WWI 2008: D3 Game Design Panel


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The first Diablo III panel at the 2008 WWI was held Saturday morning, June 28, 2008, shortly after Diablo III was announced, and the cinematic movie, art trailer, and gameplay movie were shown. This panel was entirely Q&A, after a brief introduction to Diablo III.

Panel Details[edit]

Diablo III: Game Design Panel

  • Jay Wilson, Lead Designer, Diablo 3
  • Wyatt Cheng, Technical Designer, Diablo 3
  • Eric Dodds, Senior Designer, Diablo 3

(Jay Wilson does 90% of the talking. All questions are from audience members.) This transcript groups questions by general categories, since it's so long. The questions are in chronological order within the subcategories.

General Interest Questions[edit]

Q: I'm not a Diablo player. What should I be excited about?
A: One of the great things about the Diablo franchise is that it's very quick and easy to get into. We all play a lot of WoW and it's a great game but when you just want to spend a short amount of time it's not always the best choice. So that's one of the things we think

Q: How large is the dev team?
A: We're about 50 or 55.

Q: Diablo 2 came out long before World of Warcraft. Now that WoW is such a phenomena, Blizzard has changed a lot. The expectations are much higher. Do you feel that the way you work or what you're expected to deliver is different? Does it influence how you work?
A: Yeah Jay, how does it feel to be working on one of the most anticipated sequels in the industry? Fine... (audience laughter) You know... I came to Blizzard 2.5 years ago and one of the reasons I really wanted to join Blizzard was because I love their games. What I found was a company that felt like it's always sounded from the outside. Blizzard makes the greatest games. We try to make games we like to play. We play our games as much as our fans. So we try to make decisions we think fans will like. We saw a lot of the expectations before Diablo 3 came out, and one of the things the fans said was, "They won't make it an overhead game, they won't make it like D2. They'll use 1st person..."

We really wanted to make what the fans seem to want, since that's what we want. It's surprising, since I've seen a lot of companies change over time, but I think we keep our culture intact and that's what makes Blizzard so great.

Q: I have a follow up question. Is it difficult to keep the company in the same state of mind? With so much attention from the world media?
A: You mean when you have to do press conferences with over 100 of you guys? It's definitely a culture change for us, but we recognize that. It's important for us to recognize the growth we've had over the last few years. We have almost 3000 employees worldwide, and we've changed some of the things we do to be sure we can communicate our company philosophy to 3000 people, as compared to 30 people from like 10 years ago. It presents different challenges, but as long as we keep a focus on making great games and make sure everyone internally keeps that focus I think we can manage it.

Q: Question about the splash images and pre-WWI teasers on blizzard.com.
A: I believe that was the face of Diablo, actually looking through. As for the hidden images, I don't really know. There were a lot of hidden images in there, more so than they showed me in advance. I've been in France for the past week, so I haven't really been following it, and I think they put in some more stuff at the last minute.

Q: There wasn't a huge strategy behind it?
A: I'm sure there was, I just don't actually know.

Q: Aren't you afraid of losing wow subscribers as they change to playing d3?
A: No, we're not afraid of that. We have over 10m WoW subscribers, but there's not as big of a crossover (between WoW and Diablo fans) as we would have expected. We hope the WoW community will be interested in the Diablo experience. Even if they cross over they're still playing Blizzard games.

Q: Simultaneous release?
A: That's our goal. It takes a lot of work to localize in every region, but it's our goal to do as many as possible.

Q: Will there be a demo?
A: I'm sure we'll explore that when the time comes. Feedback during the dev process is very important to us.

Q: What's the defining difference between D2 and D3?
A: There are a lot of things we like to focus on. Surface, graphics. A lot of improvements to action game, monster design, boss design, char abilities, char classes, bigger focus on role playing and story. We don't want to force that on players, though. We want the story to be there, but for players who want to just click through, as they did in D1 and D2, that's their option.

Q: Wow has seasonal events. Do you want those in D3?
A: Really good idea. We're too far out to really discuss that yet internally, but it's a cool idea.

Q: Will you continue to update SC and D2?
A: We'll continue to update them as long as there's a player community. It's 10 years since SC came out, and we're here to see tournaments at the WWI, and one of them is a SC tournament. There are professional SC players. We want to continue to support our communities.

Q: Built in voice chat mode?
A: No decision on that yet, but I'm sure we'll look to support it. We do it in WoW now.

Q: Voice over IP?
A: Probably. We want to improve the audio quality going forward, and to make it more convenient than it is through WoW.

Q: How do you deal with it when players who are very different levels? How to keep a lvl 100 and lvl 25 can work together with both getting benefits?
A: We don't have that in yet but we're still working on it.

Q: Were you inspired by anything in WoW you wanted to work into d3?
A: I'm a big WoW fan, so definitely it's been an inspiration to me. We look at a lot of the bosses and we have such a design opportunity to interact with the wow crew to see what makes a good boss fight.

Q: What makes a good boss fight?
A: I'd let the wow team answer that. For me, I'd probably wait until we actually show a boss off.

Game Details[edit]

Q: (Long, inaudible question.)
A: We haven't settled on a final number of classes. There will be several more, though. (Official site says 5.)

Q: Can you give us some examples of monster AI and cooperation?
A: We try to make monsters work together. A lot of just mob monsters, and the big guys behind them are designed to be more specific. There's a summoner skeleton in the demo. When you get several of those guys going they're really hard to keep up with since they're generating just lots and lots of skeletons. The goatman shaman is another example. He is what we call a "support character." He can do all sorts of buffing of his other guys. He becomes a really high priority target. That's what we keep revealing. We have soooooo many monsters. Endless variety. The ones we've shown today are cool, but the ones we held back are better.

Q: Classes and skills info?
A: We're not talking about skills and talents yet. When we announce the skill trees, or whatever skill system we decide to use, we will look at Diablo 2 and World of Warcraft and other systems, or maybe come up with something new. We haven't worked out anything exactly yet.

Q: How long will the game play take to finish?
A: Too early to say since we've got a lot of work yet to do. We're targeting a length equivalent to that of Diablo 2, but it's impossible to say yet. It may be longer or it may be shorter.

Q: Where does the story pick up?
A: Twenty years later than Diablo 2. After the destruction of the worldstone. We'll talk about the lore more in the other panels. Essentially, it's been long enough that most of the major plot events as depicted in Diablo 2 are forgotten, or mythical. Most people who knew about what really happened don't really believe it. Most of them are mad. The idea is that we wanted to get some distance from the other game. What happened after it? What/ Why? No demon invasion?

Q: Randomly generated levels again?
A: We have a design panel later today that will go into more detail on this. But yes, we're doing randomized maps. We do a mix of random and static, like d2 did. Definitely the dungeons are randomized. We've experimented with different kinds of randomization. Random dungeon entrances, random monster placement. We've got a new feature that creates random events.

Q: (inaudible. Something about areas and D2 areas.)
A: Generally strong themes and striking areas are the best video game areas. There are some areas that return. Like some parts of Tristram. You'll travel all over Sanctuary and see a lot of variety of areas.

Q: In the demo we saw some different weapons. What ability for players to pick weapons?
A: We haven't nailed down the details on socketing or enchanting or other, but you can expect some crazy stuff.

Q: In the demo we saw some interesting physics, like the collapsing wall scene.
A: It's a system we use, they are real physics, although it's not a pure physics reactionary system because of the networking we do. Most physics options are kind of lost once they go into the gameplay. But we've figured out some tricks to let them still work as we want them to work. Basically we're trying to make anywhere it looks like it really should, it will. We want players to be able to interact.

Q: Are there going to be any physics puzzles?
A: The way that we do that system we could create such puzzles if we wanted to, but we're not a real puzzle-heavy game. We're a smash monsters game. So I wouldn’t expect many puzzles of that. We like monster combinations in combat. We could do that if we wanted to, though. You never know, we come up with crazy stuff.

Q: What differences are there between the difficulty levels?
A: We have not decided on difficulties yet. We plan on being similar to D2. How exactly we tier it isn't yet decided.

Q: Hardcore coming back?
A: Um... we haven't specifically talked about it, but I don't see why not.

Q: During your presentation earlier you said you'd be announcing more character driven quests?
A: Will D3 it be more character driven than D2? We'll cover that more in the later panels. We want to make the characters have their own plot lines and be more individualized. There are a lot of cool NPC characters too.

Q: You showed a few monsters that had great coming together and breaking apart sequences. Are those going to be for main bosses infrequently seen? Or very common?
A: We don't have the frequency down for those things. I can tell you about that creature that got constructed, that's not a boss character. It's just how he shows up. It won't be that uncommon. We try to put in that kind of scripted cool mini scene all the time.

Q: End game?
A: We have not made decisions on that yet. We're aware of the issues. D2 has an end game, but we really want to do more on that front with D3.

Q: Character customization options more than just male and female?
A: Not really. We focus on getting into the game as quickly as possible. We pretty much want you to just dive right in. And get to the monster killing.

Q: Any differences in gender?
A: No, just the same in game play.

Q: Do you have stages? Like end bosses who are huge and complicated?
A: The short answer is yes. We use games like Zelda and WoW for some design ideas. Much more cool and complicated end bosses. We can improve on Diablo 2 in that. We want to do it.

Q: Player advancements experience based or achievements?
A: You'll gain exp and levels, but beyond that we're not talking about it yet.

Q: Is there a secret cow level?
A: No comment.

Q: What about in game transportation? Waypoints?
A: We'll change that somewhat, but not sure yet. We want players to be able to move around the game world quickly and easily.

Q: Mounts?
A: We've considered it but we don't think it's necessary.

Q: Loot. Variety?
A: We'll have more references that have an item reference and are more about the story. Not every item, some will be random, but the really good stuff will be more tied to the overall plot. Part of our goal to make a better role playing game and story.

Q: Will we see the Horadic cube again? New cube recipes?
A: Not made a decision yet.

Q: Mule characters?
A: We will have a lot of cool new inv features. We want to make trading a lot easier. We don't like the muling process in D2. Open game, drop item, switch characters, etc.

Q: How is your focus on the single player experience?
A: We really see our SP and co-op as the same thing. That sounds odd, but when you play the co-op game alone, you're just doing it by yourself. When we design it's all the same, we want it to work for both.

Q: Difficulty level adjustments?
A: We've not worked on that so much yet. At this point we just let everyone jump in and adjust to the number of players in the game. It's a cool idea to have more adjustments.

Q: How many levels for characters?
A: We haven't really decided. We'll give it some consideration compared to D2. I don't know about 99... why not go to 100? But we can't say.

Q: Can you expect a lot of sequences when players get mobbed?
A: Yeah, tons and tons.

Q: Does D3 force teamwork more than in D2?
A: I don't know if you can really force it. We encourage it. We talked about the health system, the way loot works. We don't penalize players for being together. We give them bonuses. We make it beneficial.

Q: You'll still be able to play through the whole game alone?
A: Yes. Absolutely.

Technical Issues[edit]

Q: Game engine?
A: It's a brand new 3d engine we built in-house. No official name.

Q: Console platforms?
A: Blizzard would love to do consoles. We're very interested in that. No plans at this time.

Q: Is there any facility to port over D2 character?
A: We're going to cross over some characters... oh you mean actual playable d2 chars? No there's no way. It's not compatible. Different classes, different game engines, etc.

Q: System requirements?
A: Nothing to reveal yet. Its always our goal to run on a broad variety of machines.

Q: Security measures?
A: The biggest anti-piracy effort we have is that we have an online community everyone wants to be part of. We want to make the online exp so compelling that people will buy to get a cd-key to join in.

Q: Private servers?
A: Non-battle.net? No, we're not going to do that. We really want to focus players to get on battle.net. that's our goal. The quality of the experience on Battle.net should be so fun that players will not want to.

Q: Players do private WoW servers?
A: From what I understand the play experience isn't as good since the content trails behind what we do on the official servers.

Q: Is the game designed with ongoing content in mind?
A: At the very least we'll design to update with expansions, but in terms of ongoing online content... we've done that with every Blizzard game, but can't say specifics on D3.

Q: Any way for the community to contribute to the game? Designing levels or challenges?
A: Nothing specific. Diablo isn't a very mod-friendly game because of how it's designed and the randomness. Very high technical hurdle to clear. We look for a way for our fans to contribute, but hard to do with d3.

Q: How many monster or things can physically be on the screen at once?
A: The programmers don't give us a limit. We keep throwing more on the screen to see how it goes. There are differences by the monster. The wraith monsters that appear from the chest are fairly expensive, in terms of their flowing cloth and other animations, so we tend to limit their numbers. I don't think we've broken 100 on the screen at any time yet, but we've flirted with it.

Diablo III Development Issues[edit]

Q: How long have you been working on Diablo 3?
A: It's been in dev for quite a number of years. We had it up at Blizzard North for a couple of years and it's been at Bliz South for a while. Probably about 4 overall. (Blizzard North closed in fall 2005, nearly 3 years before the WWI. It's known that preliminary work began on Diablo 3 back in 2000 and it was well underway by 2002, though almost all the work the Bliz North guys put in was thrown out when the project moved to Irvine and started virtually from scratch.)

Q: Is D3 the same thing as your secret project code named Hydra?
A: (Long pause.) We don't publicly discuss details of our secret project names. So you'll just have to live without that knowledge.

Q: How did you keep the secret for so long?
A: We've very secretive and security conscious. There was a joke in the Penny Arcade comic about the bombs planted in the backs of the heads of our employees. It's not that far off. We value our privacy. The employees recognize the importance of keeping this under wraps and the value we get from a big announcement like this. They're very proud of our work. The development team is most motivated to keep it under wraps. It feels good to talk about it at last. If you find us at a bar tonight we'll probably just be shouting "Diablo 3 Diablo 3."

The Penny Arcade comic Jay Wilson referenced in the chat.

Q: Did any of the Diablo clones released in the last few years contribute to your game design?
A: We're here to talk about D3 today. It's hard to discuss the competition w/o... certainly, we play everything. We're all serious gamers. We play other games. But we don't want to talk about the competition or any specifics.

Q: Mature rating?
A: Diablo's always been a mature rated game. I don't know the EU rating system as well as the US system, but we don't intend to back away from the mature content. (The new D3 website requires age checks to view the movies though they are of the "enter your DoB" style that can be effortlessly lied to.)

Q: Do you miss any of the people who left blizzard? Bill Roper?
A: We've always tried to ensure that no one individual is essential to the games we make. This dev team is 50 people. There were 40 to make d2. it takes a big team to make our games, and while we all miss Bill, any combination of talented people can make one of our games. Bill's doing well with his stuff and we're dong well here. It's good for everyone.

Q: Diablo is not a mod-friendly game. What about UI mods, will you allow it?
A: We're specifically not going to allow player mods in D3. they're necessary in WoW, but we think such things can make a simple to control game very complicated, so we're not going to let them into D3.

Q: Where are you in the development process now?
A: W/o getting too specific, we have a game that we enjoy playing and it's super fun. We're working on content which is the lion's share of development. We can't hazard a guess as to any percent done. It's not a straight curve for blizzard, the time curve changes at different parts. Even if you're 75% done it doesn't mean you've only got 25% of the time left. Final testing might take longer.

Q: Have you stayed true to your original ideas for D3?
A: It's a broad question and hard to answer, but I'd say overall we've stayed fairly true to our plan and consistent. Defining our gameplay and our visual look has taken the most time for us. Even some of the features we're not talking about yet, cool stuff we're showing in the coming months. The core of what we wanted has really stayed constant.

Q: Diablo is about killing a lot of monsters and kicking ass. What do you think is the most kick ass feature as a player, and what are you most proud of as a designer?
A: The coolest feature we didn't show yet, so it's hard. For me I like the most and am proudest of the character classes. We look at the characters as that's who the player wants to be. We work to fulfill the fantasy of being that awesome character. We put a lot of work into the look and feel, effects, skills, everything.

We have a denizens of D2 panel tomorrow, and our lead monster guy has a section where he talks about all the different ways that monsters can be annihilated. It's pretty awesome how the deaths change with the level types and damage types. That's my favorite feature.

Battle.net Questions[edit]

Q: Battle.net changes?
A: We're not announcing anything yet. We do have a lot of plans for the new version of battle.net that will appear in the future. We'll reveal more in the future. You'll actually see some of the new stuff with Starcraft 2.

Q: Will you have something like the armory from WoW for D2? So we can display our actual game character equipment on forums?
A: No info on that yet. It's a fairly late game dev feature. We'll explore something. We definitely want to add functionality to the web.

Q: I want to show my WoW char and my D3 character in my forum signature.
A: That's a really awesome idea. (deadpan) We should get someone working on that. (audience laughter)

Q: Auction house?
A: We don't have any specific decisions on that yet. The ad hoc trading that went on in D2 isn't the greatest exp for players. We want players to have a great experience. We want to improve trading, but we've not worked out exactly how yet.

Q: Are you looking at micro payments? Or traditional buy the box?
A: We haven't made a decision about our financial model. Every region is different. Asia is different than the others. We've not decided yet how we're going to handle that.

Q: One of the problems of playing on D2 on Battle.net is that there were so many power gamers who would crush everyone, or you'd get younger players who were tough to put up with.
A: We're looking at features and functionality to improve battle.net and to increase accountability online. Details to reveal in the future. Part of that is how you design your game. Foul language filters can be gotten around. If you make a game that encourages players to co-op and get along with each other you will encourage good play experience.

Q: How will you deliver ongoing content?
A: We're real far away from that.

Multiplayer Issues[edit]

Q: What features does the game have for competitive play?
A: Right now we're not talking about any PvP or competitive play features.

Q: Do you have a number for how many players can be in the same game together?
A: We have a limit, but it's based on fun and gameplay than technical. We're debating it. We can support quite a number of players technically, but the game plays better with slightly fewer, and we'll focus on what makes the game play the best. (Other panels said 4-5 is the likely number, at this point.)

Q: (Long mostly inaudible question.)
A: For e-sports? We're going to add pvp features, but not adding them yet. I don't know how to answer that w/o talking about pvp. E-sport is important to us and the development team has some ideas in mind, but we can't talk about it at this early state. The d3 team is definitely thinking about e-sports, though.

Q: Differences between co-op and single play?
A: We've done a lot of things to make it better. We can't talk about co-op details yet. Some of the simple things, the health system with the red globes you pick up share the healing to others. Makes everyone a makeshift healer. We've improved the loot drop, so you only see items on the ground for you, which creates a more cooperative spirit of sharing the adventure. Little changes to make a better co-op experience. Down the road we'll have more elaborate features, but can't talk about yet.