There’s not much at BlizzCon 2017 for Diablo 3, there really is only one panel worth checking out and that was the Necromancer visual effects panel. Here’s how it went down.
On the panel for Blizzard was Julian Love. the lead VFX artist, and Jane Johnston VFX artist on Diablo who was a late addition to the Diablo team when the Necromancer was being developed.
Julian Love’s favourite skill he worked on was the Skeleton Mage. It took three or four months to make it work. Jane Johnston’s favourite skill to work on was Bone Spirit and this skill helped her learn the skills as she joined the team quite late while the Necromancer was being developed. Jane said it was a real challenge but took a lot of iteration. She also said that when she joined Blizzard, she was given a lot of time to learn the VFX tools which helped.
Curses were a challenge but they wanted to improve their visibility from Diablo 2. It meant creating a more distinguished space so the player could understand it. They added an icon to a character’s head but that caused problems so they went through numerous iterations. They pulled back on the curse’s colours to make sure they were not too “happy” for Diablo.
The VFX guys worked with the animators and other team members quite early. For the Necromancer, they have a “feature” team which includes designers, engineers, CFX artist, modelers, and animators. Somebody with each of those skills comes together on one team who work together on a daily basis. This team would meet three times a week and carry it through right the way to completion. Jane said that learning to work in a feature team was probably harder than learning the actual software.
To get the Necromancer’s bone theme, they had a concept artist who contributed a lot of drawings. The whole team then chipped in with ideas but they knew the bone theme was important for the Necromancer.
For Command Skeletons they looked back at Diablo 2 and realised there were things they needed to bring back. This caused problems and they knew they had an issue with players having to raise skeletons themselves. This lead to the idea of summoning them over time.
Deadlines are important and Love says that they can help you make better decisions. “if you have forever to make a game you might take forever to make a game”. However, deadlines can mean you never find the fun and that’s important to think about before just shipping a game. Love says that there’s no point shipping a game that isn’t fun. How you use deadlines is important.
Poison was an area they thought they could use to differentiate between the Witch Doctor and the Necromancer. Love says that if you looked back at posion in Diablo 2, there was probably only one poison skill that was really used. They had a theme with one strong poison skill which wasn’t a good reason to “pull poison forward”. Love said, “that pulling the nuclear green theme I don’t think would have served out goals of a dark themed class”. He described the With Doctor as “semi-dark” where he’s dark but a bit zany. However, humour was not a good idea for the Necromancer class. The VFX team came up with a different take on by focusing on a death and decay feeling which allowed them to steer clear of the bright green Witch Doctor associations.
The Necromancer caused issues with the amount of visual noise they would create and they got hold of tech that marked some effects that would only play locally and the other teammates wouldn’t see them. The team retrospectively looked at the other classes to apply the tech to every other class for multiplayer. This was change was made when the Necromancer class was released.
Love said that you had to love the original necromancer to bring the class up to speed in a new game. Love says they struggled along the way and Bone Spear looked totally different than it does now. “it was big spine 10 feet long and it looked cool”. The problem was it didn’t look like Bone Spear so they decided to not go with that design. This lead them to starting over to create something audience understands.
It was s short panel that ran for 30 minutes but it was interesting to hear more about their approach to VFX.