, it was in good enough shape that we could start putting in a lot of important additions. After the 1.10 patch, which was released a year later, that’s really when Diablo II became what
Diablo II is today. People don’t realise that it took two years after Diablo II was released to make Diablo II.