The Ninth Circle #8: Designing Diablo III, Part Three: Items

Designing Diablo III, Part Three: Items

Items are unarguably central to the longevity of Diablo II. Diablo III must be designed to last at least as long as its predecessor. Items will be central to ensuring this longevity.

Items will be very similar to the Diablo II item types we have come to know. Exceptional versions of items will remain, and some items will be tied to particular character types. Set and unique items will also be here. A new class of item is the cloak, worn over armour. Cloaks can be magical, and have a single socket, representing an enchanted clasp. As covered in part 2, there are also firearms, a new class of missile weapon. Firearms of any type are slow to fire, think heavy crossbow speed. Unlike other missile weapons, with guns you get the chance to fire, or to use them as a melee weapon instead. One tactic is to shoot as the enemy approach, then club any who get too near.

In Diablo III there is a greater emphasis on item crafting, though without using the Horadric Cube. There is no Cube in this game. Alright, yes there is, but you won?t see it until Act III, and you can?t take it with you. It sites as a relic in the Horadrim Temple, and you will be given use of it as a major reward in Act III, but don?t expect to base your game around the use of this item any more. Item crafting will be more technical than magical.

Diablo?s magic items system of names denoting magical effects is excellent, and one that must stay in the third game. However, while items will still have sockets, there are no gems. They, and their cousins the jewels, have had their day, and will retire. This is no idle decision, but Diablo III must present a new challenge to players, and part of that challenge is breaking the old tried methods of enhancing weapons. In the place of gems come Worldstone slivers. Tiny pieces of the greater stone itself, that, when placed into a socket, give a bonus to that item. There are no ?colours? of slivers corellating to particular bonuses, rather slivers give a bonuses not unlike the charms available in Diablo II. At higher levels these bonuses become significant. Roughly one in every 20 slivers you find will be a splinter, which gives 2-3 different bonuses.

On rare occasions, you will find a socketed weapon with some or all sockets already filled. What is in the filled socket would be an item you are likely to find on that level. Sometimes, your item will be ruined, at other times you will find that rare rune already present in your socketed item.

Runes will remain, and become slightly more common than they are right now. Some towns you enter will contain Runeworkers, who can take a rune given to them by a character, and make more, which the character can buy. Runes are very expensive to buy, the higher level runes will clear most, if not all, of the gold from your stash, and the trick is you must find (or trade) a rune first. Once a character has given a rune to a Runeworker, that Runeworker will always have that rune available for that character to buy. Note rune supplies are not unlimited, and you will have to leave the game to get a second rune made- it?s a workshop, not a Star Trek-style replicator here. The familiar runes are joined by a new class, the demonic rune. These runes function similarly to the others, but the bonuses they give are different, such as the ability to curse on striking, or to give off a nova-type spell when struck. Demonic runes cannot be reproduced by Runeworkers.

Halos are a different type of item enhancement entirely. They don?t require sockets, and will work on any item, except uniques. Only one halo can be given to an item, but a halo can be given to any item, including rings and amulets. A halo gives a single, powerful benefit, starting at roughly equivalent to a flawless gem, and rising from there. Items with halos on them can be found, though rarely. The most common way to encounter a halo is as a quest reward- so don?t expect to gather more than half a dozen items with haloes in a single run through the game.

A Hall To Hold Them All
At a certain level, characters have the chance to build a Hero?s Hall. Like the stash, it is permanent, unlike the stash, it stays in the town in which it was built, for the remainder of the game. The Hero?s Hall is a place where any set or unique item you find can be deposited. The Hero?s Hall is the item collector?s dream- no longer do you have to dump all those spare set and unique items you find. Instead you can build your collection as you travel through the game, and return to view it at any time. This will also add some trading value to those set and uniques that would otherwise be thrown away, as who knows what someone else will need to extend their own collection, or what they will be prepared to trade for it?

Monsters To Make You Think
Monsters and their tactics are one things that could use an overhaul. Personally, I can see no improvement between D1 and D2. I would like to see group of monsters act as a cohesive unit. I would like monsters armed with spear to form a wall, over which monsters with missile weapons. I would also like monsters to break and reform when odds turn against them. Making every skirmish like a mini battle, requiring more thought than “left-click, left-click, right-click, left-click” would make the game a little more interesting. Of course there is a balance to be struck between making the monsters a little more plausible in their actions, and making even the most minor skirmish an annoyance for the players, but having the monsters simply mindlessly rush you every time is a little wearying to me.

Monster stockades could randomly generate in some maps, with a form suitable to the map in question. When monsters rout, they will flee to their home stronghold. Players can assault these, or simply pass them by. Another idea is to have monster types that particularly hate a certain character type, to the extent of hacking other demon types down in their rush to reach the player. For example a demonic knight would particularly hate the Knight character, while a demonic overseer would hate the gladiator as an escaped former slave. These and other minor touches would create some variance to the established “monster rush” that is all too familiar just now.

Technical Things
Lastly, though arguably it should have come first, we now talk of all things technical.

The viewpoint should remain 3rd person. Whether the graphics are 2D or 3D makes little difference to me. Gameplay trumps graphics for me every time. I would prefer the view to remain roughly where it is, not close in to an “over the shoulder” perspective. The resolution needs improvement. 1200×1600 should be an option with 1024×768 the default. Assuming the game is released in 2-3 years time, then these will be quite modest display settings. should remain as it was for the first two games. That is, fee free access, bought with the game. Releasing an expansion pack is a good way of helping to pay for the extended use of also. Since this game would be larger than the others, I think a larger player limit would also be good. I?m thing 24-32 players per game, but realistically, the number should be whatever the servers can handle per game. There?s no point allowing 128 players per map, if anything over 12 people causes irritable lag. While I hate to say it, by the time of D3, access should be broadband only. Sucks to be me, struggling on dial-up access from Australia, but hopefully I won?t be in three years? time.

This ends my experiment in foresight. From the amount of feedback emails I have received, I know that many of you have enjoyed it as much as I have. I will reiterate that these are my thoughts on what Diablo III could look like, I have no inside information at all (I wish!).

Disclaimer: The Ninth Circle was written by Lorelorn (David Kay) and hosted by The views expressed in these columns are those of the author, and not necessarily those of

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