Blizzard explains how Diablo IV is different from Diablo III - VentureBeat

Blizzard explains how Diablo IV is different from Diablo III - VentureBeat
Blizzard said that Diablo IV is taking inspiration from every past entry in the franchise, but its hard to not feel like its distancing itself a bit from Diablo III.

Diablo IV had its unveiling on November 1 at BlizzCon 2019 in Anaheim, California. Blizzard is positioning the action role-playing game as a return to the franchises darker roots. This follows complaints from some fans that 2012s Diablo III lost a bit of the series grit.

At BlizzCon, I had a chance to chat with Diablo IV lead systems designer David Kim and lead lighting artist Sean Murphy. I asked them what makes Diablo IV different from its predecessor, along with some questions about plans for expansions and everyones favorite tech, ray tracing .

GamesBeat: Diablo IV is touting itself as a dark game, but obviously you have some limits on how violent you can get. How do you find that balance?

Sean Murphy: We tried not to. We use dark, whether its literal or dark as in, hey, if you got to the Domhain tunnels and there are flayed bodies and blood all through the tunnel we dont like to do that every square inch. We use that for effect. We use that for narrative. Because if you do something like that all over the place, it robs it of its power. Thats sort of been our temperature gauge for how were playing things out like that, if that makes sense.

GamesBeat: Lets say Im somebody who liked Diablo II more than Diablo III. What am I going to see in Diablo IV thats going to make me happy?

Murphy: First off lots of things. From an aesthetic standpoint, the aesthetics would hopefully please folks that are fans of that darker, Gothic, a little bit more real, grittier type of setting.

Kim: On the systems side, theres much more added customization options, player choice options, like the skill point system. That allows you to rank up your favorite skills, and as you rank up the skills, you unlock new components to that skill. The talent tree system, for example, even if were both going the same build, depending on the choice you have made, youll be playing a bit different, more in line with how you want to play the game.

Item affixes, same thing. Well have lots of the same item affixes that existed in previous Diablo games. Well try to improve on that even further. Luis has talked about the plus to skill ranks as an item affix, plus to talent ranks as another type of item affix, and so on. Legendary items are returning, of course. Were trying to make this change where legendary items are the endgame that youre playing with, not the sets. This means I can have that full customization on every item slot in the endgame. That hugely increased sense of customization and choice I have available to me, I think, is one of the biggest draws.

Above: A statue of Diablo IVs Lillith from BlizzCon 2019.

GamesBeat: Can you walk me through how the talent tree system works?

Kim: Everyones talent tree is very different. The Druid has the two separate trees. Whats not shown in the demo that were playing with internally is you can cross over into any specific nodes, so that you can gain access to different parts of the tree more easily than any other class. How it works, you start from the top, and as you put points in, new tiers will unlock.

As you put points into this node, you see a bar going down. As it fills up the next tier, the next tier lights up and you can put points into the next tier as well. Thats how the tree goes down. If you reach the end, then there are the strongest talents that you can only pick one of. When you pick one of these, youll have some extra talent points to spend on the separate side, or on this side too. What I mean is, I picked one of my choices. I have maybe 10 points left over to use in the other tree. I have no access to anything down here. Except if youre the Druid, I can cross over and get something powerful on this side as well.

Were trying to make sure that every class has a unique talent tree. If you check out the sorceress, theres one tree that leads into three different trees. It looks very different. Thats what were trying to do.

GamesBeat: How do you get those talent points? Is it just one per level?

Kim: Starting from a specific level, once the system unlocks, youll get one per level, and then at max level you have that fixed set of points to play around with.

GamesBeat: Can you explain the skills system?

Kim: Skill points are very different compared to the talent tree. You have your skills and you start with one. As you level up, youll be earning one or more skill points to spend, and currently the max rank on a skill is 15. You can choose to use your skill points that you have earned to unlock brand new skills, or to rank up existing skills. If youre putting points into, say, the Barbarian shout skill you see in the demo, at the beginning its pretty simple and maybe short duration that affects all your party members, but as you put in more ranks, it gets more powerful.

Maybe the radius goes up a bit. Maybe you start unlocking new types of things, like you go unstoppable, so youre immune to CCs once you use it. Thats how that works. Whats interesting about this one is the skill point system is a permanent choice. You cant redo them. Whereas the talent tree, you can redo those points any time you want.

Above: Diablo IV in action.

GamesBeat: Thats a big consequence.

Kim: Its mostly to make the choices you make a bit more meaningful. When youre leveling up, especially, you wont have too many skill points to play around with. You do have to be very careful with what you put in, where you put your skill points. But at the same time, in the end endgame, if you really want to invest in your character, youll be able to max out all the skills eventually.

GamesBeat: Im excited to see the Druid return. Why are you bringing this class back?

Murphy: The Druid actually obviously the Druid is a favorite. Everyone loves a Druid. But we actually had a concept piece that got done a while back by somebody in house that gave him a bit of a different look, perhaps, to how he looked in D2.

Once that piece went up, it was like, okay, were going, we gotta do this. What with the new engine and all that, it was a good opportunity for at least from an art standpoint, with the Druid, for the character team to go all in. On the front end hes got the fur, the dogs, it looks super cool.

GamesBeat: So far the revealed classes have all also been in Diablo II. Is that a coincidence?

Kim: We just picked what classes would be great for Diablo IV.

Murphy: We have reverence for all the Diablos. Were just trying to grab the best bits across the board, because we want to make the best experience in Diablo possible.

GamesBeat: Diablo IV has in-game cinematics for the first time. How hard is it to implement that into a top-down RPG?

Murphy: It was an undertaking. Its actually the first time weve seen, in Diablo usually we do matte paintings and whatnot. The fact that you actually see that vista shot, thats the world. Thats the real place. Its obviously seamless. The whole thing happens in real time.

The whole point that were trying to build in Sanctuary is were treating it like a character. It made sense to say, hey, we want to show this place that were building for folks to spend some time in. When you see it, you can go to it. Yes, it was definitely I mean, theres a new pipeline for it and whatnot, of course. But it was worth it.

Above: The Druids in-game model.

GamesBeat: Does that make it more challenging to design all these different assets? Now all of the pieces of equipment need to look good enough for closeups.

Murphy: Those are all considerations. When you look at Diablo III, theres a lot of 2.5D stuff with the trees and whatnot. That all has to not happen anymore, because now we have this game where were building it completely in the round. We have terrain elevation. All of the assets are built like standard 3D game assets. It allows us to do things like that with the camera that weve never been able to do before. Its almost empowering in a way, you know?

GamesBeat: Whats the approach to loot for Diablo IV? Is it about getting a ton of different loot and maybe a lot of its bad, or is it smaller, more meaningful drops?

Kim: We have a major change coming from Diablo III in loot, which is you can get more powerful versions of the same items, even in the endgame. The reason for this is we wanted to make sure that we have that feeling of challenge. If youre killing more powerful monsters, we can give you more powerful loot, that kind of thing. I would say thats the biggest change.

Because of that, it has effects. For example, we wont be dropping legendaries in crazy amounts as we saw in the past. Theyre more powerful versions, so we can keep the same ratios that we had. Maybe we have two numbers. One for how often they drop during level-up, and then one for how often they drop in the endgame. I would say thats the biggest change to the loot game in Diablo IV. Were excited to see how that plays out. But we wont be able to see that for a long while.

GamesBeat: Speaking of the endgame, Diablo III had Adventure Mode and Rifts. Will Diablo IV have a similar endgame?

Kim: For the Rift part, we have the Key Dungeon. Its similar, but its different enough in other ways. Similar because its that endless challenge you can go into. Different because now you have to find a key to the specific dungeon, and on the key, it says the difficulty. It says the dungeon affixes that change up the gameplay, things like that. I have to go to the dungeon, use the key, and start that run. In that sense, the endgame will be pretty similar.

But what we want to really amp up is having more challenges, more things to do in the world as part of the endgame replayable loot. Were hoping to make sure that the endgame is very its a very diverse set of both challenges, like difficulties, and what youre doing. Thats our plan for the endgame.

Above: Blood and guts!

GamesBeat: Diablo IV has a bit of an MMO feel. You can see other characters running around. Was that hard to make work for the game?

Murphy: Were going for a feeling when youre running around. Youll see a couple of people trickle by every once in a while. Youll perhaps see a few more people when youre in town. But we dont want that to get too crazy. Diablo is a dark world. Very bad things are happening. But when you get to something like Ashava, the world boss, youll see more people are allowed to be there for that type of event, because obviously that would be probably impossible without a few groups of people.

But its also just about being a connected experience. Its just nice to be able to party up and group with folks and whatnot when youre in town and then go off and adventure together. But when you get into the deep, dark dungeons, its just going to be you and your party. Youre not going to run into anybody when youre down in the tunnels.

GamesBeat: Diablo IV is coming to PC and consoles. Are there any plans for crossplay?

Murphy: We have nothing to announce with crossplay, but that is a topic that we are interested in.

GamesBeat: Diablo III would often throw a ton of monsters at you. It feels like the monster density in Diablo IV is less extreme.

Kim: We want to create a varied play experience as much as possible, and monsters are part of that. We want situations where youre killing hordes of monsters, but we also want situations where you have to think about, when is that overhead attack coming from the [enemy]? It really depends on the monster family, I would say. The monster families in the demo that you played against probably are more toward what you experienced. Thats why you saw that. But we definitely want to have that dominating everything type of feel as well.
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