With Diablo 3 officially released, the hotly anticipated Blizzard title is sending PC gamers into a frenzy of excitement. Although the venerable franchise’s long overdue sequel is currently only slated for PC and Macintosh platforms, Blizzard has slyly hinted at the possibility of an Xbox 360 or PS3 version on numerous occasions. Whether or not you feel that the game could work on the console platform, the notion of a killer PC action RPG reaching the consoles could be a defining moment for the gaming industry. Why, you ask? Because its arguable that consoles have missed out on some of the most engaging experiences of the last generation due to the flexibility of the PC platform and the limited nature of console controllers.
Although a keyboard and mouse is almost certainly better suited to games like Diablo and Starcraft, developers with as many resources as Blizzard have both the influence and creativity to make such titles work on platforms. Halo Wars proved to many that, at the expense of some depth, RTS games can work on a controller, albeit at a slower and more unwieldy pace in comparison to the almighty keyboard and mouse combo. Is the control scheme really that large of a barrier to entry for the likes of hotkey-heavy titles like Diablo 3? Or are developers unable to find realistic alternatives to give console gamers an enjoyable and deep experience?
There are a few ways to circumvent the limited controller issue, which would require some interesting methodology to accomplish. One of the more unique ways of delivering this type of experience on consoles would be to work directly with Microsoft or Sony to create officially licensed peripherals to complement the games’ release for consoles. Steel Battalion did it, why can’t, of all games, Diablo? The audience for a title like Diablo 3 is unarguably larger than that of an obscure mech combat game, and with Microsoft’s blessing, the popular action RPG franchise could make its way to consoles completely intact with an official, Xbox 360-compatible Diablo keyboard and mouse. Whether or not the peripherals work exclusively with the title is something that would have to be discussed at length with Microsoft, but fighting games have fight sticks, music games have plastic instruments, and weird mech games have 200 button controllers, so is an Xbox 360 keyboard and mouse really all that far-fetched?
Another alternative, which is probably more possible, is an all-new interface designed specifically for the game. Previous titles in the genre have utilized, with varying levels of success, contextual actions and radial wheels to accommodate the lack of buttons on controllers. In the case of hotkeys, things get especially complicated when multiple abilities are required for every fight. The entire idea of bringing a game like Diablo 3 to consoles would require keeping the core gameplay as untouched as possible, and manipulating AI or movement to compensate for the controller’s shortcomings is a flawed plan from the start. Kinect integration is another option for Diablo 3, with voice commands or gestures allowing players to cast spells or switch weapons. While most hardcore gamers aren’t too keen on the idea of talking to their TV to play an action RPG, it’s a possibility that could give gamers an all-new perspective on the popular sensor.
Conversely, clever interface changes could make the entire experience a breeze, even if the total time it takes to complete actions isn’t as speedy as the PC counterpart. The most important thing to remember when porting over a title as popular as Diablo 3 is to keep the essence of the game as complete as possible. Removing features, gameplay mechanics, or changing around enemies is a big no-no when porting, as gamers will feel slighted with an inferior product. To change the fundamentals of Diablo is to ruin the beauty of the game, and although a straight copy-and-paste port won’t win over any hearts, if Blizzard opts for a more invested approach to the Xbox 360 or PS3 version, things might actually work out from a UI perspective
What are your thoughts? How can Blizzard make Diablo 3 work on consoles? Is it even possible? Leave a comment below!