Diablo 3 Developers Video Interview

Four of the Diablo 3 devs took part in an hour-long Diablo 3 Developers Video Interview yesterday on a podcast called Twizzcast (part one and part two). They answered (and occasionally avoided) questions about coming D3 skill changes, the Diablo console, Diablo 3 ladders, Demon Hunter issues, Legendary improvements, and more. I’ve listened to the whole thing and typed up a summary of the best bits, which you can read below the fold.

Here are the key points and highlights, and even though we knew it already, I was surprised (and gratified) at how overtly Josh confirmed big Diablo content at this year’s Blizzcon.

  • Josh Mosqueira: “I think Blizzcon is going to be very awesome this year. Especially if you like Diablo.”
  • They are putting in work on some sort of Ladder system for Diablo 3. No details or ETA yet.
  • Lots more ideas for cool potential/future Legendary item effects were shared.
  • A lot of what might have been cool Legendary effects were actually turned into skill runes in the initial game launch.
  • Lots of the Diablo console itemization changes such as fewer, better Rares, are sort of serving as test cases for possible future D3 PC changes.
  • No new PvP system is under construction, though they’re still thinking about it constantly for long term implementation.

Part one of the interview can be seen and read below. The Diablo 3 developers present were: Josh Mosqueira, Game Director. Wyatt Cheng, Senior Technical Game Director. Travis Day, Game Designer. Jason Bender, Lead Console Designer.

Part One runs 47 minutes.

0:00 – 4:00 — Slow start with technical issues on streaming and skype, devs joining in one by one, chit chat, etc. Some intros from the devs, they all talk about how they love working at Blizzard, contributing to Diablo 3, discussing games all the time, etc. They have regular meetings to really brainstorm and work on concepts for improving things in Diablo 3. Huge plans and activities underwork, really confident that they’re going to make big improvements in the months to come.

Josh Mosqueira talks about how he came to Blizzard, working on the console, moving to the full Game Director, etc. One noteworthy part is his “Three core elements of Diablo 3.” 1) Epic Heroes that feel bigger than life. 2) Fighting huge hordes of hell, and making sure the monsters and boss fights are great. 3) Loot! At the end of the day it’s about the items, and they’re constantly discussing all of those issues and making changes to improve them.

11:20 — Console talk. Challenges of transferring the game, reworking the controls. Improvements and ways they like the controls and “feel” better on the console. Different playing without a cursor; better for some skills than others.

14:30 — Any changes coming to the PC interface and controls, based on the many changes to the UI for the console?
Easier ways to quickly pick up gear, quick-equip, etc? Blizzard says nothing planned, but the devs will be curious to see what fans think once it’s released. As for Dodge, probably not. Dodge feels great with an analogue stick, but not a natural fit with the mouse/keyboard. Someone mentions that Bashiok is planning a “sleep over” with 3 friends on the night of the console launch, for couch-gaming all night with new characters.

22:50 — Any hints for new character classes in Diablo 3?
No. Boilerplate reply about wanting any new classes to feel powerful, fun, take roles that current classes don’t occupy, etc.

24:00 — Anything you can tell us about future PvP stuff? Brawling isn’t getting it done.
Long pause on the reply. Vague comments about wanting a really good system, people on the team are very interested in doing something with PvP, but nothing to share about their plans any time soon. [Flux: I will ask MUCH better questions about upcoming PvP changes (or why not) in my interview tomorrow.]

27:00 — Itemization. What’s coming up? Changes and improvements?
(Reply finally starts at 29:00.) Very general reply, want items to be great, memories of awesome items in other games (Thunderfury in WoW.) They want to make a lot of improvements in items, they’ve been working on it for a long time, they want us to think of Legendaries as awesome, game-changing (but not game-breaking) items.

Some specific examples given:

  • Ethereal property from boots to enable running through monsters.
  • Permanent Call of the Ancients (“If that skill didn’t suck”).
  • A weapon that opens up “a black pit to hell” that sucks enemies in.
  • An Item that would suck in all enemies when one dies which would let you use another skill to hit all the concentrated enemies.
  • (They didn’t mention the “cast two Hydras at once” example, but they’ve said it many times before, so including it here for people who maybe haven’t heard it yet.)
  • The goal is lots of big changes that aren’t just bigger numbers.
  • The Diablo Console incorporates many of the itemization changes coming up in the future. Fewer, better items. Better pace of item upgrades. There will be a very different economy on console without the DiabloWikiAuction House, since self-finding means regular upgrades, instead of just buying something in the AH and then never finding anything better. They’re trying to make it so items don’t spawn with useless mods; Int + Str on the same ring, for example. What you find should be potentially useful for someone, rather than simply being useless combination of mods that no one would really want. And items that do truly unique things that change the way a character plays.

    Wyatt sort of blames the huge and innovative skills and runes system for some lackluster Legendaries upon launch. For example, DiabloWikiSprint: DiabloWikiRun like the Wind puts down tornadoes behind a Sprinting DiabloWikiBarbarian. In another game that might have been an item effect. In Diablo III they were very focused on making the skills and runes awesome, and a lot of effects that might have been on items went onto runes. Going forward, they want to split the design a bit more, with improvements to runes and to items as well.

    37:20 — Items or other ways to further boost skill runes or skill functions?
    No plans to add more runes, but they want to make items that boost or enhance particular runes or skills. Increasing duration of effects, or splitting Magic Missile into more shots, or makes them bounce off of walls, etc. Not just limiting the Legendaries to boosting skills, but that’s one very easy and obvious improvement. Such as creating an Earthquake effect any time a Barbarian uses Leap.

    40:50 — More content. DiabloWikiParagon levels, DiabloWikiInfernal Machine, etc. Are we going to see any additional content features? Ladders and seasons in Diablo III?
    Right now we’re talking about a lot of interesting things, including possible Ladders. For the future. Long term but also shorter term. In typical Blizzard fashion, I’ll say that you guys have to wait a little longer to hear about it. Josh Mosqueira, “I think Blizzcon is going to be very awesome this year. Especially if you like Diablo.”

    Part two kicks in after technical difficulties aborted part one. It’s only 9 minutes long, to finish up the hour.

    Wyatt Cheng on things that went well with Diablo 3.
    It’s nice to get some positive feedback. Many fans feel that while there’s room for improvement on items and skills, the actual skill system structure is solid and fairly well-liked. While they have many plans to improve individual skills, they think the overall system and function is solid.

    Every patch they do new builds open up. Lots of early experimentation that quickly settled on a few builds that are the best. Current example is Witch Doctor’s Cloud of Bats; some like, some don’t. But there should be multiple options to pick one that’s best for your play style. Sweet legendaries should/will support that further.

    Demon Hunters problems. The most fan discontent about this class. Can you devs talk about the problems and solutions?
    The Demon Hunter can feel very binary at times. Like you’re doing speed DiabloWikiMP0 Inferno clears and dominating, or else it’s impossible and you’re dying like a dog.

    There’s definitely an over-reliance on DiabloWikiShadow Power right now. [A skill that provides short term defensive buffs plus huge life leech.] We understand that it’s an issue and we’d like to change it. And that contributes to the Demon Hunter feeling “binary” since you’re going along fine and then suddenly you’re dead. And that’s not great.

    I think that the damage ratios that you get between generating and spending Hatred are off. We’re actively examining that and plan to correct. No ETA, but we want to make clear that we know about it. For instance, DiabloWikiHungering Arrow does comparable or better damage than DiabloWikiImpale. Impale is a heavy single target hatred spender while Hungering Arrow is free, and that’s way off balance. Impale needs a big buff.

    Across the board, the benefit you get from quite a few Hatred spenders is insufficient.

    Final thoughts from Josh Mosqueira on what’s coming up in the Diablo world.

    Thanks for having us and we hope to do more direct fan interviews in the future. We like the direct two-way conversation, it’s more constructive than just forum posts and such.

    As a long time fan of Diablo, one of my all time favorite moments in gaming was the opening of D1. With the cinematic with the crow eating the eye, and the amazing gothic feel of the game. And then spending hours going thgouth the Cathedrals and the rest of the game. What made D1 feel so special wasn’t just the characters and monsters and levels, but that it felt like a game I could keep coming back to over and over again.

    As we’re sitting here now, a year after Diablo III’s launch, I’m really looking forward to the future. Diablo III has a few wrinkles in it, but at the foundation it’s a really strong game. I love the combat system and how visceral it is. It gives the game great legs to go into the future. What we’re working on a day to day basis is how to give you guys more options how to play the game. Give you more goals. Deliver on the promise that is Diablo.

    I realize I’m the new guy in the director’s seat, but I came to Blizzard because I love Diablo and I want to really take on the challenge… how can I faithfully translate this awesome game to the console? And now going forward, how can we, and I mean we developers and the community as well, take this game into the future. I look forward to talking to you guys more, and when it’s time to reveal some of our future plans I hope you guys are as excited about them as we are here.

    Good details on a lot of stuff, and not a bad selection of questions, especially from a non-Diablo streamer. The Devs were fairly forthcoming; more so than they wanted to be in some cases, I think. They’re not DiabloWikiBill Roper-esque in their PR-fu, and when they’re giving their “we like that idea but can’t give details about it yet” it’s not hard to tell when they’re talking about something that’s not even on the drawing board yet (PvP) or something that’s under heavy construction and will probably be part of D3X (Ladders, items overhaul). Related to this article

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    12 thoughts on “Diablo 3 Developers Video Interview

    1. “They are putting in work on some sort of Ladder system for Diablo 3. No details yet.”

      Did I miss something? I thought he just said that it was something that “comes up”.

      • That’s his longest reply, and it segues into “we can’t talk about yet” and then “but Blizzcon will be awesome for Diablo this year.” I didn’t think it was real hard to put 2 and 2 together on that reply.

    2. Hmm, well I can get on board about adding “rune effects” to legendarys that either support the main skill or support an actual rune itself. I can imagine that would take a good amount of effort to come up with how ever many ideas they plan on implementing. As for the rest of the “big announcements” I guess we’ll have to wait until blizzcon because the only thing they have really confirmed is at least one of the ways they’re approaching itemization.
      I like that they recognize the Auction House undermines item progression so I wonder what they have as plans for that. Maybe making only rares trade-able on the Auction House but not legendarys or sets or making it so only ilvl60 items can be traded but nothing higher?
      Oh also about the ring example Wyatt used as “useless affixes” such as Str and Int on a ring. How about just making those stats useful for all classes…. the small amount they do give such as str giving more armor isn’t enough the gains should be more meaningful so that all classes would be “ok” with any of the stats. Don’t tune the item drops so only “useful” items drop for your class.

      • So the overfocus on approachable is gone? That would be good news indeed.

        PS: For whatever reason, the site shows me as “Logged in as The Vortex”. What’s up with the login the last days?

    3. I am a bit concerned that every time the matter on interesting legendaries comes up the discussion always turns towards proc effects. I just get the feeling that they still haven’t reexamined the bland itemization the game currently suffers. Legendaries don’t need to resort to complex proc effects to be interesting if the stat system itself was deeper and more interesting.

      I don’t think proc effects alone can save legendaries in the context of the current stat system.

        • Go back to Diablo 1. Give players capped stats, so barbs could never get more than 50 wisdom, wizards could never get more than 50 strength. Then have various affixes of +wisom and +strength. Then have a few particular uniques that have massive bonuses to stats but have other downsides compared to other items.

          Now classes have reasons to get different items. At the moment, it seems only Monks have any particular affixes that they look for, which is all resists + specific resist they’re focusing on. Boring.

      • Yeah, they’ve got tons of feedback about this, but it’s like they don’t ‘get it’.

    4. I can´t understand why they keep brainstorming like they say they do, and still no changes. I mean… why? What are they waiting for? If they mean to have a different item system in D3X that´s ok, but do you realize that the expansion will not come this year? It will take at least 1 year and a half for Blizzard to release it, as it usually is after they announce it.
      So many interviews about big changes that are coming and no changes yet.

      How can it be that PvP is in its infant stages after they had a full system on previous Blizzcon? How is it possible that they want to do a lot of things for PvP, but we still have a very (VERY) limited deathmatch, one of the first multiplayer ideas that started back in the 90s, and we are in 2013 and they have no idea as to what to do with it?
      I read in Flux´s article about his visit that Blizzard devs are big gamers. If so, this doesn´t show up here I´m afraid. So many ideas have been proposed in the full year that D3 has been out to even flesh out a complete overhaul.

      I understand that the game was not supposed to be patched constantly, nor have new content added regularly, and that´s ok. But it would not be necesary if the game was created in a different way. Some design decitions are awfull and I expect that a lot of changes happen in D3X. What about one of the more common ideas of Diablo, that areas are random (not like most D3 areas). Josh says he is a big fan of D1. In a way, I think D1 was more random than D2, not to mention D3.

      My 2 cents 😛

      • Here’s what I truly think. The game had a bad launch as many people know/believe/don’t believe/whatever. Everyone gets so mad because they don’t release any information. If they said “we’re testing ‘this'”, you know as well as I do that the entire community would come up with a million reasons why it’s “fail” and therefore it’s garbage before it’s even finished being developed. And it wouldn’t just stop there. The community would then roll it into “a garbage idea that will add on top of a garbage game” and so personally I don’t blame them in the least for keeping a tight lip. “How can you say PvP is still in its infancy stage?” When they say that they’ve tested several different models extensively and none of them felt right….it leads me to believe that they have very little as far as a working model to offer up. Which…again…sends me to my previous statement…”THIS is what we’re doing currently with PvP” and then the community trashes it before it’s even done. It’s a horrid circle. The working model they had at Blizzcon obviously was flawed to the point that they trashed it. When it comes to a community that’s as vicious as it is already, you think they want to released an unbalanced PvP feature? They’d never live it down. I think it’s better that they keep a tight lip. Then they will put out the product that’s tested and closely balanced (hopefully). The price you have to pay is…well…waiting for it. I’d rather wait than have broken elements introduced for the sake of releasing something…I’d think most people would agree.

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