“Diablo III” is shaping up to be a fine addition to the series. The demo Blizzard offered at BlizzCon was smooth, looked wonderful and — most importantly — built on the point-and-click Diablo interface without becoming cluttered or complicated.
We also talked with “Diablo III” Game Director Jay Wilson. While time was tight, we had a chance to go over some of the guiding principles behind the game as well as how the developers are tackling some of the thorny class issues from “Diablo II.”
One of Wilson’s goals with “Diablo III” is to expand the game’s role-playing nature. The core gameplay, he said, is still action — and our time playing the demo supports that — but Blizzard was looking to strengthen what role-playing elements, like quests and storyline elements, that help define the series.
Action-RPG dungeons often feel like “a box full of monsters” waiting to be slain by a player, Wilson said. Part of the strategy to make them feel more like foes and less like goody bags is to make the world itself more vibrant. Small touches, like adding a world map to let players know where they were as they journeyed from area to area help ground the player (as described in the “Diablo III” panel). Others include streamlining questing and diffusing the quest givers. Rather than having a central hub to which players must constantly return, players are given new goals as they proceed through the world.
The other aspect of the game’s RPG side — customization — was also undergoing a radical redesign. It’s been known for some time that, unlike previous “Diablo” titles, players won’t be able to tailor their character’s core statistics, like vitality or energy. This change, which angered many, was defended by Wilson as a way to actually advance customization.
The logic goes this way: In “Diablo II,” build balance wasn’t very good. There were just a handful of competitive builds — that is, builds that could actually finish all three difficulty modes of the game. There were quite a few average builds and many, many bad builds. This was compounded by unintuitive character building choices. In terms of statistics, vitality, which measured how tough a character was, far outshined every other choice for every class, Wilson said. The nature of the system actually decreased viable choices and customization because the only real choice was to build to minimum strength and dexterity values and then to maximize vitality.
The end result is that many players built characters that simply couldn’t compete because they made intuitive choices. In “Diablo III,” the goal is to make it hard to build a bad character, while still making designing a good character a challenge. To look at it another way, “Diablo III” designers hope to have more good builds than “Diablo II” did and fewer terrible builds.
Know those fancy goody bags Blizzard is giving out? We can’t keep ours so we’re going to give them away to readers. Leave a comment on any of our BlizzCon 2009 posts and when it’s all over, we’ll put all the names in a digital hat and pick some winners. Good luck!
Coverage so far: