Today at the World Wide Invitation for Activision/Blizzard, Diablo III was announced to the public, a game speculated to be in production for quite some time. For awhile we had rumors running wild of another MMO (like we need another WoW), and even entirely new games (*gasp*, new games, is that possible anymore?). But alas, one of the most popular series ever to be produced on the PC (originally anyway) is debuting a third installment.
The question now is, will this truly be a Diablo game at its core?. I've been disappointed three too many times when it comes to hype about sequels and the way they implement fresh content. Take for example the Heroes of Might & Magic series. I love it, even the latest installment, Heroes V. However, its greatness was its interface and style of interacting with the world. Take that away from a game series' roots and you might as well title a "sequel" something completely different.
Tip for all game designers out there from a still-player based community member -- don't change what isn't broken! Or more to the point, don't change what works well and players enjoy. Add onto that, tweak, gain player feedback before implementation, but nothing more. If you want more, title the game something else or you risk losing your core fanbase and spoiling an entire series.
Movies have countless examples of this. When the third 'Neverending Story' movie came out I was extremely excited. Of course I ended up extremely disappointed in that they dumbified the series so much to focus on young kids, I hardly recognized it for what it was supposed to be based on.
Even so, we shouldn't shy away from attempting to create great sequels. Sequels keep us in the game world that would have eventually been forgotten, reminds us in just a slightly different way how great the gameplay experiences we've had in the past were, and gives us a glimpse into the future as to what potential a growing industry can bring to already successful, and perhaps bring up not-so-successful, game titles.
I for one am looking forward to Diablo III, and if anyone can produce a successful sequel it is Blizzard (crossing fingers on this one, as I have to admit Starcraft III was just "ok").