Diablo

Some context for the original intent behind the Amazon’s design and why VV’s version is not faithful to it

As it becomes clearer and clearer that Vicarious Visions is happy with the current D2R character designs, I'd like to provide some more feedback and go into some of the context behind the original character designs. In particular I'd like to focus on the class who's redesign is arguably the most questionable – the Amazon.

One of the best publicly available sources of information about Diablo 2's development is a fantastic book called Stay Awhile and Listen by David L. Craddock. David compiled the material for his book by interviewing dozens of Blizzard North developers over the span of several years. Chapter 8 of Book 2 goes into some detail on how the Amazon character class was originally conceived. First of all, the Amazon was actually the first class the team decided to work on.

Over several months, the team settled on five classes. The Amazon was the first. “The character team decided they wanted to work on a hot chick first, and that’s what they did,” explained David Brevik.

The Amazon actually went through two very distinct iterations. The first one, although wildly different, shared one key characteristic with the final design: sex appeal.

Kris Renkewitz, the Amazon’s original artist, sketched a tall, fearsome woman who wore bracers that coiled down her arms; animal-skin boots; and mummy-like wrappings that covered her most intimate parts, leaving most of her body exposed. Her hair was short and spiky, her visage grim and feral. “I designed the character to be, well, like an amazon. She was a giant chick. Her helmet looked different, her armor looked different, her weapons were weird. It wasn’t just a girl with a pony tail and wearing leather,” Kris added, referring to the hero’s completed form.

The Amazon most people know and love was actually designed by a completely different artist, Phil Shenk. Phil was a new hire at the time, and the Amazon's redesign was one of the first projects he got to work on and a way for him for prove himself in the eyes of the team.

Pulling up the most recent prototype of Diablo II, Phil’s enthusiasm gave way to concern. <…> What really stood out to him was the Amazon. She moved in slow, floaty lurches, as if wading through water, and she was too fearsome for Phil’s tastes. Firing up 3D Studio Max, he overhauled the hero into a bombshell: tall, fierce, and powerful, with long golden hair pulled back into a ponytail, and a bust chest and curvaceous figure that filled out her skintight leather armor. When the rest of the guys extolled his design, Phil breathed a sigh of relief.

The Amazon's sexual attractiveness was one of defining features of Blizzard North's vision for her that persisted through iterations. While VV certainly got the tall, fierce and powerful part right, they've completely missed the mark on everything else.

You might think I'm blowing this out of proportion, but keep in mind that the Amazon's design is just one example. The alpha is riddled with subtle alterations that are aimed at not just toning down the sexual content, but controversial material in general. One example of such material would be religious imagery, which used to be a staple of Diablo. This includes replacing the Christian cross on the Paladin's Holy Shield with a more vague symbol and removing the iconic animated pentagrams from the game's pause menu.

I believe North's vision is what makes Diablo 2, well, Diablo 2, and to change it to fit modern sensibilities and avoid controversies means to distort Diablo 2 into something different. At the end of the day, I believe one of the main goals for Resurrected is winning the old fans back after the controversies of the recent years, and I think the best way to do so is to stay as close to the original vision as possible.

Thanks for coming to my TED talk.

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