The Most Important Artifact in the Diablo Universe

The Book of Cain is the ultimate guide to Diablo lore. It covers every aspect of the world of Sanctuary and its trials, beginning with the creation of the universe and leading right up to the doorstep of Diablo III, one of the most eagerly anticipated video games of 2012.

Blizzard assembled a team top notch of writers, artists, and game lore experts to craft this weighty tome, a history of everything Diablo in the voice of series mainstay Deckard Cain. It's 147 page are filled with his insightful observations, eye-catching illustrations, and excerpts from tomes and scrolls long forgotten to all but him.

To some the book, due out in January, will be nothing more than an attractive collectible of a beloved games series. According to Chris Metzen, vice president of creative development at Blizzard Entertainment, it's much more than that.

The Book of Cain is Diablo.

Much more than a simple retelling of what's already been established in the Diablo universe, the Book of Cain represents definitive Diablo cannon leading up to the third entry in the series. On one level it is a book for fans of the series both old and new, but on the other it was a chance for Blizzard to reign in the dark story of the world of Sanctuary in preparation for what is easily the biggest Diablo story yet.

I recently spoke to blizzard's Chris Metzen about the impetus for the tome and its importance in setting Diablo lore in stone in advance of third entry in the series. No stranger to the scrutiny of story-obsessed fans, Blizzard decided to get all of its demonic ducks in a row prior to the game's release.

"We live under that shadow every day," Metzen told me, regarding fans watching story points like hawks for discrepancies. "The editorial on big moving universes like the ones we work with. It's difficult to keep straight."

So for Diablo the developer decided to straighten things out before the game hit store shelves. "We knew we needed to have it," Metzen said. "So we just sat down and went for it."

Knowing they wanted to create an ultimate tome of Diablo lore, Metzen tapped the writing talents of Dungeons & Dragons and Transformers cartoon vet Flint Dille. A friend of Metzen's, Dille had already been brought in to help polish up the story of Diablo III. "We knew we wanted to do the book, and he was the perfect fit since he was already getting caught up entirely."

Once Metzen determined Dille was game for creating the book they rolled up their sleeves and got to work. "We sat down for dozens of hours, just downloading everything," said Metzen. "He really hit the ground running and tried to bring it all down to a human level."

That human level is Deckard Cain, one of the first voices heard by countless PC gamers around the world with his "Hello my friend. Stay awhile and listen..." He is the last of the Horadrim, an ancient brotherhood of Magi gathered by the angel Tyrael to combat the evil of Sanctuary. He's the player's greatest ally, but the weight of his knowledge weighs heavily on his shoulders.

The introduction to the Book of Cain reads as if Deckard is saying goodbye to his niece, Leah, perhaps passing on the torch to the younger generation. Is this foreshadowing? Is Deckard going to die in Diablo III?

"While I wouldn't care to speculate on the specifics," Metzen told me, "I'd say his research is starting to get to him. He's had a heavy heart but here he reads through his journal and considers his life and Leah's future. In this world of darkness that doesn't speak well for mankind, ultimately there is great hope; there might be something beyond worth striving for."

And what lies beyond the Book of Cain? Could we see similar sourcebooks for World of Warcraft or StarCraft in the future? Metzen says that this could be the beginning of a series of "really tight, premium feeling sourcebooks," though the chance that they'll be definitive historical tomes varies by series. "StarCraft would be much easier. There's a story there from A to Z. Warcraft would be an unbelievable nightmare."

For now we'll have to be satisfied with the end result of Deckard Cain's life's work, the Book of Cain. And while it has ironed out continuity for Blizzard, it'll also be quite important to the players. "We think a player unfamiliar with the game will be able to pick up this book, read through it, and go 'Whoa, I totally get it. I understand the data, the themes, and I can't wait to play.'"

People can't wait to play Diablo III? Preposterous.

The Book of Cain is now available for preorder through Amazon and other fine retailers.