Diablo III Q&A - Inside the Demon Hunter

We chat with Diablo III art director Christian Lichtner and senior game designer Jason Bender about the design of the demon hunter class and how it handles in combat.

At BlizzCon 2010, the final player class for Diablo III was revealed to be the demon hunter, a high-powered, ranged class sporting dual crossbow-pistols, with a seething hatred for its infernal prey. During our hands-on time with the class, we were impressed by its speed and mobility and were big fans of the bola shot, an entangling projectile that wraps itself around the target before blowing it to bits moments later. But our time hunting demons was cut short, leaving us with plenty of unanswered questions. With the reveal of the male-version demon hunter, we took the opportunity to appease our curiosity and quiz Christian Lichtner, art director on Diablo III, and Jason Bender, senior game designer on Diablo III, on the finer points of this fifth class.

The demon hunter is a powerful mix of traps and ranged abilities.

GameSpot: Describe the look of the demon hunter; paint a picture in our minds.

Christian Lichtner: The male demon hunter is very similar to the female demon hunter in that we tried to keep their flavors very similar. We tried to make sure they looked alike in some ways, so that you have that nice distinction between the other five classes, but we also wanted to make sure that they were definitely different [from each other]. We didn't want just a male or female model swap; we wanted to make sure they had enough flavor in and of themselves. In the case of the male demon hunter, you're looking at a guy that has a dark and mysterious vibe [and whose design has] a lot of sharp edges in terms of the armor, which sort of looks like demon armor or the trophies of demons he has slain. He's got the cloak, the glowing eyes…but he's also a much more wiry guy than our previous classes. He's a little bit on the thinner side, is a little more agile and lean looking, and definitely looks like a guy who's a ranged class and could take on the worst of them.

GS: What were your artistic inspirations for the design of the male hunter?

CL: I think for us the inspiration was to make sure it really reads as a dark class. [The demon hunter] was one of those classes that really came across as being on the edgier side, and the way we did that is by basically looking at other influences, such as what you would expect to see in Van Hellsing where there are a lot of gadgetry and tools that they use to fight the demon hordes. Visually, it's not that much in that sense; visually, it's really sort of an amalgam of things that we feel really pushes him apart from the other classes. Even the most basic designs try to push him apart, such as [how] the runes and glyphs he uses are sharp and aggressive looking. His skills oftentimes have a lot of black, red, and dark purple in them. Things like that have a more ominous feel to them and contrast well against, say, the monk who is very rounded and focuses more on lighter colors, such as yellows and light oranges. There's a very, very distinct visual language here that we established for the male demon hunter to really push the idea that this is a badass.

The demon hunter's abilities are divided into two categories: hatred and discipline.

Jason Bender: That's something we wanted to do for gameplay reasons, too. We want to make sure that when you're playing cooperatively…if you're playing the barbarian, you want to be able to see the other classes around you and make meaningful decisions [based on who's nearby.] Because the demon hunter is a light, quick-moving, and highly accurate weapon-based ranged character, that behavior is very important when you're trying to play epically at higher difficulty levels.

GS: What types of skill trees are available to the hunter and what do they specialize in?

JB: The demon hunter is interesting in that it's the class with the most sort of duality. The fiction behind the demon hunter is that they're a little bit crazy about hunting demons--they're obsessed. But at the same time, they're really calculating and really precise, and they plan. So with their resources and their skill trees, we split their skills into the categories of discipline, including traps, preparation, things that take a lot of forethought, and hatred, which is the red-eyes insanity the fuels their high-powered burst attacks, alpha strikes, multishots, flame arrows, and things like that. [The demon hunter] really feels more visceral, and there's some interesting interplay in the resource system that allows you to switch back and forth between your discipline abilities and your hatred abilities. It's a little more complex and nuanced than some of the other classes; it's a class about precision and playing [one skill set] off the other.

GS: How does the demon hunter differ from the rogue and amazon classes from previous Diablo games?

Special shadow runes add some twisted and demonic flair to the demon hunter's traps.

JB: The demon hunter has some similarities with the amazon, with the bow and whatnot, but focuses a lot more on traps. It goes back and forth between the mainstay of ranged attacks--dual crossbow-pistols and flipping through the air…highly mobile stuff--and control. [The control aspect] is a little bit more like the assassin's traps. To manipulate where the monsters are, you might set a spike trap in one area and then backflip out away and multishot into that area while the [enemies] are trying to get through it. It takes a little bit from both styles and combines them into something that's completely different with the way the skills and resources interact.

GS: Is a melee build of the demon hunter a viable option, or is it purely a ranged class?

The new class' slick and spiky look helps distinguish him from the others.

JB: A lot of our classes are versatile between [ranged] and [melee]. The barbarian is very focused on melee with a little bit of range if you need it, whereas the demon hunter is epically focused on ranged. But, in order to give a melee feel, we've given him some abilities that work in melee. Things like the ability to jump out of or into close range. [The demon hunter] plays with long and short range a lot but definitely synergizes best with a bow or crossbow-pistol.

GS: What sort of rune skill combinations are there for the demon hunter?

JB: Oh yeah, there's a bunch we've been playing with lately. With the runes, we always like to think about where the energy comes from. With the wizard, for example, you may have some runes that tend toward lighting or tend toward ice, and we try to do it that way in an elemental energy sense. But with the demon hunter, it has been interesting because we get to play off the backstory of him being obsessed with learning everything there is to know about demons and finding ways to use their own strengths against them. So we have some [runes] that focus on shadow and play with how the demon hunter adds shadow magic into certain [attacks], making them hone in, split into two when they hit a target, or bounce from one target to the next. Traps are also really fun. When you lay out a spike trap, there are a lot of different things you can do with runes, such as have shadow creatures or tendrils come out of them. You'll see a lot of really nasty and painful-looking attacks coming out of this character; he's pretty wicked.

GS: How does playing the demon hunter differ from the other classes?

JB: We try to fulfill a different gameplay fantasy and flavor with every class. Compared with the wizard, who is just raw power, the demon hunter is a little more agile and doesn't mind getting a little closer and a little dirtier to maximize the effectiveness of his abilities. There's a lot of quick movement [and] a lot of nuance in the demon hunter; everything you'd imagine you'd be able to do with a bow and arrow while also having all these tricks and traps at your fingertips when you need them.

The demon hunter has a trick or trap for almost every situation.

CL: When we're designing the classes, we really want to make sure there's a wide variety of choices for the player. We want to make sure that every player who plays Diablo III has a choice between the things that most relate to them, not just in gameplay with ranged versus melee, but in the storytelling sense, such as "Hey, I want to be the character who's on the edge of society and knows more than everyone else about this struggle between Heaven and Hell," and the demon hunter is that character. He gets it and wants to let everyone else know, but they're just not listening.

GS: How does the demon hunter's energy differ from traditional mana?

JB: [This system is] still in development…we're still tuning it. But in theory, we want the demon hunter to have some highly regenerative, more accessible hatred abilities that he always has up and can use to zip around and keep the pace [of combat] up. But then the discipline side tends to be a more precious resource that you have to manage a lot more carefully. You really pick and choose when you want to use your discipline abilities because they make a big difference in how you escape, how you set up an attack…things like that.

Some abilities use hatred; some use discipline. That's where we're at in development. But we want to make sure you're bouncing back and forth between the two without having to switch a stance or anything cumbersome like that. So you'll have abilities from both camps accessible at all times, depending on how you build your character. Some demon hunters may focus on hatred, with lots of shooting and moving around, and try to amp up that ability as much as possible, while some may focus on discipline instead. [Either way], the default path is going to be a little of both.

GS: Any other thoughts you'd like to add about the demon hunter?

JB: The demon hunter fits in really well with the darker side of Diablo. We have a lot of games here at Blizzard that everyone loves and is familiar with, but with Diablo being a darker game, this is where we really get to indulge in the darker, grittier side. And the demon hunter really [embodies] that.

GS: One final thought: Traditionally, most ranged or ranger-type classes have some sort of pet accompaniment. Have you given any thought to giving the demon hunter a pet?

Fan of Knives is a powerful close-range ability which damages all nearby enemies.

JB: We have thought about it, but I really can't say more than we like the idea.

GS: We'll just leave it at that then. Thanks, guys.

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Discussion

378 comments
Vahannian
Vahannian

@vadagar1 Blizzard are known to launch only a handfull of good game, but those games are usualy incredible. We waited a long time for Diablo III, and if we were to wait some more but, at the end, get an (epic) game worthy of being part of the Diablo series, then so be it! Btw, the Demon Hunter looks completely badass-like... Dibs!!!

kazumashadow
kazumashadow

This is a sure buy for me, i didn't have a chance to own diablo 2 but i played the demo and loved it, i've been longing for a good dungeon crawler and Diablo is the best in the area no doubt.

vadagar1
vadagar1

year 3012: Ugh blizzard when the H are gonna release diablo 3 already. Blizzard: We are concerned that the game might have a few bugs, and thus we are unable to give you a specific time on the time of release but rest assured that although it has been a thousand years we are working hard on the game and will be releasing new news about it soon. Me inside a grave: sigh *epic bonny face palm*

kaem79
kaem79

To all who nag about a release date, release it now and so forth. Be quiet! I don't wanna play a mediocre or worse games. Now-a-days there are coming out way to much mediocre games. So go play on consoles if "you" can't wait for a real game, nagging kids.

Ronaldius
Ronaldius

I love dungeoncrawlers, or action-rpg, whatever you call it. And lets not forget that this is the king of em all, a king whit a long beard that is.

ChaosUndivided
ChaosUndivided

Graphics haven't improved much in the last 4 years with all games. This still looks on par with everything else. Its game play that will make this awesome and we need a good modern Hack'n Slash RPG with multiplayer...Not crappy slow life draining MMO's

docaston
docaston

I wish Blizzard had the Fallout licenses. The games wouldn't be so buggy and hurried.

retsmot
retsmot

the longer they take, the better it will be. blizzard has never let us down. well, starcraft ghost cancel was a letdown. lol. we don't want d3 to be another dragon age 2. rushed, bugfest, incomplete job by bioware.

aphextwin777
aphextwin777

I would rather Blizzard take their time fine tuning and developing D3 than rushing it, seems like they are doing just that so it will be an excellent addition to the series when released.

Xseth
Xseth

wow nice to see some progress since they announce that game in 2006. Waitiablo 3!!! woohoo

vadagar1
vadagar1

ffs Blizzard what are you w8ing for release the game already don't w8 until 2020

ThGy007
ThGy007

Ugh... when will we be united my love?

blkstr89
blkstr89

is this game EVER going to be released. i wont be surprised if next week blizzard says the game will not be coming out in 2012 but in 2013

atiz1
atiz1

at least announce the release date so that our souls may rest in peace !!

Kiriyama12
Kiriyama12

arrgh enough with the previews, for just how long is it gonna be TBA? just give us the damn game already before we eventually forget about it.

ammathil
ammathil

2 ppl bashing the graphics take a look at diablo 2 and compare

Maddogtaylor
Maddogtaylor

@2chase haha you probably will be better than me and im sure sc2 is good but as for new ideas and progression as far as wow is concerned im afraid its none existent. i did try with it and i dont want mean to make this game diablo about wow but it was a copy paste job, im sure diablo will be beeter however simply because people have waited a while to get it unlike wow which goes on and on....and on...

Reyveign
Reyveign

Graphics complaints, still? When you're playing the game and have hundreds of monsters coming at you and your buds, with all of you having glowy weapons, magic effects, auras, explosions and constant AoE spells, do you REALLY want your computer to be imploding trying to process it all? I think people will get over the graphics once they get to play the thing. Still images and the tutorial-like videos we've seen don't do the game justice. Everybody that has played Diablo 2 KNOWS that the game gets intense and has a LOT of visual effects. D3 isn't gonna be any different.

etore11
etore11

as i remember diablo alwys ROCKs , for the nooobs who are new to gaming , i should say , just open the best games of the HISTORY , and see the TOP of the list ! yu ll see diablo 2 ,and dibalo ! bllizard is somthing more than entertainment comapany .

ruby_sword
ruby_sword

@organbank which "console" is it coming out for if any

geomyr
geomyr

how i wish this game comes out soon :(

organbank
organbank

Console release FTW! EAT IT PC USERS. This game is going to be further delayed so they can port it to console :D

Ezmai_RauteZ
Ezmai_RauteZ

@Solatrus Sorry but you are wrong, it is set to release in Q4 of 2011 in which the graph states, and which is also an estimate, could be earlier, could be later.. And why are people agreeing with you?? Did they even bother to check up on your comment?? I personally wanted to prove you wrong, especially when your adding a further 2 years wait on Diablo 3..

Gooshnads
Gooshnads

I could have totally done with the article title + if the only text following it was: Full of badassery. Then onto complaints: Graphics... Why do people complain about graphics? I have friends who play games because of graphics and it totally pisses me off when I tell them... this game is SH*T... but then they go "BUT THE GRAPHICS ARE AWESOME"... Diablo 3 is not a game of graphics, but gameplay and story, so much with EVERY Blizzard game.. Gameplay: The gameplay could NEVER be like WoW because if it was like WoW, then half of us would literally be stacked up on a boss and.. 1. Put face on left of keyboard 2. Roll face to the far right. 3. Roll back to the original position. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until loot drops 5. Collect loot. Diablo has NEVER been about spamming attacks.. New age gamers are so uptight about changes or differences.... and then they assume stuff.. @Asseen0nTV FF6 > FF7 is all I have to say.. Debatable on how good 8 9 10 and 12 were =] [especially 12 where it was a hate it or love it kinda thing]

Asseen0nTV
Asseen0nTV

Too all the lads who keep saying that "the graphics suck" or are "outdated" ..you guys are the reason that companies make horrible games! Once you guys can figure out where your "cut and paste" games came from feel free to post a comment. Every Final Fantasy game from 9 on was garbage and 9 was questionable! "WooH!" Eat it, fanboys!

-MordeN-
-MordeN-

Hmmm.. people who are saying combat in D3 is going to be wow-like haven't played WoW I think. I want to remind you a few things before you go bashing this game, particularly if you like to go the graphics route: -Blizz games have never.. EVER had the best graphics around, technically speaking. They excel at making their games highly atmospherical and artistically nice, not at making them look like the elder scrolls. This has happened for years. -Blizz has ALWAYS tailored their games to be played in a hugely broad spectrum of PCs, such as to not lose any possible buyers. This blends itself perfectly with the previous point. .Blizz games are about addictive, compelling, rewarding gameplay mechanics, not about creative ones. They may repeat their models, but they do so the best way it can be done. -Their games are ALWAYS looked at with doubts before release, only to be critically and universally acclaimed afterwards. I don't think the graphics are great, gameplay definitely isn't revolutionary, but this game is going to be awesome, mark my words.

2chase
2chase

The only problem that I see with diablo 3.... is that you're all going to buy diablo 3 as soon as it comes out. so there are going to be really long lines and tons of online stores with d3 on backorder... honestly you people worrying about the graphics and innovative game-play might as well start worrying about the government controlling the weather or Korea taking over the US. torchlight 2 is going to be a clone of diablo 2 - a game that came out years ago. let's progress forward together, please. lead the way blizzard.

RacistMan
RacistMan

the graphics are incredible, wth are you kids looking at. This isn't another one of your first person shooters.

urayanya
urayanya

The graphics are for games that should've been released 5 years ago. the game play is okay though.

Fausto_DP
Fausto_DP

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

jockie_chan
jockie_chan

graphics ain't the best, but hopefully they make up for it in game play quality like in diablo 2.

Dreamone
Dreamone

Gonna buy this at release! It's gonna rock! Demon hunter ftw :D

Skullcandy
Skullcandy

@h3ydrich Good point. Though I will be buying Diablo 3 once it hits the $30 range, I purchased the first Torchlight from Steam and thought it was nothing more than a polished Diablo. Blizzard really needs to step up with some innovative gameplay in D3 or else I fear D4 is going to be a FPS or worse, an MMO.

Bedizen
Bedizen

Nothing wrong with the graphics - I going to buy it online...twice. My wife is a bigger fan than me :D

h3ydrich
h3ydrich

2chase i will let you buy it since you are such an enthusiastic fan and i will stick with the old ones. After all after 10 years and countless w.o.w. expansions i lost my appetite for this game. Also if i am to judge from the looks of it it looks like a dungeon warcraft. You go buy it man ill save my money for something more fresh. Like torchlight 2 for example.

2chase
2chase

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

2chase
2chase

@solatrus you're going to buy it regardless of the reviews. trust me

2chase
2chase

@h3ydrich so are you going to order it online or go to an actual store when you buy it?

h3ydrich
h3ydrich

Definetely wont buy this crap. The graphics are ridiculous and remind me of w.o.w. I think the horror of the 2 old ones is lost forever. Sacrifised in the altar of sales. It feels like a cartoon mmorpg diablo. I guess i have to thank for that the idiot that is running blizzard.

Neosword
Neosword

@Solatrus There will be the additional campaigns for Starcraft 2 before 2016, as well as at least two new WoW expansions. They're releasing plenty in that time period. That said, Diablo 3 is the biggest of them. It's been in development the longest (even longer than SC2 was) and the wait has been ridiculous. I loved SC2, as well as pretty much everything Blizzard has ever made, so I'm confident it will be good.

Solatrus
Solatrus

Not sure why people actually "hate" the game specifically when it hasn't even been released yet, though I fully agree with anyone who is disappointed in the dreadfully long wait. The matter of fact is that Blizzard won't be releasing their next true MMO until 2016 (according to the leaked calender). Diablo 3 will be their only vessel until then, and so I'm apprehensive about how much of a crowd they'll draw in with other epic MMOs on the horizon. Starcraft 2 was good, but the game really did not live up to the hype. It was just Starcraft overlaid with pretty graphics. Hopefully, this doesn't become the case for Diablo 3, or I'm going to be wasting my money again. I'll definitely be waiting on the official/user reviews for the game before I even consider buying it.

h3rb
h3rb

@Boochie It still looks like friggin Diablo to me. :) Also, you should remember that the success of WoW came from the success of Diablo. If anything WoW profited off of the success of Diablo first. WoW was a merging of the Warcraft universe with many of Diablo's RPG elements. @rharr257 Blizzard doesn't miss the boat. They are the boat.

2chase
2chase

It's got to be pretty hard to only put out epic IP's on one platform and still be as successful as Blizzard. You can only assume that the new mmorpg IP they're working on will be amazing. Question for all the haters in this comment box -- when Diablo 3 hits shelves, are you going to buy it online or go the brick and mortar route?

2chase
2chase

@Maddogtaylor I get what you're saying about charm - the games aren't original ideas anymore. But I completely disagree with your brainwash theory. Some people just continue to appreciate the caliber of video game that Blizzard and all of it's financial glory put out. The new ideas, creativity, progression, balance, and maintenance of each new installment are second to none. Everyone I know that loved WoW still plays it. I still play SC2. Kerrigan won the best villain contest. And I plan to get balls deep in Diablo 3. And when it comes out and you buy it, I'm going to be better than you.

rharr257
rharr257

My big issue: I would have to spend thousands of dollars to update my PC so that I could truly enjoy the game and its graphics...why would I do that when I can just pull out D2 from my cabinet and play it or play Torchlight (D2.5) on XBLA in early March? Blizzard really missed the boat on this one. They have spent years building up the hype and are developing this game for a platform that will not hook many new gamers. Kids can't afford gaming PCs.

trfritzen
trfritzen

I'm over it. It's MineCraft for me and im sure plenty more Indie games to enjoy by the time this releases.

rickster34
rickster34

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