The D3 gameplay panel was held Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as interesting as the class design panel held earlier in the day. For the gameplay panel, Jay Wilson spoke for about 15 minutes, covering the basic gameplay design concepts of the game. It was largely a repeat of information presented in the WWI panels, and covered nothing we’ve not already heard in various interviews and other info releases.  Fortunately, the short presentation was followed by an extensive Q&A session chaired by Jay Wilson and Wyatt Chang, which had quite a few good questions.

    We recorded video of the entire panel and will post that when Blizzard allows it. We’ll also type up a full transcript for the wiki next week. In the meantime, I’ve summarized a few of the better questions below the fold…

    We’ll post a verbatim transcript when we have time. For now, here are summarized versions of the lengthy answers Jay and Wyatt gave to various questions.

    One of Jay’s main points in the presentation, one he’s made a number of times in interviews, is that they want to add more challenge by diversifying the difficulty. Instead of D2’s style of easy easy easy instant-death, they’re making D3 more consistently difficult. They want to create more moments of danger and tension, and one of the ways of doing that is by making potions less useful and less common, and making players earn health globes to heal. Having played the demo a few times so far, I can say that that’s working nicely. I was frequently down to a sliver of red while playing a Wizard, and had to back up, nail monsters with ranged attacks, run past tough ones to nail some easy cannon fodder and hope to find a health globe from them, etc.

    They want quests to diversify gameplay. Instead of just attack attack attack, they want players to have to think of strategy, use some caution, and sometimes do things like rescue NPCs, hold off monsters, race to key locations, and other things that will still have combat involved, but will not be solely click click click.

    They want to make gold viable and useful and a part of the economy, long term. They don’t want it to just become all SoJs or perfect skulls or runes. How they’re going to do that they haven’t said. Paying for respecs seems to be hinted at, but other methods might be utilized.

    A player asked about immunities, and how they could stop players cold sometimes, if they had a build or equipment that couldn’t adapt. Wyatt said that they hope to address that by incentivizing players to use a variety of skills. They’re designing the skill trees so that players will have 6-7 active skills on their switches, along with various support passives and masteries. And they’re forming the skill trees so that there will be a variety of damage types on the top skills, so players will almost unavoidably have ways around immunes. Not that they’ve confirmed that we’ll see immunes at all, in D3. There aren’t any in the low level demo we’re playing at Blizzcon, at least.

    Magic find is in the game (I’ve seen multiple items with it in my play time so far) but they hope to equalize the utility of it by making modifiers on all item types that all characters have a need to use. Unlike D2, where sorcs and necros (and others) could ignore stats on lots of equipment and just specialize in MF. During my demo play time I saw staves and wants that boosted spell damage and exp gain, along with other useful mage properties.

    Jay confirmed that the 4th and 5th characters will be Wirt, returned from the dead, and a playable verison of the Cow King. He said this with a straight face, but the room laughed.

    The max player limit isn’t set yet, but they’re thinking it might be just 4. They can add more, and it’s actually less stress on b.net to have more players in fewer games, but as Jay pointed out, more than 4 turns into total chaos, or else players are off in different parts of the same game. So the upper limit will probably be more about fun and party play than technical capability.

    There will be some kind of crafting mechanism, but not like the Horadric Cube. Wyatt said the cube was largely useful in d2 since the inventory was so small that the added space was great. They’re going to give us much more storage space in d3, so they won’t make the item creation utility much like the cube was.

    They want stats to be useful for all characters. At least 3 stats useful for everyone, not just minimum str, never energy, and max vit, as many players did in D2.. So they’re going to make stats useful for multiple purposes. Str for wizards might increase hps regen, or make more/faster healing from health globes, for instance.

    Binding items is still the subject of internal debate, but Jay’s clearly on the side of no binding. The concern is that with easier trading and muling players will transfer items around too much and the game will become too easy as inflation sets in. But they like that Diablo is a game of finding and trading, rather than endless raid grinding for the best gear in WoW, and they don’t wnat to change that.

    And finally, there will be respecs of some kind, but they’ve not worked out a method yet. They want to balance the convenience of it and the accessibility for non full time layers, with the issue of making the game too easy, or making it boring to start a new char since there’s no one else in low level games.

    All the Blizzcon 2008 Coverage.

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