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.”

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