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Back from the Dead: Necromancer Hype Leading into BlizzCon X

by - 3 years ago

If you haven’t seen it anywhere else on the net so far, here’s the skinny: someone extracted an image from the Blizzard Gear store that depicted a pair of necromancers (male and female) and this has led to a lot of widespread speculation about what’s in store for the Diablo community going into this weekend’s BlizzCon.

Let’s get a couple more details down before joining everyone else on the hype train:

  • The signature on the image is “J. Mueller” which points to John Mueller. Several professional social networks indicate that he’s an Art Director at Blizzard and the general understanding is that he’s the guy in the most recent Art Director position that was offered several months ago. (Which is also confirmed by his presence at the Anniversary Panel at BlizzCon X.)
  • NOTHING IS ACTUALLY CONFIRMED. The only concrete thing we know at this point is that this image is related to a piece of merchandise that may or may not be offered on the Blizzard Gear store in the coming days.
  • The dude in the image, while certainly wielding the same weapons as Xul from Heroes of the Storm, is decidedly not Xul.

Now, there are a lot of things that this artwork could mean. Covering all of them would take a long time, so let’s just try and hit the major ones we’ve been talking over in the BlizzPro bullpen:

“There will be another D3 expansion (D3X2), and the Necromancer will be the new class.” – There’s plenty of other speculation and sheer desire out there for another D3 expansion, but there’s also a lot of bullets that make it less likely. Some of the content we’ve seen since Reaper of Souls was released, namely Kanai’s Cube and the new locations added, had internal tags indicating that they were intended for D3X2. The fact that they were released sends a message that plans for the expansion were scrapped and Team 3 was just releasing content that was ready enough to put the game in maintenance mode.

Kanai's Cube

Kanai, we hardly knew ye.

Another hint is that Josh Mosqueira, who took over directing for RoS after Jay Wilson stepped down from the position, has also left the company to join other Blizzard ex-pats at Bonfire Studios. It’s not impossible for Team 3 to have yet another director for the second expansion, but it creates questions about the solidarity of vision for the game if major directorial positions are cycling new people in and out.

“Necromancer will be one of the first classes revealed for Diablo 4/a new Diablo game.” – A new director and art director certainly presage a new game at the very least, but also keep in mind that Blizzard has legendarily been very slow to announce new games after starting their development. D3 was in development for 4-5 years before it saw announcement in 2008, and it was still another four years before it hit the streets. For Blizzard to go from RoS to announcing a new Team 3 game in two years would beggar belief, and the director and art director positions were only posted in 2016, meaning very little about the game would be concrete early enough for it to be ready for primetime at BlizzCon X.

Even with the faster cycle that Blizzard has been working on with smaller teams and quicker timelines (evidenced with Hearthstone and Overwatch) it would still be ludicrous speed for them to have a D4 announcement this soon. Nothing is impossible, but I’d count this as markedly less probable than D3X2 to say the very least.

“Necromancer is the first of several D2 classes to get upgraded and added to D3, no expansion.” – It’s a bit more of an esoteric idea to see Team 3 add something as large as a class to a four-year-old game without having a boxed expansion release behind it, but even with all the work that goes into a class, it’s still less than what said boxed expansion would require in terms of development. And the fact that you’ve got both male and female necromancers in the image certainly calls to mind D3’s unique implementation of both genders for all classes, as compared to previous entries in the series.

d3 demo select scree

You might not believe it, but it was a BIG DEAL that D3 promised to have classes in both genders.

The idea that Blizzard could offer the Necromancer and potentially other past classes into D3 as microtransactional content would be a great way to get a new revenue stream going for Team 3, something they’ve always lacked (especially with the debacle of the RMAH). It wouldn’t require any alterations in terms of the game’s story and would provide both replay value and nostalgia for all the D2 fanatics who might have avoided D3 because it lacked their preferred class.

Let’s hearken back to the difference between this art and Xul: Team 1 went to a lot of trouble to establish that Xul is the canonical Necromancer who players controlled in D2. The fact that the male and female necromancers we see in this artwork are NOT Xul would lend credence to the idea that they are Nephalem, allowing them to be easily swapped into the D3 narrative.

Now, just don’t ask us what male Amazons are supposed to be called.

“This has something to do with Diablo anniversary shenanigans.” – A lot of attention is being paid to the fact that 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the original Diablo. What that anniversary entails (aside from a swingin’ party at BlizzCon) is really anyone’s guess, and speculation on that has run the gamut from a D2 HD remake to more evidence of a new game announcement, all long before this image leaked.

The bottom line is that you can do an anniversary product in a lot of different ways: it could be an artbook, it could be a t-shirt, it could be a game or add-on content for an existing game or the promise of a remake of an older game using a newer game’s engine, or it could just be a dope mousepad. The only things we know FOR SURE is that the artwork is of necromancers and it’s going to be associated with a physical product that will be sold on the gear store. What that product is is really going to be kept secret until Blizzard deems otherwise.

And I probably don’t have to say so, but as soon as Blizzard throws the switch on that, you’ll hear about it here.


Crow

Bringing bad news from the burning western wastes of Arizona since 2013, Crow is also a dad, guild officer, game designer, and sci-fi/fantasy author. Follow him @unlimitedblack for memes, pictures of his kid, and occasional design insights.


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