Diablo III director Jay Wilson on crafting Artisans

Gamescom 2010: Blizzard unveils new non-player character companions; says there are "no plans" to bring RPG to consoles...yet.

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Who was there: Diablo III game director Jay Wilson.

What did they say: Despite the throngs of fans hanging on every word about Blizzard’s upcoming isometric click-and-kill title, details have been few and far between with the juiciest details arriving in line with the company’s official BlizzCon events. Today the title’s game director, Jay Wilson, dropped some new details about the crafting elements in Diablo III.

Today's reveal was for the artisan non-player characters. Players will be able to befriend three master crafters, each with a unique personality and abilities, by completing quests and supplying the gold and crafting materials to level up. These noncombat buddies travel from location to location with you, setting up shop and acting as vendors, as well as crafting wearable and usable items to enhance your character’s stats and skills.

The three artisans revealed today were the blacksmith, the jeweller, and the mystic. Smiths create heavy armour and weapons, repair damaged items you already own, and add sockets to bought, built, and found gear. The jeweller can be used to create amulets, rings, and gems and has the ability to remove gems from equipment pieces without destroying either the stone or the armour. Mystics are primarily concerned with making magical items like staffs and wands, but they are also capable of producing light armour and imbuing items with enchantments at a cost.

Since players frequently report returning to town only to clear their inventory, Blizzard is hoping that the addition of a new salvaging skill, and a magical box that turns items you don’t want to vend into magical essence, will help reduce the number of trips back to home base. As you train and upgrade your artisan, your character and your cohort will take on new visual properties. The example we saw was the evolution of the caravan the blacksmith lives in. Initially displayed as a modest operation with carts, the structure takes on a more permanent vibe as you level up, adding stone walls, menacing-looking chains, and other adornments.

Each artisan will be able to choose one of three mastery trees, allowing for specialisation in one particular aspect of their profession. For example, smiths are able to produce more advanced axes or swords. Wilson said that despite offering these chances to specialise, going down one path will not lock you out of the remainders, and all the trees will eventually be available once you have the materials and expertise required. The move gives you the flexibility to mix and match for advanced crafting should you change your mind. All artisans will create at least one item for each class in the game.

As Wilson fielded questions from the audience, there appeared to be plenty of support of the confirmation that Diablo III will see the return of hardcore mode, which was introduced in Diablo II. In hardcore mode, your character remains permanently dead if you are killed in combat. Exact details haven’t been ironed out yet, but Blizzard said it hopes to surface players who choose to take on the challenge to give them bragging rights on their Battle.net networking service.

The other big change brought to the fore was news that the Town Portal ability has been scrapped from the game for the third title in the series. While its inclusion was noble, Wilson said the change comes as a result of the item’s abuse, with players using it as a run-and-gun exit strategy when fighting bosses or waves of enemies. In its place, waypoints will be making a return.

In response to a question from the crowd, Wilson also confirmed that though the Diablo series is one of the most natural fits for a port to consoles, the developer currently does not have any plans to release the game outside of the PC and Mac.

Takeaway: Though crafting was an important, albeit underutilised, aspect of Diablo II, the Blizzard team is determined to bring it back in a big way. Artisans will provide a way to juice up your gear and skills and free up your bags at the same time.

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