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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