Jay Wilson Gamescom 2011 Interview @ Gamona.de

The first Diablo III developer interview from Gamescom comes courtesy of Gamona.de. It features DiabloWikiJay Wilson at something of a roundtable conversation, answering questions about the DiabloWikiDiablo 3 Beta, the Real Money Auction House, item variety, changes to the skill system, and more. Watch the full video interview in the Gamona post; here’s my summary of the new/interesting content, and thanks to Doomscream for the tip.

The Diablo III beta will be a closed beta, but they’ll be giving out a lot of keys to start, more during it, and it will start in September.

There will be no price controls or other forms of intervention into the RMAH. There is no preset top limit on item prices; it’s whatever people are willing to pay. Jay stresses that they designed the system to be totally shaped by players and the economy, and that Blizzard only takes a flat fee from each sale, no matter what the price is.

The interviewer did what I’ve seen some other commenters do, and took the presentation slide showing only 3 colors of runes to mean that there were now fewer types of runes in the game. (They only showed 3 types of skill runes for the same reason that they only showed 4 types of gems; they didn’t want to visually clutter the slides or make the images too small to see the details.) Jay doesn’t realize where the guy’s confusion is coming from, but he makes clear that no runes or item features have been removed from the game.

The interview concludes with Jay providing a spirited defense of their skill changes. He mostly focuses on the removal of skill points, by basically saying that points didn’t provide much character customization since everyone picked the same number of skill points in the same few skills.

The interviewer comes back with the fact that World of Warcraft has skill points, and asks if Jay thinks they should be removed. *oh snap!*

Jay replies that skill points in WoW are not the main theme or focus of their skill point system, and that with so many skill points, the benefits from most of them are negligible. He hits his usual, “we want each point spent to feel awesome!” argument. Jay also points out that by limiting characters to six DiabloWikiskills, they’re just moving the restriction from skill points to skill numbers. (For instance, you could put points in all 30 skills in D2, but that would be a useless character, since most skills required maxed skill points to be powerful enough to use in the end game.) Hence skill points effectively limit the number of skills a character can use. Thus D3 without skill points gives every character 6 skills to use in the DiabloWikiend game, which is more than most characters used in D2. And when you multiply D3’s skills by five different DiabloWikirunestone effects in every skill, the potential variety is enormous.


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  1. I had a big grin on my face when he sent what is a fairly big slam against the WoW point system.
    As a player who plays that game, I hope the WoW dev team was listening.

  2. I wonder how he trained himself to never blink.

  3. Skill points (and talents) give the visual impression of customization, but in practice only a small number of very defined builds are ever viable for end-game content due to one-way synergies. By removing these power multipliers and simply giving players a tool set, they are saying: “We won’t give you skill trees or talents that tell you what you should specialize in, just take these abilities and experiment”. 

    It’s the correct choice, which is why most AAA next-gen MMO’s are ditching skill trees. Me and Jay Wilson are getting tired of hearing people debate the merits of old vinyl records against 10gb music drives.

  4. Flippin great interview. Times like this, I know diablo 3 is in great hands. Jay Wilson made some spectacular points in this interview that has made me a believer. I was unsure on how I would like the skill system, but listening to Jay I realize how much depth the way skills work now have. No more spamming skill 1 and skill 2 because they are cap’d, it’s more like skills 1-6 are all viable and useful in different situations, then add skill runes and your character build is very diverse from other players. I love it =)

    • it has been done before with great success, think Guild Wars

    • But longevity. Game longevity. Why doesn’t anyone ask him the question that, using this system, there’s never an incentive to create a second character?
      The game will be brilliant fun but people won’t be playing this for 10 more years. Because when you remove the ability to screw up, you remove replayability. Why doesn’t any reporter ask him this simple question?

      • I can think of incentive to make multiple characters. You can find it as well in threads with people arguing against a 10 character limit per account.

      • Just because of this change you think that theres no reason to make multiple characters? Well I guess ill just make one of every class and when I need to create a “new” character ill just change gear, because thats really going to be as easy as people say it is, all of a sudden my barb is as good of a WW barb as a guy who spiecalized his entire character build to be a WW barb. (Even though there will be more than just 1 spell spiecalized classes and the runes associated with those spells to make the build play a certain way)

      • Probably because there are plenty of other incentives to create additional characters (a different class maybe?) and most people would rather correct their skill selection screw-ups on the fly.  Otherwise, you either roll a new character and start over or suffer through the game with a skill set that you don’t really like.
        You will still have the option of creating a new character and leveling him/her by using different skills, so I don’t really see the problem.  And if you really want to, you can always self-impose skill restrictions on your character.  No one will be forcing you to change your skills on the fly.

  5. I agree, I think they’ve taken the right direction with the game and its obvious they really care about the game. It’s not like they are intending to make the game bad, it’s just they have more experience working with the various systems and have taken a direction they think fits best.

  6. Yep, I wasn’t too sure about these things when they were announced, but hearing Jay defend them personally has convinced me that it will work out fine. Makes me think that they should explain every big announcement this way, this would at least assure us they are really thinking about things and not just removing aspects because they are not ‘new user friendly’.
    Also: Hey Germany! Enough with the heavy metal music!

  7. Guys, come on. This system works better than D2 for a single playthrough, I agree. 6 skills is a great number. But this game is losing out on replayability. What makes you think people will ever want to create a second character?
    I don’t know. If someone can throw any light on this for me (as to how this system makes the game replayable…you know IGN has REPLAYABILITY as a deciding parameter in reviews?) I would be very grateful.

    Also, poor Josh Mosqueira. That guy helmed Company of Heroes, but nobody gives him a damn here!! 😛

    • I think people are conflating alt-o-holism replay w/ interesting replayability. Personally, forcing me to re-roll and re-level through N/NM/H b/c there are no respecs or some other inanity isn’t good replayability. It is punishment for curiosity. If I want to know how X will do in Inferno, or Y will do in PvP, forcing me to start from almost scratch to build up the character for an experiment is pretty frustrating.
      Instead, replay should come from positive incentives to do new things. Hopefully, Inferno provides a foundation to build new and interesting things to do w/ old characters and new characters alike. Strange achievements, different quest types, crazy random events. You can do a lot for people to keep playing the game w/o forcing to start a fresh character just to keep a time sink going.
      But despite all that, the 10 character limit is a joke. Gimme 20; each class, HC/SC, M/F.

    • Hardcore characters, PvP characters, different gender, and of course there are 5 classes. It also depends on how much you want to deal with switching out runes and skills, how easy it is or if it costs anything. There are many combinations of runes and skills you can use, its up to you whether you want to swap them out on your level 60 or start a new character to go through the game with the new combination.

  8. I am sure that I will buy Diablo 3 even if it is a bad game, I’m just a blizzard fan.  But Honestly, why do they continue to dumb down the game? Yes, many people in D2 used less than 6 skills, but what about the ones that learned to use them all? Having just 1 point in some skills, plus item bonuses, was enough to give those skills a use. Now, that is removed. Instead of empowering players, they are restricting them. Computer game designers need to go back to the drawing boards. Games from 20 years ago had more freedom.

    I play hardcore, and replayability is not an issue since you inevitably come to an end. But reducing the number of skills available for use is an unnecessary simplification and restriction- it starts to look way too much like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth. Please, add complexity, please add depth, please.

    Giving people the entire skills set is the right direction. It promotes player choice rather than cookie cutter builds with a few freak exceptions. But if you give us the tools, let us use them on the field. Even seven sounds like a better number than 6. It’s up to Blizzard to create the challenges, and we’ll roll with them. Just stop dumbing down this, mutha!!!

    • But reducing the number of skills available for use is an unnecessary simplification and restriction- it starts to look way too much like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth. Please, add complexity, please add depth, please.

      I have to disagree mostly on the point that most of the skills and spells in D2 didn’t really add to depth in combat or complexity to the amount that you may find in D3. This is achieved by adding utility to spells and skills that weren’t really present in D2 to a point where you could base gameplay around, such as freezing, debuffs, and the like. It is kind of rare to see someone spamming a debuff in D2, or something that isn’t a straight-forward, overpowered direct attack (or overpowered curses/oskill builds). Direct attack only skills are the enemy you want to be fighting against, not amount of skills.

      If they wanted to, they could have made 20 variations of the fireball spell and called it a day, but having 20 of that spell wouldn’t be depth or complexity. We’re getting less spells, this is true, but they’re all pretty unique and serve a specific purpose.

      • In D2, my barbarian used all of these skills regularly:
        shout, battle orders, battle command, concentrate, berserk, whirlwind, battle cry, find item, taunt
        9 active skills regularly used, looks like I’m over the limit. I suppose you could combine the three buff shouts into one Mighty Shout and then I’d be at seven, but then on the other hand there were skills I didn’t use (or only very rarely used) because there wasn’t a need for them due to design like Leap, Leap Attack, Grim Totem, Find Potion, Howl, Stun, Bash…
        And then there were the skills that were considered to be a “different spec” like Frenzy and Double Throw.
        THREE of those I used are damage skills, and they are each useful in a different scenario.
        I think the only reason people feel that D2 turned into a SPAM ONE SKILL game is because the combat challenge died at the end of the game and it turned into an item farm, where all you needed was a hoe.
        To me, the six skill limit is a restriction obviously due to the desire to port to console.

  9. 6 Skills is about half of what i used for my d2 hybrid assassin excluding pots admittedly there were some 1 point wonders but for tactical play 6 isnt enough, christ i had more than 6 running on a zon.

  10. Honestly, I am trying to wrap my mind around what you are saying, but I do not quite get it. I am not saying this to be a dick, I am honestly not getting your point. When I played a trapsassin in D2 I used 4 different traps, my speed buff or my resistance buff, and I had a curse wand, plus the mind blast and cloak of shadows. When I played my necromancer.. never mind, I wonte ven list the 12-13 abilities I used with him, I think you get my point. Each ability served a purpose, therefore it added depth. I understand that D3 has 5 champs with 25 unique abilities that are all useful in their own right (meaning they are NOT all 25 versions of the same spell, one stronger than the other) But if you dont let us use more than 6 abilties here is what will happen: People will be forced to pick a couple of attack spells, a couple utility and a couple for CC… and you just end up spamming buttons 1 and 2….

    • The Necromancer had, what, six different summons? Besides clay golem glitching, how many zookeepers do you see with a non-revive build? The skills were incredibly similar. The necro is actually the best class, in my opinion, in terms of combat depth in D2 because you had a host of debuff curses to choose from, direct and indirect damage spells, defensive abilities, and a ton of summons.

      However, the WD only has two summons but they are highly specialized. This is the biggest, most major difference between the skills in D2 and D3: specialization, which is what I was referring to when I spoke of utility. 

      Sure, you used more than six skills on some builds, but the skills you used were almost, if I may be bold, primitive and overly simple.

      • Exactly this. There were a lot of overlapping spells in D2, the most obvious being the fire bolt/frost bolt stuff. And, w/ runes, you can make those simple, specific skills more well rounded than before.

  11. This “there were only a few builds in d2”, “not maxing skills was useless in d2” type comments make me angry. 

    What percent of D2 players played the game on Battle.Net and what percent of D2 players tried to beat the game on Hell?

    Then every fucking build is viable, idiots.

    • If YOU played D2, then you know that there are only a couple of builds viable to solo hell. Maby you can “beat” the game (hell) with any kind of build, but not solo, and def not unless ur filthy rich. If u insist show me how to solo “ubers” with any kind of “viable” build. No, only cookie-cutter builds can, so why chose something inferior?

  12. Guys, there are 6 active skills, 6 letters in Kotick and 6 letters in Wilson… coincidence? I’m sleeping with the lights on tonight. 😉

  13. i’m not sure if i really like skill point removal, but i don’t agree with how they are promoting this decision. It’s not really customization, it’s more like variety. I’m not saying D2 had the perfect idea, but i’m not sure if D3’s method is the answer.

    I can imagine many people will be only using their favorite skills even if they have the choice among all of them. In D2 my friend made me a hacked SP character, with all lvl 99 skills or something crazy, but even when i messed around (when my internet was down, won’t be doing this in d3) i still only used 1 skill to kill things. i’d use my sorc and just tele orb tele orb tele orb, i’d switch to charged bolt occasionally or when an enemey was cold immune but for the most part i used one skill.

    sure i’d try different combos and then be like, ‘OOH using frost nova/CB is cool i think that’ll be my next sorc that i make’ and it was fun to build from scratch. even so i still had my favorite sorc, well i had my blizz MF sorc and my orb/CL sorc, and it seems D3 attempted to fix this by saying well why have 2 main ones and an occasional one when you can just swithc out some skills for different situations? and yeah it works i guess, but to me making these 3 different unique sorcs was a fun and interesting process, but i feel like blizzard only saw the end result and were like ok COMBINE.

  14. Actually, IMHO, that is excactly the opposite of what will happen in D3. Many spells and abilities in D2 had terrible scaling, and many of them even with 20 points in them simply weren´t hell viable. That created relativly small number of spells/abilities for each class, that could be used in Hell. And even with those who were actually usable in Hell, you had to put 20 points into that skill, plus 20 points into one or two (or even more) synergies. In D3, where Slvl=Clvl, that simply means that every skill is viable in Hell. Yes, every one of 25 – 30 skill per class will be Hell viable (if Blizzard does their job well in balancing them all, which they said they´ll try). That means, that in D3 we will have unparalleled freedom in creating various builds. While in D2 there were spells that were viable and there were those that were not, in D3 you will be able to create build with any six of your 25 – 30 skills. And, I think that will increase the number of builds. And, no, not all dmg skills will have same dmg, and there will obviusly be skills that have higher dmg, then others, but difference is, those (along with buffs), won´t be the only spells that you can use in Hell (and now Inferno).

  15. I’m definitely a very lucky community manager to have such an awesome collection of aficionados on the forums. They’re great fun, have a wicked sense of humor, are great at intelligent debate, and of course have all kinds of brilliant ideas and suggestions for the game.
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