At BlizzCon this past weekend, Blizzard announced a brand-new Diablo game–but it wasn’t exactly what fans were expecting or hoping for.
Diablo Immortal is a new Diablo game for mobile devices that Blizzard is developing alongside partner NetEase. Even though Blizzard told fans weeks ahead of BlizzCon that they shouldn’t expect an announcement of the next mainline Diablo game at the show, a reveal of a new mobile game wasn’t the kind of surprise some were hoping for. The next big Diablo game–potentially Diablo 4–is likely in the works, but Blizzard said nothing about it at BlizzCon.
We caught up with Blizzard’s Wyatt Cheng (principal game designer) and Joe Hsu (senior game producer) at BlizzCon to talk about the announcement of Diablo Immortal, the reaction to it, and more.
Cheng started off by explaining that Diablo Immortal is coming to mobile because the franchise is already well represented on console and PC; the next area of expansion is the growing mobile market, he said.
“At the end of the day, at Blizzard, we’re gamers,” Cheng said. “And we play a ton of games on all platforms, console, PC. We play board games. We play card games. We just play games, and a lot of us play mobile games. And I think when we look at an opportunity to make an awesome mobile game, we want to take it.”
Blizzard has been working with NetEase for nearly a decade on bringing popular franchises like World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, and another mobile title, Hearthstone, to the Chinese gaming market. Partnering with NetEase again for Diablo Immortal just made sense, Cheng said.
Another reason Blizzard is bringing Diablo to mobile is because there are more stories in the universe to tell. “We were looking at this 20 year period in between Diablo II, Lord of Destruction, and Diablo III, and we said, ‘All these events happened, so we should take a look at creating a game that explores that space in time,'” Cheng explained.
He added that Diablo Immortal is sort of like the movie Star Wars: Rogue One, which exists in the wider Star Wars universe but can still be watched and enjoyed on its own.
As for Hsu, he said bringing Diablo to mobile is representative of Blizzard’s efforts to “try new things” and bring Diablo to more people.
“We love to bring new things to our players,” Hsu said. “For me personally, I still play Diablo III. I play the Seasons, and that is awesome experience, but I would love to try new things, and we would love to share that with everyone. And it’s such a rich IP where we can do that, so it was a good choice. I feel like it was a very good choice.”
Some amount of the conversation around Diablo Immortal has been negative. As mentioned, a portion of the fanbase was hoping to see the next big Diablo title instead of a mobile game. Hsu said he hopes people give Diablo Immortal a shot first before judging it.
“We really believe playing is believing, and we would love it if everyone everywhere gets to try it out and give their honest opinions,” he said. “That would be amazing.”
Being skeptical is perfectly fair and reasonable, Cheng said, but he still hopes people stay open-minded about Diablo Immortal.
“I think that’s reasonable in today’s world, our modern world, to be a little skeptical,” he said. “But then for the people who play it, if they can go out and say, ‘No, no, no, seriously, guys. I was at BlizzCon. I played the demo. It was awesome.’ Hopefully that word of mouth spreads.”
Blizzard co-founder Allen Adham told Kotaku that the company expected fans to get upset about Diablo Immortal, but not on the level that eventually came to bear. There was also backlash when Blizzard announced Diablo for consoles and fans also got upset about Hearthstone in general being a free-to-play mobile game, Adham said, so pushback is nothing new for the company. All of that said, Adham added that he understands Diablo fans want more.
“We knew our audience here desperately wants to see and hear about one thing in particular,” Adham said, presumably in reference to the next big Diablo game.
You can expect Blizzard to spend a lot of time and attention on Diablo Immortal. Cheng said Diablo for mobile will be the next big core pillar for the Diablo franchise going forward.
“Yeah, I do. I do for sure,” he said. “If we fast forward in 10, 20 years and look back, we’re going to be developing up the lore. And when people paint out the storyline, we have new stories to tell. We have new gameplay. There’s going to be brand new experiences for players in Diablo world.”
Blizzard has yet to disclose the business model for Diablo Immortal, so as of yet it’s unknown if it will be free or paid. Blizzard’s previous mobile game, Hearthstone, is free. It is supported by microtransactions. We asked if Diablo Immortal would have microtransactions, but both Cheng and Hsu said Blizzard is focused more on getting the game right before talking about business specifics.
No doubt another one of the reasons Blizzard is bringing Diablo Immortal to market is because of the business opportunity. Smartphones are ubiquitous, and the microtransaction model–especially in China–is common and generally accepted. Parent company Activision Blizzard made $4 billion from microtransactions last year, and stakeholders are surely eager to see this figure grow higher still.
One other matter surrounding Diablo Immortal is the accusations that it is a re-skin of the game Crusaders of Light, which is another title from NetEase. Asked directly to respond to the re-skinning claims, Cheng told IGN: “We have artists on our side, they have artists on their side, and we work together as a team, as a partnership to create everything about Diablo: Immortal. The environments, the characters, the skills, the story.”
GameSpot spent some hands-on time with Diablo Immortal at BlizzCon, so keep checking back soon for more.
Square Enix has released a new trailer for Kingdom Hearts III, offering us another look at the Kingdom of Corona, a world based on Disney’s Tangled. In the video, which you can watch above, Sora, Donald, and Goofy stumble upon the tower where Rapunzel is being held and help set her free. But before long the newly liberated princess finds herself face to face with a monster.
Flynn Rider is also there, but quickly opts to take a backseat in battles, saying that he can get Rapunzel back to the kingdom but will need Sora and his companions to handle combat, which they have quite a bit of experience with at this point. The quick gameplay showcase also provides another look the traversal ability Rapunzel has, which involves swinging using her hair.
Much of the celebrity voice talent that was attached to the Disney universes featured in Kingdom Hearts III are reprising their roles, as are key performers from previous Kingdom Hearts titles. Haley Joel Osment returns to voice Sora, while Zachary Levi will return as Flynn Rider and Donna Murphy will once again be Mother Gothel. For Frozen, Idina Menzel is voicing Elsa, Kristen Bell is Anna, Josh Gad is Olaf, and Jonathan Groff is Kristoff.
John Ratzenberger and Wallace Shawn will feature as Hamm and Rex from Toy Story, while Tate Donovan is back as Hercules from Hercules, and Kevin R. McNally as Gibbs from The Pirates of the Caribbean. Tony Anselmo and Bill Farmer, who have served as the official voices of Donald Duck and Goofy for over than 30 years each, will also reprise their roles.
Utada Hikaru, who has provided the vocal theme for previous mainline Kingdom Hearts titles, will once again lend her voice for the third game. This time, however, the soundtrack will also feature a collaborative track made with Skrillex. Kingdom Hearts 3 is set to release on January 29, 2019 on Xbox One and PS4.
During BlizzCon 2018, Blizzard announced new Overwatch-themed toys and Lego sets. The products will be made available for purchase in 2019.
“Throughout 2018 our goal has been to give fans an abundance of new ways to express their affinity for their favorite Blizzard games, and it was exciting to be able to showcase our plans for 2019 and beyond today at BlizzCon,” said Blizzard vice president of global consumer products Matthew Beecher. “We cherish these game worlds as much as our players do, and today’s reveals helped put a spotlight on how far we’ve come, through our stellar partnerships, in developing toys and apparel that reflect that shared passion.”
There are six Lego sets in total, with the cheapest starting at $15 USD and the most expensive being $90 USD. The sets are called Tracer vs. Widowmaker, Hanzo vs. Genji, Dorado Showdown, D.Va & Reinhardt, Bastion, and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. All together, the six sets add figures of Overwatch characters Tracer, Widowmaker, Hanzo, Genji, Soldier: 76, McCree, D.Va, Reinhardt, Pharah, Mercy, Reaper, and Winston to Lego’s expanding line-up of block people. The Lego sets are scheduled for release in early 2019.
Blizzard is also releasing a Nerf gun shaped like McCree’s Rival. The first figure in Blizzard’s new Overwatch Ultimate Figure line, Mercy, was also shown and scheduled for 2019. The Nerf gun hits store shelves in January 2019, and the figure is currently aiming for a spring 2019 release.
There are a lot of variables that go into having a successful season in Football Manager. You have to contend with the delicate balancing act of keeping your team’s morale high, deftly navigating the transfer market to make astute signings, developing players on the training ground, and rotating your squad to micromanage the risk of injuries, among other things. It’s a unique challenge geared towards racking up points on the pitch, yet all of these disparate aspects must first be built atop a solid foundation that begins with pieces on a whiteboard. Tactics are the bedrock of any great team, and Football Manager 2019 gives you more control and flexibility over how your team plays than ever before.
While not a complete overhaul, the granular redesign of the tactics interface opens up your strategic options and tactical pliability. The composition of each team’s playstyle is now broken up into three distinct phases: in possession, in transition, and out of possession. Your options in possession will be familiar to anyone who’s ever played Football Manager in the last few years, dealing with facets of your team’s approach play and plan of attack once you enter the final third. The transitional phase is perhaps the most exciting for the budding Pep Guardiolas and Maurizio Sarris of the virtual dugout, allowing you to decide how your team reacts when both losing the ball and winning it back; while your options out of possession let you set where on the pitch you want your team to engage the opposition and how high or low you want your defensive line to be stationed. All of these additional choices feed into a transparent approach to the tactics module that removes a lot of the previous guesswork that went into creating your team’s identity. If you want your team to press high up the pitch and counter once you’ve won possession, that option is now just a couple of mouse clicks away.
To give you a better feel for how potential tactics are constructed, there are now a number of preset tactics too. These ostensibly recreate generic real-life strategies like possession control and parking the bus, while also featuring distinct philosophies such as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s Gegenpressing, Tiki-taka, and the Italian Catenaccio. Choosing a preset isn’t a simple plug-and-play solution, however, since you still need to consider your squad’s strengths, weaknesses, and composition of player roles for any of these tactics to be successful. It’s no use asking a team with a low collective work rate to press for 90 minutes unless you want them dead on their feet, just like asking a non-league side to play expansive passing football isn’t going to result in a beautiful Barcelona-esque style. Instead, these presets provide a practical baseline to teach you how forging tactics in Football Manager 2019 works, allowing you to borrow, learn from, and expand upon these ideas yourself.
This is beneficial for both veterans and newcomers alike because it provides a clearer understanding of how each instruction can affect your team’s makeup, as well as being a necessary complement to Football Manager 2019’s tactical redesign. It’s not a perfect renovation–implementing something as simple as a midfield pivot, for instance, still isn’t an option–but it ditches a lot of the restrictive elements of past games, and impacts the game in a positive way that also lays down building blocks for further improvements in the future.
Elsewhere, your work between the orange cones at the training ground has been completely overhauled. Training sessions were previously presented in fairly broad strokes, compartmentalizing each area into straightforward groups of attacking, defending, fitness, tactical, team cohesion, and ball control. Football Manager 2019 expands upon training in a way that’s initially overwhelming, introducing you to a customizable plan of up to three sessions per day that allow you to select from an exhaustive list of training drills and exercises. You can opt to work on areas such as your team’s defensive shape, numerous types of set pieces, chance creation, chance conversion, ball retention, endurance, and even extra-curricular activities such as community outreach and team bonding, which both improve your squad’s teamwork.
It all seems a bit too much at first, but the comprehensive–albeit wordy–tutorial does a decent job of explaining how everything works, and after a few games training is likely to become an integral part of your pre-match preparation when it was previously viewed as an afterthought. Have a big game coming up against a free-scoring team? Spend the week working on various defensive drills that can potentially counteract their attacking style. Playing some minnows in the cup? Dedicate your training to chance creation and finishing to keep your offensive players sharp. Or you can always have your backroom staff handle all of this themselves. You can engage with as much or as little of Football Manager 2019 as you please.
Additional choices feed into a transparent approach to the tactics module that removes a lot of the previous guesswork that went into creating your team’s identity
Of course, all of this groundwork eventually culminates in front of a packed stadium on a Saturday afternoon, and the 3D match engine has undergone some tangible improvements as well. The most noticeable of these is the way the ball now dips and curls through the air in a much more authentic manner. You’ll see diminutive playmakers lift the ball over a high defensive line with some cute backspin, and free kicks that bend and nestle in the top corner of the net as though they were off the foot of David Beckham in his prime. It makes for more dynamic passing moves and generally improves the flow of play.
Mistakes, on the other hand, have always been part and parcel of Football Manager’s DNA–whether it’s a centreback misjudging the flight of the ball, a goalkeeper dropping a cross, or a striker blazing a shot over from six yards out–and now referees are fallible, too. VAR and goal-line technology have been included for league and cup competitions that utilize them (such as Serie A and the newly licenced Bundesliga), and they add an extra layer atop each high-intensity match. There’s a specific heart-dropping moment that occurs when you’re celebrating a goal only to see the referee on his way over to the video assistant to make sure there wasn’t a missed foul or offside call in the buildup. It’s another feature that maintains Football Manager’s attention to detail.
Touchline shouts, however, are still needlessly vague, but the immediate feedback you receive after issuing one makes them a viable tactical option. Players are generally more intelligent as well, holding their runs when they know they’re offside, and picking out the right pass when inside the opposition’s penalty area. There are still some legacy issues that persist, such as the high percentage of goals that are scored from crosses, which usually stems from fullbacks not being particularly adept at stopping opposing wingers. You’ll also see players dribble into advantageous positions only to stop dead in their tracks to give a defender time to recover, and defensive mistakes are sometimes a little too frequent. These can be frustrating, but they don’t dominate the match day experience like they often have in the past.
All of this contributes to Football Manager hitting its prime, like a 28-year old striker. The tactical redesign–while not as thorough as some may have wanted–improves clarity and gives you more control over how you want your team to play, while the match engine and newfound emphasis on training enhance your work in the tactics room by bringing all of your ideas to fruition. These are meaningful changes that push the simulation further, making it feel like you can really impose your footballing philosophies on a team. Watching your players score a goal by completing a sweeping move in the exact way you envisioned is an absolute joy that no other sports game can match, and it’s a more viable feat now because of these additions.
It’s still not the most welcoming game for newcomers, stacking systems upon systems upon systems, but for veterans and those willing to put in the effort to learn, there’s never been a better time to hop in and entrench yourself in the virtual dugout. Football Manager 2019’s tweaks will have you happily settling in for another mammoth play session of juggling egos, pipping your rivals to the signing of a wonderkid, and smashing in a 90th-minute winner to capture a league title in triumphant fashion.