This post briefly summarizes all of the biggest new info from the Blizzard Event last week. Click through for the key info about the Beta test, the Auction House and RMT, big to skills and traits, new Arena combat rules, Battle.net account banners and customization, shared stash enlargement, the new style of introductory cinematic, the baffling Dark Wanderer retcon, and more.
We’ll have more detailed, editorial-style posts coming up later this week as well, with all the blue quotes, images, new FAQs and other full info coming up shortly. (Apologies about the delay in posting — the whole IncGamers.com network has been under a major DoS attack since Sunday evening.)
The Diablo 3 Beta test.
No start date yet. (Maybe during Wednesday’s conference call?) The beta goes right from the start of the game up to King Leoric. It’s demo-sized; less than half of Act One, but is nearly identical to the final game; quests, NPCs. The purpose of the beta is tech fixes, and to get feedback on early game content/features. The development team will continue to work on a number of game features (mainly runestones) during the beta.
The maximum number of skills is now 6, not 7. Yes, one less. Skill tiers have changed as well, and they now unlock at 3, 6, 12, 18, and 24. (There are more skills per tier.)
A bigger change is the removal of skill points. Skills are now basically on/off, and you can switch between them freely. (The respec system is always on.) Some skills scale up with your character’s level, others do not. Attributes effect skill damage, as do items. Blizzard feels that the benefits of being able to switch skills regularly outweigh the loss of character customization that came from skill points.
Traits are gone.
Instead of Traits, characters now have access to passive skills at tiers, set to levels 10, 20, and 30. There are a lot fewer of these passives than there were of traits. I hope we get some better system info, and/or skill shots of the skills/non-traits, since I’m not entirely clear on them from the various descriptions I’ve read.
The Auction House.
The big new feature reveal is an Auction House for trading. It’s similar to WoW’s auction house, and players can post trades for almost everything that drops in the game. Weapons, armor, runes, gems, gold, etc. Trading is realm-wide, with a very robust search/sorting option to find the mods you want on the item types you want. There are also systems to associate items of the appropriate level to your character.
The kicker, and what had our chat channel outraged, was the RMT aspect. There are essentially two parallel Auction Houses; one uses in-game currency (gold) and the other uses real world currency. Yes, dollars, euros, yen, coconut shells, or whatever your local currency is. Blizzard’s theory is that since there’s always been black market RMT, they might as well facilitate it themselves so players don’t get ripped off by third party hack sites.
Blizzard will not create items to sell; they’re purely facilitating player trading, while charging a small price for each listing. (To prevent spamming of junk items — each account gets a few free trades to start off.)
Battle.net account Banners. AKA E-Peen.
This new system shows off a banner/flag/pennant sort of thing for your account. It can be customized in color and design/logo, and the banner gains bells and whistles as your characters earn various achievements. The labeled screenshot demonstrates the options nicely. There are very many possible options, and the team means these to be quite distinctive; you’ll eventually recognize your friends at a glance just from their account banner.
The Battle Arena.
The Arena will not be accessible to Beta testers. Yes, I agree. That sucks. They’ve changed the Arena from the round-based form we saw at Blizzcon 2010 to a death match style. For ten minutes the teams fight, dead characters respawn after a few seconds, and the team with the more total kills, wins. Hardcore Arena character may yet get the sparring mode many HC enthusiasts have been pushing for all along, since the D3 strike team agrees with our estimates; that there simply won’t be a HC dueling community if the only option is permanent death.
The shared Stash.
The stash is large. The shared stash is just as large, and players can spend gold to make it larger. Up to five pages/tabs in size, eventually. This is the shared stash, that all characters on an account can access. There is no option (yet) to increase individual character inventory or stash size.
Diablo III introductory cinematic.
Attendees were shown a portion of the game’s introduction cinematic. It detailed some of the plot developments leading up to Diablo III, and teased images from the later game plot developments. A giant-sized Diablo was shown erupting from the earth, and battalions of armored Angels were seen flying down to Sanctuary. There will also be individual cinematics for each character; attendees were shown an excerpt from the Demon Hunter’s.
The big surprise is that these cinematics are not the usual 3D, almost-real life looking cinematics we’ve grown used to. They were stylized and artistic; a sort of moving 2D mural, or a painting come to life. Most attendees are quite enthusiastic about how they looked, though it’s hard for people who didn’t see it to visualize. It’s not known if these are all the cinematics we’ll see, or if there will be the usual 3D style cinematics shown between acts, or at the conclusion of the game.
The Dark Wanderer
The only interesting new bit of plot info given out at the event came courtesy of Chris Metzen. He revealed that they’ve done some (more) retconing, and that the Dark Wanderer’s identity has changed. He’s now been retroactively changed from the Diablo I Warrior to Prince Albrecht. Just how this works in the plot is unknown. In Diablo I, your hero killed Diablo, who was in Prince Albrecht’s body, then took the soulstone and jammed it into their own forehead. And thus became the Dark Wanderer. (We discussed this retcon on the new podcast, and were all baffled by it.)
Permanent Inventory Items.
Joining the Nephalem Cube as a permanent, reusable item in your inventory is the Cauldron of Jordan (used to sell items instantly, while not in town) and the Stone of Recall, which functions as an inexhaustible supply of Town Portals.