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"To Hell and Back: Inside the Tumultuous Making of Diablo IV" (Esquire)

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How did one of the year’s best video games go from a crisis to a comeback story? More than two dozen current and former Blizzard employees told us the unbelievable tale.





Four years ago, on the day after Halloween—the Day of the Dead—thousands of people huddled in the dark, waiting for their first glimpse at Diablo IV in the Anaheim Convention Center.


The stakes were extremely high. If you were a certain kind of geek in the late '90s, the original Diablo was a pop culture phenomenon. Set in a dark fantasy world filled with angels and demons, it was also the grandfather of action role-playing games like Elden Ring and Assassin’s Creed.


But that November in 2019, more than seven years had passed since the release of Diablo III. It had sold more than 20 million copies to become the fourth-best selling PC game of all time—more than Doom, Myst, Dark Souls, and the first two Diablo games combined, and about the same number of copies Elden Ring would ship across all platforms in its first year.


Offstage in Anaheim, the game’s art director, John Mueller, watched as the stunning, Hollywood-quality “reveal cinematic” for Diablo IV began playing for the crowd. But a few seconds later, unexpectedly, the room went dark again.


“You could hear the audio but the screen was gone,” Mueller says. “Literally, I was dying. I thought, ‘This is a heart attack.’ And what happened next was worse: it just turned into Windows screens going into Windows screens.”



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