This is a rough transcript of the Diablo III Q&A Panel held on Saturday, October 22 from 11:30am to 12:30pm at the main stage (Hall D). Not as accurate as I had wished, considering my language limitations, but close.
Yesterday, you were talking about Difficulty Levels and how at normal it’ll be really really easy. What about veteran players? Are we going to have to beat the game once before we get a challenge?
Wilson: We’re not planning on any shortcuts through Normal Difficulty. Just like in Diablo II, in Normal Difficulty will be fairly a quick path.
We’re not too worried about people getting bored. It does get more challenging, kinda later — even in the First Act. And progressively throughout. I wouldn’t say that the entire Normal Difficulty is not nearly as easy as the first hour.
The first hour is really a tutorial. So we really feel internally — what we noticed especially when a lot of people were playing is that they get through that first part really quick, and then they get through the whole First Act in Normal Difficulty and they don’t have problems with getting bored or things like that.
Martens: I should say the Normal Difficulty level if you are a veteran, your chance to enjoy the story and get familiar with the Skills so you can kick ass with them in the next Difficulty level.
There are three types of gamers in Blizzard games. There is the Hardcore player, there’s the casual gamer, and then there’s the farmer gamer. With Farmer being a big industry thanks to World of Warcraft, How do you guys plan on combating this? They are looking at how can we make some more money?
Wilson: The most important thing to remember, Diablo III is not a persistent world.
The reason farmers feel so bad in World of Warcraft is because the farmers are in your world, taking your quest mobs, and loot drop, and interfering with your experience.
In Diablo, they can go off into their own world, their own server, their own instance and farm and it doesn’t affect you at all.
We don’t feel it’s going to be a big problem in Diablo III.
With the release of Diablo III, I was wondering what the Chat Gem is gonna do.
Martens: It fulfills one of your dreams.
You made the Followers more viable for end-game content because feedback wanted it. Is it possible to get to the end of the game content — in Inferno Difficulty — without a follower?
Wilson: Yea, it should be totally possible to — we’re trying to make the Followers viable not required. They do give players some nice bonuses.
If you don’t like the Followers, you should be able to play without them.
This won’t be available in at release date, but we’re looking at ways you can benefit get the benefit of a Follower, without a Follower. We don’t know yet how exactly we’re going to do that, but that’s something we want to explore in the future.
Is Diablo a girl?
Martens: Diablo is not constrained by our Human gender stereotypes. Diablo can take multiple forms, and we’ve never seen the true form of Diablo yet. Do Diablo has many surprises in store for us.
Could you elaborate on hardcore mode, for example when it’s unlocked are there going to be real-money transactions, and are there any differences between Diablo II and Diablo III hardcore mode?
Wilson: For those of you who don’t know, If you make a hardcore character and that character ever dies, that character is gone forever.
Hardcore characters are separated from the other regular games. Hardcore mode have their own auction house, but it’s a Gold-only-based Auction House. They don’t have a Real-Money Auction House, and they can’t trade in any way with regular characters.
They are isolated. They can trade items with other Hardcore characters, but not with regular characters. The other big difference is when your hardcore character dies all items are gone. The items don’t drop on the ground, so it’s not like you can have another player grab your items for you, and trade them to you and you are back to action. It’s gone.
PvP is something we are actually internally debating. The PvP Team is concerned that if we have you die permanently in an arena, then hardcore players will never play Arena.
I still feel like there should be some kind of way to allow Hardcore Arena Dueling. We are still considering how to do that.
I have a couple questions about Inferno mode. Do you expect fresh level 60 characters to be able to succeed in Inferno? Do you even plan to nerf Inferno to make it more accessible to casual players?
Wilson: About the first question … NO. About the second question … (long silence) … Probably not. I wouldn’t promise that we’ll never nerf it, because certainly we’ve seen like — in the development of World of Warcraft we have seen super hard bosses show up and even the most hardcore of the hardcore go on and say hey, he’s a little too hard.
I’d never want to say we’ll never nerf something because even the hardcore people might say it’s too hard. However, we won’t nerf it to make it casual.
In Diablo I and II, there was a fog of war. I was wondering in Diablo III why that wasn’t there.
Wilson: There is fog of war in Diablo III.
Martens: We took fog of war out of your town. In New Tristram there’s no fog of war so you can find the stores easily, but to my understanding there’s fog of war evereywhere else.
Wilson: Do you mean the Light Radius? Alright, that was a long hard process, and there are some dungeons in the game that really do emphasize the light, because it’s there. It was more an issue of the 3D engine, and try to make the world feel really good and be moody and feel the way we wanted — when you only have one light, it’s easier with the 2D engine where every sprite is kinda hand drawn, with its light already in it — but with a 3D engine, if you have one light on the character, it actually makes for a really kind of bland and bad looking world.
You need to fill the world with a little more light to make it interesting. So it was very difficult for us to make the light radius exactly as what you see in Diablo II, but we tried to do it in some of the dungeons.
Concerning randomization in dungeons, there are some areas in Diablo II that looked frustratingly convoluted, are you toning that down in Diablo III?
Wilson: I think the question really is: “Are we going to not do krappy designs?”
(crowd and developers laugh)
Martens: I know exactly what you are referring to. Most dungeons are very random. A change from Diablo II to Diablo III is there’s quite a bit more story moments in the dungeons themselves.
So in a completely random dungeon, very often you got a unique entry point, and say the X NPC is a treasure hunter and he gets into these old ruins, and he can’t get through in the zone, and so it’s an escort mission, and it concludes at the end.
So it’s a random dungeon in between, but it has a set starting point and end point and a set final room, and the quest concludes.
In another cases, like you’d see in the beta, we have some dungeons levels that have very little randomness, like the Templar level. You acquire the Templar Follower in that level, he’s got his little story moments, it’s an open room, but even there there’s a little randomness between the first room and the end room.
He’s got a much bigger set spot because he’s going to get his armor and have his rescue scene, and then have his final confrontation with Jondar, and ultimately kill him.
(Martens says in a high pitch voice: “Spoiler”)
Diablo II was pretty much destroyed by spamming. So I want to know what you are doing with Warden protection against it.
Bridenbecker: Warden. That’s an investment we have spent ten years on. We’re trying to figure out how people are going through and re-engineering some of our systems or better understanding them.
We have some protections given the nature of Diablo II gameplay and it does render it a little less effective.
We’ll be policing it pretty well, and making sure that we maintain the consistency of the gameplay.
Wilson: I’m gonna follow up on that too. One of the things that I know that’s really annoying in Diablo II is that people who would jump in into games, and broadcast and jump out, and that’s something we will be looking at too as well. Any kind of things like spamming. We’ll stop things like that.
I was trying out the Monk, are all those strikes single-click single-attacks, or are they like the old Barbarian frenzy where we can just hold and go on forever?
Wilson: A lot of abilities, yea, you can hold down, and some you can’t. Most of them you can right-click drive with a particular ability if you want. We try to design the combat so that there’s really the most optimal way of play.
You’ll be better if you can swap in a nice follow up like a bit hit, controlled by a cooldown or resource. We find it’s more fun when you use a couple of abilities together.
Have you thought of adding WASD movement controls so players don’t have to spam the mouse so much when kitting?
Wilson: We played around and mostly played with games that use that in kind of an isometric type of view, and the general feeling we had is you don’t really want to support two control schemes.
It’s really hard to make one control scheme feel great, and having them two feel great just makes the challenge that much bigger.
We found that the nature of the WASD control movement doesn’t work pretty well with an isometric gameplay, so we decided to stick with the mouse.
In Diablo II you used to have runewords. Now in Diablo III you have runestones. Are you planning to add the runewords again?
Martens: No, sir. We have a lot of new systems that do sort of everything the runewords needed to do.
You’ve the runestones, and five variations of that times seven levels, so this is like a rich system. We also have gems which are coming back, and they have more things that they do as well.
We moved the attributes or stat points into the itemization game. Crafting, you make your own items which have some set abilities, and also random affixes as well. You can break those things down. That replaces gambling for example.
We have tons of new systems. We don’t really need runewords any more. We have it all covered.
You keep teasing us about the console version of the game. Is it coming out for consoles or not?
Wilson: We haven’t officially announced anything. So there’s my dodgy part of the answer. I don’t think we are shy about that.
We hire people. We have a console team working internally. We want to make a console version. I think that’s pretty obvious. We’re hiring people right now to fill out positions in that team, but we haven’t announced it, because we don’t want to announce something until we’re sure that we have a game that we can show to people.
Back in Diablo II, I perfected the teeth necromancer build in which I spammed every point in the teeth. I was wondering if Diablo III will have an equivalent to teeth.
Wilson: I don’t know that we have one that looks exactly like teeth, but we have skills that are multiple projectiles with randomization. With rune variations, there are around 700 skills per class. My guess is we have one that is exactly like teeth, and that is not the class I’m playing with right now. But yea, you might be able to see something that’s similar enough.
Any design, implementation, challenges you have had for the console version of Diablo III, and what things have you learned from it?
Wilson: We haven’t built it yet. We have only experimented with control schemes and things like that. The real challenge is really, targeting.
Movement really feels better with a controller, but how you target and certain skills like magic missile feels great because you are shooting in a direction, but a skill like Blizzard we’re trying to figure out exactly where that’s going to go without putting some kind of targeting which we don’t really want to do. That’s probably one of the biggest challenges.
Then there are a lot of these subtle little things: monster distribution and the AI feel a little bit different than it does in the PC version.
We play around with how the control feels, how it feels to get surrounded.
Jason Regier: The control of the game. Everyone wants a game where you have direct control of your character. That is where we probably spent most of our time experimenting with, and making sure that gets right on the console version that we’re playing around with.
Can we get some beta keys?
Wilson: I have some in my backpocket right now! We’re going to be releasing more beta keys very shortly. If you sign up, you’ll get some chance to get them. We’re definitely trying to keep beta running as long as we can, and we’re going to keep sending waves of beta keys.
We have a big patch coming. We’re just waiting to launch that patch to send some more.
Jason Regier: Those of you who have been participating in the beta and you are here right now, Thank you so much for playing and testing the heck out of the game. We really appreciate it.
Thanks for making Followers. There were some builds in Diablo II where the Hirelings were the main source of your damage. Will these be viable in Diablo III as well?
Wilson: We made the Followers very viable very recently, so we haven’t played with them in a higher difficulties that much. So how they feel in there, how much damage output they truly have, and how much we are willing to give them, is going to come through playing it ourselves. I wouldn’t want to say yes or no to that at this point.
You said in Infernal the level cap for the characters is at 60, but the monsters will be 61 and higher, so that the monsters are tougher and a challenge. Eventually we’re going to beat it. Are there plans for a super dungeon, or uber Tristram type of thing?
Wilson: I’m sure if you guys get really bored and don’t want to play the game anymore, we’ll try to do something. Right now we are more focused on getting Diablo III done. We haven’t really thought what we’d do beyond that, but I can promise you, if you guys destroy Inferno mode and you are sitting around on your giant mount of loot, then we’ll do something about it.