BlizzCon 2008: Staying true to Diablo

Lead designer Jay Wilson opens up about his team's game creation philosophy, with more information to arrive "in the coming months...and years."

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ANAHEIM, Calif.--Diablo III was the topic of one of the first sessions on the first day of BlizzCon 2008, and it is the central player of one of the last. However, whereas the first was devoted primarily to shedding light on the skill set of the newest member to join Diablo III--the wizard--the second dealt heavily with Blizzard's game design philosophy in the demonic action role-playing game.

Diablo III lead designer Jay Wilson and technical game director Wyatt Cheng returned to helm the panel, with Cheng acting as a silent partner in the presentation. As he did only a few hours earlier, Wilson began by looking back at the history of Diablo, taking note of the core gameplay elements of the franchise. Diablo, Wilson began, was a reinvigoration of the role-playing game market, offering simple, action-based gameplay with random dungeon and item drops. Diablo II's primary contribution was to refine the mechanics of the first, as well as dramatically expand the universe's scope.

With these elements in mind, Wilson laid out what he and his team wanted to accomplish with Diablo III. Foremost, it was important to stay true to the Diablo experience. "We wanted a game that when people played it, they essentially said, 'Yeah, this feels right.'" Additionally, the design lead said that it was critical that the game feel visceral, such that each moment was intense and meaningful. It was also important for the Blizzard team to expand on the RPG experience without pulling the focus too far away from the game's hack-and-slash roots.

Significantly, Wilson said that the Diablo team has devised several new systems to give the game its RPG bent, such as the rune system detailed during this morning's session, but that it was "something to discuss in the coming months...and years."

Returning to the point of staying true to Diablo, Wilson noted that replayability was a core component of the game. Randomness is central to creating a replayable RPG, the lead designer said, noting that environments, monster encounters, and items all play into this concept. It isn't the only way to instill a game with replayability, however, as Wilson also pointed to higher difficulty levels ("we intend to bring back nightmare and hell difficulties"), as well as staged events, or adventures.

Also in the spirit of Diablo, epic heroes were identified as integral for Diablo III. "We want to put as many monsters onscreen as possible, then create epically powerful people who pound them into the dirt," said Wilson, eliciting a buoyant reaction from the crowd. Like Diablo II and Diablo before it, Diablo III will focus on a small number of classes that play distinctly differently from one another.

Even Blizzard has caught the nontraditional gamer bug, and Wilson noted that approachability was also an important element for the team. "If you can click a mouse, you can play Diablo," mused Wilson, saying in manner soon to be cliche that even his nongamer wife greatly enjoyed the Diablo III experience. The design lead also emphasized the game's "simple to learn, difficult to master" gameplay, a tenet of the franchise, as well as the importance of a smooth learning curve. "In Diablo II's normal mode, it was actually a fairly easy game," he said.

Wilson also said that Blizzard is working on a new version of Battle.net to better accommodate cooperative play. "We want to remove as many barriers as possible for people to play and communicate with one another," he said.

Getting back to Diablo's tried-and-true gameplay, Wilson said that the game's action elements were heavily scrutinized. One of the most significant changes made to the gameplay in order to improve the action was to remove the use of potions as the primary health mechanic. To prevent players from being so reliant on health potions, Wilson said that defeated monsters will now drop globes of health. This mechanic is also intended to keep players in the fray, so there would be little to no downtime between battles.

Giving players the option to do more than just charge and click was also an important consideration for the Diablo III team, said Wilson. Giving the example of the berserker monster, Wilson said that it is unwise to take these characters head-on. Instead, the berserker was designed as a heavy hitter that will be vulnerable if he misses. Were the players to check their advance, they'd be able to get easy hits on the berserker after they miss and their weapons become stuck in the ground.

As the action was measured, so was the role-playing. Wilson said that his team has taken steps to improve the game's story without losing Blizzard's "opt in" philosophy of giving players the choice to read dialogue. He also promised that the RPG elements will be improved by alleviating the generic nature of random dungeons, as well as incorporating more non-player character interactions to bring the world to life.

"We want to treat quests as a way to change up gameplay," he further explained. "If a town comes under attack, you may have to save citizens, aid guards, do something other than just have players clicking madly on a monster."

Concluding his talk, Wilson returned to the point he briefly touched upon earlier: adventures. A new component introduced with Diablo III, adventures are essentially scripted events that can be placed anywhere within a level. Whether or not the adventure arises on any given play-through will be random, as will the area that they slot into.

Discussion

83 comments
qoucher
qoucher

I'd really really like to know that since they're making it more action based, if they're going to take away one of the most important elements that made diablo 2 so playable, the ability to add your stats how you want them. I think i heard they're going to switch them to being randomly chosen, as that would increase the action gameplay part, and make gameplay smoother.

ffmaniac24
ffmaniac24

About dam time! ^^ I'm sure diablo 3 will do very well. This is blizard were talking about after all! Already set aside money, so as soon as it comes out, I'll be tearing through sanctuary on a NON-STOP slaughter fest! ^^ Diablo watch out! I'm coming for ya!

tudyniuz
tudyniuz

I think it won't be really that good but it will sell.I hope I'm wrong

djwood84
djwood84

Diablo was available for playstation. And it really, really sucked. D3 won't come to consoles, the game is going to be more complex than D2 in terms of control.

dobeslao
dobeslao

good bye social life in the real world again!

Toro_Nev
Toro_Nev

I know, it just keeps on getting better!

MidniteShadow
MidniteShadow

OMFG this game keeps getting better and better :)

Jeff_Boldt
Jeff_Boldt

the "adventure" system sounds pretty cool, that's exactly the sort of thing previous incarnations were lacking in, should certainly help to round out gameplay this time around.

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

Secret Cow Level...that was funny in D1, never mind when it came about in D2. Wonder what they might come up with in D3 and if it still involves pulling on Wert's thrid leg.

Binpo
Binpo

Amazon please!!

Ziloron
Ziloron

I love the way that the Diablo Universe is expanding. The world of Sanctuary is being shown as a much bigger place than either Diablo and Diablo II have shown. I would love to see how the rest of the world reacted when Diablo was stalking around, and how they reacted when Diablo was defeated. Twenty years has passed. What's going on with the people?

quicksilver987
quicksilver987

oooh oooh oooh new char class... terran MARINE!!! ........................................................ nvm

quicksilver987
quicksilver987

"I'm guessing there will be at least one or two more warriors maybe a knight and a rogue and we still need one more girl and MAYBE one more guy character" @Covenant107: all classes will have both the sexes available D3 is shaping up to be an awesome game... gotta agree though... dunno how the 'no belt' thing is gonna work out is it just me or is anybody else gonna miss pallys... and something palidin-esque is not gonna cut it

lightwarrior179
lightwarrior179

It's good that Blizzard is staying true to the series roots while attempting to innovate on couple of things.I particularly hope they improve Battle.Net and it's matchmaking system...

Warchief_Zuljin
Warchief_Zuljin

"Transaltion: we care too much about our profits from WOW right now to even finishing this suckes anytime this coming decade." Pssst.. Blizzard is made up of different teams that work on different games. There is a seperate Diablo 3 team and none of the people work on WoW. You should know that Blizzard takes forever to finish a game, always have, always will.

Moloch121
Moloch121

Yea well I hope it doesnt go to the consoles either, unlike before pc gaming seems to be slowing down a bit (PC gaming first for me) and anything game thats meant for pc should stay there (hopefully the witcher!)

exedeath
exedeath

Hoon252 must not remember that Diablo was on the Original Playstation, so making the 3rd one for the consoles would be great. I have not upgraded my PC since 1999, so if it does not come out on one of the consoles I may have to wait a few more years till I can actually play it. If they would just take a month off from releasing new games I could afford a new PC.

Proman84
Proman84

"...and years." Transaltion: we care too much about our profits from WOW right now to even finishing this suckes anytime this coming decade.

kuiu7
kuiu7

the artwork is amazing.i want a 1000 pages artbook of diablo 3 :(

KrowTRobot
KrowTRobot

Covenant107, they already said you could change each of the classes gender. Just to let you know.

Hoon252
Hoon252

I hope to god that this game doesn't go to the console market because it just wouldn't feel like diablo if they made it on consoles.

forhekset
forhekset

How boring to sit there and listen to Diablo philosophy. All I want is the same old point-click-explode on LAN with my buddies, it doesn't need to be over analysed.

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

I'm worried about the "belt". I remember when they changed it in D2 but it turned out ok...but to remove it completely? They belt was a source of great angst and suffering which cranked the game play up another notch, add in "Hardcore" mode and it would seriously make you work as a team to survive. Someone running out of pots was a really concern. I hope the hack and grab method works but really the back row supporters are going to have problems I fear.

Yuck_Too
Yuck_Too

Not sure why they never ported Diablo 2 to console...would rock on the 360. If ever there was a game that didn't need a keyboard and mouse...good old point, click, mash 1-8 was it...and with 8-player voice...would be sweet.

Covenant107
Covenant107

D3 Sounds good alrdy... BUT I'm not crazy about the classes so far. The Barb looks like a strong version of my grandpa, the Witch Doctor looks funky and the Wizard... well, I guess I just don't like her. I'm guessing there will be at least one or two more warriors maybe a knight and a rogue and we still need one more girl and MAYBE one more guy character. The odds of me getting my favorite Anti-Hero character are looking slimmer and slimmer. Hopefully you can at least change your characters gender/hairstyle etc. Maybe then I can improvise the characters to my will. Hope you all find a class that works for you.

mailbox2112
mailbox2112

Wait, so are they trying to say there is going to be Diablo 4, or are they saying this is going to be delayed to the max?

Coect
Coect

Blizzard is the best company because it makes PC games, the only true gaming market. They are true proffessionals and they are proving it once more by making this title a PC exclusive also. Cheers!

kos1085
kos1085

I cant wait to hear more about this game

leoleez
leoleez

cool, I agree with the person underneath me though

MInoAquiles
MInoAquiles

Blizzard know what they are doing. this is as far from wow as the earth is to the Andromeda galaxy!!. you go on blizzard and make the game of our dreams. i'm hoping im not alone in this statement:D:D

CTBradums
CTBradums

I wish they would give us some customization with choosing our characters. At least in terms of gender. I know it's not the point of the game, but if I'm playing a character, I'd like to have some difference between his looks and others besides what weapons/equipment I'm wearing. Not super-important, but it'd be a welcome option.

Elhan
Elhan

Sounds promising. I hope my PC can run this.

ElectromavBi
ElectromavBi

If Diablo 3 crosses all platforms they are going to rake in the dough!!!! Every RPG fan will buy this game... I remember playing D1 for the ps1 lol I still have the disc!!! Years is a good thing though for me since I'll be able to finish school and not fail at life when this game comes out from addiction.

phudabulah
phudabulah

"something to discuss in the coming months...and years." So it's not to be released for a couple of years? Wow...

Lightz39
Lightz39

Its blizzard...this is one of their children. They will take care of it folks. Don't worry.

Viralmessiah666
Viralmessiah666

how can you say the first two sucked? both were probably two of the most mindlessly addictive games ever. deep story,not really,but thats not everything...sometimes you just want to beat the crap out of some stuff,and collect weapons and armor and what not. the item system is what made diablo amazing

Flaming_Spoon
Flaming_Spoon

I loved the first 2, this one hopefully tops both. Can't wait to get it!!!

TehEliteElite
TehEliteElite

The first two sucked, why should this be any different?

scryren
scryren

Stop trying to convince us (and yourselves) that you're staying true and actually do it. The concept art is amazing but the details just aren't carrying over to the game's backgrounds or character models--take the level of details from Tyrael on the website and apply it to the game. Use all the colors you want, all I ask is for details in the freaking textures.

shamarke
shamarke

diablo 2 was boring, i think this game gonna xplode!

Gamingcucumber
Gamingcucumber

Waiting for me is not an issua, since ff they nail the work on Diablo III and make it live up to it's predessesors standards, we are going to have ourselfs a game that's going to last us years and years. Just like Diablo 2:LOD did.

BadSushi
BadSushi

I wouldnt mind to wait longer. I mean years would just make this game better. Blizzard doesn't really mess up games, they know what they're doing. I can't wait, but I guess waiting a few 365 more days is one payment I can give.

PrimeLazarus
PrimeLazarus

@Vasot Diablo 3 DOES NOT look anything like World of Warcraft. Either you don't know what Diablo looks like or you don't know what World of Warcraft looks like. I think that whole 'D3 looks like WOW' thing touted by some is seen by most others as outright rubbish. It only takes a few screenshots to realize that's a fairly ignorant statement. Totally different atmosphere, mythos, story, gameplay, and art. It's foolish to think that Blizzard doesn't understand what the sytle of a Diablo game should look like. By what standard are you people measuring these supposed overwhelming similarities? Because both games have swords and axes? Because both games have buildings and bad guys? Because both games have quests? If you just want to "go against the grain" and make a bold claim, it helps a lot if the claim is at least relatively close to the truth.

Argon537
Argon537

i agree lol but i know diablo 3 is going to rock

KillbombX
KillbombX

Man, if it's going to be YEARS before D3 comes out I wish they would have kept it under their hat for a while longer.

bahamat0
bahamat0

No mentions if it's getting ported to consoles, but I don't mind that. Will get the PC version even if they are not porting it on other systems :P

Vasot
Vasot

Looks like World of Warcraft 2 and not Diablo 3