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    We previously newsed about Jay Wilson’s “Making of Diablo 3” panel discussion/ Diablo 3 Postmortem coming up at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco later this month. As we discussed in that post, from the program notes it seems like Jay’s talk is going to focus on his (in)famous Seven Design Pillas of Diablo 3.

    There’s nothing new about Jay’s talk, other than a time and date (March 28, 2013, 11:30AM – 12:30PM) but two more Diablo 3 related talks have been added to the schedule, and at least one of them should give us quite a bit to chew over. It’s being given by Diablo 3 Senior Technical Designer and frequent Developer blog author DiabloWikiWyatt Cheng, and here’s the full program info:

    Through the Grinder: Refining Diablo III’s Game Systems
    Wyatt Cheng — Senior Technical Game Designer, Blizzard

    Location: Room 135, North Hall
    Date: March 29
    Time: 2:30PM – 3:30PM
    Format: Lecture
    Vault Recording: Video
    Track: Design

    As with all Blizzard games, Diablo III went through many iterations before the final product was released. Wyatt will describe different game systems that were attempted, explored, and then ultimately removed. We’ll go into detail about the pros and cons of each system, what worked and didn’t work, and how the team used each failure to bring them closer to success.

    1. Health Recovery: From Regenerative Damage Shields to potion dilution, where potions become less effective as you drink them, many different health recovery mechanisms were tried. What were the major issues with each of these systems and how did it lead to health globes in the end?

    2. Controls. At Blizzard, control is king. Although simple on the surface, a number of iterations were required to polish the Diablo III interface, in order to provide the player with tight and responsive controls.

    3. Skill System: The skill system underwent multiple revisions. Early systems involved different variations of point spending, an evolution from Diablo II. Later systems had runes, with multiple rune ranks that dropped as items, which could be used to modify skills.

    Takeaway

    Blizzard has a number of game design values. A postmortem on the development of Diablo III gives us an opportunity to see these game design values in action. Values such as “Control is King,” “Avoid the Grand Reveal,” and “What is the Fantasy.” Ultimately these values are driven by iteration.

    Intended Audience

    This talk is intended for anyone who is interested in concrete examples of the iterative design process. It’s particularly aimed at those who aren’t afraid to peek behind the curtain to see failures, as well as successes. Portions of the talk will delve into technical detail, but nothing too scary.

    Speaker: Wyatt Cheng | Senior Technical Game Designer, Blizzard

    Wyatt graduated from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He has worked at Electronic Arts Canada, Totally Games, and Blizzard Entertainment. He has been at Blizzard Entertainment since 2003, where he currently works as a senior technical game designer on Diablo III.

    So, how about those 3 topics? They seem a nice mixture of good and bad, and should spur some nice discussion. (Imagine if his 4th topic was Itemization? *shudder*)

    1) I think the health system, including the custom class resources and the removal of pot spam, is one of Diablo 3’s best upgrades over Diablo 2 and most other ARPGs.

    2) The skill system is very good as well, with a huge variety of skill options and a nice progression through them. (Obviously it’s not perfect and I still think some form of skill levels would add a lot of depth, variety, and complexity, but it’s far less cookie cutter than D2’s system.)

    3) As for the controls… ugh. I guess we’ve all grown used to having just 6 hotkeys, 4 of which you *must* cast via keyboard keys, but I’d happily throw that out to return to the D2 system of mapping skills to the left or right click (or both, if you wanted) and cycling through them via the keyboard or mouse wheel. I have a specific example of why the current control system sucks, but I’ll stick it below the fold save it for a new post to keep this main post on track.

    In addition to Wyatt’s lecture, there’s yet a third Diablo panel, though it’s all about Blizzard’s localization process, and seems more targeted to industry professionals than fan pundits. Full details on that panel and updated info about Jay’s, if you click through.

    The full program page for the Localization Panel:

    Implementing Blizzard’s Localization Vision in Real Time

  • William Barnes — Senior Manager – Global Localization, Blizzard Entertainment
  • Arthur Flew — Associate Producer, Blizzard Entertainment
  • Ines Rubio — European Localization Manager, Blizzard Entertainment
  • Jason Walker — Project Management and Analytics, Blizzard Entertainment
  • Location: Room 2008, West Hall
    Date: March 26
    Time: 5:05PM – 6:00PM
    Format: 60-Minute Lecture
    Vault Recording: Video
    Track: Localization Summit

    Setting the stage with Diablo III as the backdrop, this panel of four tenured Blizzard Entertainment representatives will discuss: 1) the depths to which Blizzard goes to avoid banal translation, preferring innovative methods for rich localization, 2) how present day publishing of multiple titles has deemed real-time implementation of new processes a must to stay ahead, and 3) Blizzard’s Localization vision for tomorrow and beyond.

    Takeaway<

    Attendees will learn about some of the outdated localization methods Blizzard is abandoning for more collaborative best practices, the tools the company is developing to support these practices, how their teams implemented these practices during Diablo III development and what they meant to the project.

    Speakers

    William Barnes | Senior Manager – Global Localization, Blizzard Entertainment

    William Barnes is a localization professional working for Blizzard Entertainment in Shanghai, China. His current title is senior manager for Platform Services, overseeing the localization and quality assurance for Blizzard’s games released in China.

    Arthur Flew | Associate Producer, Blizzard Entertainment

    Arthur Flew has worked at Blizzard Entertainment for eight years. He began his tenure in the Customer Service department and after a couple of years transferred to Platform Services to join the Localization department. In his time in Platform Services, he has worked as the Localization QA lead on Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, and joined the Localization Production staff during the first half of 2011 to co-produce Diablo III with Andrew Vestal. At the end of 2012, Arthur assumed primary localization duties of Diablo III.

    Ines Rubio | European Localization Manager, Blizzard Entertainment

    Ines Rubio is the head of Blizzard’s Localization team in Europe. She joined Blizzard Entertainment as part of the newly set-up Castilian Spanish Localization team in France in 2006, and since then has contributed to the localization of World of Warcraft, StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty, and Diablo III. Prior to Blizzard, Ines worked as a translator at Nintendo of Europe, where she localized a variety of Mario and Pokemon titles directly from Japanese, relying on prior experience with over two dozen games elsewhere in the games industry. Among her earliest work, perhaps as a hint of things to come, Diablo II material was part of her first localization internship.

    Jason Walker | Project Management and Analytics, Blizzard Entertainment

    Jason leads a team of 5 project managers and 10 analytics engineers at Blizzard. He also handles the financial needs of QA and Localization as far as budgeting, and has revamped the contracting of third-party localization vendors. His group is managing the QA integration effort at Blizzard, where Localization and QA are under the same umbrella of Platform Services. He joined Blizzard in 2009 after an internship in the Versaille office, where he focused on CS and financial initiatives. Prior to joining Blizzard, Jason served a helicopter pilot in the US Marines for 11 years.

    The updated info for Jay Wilson’s lecture:

    Shout at the Devil: The Making of Diablo III
    Jay Wilson — Game Director, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc
    Location: Room 135, North Hall
    Date: March 28
    Time: 11:30AM – 12:30PM
    Format: Lecture
    Vault Recording: Video
    Track: Design

    When building any game, but especially when it’s a sequel to the beloved Diablo series, it’s critical that you have a series of core design goals, or pillars, that you can use as a guide to making decisions and defining what you want the final vision of the game to accomplish. In this postmortem, we’ll explore the pillars that guided Diablo III’s development and how well we felt we accomplished each of them. We’ll focus specifically on the ones we feel we struggled with and the game design lessons we learned during those struggles. Examples of specific challenges of living up to these values will be provided, prioritizing them against one another, and evaluating how well they were accomplished after Diablo III was released.

    Takeaway

    Attendees will receive insight into the value of defining the core design elements that will drive their game development. In addition, they will learn the importance of measuring their game against those values, and using that knowledge to iterate on the final product, both pre- and post-release.

    Intended Audience

    This talk is intended for a general audience, including those who are interested in game design as well as project leadership. Project leads of all levels will also gain the benefits of good lessons learned on driving and iterating a game’s vision. The intention is for the talk to be general enough that specific knowledge of the Diablo series is not necessary, but such knowledge will be beneficial.

    Speaker: Jay Wilson | Game Director, Blizzard Entertainment, Inc

    As a game director for Blizzard Entertainment, Inc., Jay Wilson is responsible for overseeing the overall game design of Blizzard Entertainment(R)’s sequel, Diablo(R) III. This involves establishing and maintaining the project’s creative vision, and overseeing a development team as they work to craft a compelling play experience. Wilson started at Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. in January 2006 in his current role. Before joining Blizzard, he worked at Relic Entertainment, contributing to a number of highly acclaimed games there. He has also worked as a designer at Electronic Arts, Cavedog Entertainment, and Monolith. In his spare time, Wilson plays both videogames and tabletop games extensively, and also enjoys reading books and watching movies.

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