Jason Bender Blizzcon 2011 Interview

The Blizzcon interviews keep coming, and this is one of the best ones yet, with Blizzard’s Jason Bender talking with Nathon Grayson of VG24/7. I mean “talking” literally; it’s like a conversation from a podcast, rather than the usual press guy reading off a list of unrelated questions that are replied to with pat answers.

Given how well it flows, with one topic leading into the next, I strongly recommend that you read the whole thing. Topics include the lack of a firm release date, bug-free beta tests, the Diablo community, how D3 will transition into higher difficulty levels, high level gear, modding, and the Diablo console project.

Here’s a quote:

It’s interesting, because it’s tempting to think of it like a wall where there’s half the players and the other half. Diablo’s a great example of a game that’s more of a slope. We expect everyone to be able to finish Normal, and then we’re trying to make a better ramp into Nightmare than Diablo II did. It wasn’t that obvious to everyone that you were supposed to play Nightmare after Normal. A lot of people thought “Oh, it’s just harder? What’s the upside?”

But we’re trying to make it clear that, no, we want you to go into Nightmare, because we actually expect you’ll be able to play Nightmare. Nightmare’s very playable. After you’ve gone all the way through normal, you should have the practice and chops you need to handle Nightmare. We don’t think there’s really a wall there.

On Hell [difficulty], there is a bit of a wall. We don’t expect everybody to play that effectively in Hell. It might be beyond some players’ abilities. And then Inferno is not meant for everybody. That is specifically meant to be for people who are a little crazy [Laughs]. So we actually said, “Inferno is not for you to part of the audience.” But we think that’s OK because there are so many things you can get as you play through the game that you’re not really gonna be hurting for that top tier armor. If you really want it, you’ll really work for it.

And, you know, it’s funny, because – as casual as it seems – we don’t try to handcraft Diablo so that everyone can beat it all the way through to Inferno. You opt into the game as much as you want, and that’s true with viability of builds and a number of other things. But Jay said it really well yesterday in our panel: “Hardcore games for everyone is what Blizzard does.”

And if you want to continue playing Nightmare, your character will get better loot and experience. And even if you don’t get better as a player, you can creep your way toward Hell. But the fact is, we’re humans. Our brains get better at what we do as we do it. So people will get better over time. But honestly, there’s a wall there.

I hate to nitpick on one thing out of such an interesting interview but seriously… Now Nightmare’s easy too? And it’s not until Hell that the difficulty starts to become difficult?

I’m not entirely unsympathetic to the whole “more accessible for casual players” argument. After all, a lot of people aren’t going to devote hundreds of hours to learning absolutely everything about the game, and they deserve an enjoyable experience too. For instance, just this weekend I reinstalled Torchlight 1 to refresh my memory with the sequel coming soon, and honestly, auto-stat placement and freespecs on the skills would not have been a bad thing. I’d have enjoyed more freedom to experiment, without feeling like I was wasting skill and stat points.

I just wanted to pick a character and blast through the game in a few hours. I didn’t care to research ideal builds, to save skill points for higher levels, to spend a lot of time cubing up higher level gems, to min/max with item enchants and gambling, etc. I just wanted a few hours of fun and I didn’t want too much thinking and planning to interrupt my click-click-click.

So yeah, the easy interface and accessibility and non-difficulty in Normal is probably a wise business decision in Diablo 3. We more devoted fans want more of a challenge, but maybe not right from the first area. Even the most hardcore Diablo player isn’t going to tear their hair out by the Clvl 1-30 stretch being fairly easy. But as always, we’ve got to hope there’s a decent balance of end game, experts-only content to keep the long term interest going. Even if you don’t really start to hit it until Clvl 50.

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39 thoughts on “Jason Bender Blizzcon 2011 Interview

  1. D2 nightmare was pretty easy and you could roll it with some care. The “hardest” thing there was the bugged fire-enchanted death that could 1-shot anything.

    • NDIII – agree, nothing new here – very glad they added inferno though as that’ll make it challenging over two runs at least!

    • I purposely avoided any mention of D2 in my post, since that’s become a distraction. People can argue against anything in D3 by saying D2 did it differently… without ever addressing the issue of whether or not D2 did it right or perfectly.

      Some stuff in D2 was great. Other stuff could be improved upon. I’d prefer to discuss how it is or how it should be in D3. How it was in D2, a different game made 10 years ago, is kind of OT, eh?

      • But how can we have a meaningful discussion if we interpret tiny bits of information, trying to contradict other things they’ve officially stated while we really don’t have any clue whatsoever?
        They’ve said that it will be hard, they’ve also said that the difficulty will pick up after Skeleton King, so we’ve really just seen the tutorial, not normal difficulty. At Blizzcon they stated that the first Nightmare Elite (or Champion?) will kick our asses. Why do we choose to go panic at this statement, completely disregarding the other statements?
        If Blizzard had a history of promising things and then not delivering (and I’m not talking about things like “no TP”), I might understand, but I haven’t really seen that yet.

  2. I thought Diablo 2 nightmare was easier than normal.  The recent ladder reset helped me realize that.  Mainly it was due to gear.  When you’re on normal your blocking/defense suck, resists suck, leech ability sucks and your skills/spells haven’t reached their full potential.  Maybe this applies only for me because I just kind of run through normal and don’t spend a lot of time going into the extra caves and stuff to level and find gear.  But I can understand why Nightmare would be easier.

  3. Yes flux, I think you’re reading too much into it.

    When Jason says “I don’t think Nightmare is going to be much of a Wall”, I get what he’s meaning is Nightmare will be difficult, but the scaling will be graceful enough for the more-casual players to be able to delve into it without facing much trouble.

    The implication being that, yes, Nightmare is not going to be easy, but you will still be able to win it even on a sub-optimal build, and even if you’re not an ultra expert player. But yeah, not going to be a walk in the park either, judging from what I read in the interview.

  4. I don´t think he meant that Nightmare will be easy, my understanding of it is that Nightmare will be completable by any averagely intelligant human being, with lot of effort and desire of learning and of the game. Besically, I think he said that any averagely intelligent human that is willing to devote some time to learning (not mastering them, like hardcore players do) of the game systems.

    Of course anybody who facerolls through Normal using terrible builds and doesn´t give a care to learn and advance himself won´t make through Nightmare, or will finish Nightmare but with great problems and ton of deaths. Of course, Hell and Inferno are reserved for players that are willing to devote huge chunk of their time and intelligence to playing the game and mastering all of the games systems, finding “perfect” builds and spending hours and hours farming for best gear. Like I will be doing, for example.

  5. Its interesting that you mentioned Torchlight 1 because I am playing it again right now too.
    I played both Dungeon Siege and Torchlight after DII over the past few years.  I wanted a similar sort of game, but with new quests, updated graphics, etc.

    The strange thing is that I just could not get excited about either one.  I’m not even sure why.  Both had similar looking environments, lots of loot, better graphics, etc.  But there is just something missing.

    I think there is a big difference between implementing a certain genre of game and making one that is extremely fun and addictive.  Blizzard seems to be very good at finding that difference.

    Monster Hunter III, while a very different game, is actually the one that I’ve had a blast playing. Very deep item system with meaningful pros/cons, very tactical combat, large bosses will hand you your hat over and over until you learn their moves. There is a game that got it right.

  6. I agree with the other posters.
    1) Nightmare in D2 was easy.
    2) He never said D3 Nightmare was easy. He was certainly not suggesting Nightmare will be just as easy was Normal — he was suggesting that it will be more difficult, but the average player will have built up enough skill to play in it.

    My opinion (more subjective here), is that he is suggesting that Hell and Inferno will be too difficult for the average player, but Nightmare will be a good level of “hard” for those players looking for a better challenge than Normal.

  7. Regardless of the debate about Nightmare´s difficutly, there actually is a new piece of info in that interview, however small it is. Players will be getting achievments and banner adds for killing Act Bosses in Inferno, which ties in nicely in my own prediction that Act Bosses in Inferno will simply be feats of strenght with achievments and banner adds associated with them but with no loot (we still don´t know about the “no loot” part but it seems like a reasonable guess). He specifically mention killing Act IV boss in Inferno in HC mode will grant you achievment and banner add.

    • Um no… the bosses in inferno will have loot, they have already said this… They will just have less of a chance to drop legendaries than rares and champions…

      • Yep as do bosses through out the game in normal nightmare and hell as well (at lest after the first kill).

  8. “Also, Jay Wilson mentioned yesterday that we’re redesigning the skill system to some extent. It’s got pros and cons right now, but we think we can do better. So we’re doing what we can to make the skill system more interesting.”
    NO. Stop. Seriously, stop this crap. Enough already.

    • So you’d rather play a decent game now than a better game in a couple of months’ time? Good logic.

      • they will never make a perfect game and will always have a case to redesign something.

        i’d rather have it now and patch it later if you must.

      • this is about re-re-re-inventing the wheel for five times now.
        …and still not being able to come up with a good replacement.

        i have to admit: i am more drawn to TES:5 right now than to D3. considering skills and character progression.. and that means really something.

        • Yes, that really means something, especially because you haven’t actually played either game yet, I assume, and given the model of Skyrim, you will probably be finished with it by the time D3 comes out, so the threat of “get this ready or I will play Skyrim instead” is a very dull one.
          As long as they game isn’t out they can still make systemic changes, so they better use that time to get those things right or we’ll be stuck with something sub optimal at least until the first expansion is released. I’ve waited long enough to not mind another month or two if that’s what it takes.

          • “this is about re-re-re-inventing the wheel for five times now.
            …and still not being able to come up with a good replacement.”
            Just one more time… I think runes already changed the field here, so if they want to do some more reinventing, that’s fantastic!

    • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: they’re redesigning the skill system now, they’ll still be doing it in 6 months, and they’ll still be doing it in six years. Relax, it’s just how game design goes.

    • Yes. Wanted to post the same quote. Thould be in the news.
      I hope they just change the already mentioned ‘switch skills only in town’, not creating a whole new thing… otherwise we can expect a lauch late 2012… when the world is about to end. :mrgreen:

  9. To be honest I find the D2 nightmare difficulty to be easier than normal in most instances because by the time you get there your character is relatively stronger than it was in normal difficulty.

      • I don’t do Baal runs and I still finished Nightmare with relative ease using a level 33 character at the beginning.

        And no I didn’t even go to the “filler” dungeons. Only difficulty I had was at Act V when they introduced guest monsters with immunities, but it was nothing (I used a sorceress).

  10. At this point you realise like a deer in the headlights that you are going to have to play through the game two times and face absolutely no challenge.

    You hope rushing will be in the game in some way or else you will blow several hours or even days beating trivial content before you get to the part that actually matters.

    You realise Guild Wars 2 will not have any repeat content like that.

    • Laz,

      Honetly, when we all was first playing Nightmare was a challenge, but as the years roll on it really wasnt. Ths first time I got to nightmare I smacked right into that wall and had to farm the Blood moors/Normal hell to improve to the point I didn’t get faced rolled. But after a while it was easy to walk thru it.

      Also GW2 is an MMO so trying to compare that to Diablo is really a bad arguement. I expect MMo’s to have very little repetable content since they are designed to add more as the game grows. Diablo and a lot of games are not like that and very rarely will be.

    • Somehow I think I’ll survive. And maybe, with time, I’ll learn to enjoy it. Like some sort of Stockholm Syndrome in my own living room!

  11. I took what he said as more a comment on the scaling of normal into nightmare than I did the overall difficulty of nightmare.  The first time I played D2, I couldn’t believe the jump in difficulty between N and NM… it was a pretty drastic jump.  I think he’s saying that Nightmare Act 1 will be akin in difficulty to a Normal “Act 5”.  A continuation of ramping difficulty as opposed to a sudden and jarring leap.

  12. grandma – normal 
    mum – nightmare   
    8 year old – hell 
    12 year old – inferno  

  13. Regarding items purchased vs items found as loot. They should add some information to the item how and when it was found, how many times it has been sold, etc. Would give some extra status to people with items that are not only purchased from the AH. Would probably also affect the price of the item if sold.

  14. well Bashiok did make that post awhile back that a substantial number of players never played past normal in D2, so it shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone that they’re doing all they can to make Nightmare D3 accessible, interesting and attractive

  15. No problem with Nightmare not being that difficult given that we have Inferno difficulty. D2 had 3 difficulty lvls and D3 has 4, so I’m glad they are doing a slow ramp up instead of making it frustrating in the 2nd difficulty lvl.
    I imagine you can prob. get through normal bashing on one good skill w/o really thinking that much. Nightmare might require picking two or three good skills but you’ll still be able to beat it. I’m guessing that hell and inferno will require not just picking good skills but also good gear.
    If that is the case, I’m glad nightmare isn’t that gear dependent because there is still two difficulties left to play through.

  16. As long as normal is fun to play and not just feels lika a endless unchallangeing grind im a happy gamer. When all comes down to it there will be lots of scripted things in game that also will be randomed so replay an easy normal wont be a bad thing when i reroll. That will give me a chanse to try things out before the i have to get my character set for more challangeing content. Cus something that is frustating for me is when a game goes from stupidly easy to almost unbeatable in a level switch. There have to be a middle ground where im challanged so i can stay there and improve before i move on.

  17. So each difficulty ramps up in difficulty and this is different from Diablo 2 because there people thought Nightmare was more difficult than Normal and so on.  Good interview apart from that silly point.



  18. I am sorry to say this, but Diablo 3 is looking less and less interesting with every new “feature” they bring out. Everything seems to be aimed at young console players, who do not want a challenge. I am not going to play through 2 trivial difficulties to get to the good stuff. I want the good stuff right away! Make the game feel epic!

    If you want to appeal to new gamers, please make a “beginner”difficulty for these people, but don’t punish those who actually want games to be challenging.

  19. The truth of RMAH. For those who want to start with a challenge to being with.. feel free to buy my lvl 60 nekkid toon off the RMAH….


  20. “superaffe
    November 1, 2011 at 22:59

    grandma – normal
    mum – nightmare
    8 year old – hell
    12 year old – inferno
    yes? ”

    lol, sounds accurate. but the \35 year old fat ass nerd\ category is missing though, so you must be wrong.

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