Jay Wilson Interview @ Atomic PC


The latest interview to surface from Jay Wilson’s recent press tour comes from Australian AtomicPC. This batch of questions were all submitted by their forum users, and are detailed and juicy. Topics covered include the end game, the online-only DRM as a security measure, the new skill UI as a console Trojan Horse, the impact of the RMAH on the long term trading economy, WASD, cows and Easter Eggs, and why there’s no Hardcore corpse looting.

Jay gives long, thoughtful replies to most of them, after working through the obligatory, “we wanted to ensure the best player experience possible by preventing you from playing LAN or offline” PR song and dance. You’ll want to check out the whole piece; here are a couple of quotes, and thanks to Ratamahatta for the news tip.

[once_i_was_a_maggot] What is there to do at end game?
Well, one of the things we focused on with Diablo, these have all been cooperative games; they’ve always had a server/client architecture. For Diablo 2, its end-game was always about adding multiple difficulties, but the problem is that player power eventually overwhelms the challenge of the game, to the point where the only point of going on was sheer tenacity. A player good say ‘Look, I’ve made it to level 99!”, which is, like, crazy dude… It was a time investment, but one without any real challenge or fun.

So one of the things we focused on for Diablo 3 – and we weren’t interested in making super long gruelling levelling up process – what we wanted was, the fun stuff, searching for gear, and fighting against monsters who are challenging. So we created a fourth difficulty that we call Inferno that is ALL max-level. Max-level for a player is level 60, and so all the monsters at the start of Inferno are level 61, in Act Two they are level 62, in Three and Four they’re level 63. And there are items that ONLY drop at level 61, at level 62 and so on; and they’re not small number! There’s a whole tier of armour in each one.

So even to be able to play viably in Inferno, you’re going to have to play and fight in Hell for a little while, to get your items up to the quality so that you’ll be able to fight through. And then to move from Act to Act you’ll need to do that. We just wanted to take the idea of what was fun about Diablo, and make it challenging so that it would stay fun, and put the the time investment into more combat and loot-hunting, and less into meaningless time-investment to prove that you’re more committed than your friends.

[neowulf] Do you believe that the cash shop will wind up dragging the best items out of the economy? There seems to be little reason not to sell your ultra rare items for cash rewards. Won’t this lead to a model where those who spend the most will be the best geared? Does Blizzard see this effecting the game long term?
I don’t think it’s a big issue, and here’s why. So let’s say you are… if you don’t have any time invested into the game, or money, well, you’re probably not going to be very successful. I’ll admit that.

But let’s say you have a situation where you can invest a lot of time, but have no money, or you don’t want to spend a dime… well, you’re gonna find good items. It’s mathematical – you WILL find good items. It may not be the items you want, but you will find them. You can put them on the Auction House, and earn currency to buy whatever items you want, without putting a single dollar of your own currency into the system.

Originally we planned to have a listing fee, and we struggled to find ways to remove it, and finally did – so that players don’t have to invest money into the Auction House if they don’t want to. We thought that was essential – being able to trade with virtua; currency should not mean you have to open your wallet.

So I don’t t think anyone needs to worry.

And you know, if you look at Diablo 2, there were lots of traded items, and they traded in the essential equivalent of a an Auction House, even with money changing hands. They’d trade with friends, or with random people, and I think that now we have the Auction House, I think people will trade there too. I don’t think it’ll hurt the game at all.

AtomicPC says they’ll post part two of this interview next week, which will feature their own questions, after they used all reader questions for this first installment.

Finally, I have no idea why they dug up a skill interface screenshot from 2008 as the only image on the article. Subtle dig at the new skill UI? Inside joke?

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  1. ” the new skill UI as a console Trojan Horse”
     
    More like atomic bomb, that skill UI is Nagasaki all over again.

    • That might be an analogy too far, Brah.

      I did note that despite a very long answer, Jay never actually addressed the, “it’s for console porting” portion of the question. Tactic admission of veracity? Or just an oversight?

      • I can understand people not liking the skill UI, but I don’t see why people are obsessed with this idea of Blizzard changing big game systems for the PC version just in case they do a console port in the future. It just seems so implausible to me – I mean this is Blizzard who take their sweet time getting things absolutely optimised (in their opinion) for the PC. Don’t you think they’re going to be doing a massive redesign of a LOT of the UI/systems for a console version (if they ever actually make it, which is not yet certain) – so why bother shoehorning a ‘console’ UI feature into the PC version? It just makes no sense…

        As for why Jay didn’t reply, he’s probably sick of people trying to suggest that and ignored it. Good for him.

         

        • Because console titles ported to PC are notoriously shit.

          There isn’t as much flexibility in console controls, that is a luxury of the PC market so when you trim the controls down so they easily transfer to a console you are not taking full advantage of the advance controls a PC offers gamers.

          As the skill UI is an out the box console menu system it has some people concerned.  Blizzard might have made it like a console menu but not with consoles in mind, it could be a pure coincidence.

          • Totally agree about the risks when you make a multi-platform game but don’t treat the PC as being the different hardware that it is – I still have nightmares about Skyrim’s shockingly terrible menu system and inventory management on PC *shudder* 

            In this case though, I don’t think there is any evidence that the skill UI looking reasonably console friendly is anything but a coincidence.  

      • I think that he will never say it out loud even if it was true. They have too much “PC only” rep riding on their games.

        Now when (not if) they port it they can and most probably will make a new UI for the consoles. You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to have conditionally compiled UI modules in this day and age.
        The godawful Silverlight beasty is proof of that. 

        There is no reason to keep this conspiracy theory going. It’s not for console porting. It’s just a bad, rushed, poorly designed bit of UI. That’s all.

        My two cents. 

      • Should he really “address” every option those who ask question put out? He answered it elaborately, as has been done many times. The fact that you and others keep asking the same things all over again does not make them true if he doesn’t keep denying them. I don’t think it’s either admission, veracity or oversight. >>he answered the question of why the ui is at it is<<

        From MY point of view Flux, as a long time Blizzard fan, Blizzard is at the PEAK of their communications towards the fans. Maybe YOU as an EX-officialfansite miss the old days, but I’m hearing more frank answers and thought processes than ever in the past 20 years. I don’t know why you keep second guessing everything they say. Are you sure you’re not bitter?

        • *cheer*

          Absolutely agree about the UI stuff and communication

          I don’t actually know the story of what happened to the official fansite status over the years – would be interested to know though!

        • I don’t ever recall Jay being directly asked that, or answering it. Bashiok fences with the more direct questions in the forums, but Jay and the other devs are generally able to skate along with generalities and no direct “here’s the hottest fan rumor/theory” direct questions. Which is why I liked the queries in this piece, as they’re quite specific and targeted, for the most part.

          I don’t have any objection to bliz making console versions of their games, so long as they don’t screw up the PC versions in the process. I don’t own a console, and haven’t played one since doing some Halo on the Xbox years ago at a friend’s house, I thus have no opinion about what sort of D3 skill interface would or would not work with a thumbpad.  And I don’t hate the new skill interface, though it’s far from good; the way it alone of all game interfaces entirely fills the screen, and requires multiple clicks through the pages to find the skill you want, feels very out of place and cumbersome compared to the other minimalistic UIs in the game.

          That said, 1) many players dislike the new skill UI and think it could easily be improved, and 2) many, many fans who do console have concluded that the new skill UI is well-suited to directly port to the console.

          Thus I would be curious to hear Jay or another dev answer the question directly. Instead of doing that, Jay spun EIGHT paragraphs of fluff about valuing fan feedback and players coming to like X once they’ve played more of X, etc. Jay’s entire 593 word (I just pasted it into Word for the count) answer to that question could be reused in reply to almost any question about the game interface or system changes. And that disappoints me since I’ve come to  expect more than generic PR-style happytalk from Jay.

          • Damn Vinnie! You made Flux breakout the word counter in word. 

            Nice 🙂
             

          • “I don’t ever recall Jay being directly asked that, or answering it. ”

             followed by:

            “Thus I would be curious to hear Jay or another dev answer the question directly. Instead of doing that, Jay spun EIGHT paragraphs of fluff about valuing fan feedback and players coming to like X once they’ve played more of X, etc.” 

            If he hasn’t been asked it (first quote) – how can you blame him for not answering about it? (second quote)  😕

          • Asked it prior to this interview, where he was asked it. That’s what we’re talking about here, man.

        • The present skill UI appears to have these design goals:
          1) Limit hot swapping of skills and create build identity
          2) Provide general guidelines to “newbs” what generally will make a decent build (i.e. categories)
          3) Throttle information to avoid overwhelming players
           
          I think the UI is functional and achieves the above.  It fills the whole freakin’ screen and requires multiple clicks BY DESIGN.  It’s like the gigantic box saying “Skeleton King fight, YES? / NO?”  That box is huge on purpose as well.  It’s annoying by design.  It prevents you from doing much of anything until you address the window and make your final selection.
           
          The skill UI is designed for new players.  It’s limiting on purpose.  It works well enough and the hardcore players who are annoyed by it will find out through ‘tribal knowledge’ what elective mode is and move on.  I have yet to see a single player designed UI that achieves goals 1-3 above.
           
          The fact that it will work well for consoles too is coincidental.

      • He’s probably getting tired of all the “console” crap.

        According to some, every single change they ever made to the game was because of “OMG CASUAL CONSOLE NOOBZ!”

  2. Shame they didn’t manage to find an even older screenshot to underline the up-to-dateness of their interview. ;p Would have liked to see them get back on some of the more evasive non-answer-answers.

  3. wouldn’t it be great if they could take Out the RM out of AH and just make an auction house that deals in in game gold.

    • ….for reals?

    • but even people are already complaining that RMAH won’t be available right at launch and that the fee is too high…

      That’s a sign that people are actually wanting to use RMAH, like it or not…. 

    • Yes, but they are getting out a cut out of the cash transfer. So what Blizzard called cheating (buying gear for cash) in D2 they now bless in D3.

      • Exactly what Grumpy old Wizard said. I never said the AH was bad. I merely suggest that Real money should not be involved. It would be great if the AH worked on the in game gold instead of Real money. If it was so, Blizzard wouldn’t even have to make it always online, in the same time providing security to people from their so called “Shaady Trading Websites” by providing a legit system.
        But hey, that won’t fill their purses like wow does right. Hell will break loose alright, but the hell will be Blizzards Hell Hole purse that can never be filled until it squeezes every last penny from us.

        • Does anyone remember when Blizzard introduced their rested-system to World of Warcraft?
           
          They had a steady experience gain rate at some point and then implemented the new system, basically advertizing it as automated punishment: when you have gained so much xp in one day, you start receiving -x% and then even -xx% experience at some later progress. You may imagine the community uproar over Blizzard trying to patronize players on content consumption speed. Later on, they gave the whole thing a new go – the system basically remained unchanged, the communication differed though: They secretly set the ‘completely tired’ character state as the new default and advertized taking advantage of their rested-system as a bonus, granting you +x% additional experience. Success!
           
          I wonder if the same thing was possible for the D3 auction house?
           
          Imagine them removing the separation between cash and gold auction houses (or auction house and junkyard, respectively 😉 ): 1 single auction house, Bobby Bucks as the only currency and BBs being purchasable/redeemable through either in-game gold or real money.
           
          That wouldn’t mean any significant departure from the system as a whole but might change a lot about how it is perceived.

          • Huh?
            If you’re talking about WoW beta or pre-release then fair enough, I wasn’t there for that, but the rested system in WoW, where you staying offline grants you an accumulating bonus to monster-kill XP, was there from day 1. The XP penalty thing you’re talking about was implemented in (I think) China at that territory’s request.

  4. Dear lord. The english of that blue is horrible. It is almost unreadable with so many errors.

  5. “there are items that ONLY drop at level 61, at level 62 and so on; and they’re not small number! There’s a whole tier of armour in each one.”

    I thought they wanted to make every area in the game equally viable to farm. Just how is that going to work if some items can only drop in the last two acts?

    • They changed how Inferno worked a couple patches ago. Flat difficulty for inferno turned out un-fun.

    • You’ve only missed one of many 180°s they have pulled on boldy announced game systems then, nobody can blame you. 😉
       
      Instead of making Inferno a flat max level difficulty where everyone can just farm wherever they like instead of repeating boss runs, you now have basically 3-4 sub-difficulties in the guise of the story acts you’ve been playing through at very least 3 times by then. A fourth, promised to be extremely hard, difficulty setting beyond Hell-mode, nothing more, nothing less.

      • I did not miss the memo about flat difficulty, I missed the one about treasure class restrictions. Difficulty is not something that made me pick one area over another, for example I farmed WSK instead of the Pit because I liked it more. On the other hand not getting a shot at every TC87 item most definitely made me farm the Ancient Tunnels even though I hated it and stopped me from going to Plains of Despair or Pit of Archeon ever. I don’t understand why they would repeat the same mistake of cutting the list of farm viable areas in half.

        • You’ve still got two whole acts at the max level – that’s a lot more than the scattering of viable areas found in D2. I wouldn’t call it the “same mistake”.

          • Plus the fact that the items you find in the earlier acts could roll affixes that are better than a lot of the items you find in the later acts…

        • Well, it seems quite logical that the implementation of difficulty progression through Inferno mode also brings a reward curve with it, doesn’t it? Why force yourself through ‘UUULTRA-BRUTAL’ Inferno Act IV where you kill like X monsters per hour when you can just happily slay triple the amount of enemies in just ‘pretty hard’ Inferno Act I in the same time for the same item quality?
           
          Well, increased drop chances. But what difference does it make for you personally between ‘never-gonna-get’-low drop chances and ‘never-ever-gonna-get’-low drop chances? Tiering those last three armor levels according to Inferno acts seems like a much more controlled progression system – and the developers are all about control in this game and its reward system in particular.

    • Im pretty sure the random element of the items in diablo makes sure that a tier 14 item could very well be better and more viable to your build than any other tier 16 item. The tiers probably mean only slightly more base dmg, and base armor.

      Also, you’ll be farming much faster in hell for example, thus more items will drop and more chances for really good items. I think only when you have absolutely awesome items, the later inferno acts will be more viable to farm. As it should.

  6. Hey Jay, the categories aren’t why most people hate the skill UI…

    Also, MY play experience would be much improved if I could play offline, thank you very much.

    • pvp

      Now begin your own crying. 

    • Your play experience might be improved, but mine (and a lot of other people’s) experience would be compromised by the increased likelihood of hacking. I value a fair online experience, and that’s one of the big reasons I enjoy Blizzard games. If you want something different, check out TL2.

      • Any evidence that a game having offline single player would increase online hacking ?

        And, “cause blizz say so” is not evidence, it’s just them creating an excuse, they also didn’t present any evidence.  🙄

  7. An awesome interview from Jay yet again. I love his thoughtful and honest answers. Truly the right man for the job.

  8. Didn’t they say all good items also spawn at the end of Hell, just the odds are much worse IIRC… but I like the fact that there are great rewards in Inferno you only get there. 

  9. On skill UI: “we showed people internally our backend categories, a lot of people were like ‘Oh, now I get what you’re trying to do – why aren’t you showing that to the player?'”
    Yes! Why would they keep the good stuff to themselves? In my experience with the beta, it was quite easy to select my skills, and I feel without categories, it’d be a tad more confusing with the only downside of less time playing the game.

    On WASD movement: “we thought it felt kinda clumsy”
    Good. This was obvious to me.
     
    On cows: “there is a REALLY big easter egg in the game”
     
    Sounds like it may be bigger than the Moo Moo Farm. Woo-muh-F’ing-hoo!

     
     

    • They’re free to categorize the skills any way they want… but there are a lot of DIFFERENT ways to classify em, and they way they did it does not seem like it is always the most sensible way. For instance, I don’t ever want a skill with a cooldown on either my primary or secondary mouse button, but the classification they have does not take cooldown into account; some of the skills that are by default on RMB do have a cooldown, while others don’t.
       
      The issue however is not the classification; it is that the interface discourages you from using more than one skill from each category, and that is FOR SURE not going to be the most efficient playstyle.
       
      The obvious example being that where the going is easy (as in the beta), you don’t need to use ANY defensive skills, which means that without elective mode you are wasting skill slots. The converse is likely to be true in more difficult areas of the game.
       
      Exposing their internal categories is no excuse for restricting player skill usage… and yes, I am aware of Elective Mode, but if EVERYBODY uses Elective Mode, there’s no rationale left for the current interface.
       
      And, of course, neither of those comments addresses the whole “where’s the overview” issue… it should be possible to get a one-screen snapshot of your build :p

      • True, their categories may be a bit goofed on the way to level 60, but atleast it’s a starting point. I do recall (from playing with the emulator… never had closed beta) the old skill UI also had some very loose categories as far as function goes, mainly by what the skill spent rather than a “primary” or “secondary” or whatever they’re calling them. Anyway, I’m remembering now how the old UI worked… it was quite nice really 🙂
         
        And I agree, there should be an overview… playing with the emulator again, I realized how tedious it’s all gonna be at level 60…
         
         

  10. I honestly just want to see what awesome items in D3 look like. Once we see that, opinion’s will change over night about pretty much everything. Jay has the advantage on us here, I think a lot of people either forget this or just like having everything their way. I can accept most of what Jay said in that interview and it was only making me picture the game in my head with each line I was reading.
     
    Looking forward to part 2. 8)
     

  11. RMAH is still a new low for gaming.  Jay wasn’t even able to really counter the question.  Irrelevant to me, though, since I’ll be on HC away from the cheaters.

  12. Do we still have to get softcore whinners about why there isnt HC corpse looting? – I mean – if you look at the HC people they 4/1 dont want corpse looting.  And IMO the people that do – shouldnt be playing hardcore …

      

  13. Sometimes I look at changes like the change to the skill categories, and I think, “are they trying to make wiki editors cry on purpose?”. Look at all the work MrFrye has endured for you! Look what they’ve done to him.

    And there should be great shame in the lack of editing of that article.

    • And sadly some of the categorizations still don’t make sense. Evasive Fire and Fan of Knives in Devices? Leap in Defensive? … the hell? Luckily they finally put Haunt into Secondary instead of Primary… whoever is coming up with those classifications must be mentally impaired or something… 😐

  14. “we wanted to ensure the best player experience possible by preventing you from playing LAN or offline” my stinky ass!!! tell that to myself from a couple weeks ago when I tried the open beta and had a delay of 20+ seconds between casting animation and spell projectile……sons of bitches! the hackers will teach ya a lesson you’ll never forget. we WILL have our offline play, mark my words.

    • Dude, calm down… that wasn’t a real quote. That was just Flux paraphrasing/grossly simplifying their usual rhetoric… stop looking for a reason to b**** at Blizzard at every turn.

      • As if having 1500ms lag for the sake of virtual item trade and people who can’t figure out that SP char =/= MP char, isn’t a reason enough to bitch at Blizzard…

        • 1500ms lag is a bit extreme – I didn’t get that playing from the UK on the US beta servers, even at the busiest of times. Is your internet connection terrible in general?

          • I have no doubts that it was mostly related to distance and everyone going apes**t over open beta. My connection is average but does it’s job just fine, and with european servers on other games (tribes ascend and sometimes LoL) i get about 30-60ms.
             
            I’m 90% certain that D3 at launch will be unplayable. I remember playing at lauch of WoW:Cata. Couldn’t log onto servers for 2 hours plus had immense ping whole time (don’t remember how much though, it was a while ago). I wonder what will happen when whole europe logs on that faithful night…
             

          • Haha yeah I remember Cata being a bit of a nightmare, but it did sort itself out after a few hours – so if that’s the same this time, I guess I’ll have an emergency movie lined up to keep me entertained. I’m happy starting at 2am…I mean, we’ve waited long enough 😉 

        • I played from Jakarta to US servers, and my peak bandwidth speed is 2 Mbps…

          Guess what… I never got anything worse than 350 ping, and even then I don’t notice any lag…  

  15. It seems like diablo 3 shall use a tiered gear system like WoW, in WoW required harder raids the gear from lower tier raids. In WoW is the difference between gear of different tiers gigantic, because this is what makes gear from the previous tier “required”. So I expect act 2 inferno gear to completely overpower act 1 inferno gear. 

    • The term “tier” in D3 has nothing to do with the term “tier” in WoW.

    • In WoW, armor tiers means a unique set of purple end-game/boss-reward item with a determined attributes and determined loot drop from a certain boss or token vendor.

       

      In D3, armor tiers means a generic level of armor slots items with higher armor range and different appearances, that’s it. Armor tiers are just normal white item, it can still be turned into a blue, yellow, set, or even legendary items which again has random attributes and wide stats range and even unique art/appearances. Plus it can drop from anywhere, not determined.

       

      I don’t know how you can see them as the same 😛

  16. in diablo2 before the rune-madness started i once traded perfect wartravellers for a good amount of other useful items. I wonder if there will be lower tier items that actually give us better stats than high tier stuff…
     

  17. There’s been a lot of backlash from the community in regards to the need for a contact internet connection during gameplay, which Blizzard have explained is purely so that Character / Item building is done in a legit fashion, but many have claimed is more so for DRM control. Is this Blizzards direction for all future releases? And will LAN play ever be part of another Blizzard game ever again? (This was an epically long question, so we might have paraphrased it a bit…)
    You know, every project is different – and for us, we’re focused on trying to solve some of the issues that Diablo 2 had. The reason why we’ve moved away from LAN play towards online was that we felt the experience that we could provide for players would be FAR better if they were online. We see it as a natively cooperative game, and we had a lot of problems with people in Diablo 2 playing the game offline and not realising that there even was an online component; or, once they discovered there was an online component, not being able to transfer their character over to the official Battle.net. That was a break-point for a lot of people, and they just left the game. Those are bad problems  that we wanted to fix.
     
    SUCH Freaking Hypocritical tyrants, all they want is the money from the RMAH. Let us decide how to play the game huh blizzard. Now I believe when people say that WoW made blizzard a different greedy company.
     

    • to be honest though, if RMAH turns out to be really successful on Blizzard, they’ll end up supporting D3 even more than originally planned, like what happened to WoW (originally Blizz only planned 2 expansion for WoW). And I’m all for that!

      Personally I blame Activision for the recent monetization surge from Blizzard, not WoW success 😛 

      • Thats the point, they found out they have a system to get more cash from people. It all works for an MMO but Diablo is an ARPG, it was never meant to be played like an MMO. It is meant to be played with “Friends” not massively multiplayer.
        Activision screwed blizzard, they have a history of ruining good things , 90% gamers blame Blizzard, and that’s really bad for public relations.

  18. Ugh… here is that term again; item tiers… D2 had no item tiers (that I’m aware of) other than the normal/superior /elite white items and it worked perfectly how you could mix and match uniques and set pieces without any consideration to tier. Wow on the other hand is totally tiered, I hate that part of it, and pretty much every next item you find is guaranteed to be better than every item of same slot before it.

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