Diablo III Hands-On Preview - Real Money in a Virtual World

We travel to Blizzard Entertainment HQ to get the lowdown on some of the new features in Diablo III.

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If you were a PC gamer back in 1996, then chances are your index finger is still a little cramped from clicking through the original Diablo, an action role-playing game from a little company called Blizzard. Its sequel was every bit as addictive, and now the upcoming third entry in the series aims to bring that same magic to the modern day. Recently, we got the chance to travel down to Blizzard HQ in Irvine, California, to get a look into some of the new features coming in Diablo III. Skill-altering runes, customizable banners, and item management were expounded upon--but the biggest surprise had to be the announcement of a real-money auction house for trading in-game items.

The presentation began with an overview of all the different character classes in Diablo III. No matter which character you choose, they will each have six slots for active skills and three for passive skills. Your first two active skill slots will be free, with additional slots opening at levels 6, 12, 18, and 24. Passive skill slots open at levels 10, 20, and 30. Each of your active skills also comes with a rune slot that lets you customize its effects. To help demonstrate the drastic changes runes can make, Jay Wilson, the game's lead designer, took us through his version of a battle mage--a wizard built for melee combat.

Spectral blades, a short-range slashing spell, was given a rune so that it healed the caster when damaging enemies. Diamond skin, a defensive spell that protects the caster from harm, was customized to also reflect damage back at attackers. Arcane orb, a powerful projectile spell, was altered so that the projectile orbited the caster and would explode when an enemy got too close.

But skills are just half of your character's equation in Diablo III. The items you have equipped are just as important. Of course, you're going to need room in your sack to lug all those extra swords and staves around. Thankfully, Blizzard is going to make that task a little easier for you. The Cauldron of Jordan lets you sell items no matter where you are for the same price you would get in town. And if gold isn't an issue, the Nephaleim Cube lets you convert any item into crafting materials from any location as well. "Filling up your bag didn't feel like a very cool reason to go back to town," Wilson said.

Your private stash, which has been greatly expanded since the previous games, now carries over across all your characters. If your wizard happens across a really awesome bow for your demon hunter, you just need to drop it in your stash, switch characters, and have your demon hunter go pick it up. Wilson also showed off how followers work in the game. These "mini-heroes" can be recruited to join your quest and help flesh out the world of Diablo III. They also come with four pairs of skills, and only one skill from each pair may be active at a time. Perhaps you'll want your Templar follower to lean more toward healing than brute force.

Defeating certain enemies or discovering ancient tomes unlocks audio logs that detail the world of Diablo III.

Once Wilson had finished, Diablo III executive producer Rob Pardo took the stage to talk about some of the additions coming to the online portion of the game. Just like Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, Diablo III will require a persistent Internet connection to play. Pardo stated that this was to help curb cheating, especially in the player-versus-player areas. Each player will also receive a customizable banner that the game will decorate as you unlock different achievements. However, the biggest announcement had to be the inclusion of two auction houses for in-game items, one using gold and the other using cold, hard cash.

That's right, in addition to the standard gold-based auction house, Diablo III will have a separate auction house that uses actual money. Weapons, items, crafting components, and (in the case of the real-money auction house) gold can all be auctioned away. Selling entire characters is something Blizzard is considering, but it wasn't ready to confirm that feature just yet. There will be a single, regional real-money auction house for each type of supported currency. Auto-bidding and instant buyout options will also be available, and you can set your items to be buyout only.

When you're listing an item in the real-money auction house there will be a small upfront fee. Pardo explained that this was so players wouldn't put every single item in the game up on the auction house and flood the marketplace with unwanted items. So what happens when you actually sell one of these items? In the case of the real-money auction house, either the money you earn can go into your Battle.net account, and you can then spend it on future listings or on Blizzard products (like your WOW subscription), or you can cash that money out through a third-party payment provider. Cashing out will incur another small fee, and you will not be able to cash out your Battle.net account.

Items you buy in either auction house will be sent to your private stash in the game, and players will be anonymous during transactions. Pardo also made sure to stress that this isn't a Blizzard store. The auction houses will be stocked by players with the items and equipment they find in the game. He also added that players, just like in previous Diablo games, will want to trade with each other regardless. Now, instead of having to go through a "shady" third-party service without the guarantee that you won't get ripped off, you can rest easy knowing you're guaranteed to get what you paid for.

Once the announcements were finished, we did get some time to go hands-on with the game. We decided to load up the monk character who, unlike in our previous play session, started out at level 1. Our brief adventure was centered around the village of Tristram, an old favorite with a recent undead problem. Once we gained a few levels and unlocked our third skill slot, we settled into a combination of Deadly Reach, Lashing Tail Kick, and Breath of Heaven. Deadly Reach is a basic damage ability that replaces your normal attack and can strike multiple enemies if they're close together. Lashing Tail Kick is a stronger attack that costs some spirit energy--the monk's energy resource--and knocks enemies back. Finally, Breath of Heaven is a great burst healing spell that can save you in a pinch.

There will be a cooldown period of 24 hours before you can list an item you just purchased at the auction house.

We quickly found that once you fall into the groove of Diablo, it's hard to pull yourself away. Encounters also felt a bit more dynamic in this game than in the previous ones thanks to the variety of enemy types. Some would explode when defeated and damage anyone nearby, while others would release smaller foes upon death. And since the monk's spirit energy is slow to generate, we couldn't just rush through an area spamming our most powerful attacks at will. When playing in multiplayer, gold and loot drops were unique to each person, though we could still trade items once we had picked them up. Based on what we played, Diablo III is coming along well--but even so, Blizzard still wasn't ready to set a release date other than to repeat its new catchphrase of "when it's ready."

Discussion

698 comments
arronizmiguel
arronizmiguel

"You'll HAVE TO be online to play diablo III???!!!... I'm out!. One less customer, good luck with that... ;)

doomshiva
doomshiva

LOL diablo3 is just a son of WOW, bliz just want to milk us and monitor us like communist, using nice term to enhance game experience, prevent cheaters, ect... all bull sh*t. but i hope to see another hack server like they did with wow, i will be ROF

vadagar1
vadagar1

:D wow this will be interesting I love auction houses :P man if I heard that Diablo3 needs and online con. to play a few months ago I would have nuked Bliz HQ but now that our country is finally gonna catch up with the rest of the planet in tech. I'm fine with it :D

righron
righron

sounds good to me find an awesome item sell it on AH for real money. somebody will buy it, you now they will

vernholio
vernholio

@Laboomsikashod ...What I've been saying all along. The games are INSTANCED, so how does an online auction house really impact individual players? Don't like it, don't use it (and don;t let in people to your instance if they use it, if that's your beef).

vernholio
vernholio

@baron1282 Get what you're saying about the "Good ol' days" with LAN parties (Some good all-nighters with Civ 2/3 and the original Diablo... Crap even "VGA Planets" back in the day), but what is stopping you -- other than, say a little $$$, I guess -- from doing the same thing, via WiFi? (Used to play LotRO over at my place with buddies via their laptops on my home network and it works great). So, with D3... Set up a private game instance, via WiFi at a common place, get your buddies over, grab a 12-pack of beer (or a case, if yer like my buddies)... Same as a LAN party! If it's purely a $$$ thing, then you've got me there.

2chase
2chase

@EliteNamedSteve I meant cheaters. I could really care less if someone cracks an always on DRM system allowing users to play the game offline. I'll be on multiplayer like the majority of D3 customers. And I cannot stand cheaters. They don't exist on sc2 like they did on sc because of the always on DRM system. And they won't exist in D3 like they did in D2 with this system. But I realize why it sucks. Personally, I don't care, but I can see why people do. I'm just sick of the irrational bs about how cheaters are going to flood D3 regardless of the always on DRM system. It isn't going to happen on anywhere near the scale of D2. If it happens, it won't be noticeable. That is extremely important to me

Maleek2K8
Maleek2K8

@DaSlyOne Has it really come to that now? Just don't buy it? That's pretty pathetic.

DrizztDark
DrizztDark

@chronologo Milk us for a fee? what fee? the RMT flat fee? Its free beyond that and get with the times friend. Everything cost money now days and the economy isnt getting better any time soon. If those fees fuel sick a** games for years to come so be it... Hell i would pay a fee to play D3 if i had too. Think all those servers req people to be paid-ed an hourly wage to manage homie

DrizztDark
DrizztDark

Ok i may have gone alittle to far with no single player. Yes i do understand that it is a deff feature that would have been thumbs up. I personally thought diablo was not that fun on single player. What really kept me going for years and years was the trade, mfing and dueling. The one or two features i personally miss that wasnt added was 8 player suppport and hostile in game. Annoying at times but fun to pk sum little bit**es ever once in a while.

baron1282
baron1282

"Honestly, who DOESNT have their internet connection on all the time nowadays? Seriously, if this is an issue with you, stop doing illegal crap and enjoy the game. Maybe then it wouldnt bother you so much..." grim0187 Well Grim0187, I will tell you who does not have their connection on at all times. Believe it or not, there is a BIG would outside of your parents house, that's right there is more to the world than our basement with your internet being paid for by your parents.

baron1282
baron1282

People that have to work and pay for their internet connection shouldn't have to feel threatened to have their game taken away from them if they decide to save some money and not have internet. Also there is areas in the Untied States (The country you live in), that do not offer High Speed Internet, thus dial-up or satellite is required to have internet. This sucks, because I use to have satellite, and while it's ok to download some patches, and post some comments, it was not all right to play hardcore games with. The older generation of gamers remembers dial-up, so no point in explaining that to you. Lets just say you couldn't have X-Box Live, which I know you would die without.. Also they will sale this game overseas to the troops, but surprise!! You can't play, and that's a slap in the face to men and women serving overseas in Afghanistan or Iraq. I already fell victim to that, thanks Novalogic!! The point is, not everyone can have an active internet connection, making it a bad move on Blizzard to not take care of the old school crowed that got them to where they are now!! It's a slap in the face to gamers that can remember when if you wanted to play with a bunch of friends, you had to actually get out of your parents basement, take your computer to your friends basement, and socialize!!

awoody17
awoody17

A petition has been started for those of you that dislike the decision to exclude the offline single player mode. Please sign if you want offline play included in the final release of the game. Blizzard has yielded to petitions before. Please pass this link on to anyone that might be interested. We are quickly getting more and more signatures, but every signature helps. Lets makes this happen. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/diablo-3-offline-single-player-petition.html

DaSlyOne
DaSlyOne

@Maleek2K8 - Then people can buy/play other games. You speak out about not being given the choice to play offline. Well you do have that choice...if you choose not to buy the game. Pretty simple really. Meanwhile, I hear you can "Have It Your Way" at Burger King!

Laboomsikashod
Laboomsikashod

What I'll miss the most about offline play is the mods. Dunno if Bliz is gonna allow mods eventually.

hvnly1000
hvnly1000

Is the game online or offline? not gonna get it if it is online only...

Maleek2K8
Maleek2K8

@ grim0187 People like to play games on their laptops, while traveling, where there is no internet (or is password protected), internet is unstable, blizzard servers go down, blizzard servers maintenance etc etc Think before you type.

Chronologo
Chronologo

@DrizztDark, you're wrong, I'm from these old days and I enjoyed the single player experience because there was an history involved in it. Companies are just pushing it over to multiplayer so they can both milk you for game price and server fee.

Laboomsikashod
Laboomsikashod

This is great news, Blizzard knows where the online gaming industry is heading and is leading the way. Unlike say Square-Enix who is paranoid and put in so many anti-RMT measures that they turned FF14 into an epic failure. The Chinese farmers will be coming enmass, and they will drive down prices by increasing supply - as long as each D3 game is instanced (as in D1 & D2) so there is no competition for mobs like in MMOs. We also have to accept that there will always be RMT activities going on regardless of what Blizzard does. Blizzard knows this and is smart enough to not fight against it in vain.

grim0187
grim0187

Honestly, who DOESNT have their internet connection on all the time nowadays? Seriously, if this is an issue with you, stop doing illegal crap and enjoy the game. Maybe then it wouldnt bother you so much...

DrizztDark
DrizztDark

I still cant believe how many people are crying about no single player. Most must have not been from the old school d1 and d2 days. I guess its just my opinion but diablo series really dull without playing online. Yes its a nice feature but very boring no trade, no coop, nothing.. What keeps Diablo series going is the mutiplayer. And as for the RMT(real money Trade) feature Fin right blizzard. I think its awsome all my friends that played d1 and d2 think its awsome.. people are just going to have to keep up with the times.. To all the ones saying im not buying this game cause of that plz...You know damn well you are going to buy the game. Why even waste your time spammin in a d3 comment box im not buying the game stupid. i guess peeps dont realize that 3rd party sites have been selling items since D2

Whitewind617
Whitewind617

They already did it with Starcraft II, they are now doing it for Diablo. No matter how you feel about the situation, there's no way anyone could have been surprised...

UnJell
UnJell

@Ansem_Rev. Hey Guess what . NO OFFLINE PLAY. You like it? NO ONE CARES. ITS DONE ITS FINAL> BUY IT. "but then again why would u want to play offline with friends?" Are you speaking about solo offline or LAN?

baron1282
baron1282

"Hey Guess what . NO OFFLINE PLAY. You dont like it? NO ONE CARES. ITS DONE ITS FINAL> DONT BUY IT. Personally there is NOT one issue with no Offline play. you can still play Solo. but then again why would u want to play offline with friends? " Ansem_Rev Some of us gamers remember the good old days of having LAN parties in your own home, so your friends are over at your house and you actually socialize!!! OMG I know it's hard for someone like you to understand talking to someone else without a computer screen in front of you!! That's what offline LAN play was, fun nights to have a fun get together. Taking that away is just wrong...

baron1282
baron1282

The post are out of order, so read the bottom first than top, thanks!!

baron1282
baron1282

Diablo will be the same way!! If Blizzard feels like you did something wrong, or if they didn't make their money they will take your account away from you never to be played again. You thus will have to buy a new game (Full Price, leasing your character from blizzard again), plus make a new account for yourself. If that's what Blizzards wants, fine, I don't have to buy it. I use to be a huge Blizzard fan, I own every game right up to "World of War Craft", I bought "Star Craft 2", that to me is when they dropped the ball, and lost all respect. WOW, I got it was an MMO so the online connection was required, no problem!! "Star Craft 2, and Diablo 2" has no excuse!!!

baron1282
baron1282

Vernholio "Not everybody has that, and that sucks (even though those folks are somehow posting their frustration about that on an internet-based forum." A satellite or dial up connection is enough to post on threads, but not enough to have a constant connection to play. Or you could be like I was, in a war zone with an internet connection, but because your not in the states you can't authenticate your account. "The auction house/Item trading... Honestly, who cares?" I don't see a huge problem with real money being used, but I do see a problem with Gold Farmers, and people just playing the game to sale items. I also don't get it, Blizzard would take away your WOW account if they caught you buying gold, but now this will be ok? It makes no since. Also look how it's set up, You have to pay to cash out your money, or you can keep it for in game items. This will turn out to be bad, I am telling you an Blizzard will take control of your account more quickly now than before, if they see what they feel is a problem. In a nut shell, the problems are huge. If you read WOW's agreements before you play (Which no one does) you will find out that your character is on lease, you don't own the character and Blizzard at anytime can take that away from you. It's also set up like that in "Star Craft 2", your account is only on lease, they have the right to take your game you PAID FULL PRICE FOR, away from you!!!

baron1282
baron1282

Good bye Blizzard, a once great game company is now a joke to the gaming community. I wish I had enough money to take all the companies to court to fight over the DRM issue. It's taking my right away of ownership and If I have to pay full price for something I should own it and do what I want with it. DRM is just as absurd as putting a restriction on counsels.... Who am I kidding, everyone here will buy this game just like "Star Craft 2", and blizzard will make more money off this game to keep doing what it's doing. I bought Star Craft, because I didn't know the extent of the DRM, I wished I had known better. Now I do and I can say I will not get this game!!! I don't understand it, EA released the Sims 3 without any DRM and it has sold millions of copies, why can't they learn from that example?

Ansem_Rev
Ansem_Rev

Hey Guess what . NO OFFLINE PLAY. You dont like it? NO ONE CARES. ITS DONE ITS FINAL> DONT BUY IT. Personally there is NOT one issue with no Offline play. you can still play Solo. but then again why would u want to play offline with friends?

nomadski69
nomadski69

While they may have made a gazillion Chinese farming factories delirious, they have lost a sale from this gamer.

vernholio
vernholio

@EliteNamedSteve ...and HOPEFULLY keep at least enough people honest that great game developers can stay in business to keep putting out good titles. It's all pretty much just small (insignificant, in my opinion) issues we have to deal with in order to get a quality product. @All the rest of the whiners... As Americans, too many of us are hypnotized in to thinking that we deserve everything right now, and exactly the way we want it (Sorry, but life ain't Burger King, son)... And if we don't get it that way, gripe, gripe and gripe some more until we do, 'cause somebody will listen and eventually take up our cause (eh, ACLU, anybody?)

UnJell
UnJell

The always online is not to prevent piracy. Diablo III now have a business with the real money auction house, so duped items now are like false money. They are trying to prevent them. Blizzard says that its for the players. But it's really for the business.

ziproy
ziproy

This isnt Diablo

mnjiman
mnjiman

@EliteNamedSteve There difference is that with Diablo 3, you are unable to play without being online. So even if you did pirate it, its going to be almost impossible to play while being online.

vicke32
vicke32

Pay2Win... God damn it... >>2chase >This is why I can only laugh when I hear people assume that hackers are gods. Hackers are usually better than programmer, so if you compare them then yes, hackers are gods

EliteNamedSteve
EliteNamedSteve

SC2 was pirated 2.3 million times in the months after release. DRM does nothing but aggravate paying customers.

2chase
2chase

Maleek, you can combat piracy. Combat means to fight against, it doesn't necessarily mean eliminate. It doesn't seem to exist in sc2 because of their always on DRM system. I'm sure it isn't eliminated in sc2, but it's combated so well that you literally do not come across it. This is why I can only laugh when I hear people assume that hackers are gods.

vernholio
vernholio

@JackHoleFace00 Trying to understand why all the trolls need to "thumbs down" your post... I see ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with what you had to say (fortunately, I FINALLY broke my SC2 addiction at 6 mos.! LOL) Proof positive, that all people ever want to do is gripe, eh?

Maleek2K8
Maleek2K8

You can't combat piracy. You can limit whatever you want, piracy is unbeatable. So don't give me that as an excuse to take away core game-play modes.

2chase
2chase

I just don't care, but I'll agree that it sucks for a good amount of people. Like I said before, it's a SHAME that it has to come to this in order to maintain the integrity of the game and user experience in the multiplayer realm -- where the majority of customers will spend the majority of their time with D3.

rubenalonzo
rubenalonzo

With the advent of the real money auction house, well all I have to say about that is "Here come the Chinese!"....Another fine game will be ruined.

2chase
2chase

@maleek2k8 Relax. I know your main concern. I'm directly addressing it. They're implementing always on DRM to combat piracy. Sadly, always on DRM limits your options for playing the game. i.e. singleplayer mode. What don't you get.

2chase
2chase

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

Maleek2K8
Maleek2K8

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

awoody17
awoody17

A petition has been started for those of you that dislike the decision to exclude the offline single player mode. Please sign if you want offline play included in the final release of the game. Blizzard has yielded to petitions before. Besides, all this would take is less than a day of simple programming/tweaking. Please spread this link around to anyone interested. We are quickly getting more and more signatures, but every signature helps. Lets makes this happen. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/diablo-3-offline-single-player-petition.html

malachi_27
malachi_27

It's disgusting how much is going to be loaded into this game -- as well as post-release content.

Xongu
Xongu

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL McGee and Bender.. some surnames.

2chase
2chase

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

2chase
2chase

@maleek2k8 o_O AC2? The singleplayer game? Alright, using that example (for w/e reason)... Is it flooded with piracy like diablo 2? Or did they identify and fix the issue? Do you not assume that multiplayer games will have more sophisticated always on DRM security? Piracy in SC was blatantly present. It doesn't happen in SC2. With this system, I guarantee you will rarely come across it in D3, if at all.

darkbuky
darkbuky

@JackHoleFace00 Maybe you should get a life... OKAY!!!???..... No I'm just kidding I'm addicted to minecraft, I spent 10 hours building a house and someone stole everything in it and now I have to start all over again...