There were a lot of requests for more quest details during last week’s live chats, so um…. here you go. Almost all of this is from my notes and memories of playing through the demo four times at this year’s Blizzcon, with supplemental details taken largely from the PAX gameplay reports by AERobinson and Zagreus. (The gameplay reports by general gaming sites are too lacking in details to be of any real use for this sort of detailed aticle.)
Here’s the start of the article, with some general quest info. Click through to read the specific details on ten quests, and some tidbits about non-quest scripted actions.
Quests in Diablo 3
As soon as I began playing this year’s Blizzcon build, t was immediately evident that Diablo 3’s quest system had undergone substantial work since Blizzcon 2008. The quest system now is more scientific and organized, and that includes the visuals such as the quest window.
Blizzard didn’t release any screenshots showing off the interfaces this year, but with all of the ninja’ed gameplay footage, we’ve got our pick of blurry, low-quality views. Such as the one to the right. (Click here to see the full image, and get a sense of how much (little) space the Quest Window takes up on the screen.)
The quest window is a fairly plain rectangle, which displayed one large icon for the main quest in this year’s demo, the journey to find Alcarnus. Below that were two smaller square icons, which were initially grayed out and unclickable when you started playing the demo. Once you activated those quests, by entering the correct area or speaking with a particular NPC, they lit up in color and became clickable. There were never more than two such sub-quests in a game, but they were different ones each time, picked randomly from a few that were available in the demo. One such quest, Blood Money, is highlighted in the screenshot.
Below the top window is a narrower space that could hold icons representing up to four missions. These were simpler tasks than the quests, usually with their giver and the task in the same area. You had to find five stranded NPC soldiers and fight off the Lacuni that were attacking them, or locate an abandoned wagon and retrieve the treasure. Many of those are described below, and no, there were none of the dreaded, “Collect the horns from 10 Snuffalumps and return them to NPC X.” type FedEx missions.
When you’ve done something that changes the state of a quest; received a new clue, found a quest item, or finished a quest entirely, a little ! icon pops up over your tool belt. When you open the quest window with that icon active, the new information will display, letting you know what you’ve done and where you need to go next.
Aside from Alcarnus, which was the main quest in every game, there was a great deal of variety in the quests and missions found in each game. In the four games I played, I saw one mission in every game, others just once or twice, and I read hands on reports about quests that I never saw at all, either since I didn’t have time to explore the whole area each game, or because I just got unlucky on the random task spawning. Here’s an official comment on that topic:
I think in the demo that we have here, there’s just over 30 different things that can happen in all the spots. Whether that’s too high or too low will be partly based on what feedback we’re going to see from the people that actually got a chance to play it here, and based on what we feel like. We know how we feel about it right now but we want to compare that to what the players who have a chance to play feel, and then we’re going to try to look at that again. So this is one big area, what a smaller area or one that’s more linear has is also yet to be determined. But certainly way more things will happen in one playing area than happened in Diablo II.
—Julian Love, Gameplanet NZ interview
As for the individual quests, none were all that involved or detailed, but that’s to be expected in a demo. In fact, the Skeleton King quest in last year’s Blizzcon demo was a bigger and more complicated quest than anything we saw this year. That’s not due to the game lacking content; it’s more about the D3 Team picking a demo area for this year’s show build that wouldn’t give away any secrets or require (or grant) any knowledge of the overall game plot. This year’s demo started just outside the gates of a large city, and we were told that in the real game, a player at this point would have just learned a great deal of story information in the city. They started us past it since they don’t want to share the plot yet. For the same reason, the main quest couldn’t exactly be finished. It was completed simply by reaching Alcarnus, but there was nothing to do in the city, in relation to the quest.
More details in the individual quests below.
The main quest was given by the NPC Asheara, apparently making her return from Diablo 2. In a short conversation Asheara, who is still a mercenary captain, said that the city was lost, unreachable across the desert wastes. Your character was undaunted, and replied confidentally that they would find it nevertheless. Each of the four classes had slightly different dialogue, but they were united in a common self confidence and determination to see the mission through.
Sadly, Asheara said the exact same thing to the Barbarian as she did to the Monk, Wizard, and Witch Doctor. I was curious, wondering if she might recognize him from the events in Kurast, twenty years before. Nope. I guess all grizzled, forty-year-old Barbarians look pretty much the same?
Although the mission to reach Alcarnus was the main quest in the demo, it was one of the least interesting missions. There was nothing to do but follow the road through the desert. No clues were offered, no special tricks had to be performed. Your character just had to get there alive, which wasn’t hard, but could not be done in the 15-20 minute play sessions most fans got, unless they really made good time and didn’t detour off the dirt road at all. (Playing in the press room I wasn’t so rushed, and after exploring the desert I eventually reached the city with all four of the characters.)
In Alcarnus your character discovered horror and misery. The Dark Cultists had overrun the city and slain or imprisoned all of the inhabitants. Maimed and gruesome corpses were everywhere, many of them skewered on stakes or stretched out on torture racks. Dark Cultists abounded, and had to be slaughtered, ideally before they could transform into the much more dangerous Animated Vessels. The imprisoned citizens could be freed with a click on their cages, but they did nothing more than thank you before running off and vanishing once they crossed the bridge out of town. The first time I got to town and freed one, he dropped an item, so I figured that was par for the course. To my surprise, not another one dropped an item again, through all four games that I played. I’d bet on that being a bug in the item generation, rather than a super rare drop. (There was another bug in the item dropping, since every large chest you brought up from the Mine Pits on a chain delayed a few seconds, then dropped one measily pile of gold; far less than the average chests scattered all over the levels.)
As for Alcarnus, there was no there, there. The quest was finished as soon as you crossed the bridge into town, and even killing all of the Dark Cultists did nothing more. The quest complete message said something like, “The scene in the city was even worse than you’d feared.” And it never changed after that, no matter what else your character did. Alcarnus was a dead end, with no exit out of town or anything there other than Dark Cultists, and that I did confirm was a feature (non-feature?) worked in just for the Blizzcon build.
When I played the Monk I explored extensively, and actually ran all the way back to Asheara after clearing out Alcarnus. She had nothing to say; no new message or prompt, and didn’t even acknowledge that I’d completed the mission. I’m sure that won’t be the case in the final game, and that she’ll turn up in the city once you clear it out, or something like that. A Blizzard designer confirmed to me that that the city itself was altered for the demo, and that there’s much more to it in the full game. It was just another example of them removing the quest advancement stuff since they wanted to keep the plot and story details from the players at this point.
Blood Money was a fairly simple mission. The quest required the player to retrieve an item and return it to Captain Dagved for a reward. The only complication was that this item was the head of Husami, a notorious bandit, who was not necessarily eager to surrender it. Funny how bandits are always like that.
The quest notification was odd, since there was an NPC who talked about this quest, but you could also find a wanted poster on the side of a building that gave it to you. I’m not sure if what you had to do to get the reward varied depending on how you initially received the quest.
The beginning of the task was the same either way. Conveniently, Husami could be found in the Outlaw Camp, a small collection of tents that spawned (some games) in the Howling Plateau. (I got this quest twice in my four games.) He was the only NPC there, which made it seem silly to have all those tents. Perhaps the rest of the quest wasn’t enabled at Blizzcon? At any rate, the one game I found Husami there, I engaged him in some witty dialogue, before attacking him. He was a fairly easy kill, much less tough than any random monster boss, and quite conveniently, his head popped right off when he died. Lucky thing, since I was playing a Monk that game and armed only with a blunt staff and my bare hands, the head removal could have been problematic.
Sadly, I didn’t think to look at the head in my quest items inventory. I just clicked it on the ground and went about my exploration. In retrospect I wish I had, since now I’m curious if the head would have been all gruesome staring eyes and lolling tongue, or if it was safely stashed in a canvas sack?
I never actually finished this quest, since the one game I found Husami and got his head, I never returned to the Enclave of Khamsim to get the reward. I did note a bunch of oddities about this quest though, in terms of which parts of it were visible depending on which order I found them in. It showed clearly that the quests in Diablo 3 are not set up as they were in Diablo 2.
In Diablo 2 the order of events seldom mattered; if you got to the Graveyard in Act 1, you’d find Blood Raven whether you’d already received the quest from Kashya or not. And if you killed Blood Raven, when you returned to town and talked to Kashya, she’d first recite the quest giving speech, then immediately go into the success speech, which began with those familiar words. “I can hardly believe you’ve defeated Blood Raven!” which is as much of the speech as most furiously-clicking players ever heard.
The Blood Money quest was different, since the parts weren’t all there if I didn’t do it in the right order. Here’s how it worked, as best I can remember.
# The first time I got the quest from the Wanted Poster, but was never able to find the Outlaw Camp in my limited play time.
# The second time I found the camp and Husami was there. He gave me some lip and played like a tough guy, but he died very easily, his head rolling cleanly free. As best I recall, I received a reward immediately, even though I’d never seen the Wanted Poster in that game.
# The third time I found the Outlaw Camp, but it was empty of any NPCs. I then tried to find the Enclave where I’d previously seen the poster, but couldn’t find it, or the Wanted Poster. I suspect it wasn’t to be found, as that random quest simply hadn’t spawned in that game, though it seemed odd that the Outlaw Camp had?
Stranded is a fairly simple “rescue and defend the NPCs” type mission. It took place in the ruins of a small town out in the desert wastes. There was one NPC who talked, a Captain of some sort who urged you to find and save the remainder of his men, who had become scattered while fighting off a monster attack. The captain had five men who needed to be rescued, and they were pretty easily found spread around the ruined structures, none more than a screen or so away from his fellows. The whole thing was reminiscent of the “Rescue the Barbarians” quest in Act Five of D2X, though these soldiers were much closer together and less well-defended.
When you found each of the men he would be fighting a Lacuni huntress or a couple of Fallen Imps or other minor monsters. Once you killed the monster attacking them, the NPC would thank you and follow you and fight (ineffectually, except as a tank) by your side. The sequence of this one varied too, since the first time I got this quest I found two of the men before I found their captain. They followed me anyway, and the captain’s speech was the same once I showed up with two of his guys already in tow.
Once I found all five of the men and returned to their Captain, he thanked me, and gave me some minor reward. The quest wasn’t over yet though, and in fact the cool part started next. A few seconds after the captain’s speech, just as I was moving away, he started shouting and I heard the sounds of combat. I ran back, and there were dozens of Lacuni streaming in from the edge of the screen. Quest dialogue popped up to inform me that I had to protect the men from the ambush.
This part was a lot of fun, since it took place in a small section of ruined plaza. As the onslaught of monsters continued, literally dozens of Lacuni huntresses (but none of the much larger and more formidable Lacuni Warriors) came running through one narrow archway, while Fallen Imps came streaming through another one, on the other side of the screen. The monsters came in small groups, and were timed to force the player to run back and forth between them, defending the hapless NPCs.
I found myself running to the top left, where I’d kill off 4-6 Lacuni Huntresses, then the shouts of panic would draw me back to the lower right, where I’d have to wipe out a small mob of Fallen Imps. I’d then rush back to the top left, just in time to see a few more Lacuni Huntresses coming. I’d kill them as they came through the doorway, and as they died I’d hear more shouts from my right, while I saw another few Huntresses coming from the edge of the screen and heading towards the same archway.
This quest was fun, but since none of the NPCs died, I can’t say it was very hard. I think it would have been a blast with two or more players, since then I and a friend could have split up and each guarded one archway, taking on the monsters in those narrow bottlenecks and feeling like we were exercising some actual strategy instead of just running back and forth like Lucy on the chocolate production line.
The Lost Girl.
This was the quest I got the most often, other than the default Alcarnus quest. I think I got this one every game, or perhaps I just happened to explore the area this quest spawned in more than some of the others. This quest had 3 parts, any of which could trigger it. The main portion was finding a small circle of Dark Cultists gathered around a young girl tied to a stake. The Cultists were nasty looking, but very weak, and once slaughtered the girl became clickable. Her name was Varna, and when clicked her chains broke and she staggered free. Gasping and speaking slowly and painfully, she gave a speech about being kidnapped by Zakarwa. She said she was doomed, that she’d seen what happened to the other girls, but she begged you to follow her. That part was fairly boring, since she walked very slowly, stopping to vomit up green splattery goo on a regular basis. (Varna was shown in the blooper reel as part of the character panel, when in an early version she just never stopped her fire hose projectile vomiting.)
After about half a minute and covering maybe one screen of distance to the north, she’d start to moan and wail as well as vomiting, and finally, mercifully, exploding in a messy green splatter of gruesome guts. (Her corpse explosion like death dealt no damage to the player—it didn’t even cover you in green goo—even if you were standing right beside her.
The gist of Varna’s dying comments were that she was going to lead you to her village. And since she walked straight towards the top of the screen, it was fairly obvious that I was to continue on in that direction. When I did, I’d come into sight of a small human encampment some screens distant. (It was easy, as always, to get sidetracked fighting monsters in the desert.)
North of her dying location lay the Enclave of Khamsin, a small town in the trackless wilds of the Stinging Winds area. I assume there will be a merchant NPC here in the final game, but at the Blizzcon demo there were just 4 or 5 NPCs, most of whom were clickable at one time or another. (But not all at once; only when whichever quest they were part of was active.)
I didn’t note her father’s name, but depending on when I spoke with him, he had two different ways to respond to the news of his daughter’s gruesome death. (My character always just came out and told him; the heroes of Sanctuary have no bedside manner.) If I’d come right from saving the daughter, the father wouldn’t believe my story. He’d instead talk about how she’d been dead for weeks, a fact he knew since Zakarwa had told him so. If I’d already killed Zakarwa, the father would refuse to believe that Zakarwa was dead or that he’d done evil, since he was the hero who had saved the village. Dad was on an Egyptian river cruise in either case.
As for Zakarwa, his events differed as well, depending on the order. If I found Zakarwa’s isolated tent out in the desert before finding the girl, there was no one there. I only recognized the place since I’d seen it before, in other games. Most of the time I found that place after finding the girl and/or talking to her dad, and then Zakarwa was standing in front of the tent, near a circle of Dark Cultists. The cultists were fairly easy kills, though they were a lot nastier than the Dark Cultists I’d earlier found surrounding the girl.
Once they were dead, a conversation with Zakarwa ensued. It had the same ending, but two possible paths.
If I’d come straight from finding the girl, Zakarwa was full of excuses about how he’d had to do it, and how if he hadn’t sold the girls to the cultists the whole town would have been massacred and turned into another Alcarnus. He ended up begging for his life and sobbing rotten apologies. 2) If I’d talked to the girl’s dad before I found Zakarwa, he was more repentant and depressed, and ended up begging me to kill him and put him out of his misery.
In both scenarios, Zakarwa ended up running in circles and sobbing and putting up no resistance to my character, and with all four characters I cut him down, killing him in 2 or 3 hits. He always wound up suffering a critical hit death, and flying backwards with a bloody smear, or exploding into pieces or something else entertainingly gruesome. I think he was set to always take critical hit damage on the killing blow, so his death was guaranteed to be impressive, no matter what sort of attack was used to kill him.
This quest was given by Alesar, an NPC found in the Enclave of Khamsin. Alesar was in the Enclave every game, but he only talked to me and gave me this quest twice, so I’m not sure if it’s random, or if the other two times I didn’t do something to trigger it; finish another quest, enter the right part of the desert before speaking with Alesar, etc.
When the quest was live, Alesar delivered a very bitter and vitriolic speech about his missing son. “The boy was never any use in life. Children are a burden. Even in death he’s causing me no end of trouble.” Etc. The gist of Alesar’s complaints were that his son was killed by a huge Sand Thresher, one so large it could “swallow a wagon whole.” Alesar warns you about the Sand Threshers (he does this even when the quest is not active), and he asks you to retrieve an amulet his son was wearing when the huge Sand Thresher consumed him.
The quest is fairly simple once it’s given; you just explore the trackless wastes around the Enclave of Khamsin until you find a large clearing, where a very large (but not gigantic, as I’d been expecting) Sand Thresher is basking on the surface. Once you get close it wakes up and dives under the ground, then attacks like any other demon of its kind. It wasn’t actually very tough, much to my surprise, and when it died I saw Aleser’s Pendent gleaming beside the corpse. Returning it to Alesar earned no verbal thanks (he just went on another diatribe about his worthless son and how at least now he could stop worrying about the idiot child) but he did grudgingly give my character a rare item reward and some experience.
The Collapsing Tomb
Probably the most memorable quest in the demo, this one was a timed mission. After entering the portal, the player appears in one of the dungeon tombs. A timer showing 4:00 is visible on the screen, and it starts counting down as your character makes pronouncements like, “This place is falling apart. I’ve got to get out of here!” and “I’d better take what I can get and get out!” The roof is indeed collapsing, and showers of boulder-sized rocks are constantly falling down. They deal minor damage and a knock back to your character if they hit you, and will hurt the monsters quite badly if they connect with them.
This quest was discussed in various interviews, since the D3 team is proud of it. It’s a good representation of the type of “force the player to change their gameplay style” quests they’re working to include in D3. The trick of this one is that your character must find the exit (another waypoint-looking portal) before the timer runs down to 0:00, or they will die when the tomb collapses. If you die in the collapse (I did, my first time in this dungeon. That was my only character death at Blizzcon this year.) you restart at the last checkpoint, near the dungeon entrance. You can not re-enter the dungeon, but your character keeps everything you found while in the dungeon.
Besides the time limit, the other big change to gameplay is due to the rewards in the tomb. There are a normal amount of monsters, including a lot of Tomb Vipers who are cloaked (invisible) until you are in range, when they materialize and assault you. There’s even a boss or two, to be found. The monsters aren’t the goal though, since there are dozens of chests all over the level, quite a few of them the “transcendent chests” that are the Sparkling chests of Diablo 3.
The real riches in the Collapsing Tomb come from these chests, many of which contained 8-10 stacks of gold along with 4-6 rare items, all of which came fountaining out when they were clicked upon. (There are no locked chests in D3 at this time.) As a result, the monsters in these tombs are obstacles, speed bumps that get between your character and heaps of rare items, and the larger goal; finding the exit before the roof falls on your head.
This one rewarded my characters with 7995 experience (which was far, far more than I’d have gotten from killing all of the monsters inside the tomb; they were worth around 50-100 each at that point in the game). Once back on the surface, the countdown clock remained visible, finally vanishing when it got to 0 and a, “The tomb collapses” message appeared. (Probably that was to help keep count in multiplayer games, or maybe the programming was new and they hadn’t put in anything to make the timer vanish once you left the tomb.)
The Lost Wagon
This one I got 3 out of my 4 games. So it was common, but it was also one of the least memorable missions. The quest was given by an NPC found sitting against a rock near the start of The Stinging Winds level. He did his usual “dying message from an NPC” thing, gasping about the caravan and the monster ambush, and telling my character that a great treasure could be found near the last wagon. He’d say it was to the North or the East, depending on where he spawned in the level, which was a nice touch.
The wagon itself was fairly unremarkable, just a broken old wooden contraption, and while the chest found on it spit out a rare or two most games, and there was usually a monster boss in the area, it didn’t really feel like much of a quest.
I believe this concept art fueled the look of the ruined wagon, but honestly, this concept art is 50x cooler and more violent. In the game, at least as of Blizzcon 2009, the wagon was just slightly broken, with a bunch of broken boxes and other junk lying around on the ground.
The Necromancer’s Book
This was the only quest I received that I wasn’t able to finish, at Blizzcon. I only got this one in one game, and I was in a hurry playing it, so didn’t have time to fully and completely explore the area. Which probably explains why I couldn’t finish it.
It’s an odd quest, since your character finds a glowing sort of post, and perhaps also a “bridge lever.” They’re clickable, but they only give a message finding the Necromancer’s Book, a quest item that I wasn’t able to find, and apparently neither was anyone else, from what I’ve read online. If anyone at Blizzcon did work through this quest, let me know or post your information in the comments.
The post shown here was part of the bridge, as seen in one of Blizzard’s official screenshots . See how it glows, so pretty!
The Idol of Rygnar
The Idol of Rygnar was a quest that took the player down into the Lost Ruins, one of the sub-desert dungeons. In this one the player finds an NPC standing around on the surface, near a dungeon entrance. The NPC’s name is Poltahr, and when spoken to he tells a story about how he’s been hunting for an idol for years, and has finally tracked it to this dungeon. He can’t get to it through, with all of the monsters inside in the way, and he begs your character to help clear a path through the dangers.
When you accept this challenge Poltahr follows you down into the dungeon (I only got this quest once, so didn’t have a chance to try to enter the dungeon without talking to the NPC first. I’d guess that the dungeon wouldn’t be accessible before speaking to Poltahr?) and runs along behind you, doing nothing to help fight the monsters. The idol is found on a little stand at the end of the dungeon, and once you’ve got it Poltahr asks you to help him get it back to town. Once you get him back out of the dungeon he rewards you with 8400 experience and a rare item.
A Miner’s Gold
A Miner’s Gold is a quest given by the Crazed Miner, and NPC found in the Canyon Rim Mines. The miner tells your character that a great treasure is in the chest below, but he needs your help to fight off the monstrs while he raises it up. If you accept the quest he starts pulling up the chest by turning a huge wheel, and the minute he does hordes of Fallen Imps come racing in to attack.
This quest follows the D3 theme of using quests to change the player’s play style. In this instance the player has to take on a huge number of monsters in a location with few natural defenses, and the fact that you must defend the miner means you can’t run away, or even engage in a fighting retreat.
There were not as many Scripted Events in this year’s Blizzcon demo as there were last year, though that statement is largely about classification. There were tons of scripted events this year, but almost all of them were part of a quest or mission, and as such they do not get their own individual entry. In last year’s Blizzcon build there weren’t any more scripted events, but most of them were isolated and not part of quests, so they got their own short entries.
I think the difference between the scripted events in the 2008 and 2009 Blizzcon build came from development time. Since last year, the developers had more time to flesh out quests and include scripted events as parts of them, and that’s what they did. Created scripted events must be fairly time consuming, and the team probably concluded that it’s smarter to attach them to quests and missions where they’ll be noticed and appreciated, rather than just throwing them in here and there, almost as Easter Eggs.
I expect that by now, many of the scripted events we noticed in last year’s Blizzcon build have been reworked and included in larger quests and missions.
That said, there were a few cool scripted events that were not parts of quests in this year’s Blizzcon build. Here’s a description of the coolest of them.
Not a quest or an event, this was just a cool little Scripted Event. It spawned in 2 of my 4 games, both times in The Howling Plateau. This one is also seen in the BlizzCon 2009 gameplay movie.
The setting is the ruins of a house, with just a few walls still standing. Players are directed there, if they approach from the south, by one or two wounded, dying humans lying in the sand. These NPCs are clickable, and when poked they deliver gasping, horror movie style last words, “The demons, they were… eating… us!”
Following the trail of the dead, the character soon finds a small square surrounded by ruined buildings. Sleeping off their feast are a large pack of Fallen, all lying scattered around the square, comically little trails of “Zzz” rising up from their head. When your character enters this area, the Fallen wake up and attack immediately, but they’re as easy to slaughter as ever, so your character should make short work of them.
When the Fallen are all dead, the few remaining humans can be clicked and freed, and they all say something like, “I thought we were doomed!” Before running out into the scorching, trackless wastelands without food or water. Good luck, boys.