Skip to main content

Diablo 4 director explains why it's not an MMORPG

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Blizzard's latest update on Diablo 4 sees game director Luis Barriga break down some new screenshots, real-time cutscenes, open-world elements, and how the studio is handling multiplayer.

On that last point, Barriga seems to have drawn a line in the sand with regards to Blizzard's approach to incorporating MMO elements into the Diablo series. 

"Our goal has always been to incorporate elements from shared world games without the game ever feeling like it’s veering into massively multiplayer territory," Barriga wrote. "To be clear, this is a philosophy rather than a tech limitation. We find that the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers."

The MMO acronym has become a taboo in the Diablo community, which is largely reluctant to embrace shared world features that mark a departure from the earlier games' strictly ARPG bones. Barriga seems more than aware of the elephant in the room, describing the balance of multiplayer elements in Diablo 4 "challenging."

The developer gave some examples of how Diablo 4 distinguishes itself from MMOs, describing the experience from a recent dev playtest. "Dungeons and key story moments are always private - just the player and their party. Once story moments are complete and towns are turned into social hubs, you’d run into a few people in town. While on the road, you’d sometimes run into a player here and there," Barriga explained, adding that you'll find busier groupings of players participating in world events. 

Barriga also points out that you're never forced to join a party in Diablo 4, and that solo players can freely walk into a world event, help defeat the enemy, and earn rewards that way.

The lengthy dev update explores other territories as well, like behind-the-scenes blockout images, the approach to storytelling (which will include real-time cutscenes), and items and progression systems. You'll also find some new pre-alpha screenshots, giving a look at how development is progressing. I've embedded those below for your viewing pleasure.

Image 1 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 2 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 3 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 4 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 5 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 6 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 7 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 8 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 9 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 10 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 11 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)
Image 12 of 12

(Image credit: Blizzard)

Here's what the team at Edge thought of the game in their hands-on Diablo 4 preview.

I'm GamesRadar's green tea-fueled, late-night news hound. I'm perpetually in search of an MMO to recapture the feeling of playing Ultima Online in the early 2000s, and I'm still sorting out self-esteem issues from being relegated to second player duties growing up with two older brothers. On a related note, I'm irrationally defensive of Luigi and his mansion.