Diablo III Q&A gets classy

Blizzcon 2009: From paladins to monks, Blizzard developers field questions about the class system in their forthcoming RPG.

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Who Was There: Representatives from just about every facet of the Diablo III design team, including the lead programmer, art director, lead world designer, quest designer, lead level designer, sound designer, senior producer, and game director.

What Did They Talk About: Since there was no formal presentation, the Blizzard team was at the mercy of questions from the audience for the duration of the panel, but there was some interesting insight into the Diablo III development process. One of the first questions asked dealt with the issue of hacking--a distinct problem with the original Diablo and its sequel that let people make duplicates of the best items of the game without working for them. The Blizzard team said that it has learned a lot from Diablo II and from World of Warcraft in regard to this issue and it plans to make Diablo III as hack-free as possible.

The next few questions--about player-vs.player (PVP) and Battle.net functionality--couldn't really be answered, but the team did its best. In regard to PVP, Blizzard doesn't support the idea of going hostile at any time, meaning that they don't want someone to join your game and then try to kill you. It hurts cooperative play and even discourages it. Still, Blizzard knows that PVP is important and that there are large communities surrounding such features, and they plan to support them.

Hackers beware in Diablo III...
Hackers beware in Diablo III...

As for Battle.net, the team hasn't done a lot of designing around it since the service is mostly focused on Starcraft II for the time being, but they recognize that the original method for matchmaking wasn't the best. For Diablo III, they want to make sure that it's easier to play with friends or join games with similar players attempting to accomplish the same task.

There were plenty of story-oriented questions throughout the panel, but of course this is one of the several things Blizzard is being extremely tight-lipped about. The first of these questions surrounded the possible appearance of character classes, specifically the paladin and the necromancer. For the paladin, Blizzard said that they want to show what has happened with classes from previous games, even going so far as to say that specific characters from those games would appear in Diablo III.

A similar answer was given for the necromancer, whose existence as a non-player character was revealed during a demo of Diablo III at the show. And naturally, there was one question about the fate of Tyrael, the archangel who destroys the world stone at the end of Diablo II. Blizzard wouldn't say much about this fan-favorite character, but they did say that those in the High Heavens aren't pleased with his actions.

The bulk of questions came from fans wanting to know about gameplay specifics. The answer that got greatest applause from the crowd dealt with loot drops. In previous Diablo games, you could kill a boss, and a lower-level player could come along and steal your loot, but this won't be the case for Diablo III. All loot is generated on a per-player basis and can be seen only by that player, so if you defeat a boss, you'll have your own set of loot that will be different from others.

DIII's funky monk.
DIII's funky monk.

Other answers that got a reaction from the crowd came from the questions about a map editor and third-party UI add-ons. Because of the technology involved in randomly generating maps, there will be no map editor for Diablo III, and since the development team has spent so much time trying to make the UI as straightforward and as easy to understand as possible, the game won't support those add-ons either.

Some other interesting tidbits that came from the panel range from the status of the Horadric Cube to gambling. For the Horadric Cube, Blizzard said that it liked the way you could take items and turn them into new ones, but they weren't happy with the implementation, so they want to keep that mechanic but handle it a little differently.

As for gambling, Blizzard acknowledges that one of the biggest hurdles was understanding how it worked. Some people walked up, spent money, won nothing, and never gambled again, while the hardcore players used it frequently. For Diablo III, Blizzard wants to give people another method for earning items aside from going on runs, so expect to see gambling (or something like it) return, albeit with some tweaks.

Quote: "I wouldn't discount anything, but at this time, I can't say." -- a Blizzard representative's response when asked whether or not the monk will be able to throw hadoukens.

The Takeaway: The main messages that Blizzard tried to convey with this panel is that the team is trying to grow the world of Diablo III while simultaneously making the series more accessible than it already is. Therefore, much of the focus is on the gameplay and ensuring that nothing gets in the way of making a smooth and entertaining gameplay experience that doesn't require hours upon hours of dedication to get the most out of it.

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