BlizzCon 2009 Panel: Diablo 3 Open Q and A


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The BlizzCon 2009 Open Q&A Panel was held Saturday, August 22, 2009. This panel was a late replacement for the Diablo 3 Lore panel, which was canceled without explanation.

The whole panel was audience questions, and as usual at such events, the quality of the queries varied widely. (Many fans who attend Blizzcon don't keep up with the latest game info, and thus ask questions the more hardcore fans find useless and frustrating.)

Panel Speakers[edit]

Panel Transcript[edit]

Q: What measures for hacking prevention are you taking?
A: A big problem in Diablo II was item duplication and a core philosophy in Blizzard is that we want a fair playing field for all of our players and we are taking lessons we learned with Diablo II and taking into account the successes we had with World of Warcraft and applying all those things to Diablo III to make it as hack-free as possible.

Q: Tyreal is such a fan favourite and such a well designed character how has the process been going to integrate him into Diablo III and how much interaction will the player have with him?
A: You’re going to have to play and find out.

Q: How is the PvP system going to be implemented and can a random player just start going crazy?
A: We haven’t announced specifically what we are going to do for PvP but what I can tell you is that we don’t have any intention of supporting the ‘go-hostile-at-any-time’ kind of gameplay from the previous games. We know there are a percentage of players out there who really love it but we feel that it hurts the cooperative game too much. It makes people in the long run not play together which is not what we want. We are going to support PvP and we are going to support it better than any other previous products did. We know there is a really big dueling community and whatever PvP community arising in Diablo III gets a lot more recognition and a lot more support from us so we are working on a system but we are not going to announce anything today.

Q: How is Diablo III going to function in the new Battle.Net?
A: Right now we haven’t done a lot of Battle.Net design, that has been mostly focusing on Starcraft 2 and all the new Battle.Net features. It is our intention to get something a bit more verbose than the giant and very cumbersome list of games that Diablo II had. We recognise it wasn’t the best way to find other players so we do want to support some sort of match making, something as simple has picking a character, hitting a button and it puts you in a game with someone who is doing the same thing as you at roughly the same level. We want you to be able to join your friends instantly no matter where they are and make that really easy. What visual form that takes is partially going to be determined when we encounter when we start designing alongside that team and seeing what they’ve done with Starcraft 2.

Q: Do you intend to have synergies in the Skill Trees?
A: The synergy system did really good things in V1.10 for the skill system in Diablo II. The need for them doesn’t exist in Diablo III in the same way. A lot of times in Diablo II you would have wasted points because you were making a frozen orb sorc or something and you had all these other skills that got in the way and it felt really wasteful and negative to the player so the synergies helped to support that. The skill system is so different in Diablo III so I don’t think synergies are needed in that way. Having said that, the player stills needs a breadth of customisation and we are looking at maybe easier to understand synergies or something more appropriate for whatever the final skill system ends up being.

Q: Is there going to be more variety with the Quests? Less boss-farmer.
A: There is a lot of room for us to explore with the quest system in Diablo III and grow from the previous games in the series. As you can tell from the playable demo here we are trying a lot more gameplay mechanics and how we can vary your gameplay experience and also deliver story and interesting events.

Q: Classic fighter feel to the Monk so the stage 1, stage 2... are we going to see some sort of Easterhaig Haidokoen?
A: I wouldn’t discount anything but at this time I can’t say.

Q: How are we going to replayability?
A: There’s a lot of things that Diablo II for replayablility such as randomised environments, randomised monster locations, random bosses, random items and we’ve added in random events which is new to the series and that all works well for a while. One of the biggest issues that Diablo II had was the path of least resistance to the best items was a very repetitive path and it was usually whatever boss run was most expedient at the time, with whatever class was the best class was the best class to use for that. I’m sure you all remember sorc magic find pindel & Mephisto runs that pretty much dominated, if not still dominate a lot of DII item finding. There’s a lot of assorted problems there and we intend to fix all of them. If we include magic find, we are not going to let magic find drive your items base and certainly not your class choice. Part of the reason that it did was that there are certainly classes that items weren’t as valuable for like the sorceress. The Wizard now really values items because items is where she gets a lot of her damage through spell damage abilities which wasn’t something that existed heavily in Diablo II.

We have a lot of content and there should be a really compelling reason to redo a lot of it because when you’re spread throughout a lot of content constantly it lasts a lot longer. The best example I can give of this is the quest system in WoW. It’s really great because it gets you to move around, it gets you to do things that you wouldn’t normally do and previous MMOs, you’d just grind a monster until your eyes bled and players will play that way if that’s the fastest way to progress. Our jobs as designers is to make sure that the fastest way to progress is also the most fun way and we are working on systems that are going to accomplish that.

Q: Are we still going to see the Necromancer faction even though there isn’t a necromancer class?
A: Just because you aren’t going to see a certain class as a playable character in the game, we want to make the world feel like a living world and our story is evolving all the time and the areas that you are going to we are refining them and we are putting in different quests and events. We are looking at all that stuff btu I can’t give you a definitive answer partly because I don’t wish to spoil the surprise and partly because I don’t know yet what exactly is going to go in and what isn’t but our intent is to put a lot of that stuff. There is a necromancer in the playable demo here though.

Q: v1.13 adding any content that will help us into the transition into Diablo III.
A: We can’t really talk about that. We are not the same team as the guys working on the Diablo II patch so I can’t really answer that.

Q: Where’s the Hammerdin and what role is it going to play. Generally in the Diablo III is the Paladin going to be represented in the Lore?
A: We'd like to show you what has happened to not only the classes but making the classes that you possibly played in the previous games actual characters in the Diablo III world. So I wouldn’t discount the possibility that you run into somebody like the Paladin who is the person that ran though Diablo II or something along those lines. We do have some plans for those guys, they are long term plans but stuff is going to happen and that’s all I’m going to say.

Q: Adding any additional features that Hardcore players alone would have?
A: We do want Hardcore. It’s the only way to play right? In terms of additional features, we don’t have anything specific planned right now, but we’re open to ideas so hit the forums and share your ideas.

Q: How do the heavens feel about Tyreal actions in Diablo II or what kind of role the heavenly host is going to play in Diablo III?
A: We are not going to reveal any details about that but I can say we do address a lot of the issues that you’re talking about. I can extrapolate that the high heavens aren’t very pleased about his actions. I probably shouldn’t say any more.

Q: There seems to be more emphasis on geography in Diablo III. Is there a purpose to this?
A: I think what we are trying to create here is a real world feel when you’re running around in the levels. We want you to think about the towns that you are going and the places that you are visiting whereas in Diablo II you never know where you really are. Also what we are really trying to do in Diablo III is to expand the story lore and really blow out the world of Sanctuary and explore the nations and cultures.

Q: Are there any plans for UI add-ons?
A: No plans to support this. We feel very strongly that what makes Diablo work is the simplicity, simplicity of controls, straight forward design and UI mods are glorious, wonderful things but one of the side-effects is that they vastly increase the complexity of your control systems and your user interface and we don’t want to do that.

Q: When you stun something with the Barbarian, the little words have to pop up above their heads and that takes you out of the immersion. Is there going to be an ability toggle that off?
A: We have toggles for some things that come up, right now that is not one of them. It’s always been our focus to be gameplay before anything else before even immersion and what we find when we put in new features there’s just no other way to telegraph them other than UI. That’s a last course of action for us but we have no intention of removing things that we think are necessary to play the game, just because someone says they are slightly less immersed. For us, at the end of the day, it’s still a game and that’s the most important thing, that the game is very very playable and very easy to see what’s going on. There’s nothing really that can trump that for us.

Q: Any new systems for gold.
A: The reason that gold lost its value or had diminished value in Diablo II is pretty involved. It had to do with the amount of gold that you got relative to the amount of gold that you could hold and the trade system. There are definitely a lot of lessons that we have learned from Diablo II and World of Wacraft and we have a lot of ideas in mind. We would very much like for the gold currency to be meaningful and to take the steps we need so that gold becomes an actual trade currency as opposed to perfect skulls or something like that.

Q: How are the items going to be in Diablo III?
A: The randomly generated items are the heart of the item system in a game like Diablo and the Diablo universe. It’s definitely the desire that the random yellows rare items have the potential to be better than the unique ones. It’s always tough because it’s a tricky balance issue between making a rare or unique the better. The key for us is to maybe look at other roles that the uniques could fill. For example, maybe the uniques are better at combining affix properties that wouldn’t ordinarily see together, another might be that perhaps you don’t see armour on amulets very often and maybe in this case you would, on a unique amulet. We would very much like the randomly generated items to be prominently featured because it supports the end game and replayability better.

Q: Party search
A: For getting into a party it’s really important for us to that you be able to get into games with your friends quickly and easily. I think there are avenues to get other people together. We don’t want to have people randomly hopping into your games doing things that negatively affect your game experience and forcing you to somehow quit your game. We want to make sure more game experiences are positive and of course still have Hardcore and PvP mode.

Q: Town portals, waypoints and other transportation systems and what is the development process behind that?
A: The waypoint system is probably going to return very similar to how it was in Diablo II. We are designing that system just now. Town Portals, we are trying to find a way that we can remove them. The biggest reason that we don’t like Town Portals is how they affect combat. They are meant to be a travel tool and convenience tool but they are actually a ‘escape-any-siutation-that-is-unpleasant-to-me’ tool and when you have something like that it incites some not really fun ways to play the game actually, on the players part. I mean they are using the tools that are given to them so rightly so. It also creates sloppy design on the designers’ part. I don’t think Duriel would have ever existed if there were no Town Portals in Diablo II because you wouldn’t have been able to beat him and that’s not good. It is our goal though that players be able to move quickly through the world, it’s not a game about travel, travel time is not something we want in it. So as we work through our different systems, putting in waypoints, the checkpoint system for death is meant to reduce travel time, resurrection when you’re with other players is meant to reduce travel time. The dungeons have exits in them so when you reach the end of one you don’t have to walk all the way back. All these things are meant to reduce travel time so players can easily get back to town fairly regularly, unload their inventory and not be constantly walking without being in action.

Q: Wizard seemed slow in the demo are you going to try to address that?
A: I think it’s a symptom of the skills we have selected for the demo. Originally we thought we would try to give you a character and let you spend the skill points but we knew people were only going to get about 15 minutes so we decided to give them a load. Arcane Orb which is the primary attack skill you start with is very slow moving, which is its downside, but other attack skills such as Magic Missile or Electrocute are near instant so you can adapt your play style. If you want something faster you can certainly adapt your play style. You can also focus on items that increase cast speed, such as movement speed boots. You can definitely have a faster pace of play than Arcane Orb.

Q: What happened to imbuing the witch doctor’s zombie dogs with fire and poison?
A: One of the struggles we had with the Witch Doctor, Zombie dog in particular, was figuring out why would I choose to plague my dog or light it on fire, what are the situations that I would choose one verses the other. Is the gameplay supposed to be that the player is trying to keep the fire on the dog all the time but it keeps falling off or is that for some situations I want a fire dog and for others a plague dog? There were also issues where sometimes players would see this loud fiery dog on their screen and not really know how it got there because they didn’t realise it was their skill that did it. However, when we toned down the fire effect it made it hard to know if it was on fire or not so we had a bunch of difficulties with it, mostly in terms of communicating it to the player and having it be a meaningful gameplay decision. We still want to keep the idea of customising your dog in different ways and one of the ways we will probably look at doing that is through either additional skills or the rune system which we were unable to show at Blizzcon this year. That is a whole other level of customisation on skills that isn’t even being shown right now.

Q: Phasing. Wouldn’t that be good to change the environments based on the quests that you do? Also, class-specific quests. It would be great if, for example, 8 barbarians have to join in and jump over chasms or something.
A: Phasing technology is very cool. It’s used in WoW and it’s a really cool technology they have to be able to change the world dynamically over time, change the terrain, change the NPCs and what’s in the world. Currently we don’t have any technology like that, our game is not a persistent world in the same way that an MMO is so it’s not been a high priority for us to develop a technology like that. If we want to change our world, our story is a bit more linear it’s easier for us to do that. Even though we’ve already developed that technology for another game, putting that into our engine would not be trivial it would actually be very time consuming. Until we see some kind of obvious benefit we probably won’t explore that.

Class-specific quests - One of our goals is we really want to expand the story and the heroes of the game. There are a lot of ways we are doing that. You may have noticed there is a lot more dialogue for the hero characters, they will participate in conversations and they have very specific characters and with that being our goal Class Quests sound like a really great idea.

Q: A frustrating part of Diablo II is to fight high level bosses and have some scrub join your game and take or your loot.
A: All items are dropped on a per player basis so every monster that dies has a chance to drop loot for every player in the game. I say ‘chance’ because some creatures don’t drop items but a boss would drop loot for every player. You will see your loot, your friend will see their and the scrub would see their look but you can’t see each others.

Q: Have you considered implementing the cornerstone of the world from Hellfire (Diablo Expansion Pack) to trade items between accounts?
A: Well, the first thing I will say is that Hellfire wasn’t a Blizzard expansion it was created by a different company so we don’t recognise it as an official part of the Diablo universe. There will be a way to transfer items between your characters but we have decided with method we are going to use but it will absolutely be in the game.

Q: Has the gameplay combat format become more new-player friendly?
A: In terms of introducing to the player we spend an enormous amount of time designing and redesigning our UI over and over again and we are going to put in a tutorial system that will introduce players to new elements so we are going to try to make it fairly robust. We do think Diablo is a pretty easy game to play, that said, you can’t rest on that fact. You have to make sure your players have a really easy introduction to the game so that they can get into it very easily. A lot of us hardcore gamers are like - “how hard can it be?” - the truth is we want the Diablo III community to be as big as it can possibly be and that’s good for all of us. If we can make the game really easy to get into and understand that’s a really big barrier taken out of the way to accomplish that.

Q: You stated in a Blizzcast that a lot of creatures have an anatomical system, with skeleton, muscle and skin separate like the thousand pounder. I just think it would be cool that if I hit something really hard that chunks of muscle and fly off.
A: There’s a pretty good chance you are going to see some of that. In the demo now there is a chance that you will see skeletons flying out of creatures when you hit them hard enough.

Q: Will Runes be making a reappearance in item customisation (runewords)
A: No we are not planning on having runewords because Runes are our new skill customisation system. The greater question is there going to be crafting in Diablo III? You can read into that whatever you want.

Q: Will the different zones have their own tone and feel as far as music is concerned? When can we get a sample of that?
A: You are definitely going to get a huge variety of music. It’s hard to keep up with the archives because they crank out so much awesome stuff so the sound department is a little behind them and we always will be until the very end. For now you are only going to get to hear what we demo at the show and we are going to release very little of it on the web too so you will only get a little smattering of it until we release the game.

Q: Projectile. Most people are pretty convinced that the last class will have something to do with bows or javelins and the thing is in D2 they were really slow and inaccurate and the fact that mobs wandered made your attacks almost completely useless. Are there going to be new systems to handle the way projectiles move making them more accurate?
A: No special system planned for projectiles. The weakness of projectiles is they don’t always hit and that’s part of their design. I would say if you don’t like that weakness, that’s the reason why we have customisable characters so you can design all kinds of different ways to do your characters. That said, I could see us focusing on say a skill that had extremely fast projectiles such that it didn’t have that weakness as much and that would be a good focus for a particular build.

When a player has to choose between, for example, a fast projectile verses one that instantly hits to one that’s slow, that’s an interesting play style choice, one that can be modified by runes potentially. At last year’s Blizzcon we showed the Magic Missile skill is a great example. We found that with Magic Missile if a monster was moving perpendicular to you it can be difficult to hit and so one of the rune options that we showed last year was to have multiple missiles come out which is not dissimilar to the Amazon’s multishot which was how a lot of Amazons wound up playing. So there’s definitely a trade off that the player is making because maybe the person should have had faster magic missiles than more or maybe they should have done more damage or modified some other aspects. A lot of that will be done through player customisation.

As to what the last class is we are not going to comment on that at all until we actually announce it.

Q: The skills of most of the character seems to reflect the PvE gaming experience and we had to get creative how we used those PvE skills in dueling. Are you going have skill builds with dueling in mind?
A: We don’t talk a lot about PvP because we haven’t announced anything specific but I will say that part of supporting PvP better is actually developing our characters as both PvE and PvP characters. PvE is always our first focus and we are always going to balance for that first but we are going to develop runes and make some minor changes to skills, as long as we don’t make the characters too weak or go away from Diablo but yes we do think about PvP when designing the skills trees and skills.

Q: In terms of level design, Diablo I had a very confined feel that helped to heighten the sense of urgency and Diablo II seemed to start out with a more open feel that compressed down to a more confined feel as you reached the end game. In the demo here it’s sort of open level design with a freeway running to the progression of the game. Are you working in one of these two schools or is this a new sort of level design that we’re looking at?
A: I wouldn’t say we are choosing any specific direction there. This zone in the demo is a pretty wide open zone, it’s something that we wanted to put together and run through and see what people thought of that area. i wouldn’t say that stuff is going to be specifically narrow or more open, it’s just going to depend on the story and where we think each level area and dungeon is going.

Q: Will there be a Diablo III editor for the client?
A: No we don’t to do a map editor. The reason why is that all of our environments are randomly generated and our authoring is very difficult and doesn’t really cater to some kind of map editor. We actually use Maya for most of our map creations and that pipeline is not easy for us to expose. We made a decision early on that we would focus on randomness of the environments over doing some kind of end-user map editor.

Q: Will you bringing back the Horadric Cube and how the hell is Diablo still alive?
A: For the cube, we really like the way you can take certain items and combine them into new ones, that is a interesting mechanic. We weren’t happy with the exact way that it was done in Diablo II, we feel there was room for improvement there so while we want to keep the essence of the mechanic the actual implication will probably be different.To answer the second part of your question, we have no actually said that Diablo will be appearing in this game.

Q: Will gambling be a part of Diablo III?
A: One of the main issues with gambling previously was understanding how it worked, it was kind of a black box. I’ve talked to a lot of players and they’ve said they gambled, spent all my gold and got nothing and didn’t do it again and that was a very typical early experience. Then you talk to a more experienced player who knows more about it, maybe they read about it on a website, or they heard it from a friend, or they just got lucky and they disagree and think it’s awesome and it’s a great way to spend all this gold that you are probably not going to use for anything else. The ability to understand of how gambling work is important so what we do want to have is ways to get items in addition to going on runs but the Diablo II method will go through some revisions and changes.

Q: Is there any way we will hear some of the old Diablo sound effects.
A: You may have noticed that some of the old Diablo II sound effects, some of that is accidental, some of them are just placeholders because we haven’t got to those sounds yet. But I have planned to pay respect to some of the older versions of the game and put some of the older stuff in here and there but I’m not going to say what that is going to be.

Q: Where are you going to go with class-specific items compared to what you have done with Diablo II?
A: We do have intention to had specific items for every class. Right now we have orbs that only the Wizard can use, the combat staffs and fist weapons which are for the monk and he can use a couple other weapons. We also want to focus on making those really cool signature items, which means we wouldn’t the barbarian’s big item to be a cool belt, it will probably be some kind of crazy axe that only he can wield. So we want them to be pretty showy. As far as whether they are ‘must haves’ for the class, we haven’t really tuned them yet, but we tend to prefer the idea that they are useful for certain builds but they are not the exclusive thing that you HAVE to use. So if you are a wizard there might be a lot of builds where a shield is better to use than an orb. We prefer that kind of diversity of item set when we can get it.

Q: Is Mephisto coming back?
A: We’re not really talking about who is coming back or who you will be fighting but I wouldn’t count anybody out. Maybe a sitcom for all the brothers.

Q: Monsters don’t really react with recoil like they did in Diablo II.
A: It’s interesting that you say that because we actually have a % chance that they recoil and it’s pretty much identical to Diablo II chance. The animations we play, when we do that, if they were real they’d actually break the spine of the monster because we make them so pronounced. We also flash the character and we do have them play sounds although I would say on that front our sound development is still a work in progress so maybe our sounds aren’t pronounced enough. I’m actually very surprised to hear someone say that but if they aren’t pronounced enough we’ll take a look at that.