When it's done
Shipping a game "when it's done" isn't always the same as shipping it when it is complete, Blizzard pointed out to Vox Games in a short interview about their decision to release Diablo III with missing elements.
Late last week, Diablo III lead designer Jay Wilson told gamers that the dungeon crawling adventure game would ship without the player-versus-player arena system. That system, which the developer says still needs polish, will be released as a patch, he said. That patch, Blizzard spokesperson Che'von Slaughter confirmed to Vox Games, will be released for free.
"We consider a lot of factors when determining whether a game is ready for release, and as has been the case in the past, we sometimes feel it's necessary to work on individual features a little longer to ensure they meet our standards," Slaughter said. "We've traditionally supported our games long after release, and this has included not only bug and balance fixes, but also working on content and system updates that might have at different times been a part of the original release plan. Ultimately, we wouldn't release a game if we didn't feel it delivered an experience that we were proud of, and that holds true for Diablo III as well."
"We made the call to release the Arenas in a post-launch patch (which will be available to Diablo III players at no additional cost)"
While both the campaign and cooperative play of Diablo III are nearly finished, the arenas aren't where Blizzard need them to be to ship the game, Slaughter said.
"Rather than hold onto the finished campaign, which we felt would have been unfair to players looking forward to the core single-player and co-op experience, we made the call to release the Arenas in a post-launch patch (which will be available to Diablo III players at no additional cost)," she said. "We know a lot of players are looking forward to the Arenas, and we hope that the additional development time will help us ensure they live up to players' expectations. In the meantime, we think players will really have a blast with the core game experience that we'll be delivering at launch."
A source close to the game's development tells Vox Games that some of Diablo III's delays were caused by the developer steadily tweaking core systems like runes, talents and inventory. Player-versus-player arenas, we're told, came into the development cycle late, which could explain why this last feature isn't quite ready for release.
While Diablo III still doesn't have a firm release date, executives at Blizzard parent company Activision Blizzard expect a release between April and June of this year.