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    Our occasional columnist and podcast guest Grug attended the PAX East convention in Boston last week, and took the occasion to stop by the Diablo III demo and spend some time conversing with DiabloWikiBashiok. Rather than restating or elaborating on things, I’ll just quote Grug’s email, since he sums things up concisely.

    Back at PAX East I got to talk to Micah Whipple one on one in person about Diablo 3. We covered a variety of topics, including the opening experience, progression, and other stuff. I learned a lot.

    The beta content is exactly as it will appear in game. Nothing was “withheld” from the beta. All the story content and such that has been mentioned (by Blizzard as kept out of the Beta) was moved after the DiabloWikiSkeleton King fight in order to prevent spoilers and keep the early experience straightforward. In Bashiok’s own words, “It’s not helpful to us to have people testing a different version of the game.”

    The other thing, more interesting, is in regards to PvP. He says that the reason PvP is not going to be with release is because they had not developed it very much. I was told that they had the basic functionality we saw at Blizzcon, but with only two arenas and none of the matchmaking or progression infrastructure they wanted. As was said in the press release, it came down to releasing the game or stalling for another few months.

    In terms of post release support, there will NOT be any content updates aside from PVP post release. They will still make balance adjustments and bug fixes, but new dungeons, quests, and such will not happen. This is because Diablo 3 is a single box product and will be supported similarly to Diablo 2.

    A few commenters have questioned if this is legit. I think so; I know Grug and know that he knows Bashiok personally. Note that Grug is a very active poster on the B.net forums, and is mentioned by name by Bashiok in this thread. It’s possible that Grug misheard or misremembered something between PAX and writing me this email, but he’s as knowledgeable about this stuff as anyone in the Diablo community, so I think we can take his report as accurate.

    Bashiok’s comments about PvP and patch content are interesting but very straight-forward, so I don’t have anything to add to them. I am surprised by the info about the beta being identical in content to the full game, since it shoots down a theory that a lot of players have speculated about since the beta began. The theory is that the Diablo 3 Beta is much different in form than the full game. I wrote about it back in October, with credit to Grug for first pointing out several of the points of evidence.

    Click through for more analysis of that issue:

    Naturally, you’re encouraged to read the original article, but here’s a quick summary, mostly quoted from the original. (The only things in that article that are now out of date are the mentions of the three inventory items, since Blizzard removed the DiabloWikiNephalem Cube and the DiabloWikiCauldron of Jordan some months ago. However, the DiabloWikiTown Portal in the game now has the same problem of being abruptly and inexplicably granted by a quest reward that the DiabloWikiStone of Recall did back in the day.)

  • There are many more levels in Act One that are not in the beta than the levels that are in the beta.
  • Monsters lack variety or progression, and the Cultists are almost entirely excluded.
  • The 3 special inventory items are presented without any support story or quest connections. (Town Portal only, now.)
  • The Templar quest is rushed and feels incomplete, and also provides a weirdly-abrupt introduction to the Cultist monster type.
  • There’s no logical progression in content or design from the Cathedral to Leoric’s skeleton-themed levels.
  • Leoric appears and is defeated too soon in the game, with most of his story presented much later in the act.
  • In light of those issues, which seem the same now as they did back in September and October when beta testers knowledgeable about the larger plot and story of Act One first noticed them, I’m genuinely surprised to hear that the Beta is essentially identical to the full game.

    Perhaps the additional story content in the full game makes the sequence of events more logical, but it seems weird to me that we get a few early lore books and one short cinematic about DiabloWikiLeoric, battle him, defeat him, and then spend most of the rest of Act One clearing levels like Leoric’s Torture Chamber, Leoric’s Jail, and Leoric’s Manor. Other content found later in Act One includes the ghostly in-game cinematic of DiabloWikiQueen Alyssa‘s beheading, the discovery of lore books by DiabloWikiLachdanan and DiabloWikiLazarus, and several other Leoric-related things I won’t mention because SPOILERS.

    All of which are fine for game content, but all of which seem, to me, like content that would be best delivered before we battle Leoric, as knowing more about his madness and evil would add much more dramatic heft and importance to the battle.

    Apparently not, and some readers in comments have offered reasonable counter theories, that having faced Leoric, we’ll find all the rest of the content related to him more interesting.

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