BlizzCast 8 is now live with a plethora of goodies from DiabloWikiJay Wilson about Diablo III. Taking a look at the screenshots, the Skill Tree UI we saw at BlizzCon 2008 has been completely overhauled. It now resembles World of Warcraft’s talent trees. The DiabloWikiinventory changed dramatically from the small slots to bigger versions with more detailed icons for weapons and other items. Looks like there will be three types of inventory from what can be distinguished on the left side of the inventory divided into tabs: a backpack for large items such as weapons and gear; a small bag for small items such as gems, scrolls, and runes; and a stash icon exclusively for quest items.

    This pretty much solves the space issues that plagued World of Warcraft classic dividing the items accordingly separating the quest items from your gear space, and so on. This decision has to be applauded in ovation.

    An experience bar can be identified above the hotbar similar to World of Warcraft, and a chest item on the ground shows stats that give +base experience by 2 per kill. We get more info on how builds will differ from each other, and the answer doesn’t come from the randomized stats in gear items, and your talent tree build alone. The DiabloWikiRune system will keep you changing around and trying different builds, and will keep you busy collecting the different runes available throughout the world.

    Now compare the screenshots above with how the Character UI and the Inventory UI looked like when we were at Blizzcon 2008.

    The Mana Orb (not the DiabloWikiMana Globe, but the grayish-angel wraps with his arms on the right side of the Hotbar UI) has changed significantly for the DiabloWikiBarbarian from what we saw in the gameplay video shown at DiabloWikiWWI 2008 and DiabloWikiBlizzCon 2008. The Barbarian now uses a Fury Orb that contains three smaller orbs within. It works very much like the Death Knight rune system. The orb will energize slowly upwards, and the bottom mini-sphere powers up. Another energize animation ticks upward, and the second mini-sphere gets powered up. Once all three mini-spheres are powered up, a special ability seems to be used. You can watch the animation at the BlizzCast 8 page.

    Item colour categories are not yet written in stone but thus far magical items are blue, rare items are yellow, unique items are orange (nigh brown), set items don’t have a colour yet, and there is another unannounced type of item. Things may change during development.

    DiabloWikiBashiok also interviewed Julian Love (Lead Technical Artist) and Mike Nicholson (Senior Artist known as the UI Guy). Mike was former UI Artist of Sanitarium, and is now creating the Diablo III UI graphics. Julian reveals each DiabloWikimonster in Diablo III has around 35 death animations that will either randomly play depends on different factors such as the way you kill them, the weapons you use, crits, etc. Help get the word around by posting a comment here.

    The transcript can be read below.

    Continuing our behind-the-scenes look at Blizzard Entertainment games and developers, BlizzCast #8 features Q&A sessions about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, and Diablo III and finishes with an in-depth Diablo III interview discussing the special effects that create the world of DiabloWikiSanctuary, as well as the latest changes to the game’s UI.

    Our complete transcript includes exclusive new screenshots of Diablo III and StarCraft II, as well as a short example movie from Diablo III.

    Listen to BlizzCast #8 here – http://eu.blizzard.com/blizzcast/archive/episode8.xml

    Bornakk: Welcome to the next Q&A portion of BlizzCast. We have our Diablo 3 Game Director DiabloWikiJay Wilson, welcome to the show!

    Jay Wilson: Thank you very much.

    Bornakk: We have a couple Q&A questions for you today. The first one is from Daleks on USEast. Will DiabloWikishrines be making a return to the world of Sanctuary in Diablo 3?

    Jay Wilson: Well there are some aspects of shrines that we liked, experience shrines I think are probably the prime example everyone uses. They’re fun because they drive the player forward. Monster shrines are sometimes fun because they bring out a rare that you didn?t know or weren?t expecting that could come from any direction and that?s cool. But for the most part, the pure mechanic of shrines, a random powerup that just appears in the world for no reason, we don?t really want to litteraly bring that back. What we are going to try to do is integrate a lot of the best things of shrines into our quest and event systems so that when you encounter a random quest or random event that has a story context within the game it either rewards you like a shrine would reward you or something that is actually built into the gameplay of the quest. So while technically no shrines are not coming back verbatim, we are trying to bring back kind of the best things of them in a different form.

    Bornakk: So you’ll still have the randomness and spontanenity of it.

    Jay Wilson: Exactly, and really they are kind of there to change up the gameplay and add a little factor of randomness, but we felt that very few of the shrines actually did that ? accomplish that goal…

    Bornakk: Stamina shrine?

    Jay Wilson: Yeah, stamina shrine lets you run a long time. Skill shrine made you a little bit more powerful. We feel like we can take the best and put them within actual events that are a lot more fun and have a lot more gameplay to them.

    Bornakk: Alright, great. The next question is from David Nishball in Fairfield, Connecticut. Will buildings and towns be enterable, like Atma’s Bar was from Diablo 2?s second act?

    Jay Wilson: There probably will be some buildings, my guess is not too far off from how many were enterable in Diablo 2. Most towns we don?t make all the buildings enterable, it?s just a ton of art to create for very little reason. Most people tear through the towns at lightning speed, so they don?t have a desire to go into the individual buildings. But we do have some specialty buildings that I?m sure we?ll go inside of throughout the quest course of the game.

    Bornakk: Okay. The next question is from James on USWest. Will there be a diverse selection of items that are viable for the end-game or will it follow the WoW-type style where there is more like one end-all-be-all set for each class?

    Jay Wilson: It?s definitely diverse and it?s diverse on a lot of different fronts. When you think about Diablo 2, all the different ways you can build your character, we really expanded all the ways you can customize your character by adding in the rune system. Not only can you completely customize your skill set, much more so than you can in game like most MMOs like World of Warcraft, because of that, the items you want are based upon the skill set that you?ve chosen or the type of build that you are trying to create.

    And DiabloWikiitems, one of the things we are trying to do is focus on this even greater element of defining your build. So really it’s up to the player on what kind of stats they want on their character, but we’re definitely not shooting for a, “oh here’s the DiabloWikibarbarian armor”, there is a set and when you get the full set you’re done. That’s just not very Diablo and it’s not really the kind of gameplay we’re going for. If anything we?d like the item set to be a lot more diverse than it was in Diablo 2.

    Bornakk: Always something to collect right?

    Jay Wilson: Exactly, always a new build to try out.

    Bornakk: Right, exactly. The last question we have today is from James Wichtowsky. Have you settled on a particular color scheme for item drops?

    Jay Wilson: We’ve kind of gone round and round on color scheme. I know with World of Warcraft when they decided on a color scheme to fit quality, they were taking that from Diablo 2 and other MMOs, but they chose a color set that they felt was easier to read. We actually tried to emulate that for awhile, I think actually our announcement build or maybe our BlizzCon build was actually using a color scheme very similar to World of Warcraft and we generally found we just didn?t like it, it didn?t feel Diablo. So something as simple as that didn?t feel Diablo anymore.

    Color scheme is pretty solid right now, it follows very closely to the Diablo 2 color scheme. We slightly shifted some of the hues to help, especially with color blindness, to try and get some of the more problematic combinations. We took out, for example, uniques were gold, we?ve changed their color I think we did purple which is a bit of a nod to World of Warcraft but the problem was gold and yellow were really close. Even though the gold lettering was unique and everything it was often very difficult to tell the two apart. So we just did that not to get away from Diablo but to try and fix that kind of readability issue. What we found is that if we try and get too far from Diablo it doesn’t feel right, so right now magic items are blue, rare items are yellow, unique items I think they’re purple ? I’m operating off memory here but they might be different actually because I think we use purple for something else for an item type we haven?t announced yet. Then if we do set items they’ll be green, we haven’t made a call on set items yet.

    Okay, well that?s all the questions we have for today, thanks for coming in Jay.

    Jay Wilson: My pleasure.

    Bashiok: Welcome to BlizzCast 8, my name is Bashiok your Diablo III Community Manager. With me today is Julian Love, Lead Technical Artist and Mike Nicholson, our UI guy, he?s a Senior Artist on Diablo III.

    Bashiok: Starting with Julian some people may know you from WWI and BlizzCon, you were up on stage giving some presentations, for those who don?t know you personally what do you do on Diablo III?

    Julian: Well I do a lot of things, I?ll try to cover them briefly. So I run the Technical Art department, and the kinds of things we do there are we build a lot of custom art tools to make production go a lot easier, and we also rig characters which is a way of sort of making them “puppetable”, so the animators can define how they?re going to move, and probably the biggest visual contribution we make is through special effects, breakables, and lighting.

    Bashiok: Very cool, and Mike Nicholson who is a new face and voice to those following Diablo III, what do you do on the team?

    Mike: I’m a Senior Artist and I?m in charge of all the interface. Also known as “The UI Guy”.

    Bashiok: So Mike, actually I wanted to touch on something you did in the past. I was at your office a few weeks ago and found out you were Lead Designer and Lead Art on a game which was near and dear to me which was called Sanitarium. Without going into it too much, that was a point and click adventure game, so how did you get from that to working here at Blizzard?

    Mike: Well, I?m glad you liked it, I?m proud of that game. Well the thing was when we did Sanitarium unfortunately even though it was well received, everyone who played it liked it, not that many people played it. Well eventually they did. We kind of got there as the party was going out…

    Bashiok: For point and click adventures…

    Mike: So, you know you kind of take a look around and go well I guess I need to get back into art. Came out to California and started doing 3D environments and kind of worked all the way back up to interface, where I?m back to doing 2D art again.

    Bashiok: Julian back to you, one of the major effects systems is the death system which kind of goes over how monsters die. Which is one of the cooler parts of the game, and we?ve seen a little bit of that before at WWI and BlizzCon, but what is the system and can you explain it to those listening and what does it do in the game?

    Julian: Yeah, something pretty close to my own heart there, was we really recognized that monsters really live to die in Diablo. You really don?t have a lot of time to express their personality, and you don?t have a lot of time to try to make your experience with monsters meaningful. Most of what you?re doing is killing them. So one of the things I was really interested in doing was making as many different ways for monsters to die as possible. So that was kind of the goal, and think we?re up to something like 35 ways for any given monster to ?bite it? at this point. But the basic theory is to really extend on the idea that Diablo II started with, which was that you would hit monsters and you would see the damage you did to them reflected on them. And we said, well let?s take that further, monsters could burn to death when you hit them with a firey sword, and then we added the idea of crits and monsters could explode across the screen, and it just kind of went from there. But that?s essentially the idea.

    Bashiok: Very cool. A lot of the effects that you make factor in to the abilities that the characters are using, so fire and arcane and all that stuff, but in the world of Diablo it seems like there are very specific magic types that exist… it is actually a pretty broad spectrum, but is there any limitation there to what you can do with ? different damage types?

    Julian: Yeah in fact that?s a common input that I?ll receive is ?Hey this guy?s a firey this or whatever, but can we make that fire look green?? And that?s where the sort of designer in me has to kind of come out and say, wait a minute if we make fire green all of a sudden it?s a bit of a miscommunication in terms of the gameplay. And so there is a bit of constraint there that, at one point I?m trying to make things look as epic as they can, but at the same time they have to be really clear to the player so that they?re not confused that you know, green fire might mean poison. Then there?s the other part of it which is it?s really easy in my department to make a big mess. We can just clobber the screen with so many effects that you just can?t see the game anymore. So those are really the two constraints we really work with most.

    Bashiok: Back to Mike, since people saw the game at BlizzCon ? they got to play it at BlizzCon ? which was exciting for everybody, the interface and the UI has actually changed pretty dramatically even since then, it?s been an iterative process ? since the conception of the game really, but uh so for those that didn?t see it at BlizzCon or even those who did what are the changes that have come about since then?

    Mike: Well one of the biggest things involved in Diablo are items, right? We?ve experimented with a few things and one of the big things that everyone liked from Diablo, as an entity, were the large objects right. While it was more efficient to go with a WoW style one size fits all icon, which is what most people have seen, we really wanted to see what we could do and so we went back and reevaluated the system and we?ve decided split it into large and small objects. That brings up the question of tetris inventory all over again, and a lot of people are opposed to that, some people like it, some people don?t. So what we did we ended up tabbing the inventory, so now you have your large items, and then you have a tab for small items, and there?s a third tab for quest items. That way all the items can coexist nicely with each other without the frustration, which was one of the complaints about the old system is the frustration in trying to fit everything into your pack.

    Bashiok: And are we still going to see the bag system coming back, the expandable [inventory] with the bags, or is it a set inventory size for each tab?

    Mike: Current design right now is to have bags. You?ll get bags and they will expand, you know kind of like in WoW, except you?re not going to open up separate windows. You?ll start off your inventory with say? you know, eight slots, right, and then you?ll get a new bag and that has ten, so two more slots will open up within that tab, but you?ll never have multiple tabs. Like you won?t have two or three ?large? tabs.

    Bashiok: Right, and is that working out pretty well so far? It?s been in testing for a while.

    Mike: Yeah, most people seem to really like it. I mean the feedback has been pretty good, personally I love it, because it lets you do both, it lets you have the large icons but it eliminates the frustration that people voiced about having different sized items within your inventory.

    Bashiok: And you can really see the artwork as it is now with the larger icons…

    Mike: Oh yeah, very much so.

    Bashiok: Also, on iterative processes, a lot of BlizzCon saw the skill icons. And there?s been some talk in the community that the skill icons are definitely a departure from what we saw in Diablo II. Which were these gold runes, almost, I guess. So what was the decision there to make a change to the skill icons, and do, y?know colorful skill icons?

    Mike: I am unabashedly a fan of WoW, I?ll probably catch flak ?oh you?re making it look like WoW oh no!? but I love them, I love the WoW icons. And y?know what we?re trying to do is see, ok what works about the WoW icons? They?re illustrative; is there a way to try to maybe bridge the gap. You know what worked about the more symbolic DII icons, and what works with the WoW icons, and trying to find a way to put the two together. And that?s really what I?m trying to do is to try to make them more symbolic, so they?re not necessarily little murals, but they are painterly. So they are colorful because you?re going to have a lot more of them than you would in DII. So you have the hot bar at the bottom, and you want that to look colorful enough that it?s interesting, but not to the point where it?s an eyesore. And quite honestly I?ve made many iterations on the icons, and there?s still many to come. It ends up being a balancing act, you know I test them out what they look like next to each other, and if they?re too colorful ? tone it down.

    Bashiok: One of the things I like about them is, without even looking at your hot bar you can kind of see, oh this one looks blue and cold it?s probably an ice spell of some type. So without even mousing over it to see what it is I can tell it?s at least of a specific magic or damage type or skill use…

    Mike: You know one of the best experiences I?ve had at Blizzard is the iterative process, which some artists don?t like, but I personally love it. Because it lets me test stuff out. For a while I was trying out, ok let?s do color theory? ok so all the berserker skills will be this tone, and all the battle master will be this tone. And you know on paper it looked good, sounded good, ok it?s a nice theory but what we found is when you put them on the hot bar, if you went down a certain tree now everything?s the same color at the bottom and it?s hard to tell them apart. You know, ok I get a gold star for being clever, but then I lose points because it?s not playable. So you know you go back once again, scrap it, and reevaluate it. But I love that process.

    Bashiok: Back to Julian, the Thousand Pounder…

    Mike: Julian is not a Thousand Pounder! Kind of rude? [laughs]

    Bashiok: [laughs] At WWI we unveiled the Thousand Pounder and it had this really grand entrance where it was assembled out of the pieces of these sacrificed uh? I guess virgins, if you will. It was such a grand entrance for that monster, how did that come about?

    Julian: Well yeah, I recognize that it probably looks like it was really planned out and something that we worked on for a very long time. It was one of those things where we originally wanted it to come busting through the wall there, because breakables being what they are they?re kind of the hot thing in the game, but I think there was some recognition that when you have a monster of that shape busting through a wall it?s starts to look like a Kool-Aid commercial…

    Mike: Oh yeah!

    Julian: [laughs] Which really undoes what we?re trying to say with the thousand pounder. And it kind of stole some of the thunder of the siege breaker who does that later on. I think, very late in the game, not three weeks before we were scheduled to be done with that we got some concept that looked like he was being beamed in Star Trek style. My department did an emergency powwow and we weren?t really happy with that, and so we asked ourselves so what do we really want to see here? And the hardest thing we could think to do was what we ended up doing, and we?re all scared, could we get it done? It was an enormous amount of work and we were going to have to convince other teams to help us. We needed help from modeling, we needed help from animation. But there was just this really cool commitment from everybody that this was the best thing to do, and we were going to put a lot of overtime in. We just crammed on it in two weeks, and that?s what popped out.

    Bashiok: Very cool, and is that something we?ll see in the final game you think?

    Julian: Oh yeah, in fact I think there?s been a lot of off-shoot ideas. Like every other monster in the game, where applicable, we ended building a skeletal structure into him, and even a muscular set and things like that, that you see. And those things are functional, so I wouldn?t be surprised if you see skeletal and muscular thousand pounders running around, maybe half-summoned, and that sort of thing. There?s a lot of leeway with it.

    Bashiok: Very cool, and last but not least you?re both working on a system which is the barbarian?s fury system. So, the fury system for those that don?t know, the barbarian uses a sort of reverse mana system. It?s not using mana as it uses abilities, but it builds up as he?s fighting, so it kind of? he gets angry and he?s chopping dudes down and he gets more and more fury to use for his abilities. But that?s actually changed quite a bit, can you guys go over how UI and effects are coming together to create the new fury system?

    Mike: Yeah well it?s always an, again, an iterative process right, and one of the problems we had with one of the systems we had tried out was ? it worked ? but from a peripheral vision you couldn?t see what was going on. We wanted to be very clear and very bold about what was being done, so traditionally what happens is design will come to me and we?ll talk about what are the goals we need to accomplish. And then I?ll do some mockups and then I take it over to Julian and hope he can make those mockups look far better than my mockups.

    Julian: And I think where we?re at right now with it is the recognition that spending your fury is what we really want you to be doing, we want you to see it as a commodity to spend in order to gain access to more power, and that wasn?t really being communicated so clearly with the other one. So we?re trying to accomplish that goal of making it more, yeah, you know when to spend, you know what you?re spending but you don?t necessarily have to look directly at it. So effects plays a little bit of a role there, but I think we?re trying to not put effects in there just for effects? sake, but only do it when we think that it?s going to help you really read and understand what?s going on.

    Mike: Yeah, before one of the problems was you would see the build up more than what you had to spend. Like you would build your fury up, and then you know ?bonged?, and you?d have an amount you could spend. But everything was sharing the same visual space and you couldn?t necessarily discern one from the other. And again from an art standpoint, sure it worked, it was ok, but it wasn?t conveying the gameplay. And gameplay is king, you?ve got to make sure that it comes across in every way.

    Bashiok: Can you describe for those listening what it currently looks like?

    Mike: Let’s see? if I had to use a cruel comment, one that I made myself as I was making it, oh “It’s the fury traffic light”. Because it’s three spheres stacked vertically, and no we?re not making them three different colors, but you know as I was doing it I was like oh great, it pretty much well assures us that we are not doing different colors because it will well indeed look like a traffic light. But that?s the gist of it, because when you’re playing hopefully your vision is in the center of the screen, and this is going to be to your right and down below. So you need to see a very bright graphic that kind of flashes to let you know, that even if you flick your eyes down there you?ll see I’ve got two or three of whatever that is to spend. Really that was the goal. Hopefully Julian and his team will ramp it up, so that, because we want it to catch your eye while you?re doing it, but not be a distraction.

    Bashiok: Right, sounds like a cool system. I?m looking forward to it. For those listening on iTunes or elsewhere be sure to check the BlizzCast website because we will have images and some art assets to check out for this interview. And that about wraps it up, I want to thank Julian and Mike for joining me here today.

    Julian: You?re welcome.<

    Mike: Thanks for having me.

    Bashiok: And that about wraps it up for BlizzCast 8, I want to thank you very much for listening. This has been Bashiok, signing off.

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