After the success of Force's Purgatory Video, I mentioned that DiabloFans would be teaming up with Force for some collaboration work. As you may have noticed, he's been posting a bit more around out community as well. We would like to introduce you guys to DiabloCast, a podcast that will cover the news within the last week or so and some background/opinions on what's currently going on. Here's the topics for the first episode:
One of the more crucial features of the interface is the map. Designed to guide players into unexplored areas, help them to return into towns, and overall find their way in the realm of Sanctuary, a bad map implementation can lead into countless moments of frustration. This is an editorial restating all that we can gather from the map functionality of Diablo III and comparing them with how the map was handled in the earlier installments; Diablo I and Diablo II.
Diablo I automap. Click for full view.
The original Diablo featured a crude mini-map. It wasn't able to be used in the town, and as such made maneuvering in the town trial and error for the beginners. On the other hand it allowed the player to find various places of interest in the town on their own. The moment of finding the greedy Wirt hiding across the river, or the mysterious Adria's shack a distance away from the town made exploring rewarding.
Once players entered the dungeon underneath the ominous cathedral, they were allowed one style of map: the overcast map. This map was rather simple and consisted mostly of lines, an arrow to mark the location of the player and simple box with an arrow to point players to the descending stairs. The map simply did what it was supposed to do: guided the player around in the randomly generated surroundings.
Diablo II automap. Click for full view.
Diablo II featured some changes to the map. The Diablo I-styled overcast map was still the default, but players were able to move the map to the left upper corner. The overlay map did its job much better, and I personally know only a few people that used the corner map. However, even the overcast map had its issues as well. It was easy to get distracted from the action with the map remaining in front of the screen. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who from time to time found themselves looking more at the map and less at the action that was taking behind it.
Development History of the Map
Early Diablo III mini-map.
Click for full view.
Map of Diablo III has clearly been given some more thought than its predecessors' maps. A number of screenshots that allegedly show what Diablo III looked before the closure of Blizzard North have surfaced. While I have no reason to seriously doubt their authenticity, a disclaimer is in place that these are not officially confirmed to be genuine. These screenshots however allow us to look at how the map looked before the game was announced in 2008.
The map is in fact the only aspect of those screenshots that can be seen to bear any resemblance to how Diablo III looks today. While the map has gone through several stages of iteration, the essence of it was present already in this early version. It was placed in the upper right corner of the screen with the name of the area above it. It seems that this version of the game did not confine the area the mini-map showed, so it functioned similar to
WWI '08 mini-map. Click for full view.
the overcast map of earlier games with the exception of being relocated to the upper right corner.
The first glimpse we were given of the map was during the game's announcement in WWI '08 in Paris, France. It is probable that the map has undergone even more changes in the past, but with our limited amount of vantage points available, we need to focus on the iterations of the map shown to us.
The core gist of the map has remained unaltered since the announcement: it is a square box in the upper right corner. The initial announcement featured a very plain map with a title text telling the name of the area, a globe next to it and a square-shaped mini-map below these confined in a opaque box with the borders only partially visible. The only significant change at this stage from the Blizzard North version seems to be that the area of the mini-map was confined into a box.
Mini-map from 2009.
The next version was shown in the '09 demo, where the borders of the box and the globe button were removed, but the map remained otherwise unchanged. From this demo we have our first screenshot of the Local Map, which is a feature I'll skip right now. I'll return to it later on with a big detailed image.
Latest revision. Click for high-res.
Finally, third and latest revision of the map was first shown in the GamesCom 2010 Caravan Trailer. As a sort of analogue to the entire game, the map looks a lot more polished and increasingly in-tune with the various interface elements. As is evident from seeing this picture, the name of the area is now showcased in a detailed box instead of just plain white text. The scroll next to the area name does what the globe probably did in earlier versions; takes the player to the Local Map. The map remained unchanged in the BlizzCon 2010 demo from this revision.
Judging from the greatly advanced looks, I think it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that this is pretty much the final version of the map. I expect only small iterative changes at most to its design. As such, it is a good time to look deeper into the maps functionality.
Functionality of the Map
Quests are well integrated into the mini-map.
Click for full size.
The map will tell the player everything they need to know. Under the map the player's quests are shown in minimalistic form [see left]. With only simple objectives shown, the player is allowed to remind themselves what they were looking for. More detailed quest descriptions and lore can be found within the quest interface. New quests are marked with an exclamation mark [marked 1.; see right] on the map. In both images, the exclamation mark is pointing at Cain, in tune with the quest text on the left image.
Various elements referenced.
The map shows the stash as a chest [2.]. After this image was seen, a shared stash has been implemented into the game. We have no knowledge at this point how the map will distinguish between the personal and shared stash - if at all. Both stashes could possibly be accessed through the same in-game object with a tabbed interface. Another way would be that there were be two chest-objects available, one for each stash. For example, this was the way Torchlight handled the different stashes. I'd personally consider a single tabbed stash much more convenient, albeit slightly worse immersion-wise.
Party member dots from BlizzCon '10.
The player is shown as an orange dot with a gray ornate border[3.]. There is an arrow telling the player what direction they are facing at. As seen in the left picture from BlizzCon 2010, party members are depicted with glowing blue circles [A. and B.]. Their names aren't visible on the mini-map, this purpose is left for the local map, probably to avoid unnecessary visual clutter.
At the bottom of the mini-map we can see what could reasonably be guessed to be the waypoint [4.]. I doubt it's a checkpoint, because they haven't been
Comparison of elements.
marked on the mini-map in the playable demos. The icon's design is fairly evidently in tune with how waypoints looked in Diablo II. We haven't so far seen how waypoints look in Diablo III, but their functionality is known to resemble that of Diablo II equivalents. The distance between two waypoints is however planned to be slightly less.
The map also shows a campfire [5.]. Since it is improbable that the map would show unnecessary clutter, it'll probably have a function. It might be as simple as telling the player where the safe zone towns are. It could also have some other alternative utility. Perhaps it is a sort of "looking for a group"-interface? Possibilities are endless, and we probably won't know for sure until we're told.
The differences in the elements shown in these two screenshots on the right indicate that at least in the development build some of the elements shown on the mini-map are optional. It would certainly make sense for some elements to be able to be toggled on and off. Not everyone might want to see the location of every friendly NPC as that version of the map looks slightly crowded. However, I don't know who would want to toggle waypoints off, and thus I'm not sure whether the missing NPC dots are only due to difference in build version.
The Local Map. Click for full view.
As I already briefly touched upon, the other map we will be using is the Local Map [see left]. It is separate from the mini-map, and brought on the screen when the player wishes and it'll cover the entire screen. It shows the surrounding areas much further and in greater detail than the mini-map. The Local Map is something the players will bring up once in a while if they're not sure for example where they should be or where their team mates are. This map will also show who of your team is located where with name plates, unlike the mini-map.
We don't know whether there will be an overcast map option in Diablo III, but right now it seems that the mini-map has inherited most of the overcast maps functions. Some of the less used features have been moved to the Local Map (such as finding one's way over greater distances than is usually necessary).
We know fairly little of the Local Map besides the couple odd recollections of the people that have played the various Diablo demos present in selected gaming conventions. It would certainly take a special mindset to spend too many precious demo minutes learning about the Local Map in great detail, opposed to just enjoying the game. We will learn more of how it functions when beta starts. You can however compare the Local Map with the BlizzCon 2009 demo mini-map I presented earlier, because both are from the same area.
We haven't been hinted at this, but it is totally within the realm of possibility that in addition to the Local Map, we could have a World Map. The naming of the map could be taken as a hint for that. After all, why not just call it the "Map" if it's the only one? To increase the likelihood even further, the World Map has already been made and is showcased on the official website. It'd be little effort to tell the player where each act is taking place on it. This could help with the immersion and allow players to pinpoint with greater ease than previously where exactly they are in the grander scale of things.
All in all, I think I'm personally pretty satisfied with how the mini-map looks and functions right now. It certainly seems that the problems Diablo II had, with its map distancing the player from the action taking place behind it, have been solved. A world map could be a cool addition to the Local Map and help with the immersion, while having little practical value. If I had to guess, I'd say that there is a big chance that a World Map might make its way into the game.
Blizzard has just released their fifth batch of screenshots (see here if you missed the fourth) for hitting the 650k 'Like' mark. Once again, we've got the high resolution versions at our disposal here on DiabloFans.
Click the images to bask in the glory of the high resolution versions that you likely won't see anywhere else!
The first image we have here looks like a concept of the thief from the BlizzCon builds (called the Treasure Seeker, by Vic Lee). Seems this way from the obvious bag on his back with all kinds of items. He randomly and rarely appears in dungeons, and he drops progressively better loot with each blow you land on him, so don't let him get away if you get the chance to run into him!
The second screenshot depicts the Monk towards the end of a battle with the Fallen Ones and their hounds, in the Stinging Winds area of Act II. From the setup of this shot, it looks like it takes place after the screenshot from the second batch.
25,000 more likes to go until the 675k mark where we can get some more images, and 14 more milestones until we hit the 1 million 'Like' goal. Go visit facebook.com/Diablo and 'Like' the page to speed the war effort!
With the revelation of the male Demon Hunter, we finally know the look of every character option. Now that we have this information, who do you like the most? Choose your favorite character and feel free to discuss your choice in the topic below. It should be noted that there are no gameplay differences between the male and female versions of each class.
For ease of comparison, there are pictures of each character below, along with a short description of each character. More in depth information on the skills and traits of each class can be found in the wiki links before each description.
Barbarian: A melee battler who relies on heavy armor and brute force to avenge the destruction of the Worldstone and sacred Mount Arreat. Even though the Barbarian is returning from Diablo II, many skills have been added for Diablo III, such as Ground Stomp and Hammer of the Ancients, which are mixed in with more familiar skills including Whirlwind and Leap Attack. Despite many changes, the overall playstyle of the Barbarian in Diablo III should be similar to the previous incarnation. Barbarians utilize Fury, which builds up when dealing and recieving damage, as their resource. Some of the Barbarian's skills cost no Fury, and others, such as War Cry, build up Fury for early on in combat.
Demon Hunter: Quick ranged attackers who thirst for vengeance against the monsters who destroyed their towns and families. A Demon Hunter relies on quick movement through Vault to create distance between themselves and advancing demons, while also utilizing traps to create chokepoints and ranged attacks to slow and damage enemies. The Demon Hunter features returning Amazon skills, currently limited to Multishot, although more Amazon skills could be introduced in some form. The Demon Hunter's resource system is currently under development, but it appears as though they may use two different pools. Hatred is a quickly regenerating resource used for low cost and burst damage skills, while Discipline is a slowly regenerating resource used for more strategic skills and gadgets.
Monk: Fast, combo-based melee fighters who spend much of his life honing their bodies to be an instrument of their one thousand and one gods. The Monk features a combination of holy and martial arts skills, along the lines of Seven Sided Strike, while also adopting the Paladin's auras. Not much is known about these auras other than the fact that they are part of the Monk's skillset, and short descriptions can be found in the wiki link above. The Monk also features some hybrid healing and attacking skills, which could prove invaluable if there is a lack of Health Globes in a tough situation. Monks use Spirit as their resource, which builds up when the Monk uses any of their three step combo skills and is consumed when using signature moves similar to Breath of Heaven or Wave of Light.
Witch Doctor: A voodoo spellcaster who hails from the Tribe of the Five Hills of the Torajan jungles in southern Sanctuary. Witch Doctors can use a variety of mid ranged spells such as Firebomb or Locust Swarm along with their pet Zombie Dogs or Gargantuans. The Witch Doctor also has a wide range of summon-based attack spells along the lines of Plague of Toads and Wall of Zombies, which summon minions for a short period of time to deal damage. Witch Doctors use Mana as their resource, which functions the same as in Diablo II.
Wizard: Supremely confident masters of the magical arts working towards personal gain and reputation. The Wizard is a long ranged attacker that has a wide range of skills based around Arcane, Lightning, Cold and Fire damage. The Wizard features versions of many different Sorceress skills, such as Meteor, Hydra and Teleport. The Wizard also has control over a few ray based skills, namely Ray of Frost and Disintegrate which can be used to devestating effect. Wizards also seem to have a few melee based and armor skills; Diamond Skin and Spectral Blades among others, which opens up the possibility of Battle Mages who get up close and personal with the minions of the Burning Hells. Wizards use Arcane Power as their resource, which is fast regenerating and capped at 100 but is otherwise similar to Mana.
Last month, Blizzard launched a mini-site dedicated to celebrating their 20th anniversary. Today's update included a brand new video overviewing the 20 years of their existence via a series of interviews on company's the key employees. Anyone that is a Blizzard fan will be completely inspired by this video, I guarantee it.
Official Blizzard Quote:
Did you know that Blizzard Entertainment was originally founded under a completely different name? What is the significance of Jawassic Park in the context of Blizzard Entertainment's art culture? Whatever happened to Orcs in Space? These and many, many more questions are answered in the full-length video we've just released on the Blizzard 20th Anniversary site. Clocking in at almost an hour, this video features candid commentary from the people who have spent the last two decades creating the games that helped make Blizzard Entertainment the company it is today.