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Stay Awhile and Listen to the Story Behind Diablo's Creation

David Craddock | 31 Oct 2013 12:00
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Diablo's hero was a blank slate. Rather than select a fighter, thief, or magician, players defined their hero by defeating enemies and earning points to spread across attributes, such as strength, magic, and dexterity. Dropping points into strength let players wear heavier armor and wield bigger weapons such as great axes and two-handed swords. Favoring dexterity increased their accuracy in combat and archery, while boosting the magic stat enabled them to learn advanced spells. Or, if players wanted, they could scatter their points across all attributes to create well-rounded heroes.

No matter the direction players chose for their hero, they all began their journey on the outskirts of the troubled town of Tristram.

We had this idea of this medieval town, and we wanted it to be a darker, more gothic, grim kind of place.
-Erich Schaefer

As the town's architect, Erich set out to create a town perpetually cloaked in twilight. Dirt paths meandered between skeletal trees and farmhouses. All but a few homes sat empty; their inhabitants had either fled or been snatched from their beds by demons. Those who remained huddled in doorways; lanterns inside their shops and homes framed them in warm light that pushed the night away.

Erich set out to create a town perpetually cloaked in twilight.

The cathedral looming over Tristram from the north was the source of the town's fear. Red light poured out from windows and the open doorway, running over the ground like spilled blood.

I had been to Europe and really liked the small, medieval churches out there. When we started to make Diablo, the first thing I made was the church. I made it based on a book that had some Spanish churches in it. The terrain around it in the book was kind of similar to Tristram's: grass, kind of rolling but kind of broken up. I think that set the tone.

I remember shrinking the church down a couple times because when we first put it in the game, the walls were just too high, and you couldn't see the ruined roof or the red light coming out.
-Erich Schaefer

With his main themes established, Erich asked his artists to create townsfolk to see to the player's every need. Griswold the blacksmith bought, sold, and repaired armor and weapons, while Pepin the healer patched up wounds and sold healing potions. Players who followed a forked brook that ran northeast came upon a rickety old shack that belonged to Adria, a witch ostracized by the community due to her stock of magical scrolls, books, potions, and staves.

One thing that brought Tristram together for me was the witch's shack. That looked cool with the light spilling out through all the walls. I kind of tweaked the dusky nighttime setting of the scene to make that stand out.
-Erich Schaefer

Near the end of Diablo's development, Erich realized the town was missing a storyteller who could pass along the game's lore.

We were offering two fans the opportunity to get their names into the game. The names that won were "Deckard Cain" and something "Messerschmidt".

At first we laughed at such a crazy name: Deckard Cain. We weren't sure if it was made up or not. In any case, the name grew on us, and by happenstance, came at a great time, right after we identified the need for a narrator-type [character] to drive the story along.
-Erich Schaefer

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