Each year at Blizzcon, Blizzard holds a press-only Q&A session in one of the back rooms. These are generally joint events, with a lead dev from WoW, D3, and sometimes SC2 as well. Like all Q&A sessions, they’re only as good as the questions asked, and having the press asking them doesn’t necessarily improve things.

    Happily, the questions from this year’s event were pretty good, as were Jay Wilson’s answers. During the session, Jay confirmed that the Hardcore Graveyard Halls of the Dead is a UI display, said there would be “hundreds” of achievements, briefly mentioned end game Followers improvements, gave a pat PR answer on D3’s lack of mod support, and compared the merits of jizz vs. urine as Monk resource graphics. The full transcript is here, courtesy of D3db. I’ve quoted a few that brought the best new infos.

    Q. Now that all spells are dependent on weapon speed and damage, are you getting rid of spell damage and increased cast rate?
    Jay Wilson: We are getting rid of increased cast rate, and increased weapon rate will replace it. Spell damage was a stat that only really appeared to the Witch Doctors and Wizards, we probably made this change for 2 reasons. The major one was we found casters were not valuing their weapons, that was a big problem with Diablo 2. The second one was Witch Doctor and Wizard randomly generated affixes were very confusing, our testers were coming back with questions like “What’s the math on this, when you say 20% increased damage does it apply to base damage, to spell damage?” If you can’t understand it and can’t understand which one is better than the other then that’s a bad thing.

    Q. Do you have to play through softcore to unlock hardcore?
    Jay Wilson: Oooh, good question, yes, you will have to play through to a certain point to unlock hardcore mode, I think it’s through normal difficulty after you kill the end boss. I’m like 90% sure, so we could change our minds.

    Q. How many hours do you anticipate the average player will have to invest to hit level 60 in Diablo III?
    Jay Wilson: This is a really hard question to answer, people ask me this all the time. The answer depends on how insane you are… I’m gonna say… I’m not even gonna guess, because if I do I know that’s going to come back and haunt me. We’re not really concerned about making 1-60 some ridiculously long grind. We’re not douchebags, it’ll be based upon what feels good.

    Q. Compared to Diablo 2?
    Jay Wilson: Again, it’s speculation that will come back to haunt me. It’ll probably be shorter than Diablo II, but D2 also didn’t have an end-game.

    I hope they put the spells = weapon damage stuff into the next beta patch so we can get some hands on trials with it pre-launch, as it sounds like a huge change. I liked the long-stated D3 goal of making weapon mods important to casters, but I thought their initial ideas about adding +% spell damage as an essential mod, along with properties like faster casting rate, faster resource regen, etc, would be enough to do the trick. After all, those type of mods roughly equate to essential combat weapon mods like +% damage, faster swing speed, elemental damage, etc.

    Apparently that system wasn’t enough though, and casters still did not need good mods on their weapons to the same extent as physical damage characters. Hence this major change to caster weapons, the removal of faster casting rate mods, etc. It’s a huge change, and it’s going to feel weird using axes and mauls and such on casters.

    Can slower casting rate provide enough of a trade off for the bigger base damage to spells? Probably for the fast-acting DiabloWikiWizard, but I can easily envision a DiabloWikiWitch Doctor gearing up with a giant polearm and kicking back behind his minions while unleashing massively-damaging spells, utterly unconcerned that they’re taking .2 seconds longer per cast. (Then again, all the really big two-handed weapons are Barb-only, so this might not be such a factor.)

    Though that sounds odd, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It should certainly provide more diversity in equipment options and play styles.

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