Are there Big Changes Between the Diablo 3 Beta and the Full Game?


Prior to the beginning of the Diablo III Beta, Blizzard spokespeople said that it was roughly the first half of Act One, with a few minor edits to remove story/plot info, and that the beta ended where it did partially since a lot of story info was encountered soon after the death of the Skeleton King. That much seems accurate, but I think the situation is much more interesting than that.

It’s my contention that the Diablo 3 Beta is a specially-constructed play-through that differs considerably from the full game. It’s much less than half of Act One, numerous sections of the Act One are skipped over in the beta, whole quests and levels have been removed, events are presented out of sequence, big changes have been made to the monsters that spawn and the loot that drops, and the location and timing of the Skeleton King quest has been relocated from where players will encounter him in the final game.

I’ve seen pieces of this theory here and there in forum posts, but the main credit goes to Grug for presenting the argument to me several weeks ago, during the early days of the beta test.

Here are the key points to this argument; click through to see them fleshed out and presented with supporting data.

  • There are many more levels in Act One that are not in the beta than the levels that are in the beta.
  • Monsters lack variety of progression, and the Cultists are almost entirely excluded.
  • The 3 special inventory items are presented without any support story or quest connections.
  • The Templar quest is rushed and incomplete.
  • Leoric appears much too soon, with most of his story presented in areas (apparently) reached after player have defeated him.

BTW, before the hate brigade floods the comments, let me make clear that I don’t necessarily object to these beta modifications. This isn’t some kind of “the beta sux!” editorial. It’s an investigative examination, all of the points argued in it are open to debate, and some are probably wrong.

While I join most other beta testers in wishing there was more content, I don’t think the Diablo III beta is a waste or a disaster or anything like that. I do think there should be more to do — if not more of Act One, then some kind of mini-Nightmare difficulty to increase replayability. And yes, of course Blizzard should have included access to the Arena — both to give players a reason to keep playing, and to test out the Battle.net PvP matchmaking and character ranking systems.

As for the main issue in this article; the removal of story from the beta… I don’t really mind that. The developers have revealed much less of Diablo III than the Diablo II team did, prior to that game’s release, and that’s fine. It’s nice that we’ll still have plenty of story surprises when we finally get to play the full game.

SPOILERS!!!1! Not so much. There are a few minor spoilers in this article, but only when they served as useful supportive evidence for the arguments being made. Bigger spoilers are sometimes hinted at, and some links point to pages with big spoilers, but there are warnings before you click them, again where those are necessary to bolster the argument.

Click through for the whole thing.


Act One Levels

In my estimation, the beta is a lot less than half of Act One. Just counting all the Act One levels from the game code, (spoilers galore at that link!) there are 38 areas in the demo, and that includes some very small and short ones, some of which are counted more than once as your character revisits them; the little zombie fight area just in front of Tristram, for instance, and the Cathedral Garden waypoint area where Cain leads you, then heads back to town.

Thirty-eight might sound like a lot of levels, but there are 55 Act One levels that are *not* seen in the beta, and given how the levels grow larger as characters progress through the early areas, it seems a safe bet that many/most of the larger dungeons and levels in the Act are among the 55 we have not yet seen.

Furthermore, the levels in the beta are not presented as they will be in the final game. The first half of the beta is probably very close to the final game, but there are clearly some story and lore elements chopped out, and the later portions of the beta content skip entire quests and dungeons, before the Cathedral levels and especially the Skeleton King are moved up from later portions of the act, to provide a conclusion to the beta.

The Special Inventory Items

The DiabloWikiNephalem Cube, the DiabloWikiStone of Recall, and the DiabloWikiCauldron of Jordan are highly-useful items that are essential possessions to characters in the game. All three are available in the beta, and all three are basically thrown at your character without any lore, story, quest connection, tutorial, or anything appropriate for their unique nature and importance.

Remember how the Horadric Cube was obtained in Diablo II; there was a whole quest for it, with the cube found on the lowest level of a special dungeon. We’ll surely have quests like that in the final game for all three of the Diablo III special inventory items.

In the Beta, the Nephalem Cube is the only one with any kind of presentation at all, and even that’s quite skimpy. The Blacksmith just hands it over after you complete the (very simple) first portion of the Shattered Crown quest by killing his zombie wife. There’s no lore for the item, no info about where the Blacksmith obtained it, not a word about how powerful it is or how your character should use it, no mention of the Nephalem (who seem to be a key element of the game’s plot), etc.

Prior to the beta test, DiabloWikiBashiok said that the Blacksmith was the source of the Nephalem Cube, but that doesn’t mean the NPC just tosses it to your character like a stockbroker throwing the keys from his Beemer to a parking valet. In the full list of Act One levels (spoilers in that list) there’s a three-level dungeon called the Nephalem Cave. Perhaps the Blacksmith tells your character to travel to that cave to obtain this amazing item, (or to bring the Blacksmith something that he’ll trade you the cube for) and that portion was left out of the beta since it’s got plot and story detail the devs wished not yet to reveal?

As for the other two special items, there are both handed over without even the minimal quest connection the Nephalem Cube enjoys. Neither has any lore or a tutorial other than the item tool tip, and none of the NPCs say a word about them in quest dialogues. Neither item seems as tied to the game plot as the Nephalem Cube, but there must be *something* more to those items than them just being awarded you via some random, unrelated quest, as they are the case in the Beta.


Cultists Interruptus

DiabloWikiCultists have been one of the most common types of monsters in all previous Diablo III DiabloWikigameplay movies and Blizzcon demos. They featured prominently in the original WWI 2008 gameplay movie, they were included in the 2008 Blizzcon demo (which took place in many of the same early Act One levels that the beta does), they were legion in the Blizzcon 2009 demo, and they absolutely filled the Burning Halls level in the Blizzcon 2010 demo.

So where are they in the beta? Only on Cathedral level 3, in relation to the DiabloWikiTemplar. Half a dozen Cultists are casting some kind of energy beam to hold him prisoner, while a seventh stands around with nothing to do. That one attacks your character when you draw near, as do various skeletons who are summoned (by nothing) and appear around the Templar. There are only so many skeletons though, and if you just stand there and wait, about a dozen will appear, in groups of 2 or 3. And then… nothing happens.

The six remaining Cultists hold the force field indefinitely, no more monsters appear, and nothing attacks your character. You can even kill one of the six Cultists, and the other five will keep doing their force field thing. Forever. Eventually you have to smack them to free to Templar though, and when you do they die very easily and quickly. A few screens later you find 3 more Cultists “guarding” the shiny chest that holds the Templar’s gear, and they die just as easily. They have no attack spells, no summoning ability, and they hardly even bother to fight before they die.

(Incidentally, why are regular melee Cultists be the ones holding the energy beams on the Templar? They can’t cast spells. It should be some of the Cultist mages or summoners, at the very least, and I bet it will be, if that portion of the Act is at all the same in the final game.)

The Cultists are featured on a bestiary content page on the official Diablo site, and there is a cultist lore entry in the game, but it’s not available in the beta. In short, we’ve seen Cultists galore in every Blizzcon demo, where the monster type has always been the key monster for DiabloWikiquests and story. It’s not like Cultists are high level enemies; they were present in great numbers in the Blizzcon 2008 demo, which took place in the same levels as the beta. In that demo the Skeleton King’s broken crown was actually obtained by killing a special Cultist boss, and the Cultists had names and even some voice acting.

Why the developers removed Cultists from spawning in early areas, I do not know. Perhaps they are tied too tightly to the overall game plot, and their story info was spoiler-y. After all, something fairly major must have happened to bring large groups of humans to worship and openly serve the Demons. It might have something to do with the corrupted state of Sanctuary since the destruction of the Worldstone? We shall see.


The Templar is Rushed

Speaking of Cultists, how about their captive DiabloWikiFollower? In the beta, players find and rescue the Templar on the third level of the Cathedral, and as described above, it’s ridiculously easy. You free him by killing a few very weak monsters, and once he’s free you almost immediately run into a huge glowing chest which holds his gear. You can’t help but click it to get the Templar kitted up, and after moving through a lightly-populated dungeon with no side routes or detours, you find the Bone Wall-blocked stairway, the Templar breaks it, and seconds later you’re battling the underpowered Jondar, the Necromancer NPC who betrayed the Templar.

Jondar dies quickly, the Templar does his, “Betrayal can never be forgiven!” stabby stab thing, and that’s it… Two minutes after you first rescued the NPC you’re heading down to Catacombs 4 and you’ve got to decide if you want the Templar to come along or not.

It might be that way in the final game, but it seems weak design to have so little build up and development on that first Follower quest/interaction. Virtually as soon as the Templar explains who he is you find his gear, and then just as soon as he explains that he’s out for revenge you find the betrayer. The whole process seemed rushed and abbreviated, and that impression is only extended by the Skeleton King coming so soon after the Templar joins you. Most players don’t even have time to equip the Templar with a decent javelin and a pair of rings before the beta is ended, though that’s more about Leoric coming early than anything else.

Incidentally, there’s not a hint of the other Followers in the Beta, nor of the other DiabloWikiArtisans. I don’t think those are big changes, though. The DiabloWikiScoundrel is found in the Wortham area, reached by the ferry out of Tristram, Karnya the DiabloWikiMystic (and her broken wagon) is rescued in the Leoric Highlands later in Act One, and the DiabloWikiJeweler is found in Leoric’s torture chamber levels, near another famous D1 returning boss monster. Only the Enchantress isn’t (obviously) found in Act One.

I don’t doubt that the Blacksmith and Templar are the first two you encounter, I just think it’s unlikely that the Templar mission will unfold in the final game in the rushed, seemingly-incomplete fashion it does in the beta test.


Leoric Comes Too Soon?

Yes… that’s what the queen said. *rimshot*

The beta test ends with a battle against the Skeleton King. That was known well in advance, and as previously stated, the Leoric battle came at the conclusion of the Blizzcon 2008 gameplay demo as well. (Though the levels and quests you passed through to reach him varied quite a bit from what we see in the beta.) This does not, however mean that Leoric will appear at this point, maybe 1/3 of the way through Act One, in the full game.

There are a lot of points of evidence that point to the Skeleton King encounter coming much later in the game than it does in the beta. (At least these points argue that it *should* come later. Maybe it doesn’t, though that would seem weird, from our present knowledge.)

As we saw in the Blizzcon 2010 demo and gameplay movie, there’s a huge, fiery, red-tinted dungeon full of blood and gore and torture devices and flames coming up through the floor. Though it was officially called the DiabloWikiHalls of Agony, the whole place was clearly King Leoric’s torture chamber. In the game code there are actually 6 levels associated with the Halls of Agony. Three normal dungeon levels, 2 related to a special boss, and then a 6th where you apparently find/rescue one of the Artisans.

Also in the Blizzcon 2010 demo was a large blue-green colored jail level, which was inappropriately named The Torture Chambers of the Mad King. That level’s quest was to aid the headless ghost of Queen Alyssa, and at the end of the level a ghostly cinematic showed her execution at the hands of Lazarus, acting on Leoric’s command. (While that demo only showed one, the game code lists 4 Jail levels, 2 of which are related to a key Diablo 2 NPC.)

All those things; the quest events about freeing the ghosts of the Queen’s loyal servants, the lore about Leoric’s madness, the lore about Lazarus’ betrayal, the cinematic showing the Queen’s death, and the general theme and tome of the dungeons, argue strongly for it being encountered in the game *before* the final battle with Leoric. All of this material builds the story towards the final battle with the king; it explains events to the player, it develops Leoric’s character, etc. By any logical method of storytelling, all that would come before the player battles Leoric, and it’s weird and anticlimactic to put it afterwards.

Therefore, I think the battle with Leoric must come much later in the full game than it does in the demo/beta. The question then, is how much tougher must Leoric be if he’s found so much further along in the Act? A lot of fans have complained that Leoric is too easy; that he doesn’t hit hard enough, that his AI makes him easy meat for ranged attackers, that he doesn’t summon skeletons quickly enough to assist him, etc.

Those may or may not be valid arguments (The “Diablo III is too easy” debate rages on), but it’s entirely possible that the easy nature of Leoric is due to him being turned down in savagery, due to him being moved to much earlier in the beta than he should be in the final game.


Conclusion

What’s left to say? There are a number of pieces of evidence that point to the Diablo 3 Beta being a much modified version of the final game, rather than just an un-edited first half of Act One. We know Blizzard has spent a lot of time setting up self-contained demos for each year’s Blizzcon, and we’ve seen how hard they’ve worked to avoid spilling any story details in advance. Thus it’s no surprise that they’ve put in the effort to craft a beta/demo version of the game that’s got content, and a logical progression of events, but that nearly-seamlessly removes monsters, quests, levels, and other game features that would give things away in advance.

As much as some beta testers are annoyed at the lack of content, I think I’m more impressed at Blizzard snipping out so much of the content and rearranging other aspects of the game to give us a playable demo that provides a nice introduction to the game, without including anything that would give players deeper hints to how events will unfold in later portions of the game.

Comments

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  1. i really hope grug is right and that leoric has a much more epic feel to it, i have not played the beta yet but watching streams i do have to agree that it feels like the fight is kind of rushed, but it might just be theres so much hype around it and when it finally comes its kind of like. oh that was it? but to support his argument it feels like the special inventory items are just basically given to you.

  2. Yep, I too suspected that this “hardware beta” is an entirely special piece of the game that lets us test the most systems but has little to do with the original game. For example, there must be a lot more levels and monster types in the cathedral as you can see by the old gameplay videos.

    • That’s what I thought too. It’s a good strategy – give people enough to play with a bit and test the servers, but not a “real” dose, so even when the game comes out, the areas that were explored in the demo will be different.

  3. Great article Flux. You and Grug make some interesting points.
     
    However, after exploring most of the outer areas available in the beta client your list of datamined Act 1 area names doesn’t seem so long to me now. Quite a few of them are actually small uniquely named parts of a larger area or really small to begin with and can be explored in under a minute. Also, I have a feeling we won’t see all of them in the same game, because only a few of them will be spawned by the Adventure system. Still, the beta does seem much less than half of Act 1. While I was messing around with an emulated server I posted a couple of screenshots of previously unseen areas in this thread, if you are interested: http://diablo.incgamers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=813096
     
    I left out the names of a few areas I found though. If you’d like, I could go through your datamined area list and see where the unknown entries appear in the game.

  4. Also, the Beta B-roll video shows some areas which were originally meant to be in the beta but were hastily cut out. A yellow area with a muddy river/lake to its right, a green-tinged, fog-filled forest etc…I think they built an initial beta release with these things…then scrapped them out for the July event and subsequent beta release.
    And…THAT is why the beta build still had so many bugs. The release version, I expect and hope, is going to be another monster entirely!

    • “A yellow area with a muddy river/lake to its right, a green-tinged, fog-filled forest etc…”
       
      You can see screenshots of those areas in the thread I linked to in my previous comment. You can also find their name there.

    • This must be the Fields of Misery which, as Bashiok already said, are not accessible in the beta because the gate to the area is closed (the gate is near Griswold’s shop iirc).

  5. Perhaps we will get to see the latest updates to the game in Blizzcon? I think the changes might be quite remarkable (EG UI, interface etc etc)

  6. And how about “Den of the Fallen” without Fallen ?

  7. Well, this is some good news, if accurate!  I’m now much more interested in the whole thing than I was after studying the beta.  Thanks for all the work
     
    Mogs

  8. I agree that the beta has a feel of things being left out, not necessarily the whole datamining stuff, that sorta thing can easily be misinterpreted, but the cultists just appearing in that one spot without anything to introduce them just looks like they kept those because they were part of the templar questline.
     
    I don’t think the templar is rushed, it’s definitely not a fullblown RPG story introduction, but that’s not exactly what Diablo is about now, is it? Remember how mercs were introduced in D2? They weren’t really, in some cases you completed a quest and suddenly had one or you just had to find the guy to hire them from.
    And concerning Leoric, you may be right, but I don’t think it’s entirely improbable that he does come before other places that have “his mark”, so to say. He was killed before D1, defeated again in D1 and now we’re killing “just another” resurrected skeleton, the real Leoric is long dead and what he has done while he was alive is still around, why should those things still be tied to his re-raised skeleton?
     
    Leoric was killed in the Cathedral and he was resurrected by the fallen star, which fell into the cathedral, so it’s rather likely that he is still there. As far as I know, the Halls of Agony are not anywhere close to Tristram and while the prison levels could be between Cathedral lvl4 and the Royal Crypts, it feels somewhat unlikely.

    • When I talked to Grug he had a whole point about how it’s weird that the Skeleton King is found in the Cathedral, when he was likely killed in his palace or somewhere else, and then buried in a special crypt. Grug suspected retconing in D3. I started to include that in this piece, but with some research the theory went away. Ogden says in D1 that the king is buried on teh 3rd level of the cathedral (where you in fact find him) and in the various Lachdanan journal entries in the D3 beta he talks about burying the king below the cathedral as well.

      So maybe it’s a bit of a retcon from D1, but it’s explained in the in-game lore and story, thus wasn’t really a point to include in this particular article.

      • Leoric apparently made Tristram the seat of his throne. Doesn’t much look like it, does it?

        Really I think the D1 manual is quite separate from D1 the game. They just wrote some back story after the game was made.

  9. Another thing that’s kind of unexciting is that there are not a single fallen in the fallen dens(except dead ones), and all of the extra dungeons in general are completely devoid of anything interesting and eventful. In the release version there will probably be unique monsters and such in them.

    • True. I was going to mention the Den of the Fallen being weird at this point, with all of the Fallen skeletons before you ever see any live Fallen, but didn’t get around to including it.

      If you look at the first picture from HardRock’s spoiler level post, the Fields of Misery is the entrance to the Den of the Fallen. That’s exactly the graphic from the beta, with the huge tree roots over the top, etc. Except that there are a bunch of fallen skeletons around the outside as well. Which makes more sense, with the interior full of dead Fallen.

      I’d say that level is full of live Fallen in the final game, and then you find this Den which is all full of dead ones, and it’s creepy and stuff. And I’d bet that the Scavengers, zombies, and bats that are in the Den in the beta are NOT at all what you find in that area in the final game. Bet they’ll be much bigger and nastier monsters, capable of killing Fallen.

  10. That random well that occasionally pops up always felt obviously incomplete as it’s almost entirely empty. Ditto that mass grave dungeon.

  11. i think you are overestimating blizzard flux.

    • There is no such thing as overestimating them any more.
       
      Like I said, after this 6-7 year-long wait, if Diablo 3 gets anything below 95% on Metacritic, I will be slightly disappointed. I firmly believe that we can give Blizzard hell after all their delays and constant “re-polishing” (which is very slightly visible till now imo…Act 1 still looks pretty similar to Blizzcon 2008 – I hope on purpose).
      Also, what’s a complex erection? 😛

      • “I firmly believe that we can give Blizzard hell after all their delays”
         
        D3 was never delayed, since it never had a release date. It still doesn’t have one.
         
        “re-polishing which is very slightly visible till now imo…Act 1 still looks pretty similar to Blizzcon 2008”
         
        No it doesn’t. Some outer areas are completely changed and all the dungeons have better lighting and atmosphere effects.
         
        “Also, what’s a complex erection?”
         
        Some questions are better left unanwered. 🙂

      • Agreed, the outer areas have completely changed…and they look great though predictable(some randomness would have been good!). But the dungeons, with the yellow-purple lighting give off hardly any atmosphere and they still look graphically similar to 2008, no added detail etc…the blue-green dungeons later on have enough atmosphere though.

  12. I wonder if this might explain where the 1/3 vs. 1/2 of act one choices for the length of the game.  There has been some confusion or conflict between what portion of the act we’re actually getting.  Perhaps it is fair to say that the battle with King Leoric occurs about half way through the act but the beta content only truly represents about 1/3 of the total content that is in the final game.

  13. This is not beta! is diablo3 demo only.. I think will be alot of change when play game when it release…
     
    I think this beta is old version of the game and some things are new others are old from 2008…
     
    The real test is on blizzard team and screts testers playing now around full game.

  14. This is all pretty consistent with your/Grug’s idea, Flux.  Also, just the sheer lack of various monster types points to me that this isn’t the same progression as we will see in the full game.  Where are the legions of skeletons in the cathedral we saw before?  Gone.  The cultists and berserkers?  Gone.  Khazra/Goatmen?  Gone.  Everything points to this being chopped up and modified specifically to hide spoilers and the whole act content, as well as provide a simple intro to the game.

    • To be fair, the Cathedral does have quite a few skeleton packs, especially the lower levels where they’re supported by summoners.
       
      The Khazra / Goatmen got left out of the beta but only just, since we’ll see them on the Fields of Misery, which is the next area right after the Weeping Hollow and the Forsaken Cemetery. I bet we’ll encounter them soon after defeating Leoric.

  15. It could be true that all of those areas come before the Skeleton King fight (in fact, considering that the levels can probably be easily switched around since they are only tied together by the glowing doorway things, it’s probable) but they could also come after… At the end of the Skeleton King fight in previous demos the stairs in front of his throne fold down and lead to a new area and that could be the Halls of Agony or prison areas, but who knows… Definitely some compelling evidence, and if it’s true, the beta is really only a 1/3 of act one, but not a full third that was lifted straight from the game… instead it’s a third of the content that was cherry picked and mixed together to give the appearance that it was supposed to be that way… sneaky, sneaky Blizz…

  16. I dunno why there has to be more content in the beta. I remember playing Diablo Spawn (the D1 demo) for a very long time before I saved enough to buy the whole game, and it never got boring. And that was just two dungeon floors!
     
    If the game is good it’ll be fun to play for a long while. Maybe not if you data mine it and figure out every nook and cranny that way. But if people are bored, then they can just nicely step aside for the rest of us millions on the sidelines waiting for our chance to play this “boring,” “too short,” “too limited” beta!

  17. It just still amazes me that with the amount of time they had with this game already they are still milking it to death. If you haven’t finished the game by now you never will because 6/7 years of development  and still not completed is inexcuseable. Never heard of a rpg taking 6+ years to make, ever. Something is seriously wrong with this Diablo 3 team.

    • A game is never finished. The devs will always have more and more ideas to improve it. It’s really hard to draw a line where you say, that this is will be your “final” game. Blizzard is on my short list of developers who haven’t disappointed me so far with their games, so they have my trust.

    • I would guess part of the extremely long development schedule was a completely change in development teams.  I don’t remember all the details, but didn’t Blizzard North originally start development on D3?  And then there were company changes, a bunch of Blizzard North guys left the company, and Blizzard South took over?
       
      If I am remembering correctly, knowing how developers & designers tend to operate, they probably scrapped most of what the Blizzard North guys had done and started over.

      • Yep… they started from scratch twice actually… The original version of Diablo 3 was going to be an MMO… then something more akin to what we have now but different… then the current version…

    • And you can say this based on how many years of experience that you have working on AAA game development projects?
       
      🙄

  18. I posted a short report (with screenshots) on a few previously unseen areas in the thread Flux linked to in his article. Here it is again, if someone is interested (beware, spoilers ahead): http://diablo.incgamers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=811233&page=2

  19. One thing that wasn’t mentioned is that the majority of the “side-dungeons” in the beta seem incredibly short and empty (like that one at the bottom of the well, forget the name). It’s likely that in the full game they will be more like real dungeons.

  20. I was wondering why you got the cube, cauldron and stone in the beta without the npcs even mentioning them. Really hope it doesn’t stay like that in the final game.

    • The various objects are part of quests in the game. Like the cube comes from the Blacksmith as a quest reward when you finish his quest, the stone comes from the finding the crown and the cauldron comes from Adria’s quest I think.

  21. I’m not a programmer or developer, but for a Beta, there seem to be very few updates and patches to the client, unless you Beta testers tell me otherwise?

    We hear a lot of ‘this is fixed for release‘ and the Beta client now, looks virtually the same as the one released weeks ago, which leads me to support your theory!

    Blizzard wouldn’t want to spend tons of time patching and updating this ‘bespoke‘ Beta build, when they could just fix the bugs in the release version and move on.  There might be a new client patch at some significant point, or they could just leave it, as it seems fairly stable and playable to test their hardware. 🙂

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