Let's begin with the stuff we already know, or at least we thought we knew. With the introduction of the Book of Cain, the aim of this release is to help consolidate, sharpen, and retcom the lore of the previous games. Chris Metzen commented how the original lore of the franchise was basically a mess with so many people with their hands in its creation. Much of the lore is remaining the same but there are some clarifications and minor changes that they needed to change to help tell a better story.
Starting at the very very beginning, the Diablo team has created an origin of their Universe. Legend in the Book of Cain, two primordial beings were in a constant struggle between good and bad. Anu, a creature representing good made of primarily diamond and Dragon Tathamet, a seven-headed dragon who breathed evil. The two destroyed each other and the after math essentially created the High Heavens and the Burning Hells. A part of Anu, the Crystal Eye, created the Worldstone. The Worldstone is said to be able to create worlds and reality. It is this Worldstone that the Angels and Demons are fighting over.
This fight takes place in Pandemonium. You may remember a part of this area from Diablo II before going into Hell. For hundreds of thousands of years, Angels and Demons have fought over control over this area and the Worldstone itself. Inarius, an Angel, and Lilith, a demon, were sick of this eternal struggle so they decided to leave this battle and create their own world. They manage to get to the Worldstone and essentially steal it from the Pandemonium. They bring the stone into another dimension and in this dimension they create Sanctuary, a paradise. Eventually, Angels and Demons procreate and create the Nephalem. The Worldstone slowly drains the Nephalem's powers reducing them to mere men while innately, they hold the power to be stronger then both Angels and Demons.
Now, some Angels and Demons eventually find out what Inarius and Lillith has done and discovery Sanctuary. However, both sides agree to let man live without influence of either side. However, demons being evil, they decide to try to corrupt man. The three prime evils set a plan in motion while Azmodan and Belial are unhappy with the break of the pact with Heaven. After exiling them to Sanctuary, Belial and Azmodan create a civil war for power in Hell.
Back on Sanctuary, it has been retconned that the actual hero from Diablo I is Aidan, King Loeric's eldest son. As for his back story, Aidan was missing from Tristram right before the events of Diablo I because he was leading an attack on Westmarch, an order made due to Diablo's corruption of King Leoric. He comes back to Tristram to find out his father has gone mad and his younger brother has been kidnapped by Lazarus and we all know what happens from there. Just to note, a big reason for this change was merely to give this character more weight and importance to help tell a better story.
Moving on from the past, the panel moved to the importance of the role of Angels in Sanctuary. It was mentioned that they have developed a lot more into this side of the conflict to help build and expand the world of Sanctuary. It was mentioned that their role will only get bigger as the franchise progresses. The Angels are created from the Crystal Arch, Anu's spine, of light and sounds. As far as going to the High Heavens themselves, it was not answered one way or the other. The biggest section of the Angels and the High Heavens is the Angris Council. A group of five Angels comprise of the council and rule over the Heavens.
Tyrael the Angel of Justice - Tyrael becomes the rouge angel after he witnesses Uldyssian's self-sacrifice and sees man's potential.
Auriel the Angel of Hope - Auriel is the Angel the holds the group together.
Malthael the Angel of Wisdom - Malthael begins to go mad and darker due to the unknown reasoning and existence of man.
Imperius the Angel of Valor - Imperius is a warrior at heart and wants to destroy all semblance of demons including humans.
Itherael the Angel of Fate - Itherael can see all paths of future except for that of mankind since their existence was unforeseen.
Opposing the Angels are the main Demons of Diablo III. Belial and Azmodan are the only two remaining Evils after the events of Diablo II. With the destruction of the Worldstone, their focuses have moved to Sanctuary.
Belial the Lord of Lies
Belial uses coercion and lies to get others to fight for him. The Triune and vipers are underlings to Belial. It was also noted that in gameplay, many of his underlings will appear human and then turn on you. Belial's pressence will be encountered in Act II around Caldeum. The once prosperous city has fallen and refugees are on the verge of death. Your hero will come into the story trying to figure out how the city has fallen and why Belial is there.
Azmodan the Lord of Sin
Azmodan has two of the sins in Diablo III who work for him. Much more pronounced and hands-on the Belial, Azmodan had ruled Hell for over 300 years and is now emerging in Sanctuary to obtain the Black Soulstone to obtain the greatest power. His siege will pour forth from Arreat Crater to attack Sanctuary. On a side note, Sedeah, the Maiden of Lust, was originally the Mistress of Pain who was removed but brought back thanks to the costume contest winner of the 2010 Blizzcon.
While not much was revealed about the Black Soulstone is was said that Leah is trying to use it to capture and destroy Belial and Azmodan. However, Azmodan is trying to obtain it himself because it will bestow him power that will make him stronger than any other Demon in Hell.
Three new areas were shown from Act II. All three of these areas are playable and play an important part in telling the story as we progress through this Act.
Caldeum - Caldeum was the jewel of the East. In became the trading center for all of Sanctuary. However, there was turmoil due to the Zakarum, rich merchants, and Wizards all vying for power over the city. Hakan eventually took rule and united the three groups to create the most prosperous city. However, his death left a son to young to rule the city. The Iron Wolves, lead by Asheara from Diablo II, were hired to protect him until he was old enough to rule the city. However, Hakan II removed them and replaced them with his own Caldeum guards. However, Asheara is unsure of why he made this decision.
Dahlgur Oasis - This small paradise was the birth of Caldeum. A mysterious man rose from the waste and showed the original settlers this source of water which was used to help begin Caldeum. However, the story is said that this mysterious man disappeared back into the waste after showing them.
The Archives of Zultun Kulle - Zultun Kulle was one of the original members of the Horadrim who helped capture the Prime Evils the first time. However, he eventually became corrupt and evil. He was so strong that they could not kill him they cut him in half. They removed his head and buried it underground surrounded by magical runes. His body has sent into another dimension.
Questions and Answers
I will be paraphrasing these questions. We will have complete video coverage of the panel later for direct reference.
Q: Is Adria dead?
A: Yes, you will find out how in Diablo III
Q: Can Angels become Demons?
A: No, but they can be corrupted and become evil. You will also see Izual again in Diablo III.
Q: Who is Leah's father?
A: No comment (Although this is odd because it was already released that Aidan, the hero from Diablo I, is her father.
Q: Will the heroes from Diablo II have an appearance?
A: To some degree. Some are hinted at. The Necro's apprentice is in Act II.
Q: What was the effect of the Worldstone's destruction?
A: Azmodan's invasion is a direct effect. Also, it is possible it was not actually destroyed since it was only in Sanctuary as a shift in its dimensional existence.
Q: Will Trag'Oul be in Diablo III?
A: No, after putting the Necromancers' on their path, he has disappeared.
Q: What about the lesser evils not having soulstones?
A: "I wouldn't leave them"
Q: Why is Arreat Creater the place of the invasion?
A: Logically, it is where the Worldstone disappeared so it is likely the place where reality is weakest currently.
Q: Will items connect with lore?
A: Yes, a lot of Legendary items are tied to lore of previous and new lore.
Q: Will Ormus appear in Diablo III?
A: He was and then removed but I would like for him to come back.
Q: Will we see any areas from Diablo II?
A: Other than Tristram, no.
Q: Why does Diablo need a human body but not always?
A: He primarily needs a body because he is weakened in Sanctuary. It is also because being a human host helps anchor him into the dimension of Sanctuary.
You can also see every image shown during this panel here.
With the game drawing tantalizingly close to completion, there wasn't any ground braking announcements in this particular panel, but one could say none were expected. Most, if not all of the game features have been announced prior, even if they have not been detailed yet. So in that light, while nothing completely new was founded, we received a great deal of detail on already existent features.
Achievements & Banner
As the panel opened they jumped right into it, beginning with Achievements. We've heard very little on this front in the past, so any news on them was welcomed. There are three main ways to progress through your achievements.
This is rather self explanatory, there will be achievements for progressing through the game such as completing a difficulty, or defeating a boss.
So you've defeated the normal difficulty, neat. How about weaponless, or even gear-less? Such feats of insanity will be rewarded via achievements.
These goals include things such as completing the Bestiary, a feature while tracks what creatures you've encountered. Or finding every lore book in the game.
Your achievements progress reflects onto your Banner, slowly but surely adding new ribbons, facets, or other features. New ways to personalize your banner may become available through these achievements also. These small additions to your banner themselves expand as you complete more and more achievements. For example, as you progress in a certain category of achievements more gems may start appearing on a ribbon dangling from your banner. Or as you play through more Hardcore content the mound of skulls and bones under your banner will grow.
Crafting is getting an overhaul in Diablo III, becoming more viable for any stage of the game. In this topic we got a good amount of confirmation on the abilities that each of our three Artisans will provide.
This Artisan offers item enchantments. This may ring a bell, as a similar system was in place in Diablo II. With the new system you'll not only be able to enchant your items, but continuously do so, each time rolling better and better stats. This enables a player with enough focus and funds to eventually achieve very high stats on his or her item.
Through these enchantments, you can also take advantage of very off-class type items on your character. An example the developers gave was a Demon Hunter using a one handed axe and a shield, both of which being enchanted with Hatred regeneration, something that wouldn't natural spawn on such weapons. As the Mystic levels up, she will have access to more powerful enchantments, which are dropped as recipes in the game.
This old man has very simple, yet essential talents. He can combine Gems, add sockets to items, and remove gems from items. Exactly what scales as he levels isn't entirely clear yet, but one could imagine a few scalable aspects, such as what level gems he can combine, or what level item he can add sockets to.
We know more of this Artisan than the other two, both through more exposure via Blizzard, and presents in the beta. The Blacksmith can forge a huge variety of items, some are unlocked as he levels up, others only through recipes you find as drops. He even has the ability to forge legendary items, some with set values. This is a beautiful thing, since through the randomness of Diablos' drop system, by the time you find every item in a set for a mid-level character, you've likely already out leveled the set, making it useless.
Now through the Blacksmith you'll be able to craft your way to a full set if you're willing to front the needed materials and gold, making those low-mid range set items a viable choice. Besides crafting he can also repair your items, something that will likely need to be done regularly come Inferno, seeing as you loose 10% of your item durability with each death in the game.
PvP: PvP hasn't undergone very much change, which at this stage of the game shows how solid it is at heart. As was discovered a while back, the Arena will now have a team death match style of scoring. Meaning that your lives are infinite, you respawn shortly after each death, and the team with the most kills at the end of the game wins. Exactly how long each round will be isn't clear, though one full game will likely be around ten minute. The system of health globes that spawn at certain points on the map wasn't spoken of, so where they are with that is unknown.
Something that has changed is the amount of players in each match, moving from 3v3 to 4v4. Another useful tidbit of knowledge is that you will not be able to swap skills in between matches. This makes it so a team can adapt their play style to counter an opposing team, without worrying about them having an entirely different skill-set from round to round, making it so comebacks are very possible if a team can adapt efficiently. This forces players to think strategically, instead of just swapping skills to deal with a problem.
Auction House: As known, you'll be able to trade nearly anything you find in-game through the Auction House, be it gold, gems, crafting materials, tombs, etc. Whole character selling will not be available at launch, but will likely be added later on. Search features will be extensive, including a "smart search" which detects common stats across your character and searches for items with similar stats. For the more picky person there will be an advanced search feature where you'll be able to pin point exactly the item you're looking for.
Life Cycle Of Items
With the introduction of the auction house, comes a new level of item recycling that had never been seen in a Diablo game. Whereas in Diablo II items more or less drifted around form player to player endlessly rotating, in Diablo III these items can be transformed into many forms, and then like a Phoenix reborn, take shape into new amazing forms.
In Diablo II the ideal life cycle of an item was as follows: Drop > Wear > Trade > Eventually Sold. That's about as far as it went in the best case scenario. This wouldn't be so terrible if gold had any true value in the game, a purpose.
In Diablo III this is the ideal life cycle of an item: Drop > Wear> Trade > Eventually Salvaged > Crafted into new item > Eventually Sold. Not only are there many more things you can do with an item, but when it is eventually sold for gold, that gold can be used to continue feeding the economy, or even better, sunk into one of the many gold sinks, removing it from the game and delaying the build up of gold in the economy.
Final Game Tuning
Those words have a great ring to them, or maybe just the word "final" being used at all. Tuning, or polishing if you will, comes as the last stage of development. It's where numbers are tweaked, and features are perfected for release. This polishing happens across the entire game, so we'll touch on the interesting topics which were presented.
The creatures of Sanctuary are a formidable bunch, each with a role to play in the heat of battle. Fulfilling these roles is an important job, and sometimes new roles need to be created to address balancing issues. One of these issues that's very clear for any Diablo player is how casters can often avoid affixes of creatures, such as lightning, thorns, or other short distance AoE effects.
To adress this, the new affix called Mortar was introduced, where a creature will lob fireballs across the screen, endangering casters while flying right over melee characters' heads.
Passive Skills & Synergies:
True to their claims of nothing being final, there have been small tweaks all cross the passive skills. In some cases is may just be a number change, though as they displayed there are a couple of new passive skills to support different builds.
Another way Blizzard is supporting build diversity is by cutting down on synergies. While synergies may look appealing, they actually drastically decrease the amount of viable builds. This is due to the very nature of them, where if you have one skill you're most likely best off following it up with skills that all have corresponding synergies. This forces the player down a certain path in order to maximize the effects. While they're not removing synergies all together, they will be down-tuning their effects, or removing certain corresponding effects completely.
With the idea of class specific resources surely came a huge amount of development to get to this point. As with any complex feature, constant polishing is the only way to achieve balance. While each class is fairing well with no major setbacks, small tweaks are being made to adjust how each class handles.
The trend Blizzard has noticed in the beta is players will skip the small Fury generators such as Bash or Frenzy in favor for the larger ones like Leap Attack, or Ground Stomp. To account for this the amount of Fury the smaller generators will create is getting bumped up. They also found that come late game the Barb is having a tough time surviving due to the classes' need to be within melee range of creatures. This is a little more complex polish, and will involve a few defensive changes.
As we've known, a certain section of skills will slowly become less costly as you level, eventually becoming completely free. This system is undergoing small changes which weren't clearly detailed. All spells are also moving to % weapon damage, making weapon more important to casters than before.
A common concern with this change is - well if casters depend on weapon damage, shouldn't I just run around with a two handed axe? - This is being addressed by also having the casting speed rely on weapon speed, so while your attack may do more damage with a two handed axe, your DPS may be less than if you were to use a wand with a lower attack, but faster attack speed. There are also class specific buffs on many casting oriented weapons that could sway a players choice from say a sword, or axe.
Mana seems to be unlimited in the beta, and at this early stage of the game it essentially is. Though as the game progresses you'll have to make crucial choices that will effect how your Mana will behave. It was stated that if one were so inclined, they could form a build where you do indeed have infinite Mana, though they'd be sacrificing other aspects of the class, such as damage, or defense.
Mantras are now going to have a three second period when first cast where they'll grant double the buff they normally would. This makes them feel like less like a maintenance skill, and more like an active skill that needs to be paid attention to. Combo skills are also undergoing some small changes in their basic functionality, both in how they are combined, and how powerful each level of attack is. For example they plan to increase the range in Deadly Reach to make it more viable.
As touched on not too long again, the DH will have a completely new Hatred system than as the class does now. At this very moment in the beta Hatred constantly regenerates, though as many have found, you end up constantly low,if not drained of it. To remedy this there will be Hatred generating skills and spending skills, much like Fury. Snares will also see some buffs to better keep enemies at range, or help better preform their role.
While each class have some very specific changes coming, one change is reaching across every class - awesomeness. Through feedback from the community, and internal testing, a lot of players have found skills as a whole don't make them feel as awesome as they'd prefer. Blizzard has heard the cries, and plan to increase the visual effects of many skills, helping enforce the fact that you're a badass demon-slaying demigod.
Many fans have speculated on exactly how difficult each act will be. Some even feel the entire game will be relatively easy. This may be due to the easy content we've seen in the beta, which is indeed very casual. This is by design though, normal difficulty is meant to be a kind of
tutorial, which teaches you everything you'll need to know, while not punishing you too hard for making mistakes.
Very casual players will enjoy this first difficulty, while more serious players will find it laughable. This again is by design, because in essence every serious gamer was once a casual gamer. At one point in time we all were n00bs. Blizzard understands this, and wishes to help turn those casual gamers into more dedicated gamers through nice and easy difficulty transitions.
Blizzard also understands that a large portion of their fan base are hardcore gamers looking for a challenge. Thus comes the concern that even in later difficulties the game will not present an adequate challenge, well Jay Willson assured us that this isn't something we should be worried about. Through a display of testimonials from in-house testers who have been put up against the Inferno difficulty, we're given an idea of how difficult endgame content will truly be.
Followers replacing mercenaries wasn't all too popular among the community. The fact that these new side-kicks were only available in single player was a big change it itself, but the added hit of them only being viable in normal difficulty never settled well with the majority of the fan base. In good fashion Blizzard has listened to these concerns and tweaked followers to be viable through all levels of content, though still only useable while playing solo.
Town Only Skill Swapping
The title speaks for itself, but the reasoning behind why this change is being made is interesting. The dev team found that more and more often players would have their skill UI open while slaying monsters, swapping skills out multiple times as they played through small areas. This would make for some problems if left unattended. Not only does it take up a large amount of screen real-estate, but it takes away from the feeling of identity with your character when you're changing such a core aspect so often.
So right now they're testing town only skill swapping where you'll walk over to this area or NPC to swap out your skills. Jay didn't seem very happy about this, and stated how this isn't the final solution. If this doesn't work they will also be testing an out of combat swap system. This second option could make for some heavy development, since it have been stated that Diablo has no in, or out of combat tracker that these type of systems can communicate with.
Blizzard holds their costume contest every year at Blizzcon. In the last two years, a Mistress of Pain and Monk costume won. Unfortunately, this year there was no Diablo themed winner. However, there were many more Diablo entries as interest in this game rises. Here are images of the Diablo costumes. Click on any image for the larger version.
Blizzard also had their art contest with a Diablo entry winning 3rd place:
The Music and Sound panel was focused all around the making of the soundtrack for Diablo III. Some very interesting tidbits were shared such as the fact that Diablo III has around 12,000 - 16,000 lines of dialogue. All of which is to help tell the epic story that will unfold during the gameplay. All of the sounds in Diablo III are all focused one keyt aspect of what makes the Diablo franchise so great, randomization.
When clicking the same spell over and over again, thousands of times, it is important that the sound of this skill is not repeated exactly over and over again which would dull the experience of the hack n' slash genre. Each skill is given multiple tracks for casting, pathing, and contact. Each of these distinct elements are then also given special treatment with varying sounds, lengths, and volumes. When compiled together, they randomize five to ten different sounds that can be repeatedly randomly to help add variety to the button mashing combat.
Along with this, even the music itself can be randomized. Starting with random sounds, it was mentioned that there are areas where random sounds can be heard while other times silence is used. With the actual music, it is orchestrated in multiple levels. They then use these multiple levels to help create randomized music that blends together harmoniously so that you do not even notice that the music itself has changed and is randomized.
Bridging the gap between Blizzard North and Diablo I & II was also a key focus for the team for creating the soundtrack of Diablo III. A lot of effort went in to using what Matt Ullman created for the previous games and made iconic to help bring players into the new game seamlessly. While creating something unique for Diablo III, the team made sure to use those iconic sounds. It was even mentioned how when Diablo III was announced at the WWI in Paris, that only music was needed for the entire crowd to know that it was Diablo.
If you are interested in learning more about the music and sound of Diablo III, you can watch the panel (will be uploaded soon™) and take a listen for yourself. You can also purchase the Diablo III CE which will include the soundtrack and making of.
We will be giving full coverage over the 2011 Blizzcon. However, to keep everything in one easy place to reference, this thread will be used as a hub for all the articles and information released from Blizzcon.