A sharp-eyed fan compared two screenshots from the same location in Act II, pointed out the lighting differences, and asked WTF. Bashiok replied:
If you compare them, they seem to be the exact same place. Look the rocks shape, the dead body and even the beasts. There are some changes as the rock sculpture (up-left) and some rock position (also up-left).
You can clearly see the difference between both illuminations. The witch doctor is pretty darker than the demon hunter’s. As they already stated that there won’t be day&night cicles, I guess they tuned up the illumination on this area. Any words on this?
Hrm, well it’s possible the witch doctor one was taken in a pre-release build and didn’t have final lighting. Possible in time crunches where screenshots need to be taken and approved before an event.
It’s possible the lighting was just simply changed as the zones are iterated upon.
It’s possible the darker look is from a strong sand storm effect that used to permeate the majority of the area, which isn’t present or toned down in the DH screen.
Or it may be some combination of all of the above.
The witch doctor one looks ‘wrong’ to me, so my gut reaction would be to say it was taken before a final lighting pass happened on that area.
You can see the screens side by side below; click them for the full sized view. The older one is on the left; it was released back in mid-2009, while the other was just added a couple of weeks ago. That tells us nothing about when it was taken, though. Blizzard’s been very sporadic in their Diablo III screenshot release patterns, and it’s been clear from the identical dungeons/monsters/items/skills (especially in the Act One shots) that they took hundreds of them long ago, got those all approved for release, and then dribbled them out a dozen or so at a time over a year+.
As for the different lighting, as Bashiok said in his post, there are a lot of potential reasons. I’d say an atmospheric disturbance was fairly likely; while playing Diablo III you see flashes of lightning, dark shadows from fog or sandstorms, bright lights from spell effect or boss monsters, and more. Watch any of the gameplay movies frame by frame and you’ll see the brightness fluctuate quite a bit.
A few other notes:
Odd how the Lacuni are poised on the rocks, in the exact same position, each time? That area hasn’t been in a playable demo, but I assumed from the first shot that the Lacuni would see you and scramble down the rocks to fight your character. Maybe they do, but they’re poised up there when you first appear, and only run down once you move a little further into the canyon? (I also assumed even if they were just watching from above, that they’d be normally-animated monsters, not statues, which makes their identical poses seem odd.)
Note the treasure chest in the cul-de-sac on the left; not there in the older shot, which might mean it’s something added in a more recent update, or that’s just a random spawning location which gets a chest some games, and doesn’t get one others. The corpse is clickable; dead bodies found on the ground with valuable items are a familiar feature to anyone who has played Diablo I, Diablo II, or vacationed in Mexico.
Note the dimensions; only the newer Diablo III screenshots, starting with the Artisan shots from Gamescom last August, are widescreen.