You can thank Alex for coming up with the official title for this feature. He managed to come up with something that fit before I spent an evening staring at a pint of beer, waiting for it to click.
In any event, I’ve asked Remedy Entertainment executive VP Aki Järvilehto to discuss his favorite game of all time, Diablo, and talk a little bit about why that game has continued to have such an impact.
Järvilehto has reason to celebrate, as today marks the release of Alan Wake's American Nightmare, an Xbox Live Arcade extension of Alan Wake with an emphasis on combat...but a pretty neat story, too. I'll have more to say about American Nightmare when my review goes live in a bit.
Järvilehto turned the tables on me a bit, since I’d emailed the questions and he found a way to plug his interest in the release of Diablo III. He's not on the development team for Diablo III, obviously, and the reason he’s so interested in Diablo III is because of Diablo. He’s definitely not alone in having a deep reverence for that game.
Giant Bomb: If you’re forced to choose only one, what’s your favorite video game?
Aki Järvilehto: Aww…but there are so many! Well, one of the games that I have on pre-order is Diablo III and right now it’s perhaps the game I’m looking toward the most. I really loved the previous versions when they came out and playing through the Beta was just awesome! Everything was just like I remembered, only so much better and more polished.
GB: What makes it stand above everything else?
Järvilehto: Maybe it's in part because I'm a huge fan of the fantasy genre. I totally fell in love with the Diablo series back in the day and it looks like Diablo III has just managed to blend all the components of fantasy into a superb gameplay experience. Amazingly smooth and polished low learning curve, infinite combinations kind of mechanics. Really it's just such an easy game to jump in if you like the genre. I just can't wait.
GB: Do you know how old you were when you first played Diablo? What do you remember?
Järvilehto: Now that's an easy one. It was 1996 and that would make me 24 at the time. Battle.net only came later so most of my memories from that time are related to the nights spent playing and re-playing the game. Descending deeper and deeper into the caverns and bracing myself for the final, inevitable confrontation. Just awesome!
GB: Do you still return to Diablo every so often? How come? What changes when you go back?
Järvilehto: Well, I did re-install Diablo II once I'd been through the Beta of the upcoming version. And frankly, the years had not been kind. In sense of game play mechanics there’s still some really cool stuff happening in the game, but I gave up half way through the first play through. But it’s still worth a hat tip. I can’t think of many other games that are more than a decade old and still that playable. And it looks like there’s a ton of folks still online.
GB: Has Diablo series influenced the way you make video games? In what ways?
Järvilehto: We play through as much as we can and do turn into other games, movies, books and so on for inspiration. Diablo and games from Blizzard are just amazing, but I wouldn’t say they have directly influenced us too much. In game design, we tend to focus on the things we're good at and try to create original concepts we can be proud of. So this is more about inspiration than trying to mimic someone else's style.
GB: When you first played Diablo you just played games for fun. Today, you make them. How does that color the experience?
Järvilehto: It does change the experience. By quite a bit. I’d expect that anyone in the movie industry has just a little different relationship with movies and the same goes for games. I guess it does make you a little more critical and you keep looking for things that are a little deeper into mechanics, technology or design. But it takes nothing away from enjoying an awesome game, quite the opposite. Once you’re playing through a game that has all the components in place, it’s easy to appreciate the effort, which the teams have put into it!
Järvilehto: He's a writer! Of course he plays when he has time for it, but he's kind of selective and doesn't really go through most of the stuff Barry Wheeler carries to him. It's one of his ways to get proper kind of inspiration for his stories. Of course right now he is caught between fiction and reality, trying to fight his way back through an episode of Night Springs, but if and when he makes it back I’m sure he’ll be playing Skyrim for rest of this winter.