“Inferno” — Fourth Difficulty Level Or Typo?

Forum debate has been swirling for the past week, since Blizzard posted an interview with DiabloWikiKevin Martens, in which he made this statement about DiabloWikiend game design.

How are you approaching balancing the game’s overall difficulty?

Kevin Martens: When it comes down to balancing the actual numbers, there is an expected amount of damage output that players should be able to sustain based on their level and gear. There is no absolute benchmark though, as skillful players will be able to do more damage with speed, precision, and advanced attack combos, while less experienced players will generally do less damage with more straight-forward attacks. The expected damage is a starting point to balance from. Balance must be maintained for both players types, and everyone in between, which can be tricky. Ultimately, it’s going to take the game’s harder difficulty modes — Hell and Inferno — to challenge the limits of the best Diablo III players.

I put an underline beneath the key part, in case you were zoning out before the last sentence. So did Kevin mean that literally? Maybe someone should ask @Diablo…

On the d3 beta announcement page (http://t.co/CKPxCE4) a difficulty mode called inferno is mentioned. Does this come after hell? 😉 –registryerror
I have no idea what you’re talking about… —Diablo

This seems very much like a non-denial of a denial. If the CM (presumably DiabloWikiBashiok) behind @Diablo didn’t want the issue to get mentioned, he wouldn’t have replied to the question. If he wanted to make clear that Martens was just speaking metaphorically, he could have said so. Or had the Bliz web team change/remove/fix that quote in the interview if it was giving readers the wrong idea. Instead he replied to it like this, which seems like a tease to get us wondering what they’ve got planned.

It’s working.

The developers have long said that they’re planning extra content for the end game — there are a bunch of quotes about it in the DiabloWikiend game article, most of them talking about giving players more stuff to do that’s challenging, varied, rewarding, and more fun than D2-style boss runs.

So what’s DiabloWikiInferno, then? I think we can rule out a full 4th difficulty level, since that would just repeat the same content for zero level up bonuses, and would turn into a D2-style “run the area that’s easiest over and over again” situation. Thus I’m guessing that Inferno is just their name for the full suite of PvE end game activities. Special bonus quests like D2’s DiabloWikiPandemonium Event? New epic difficulty dungeons? How about redesigned versions of earlier levels? Imagine doing all of the Act Bosses in a row, (or even all at once) with them rebalanced to be equivalent in difficulty, and much nastier than their Hell selves?

Update: Various clever commenters point out that Bashiok has named the difficulty levels as “Normal, Nightmare and Hell difficulty” several times, as recently as August 1st, which seems to counter the argument that the developers have merely renamed the three difficulty levels.

Update #2: Also pointed out in comments; one of the new B.net screenshots shows a Clvl 35 character in “Act One, Nightmare.”

Related to this article
  • Inferno is Going Down – Acts 1 & 2 Done [Videos]
  • Diablo 3 Inferno Presentation Stills & Video

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    92 thoughts on ““Inferno” — Fourth Difficulty Level Or Typo?

    1. I’m really excited about the possibilities for Inferno.  We really have no idea what this might be, but it has the gears spinning.  I’m sure it will be something really cool and extend the Diablo experience beyond where it has gone before.  More info please!!!

      • @ Flux: Thanks for the topic link. 🙂

        And yeah, even if Infeno’s completely untrue, it has at least got us thinking on the end game in a different light.

    2. I don’t think we can rule out a fourth difficulty since Martens refers to it as a difficulty.

      But what’s curious about this is that it almost seems like Martens made a mistake or a slip-up in simply mentioning it. I haven’t seen this level of denial from Bashiok since the Talisman. We’ve been hounding him for a while about it on the bnet forums, but this is the first he’s said anything on the subject.

      • I’m inclined to believe it is a 4th difficulty because it is specifically stated in context of “harder difficulty modes.” I wouldn’t think that, if he meant endgame content and quests, it would be tied to a harder difficulty mode, which implies something much more inclusive than just end-game content.
        That being said, I also don’t think its a slip-up. They decided to publish the article and they haven’t removed anything from it. I guarantee that it was deliberate and it is probably “exceeding their expectations.”

      • What if “Inferno” is the name for a Horde mode. For those that don’t know what Horde mode is in Gears of War 2, it’s a small map where 4 players try to survive wave after wave of progressively harder enemies. In Gears you don’t get much for beating it outside of barging rights. But in other games (more a kin to diablo) that have the same kind of mode, a la Borderlands, enemies still drop loot as normal, and after you beat the final wave you are given a uber chest with higher quality loot.

        • Anything that trivializes the main experience of the game itself won’t be included. There may be similar quest versions of this that you can stumble on while playing, but there won’t be a dedicated spot to accomplish something like this.

          • How does it trivializes something that they trivializes by having you play through hundreds of times over (after you have reached 60th) let a lone after the 3rd time you play through it?   A “Horde” mode would just be another option for players.

            • First I suggest reading the topic found in the first link. Second, if you still need it spelled out, compare ‘playing the whole game’ to the Diablo 2 practices of running the last boss or Mephisto or Pindle over and over and over and you’ve got something far more interesting.

              A big reason why no one ever did other acts than Act 5 for grinding was that the earlier acts didn’t drop anything good except scripted weighted drops like Countess. And then once you’ve got everything leveled out in terms of monster level, you need to make the random elements be the pieces that drop the best so that you’re compelled to look everywhere for the best dungeons and quests to get your loot rather than being forced to boss run.

            • When did they move Mephisto to act 5? 😉

              I read the topic and its just more of the same “end game wish list” that we have seen 100 times before.

              No one forced anyone to do Mephisto and Pindle runs, people just do them cause they are the fastest and most rewarding.

              If Blizzard does it wrong, people will only load up the last act and do for all the random dungeons then reload the game.

              If Blizzard does it right they will give us a reason to play through the whole game. One way would be, giving every act a % complete, the higher the % the better the loot will be for that acts boss. They would also have to tie it to the next act. Meaning if I do 100% of act 1 and then go to do 100% of act two the act two boss will have a chance to drop better loot then if you just got 100% in only one of the acts. And so on and so forth. This would be giving players a reason to play through the whole game.

              But they could still have a “horde” mode to give players that don’t want to play through the acts another way to get loot. And they make the chance to get the same good loot in the same time, in affect giving players another option, and I think we can all agree variety is good.

    3. My first guess would be a Borderlands Playthrough 2.5 type thing. Basically Inferno would be a difficulty where every enemy (even the lowliest fallen) has the highest level possible, and could drop theoretically every item in the game.

      • Hopefully this. Being able to run anywhere throughout the game rather than 3 or 4 areas and still have anything drop would be awesome.

        • Except at that point you end up with a “Firewall sorcs in the Bloody Foothills” situation where everyone figures out the fastest area in the game to run and just rinses and repeats.

          • Not if random elements are included, such as if they placed random uber bosses randomly in the world, in almost any location far away from town, in any dungeon, or a cave. This would motivate players to explore and kill enemies everywhere, instead of just a few areas.

    4. I’d like Inferno to be either another difficulty, or potentially even an epic quest along the lines of Uber Trist, but less tedious  :p

    5. Wouldn’t it be cool if it was a special endless event type thing, where waves of ever increasingly difficult monsters are just pouring out of hell and the idea is to defeat as many waves as you can before eventually getting killed?  It’s basically the same idea as an endless cow level type of thing, but with a lot of variation and randomness in the types and strengths of creatures that come out.  It would be nice if it’s handled in waves, so you have some amount of time to loot and heal up before getting the next wave of monsters.

      You guys think it could be something like this?  Doing an event like this with 4 players would be amazing!

      • ^ THIS, and so much of it. You could even get variable random rewards based on your performance, ala Darkspore. That would be awesome.

      • Sounds like Dawn of War – Last stand.  And that is definitely one of my favorite mods for a game so I would personally love it.

      • As I said above, anything that trivializes the main experience of the game itself won’t be included. There may be similar quest versions of this that you can stumble on while playing, but there won’t be a dedicated spot to accomplish something like this.

        I do admit something like this could be pretty fun, but I actually see it as more of a “PvP” type mode competing to kill the most monsters rather than something to get loot.

      • this sounds pretty cool , but it doesn’t sound likely cause then this is not playable by HC characters , and it is a very easy way to get loot i think , altough they could include this in the arena where you could fight of endless waves of monsters with friends , just for fun , or to see who can kill the most , but thenwithout dropping things. But i do highly doubt it… 🙁

    6. I remember Jay said something about that lava flow you got to escape. Inferno – complete the game before lava kills you?

    7. I wish they would put inferno before hell since hell to me always sounds like the hardest.  So normal-nightmare-inferno-hell.  I know I am just arguing semantics but still …

      • I’m just hoping they didn’t simply rename Nightmare to Hell and Hell to Inferno, the way they nerfed “Unique” to “Legendary” ….

        • Considering the screenshots released with the press kit include ‘Normal’ and ‘Nightmare’ difficulty, I doubt that. Unless it’s a very recent change, and why would they suddenly do that? And if they did, why wouldn’t Bashiok simply explain that’s what happened?

    8. Yes yes! And again here:
      Quoting Bashiok: “Aside from that I think Diablo II eases people into the game pretty well, my Mom has played it and had fun. We maybe take that easing-in a tiny bit further in Diablo III, but overall we ramp up quickly and to very difficult and beyond through Nightmare, Hell, etc.

      I was like “Hey! I’m not a native English speaker, but what in the world doest that etc. reffer to?”
      Maybe i wouldn’t have noticed this if it wasn’t for Kevin Martens’s inferno quote.

      What do you think ?

      • Yeah, I remember that.  It does sound like he was alluding to something that has not been made public yet.  Blizzard is being very tight lipped about the story and all of the late-game content, so we are probably going to be pretty surprised at what they have planned.  I would imagine that it’s going to really change the way the end-game works.  Let us remember that they have all the experience with WoW raids, and the benefit of all the cool public group content in other MMOs like Warhammer and Rift, so they could have some really amazing stuff in store for us.

    9. I bet it was just a brain fart and he meant to say NM and Hell, even thought the idea does sound interesting.

      • But why would he use some random other word for Hell and mistake Nightmare with Hell? Seems very unlikely…

    10. I imagen Inferno like a Expansion difficulty. After Normal-Nightmare-Hell in the Game they could just put the inferno difficulty in the expack! It would be dumb to have 4 difficulties in the earlier game.
      I dont think that inferno is a name for endgame content neither, it could be the name for “one” endgame but generally speaking…im not sure.

      • I doubt they would mention it now before the base game’s even in beta if it is planned for an expansion a couple years down the line…

      • Which would you rather do? Run the full game a large number of times, or run one small area an even LARGER number of times? 😛

    11. it would be cool if everytime you started a game in “inferno mode” it were just a huge, randomly generated world to explore.  bosses and elites scattered throughout.  one “town” and about a regular act sized world generated using all of the tiles available.  dungeons, portals to different realms or dimensions. not a lot of mini quests cause that would take too much content adding on blizz part, but just a big open world that differs vastly from game to game.

    12. Maybe they just got rid of Normal as a game mode and now it’s Nightmare, Hell and Inferno…

    13. Either way, if there is a fourth difficulty, I hope they make it so god damn insanely hard to complete that it really needs the best of you and your party. Plain D2 is a cakewalk even solo if you just have the right gear and a decent build. UT is also way too easy. Everything that can be completed solo is too easy imo so if there really is a fourth diff. I hope it is all about coop and that you atleast need to try 20, maybe 50 times before you can perfect your tactics and complete it. And some totally insane reward. And totally random so it’s never the same. And maybe Unicorns and rainbows.

      • Part of diablo is that you can solo everything. I don’t think it’s a good idea to take that away, especially not when it’s a huge part of the end game.

    14. there was no need for flux to make a news post about this because bashiok already made a blue post which included the wording” “normal hell and inferno” there are 3 difficulty levels, with nightmare being renamed as hell, and hell being renamed as inferno. there is basically no more nightmare.

    15. With all due respect Flux,  how can we rule out a fourth difficulty?  That’s exactly what it sounds like to me.

      We know there is no “Horde” mode,  endless waves of anything would be considered such i think

      • A full 4th difficulty seems pointles to me, since chars would already be max level before stating it. And thus why do it? People would just boss run the good parts, or find areas that were easiest for their build and repeat them over and over again. The D3 devs have many times said they want to offer more than just the base game, repeated, as was the case in D2.

        Which doesn’t guarantee no 4th difficulty + other stuff as well.

        • I’ve read them saying that as well,  but it has been a while hasn’t it?    It really only seems like they’d have a borderlands type final playthrough,  with all the monsters being max level etc.   I think the borderlands comparison has been made 1000s times already though.   Without it,  anything other than the very end of hell difficulty would be worth touching for a level 60.    A fourth playthrough would give you get the entire game of monsters to slaughter with the same chance to drop the high loot.
          I could be completely wrong,  but if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck,  chances are its an effin duck.  Lol

    16. I always assumed they just removed Nightmare (which means it’s Normal < Hell < Inferno in terms of difficulty levels). I've noticed the "Inferno" mentions a long time ago and I think the fans are, again, doing a little bit of too much wishful thinking. Hope I'm wrong and you are right, though.

      Just be ready for the fallout and the outrage that will inevitably happen when you find out that it's just a name change and not a fourth difficulty.

    17. It could also be the name of a later or last location in act iv.  Kinda like talking about the River of Flame hell difficulty

      • Notice that Bash does the etc. thing again in that post:

        “You’ll be leveling your artisans, teaching them to make new items, finding higher quality runes, finding higher quality gems, combining gems, finding loot in Nightmare that doesn’t drop in Normal, finding loot in Hell that doesn’t drop in Nightmare, etc. and really continuing to max out use of each of the available power adjustments.” 

        Despite going through the usual difficulties he again says “etc.” afterwards implying that there’s more…

        • To be fair, that list includes items that are not difficulty-related, so it’s not as strong of a case. But he does mention all three original difficulties and the Inferno word has not been removed from that article. The last error that they had in one of their articles, the one involving the beta, WAS fixed, and rather quickly. It had mentioned charms and skill runes (with the latter not being in the beta)

    18. I might be saying something stupid, but i think I’ve read somewhere that we’re supposed to reach lvl 60 by the time we’re finishing hell so to me It makes sense to have an at least one difficulty level only for lvl 60. Kinda like wow raid content and heroics, being that only one difficulty lvl for well geared char might be to few.
      I would like to see if not in a difficulty level, something that even BiS char’s could have a hard time doing, like some of the examples that flux said. So I do hope that besides a 4th difficulty level we’re going to have some awesome events that can be truly called end game content!

    19. My Inferno wishlist.
      -Inferno is a new pseudo difficulty. You don’t have to beat story quests or act bosses to get to the next act; all of the acts/waypoints from Hell are unlocked.
      -Everything, from Act 1 to Act 4, is level 60+. No act is greater than another in terms of monster levels or gear drops.
      -There are new, different random quests in Inferno that you may not have seen in the other difficulties. Possibly an amalgamation of other types of quests. You might have a collapsing dungeon, or an assassination mission in N/NM/H, but only in Inferno will you have an assassination mission inside a collapsing dungeon.
      -Random quests/events give you the best loot, and they are generated out in the wild. Instead of boss running, you need to explore and find the quests/events. Trick is to make quests/events really, really good. Go easy on the “cleanse the Den of Evil” quests.

    20. I would see a possible 4th mode as an extension of difficulty with no real additional rewards.  We get considerable better loot going from normal to nightmare and then again when going from nightmare to hell.  It starts off hard because you’re suddenly lacking adequate gear, but as you get better gear in that difficulty it becomes easier.  What if this Inferno mode is a step above hell but still only gives you hell level loot, you’d also no longer be gaining levels so you’d be at a greater and greater disadvantage the further you went on.
      This would also leave room open in an expansion to fill out this difficulty with new tiers of gear.

      • Meh, if there’s no rewards for doing it, I doubt many would bother with it because aside from bragging rights there’s nothing gained…

        Have they ever confirmed the distribution of the gear tiers through the different difficulty levels? Perhaps it goes 1-5 in normal, 6-10 in nightmare, 11-14 in hell, 15-18 in inferno…

        • There’s no real reward for playing HC characters besides bragging rights yet there seem to be many people playing them.  Heck, slap an achievement on there and you’ll see thousands of people flocking to do it just because.

          • The reward for HC chars is the journey itself.  It’s a much more exhilarating experience than SC.

    21. I think Inferno difficulty possibly may not turn out to be entirely implemented upon the games release.

    22. There’s one more (rather major) reason why this is not a “mistake” on Kevin Martin’s (or rather on Blizzard’s) part. First, it’s most definitely been proofread, but beyond that, someone had to type up the entire interview, then they had to put it on the site (probably in HTML).
      They knew exactly what they were doing when they did this.
      On another note, in the context of the answer to the question being asked, “Hell and Inferno” are being described as the “harder difficulty modes” which implies that Inferno is in fact some game mode. And from what I can tell, it seems like tacking on a 4th difficulty doesn’t sound too far off.

    23. I’m with others that this will be a seperate and higher difficulty mode above hell that gives people the highest degree of challenge and have the very best pieces of gear but no more levels as you will have hit 60 in hell… It will probably be the only true end game until they add extra stuff through patches after the game’s release…

      • Adding a 4th difficulty level may also support raising the char level cap in future expansions.

        • I hope that isn’t the case. The added content in the expansions should cover the rise in level cap. If Inferno really is a 4th difficulty level where everything is at max(+) level (which is what I’m hoping) then it should stay that way as expansions are added, with the whole thing being made more difficult to accomodate the extra clevels and difficulty the expac(s) add.
          Can’t believe I’m discussing how expansions will affect an unconfirmed section of a game whose base version isn’t even in beta yet.

    24. I don’t really like the idea of having to play the entire game for four times just to get to the end game.

      This is very much like Spinal Tap’s eleven joke. Why don’t they just make Hell be harder and make that Hell be the top level and make that an “Inferno”?
      It might be just a rumor to keep us busy until the final release or a PVM content in which assumingly, the hardest PVM ever and can only be accessed in Hell difficulty.

      • I don’t think there is any way BLizz would add a full 4th difficulty.
        Just like I thought they would never add RMAH. Oh wait…

        Anyway, they probably know that adding a full 4th difficulty wouldn’t really add anything to the game beside making it more tedious.
        And as well all know, Blizzard hates tediousness, such as clicking on ‘add skill point’ buttons and stuff 🙂

      • As I asked someone else, which would you rather do? Play through and enjoy the full game a large number of times, or run the same single area a much larger number of times?

        I, for one, would much rather play the whole game, or in the case of Inferno, whatever the hell I want. If I feel like running Act 2 that day for loot, I can run Act 2 and not feel gypped. If done right, you’re also still only ‘running through the game’ 3 times on one character. The fourth is just doing whatever you want to do. 🙂

      • So i think we can safetly say Normal,  Nightmare, Hell,  probably Inferno.    Where the hell did all this bunk about a missing nightmare mode start anyways?

        • The fact it wasn’t explicitly mentioned in the post that mentions Inferno. People are assuming it may just be a typo. *rolls eyes*

          • That’s a stupid assumption considering the word “Nightmare” is all over pictures,  forum posts.

    25. While a lot of these ideas people are having DO sound fun, I personally hope its something as simple as an extra difficulty that is harder than hell.  My reasoning is that I don’t want some other game-variation that I’ll come to prefer OVER the regular game play, making it so that every time I roll a new character I’d feel like I have to play the inferior regular game just to get to inferno.

      Don’t get me wrong, it would be super cool to have scripted events with waves of endless monsters, but I would prefer that type of event to be woven through out the game, rather than a separate difficulty mode of play.

      • Yeah, both sound good to me.  The way I look at it is, either way it’s extra content for us to play with.  I may be off here, but it looks like Diablo 3 is going to be more fun to play through multiple times.  In Diablo 2 it was fun hunting items and playing around with different builds, but the Acts became stale after a while and they didn’t offer anything new to experience.  Diablo 3 actually seems like it will have a level of randomness that will keep things fun and fresh for a long time.  Diablo 3 may eventually, someday become stale too, but if Blizzard adds expansions at the right intervals it may take a few years before we even start considering the need for a Diablo 4.

    26. Not sure if someone else mentioned it, but the name/theme makes me think “Dante’s Inferno” and his 7 levels of Hell… So maybe a type of endless dungeon with multiple levels? Or an epic dungeon with just 7 levels?

      • That’s a very interesting thought.  You might be on to something.  Isn’t Hell depicted in that poem as 9 circles of suffering?  Inferno is the Italian word for Hell, so this idea has real merit.  Think about it, they name it inferno which means Hell, so those who want Hell to be the final difficulty still get their way, even though it has another name.  This would also allow for a massive unique dungeon with 9 or more levels leading all the way down to the center of Hell.  This would be truly epic!

        • Oh yeah, you are absolutely right, it was 9 circles and not 7. I really believe that this is the reference… The theme is just too fitting. Either an epic dungeon, or an ever increasing endless dungeon.

    27. I really wish that Blizz would just scrap this entire difficulty level fiasco all together. It just seems like a lazy man’s alternative to adding additional “content”.
      If this RMAH thing proves to be as profitable as WoW subscriptions, than I do hope that the money goes into adding more content via patches and not funneled into investors.
      Blizzard is taking a cut from every microtransactions from DIII – lets use that to add more real content.

      • Agreed, the d2 difficulty levels were pretty stupid. First of all, every npc should stfu. We’ve already heard them our first play-through, and now they are getting explanation points over their heads and making us feel bad for snubbing them as they follow us saying “good day”. After normal, I hope the npcs get scrapped or at least have something brand-new to say.
        My biggest gripe comes down to the fact that the difficulty levels are repetitive and they can’t be skipped unless your friend has all the wps. I can’t help but feel that I’m still on a linear rail that I’ve already been on before. The higher difficulty levels should bring new freedoms so it doesn’t feel linear.
        There should be a reasonable explanation for why your character is doing all this crap again. Your guess is as good as mine as to why time rewound and suddenly everything is kicking your ass. I think the world-stone’s destruction had something to do with it.
        I don’t ask for new content for the new difficulties. I just ask that we don’t REPEAT the content we’ve already played through a zillion times. Blizzard’s good at randomization; just keep it random so I don’t die of repetition.

    28. I am up for the challenge and am ecstatic that there is so much more I do not know about diablo 3.  :p

    29. I actually liked the way Diablo 1 did it.  Certain areas had a level requirement and that’s it.  Hell was level 20 whether you were in normal nightmare or hell difficulty.  You just had to defeat Diablo in the prior difficulty to unlock the next difficulty level. 

      Now no one in their right mind would make hell runs in nighmare or hell difficulty.  But I would often level up and gold up doing catacombs runs and gear up doing hell runs of the prior difficulty in order to prepare myself to kill Diablo on the current difficulty.

      Think of how much less annoying Diablo 2 would have been if you could skip act 3 on subsequent playthroughs because you met the level requirement to enter act 4 or 5? I guess they could have also accomplished this by unlocking way points for other difficulties by finding them in normal or just having level requirements for waypoints and not having to unlock them at all.

      Just a thought

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