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Artist Oscar Cuesta tells us his story of working on Diablo 3 at Blizzard North and South

A few weeks ago we uncovered a load of old shots of Diablo 3 that were posted by 2D/3D artist Oscar Cuesta. Oscar worked on Diablo 3 while it was still in development at Blizzard North before moving to Blizzard Irvine to continue the project. So what was it like working on Diablo 3 at Blizzard North? Did you know there were some radical style changes and there were even bulldogs with punk mohawks in the original South version? Oscar Cuesta tells his story about working on the game in this interview.

In conjunction with our Spanish partners over at DiabloNext (see Spanish version), we bring you an interview with Oscar who shares his story of working at both Blizzard North and Blizzard South on Diablo 3. There’s some interesting stuff in this interview so read on…

Blizzard North

Project Hydra area was off limits when we visited Blizzard Irvine in 2010.
Project Hydra area was off limits when we visited Blizzard Irvine in 2010.

When did you start at Blizzard North and at what time during the Diablo 3 project did you join the team?

When I started at Blizzard North there was already a team working on Diablo 3. I don’t know exactly how long they had been working on the project but they had finished pre-production and were working on full production.

I started working on a different project from Diablo 3, it didn’t have an official name, it was “project Hydra”, a game like Diablo but closer to traditional fantasy genre (dragons, elf like creatures…).

PureDiablo Note: Project Hydra became the codename for Diablo 3 while in development.

After a while, that project was canceled and a new project opened, most of us found it more interesting. It was like Diablo but in space. We called it “Star-blo”. I was a few months there but, again, it was canceled and from then on we moved to the Diablo 3 project.

What parts of Diablo 3 did you work at Blizzard North?

I did a bit of everything. Some characters (low poly at that time), concept art, many props, but mainly environments. Each environment artist had a level assigned to them. It was like your level and, although we had the concept art, story and directions from the Art Director as a starting point, we had a lot of leeway to do whatever we wanted within some margins.


We understand that working for Blizzard North was similar to working for an indie developer. How was it like working with David Brevik and the Schaefer brothers?

Very good really. Brevik was more serious and a bit less accessible and the Schaefer brothers were very nice and down to earth, like any other workmate. There was a very casual and friendly vibe.

What did it mean for Blizzard North the cancellation of their version of Diablo 3, considering that the franchise was its creation?

I think some people saw it coming for a while, there were rumors every once in a while. The cancellation of Diablo 3 came along with the closure of Blizzard North. Many workmates decided to join and create their own studios (at least 2 or 3 if I remember correctly) and very few people from the original Diablo team went to Blizzard Entertainment. Maybe because the Diablo 3 project had been canceled indefinitely.

Diablo 3 Blizzard North

Blizzard South

After the cancellation, the project moved to Blizzard’s headquarters in Irvine, with a new team and a new direction. Would you be able to tell us at what point in the development that transition was done? How much of the original resources were reused in the reboot?

When the Diablo 3 project was started again at Blizzard Entertainment, a majority of the original team wasn’t there anymore. Everything was done from scratch, including the story, and nothing from Blizzard North was reused. It’s hard to determine how far along in development Diablo 3 was at Blizzard North, there was a lot done but also a lot to do and polish.

Diablo 3 Blizzard North

What was the biggest change between the two versions of Diablo 3? How would you describe the new art style compared with Blizzard North’s vision?

For me, the most obvious change was visual. The new artistic style was more “WoW” and less “traditional Diablo”. To those coming from Blizzard North, the original style from previous versions was more fitting, darker, grittier, and less colorful, like in the old versions.

The style change was a bit radical (we even had bulldogs with a punky mohawk) but things were softened at the end of the day and the final result were not as extreme as they weere at the beginning.

What did you like the most about the two versions (north and south) as well as what you liked least?

From Blizzard North’s version I liked the art direction. The thing I liked the most from the final launch version from Blizzard Entertainment was how polished and good everything looked, independently from personal opinions about the art style.

The time difference also helped, in Blizzard North we were still using Diablo 2’s engine and the engine started to evolve with better support for shaders, more polygon models, better lighting…

You have seen the videogame industry evolve throughout the years, what has been more impactful?

Industry tools change and improve so quickly that they don’t really impact me too much. You take the constant evolution for granted and are waiting for it. I am also a bit skeptical with some announcements until I have the chance to try things by myself, or after some time passes and you start hearing about other colleagues’ opinions.

Last, did you see the announcement of Diablo IV? What do you think about what we have seen so far?

It looks great, I’m looking forward to try it out!

You can find more of Oscar’s work over at ArtStation.

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