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Diablo III's devilish appeal is in the details

Why I Love: Kopla Games CEO Mika Kuusisto explains why his career has been intertwined with Blizzard's hit from the very start

Why I Love is a series of guest editorials on GamesIndustry.biz intended to showcase the ways in which game developers appreciate each other's work. This column was contributed by Mika Kuusisto, CEO of Kopla Games, the studio behind the Nonstop Knight series of mobile action RPGs.

My life in games, both as a fan and professionally, can be charted through Blizzard's output.

In my youth, I sunk countless hours into World of Warcraft. Starcraft II was the game that dominated my university years, including a few months spent in South Korea, and it really opened my eyes to the potential of the medium. I remember being amazed at the extent to which Starcraft was able to penetrate mainstream culture there, filling stadiums and appearing on TV.

This felt a world away from what was then possible in my native Finland, but the same now happens here. A Finnish player, Serral, is in fact the current Starcraft II world champion, which is a heartening example that even the most apparently niche of experiences can become mainstream.

Diablo III was the first time the series clicked for Kuusisto

Diablo III was the first time the series clicked for Kuusisto

But even though I'm a big Blizzard fan, the Diablo series never had much of an impact on me. I played bits and pieces of the first two games, but they largely left me cold. My first experiences with Diablo III did nothing to change my opinion either, since I played with a more experienced group of players who simply blitzed through everything, skipping all cutscenes and generally leaving me bewildered.

I'm sure most of you reading this will have had similar multiplayer experiences, and it just goes to show that environment is everything.

I became obsessed with that zone you enter... that state of immersion when you are moving fast and just slaying hordes of enemies on instinct alone

It's no coincidence that I finally fell in love with Diablo III while playing local co-op with my roommate - without doubt the best way to play the game, in my view. I became obsessed with that zone you enter when you play for a long time, that state of immersion when you are moving fast and just slaying hordes of enemies on instinct alone. Somehow, even after hundreds of hours, it never seems to get old.

And then there is always the thrill of starting a new character. In the end game your progression stalls but beginning with a new character is like playing on steroids and you get new skills and loot all the time. The seasons have been a great addition and a reason to come back to the game.

I also love how the game totally changes with a hardcore character. You have to be careful and pay much more attention, instead of aimlessly charging forward. I mostly play with normal characters, but it is of hardcore characters that I have the best memories.

So Diablo III became a key part of a friendship between me and my roommate that continues to this day, as our favourite games so often do. There was significance in the timing, too, since the game launched in the same month that I began my first job in the games industry. This was the period in which I played Diablo III most heavily and its influence on my career is now clear to me.

But Diablo III is a game for all seasons, not just something that had a major impact on me at one specific time or in one particular form. It's worth remembering, after all, that the launch version was fundamentally quite flawed. The drop rate for legendary items was really low and you were forced to play the Auction House rather than the game itself.

I've bought the game three times now: first on PC, then on PS4, and most recently on Nintendo Switch

With Reaper of Souls, Blizzard seemed to address this and recognise that in any good action RPG, players want to be swimming in meaningful loot. Reaper of Souls was also a major part of the package that Blizzard brought to consoles, and these ports -- heretical though it may seem -- are my preferred way to play.

Now that I run a mobile games studio whose stated mission is to introduce action RPGs to everyone -- I used to say jokingly that we are making a version of Diablo that even my mom could play -- it is obviously very interesting for me to see how Blizzard made a traditionally PC-based game work on consoles. It should be even more fascinating to see how they approach mobile with Diablo Immortal!

We have watched every one of Blizzard's GDC talks about Diablo at the Kopla office, and they've really inspired us since we are struggling with lot of same challenges. I also read Jason Schreier's book Blood, Sweat and Pixels for more stories on the creation of the console conversion.

One aspect that sticks in my memory is how the team added the roll function -- which offers little real benefit in gameplay -- to accommodate for the fact that, without the continual clicking of the PC version, playing on console felt lacking in that feeling of constant interaction. It really shows how those intangible details can significantly impact the overall experience, and how much care Blizzard took over the console port.

I've bought the game three times now: first on PC, then on PS4, and most recently on Nintendo Switch. Playing in couch co-op on a single TV is a brilliant way to experience Diablo, and this was what first really sold me on the console versions. And with the Nintendo Switch port, I've discovered that Diablo III plays far better as a pick-up-and-play game, enjoyed in snatched moments throughout the day, than I would have thought possible.

After all, I have no time to play like I used to. I now have responsibilities, a family, a company to run. My old roommate is in broadly the same situation, and it's always nice validation for us that he's a fan of our game Nonstop Knight 2; that some essence of the game that's inspired me so much can be felt in my studio's work.

Developers interested in contributing their own Why I Love column are encouraged to reach out to us at news@gamesindustry.biz.

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