Diablo III in full content production
Wilson on progress, trading, tone and more.
In the latest Blizzard podcast, Diablo III's lead designer Jay Wilson - we talked to him last week, nice man - reveals that the game is technically in an advanced state of completion, and the team is fully focused on content production.
"A lot of the team is really production focused now and we're generating content for the most part; a lot of the tech and underlying engine is really solid," Wilson said.
While the art team had moved on to building the game's second act, he revealed that "most of the design team is still on Act 1 because we're refining and improving the quests and flow, and some of the big game systems that we haven't really announced yet."
There he goes again with the unannounced "big game systems". Wilson repeatedly referenced these after the game's unveiling at June's Worldwide Invitational in Paris and seems genuinely excited by them. Our bet is that they have something to do with skill trees, or runes, or both.
Wilson revealed that the team was working through the game in a linear fashion, from start to end - "but you want your best work, which you tend to do latest in the project, to be at the beginning of the game". So the team will take plenty of time to revisit what it has already done. "It's pretty much how Blizzard works; we have a tendency to iterate over and over again on everything we do. So we build something and then we rebuild it," he said.
"If we haven't rebuilt something five times it really doesn't deserve to be shipped. That's pretty much our policy." Don't hold your breath for a release date, then.
Wilson went on to discuss several aspects of the game in detail. He explained that, as with previous Diablos, the best way to get the best items would be through trading, but that this system would be more accessible than it was in Diablo II.
"A bartering system is actually a very exclusionary trading system," he said, so Blizzard would be aiming to make a common currency - probably gold - more valuable this time. "A currency really provides a common language: that's the point of a currency... We don't want to do some of the stuff that Diablo II did where they kind of actively devalued gold.
"Really we're trying to allow more people to get into the trading game because the more people that are in it the more fun it will be."
There's an in-depth discussion of the inventory system - moving from the game's traditional (and "pretty unpopular") grid to a World of Warcraft-style simple slot inventory. Wilson promised that "we're going to give people lots of ways to expand and deal with your inventory and... more info on that, coming in the future," with the idea being to reduce the use of "mule" characters. Sharing and trading items will be made much easier, perhaps via a mail system.
Fans hoping for Diablo II's Necromancer class to return will be disappointed, it seems - Wilson said that his team was focused on creating new classes, or returning to ones it felt could be greatly improved, whereas the Necromancer "plays too well".
"The Necromancer is an awesome class, actually my favourite class, from Diablo II, and the class I'm currently playing the most of," Wilson said. "It's not that we just dislike him, we love the Necromancer, but... the issue we have is, he was so well-designed... there's certainly some things we could do a little differently, but do we feel like we can make him so much better, and change his core gameplay experience? If anything, we'd say we really don't want to."
He didn't rule out revisiting it in a future expansion "after we felt like we've kind of established the core Diablo III game," however.
Finally, after yet another lengthy defence of Diablo III's art style, Wilson hinted that the arc of the game would take players from a lighter tone in the beginning into an increasingly dark and apocalyptic setting.
"We really want to make sure that the tone of the game is right, that it's dark, that it's foreboding," he said. "What we showed at WWI really is a very early game content, you know, it's first act dungeon, first act environments.
"And we've made a conscious effort to make sure that the tone gets worse - one of the things that we really want to tell a story of, basically, is the coming apocalypse, and it works best if there's a contrast, you know, if things get worse in act two and act three, and act four... people are probably going to see some environments that feel, tone-wise, a lot more, menacing than what we've shown so far."