Diablo gameplay

What you can learn from Diablo (and use it in your workplace)?

Recently, good guy David Brevik shared an original pitch of Diablo, a very popular dungeon crawling action game by Blizzard Entertainment for world to see. And since gamification is based on learning from gamedesign and applying it to non-game context, let’s see what we can learn from Diablo in perspective of long-term gamification strategies.

But…why the heck you want to look at demon killing mayhem in order to solve today’s workplace issues? Well, here is a small background story:

As you may know, Diablo was quite popular during the 90s. But interestingly, my older brother can’t resist to delve into dark, treacherous dungeons even today. And furthermore, he never showed much of a desire to play it’s successors Diablo 2 or 3 (which are arguably equally fun and engaging, if not even more so). When I asked him one day, while he was frenetically clicking the mouse, slashing through the armies of hell, he just murmured something like…”I don’t know, there is something about this game that keeps you playing and does not wear off”.

I realised that he did not play Diablo sequels, because he was not particularly interested in the general idea or theme, but in fact, he just hasn’t got bored with the original Diablo yet.

And then it struck me. Let’s see if we can learn a thing or two from Diablo in order to build engaging experiences that last. After all, most examples of gamification offers short-term one-time solutions. And one question that I get asked on almost every workshop or client’s meeting is: “But does it work in a long run?”

Therefore, taking lessons from game that kept players playing for almost 20 years makes sense.

After reviewing Diablo’s pitch, it looks like my Brother’s loyalty is a result of carefully thinked design. Here are my thoughts about how they managed to produce long lasting user experience, that may be used in gamification.

Instant gratification meets ever changing environment

As guys at Condor (Condor was a company that initially came up with an idea for Diablo and was acquired by Blizzard later on) stated very clearly, they want to make simple and quick engagement loop set in a highly variable place.

“Heart of Diablo is the randomly created dungeon… …. Rooms, corridors, traps, treasures monsters and stairways will be randomly placed, providing a new gaming experience every time Diablo is played.”

Every game is unique, and replay value is the key. Think about it in a gamification context. You provide your players easy and simple rules with limited number of game elements to follow, so they feel comfortable in solving challenges. Once you have that, you create a system that follows the rules, but mixes the elements in a new way to provide challenges with a sense of novelty.

“No two games will ever be the same”

If your long term gamification considers any types of competitive challenges or exploration hunt, this will be a crucial attribute to keep senior users interested.

Player’s experience should come before technology

“As games today substitute gameplay with multimedia extravaganzas…we seek to reinvigorate the hack and slash, feels good gaming audience.”

At the very beginning, authors set the player’s experience as the priority. That will avoid deploying unnecessary features that may in the end annoy or distract users. Avoid complications, embrace simplicity. Especially, if you design gamification that is directly tied to work related processes, you may wish to make your gamification subtle and simple.

Simple storyline, easy to identify with

I’m a simple man. I see a minion, I fight. Diablo storyline is not full of surprising plot twists, nor does it have well elaborated characters. What it has is a clear, universal conflict that is easy to comprehend and easy to identify with.

The player’s character has just had his life thrown upside down when sinister raiders kill his family…… left with nothing but a desire for vengeance, gathering up his courage and initial weapons, he dives in with fury.

The simple fight of good versus evil is a sufficient motivator that helps to support player’s actions and experience. And that could be enough to grab player’s attention and triggers one of the motivational switches. It can make your conversion and onboarding easier.

Instant gratification…again

This core gameplay loop ensures, that the player feels sense of satisfaction almost at any single moment of the game. Whether it is a discovery of a new weapon, item, new location or a sense of progression. Player is provided with constant feedback from various sources. This tends to be a crucial aspect of keeping players focused and motivated for a longer period of time.

And it has another advantage. Earning new items which are usable, gives players new ways of dealing with games challenges.

“For example, a “Mephistopheles Cloak” might allow limited control over lesser evil creatures, while a “Holy Mace” may be just the thing to shatter pesky skeletons.


So what can gamification can take away from the design of games like Diablo? It builds environment that provides constant new challenges for players and reflects their progress (once you win the game, you can play it again, except the dungeons are completely new, and your enemies are stronger). It uses simple, yet powerful story of “good vs evil” and tells it in a mature way that helps players to hop on. In the very beginning of the design process, authors took effort in understanding what kind of experience they wish to deliver, and based on that, they choose the right technology and game design approach.