Blizzard delves into Diablo lore

BlizzCon 2011: Studio offers its first panel aimed at illuminating the history of its action RPG franchise, detailing The Eternal Conflict, angels, and demons.

Oddly enough, in BlizzCon's seven-year history, there has never been a panel devoted explicitly to the Diablo franchise's lore. That changed today, however, as Blizzard senior VP of story and franchise development Chris Metzen took the stage alongside Diablo III lead content designer Kevin Martens and senior world designer Leonard Boyarsky.

Diablo III's heroes will face off against Belial and Azmodan.

Metzen began the session with an apology of sorts for the substantial amount of tinkering that has been done to Diablo's lore in advance of the third game's release. He said that the franchise has been developed by three different companies with novels from eight different writers, and therefore "it was kind of a mess." To tighten up the universe, Blizzard had to enact some intentional retconning, but he emphasized that the studio only made these changes to strengthen the property.

As one example of the change, Blizzard gave an identity to The Dark Wanderer, who was the hero of the original Diablo. Moving forward, the universe presupposes that this character is the warrior from the original game, and he has been given the name Aiden. Metzen noted that just one reason for this change is that if the Diablo story were to be told in another medium, this character would need to be the launching point for that. He emphasized that no such development is currently under way.

To start off the lore talk, Metzen launched into The Eternal Conflict, which is the war that has raged between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells since the beginning of time. The motivation behind this conflict is to gain control of the Worldstone. This artifact is a relic of the original conflict between the ultimate manifestations of good and evil. It contains an aspect of the creator, and the controller of it can shape reality to their whim. The Worldstone is contained at the center of the universe, in a place called Pandemonium, and control of this fortress has passed back and forth between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells throughout time.

During the current epoch, the High Heavens control Pandemonium, and it is under their rule that the angel Inarius renounced the Eternal Conflict, and with a faction of other angels and demons, they stole the Worldstone and took it to Sanctuary. Here, they interbred, creating humankind, and the DNA has both angels and demons fearing that humans can be mightier than they. This process also sent heaven and hell into turmoil, as they had lost the impetus for their conflict. Therefore, they call an armistice in their conflict to retrieve the Worldstone, while also making a pact to not directly interfere with humankind.

Metzen then addressed The Angiris Council, better known as the five archangels that rule the High Heavens. The functional equivalents of the Lords of Hell, this group's members have their own personalities and characteristics. Tyrael, the Archangel of Justice, has thus far received the most play in the Diablo games. Tyrael's personality evolved after the events of the first game, when the human Uldyssian sacrificed himself to save the world. Described as anal retentive, Tyrael becomes the maverick of heaven, having come to realize the capacity of humankind and their innate worth after Uldyssian's move.

Auriel is the Archangel of Hope. She is the most upbeat and positive member of the council, functioning as the great mediator and grounding force of the forces of Heaven. The Archangel of Wisdom, Malthael, is a storyline still being developed, Metzen said. However, he went on to say that this angel provides the voice of reason for the council, and he's typically correct. However, when Inarius stole the Worldstone, Malthael apparently went slightly mad, darkening his personality.

Imperius serves as the Archangel of Valor, and he is the warrior champion of the heavens. His personality is that of a great commander, and slaughtering demons is his purpose. Imperius and Tyrael are often at odds, due to Imperius' view that humankind should be eradicated. Lastly, Itherael is the Archangel of Fate. Though he can't actually see the future, he is able to see all of the different strands in play and can often predict what will come. However, since the Worldstone was stolen, Itherael can't see the strands of humans, as they weren't meant to exist. This fact, of course, freaks everyone out.

Boyarsky then took over to discuss the two remaining Lords of the Burning Hells. Belial is the Lord of Lies, and he is the first nemesis that Diablo III players will encounter in the game. A master of subterfuge and indirect dealing, Belial has subverted the city of Caldeum, which serves as the greatest trading city in the world.

The second demon is Azmodan, Lord of Sin. Azmodan is currently the primary evil, and he has ruled hell for the past 300 years. His design is to emanate raw power, and the Seven Deadly Sins are his lieutenants. Two of these minions will be seen in the game. Interestingly, the Maiden of Lust is modeled off of the Mistress of Pain and was only included after the studio saw the costume contest winner at BlizzCon 2010. The second lieutenant was not revealed. Azmodan's goal in the game is to gain control of the Black Soulstone, which can be used to destroy him or give him ultimate power.

Boyarsky also brought up the fact that after Azmodan, there will be no more Lords of Hell. Once Azmodan is gone, the theory is that there will be evil left in the universe. That's the theory, at least, Boyarsky emphasized.

Martens closed out the session by showing off three new areas in the world of Sanctuary. The first of these was Caldeum, which he compared to Rome at the height of its power. The city is undergoing a massive refugee crisis due to the meddling of Belial, and it is currently being ruled by a child-emperor. The second area was Dahlgur Oasis, which is the central farming region for Caldeum. In contrast to the arid atmosphere of Caldeum, this area offers lush environments fed by the oasis. Belial's forces have infested this area, creating a food shortage for the city.

Lastly, Martens showed off the Archives of Zoltun Kulle. This area is an underground temple of sorts that houses a portion of the remains of Zoltun Kulle, who was part of the original Horadric Order. As the story goes, Kulle turned evil, becoming the most dangerous person in Sanctuary. He achieved immortality, and the only way that the Horadrim could deal with him was to cut him in two; his head was buried in the desert while his body was transported to an alternate dimension.

Blizzard's lore efforts for Diablo are being led by their upcoming compendium, Book of Cain. For more from BlizzCon 2011, check out GameSpot's previous coverage.

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56 comments
MrCRASHHAWK
MrCRASHHAWK

in the begining there was nothing only void ecept one perfect pearl ( the world stone) this pearl had evrything in it from good emotions to bad. the bad emotions were cast out of the pearl creating a seven headed dragon( thethamat i think his name is, prob spelled it wrong) and the good emotions were a being called Anu. anu and thethamat clashed and in the battle they both died, there death destroyed the pearl exploding it causing the big bang creating the universe. Anu's corpse created the high heavens and the angels, while thethamats corps created the burning heals and each of thethamats seven head created the seven lords of hell. this will be explained in the first chapter of book of cain.

Gohan7424
Gohan7424

@jstarscomm i never played D1 and i thought D2's story was one of the best parts. Simple, badass, easy to follow. The cinematics helped.

Sigil-otaku
Sigil-otaku

@jstarscomm Seems that way a little but they won't die regardless. Splitting Star craft's SP into 3 campaigns and then deciding to make the campaigns shorter (check the Kotaku article) just reeks of them wanting to get off with an easy cash cow. They didn't even add a new race for the second installment of a very popular franchise (just to add variety) and instead just tweaked the old ones. Diablo on the other hand is receiving the casual treatment, such as not having to pick what skills you have / level and instead just unlock them all and pick whichever you want active at that moment. No longer do people actually have to make guides and strategise about how to build there character as it only goes as deep as what rune you want to augment it with (which have the same effect on many skills). I bought a new PC for 3 games in particular, Shogun 2 (wasn't a disappointment), Skyrim (doesn't look like it'll be a disappointment) and Diablo 3 (sounding disappointing)

kiramasaki
kiramasaki

@wex, its looks like they retconned here, I dont know if belial and azmoden are also brothers of the three, but in III the five together were the prime evils, and they make it sound like Azmoden is actually the strongest

wexorian
wexorian

@Vambran nope we know that Baal,mephisto and diablo were brothers and other lesse evil azmodan,belial,duriel,andariel were just lesser evils, But also we know that After demon death they go to Dark abyss, and also from there demons are comming, "aka devil seems"

wexorian
wexorian

@-Mist- Then it does not make sense if it's diablo and not azmodan who became prime evil, and if that blacksoulstone is not part of meteor then we must wait for game release till next speculations :D

Nikolajj
Nikolajj

@jstarscomm Nice open attitude... Sure Blizz wants to earn money... don't you? But please stop trashing the storyline og the game not yet released! Non of us knows how it is yet. I think that Blizz have a nag for making amazing storylines, and I enjoy most of them. But hey, if you don't wanna play D3, then don't. I will, And i trust that it will be an great experience ^^

jstarscomm
jstarscomm

therefore the story is now crap, there is no epic script like diablo 1. For example Lachdanan had and excellent memorable script. diablo 2 had none, nothing memorable. blizz is going down hill killing all its franchise with crap storyline.

jstarscomm
jstarscomm

@raikageryu the lesser evil may have always existed but they are now being brought into light to make money. thats the whole truth.

RaiKageRyu
RaiKageRyu

@jstarscomm The lesser evil always existed.

GymFox
GymFox

D3 wont suck..... I would really be shocked if it did.

jstarscomm
jstarscomm

@Vambran, No, he has no other family members, blizz just conjured up the other folks to make money from you. thats the harsh truth, the storyline is now crap, its just to make money. thats it.

Zonelezz
Zonelezz

definitely love the story of diablo, i wonder if diablo and his brothers will return in this?

Vambran
Vambran

Okay what I don't get is If Diablo has two brothers... does that mean he has other family members? Does he have a dad that's the anti god or something?

zoeyleft
zoeyleft

how does blizzard always come up with amazing stories and background for everyone of their characters? take a look at warcraft lore for instance. so much guuuud to be read...

-Mist-
-Mist-

@wexorian Dude the devil that roars in the first trailer is Diablo it is confirmed by Blizzard.

turbobenx
turbobenx

ill be very disappointed if D3 sucks. They spent years making it and the fact that they keep delaying it.

shrolag
shrolag

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

gutsallover
gutsallover

@wexorian I believe it's been confirmed that this guy is Azmodan, and the guy in the original trailer is Diablo. Nostalgia-wise, the Lord of Terror is great. However, I found Baal and Mephisto to be more compelling in terms of story, especially the former. Diablo didn't really bring anything special to the table, besides the awesome, "Not even death can save you from me!"

wexorian
wexorian

now after re reading this i htink that demon in last video is not azmodan it's just hsis general who leads army, and Azmodan is in 1st d 3 trailer in last part who rars, so meteor is that darksoulstone wich will grant him power to became prime evil from lesser one, but I and OTher PPL want Lord of terror ressurection coz lesser evils are fail for me :D :D

grove12345
grove12345

Before WOW butchered Blizzards reputation as being unique, I loved their lore. The Warcraft series was better in small doses. Instead of constant updating and butchering

Roots_Of_Rhythm
Roots_Of_Rhythm

I love that they're taking the lore so seriously. I'd play the games regardless of the story, but it adds so much more to the depth and atmosphere of the game if you actually care to learn about the world you're playing in.

-Hiki-
-Hiki-

Pff, OFCOURSE the lore is important, without lore there is no story or any good gameplay. All of the missions in Diablo are based upon lore, so you idiots who complain about lore don't really understand the concept of lore. Diablo = lore if you want to play games without lore please go play Call of Duty.

Llama345
Llama345

Why don't they spend less time on lore and more time on telling me when I can buy this game. @wexorian @gutsallover I too read it was Diablo, but I dont remember where I read it.

abcdefgabcdefgz
abcdefgabcdefgz

Do not care about the story want to play the game. I read books for stories and play games to play a game.

BigDaddyPOLO
BigDaddyPOLO

Way to remove all mystery and intrigue from your franchise, Blizzard, but why should I expect any different from them at this point?

gutsallover
gutsallover

@wexorian I believe that that demon was confirmed to be Diablo, but I can't remember where I read this.

wexorian
wexorian

aaah nice nice they did not said anythinn about f..... meteor wich awakens demons in old tristram and who was DEMON IN main trailer if it's not diablo then i'l be disapointed :D

ihl0700677525
ihl0700677525

@xXFr34k_0uTXx: I think Itherael's role is a seer/oracle whose role is predict what will happen next while Malthael is kind of old geezer whose role is to give an advice to the council how to act or react. But I don't really care about it. I just want to kick some demon's ass with Monk.

jstarscomm
jstarscomm

Awww man the story sucks now, they messed it all up, just like what they did to warcraft and starcraft. this is what happens when money is involved, things just turn to crap like this.

jstarscomm
jstarscomm

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

jstarscomm
jstarscomm

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

xXFr34k_0uTXx
xXFr34k_0uTXx

This was a fun read, but the descriptions given about two of the Archangels are strikingly similar by definition. First the title "Itherael, Archangel of Fate", being described by Metzen as a ruler who can predict the outcomes of future events. Okay, 'Fate', I get that. Secondly the title "Malthael, Archangel of Wisdom". Even though there's not much of a description given here (mainly, I think, because of the contrast between the two), doesn't being wise and predicting the future go hand-in-hand? I know I nerded out there a bit, but I can honestly see why they're still in development with that concept. Odd choice of words/character titles.

axlroselm
axlroselm

[This message was deleted at the request of a moderator or administrator]

godsend1989
godsend1989

I think i learn maxim lore about Baal after i killed him 8967486734894....times.

Kayweg
Kayweg

Fortunately Diablo games have never been mainly about the Lore, but the Loot ! ;)

Doomrul
Doomrul

This lore is weak ... Merely any better than a bed time story ...

Driscoal
Driscoal

Seriously, who cares about whether they are Prime Evils or Lesser Evils or Evel Knievels, does that make good storytelling? Burning Hells no. I just think "thighten up the universe" is a major contradiction to everything that followed.

Ngaan
Ngaan

It states quite clearly in the original Diablo game manual that Belial and Azmodan are Lesser Evils. They overthrew and banished Diablo, Mephisto, and Baal to the mortal realm. In Diablo II, Andariel and Duriel defected and rejoined the Prime Evils. All of them got a can of whupass emptied upon their unsuspecting pates. ERGO: Belial and Azmodan are rulers of the Burning Hells because there isn't anyone else around. They are the hourly employees who get left in charge while the manager is away on the basis of seniority alone. Simple.

pixelshocks
pixelshocks

You guys are right, I guess I'm just not that proficient in various stories, I didn't realize they are all part of the Jewish stories. @G-Balla: Just to clear some facts, Asmodean and Be'lal were first mentioned in "The Dragon Reborn" which was released in 1991, WOT was first published in 1990. I believe you are referring to its game that was released in 1999.

MXVIII
MXVIII

@G-Balla Not so, in the recent trailer, Azmodan calls the other Three his brothers. Not to mention in this article, it says that Azmodan is the last Lord of Hell, that means not just any lesser evil can be one. Meaning he has to be a prime evil.

G-Balla
G-Balla

@pixelshocks Blizzard first used the names for the characters Belial and Azmodan in Diablo 1, which came out in 1996, Wheel of Time came out in 1999, if anybody copied anybody (which neither did, they just used the same source) it would have been Wheel of Time, not Diablo.

G-Balla
G-Balla

@Driscoal If you played Diablo 1 you would know that Belial and Azmodan are not prime evils but instead the two lesser evils who overthrew the three prime evils in the Dark Exile and banished them to the mortal realm. Nowhere above does it say Belial and Azmodan are also prime evils it just says they are the current rulers of the burning hells......because they overthrew the other rulers in the dark exile!!! There are only 3 prime evils like you thought.

gutsallover
gutsallover

@pixelshocks I believe that the names aren't unique on purpose. This is, after all, Heaven and Hell we're talking about. Blizzard is just presenting the idea of these two "factions" with a delightfully dark twist.

pixelshocks
pixelshocks

@admomars: high five! @gutsallover: yes you are right, I was wishing for more unique names :)

gutsallover
gutsallover

@pixelshocks Both Diablo and Wheel of Time derive the names from theology. Asmodeus and Belial are two Christian/Jewish theological demons.

adamomars
adamomars

@PIXELSHOCKS, Wheel of Time kicks ass... so does Diablo. great stuff

pixelshocks
pixelshocks

Asmodan, Belial sounds like the forsakens, Asmodean and Be'lal from Wheel of Time.