After a few all-nighters, lots of revision, and an interesting set of questions, we pulled an interview with Diablo's very own Jay Wilson! The interview was conducted Friday night when I received a call from Blizzard. Thankfully, we were able to get a lot of our item-related questions answered. So, without further a due, here it is... I've highlighted DiabloFans in Red the Blizzard in Blue.
DiabloFans: On the topic of the Monk, can you tell us if the skill trees have been named yet? So far they're listed as "Unnamed Skill Tree 1 - 3". Can we expect to see any more of his skills unveiled soon along with his female counterpart? Also, can tell me a little bit more about the new skill system?
Jay Wilson: In regards to the female counterpart, she'll be released soon. As far as exact dates go, I really can't talk much about them. A little news about the Skill Tree system should actually go up on our Twitter page pretty soon. About that, we've decided to remove the tree-type architecture and we are moving into a purely skill-based system. This new system is still in the development stages and if it does not work, we still have plenty of options to fall back on. Right now, we're just trying different things and getting a feel for the few ideas in regards to the skill system that we have going on right now. It differs from the World of Warcraft/Diablo II type hierarchical styles and is more of a skill pool/path than a tree per se.
DiabloFans: Will there be class specific quests in the game? If so, can you explain how they would work?
Jay Wilson: We are still discussing whether or not we would like to include class-specific quests in the game mainly because of the simple fact that it may not really fit in with the fast-paced play-style known to the Diablo series. While this is definitely something we would like to consider, we just haven't agreed on how just yet. However, we would like to do something in regards to character specificity. We are looking into having different dialogues and experiences for the same quest or interaction for each of the classes. Each character will react differently and have different responses for different scenarios. For example, the Barbarian may do or say one thing in response to what an NPC has to say, whereas a Witch Doctor will treat the encounter in a complete opposite manner.
DiabloFans: Back in Diablo I a player could find Elixirs. If you drank one it gave you 1 stat point (ie: drink elixir of strength, you gain 1 strength point). Seeing how Diablo III's stat points are non-customizable, by a leveling standpoint, could elixirs be an option to give stat points some player customization?
Jay Wilson: Well, if we did something like that, we would fall right back where we were in Diablo II. As far as stat point expenditure, we don't consider it to be a very strong customization system. Now, there are ways within the game to customize stat points mainly through items. However, there are still a lot of things and systems that we haven't even shown yet that are going to be new ways to approach your items that will allow for new "customizations."
DiabloFans: What are the differences in the difficulty levels in Diablo III other than just monsters doing more damage? ie: What reason will people have to play through these modes after having already beaten the main story of the game on an easier difficulty setting?
Jay Wilson: We haven't really gotten into the difficulty settings a lot; we're still just working on the core content for the game at this point. The primary reason as to why a player would want to progress through the game, through the several difficulties would be for more of a challenge. There will be also better item customization, for example a Level 100 character in a higher difficulty would see and wear items that a Level 30 character would not have a chance at seeing in the lower difficulty. Said items will also look and feel completely different whereas in Diablo II a lot of times you just had a remodel of the same old items with different names.
DiabloFans: Resistances played a huge part in Diablo II, but if you were not lucky with gear drops you would get very quickly overwhelmed in Nightmare/Hell difficulties. Can you give us any details on how the system will be changing? Will it replace the immunity system or will they go hand in hand, once again?
Jay Wilson: Well, the main reason for immunities in the game was to encourage party play. However, we have seen that some players just want to play by themselves? And that is fine, if a player wants to play single player, the player wants to play single player, we're not going to strong arm them into playing with others. Keeping this in mind, we aren't looking to have full immunities or anything of the sort; however we are considering keeping one-element immunities on enemies. Because of the way our skill system works it's almost impossible to build a character that won't have some alternate skill to attack an enemy. So then it becomes an interesting use of a skill or skills that you may not be using all the time. We think that's interesting and fun gameplay, to have to adapt to situations. The adaptation just shouldn't be realizing your character or class is broken and you have to run away or you need to get in a multiplayer game. Those are things we intend to avoid forcing the player into.
DiabloFans: How will rare / high level items stand out when equipped on your character since you've stated that you want all the items to have a more functional look rather than be too flashy or gaudy like they are in WoW?
Jay Wilson: There is a very fine line between the looks of WoW items and the looks of Diablo III items, and I'd like to call that Diablo II. Within Diablo II there were a decent amount of high-end items that were pretty fantastical looking. Obviously it's nowhere near what WoW does which works for WoW, their style looks great and it works for that game but doesn't work for Diablo. So we're looking to make the armor and weapons very fantastic looking, but we're not going to have for instance a two handed sword that's bigger than the character. We're keeping things proportional. One thing we do have that Diablo II didn't have is weapon effects, which was really more of a technical limitation back then.
DiabloFans: How will you balance the power of an item in comparison to its drop rate? In Diablo II runewords were extremely powerful, yet the required runes were also extremely rare to come by, or at least were supposed to be. Will there be items as rare in Diablo III that are as powerful from the start, or will players have to slowly improve the quality of their items, through crafting/runes/other systems?
Jay Wilson: Throughout the history of patches on Diablo II, there were a lot of updates to runewords and they really powerful from when they were introduced. At one time or another though all of the different item types were the most powerful, like unique items were the best, or rare items at some point. Our general approach for Diablo III is to make sure that every type of item has a place to be useful. For example, maybe we'll have a legendary item, which is the new name for our unique items, be the best helm, whereas rares will have the most powerful chest armor, and so on. Having a spread like that will allow for a more varied itemization system we hope.
DiabloFans: What types of items will merchants sell in Diablo III? Are merchants going to play a bigger roll in leveling or are item drops going to be the major upgrades once again?
Jay Wilson: This kind of goes back to the luck factor with your drops. The cool thing was, in Diablo II, you may have found a powerful sash after killing some mobs, but had no luck finding a weapon. You run to town and talk to one of the vendors and notice some items and a weapon that catches your eye, so you buy it and use that. So we want vendors to be there to assist in the gearing process, to fill in those gaps that may come just from playing with a random loot drop system. You may play through an entire act and just never find a great pair of boots, and so we want the vendor to be there to offer some ability to fill that gap.
DiabloFans: Can you tell us a bit more about how the PvP system will work?
Jay Wilson: I'm going to say no comment to save you some time.
DiabloFans: Will the published books be referenced during Diablo III's storyline? For example, will Zayl be an NPC? Will different places like Ureh be visited throughout the game?
Jay Wilson: We removed Ureh from the game as a setting to try and get the game out sooner. However, we like including things from the books and from other sources. No promises, but it's definitely something we've discussed.
DiabloFans: The Veiled Prophet mentions beings similar to Trag'Oul who stop the dragon when he tries to enter Sanctuary. Will we see some development of them in Diablo III?
Jay Wilson: That's probably a better question for Leonard Boyarsky. I'm pretty familiar with lore, but you just hit my lore cap with that question.
DiabloFans: The games feature a very slim cast of angels considering the role the High Heavens plays in the story. Will Heaven be more prominent in Diablo III compared to previous installments?
The twitter tracker is starting to make a name for itself, always giving us bits of news for us to salivate and speculate over, all the while not giving us any actual details.
Anyways, this time we've got an interesting quote about the skill system.
Official Blizzard Quote:
Diablo: The skill system revision is in full force. Trees begone! I think it might be a winner. Jay says hi.
So there we have it, skill trees might be out for good. This could be a good thing though, we've just grown so accustomed to skill trees that we haven't taken time to consider what benefits may come of a tree-less skill system.
First off, no longer would we have to waste skill points in skills we never use. Remember in Diablo II, when you had to put a point into Sacrifice to get Blessed Hammer? Nine times out of ten, that was a wasted point that never saw any usage. No longer would we need to waste our points in skills we'll never use.
Also, this will open up countless character customization options. Sure, cookie cutter builds could become even more widespread, but for those players who liked to experiment with new and innovative builds, this will be a godsend. Now, we may be able to take a sampling of skills that work well together, but don't fall into the same skill tabs.
But, in classic Blizzard fashion, they didn't tell us more than we need to know. They left us to ponder what the new skill system could be, and knowing Blizzard, it will probably blow our socks off.
Also, props to Kamori for noticing it first, throw some rep at him if you've got the time.
Thus far, we've included threads that have garnered impressive discussion, some info on the happening in the wiki, a mandatory fan art and fan fiction section, and a section devoted to the Roleplaying forum, as well as name changes, if they happen.
BUT, we can always add more.
This is where you come in, these articles are about you, the user, so it makes sense to give you a say in what they will include.
Simply put, throw down your ideas for these articles, mainly what they should include, but anything else worth mentioning will be taken into account as well.
This thread will be updated with suggestions as they are posted, and will eventually be made into a poll.
To get you started off, we've considered adding a section for blue posts that didn't get any face time, basically a section for Blizzard posts that got away.
1) Blue/Twitter posts that didn't make it into news, but still stand out.
2) Posts that stand out, such as funniest, worst, most informative, ect.
3) Forum changes (such as the PvP, PvM forums)
4) User of the bi-week.
4.5) Possibly a history included for said user.
5) A quick mention of any new users who made an introduction thread, make them feel more welcomed.
6) A summary of what the wiki team is working on, so users can help out, and so you can expect what new articles are on their way.
7) A blog section
Standards continued to waver as the patch faced delay after delay since its official announcement. Today, Bashiok was the unfortunate bearer of bad news yet again.
Official Blizzard Quote:
Update - 11/18
We've recently completed a revised version of the Diablo II 1.13 patch that removes the increased stash size. A larger stash will unfortunately no longer be a feature included in patch 1.13 due to the previously mentioned concerns. As higher priority work continues on Warcraft III we're hoping to complete our quality assurance tests for the 1.13 patch in the next few weeks. But as always, the types of issues that may appear and take higher priority are rarely foreseeable. We continue to plan a release based on our best intentions.
If it is indeed true that increased stash size is now no longer in the picture (see Patch 1.13: Larger Inventory for Diablo II), every top request made by fans when Blizzard ran its fan-request patch marathon (see Tell Blizzard Your #1 Diablo II Patch Note) earlier this year has been denied so far, with the possible exception of skill resets, which we have received no further conformation or details on since it was hinted at:
Increased stash size, which is the cause of the current delay as they take hardware and server considerations in to thought, is so far essentially confirmed [highlight](now debunked)[/highlight].
No increased resolution- it would require "fundamental change" to the game and would have to account for faster player traveling issues (like being able to Teleport or Jump farther), spawning monsters on a larger scale around the player, and monster aggro would have to be taken in to account.
No new end-game content. Bashiok noted that with this patch it would not be possible to add it, although there was no inkling of whether or not it would or would not be included with any future patch.
As far as why the expanded stash upgrade was also nixed, it was apparently due to outdated hardware and software, as hinted at before:
Official Blizzard Quote:
The service is designed specifically for the requirements of the game. Meaning that specific hardware has and continues to be used because the game was designed to run on it. The limitations now are that this hardware is pretty old, the storage capacity is more than enough to hold the data from an increased stash size, but at peak load can the service and database actually handle the ability to record all the data without fault? The feeling is probably not.
Now, that's only a reasonable doubt. If we were to throw caution to the wind and see if it works anyway the teams that would be responsible for cleaning up the mess are hard at work on completing the new Battle.net for StarCraft II. We're just not willing to bet the manpower that it will work and potentially impact one of our next major game releases.
The question then comes up that why don't we just upgrade the hardware? As I sort of hinted at this isn't off the shelf hardware and we can't simply throw in some new parts and hope it all works. It would be months of work, again, by teams of people that we simply aren't willing to remove from their current tasks.
Yet again, Blizzard raises the pretense that the patch could be expected in the next "few weeks" and is now on hold due to more "higher priority" issues concerning Warcraft III patching, when progress was said to pass over to Diablo II's patch (see WCIII Patch is Up- Diablo II Patch 1.13 Soon to Follow?) since the PTR went live for WCIII some time ago.
On the flip side, this may mean the patch will come along sooner without complicated additions to work in to massively-outdated server technology and software.
Whether this patch will continue to hold the nearly decade-faithful player base of Diablo II in sway is yet to be seen, but in light of recent events, it may be that this news will meet a frothing pot of dissatisfaction for those who have been waiting for months for not only this patch, but years for basic fixes for many issues with Diablo II.
(Astion first posted about it- see here for the original thread.)
Partially-hatched plans for a better weapon system balance greeted our Blizz Tracker late yesterday as Bashiok chimed in on possible solutions to the ill-conceived balance in Diablo II's differentiation between two-handed weapons and one-handed weapons. Though scant on the details, perhaps both Blizzard's tentative plans and fan feedback will combine for a better balance the first time around with Diablo III.
The initial thought, aimed at the loss of block when wielding two-handed weapons, evolved in to something slightly different as Bashiok responded. He addressed the failing of Diablo II's take on larger weapons and states hopes that Diablo III will remedy this shortcoming in some way, offering a few ideas from the team:
Official Blizzard Quote:
Funny enough right now two-handers on the barbarian are much stronger than dual-wielding because most of his skills are based on weapon damage and the game doesn't add up the damage on both weapons while dual-wielding (yet). So actually we're trying to make dual-wielding better right now, but, that of course means two-handers will probably then fall by the wayside and we're back in Diablo II's shoes.
Off the top of Wyatt's head there's a few ways it could be addressed. [highlight]One potential way would be to have passive skills that allow someone to specialize in two-handers or dual wielding, and we can stat and tweak those however we need to make them effective. We could also make special affixes that can only be rolled up by two-handers that overcome the innate issue of it only being one item.[/highlight]
Special weapon affixes? What could that mean? Thankfully, he did not, as Blizzard often does, fully leave us grasping at straws:
Official Blizzard Quote:
[...]the affix idea was more along the lines of having something like the highest strength affix a two-hander could roll would be 100 points, and the highest a one-hander could roll would be 50. So everything would even out. Of course that doesn't offset things like block, but it's just sort of a half-hatched solution anyway.
However the balance is achieved, Blizzard is working hard at finding suitable means to achieve such an end, as they "intend for two handers to be as viable as any other weapon choice and [will] do what [they] need to to make sure that happens" (source).
See the full track on our Blizz Trackerhere and drop some ideas if you can spare them.