Design a Legendary Weapon Phase Two: Visual Themes

Blizzard has opened voting for part two of their community Create a Legendary project, and they want our votes to determine what design theme the one-handed sword will enjoy.

Now that we’ve decided what kind of Legendary weapon we’re creating (a one-handed sword), it’s time to move onto the next stage of design: visual theming.

What do we mean by visual theming? In Diablo III, we love to give hero armor and weapons a specific signature, or theme. This theme is the aesthetic thread that connects and ties all the different parts (color, texture, shape, etc) of the items together. In a way, it gives the item its identity and helps inform not only its art, but its name, associated lore, and in many situations (in the case of Legendary items, at least) its stats and unique power as well.

For this particular stage of the Design a Legendary project, I sat down with art producer Nathan Lutsock and 3D character artist Aaron Gaines to discuss possible themes for our fledgling Legendary sword. Excited and intrigued by the idea, they quickly selected seven different options they felt would be fun to explore alongside the community, all of which I’ve detailed below (epic theme descriptions courtesy of Nathan):

Click through for descriptions of the design theme options, and visit the Blizzard blog post to vote for your favorite.

As we did with the first step in this process (and a vote on which weapon types you’ve used), here’s our vote with an alternative take on the whole process:

Do you care what your Legendary weapon looks like?

View Results

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“This blade would be styled to connect thematically to the desert city of Caldeum. An item with this theme could draw from the desert locale, a distinct architectural kit, the opulence of the Emperor’s palace, or even the Lord of Lies. Caldeum provides ample recognizable features for creative inspiration.”


“This blade would be styled to connect thematically to the city of Westmarch. The capital of King Rakkis’s empire demonstrates dark medieval visual cues that are very much in line with the motifs of the first Diablo game. A weapon in this theme will be benefit from the months of development that the Diablo art team invested when creating the characters and environs Westmarch. ”


“This blade would have a visual connection to snakes and reptiles. Some of our most successful Legendary items sprang out of such humble beginnings. We start with a simple motif and asked ourselves, ‘What would I want out of a weapon in this style? What is the game fantasy of the player who wants this kind of item?’ A classic fantasy theme like ‘Serpent’ provides our artists with many avenues of interpretation.”

Ancient Culture

“This blade would be styled to represent an ancient culture no longer found on Sanctuary, or one that we’ve yet to fully flesh out in a game (Skovos, for example). Ancient culture motifs are exciting springboards for our artists, giving them the opportunity to expand the visual definition of the Diablo universe while keying off of visual hooks that they haven’t yet dug into. Some of our most interesting item designs come out of explorations into the technology and designs of Sanctuary’s lost peoples.”


“This blade would be styled to connect thematically to the wispy, skeletal Lord of Hatred. In addition to being a favorite character of the art team, Mephisto has a unique appearance among the Great Evils, and a blade associated with him would need to find a way to echo his character.”


“This blade would be styled to connect thematically to the massive Lord of Pain. Bulky, brutal, and grotesque, interpreting this theme as a sword may prove something of a challenge. However, sometimes the most inventive legendary item designs come out of an unexpected pairing.”


“This blade would be styled to connect thematically to the Lord of Terror himself. Capturing a design familiar to the character (a character that changes his appearance in every game, no less!) that still adds something fresh and makes a compelling player reward- this design might be the most challenging of the bunch.”

Pretty cool, huh? But which theme should we use? That’s up to you! Pick your favorite by using the voting options below, and be sure to spread the word. As with our previous vote, whichever theme gets the most votes globally wins!

After the poll has closed, we’ll tabulate player votes from all our different Diablo III communities around the world to determine the winner and share the results next week. Don’t delay, though—this poll will close Wednesday, November 13.

I had a strong opinion on vote number one, when I wanted anything but a two-handed weapon, since we’ve got a bunch of those that are viable in the game already. Naturally the community voted for more of the same. I don’t have much of an opinion on the design type, though I am a bit curious to see how some of these themes would transfer into visuals on a one-handed sword.

Duriel, for instance. Fattest sword ever, with two smaller blades poking out to the side? Maybe that should be a Monk Fist weapon, to match the width to the height better than a sword, which is by necessity long and slender.


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  1. Surprisingly Caldeum is dragging its heels in last place. I would have thought golden, jewel-encrusted would really appeal.

  2. After reading just the intro up to the poll, I’ve asked myself, if it wouldn’t be more important at this stage to decide the role the legendary weapon would have played in the story and cultural background of sanctuario, as this would define the base of its powers and how it looks like. But as I can see after dropping down, they kinda mixed these things together here (, which is obviously the way, the future phases will go on).

    Ancient culture would be the most interesting here, as it would offer the most freedom in further design, but on the other hand would make it harder to define, what further purpose it had in the history of sanctuario, shaping the blade into the legendary it is (or, better said, will be) today. The serpent theme is the one I would choose myself here, as it provides a good base for imagining the way it’s powers work, while still holding up a lot of possibilities to derive from a simple, poisonous power. (There are also serpents that constrict, rather than having a venomous bite. Some also don’t bite, but spit their poison. And so on…)

  3. I except Flux to make a joke in his next podcast about “design Bobby Kotick’s next gold-plated toilet”.

  4. Too bad Ancient Culture isn’t ahead, I thought there could be some primitive type lore they could develop that would make it interesting (Dragon Glass from Game of Thrones anyone?) Oh well, I guess I’m dreaming that creativity will win this race.

  5. I feel like with Diablo, Mephisto, and Duriel in there, the other options didn’t really stand a chance.

    **Tinfoil hat time – POSSIBLE ROS SPOILERS**

    Is anyone else starting to think that Mephisto and Duriel may be making an appearance in RoS? I know their little portrait pics were datamined (with sound bites) or whatever, but that hardly seems conclusive.

    The fact that they put Mephisto and Duriel as options is interesting.

    Further interesting to me, is that Blizzard has stated on numerous times that “they like doing what their artists enjoy” or something along those lines, and taken from the Blizzard post about Mephisto “In addition to being a favorite character of the art team,”

    Maybe I am just reading too much into all this…

    • I don’t blame them – Mephisto was the most interesting to me of the Evils, appearance included. That’s how I voted, before I saw he’s winning by a country mile at the moment.

      I think an event in RoS where the Evils are released and you have to re-fight some of them could be cool. That’s actually what I suspected might happen in D3V the first time I played through, until the twist at the end of Act 3. Or maybe if they had an infernal-machine/uber type side quest where you open portals and go fight them for special treasure.

    • my thoughts are that we will see a lot of the bosses from diablo past via the nephalem trials. It avoids having to work them into the story and still lets us have fun playing against modern versions of them.

  6. so i take it a Diablo blade would have dangly boobs on it. Caldeum is my vote. i always thought Djinn slayer was a nice (yet useless) looking sword.

  7. I could imagine some pretty distinct effects with a mephisto themed blade. That ball of hurt he throws at you, extra skeletal type hands coming out of the sword and grabbing things, white puff smokey stuff at your feet (etheral walk perhaps), and of course poo gas cloud which they already have. Hell it could even whisper “You’re too late muwahaha!”

    Too many good memories with ole mephy not to pick him.

    I think the art theme of the sword could be sweet for any of those choices though really.

  8. Serpent -> Reptilian -> Illuminati! I knew it! :coffee:

    I voted for meph. (I wished for a Pindle sword, but…)

    If flux dropped a pool for our favored second sword, I bet Westmarch would place very well.

    On the incgamers pool: I used to be that guy that couldn’t care less about looks… Until spending a year+ on blue pants & boots. Now appearance is a top priority.

  9. It’s not entirely about the look, though. You’re asking in the poll if people care what it looks like, but the \theme\ of the legendary will also have to do with its backstory, as well as potentially inspiring what new legendary effect it could have.

    Remember, this piece will likely be included in the expansion in some capacity, and since that’s the case, it may have some really powerful affix attached that could affect builds. Greatly.

  10. Long story short:
    (Weapon Stats) >> (Weapon Art)
    That we can use for the game too, like:

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