Original design plans for Diablo III involved an MMORPG-like chatroom that would replace the menu-based Battle.net interface, says Diablo co-creator David Brevik. Instead of just scrolling through chatrooms, you'd cross through towns and interact with players by trading and selling items.
Speaking to Eurogamer, Brevik outlined the idea:
One of things we originally designed for Diablo 2 that never made it into the game was this idea of a Battle.net town... So instead of going into the chat room at the beginning you would actually go into a graphic town. It was, basically, a glorified chat room, but you could wander around a little bit. We ended up compromising, and going with, you get dumped into a chat room and pictures of your heroes were along the bottom of Battle.net.
We wanted to take that and make that a reality, make that into an MMO experience. Then we had these towns which were not instanced, and they had lots of people in them, and you're interacting and trading and selling and getting quests. Then you'd go out and have these experiences, but you would create these games and go out and play the game with a group of your friends.
But they turned out not to feel like an MMO because part of the feeling from an MMO is when you're walking across Elwynn Forest [from Blizzard MMO World of Warcraft] and you see some guy walk by that's this high level guy, or you're fighting some monster and somebody else comes up and helps you, those dynamic social things that happen, were missing from that experience.
So this idea of creating these public combat zones that allow people to have that dynamic social interaction is really what I wanted to make with this game.
Head to the Eurogamer Q&A for more of Brevik's thoughts on Diablo and his current game, Marvel Heroes. It's an interesting read.