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Following Diablo 4’s amazing launch reception and reviews, it’s obvious that the game ticked all the right boxes when it comes to developing a game worthy of carrying the Diablo franchise banner forward.
The game’s early success here isn’t possible without the hard work of the developers who burned countless hours to ensure Diablo 4’s perfection, and the person leading the whole team is none other than veteran video game producer, Rod Fergusson, who was amongst the primary individuals who oversaw the growth of another beloved franchise, Gears of War.
Upon joining Diablo’s team after leaving Gears behind in 2020, he took charge of a Diablo 4 group that was in transition, his presence helping the development people identify key game design points which would appeal to players for the release of Diablo 2: Resurrected.
Now, with more than two (2) years working with his new colleagues, he’s able to guide the whole Diablo 4 development process to new heights, ultimately playing a huge role in getting the game into its impressive state today.
Invited as a guest for an Xbox live show, welcomed by seasoned journalists/ editors, Ryan McCaffrey, Miranda Sanchez, and Destin Legarie, here are some major highlights that could be summarised from the interview, pertaining to Diablo 4:
- Remote Development Issues
o From 2020 onwards, strict COVID protocols forced the Diablo 4 team to work independently via remote work.
o Rod had just joined the Diablo development group at the time but was already required to lead a huge team of talented developers and artists, working on both Diablo 2: Resurrected and Diablo 4.
o Unlike the usual boss-employee mentality, Rod was more chill and relaxed, and he used his character to bond with his colleagues better despite the distance limitations of online video calls/ meetings.
o Through better interpersonal relationships, he was able to motivate everyone as well as share his visions for both games thoroughly to the whole group, making the idea-transfer process more seamless throughout each sub-team/ department.
- Balancing Business Objectives and Players’ Experiences
o Diablo 4 had a lot of expectations to meet, especially for the publishers and investors when it comes to revenue generation, so the financial aspect of it was being prioritised.
o Players’ satisfaction levels and enjoyment are important for the success of the game too, so Rod had to find a balance that meets both parties’ requirements.
o With profound experience in the development of many triple-A (AAA) titles, including Gears of War, and Bioshock Infinite, he understood how to best manage both sides of the coin, relaying the information needed to the whole team regarding Diablo 4’s Battle Pass adoption, the need for continuous content, as well as consumer-friendly approaches to monetisation.
Favourite Character Class
o Being a fan of the Diablo franchise since Diablo 1, Rod plays Diablo 4 too, to experience the game for himself.
o With a Necromancer icon tattooed on his left arm, Rod mains the Necromancer class in the game, enjoying the aspect of summoning minions to do his bidding.
- Integration of Cross-Play/ Cross-Progression
o The introduction of both cross-play and cross-progression is a huge step forward for the franchise, and Rod understands that this brings the fans together better, making it easier for people to buy the game.
Preparedness for Launch
o Using Diablo 2: Resurrected’s positive feedback and Diablo Immortal’s lacklustre reception from the player base, Rod reviewed both game’s strengths and weaknesses to identify the best elements to be borrowed for Diablo 4.
o To continuously perfect Diablo 4 until its release, Rod and the team persistently took players’ complaints about the game’s state during Early Access, Open Beta, and lastly, Server Slam.
o Through in-depth player testing, his team was extremely prepared for Diablo 4’s launch, although the occasional gameplay balancing issues were still there to be improved upon, as expected.
- Players’ In-Game On-boarding Design
o Rod wanted to emphasise a more story-driven, slow ‘on-boarding’ process for players to get accustomed to Diablo 4, especially for new/ younger generation gamers.
o Comparing the character progression built for Diablo Immortal, he saw the need to slow things down a bit for the game’s Prologue and Act 1, allowing players to gradually get into the game before ramping up the action and challenge.
- Seasons and Expansions
o To keep players engaged with the game, Seasons is envisioned to be deep and lore-rich, though the content is entirely separate from the main narrative of Diablo 4.
o For the canon story’s development, future Expansions will be introduced, enlarging the scope of what comes next after Diablo 4’s ending, in the hopes that many players will stick to the game for these future additions.
Rod certainly had a fun time sharing his views, experiences, and vibes with the people joining him on the show, and Diablo’s future does seem more hopeful with him being the driving force behind it now.
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