Bill Roper, one of the key figures behind the original Diablo games and, more recently, Hellgate: London, isn't really sure what to think about Diablo III's somewhat controversial art style, which he doesn't think really screams "Diablo."
Roper, who, after Hellgate: London and Flagship Studios' dissolution, has moved onto Cryptic Studios to work on Champions Online, was one of the key figures behind the first two Diablo games, having served as Vice President at Diablo I and II dev Blizzard North. Being someone deeply attached to the gothic-to-the-core Diablos of yore, Roper has some issues with the more painterly style Blizzard has gone with for the company's latest loot-centric clickfest.
"I didn't look at it and go, oh my God that's horrible," Roper told VideoGamer. "But I looked at it and went, it's not really... to me as a player it just didn't really ring with Diablo."
Roper sees Diablo III as very much the product of the Blizzard Irvine school of art direction, which pursued a bigger and brighter art style in its Warcraft games while Blizzard North's titles took a darker and grittier tone. "I was like, that looks like Blizzard," Roper said. "The guys in Irvine. That's what it looks like to me. Their interpretation of it."
The initial reveal of Diablo III was met with a not insignificant degree of scorn from diehard fans, who thought what they saw as a sunshine-and-rainbows betrayal of the series' dark, gothic soul was no less than blasphemous. Diablo III lead designer Jay Wilson responded to the uproar, arguing in favor of the style's design utility and saying that Diablo was never as dark as people thought.
Roper, however, sounds like he's on the fans' side. "You know, I liked the darker grittier," he said. "I liked the differences in art style, to be honest. So, I think I would personally from a player standpoint prefer that." For him, the new art just doesn't convey the same spirit as the older games. "I think that one of the things that we always tried to get across was that Diablo was Gothic fantasy and I think there was just a need that was put in there from the visuals that I didn't necessarily get [in Diablo III]. I got it from the architecture and to a degree from the character design but not the feeling of the world."
As a pretty hardcore Diablo fan, I can say that I know where Roper's coming from, but I don't really have too big of a problem with DIII's art. I mean, I wear this super-cute Diablo III shirt in public with pride.