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D3 Beta Musings

Ever since gamers first wandered the pixelated halls of Wolfenstein 3D, the first person perspective has been the character viewpoint of choice in today’s games, as witnessed by the popularity of the perspective across genres. It’s no surprise really — if you want the player to feel as if they’re actually inside the game world, you should present them with a view that matches our real world. Admittedly the first person perspective still isn’t a perfect representation of our human vision system, lacking the wider field of view that our amazing eyeballs deliver. Unless you’re packing a 3D monitor this view also lacks the stereoscopic vision delivered courtesy of evolution’s clever decision to equip us with not one but two eyes. And yet, despite these limitations, the first person game view remains the closest to the experience we have when viewing the real world. I can only imagine how much spookier Diablo III would have been if I could have explored every nook and cranny of the New Tristram Cathedral, or to zoom in on the pulsing gut flesh of a worm-packed Grotesque.

The protagonist arrives in the town of New Tristram to investigate the falling star which struck the cathedral, which is now emanating risen dead; the same cathedral that was the setting of Diablo. The protagonist accompanies Leah to the cathedral in order to rescue Cain from the crater into which he fell. After rescuing Cain, the protagonist learns that the only way to the fallen star is to defeat King Leoric, the former ruler of Tristram known now as the ‘Skeleton King’. Cain informs the protagonist that Leoric’s crown must be recovered to defeat him, and the protagonist searches for Leoric’s crown with the aid of Haedrig Eamon, the blacksmith of New Tristram. After recovering the crown, the protagonist defeats Leoric and finds a stranger where the fallen star landed. The stranger’s only memory is of a sword that shattered into three pieces as he fell.

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I’ll admit it. My first ever hands-on time with any Diablo game occurred just 24 hours ago, when my inexperienced Demon Hunter took his first fumbling steps into the Diablo III beta’s dark and ominous dungeons. It took just three hours before I’d hacked and slashed my way to the main storyline’s satisfying conclusion, but in that short period of time my eyes were opened to an entirely new perspective on a gaming world. As a lover of first person games, the isometric camera system in Diablo III felt very unfamiliar, and I inevitably wondered why Blizzard didn’t make the leap to first person like so many other developers. This led me to wonder – should Diablo III have been a first person game, and what are the pros and cons of this approach? Let’s find out.

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