(Source) After the announcement of the removal of yet another point-mashing feature (seen in our coverage of the press event), many are wondering how the Diablo III team rationalizes not having skill points while preaching customization to the masses. A user on the official Battle.net forum board brought the question to Bashiok's table, who responded with the sentiments of the team.
Their explanation leans back on the "it's not Diablo II" argument which has been touted since the game's announcement back in 2008:
Official Blizzard Quote:
We've been playing the game, we know what skill points were causing, and it was not interesting and unique builds. It was not meaningful customization. It was maxing out a couple skills, and that's it. It was Diablo II. What we have now actually forces people to make interesting choices, to craft interesting builds based on very strict limitations.
But the Diablo III team wants the latest game in the series to go beyond, as they see it, another shortcoming they saw in Diablo II's skill system. Bashiok says that "one common mistake people are making is thinking all the class skills are straight damaging attack skills... There's no variety because you just pick the most powerful six, and you're done."
Their latest iteration of the skill system essentially splits what would have been called passive and active skills in Diablo II into two exactly that: passive and active skills. Where passive skills are invested in separately and contribute to your character's brawn in secret, regular skills are the ones you will use to blast your enemies into gooey bits, as well as zip around the screen at lightning speeds and issue combo attacks. Not all of these skills are straight damage dealers. Some of them allow resource regeneration or life steal, which adds another level of tactical flare to your combat experience.
Whereas in the past you would have used skill points (awarded at each level-up) to augment the power of your favorite skills (or the potency of synergies), the new skill system in Diablo III scales your skills based on your level. In addition, runestones, including their numerous tiers, affect the look, feel, and effects of your skills. Beyond them, gear directly affects your battle potency. Bashiok laid out a Diablo II scenario for demonstration:
Official Blizzard Quote:
The base problem with skill points is that we found they simply put too much incentive toward pumping up one or two skills. If we wanted to balance the game it means we'd have to let someone be able to essentially beat the game with that build since it's the most obvious. You're not going to put a few points here, a few there, you're going to go the D2 route, horde points, and dump them all into a core skill or two. It really limited builds since points always went toward specific types of attacks that scaled well with additional points, and we're not going to keep systems that are stifling (viable) build potential and (meaningful) character customization.
So, removing functionality encourages customization? While many would argue the case of stat point removal for Diablo III, this might not be exactly the same thing. Regardless, this solution does directly address the "one or two skills" scenario (Diablo II cookie-cutter builds, anyone?), so maybe it is a big step in the right direction.
Interestingly enough, the removal of skill point allotment indirectly addresses yet another controversial topic: respeccing. Many have argued that allowing for respeccing caters to a "softer" gaming audience and drains the game of an element of challenge (just take a look through a 2008 article's responses). Without skill points, there's no longer any need for respeccing. Whether or not this appeases more hardcore players is another question entirely.
Force had some excellent one-on-one time with Jay Wilson to get the full story straight from the Diablo man, himself. Wilson talked about everything leading up to the latest decision, including observations from alpha testing and conclusions drawn from prior strategy scenarios in the older games.
But does all this wishy-washy skill softness mean something more than encouraging more diverse builds? As a user on the Battle.net board asked, "Do you come upon a particularly nasty group that this other skill would just be perfect for, so you hang back, grab that skill, then destroy the group?"
Bashiok did not shoot the idea down entirely:
Official Blizzard Quote:
You're far more likely to see a player sticking with a build and working to become better at it than constantly swapping around. That's not a rule, it's player psychology so there's going to be a wide range of variables, but it's what we have found to be true not only for Diablo III, but a lot of the games out there with similar free-swapping of builds.
The removal of skill points seems like a step away from the spirit of the franchise, instilled in us with Diablo II. It will restrict cookie-cutter and low-skill-count builds to an extent, and it indirectly removes the need for a controversial respeccing system. But it is a far cry different from the original games and many "Diablo clones," possibly alienating parts of an otherwise eager audience.
During the Q&A session with lead game designer Jay Wilson at Blizzard HQ Thursday, we were treated to a fairly lengthy discussion about the Skill Runes system. Evidently, runes will not come into play during the Beta test, which led a participant to ask when we’ll see them. Jay responded that Runes will first start dropping in Act II Normal and mentioned that Skill Runes were the only major game system that still had significant revision coming its way. This statement opened the floodgates on a new Rune system that they're hoping they can get into the game. Before I get into the specifics, Jay wanted us to mention:
Official Blizzard Quote:
By the way, this is all theory; we haven’t put this in yet, so this is the way we think we’re going to go, but it’s not solidified. So keep that in mind when you report on it, make sure you say “this is theory,” but I feel like it’s theory worth sharing, especially with the fan community… We haven’t tried it out yet. So it might suck. I’m gonna put that caveat out there, but that’s the one thing we still want to try with that system, and if it works, we’ll keep it. If it doesn’t, then the system works pretty well as it is.
Overall, this theory of Blizzard’s isn’t particularly earth-shattering. Runes will still be placed in skills to alter their functionality in the same way we’re used to. They’ll still be item drops off of monsters, but the team didn’t think that Runes felt like items in the classic Diablo sense. There was no variation, no randomization. A given Rune-Skill combination always produced the same result, so long as the level of the Rune was constant. In addition to this, when moused over, the UI for Runes simply displayed the effect it had on each of your active skills. During the internal alpha testing, they found that this became a nightmare point of comparison and, after a while, just got to be frustrating for the players.
To rectify these issues, they came up with the idea of having Runes drop “unattuned.” This basically means that when a Rune drops, it’s just plain and grey and doesn’t have any specific effect on your skills. Once you socket the rune into your skill, however, it becomes attuned to that skill, providing it a bonus based on the Rune type that it randomly rolls. In addition, they are considering adding an additional random stat bonus – much like the charm system of the now-scrapped Talisman – to attuned Runes. Bashiok had this to say about the new system:
Official Blizzard Quote:
Personally, I love it, and hope it finds a way in.
I'm not so sure about rolling to see which rune effect you get (it could still work), but I *love* the idea of random affixes. That you could have a end-rank rune for the skill you want, with the effect you want, but you still don't have ideal stats on it. That just makes the min/max item hunt that much cooler, and makes runes more important than... "Oh, I found another Crimson rune. Great. /salvage"
These features combine to add an air of randomness, familiar with most Diablo loot, to Skill Runes as well. Skill Runes of equal level can vary significantly from one to another, and high-stat or “Perfect” Runes will likely become incredibly valuable. On the other hand, if you socket a Rune into a skill and don’t get what you want out of it, they hope that it feels much more like any other piece of loot that drops that you don’t want and not like a let-down or a waste of a Rune (especially considering that Rune might be valuable to another player with a different build or playstyle).
Another difference from the current system is that when Runes are removed from skills, they will remain attuned to that skill. In the old system, if you removed a Rune from a skill, you could easily place that same Rune into a different skill to reap its benefits there. Not so with the new system. So, for example, if you put an unattuned Rune into your Magic Missiles and it rolls an Indigo effect (which adds additional missiles per rank), if you later decide to take that Rune out, it will forever remain a Magic Missile splitting Rune, unusable in any other skill. Even this isn't completely set in stone though, as they've hinted that they might add a functionality to the Mystic to wipe effects off Runes.
This proposed system would also play into the new skill system. Since skills are now freely swappable, they felt they needed a soft mechanism to encourage the player to focus on their favorite skills rather than swapping them out for whichever skill was preferable for a given situation. The fact that Runes are permanently attuned to a specific skill as soon as they are socketed in that skill accomplishes this. Although Jay described Rank 1 Runes as “candy that you can throw out and experiment with all you want,” higher rank Runes will be much more precious. Socketing high-rank Runes into a skill will represent an investment in that skill, hopefully discouraging the player from swapping it out for another on a whim.
While the core mechanic of Runes would remain unchanged in this new system, Runes - especially high-level ones - will become a much more valuable commodity. Since each Rune is permanently attuned to a single skill, they will be much more build-specific and, with random stats, highly sought after Runes will be far more difficult to obtain. What do you think? Do you like the sound of this proposed new system or are you happy with Skill Runes the way they are?
The recent flood of information we had has left many of you shocked. Skill points removed, traits reworked, new pvp mechanics, banners, shared stashes etc. etc. But many of you are probably most interested, or hesitant, regarding the auction house (abbreviated AH) system that will allow players to trade their items in exchange for real money.
Actually, I'll go out on a limb here and say that many of you are really pissed at Blizzard right now. But before you condemnd Blizzard of sacrilege, we should take a closer look at what this system will really mean for the players.
The Basics First
Blizzard has revealed that there will be two auction houses available to players through the Battle.net interface: one which uses in-game gold as a currency (just as the WoW auction house does) and one which uses real world money such as dollars, euros or similar depending on which region you play in.
In order to buy items, all you have to do is transfer over money to your B.net account from your credit card, which will convert it into e-balance. You can then go right ahead and bid on items with your e-balance. If you win the auction, your bid is automatically subtracted from your e-balance and you get the item. If you bid on an item but someone else outbids you, it will cost you nothing. This is true for both the gold and cash AH systems, the only difference between them is that in one you will use actual money.
In order to sell items, it's a little more tricky. If you want to put up an item for sale, you have to pay a fee. This fee will be subtracted from your money whether you succeed in selling it or not and given to Blizzard. In the gold AH, this fee is a gold sum (again exactly like WoW), and in the cash AH it's your e-balance. This fee is set at a fixed nominal value (the exact amount we do not know at this time). If you don't manage to sell the item, it will remain in your stash and you can try to sell it again, but the fee will already have been removed from your e-balance. If you do sell it however, an additional selling fee is also applied and given to Blizzard, and afterwards one of two things can happen.
By default, money that people buy items for will be added to the sellers e-balance (or gold total, if they sell in gold). However, it will also be possible to set up your account so that it will be added your credit card. This will require adding a third party payment service to the account to handle the actual transaction. Blizzard is currently negotiating with potential companies at this point in regards to who will handle this service, so at this point we don't know who it will be or in what regions they will operate. However, it will be possible to make money selling items in Diablo III. What will not be possible, however, is to convert your e-balance back into cash. So if you sell an item and haven't set up your account to give you cash, it will increase your e-balance instead. That e-balance cannot later be withdrawn as cash, but it can be used to buy other items and anything in the Blizzard store, including games and WoW subscription time.
Blizzard has also stated that every player gets a number of auctions which allows them to put up cash auctions without paying the nominal fee. It's unclear whether this is a fixed amount for each account (x free auctions in a lifetime), a fixed amount concurrently (x free auctions at any one time) or a recharging value (x free auctions every week), but Bashiok has hinted we might be talking about a set number each week. In any case, using such a free waiver will provide you with the possibility of making money without risking a single cent. We'll get back to that further down.
(NOTE: CONTAINS ENTIRELY FICTIONAL NUMBERS I MADE UP FOR THIS EXAMPLE.)
Here we have three people: Sixen, Scyber and Nektu.
Sixen has put up a leather cap for auction for 10$. In order to do this, he had to pay a nominal listing fee of $1 to Blizzard. Scyber sees this leather cap and decides to bid $10 on it. A couple of minutes later, Nektu sees the same item. He thinks it's worth more than $10, and bids $12. Scyber thinks anything over $10 is too expensive, and does not bid any more. The auction runs out a few hours later with no bids more bids being placed, and Nektu wins the item.
At this point, $12 are subtracted from Nektu's e-balance while nothing happens to Scyber's e-balance. The selling fee, in this example also $1, is subtracted from Sixen's $12, which means he has made $10 total on his auction (-$1 listing fee, -$1 selling fee)
Under normal circumstances this would be added to his e-balance, but if Sixen has also set up his account to forward him cash, the third party payment service will at this point extract a fee from those $11, say $1, in order to administer the transaction and give Sixen the rest, in this case a total of $9.
So Nektu pays $12, Scyber pays nothing, Sixen gets $9, Blizzard gets $2 and the third party gets $1.
You can use the cash AH without spending a dime
Using the cash AH is entirely optional. Players aren't forced by Blizzard to use it to trade for items. However, many of you fear that having a cash AH will make it so all the best items only sell for real money, thus in reality forcing people to spend money in order to get the best stuff. And while that's appears to be true on the surface, it isn't really. Here's why:
If you sell an item using one of your free weekly waivers, you can put up an item in the cash AH, sell it, and generate a positive e-balance without spending a single $. With that e-balance, you can then continue to put up items for sale and, using your initial e-balance, pay for the listing fees. Once you accumulate enough e-balance, you can then buy items for real money without having put in a single cent yourself. So you sell that legendary axe and legendary armor you found and use the generated e-balance to buy an awesome staff instead. The system doesn't lock anyone outside of acquiring the best items, what it does is allow people to spend money to get items faster. But it's still perfectly possible for anyone to use the cash AH.
And you won't even have to exchange legendaries for legandaries. If Blizzard has done its job properly and accomplished what was intended, which is to make gold a valuable resource, then people will want huge amounts of gold for their crafting, repair and vendor needs even if they only use the cash AH. And since gold can be traded on the AH, anyone will be able to sell gold for cash. Of course, the exchange rate between gold and cash is impossible to predict as of now, but in theory anyone will be able to make e-balance without spending any money. Provided there are some individuals out there who actually do put money into the system, some original e-balance has to be generated with actual money. But they will not have to be a majority.
In fact, the cash system will establish an exchange rate between gold and real money. The exchange rate will be an approximation since there won't be any mods available to track all auctions, but the market will probably reach a rough value. At that point, every piece of gold you make in the game will be worth an amount of $ equal to the exchange rate. This money cannot be taken from your e-balance (can't make e-balance into cash) but it can be used to buy items and blizzard products.
It doesn't matter which AH you end up using anyway
What did you say? Each piece of gold dropped will be worth a certain amount of real money? Not only does this mean that you are tecnically making money as you play, it also means that whether you use the gold AH or the cash AH will be irrelevant. The concept is called Arbitrage, and for those of you not accustomed to economics I'll explain how it works.
Let's say that I find a legendary axe that I don't need and thus want to sell. I can either sell it for gold or e-balance. Looking in the AH, I see that there are incidentally ten axes, five in each AH, currently up for sale: five go for 2000g and the other five for $20. But I decide to see what gold sells for, and I quickly see that 200g costs $1 in the cash AH. Afterwards I proceed to sell my legendary axe for $19, which the sold for gold will be 19*200=3,800g
That's arbitrage, the possibility to profit due to price imbalances in different markets. Even if I didn't want cash, it's still a better option for me to use the cash AH under these circumstances, since it gives me more gold. The next thing I do is naturaly to buy the other five legendary axes for 2,000g each, sell them for $19 again, essentially giving me 5*(3,800-2,000)=9,000g profit without having killed a single monster.
This will of course not last, since eventually other people will figure out that the legendary axe is underpriced in the gold AH and correctly adjust their prices. I probably couldn't even have sold those five axes for $19 again, since I essentially bombed the market by doubling the supply of those axes. But that is exactly the point. This kind of equilization will happen continuously across all different items for sale in the two markets, and will work to create a stable exchange rate between gold and $. And when that has happened, it won't really matter which of them you decide to trade in. Even if you consider yourself a purist and never so much as look at the cash AH, the prices you see for items there should be same as those seen in the cash AH.
Perfect equilibrium is generally upset by various factors such as transportation costs, taxes, varying legislations between markets, expiration dates on products etc. In the future Diablo economy many of these are removed: the the flat fees applied to purchases are a transaction cost and will generate some imbalances between the markets, but that's about it. In the end, it will matter little which one you actually use.
Added bonus: It eliminates third-party selling
But that's not everything the AH will accomplish. The purpose of the AH is to eliminate third-party selling of items and the inherent uncertainty that follows from using such sites. I will quote Don here:
Quote from "Don_guillotine" »
Well in D2 the market essentially worked just the way this real money AH will. Every serious player used D2JSP for trading because of the sheer effectiveness of it. And you could either buy forum gold for real money or sell items for forum gold. There was no way to convert forum gold back to real currency however.
D2JSP was really easy to scam in (since you had to do the trade in-game and giving the currency in the forums) if you weren't careful. The site was also corrupt (they gave gold to their friends who didn't pay for them) and so forth.
Most Diablo II veterans are familiar with D2JSP and the immense use it had in facilitating trade in Diablo II. It wasn't perfect, but it was much better than what Diablo II offered and allowed buyers and sellers to find and trade with each other using a (relatively) stable currency.
With Blizzard now running a cash AH, they've established a low-risk market. Blizzard will in this case act as the insurance of every transaction: if you sell an item and the buyer for some reason has no money, you will still get your money and Blizzard takes that financial hit. All transactions will be guaranteed by Blizzard, which will facilitate a safe and secure trading environment. In addition to that, since Blizzard will not be selling any items and since the exchange rate between gold and $ will be determined solely by the players in a region, Blizzard will have no way to influence it and purposefully generate a corrupt environment. In addition, the cash AH is a much more convenient method of trade, meaning any competing sites will have a hart time, well, competing.
I don't want this crap in Diablo
So far I've explained why you won't be left out of the system and why you won't have to spend real money. But these are all technical arguments. A fundamentally different argument people raise is that bigger wallet = better character. Most comments seem to counter this with "dis would happuned aniway, deal with eet" but that's not entirely true. Yes some people would have bought items for money, but you could at least feel that Blizzard did not support such actions and that an environment where no monetary benefits in RL would ever affect your own gaming experience existed. But "legalizing" it so to speak will with certainly cause a larger percentage of the total gaming population to at least consider engaging in these activities.
And to that, there's really nothing I can say. Because it is true that this will happen and that it will most likely affect how you view the game. Perhaps try to ignore other people's items? Kick their ass in PvP regardless? Secretly gloat that they're giving you money for your items? I don't know. Every change to a game is bound to be unappealing to some players unfortunately.
Finally we have the issue of the various kinds of potential risks this system faces: "chinese" farmers and hacks (particularly bots).
The first fear is that loosing the restraints of the system will invite countless gold farmers in China and similar to pour into Diablo now that this is allowed. And at face value, we can say that there's no reason for such farmers to reduce in number because of this system, and there's also no reason Blizzard can ban them for. After all, all they've done is buy the game and play it according to the rules (working conditions and such aside, but there's no way for Blizzard to control that).
How will this affect Diablo III? Well, under normal circumstances such farmers operate in a black market outside of the general trade system. They are competing against each other in this environment, but still away from the main body of trade occuring in the general game.
Now however, every Diablo player will become a potential customer, and since the AH will be anonymous it will be impossible for you to tell whether you're buying items from a Chinese farmer or not. Of course, whatever items they generate will have to compete with the prices of every single item that every single player puts up, and the people who previously had to go to them for gold or items can now instead trade with the real players, thus hopefully pushing down prices and making it less profitable for them. Still, it will probably lead to a greater amount of items being generated, but so long as the problem of duping doesn't reappear, it shouldn't be a problem.
Botting is a second potential problem, one that doesn't really involve any running labor cost other than your electrical bill. Unlike farming however, this is actively prevented by Blizzard and we can only hope that their experience dealing with botting in WoW and SC2 has paid off and will allow them to contain this potential problem well enough. Has this cash AH given botters a bigger incentive? Undoubtedly. Do I think Blizzard can handle it? Yes, otherwise they've done some really terrible estimates prior to announcing this system.
Will this new cash AH force you to spend real money? No.
Is it certain to work/flop? No, neither is certain.
No one has done this before, and so it seems unlikely anyone can guarantee an outcome here. Individual future situations are not that easily prognosticated. But I don't think the outset is all that bad either. What it will do is to hopefully lead all trades to be handled through Battle.net, which will generate a more stable economy, a larger economy of more buyers and sellers, a more liquid market and an opportunity for people who want to spend money on items to do so freely while at the same time allowing people who do not want to spend money to still generate a net profit, and more importantly, still interact with the entire trading community regardless of financial situation. The problem will be accepting that people with more money can buy better gear, but if you can do that you should not be worried about what this system can bring.
It's been a little over a month since I first announced that Force and I would be going to BlizzardHQ (and 2 months since I last went!), and I know you're all excited to hear what crazy information we have to tell you. I just wanted to let you all know that it hasn't been easy on us to keep it all a secret! We were practically busting at the seams since the day we both got home, but we've made it! For those of you who do not want to read my wall of text, which includes a detailed run through of the entire day at Blizzard, as well as a lot of gameplay information, you can skip to the TLDR version at the bottom, which is just a bulleted list of important information. Without further ado... (and feel free to join us IRC to chit chat about this stuff!)
I flew into California late on Tuesday night ready to lay down and get absolutely no sleep... because who can sleep knowing they're going to play Diablo 3, right?! That in mind, I woke up Wednesday morning and was the first one to arrive at the Blizzard Headquarters, a little before 9AM. As I sat there and watched the members of the press slowly trickle into the main lobby, it really hit me, and I was pumped and ready to play. I signed my NDA's and then sat around and chitchatted with Force, Bashiok, Ryan (the Diablo PR guy), and some other fellows that were just popping in and out of conversations until roughly 10AM, when they walked us into the Blizzard Theater for their 2-hour long presentation of the new features and information.
As we all sat there waiting anxiously for what was about to happen, a microphone clicked on and we were told that we were going to catch a glimpse of the introduction cinematic to the game, which was absolutely beautiful might I add. It began similar to how the Marvel comic movies begin, with a comic-looking type thingy, which then comes to real life. Imagine that, but with those eagles from the Diablo 1 intro cinematic, as well as Diablo, and some Angels, set in a desert-looking environment. From there, it depicted angels dropping from the skies and demons stampeding along the ground, until the two forces clashed, and then ... the screen went black. The rest we will have to wait for until we actually get our hands on the game. Shortly thereafter, Chris Metzen came in to fill us in on the past lore of the Diablo Series (if you need a refresher, I highly recommend listening to DiabloCast Episode 12) and set the stage for where we would begin in Diablo 3. Though, it is worth mentioning, that some of the previous lore has recently been changed; the Dark Wanderer, who was also the Diablo 1 Warrior is now King Leoric's eldest son, making the original game revolve somewhat around Leoric's family. It was also said that the Book of Cain would fill in the 20-year gap between Lord of Destruction and D3, from Deckard Cain's perspective. Diablo 3 then begins with apocalyptic-type events, with fire falling from the sky, and the dead rising from the graves in Tristram (which explains how we fight King Leoric again). These mysterious events lead our hero classes to Tristram, where they meet Leah, who is also looking to seek answers to these events, which were prophesied so very long ago (the "End of Days" and the "Fallen Star"). Leah, who is Cain's adopted neice (since the age of 8), is also the real daughter of Adria the Witch, from D1. In fact, throughout the gameplay, Leah takes you to Adria's Hut, ;).
Following Metzen's detailed run-through of the lore, Jay Wilson stood up ready to introduce us to some epic gameplay demos of each of the characters, as well as some cool character cinematics (such as the Male DH). Jay showed off some pretty sweet skills from each class, as well as some major features/changes we needed to be aware of. The first of which, is that the talisman was removed (yes, we knew this) and replaced with 3 Quest-item slots, all of which we get in Act 1. These three slots are for the Cauldron of Jordan, the Nephalem Cube, and the Stone of Recall. The CoJ (cwuttheydidthar?) is used for selling items directly from the battlefields of Sanctuary, allowing us to not have to travel back to town to unload (the Scroll of Wealth, in turn, was removed). The Cube is used for salvaging goods, as we have previously heard at the last BlizzCon, and the SoR is basically a hearthstone. Bashiok had mentioned that there would be some form of Town Portal returning to the game, and this is how it is being done. We can "recall" ourselves into town as we need to, which creates a personal portal from the location you just left. This allows you to return to your previous location with ease and allows you to continue fighting. It's also worth noting that there is currently no cooldown on the SoR. I would also like to mention that the new stash (it's only account-wide, there are no personal stashes) is HUGE! It's larger than the LoD stash and then has 5 different pages (that we have to purchase with gold to access) expanding it even more.
In addition to the three new items and stash information, we were told that the Skill system has gotten a complete revamp. Instead of 7 active skills, we now only have 6. In addition, the traits system was removed and turned into a "passive skills" section on the skill window, cleaning up the UI quite a lot, and allowing us to choose Skills and "traits" (passive skills) all in one window. That in mind, we can also only have up to 3 passive skills at one time. However, we begin the game with only 2 active skills and no passives. The last four active skill slots can be unlocked at levels 6, 12, 18, and 24, and the three passive skill slots are unlocked at levels 10, 20, and 30. So by the time we complete Normal, you should have unlocked all of the possible skill slots. Now, skill and trait points were also removed. Once you reach a certain level, you unlock X skill and/or X passive that you can swap in and out as you see fit. Again though, you can only have 6 actives and 3 passives at any given time. The reasoning behind this is to remove the Diablo 2 style of thinking, where we save all of our points and dump them into better skills, once we hit the end game. Jay said that they found employees (in the alpha) dumping all their points into say, Magic Missiles, until they unlocked Arcane Orb. They would then respec, and dump all their points into Arcane Orb, until they unlocked the next tier skill. This system didn't really make much sense and allowing us to hot-swap skills/passives whenever we want gives us the ability to "test" the skills without worrying about wasting any points. With skill points gone, skills/traits will scale with your level/gear. For example, a skill like Bash will scale with your weapon damage, whereas something like Disintegrate will scale with level. Yes, big changes! I'm actually a really big fan of the revamping of the skill/trait system. As I said earlier, it really cleans up the UI by consolidating the system into just one window, and the ability to hotswap skills is awesome. It means that I will never have to respec, which in turn means I will never have to have more than one character for the class (unless I want a male/female). This system will allow me to play and test each skill in my build without punishment, which is fine by me.
They also revealed the Demon Hunter resource, which was previously unknown, save for small tidbits. Essentially, the Demon Hunter uses two resource systems, neither of which affect each other. They are two completely separate resources: Hatred and Discipline. You can think of Hatred as being similar to the Wizard's resource, Arcane Power, because it regenerates rather quickly. On the other hand, while the Discipline resource regenerates, it does so at a slower rate. Some interesting skills worth mentioning that Jay showed off were the Wizard's Archon skill, where she turns into a being made of energy, which completely changes her skills for X amount of time. The Barbarian also had a similar skill, called Wrath of the Berzerker, which... turned him Super Saiyan. They also showed off one of the Witch Doctor's new pets, the Gargantuan (which reminded me of the Humble Bumble from Rudolph), and a few of the Monk's Mantra's (auras). Below is the B-roll video that we were given in the press kit for all of you to check out.
After Jay's presentation of the new gameplay features and skills, Rob Pardo stood up and flipped on his power point presentation about Battle.net. He began by reminiscing about the old Bnet 1.0 days, when the service was first launched with Diablo 1, and later updated with Diablo 2. He then went on to explain to us that Battle.net 2.0 will include public games, a PvP matchmaking system, a quick-join system, and co-op option to play with our party members. He also introduced to us what is called the "Banner System," and that is simply what it sounds like: a banner that is used to represent our characters. This banner can be completely customized, based on whatever achievements we've gained, level we are, PvP matches we've won, difficulties completed, among a number of other things. In addition, while in-game, players may also click on our banner from town to teleport directly to us and join us in the action.
Here comes the bombshell: he also introduced to us the auction house. The real money auction house. Yes, an auction house that you pay/sell items for real cash and vice versa. As soon as this dropped, it was silent, though I couldn't stop myself from spitting out "Bwhat?!" to break the silence permeating throughout the room. He went on to tell us that it would be a regional AH, based completely on money. On the AH, there will also be an autobidding system, with a smart search, and secure item transfers. It seemed to me like he waited a few slides before he actually let us know that there would also be a gold-based auction house, as well as in-game trading... Maybe just to see our reactions or something, but do not fret! You will not be forced to use real money. In addition, we'll be able to pull items from our shared stash to place into the AH. Their reasoning behind doing this is simply because the players want it. If the players didn't want it, they would not have been using shady third party sites, like d2jsp in the D2 era of the series. Essentially, all Blizzard did was make something that was previously unofficial and sketchy, official and supported. Though, I should also mention that they are planning on selling/buying characters at some point in time as well, not at launch. For more information, read the AH overview and FAQ in the sections below.
After Pardo's presentation, it was about noon, which means lunchtime! They walked us over to the cafeteria, which is usually boring and plain, with a cool themed menu... However this time, they went all out. There were red table-cloths on the tables, with Diablo-styled candles lit on them, as well as some of Cain's left-over books, and real life elixirs/potions sitting there on the tables. Not to mention, the pretty sweet themed menu they gave us to choose from. Force grabbed some footage of it all, as seen below.
Right after lunch, we were scheduled for a 30-minute interview with Jay Wilson about Battle.net and the Auction House (though we kinda talked about PvP as well). Unfortunately, we were not allowed to post the raw audio of that, but you can read the transcribed version below, and you won't find this anywhere else.
Jay Wilson Interview #1:
So this is primarily to talk about the Auction House, the Battle.net features that you heard about earlier today…
A: I think people are going to lean more towards the real money AH and I think there is an answer for the person who says “I don’t want to trade in real money, I’d rather trade in gold…I mean, the gold AH is one of them and I think the gold AH will be viable to find a good amount of items, but one of the reasons we’re doing the free listings every week is to allow people to sell items to generate an e-balance so they never have to put real money into the system if they don’t want to. That allows someone to circumnavigate that option if they don’t want to buy with real money. And yeah, the e-balance is technically real money, but I earned it from items I sold and not from putting in a credit card.
Q: I guess the biggest thing would be if everyone prefers to sell with real money on the AH then there won’t be nearly as many items in the gold AH, but I guess you kind of answered that.
A: Yeah, and if the vast majority of people prefer the real money AH – or if the vast majority of people prefer the gold AH – that’s what the vast majority of people prefer.
Q: Will there be some kind of mechanisms to balance out the need for gold so maybe there would be a way to counteract that? Like to actually need gold, let’s say I have $100 in my e-account, but I actually need some gold for whatever, maybe I would feel more inclined to sell it for gold if there was actually a need for gold. Like with D2 I never really felt it was important…once I had a million I didn’t really feel like I needed more.
A: So the Artisan system we put in the game is really designed to be a constant gold recycling element, so crafting items has a lot of similarities to gambling; it’s just gambling with a little better understanding of what’s coming out the other side and every time you craft an item, there’s a material cost and the material cost pulls items out of the world, items equal money, also there’s a gold cost, so you have a big gold sink there. Enhancing items, combining gems, pulling gems out of things, socketing things, all of these have gold costs that increase as you get further into the game. So those are our primary elements of gold sinking.
Q: What’s the party size gonna be for multiplayer?
A: 4. That was easy!
Q: Will gold be a sellable item? Because I think that the balances could become the currency exchange rate between gold to the dollar…
A: Gold is a tradable item, and I make the distinction because Blizzard doesn’t sell gold. We will not create any items or commodities. Players are able to sell gold.
Q: Will that be regulated then? X gold sells for…
A: Nope, it’s a player-driven market, so one of the things that we’re really focused on is making sure that we have as few inputs and incentives into the market as possible. We want it to be really a player-driven market and a player-driven service. So it’s one of the reasons we talk about having flat fees instead of a percentage. If we have a percentage, there would be an incentive for us to drive up the value of items to get bigger percentages. It’s one of the things we considered: let’s do a flat fee because we don’t need more of a perception that there’s an incentive there for us. We want it to be a very player-driven trading economy and that’s what the core of Diablo is, is a trading game.
Q: As far as keeping the economy not stagnant and still exciting, one thing I notice about D2 is once I had my items, they never degraded, I was pretty much good to go; I never really needed to upgrade. I see that in a player-driven economy as kind of a big problem, because eventually prices will taper off and at some point, it’s not worth even putting my item on the AH because everyone has one. That leads to a lot of pressure, I think, on you guys having to create a lot of items and expansion sort of content so there’s new stuff. What is the plan for that?
A: So the plan at release really comes back to the crafting system again. A lot of the crafting system is focused on pulling items out of the economy, so certainly the most highly-valued items people aren’t going to salvage, but everything slightly below that they are, which is going to drive a lot of items out of the economy. The enhancing system is actually one of the…basically our enhancing system kind of works like enchanting from WoW, but it has a random value to what you’re getting. So you input the enchantment, and let’s say it’s somewhere between 80-100 attack that it’s gonna give you. So if you roll 83, you could roll that again and you have a chance of getting a better number. You won’t get a lower one, and it might say “aww, you didn’t get any better.” But you can try over and over again and you need to essentially recycle items to do that. Eventually you’ll get to perfect, but you’ll really have to pull out a lot of items. And at that level, you’re really talking about rares and legendaries that you’re actually going to have to be melting to be able to do this. So we do have some systems in. Even so, there is going to hit a saturation point and what will we do about that? We have a bunch of ideas on how to deal with that, most of them do revolve around extending the item database at some point. Whatever we do, we’ll try to make sure that the player base has a lot of forecasting, like they will know long before we do anything what we’re going to do so that they can prepare. We don’t want people to go on the AH and spend basically $100 and then us change the item database the next day. We want them to know, in 3 months we’re changing the database “OK, well that gives me time to plan and think about what I want to do.” So we may not…it’s still up in the air. But it’s one of those things where we really want to see what happens to the economy and to a certain degree, we don’t know because we’ve never done something like this before.
Q: So you’re throwing out the idea of character resets like in D2?
A: Umm…I would say that we are not that fond of the ladder reset. I kind of feel like the ladder resetting thing is like…”wow, I can’t believe people fell for that!” I kind of feel like that feels really simplistic. We can do better than that. If we really want to reset things, let’s reset them for real. And I’m not saying that’s what we’re going to do; we honestly don’t know at this point. But I think we can do a better job than ladder races, which…the other side of it is, how many people really get to participate in that? You’ve got your crazy guildies who essentially do run shifts to get a character up and once the first 100 or so hit the top, who gives a crap? I don’t want to be 150, who cares? Much less 150,000. So we think we can do better than that.
Q: Are there any restrictions as to what items can be bought or sold on the AH?
A: Right now, there are some, but they’re pretty light and most of the things that we don’t allow are things that don’t really have any business being there in the first place like quest items, elixirs (which are junk drops meant to fill out the database, not provide like super-compelling items), and there’s a bunch of little power-up kind of things like that. I don’t think we’ve actively gone through and restricted them yet, my guess is we probably will and not because we don’t want people to trade them, but because we just don’t think people probably will. So generally, no, we’re going to let people trade as much as possible.
Q: Do you feel that since people are going to be able to buy items, and therefore essentially power, do you think that will polarize the community based on the top elite, especially in PvP, versus the casual player and what repercussions might there be if that is the case?
A: I think if you look at a lot of games where power gets sold, you run into a lot of different types of games. Take a game like WoW: if we started selling items there, it would pretty much destroy the game. The core of the game is guild/raid progression; that is your top tier and that’s where everyone is focusing on. If you now give me the ability to circumvent that using money, you’ve kind of destroyed the need for having guilds in the first place. Microtransaction games tend to be very successful, but have very short lives because people tend to buy out everything. Essentially, it’s like “what if the government started printing money?” It’d be really awesome for a short time, and then we’d all be screwed. That’s kind of what a microtransaction game is; the key difference between them and this system is that it’s player-driven so we’re not generating items, players are. We’re not doing anything different than what D2 already did. Players could trade items in D2 and buy them using real money. All we’re doing is facilitating it so that it’s a good experience for everyone. We don’t expect that it’s going to feel very different from D2 at all, and to kind of separately address the PvP issue, will people buy power to be more successful in PvP? Yes they will, that’s why our PvP system is very casual and not an e-sport. It’s meant to be a “I wanna go in and see what this build can do against people who are of equivalent power.” The nice thing is with a really good match-making system, you’re going to have a good game regardless because you’re going to get matched with someone who’s roughly equivalent to you and gear’s a part of that.
Q: In the past, you’ve mentioned that you might entertain the idea of some sort of competition or tournament, if you will. Maybe not on a regular basis, you said you kind of liked the idea. Have you guys put any thought into adding a replay or observation mode? Is that way too off-keel since it’s not an e-sport? Way too much investment, basically, to be worth it?
A: I don’t remember specifically talking about competitions; we were probably in a different head space when I said that because really at this point we’re not focused on that at all. So features like replay, etc. are…it’s one of those things where it’s a cool feature and there’s no reason not to add it, but it’s not like in SC where it’s really necessary. As a result, it’s not high on the list of things we’d do. It is actually on a list, but it’s pretty low down on the list because there are a lot of things that would be cooler to do and without it being an e-sport…replay’s kind of an e-sport feature.
Q: Did the attitude kind of change then since Blizzcon? Because when I played at Blizzcon, it seemed like it was definitely some PvP arena-style focus…
A: Well, we definitely want a PvP mode, we want people to be able to play against and kill one another and that’s a big part of the game, it’s just how e-sport-oriented we want it to be. When people ask me “how balanced is this going to be? Is it going to be balanced for…is it going to be SC-level balanced and perfect?” No, it’s going to be horrifically imbalanced, and that’s part of the fun, to find crazy builds that are all over the place. So we have changed the arena mode a bit to feel more casual than the mode that was at Blizzcon, which was very last man standing, high-pressure, because if you died, you were done for that round. Now, granted, the rounds were fast, but still…we’ve actually switched to more of a team deathmatch. Still same arena environment, still kind of feels the same, but when you die, you stay out for a few seconds and then you come back. It bases more on time limit and kill count, which we actually found was a lot more approachable and a lot more fun.
Q: If a lot of players want to turn it into a big, competitive e-sport kind of thing…you wouldn’t stop them, would you?
A: No. But when people say “BARB IS TOTALLY OP!!!” we’re going to be like “yeah…he probably is.” (Talk about SC2 balance…) We’re not going to be looking at a lot of percentages or really even tracking it. If players want to turn it into an e-sport, more power to them, but we want to set their expectations about what level we’re going to support that. We never want PvP to drive PvE game balance, and that is the reason why in WoW (to a lesser degree than SC2) they both let the PvP game drive the PvE game and whenever we have a conflict…(moderator dude interrupts)
Q: For the third-party, you g uys have said you don’t have anything solidified, is it looking to be something akin to the PayPal system? Without saying any names, is it sort of gonna be a system where people sign up, third-party money goes there, and then it’s transferred to their bank account?
A: I can’t really say because we’re in negotiations.
Q: Before he asked about the maximum party size, you said it’s going to be 4…If we can have a total of 3v3 in arena and PvP, why would max party size not be 6?
A: Because the party size isn’t based on technical limits; our team would be quite happy if the numbers were higher because we could get more players per game and that’s actually good for our client server architecture. It’s based on what we feel is a fun experience. More than 4 is very chaotic. People will say “well in D2 you had 8 and it was fine” except, I can’t really remember the last time I was in an 8-player game in D2 where everybody was on screen. It’s not really very viable and their effects weren’t nearly as loud as ours (both monsters and players). We’ve tried 5-6 player games and we want to push the numbers up, but every time we do, it feels really chaotic.
Q: In the actual battle.net interface, can you have up to 6 people in your party?
Q: Because in a PvP game, the maximum is 6 players, correct?
A: We’re actually playing around with the max being 4 per team, which is 8 players total, but that’s still 4 per party. By the way, that’s not confirmed, we’re just playing around with it. Ideally, we’d love for parties in PvP to be 4 players.
Q: Well that makes a lot more sense because previously if it was a max of 3v3, then if I’m playing with 5 of my friends, 2 people kind of get shafted.
A: It came down to…can we have a game where you can tell everything that’s going on with 8 players in the game? That’s what we’ve been playing around with. We’ve also been playing around with a lot of sliders on how the effects work and how we show one team vs. the other and 4v4 is looking very promising and if we can get it to work, that’s what we’ll do.
Q: Are there different brackets or will it just be one static way of playing, like if (something…)
A: Right now we’re just looking for one mode. Part of that is PvP isn’t our primary focus, so we want to keep it simple. Also, we don’t really want to segment the population…we know we are going to have some balance issues, and it’s a lot easier to control if we’re not balancing for different kinds of modes, so right now we’re just focused on the one.
Q: Are there going to be chat channels at launch?
A: If there’s not, I’m sure someone will set me on fire, so are we going to have chat channels at launch? Yes we are.
Q: For the AH system, is it going to be accessed solely through the battle.net title screen? Can we access it through the game, or will we have to leave the game with our friends to sell something on the AH?
A: Right now, it’s accessed completely through battle.net and not found in game. If there’s a demand for in-game, that’s a feature we can add down the road.
Q: Also, if you’re in a party, you stay in the party regardless of whether you’re in the game or come out of the game, right?
A: That’s in flux right now, so…. Right now if you do it in game, it jumps you out of your party and I’m not sure why, but that could just be a bug (it’s a bug). We do everything we can to keep parties together, even if people go to different locations.
Q: So while you’re playing, you’re just focused on the gameplay and trading is kind of a separate thing that you do after you’re done slaying?
A: No, the idea is we want to ship the game. Why would we not have it in-game? No reason other than it was like…which way is going to be a little faster? It’s very likely that if people really ask for it, that’s a feature that we’d add down the road.
Q: Will there be an avatar system or will it basically just be your character?
A: That’s really what the banner does. The sigil that shows up on the center of the banner, that pattern, you’ll see it if you look at the SS’s and also in game, that turns into like a little icon for you. The banner plays into that.
Q: So is it recognizable in a party? In SC2 I don’t even have to see my friends’ names, I just know that guy’s…
A: Yeah, actually my feeling is that it’s more recognizable because you can customize the primary sigil and the accents and the pattern and colors, so there’s a lot more points of customization so there’s a lot more variation.
Q: Will there be a level requirement on the AH so new players can’t just immediately start buying high-level items?
A: There might be. The primary reason we’ve considered it is just because there’s not a lot of reason for a level 1 character to interact and it’s kind of better to introduce systems as people level up. If there is though, it’ll probably be fairly low, like level 10 or something like that. We haven’t made a determination on that yet.
Q: How does character naming work? Will names be unique? Will there be an identifier like was tagged on in SC2? I wasn’t really a fan of that because I was just Sixen##### and any douche could be Sixen##### just with different digits and you couldn’t really tell if we were different people.
A: We’re using the same system, so when you log in you’ll be displayed more at your battle.net level, so if you’re RealID, you’ll be displayed there and then your character names are not. They’re only unique on your account, so you can not have three guys named Sixen on your account, but you could always have your name relative to others.
Q: I understand the cash AH being anonymous in terms of buyers and sellers, will the gold one be also? Why did you choose to do that as opposed to character names for ID?
A: Yeah, ummm….primarily as a privacy kind of element. We wanted to make sure people felt secure interacting with the AH and there wasn’t a strong reason to show names. If you look at something like WoW, a lot of people post things that they made through crafting and there’s good reason for wanting to be able to contact that person to get them to craft something else for you, and generally they’re going to welcome that contact. Something like eBay, where there’s not actually an assurance of receiving the object, they need a sort of reputation system, but we guarantee the transactions, and all the itemization is random, so there’s not a lot of reason to know the name of the seller. All the reasons we came up with were most frequently some sort of griefing, so we decided not to put it in there.
After that 30 minute interview, we were given a good 4.5 hours to get some game time in for ourselves. Force and I were Battle.net Buddies and played together for the entirety of our demo time. We were able to play through the game a few times, the content is relatively short (only about an hour of actual gameplay), and you finish at King Leoric, as most of you have already seen, unfortunately. The gameplay hasn't changed much since BlizzCon and there is no PvP in the Beta, so it's essentially just the first third of Act 1, up to King Leoric. I have to say though, I didn't think I'd enjoy playing the Monk as much as I did this time around. I still disliked playing the Witch Doctor, and of course, really enjoyed the Wizard/DH as I assumed I would. As far as the Barbarian goes, he's just not really for me. I made sure to try all classes just to see, which is why I was surprised about the Monk.
Something I did think that I should mention was the in-depth character details page, which included: Damage Increase, Attack per second, Casting speed, Crit hit chance, Crit hit damage, Block amount, block chance, dodge chance, damage reduction, max life, life per second, life steal, life per kill, life per hit, max resource, move speed, gold find, and magic find... All of that information will be readily available to us in-game, without the use of any calculators, which should make gearing our characters up a lot easier to do. We also got a chance to play around with the three new quest items I mentioned above, the Nephalem Cube, Stone of Recall, and Cauldron of Jordan. They are all very simple to get the hang of, and it's great that I can salvage/sell items while in the wilderness. I like how they designed the Stone of Recall, because it allows us to not have to worry about carrying scrolls of TP and then restocking, we basically have our own hearthstone. Something I did notice though, was that you could use that and the Banner system to be rushed. I can create a new character, join my friend in Act 5, and start playing. I asked about this in the interview below, but Jay basically said that it's fine. They restricted experience you could potentially earn from higher level monsters, so I won't level uber quickly and I end up missing the entire story. So really, all you do is ruin the story, though if playing with your friends is that important, you may do so.
Once our gameplay time game to a halt at around 5pm, we were scheduled for our second interview with Jay Wilson, that would last us until 6pm and finish off the day. Force was able to record that, though we have also transcribed it here as well.
Jay Wilson Interview #2:
Q: Random scenario: you have an axe enchanted with ice and an axe that’s enchanted with (lightning?), which one...does it stun it or does it freeze it? (I think he’s asking about enchantment effects when dual-wielding; in the original gameplay trailer, Jay says the axes are enchanted with frost and electricity, which gives them a chance to freeze and stun opponents.)
A: It alternates between...it depends on which weapon hits it. It’s just like D2, the only difference being we give you an attack speed buff. I think its about a 15% attack speed buff. So, that’s not evidenced very well right now, but we’re trying to figure out where to put that so it’s obvious that’s what’s happening. The nice thing is that we added that basic attack DPS meter on the character page, so that lets you know at least whether dual-wielding vs. two-hander is the better one. That was actually one of the big pieces of feedback we got from internal alpha was that they didn’t understand how dual-wielding works. It works exactly like it looks!
Q: And the only way to get elemental damage on a weapon is..?..or can you get an axe that has ice damage on it and enchant it with fire...?
A: Actually, the only way you can get it is for it to appear natively on the item.
Q: If you have a friend who just bought the game and you’ve been playing for 3 months, can you play with your character and kind of down-level your character to their level so that you have similar experience level?
A: Kind of like sidekicking or reverse sidekicking?
A: I really love sidekicking systems and reverse sidekicking systems, so we might consider adding something like that in the future, but not at release.
Q: OK. I think powerleveling’s great an all, but it’s just a boring experience for the person who just got the game.
A: Yeah, and you know, the thing is, it’s one of those things where when you weigh features, you know...we considered it, we’ve always talked about it, but we also said, well...if there’s ever a feature we didn’t have to have at ship, that seems like the feature. Because at ship, you don’t have that problem. You only have it later on. The older the game gets, the more prevalent that problem becomes, so...but definitely a kind of feature we’d be interested in.
Q: That in mind, him and I were playing together in the co-op and I joined the game with a brand new character and it kind of bumped me to the quest that he was on. So wouldn’t that mean that you could theoretically rush people?
A: You could, in theory, rush people. The difference between D3 and D2 is in D2, it was pretty beneficial to take a low-level character to a high-level area and just kill mobs with them just hanging around; for D3 we put in gates on XP gain to try to make that less prevalent. So yes, you could accelerate through the story, but all that is..?..ruining the story for you. On the other hand, we also felt really strongly felt that if that’s how you want to play...if it’s more important to you that you play with your friend than the integrity of the story, OK. That’s what’s important to you. You’re the player, your $50, you get to decide.
Q: I’m sure there’s a lot that went into it, but could you just kind of give a cliff notes version of what brought about the decision to fully remove skill points? I know one of the great benefits of it is it’s very easy to interchange and you’re not dedicated to one set path. And obviously with that, I guess there’s no more skill reset with no skill points?
A: When we put the game out into internal alpha, we had the system that we’ve shown previously at Blizzcon which is where you had 7 slots, you put skills in those slots and assigned skill points (mumble mumble). What we found was, the UI was essentially telling people “you should have 7 skills.” But the skill point system says to players, “if you really want to be optimum, you should dump everything into 1 skill or 2 skills.” We tried to fight that a little by having escalating caps on skills, but it didn’t really work. So the two things were fighting with one another and the result of what we were getting was not what we wanted, which was more skills than people generally had in D2. Our combat system is really based around having somewhere between 4-6 skills. The other side of it was, by popular demand, we put in respec. What we saw happening was players would get their starter attack skill and they’d put points into it, which was great because they didn’t do that in D2. Once they figured out the system, they said, “ooh, I shouldn’t put any points in these skills,” which is terrible. But what happened was that they’d level up and get to that next skill they want - they’d have Magic Missiles and they’d get to Arcane Orb and decide “I don’t want Magic Missiles anymore, I want Arcane Orb.” So they’d respec that early skill, take 5-6 points out of it, and mass dump them into Arcane Orb. And one, that’s a balancing nightmare, but more importantly, it felt really bad. It felt even moreso like the character was trivialized, because these points could be just massively pulled from one place to the other. So those things kind of warred against one another, so we thought, “what happens if we just take skill points out and just say, choose your skills, that’s what’s most important.” And that actually worked really well. What it revealed was kind of a further truth about how people play Diablo, and I kind of referenced it earlier, it’s not a game like WoW where you start with Fireball at level 1 and at level 85, you’re still using it. It’s possible to do that, to take a starter skill and make it viable end-game, especially with runes, but it’s not the instinct of what players do. Players want to level up to get to more powerful skills because they have that very finite window of skills, they want to respec and get into that big skill. A game like Borderlands actually has a great model, because their attacks are tied into items and you’re used to items cycling out all the time, so it feels really natural. But for Diablo, it felt really unnatural to be doing the activity that you wanted to do the most(??). So we altered the skill system to provide that to players: “you know what, you actually can switch out skills as much as you want. That’s the way you naturally want to play, so we’re going to let you do that.” However, a system still needs restrictions to make it compelling. The restrictions we put in was to cap that total number of skills, both as you level up, but also we even pulled the cap down a bit to six skills because 7 actually felt like people could kind of get everything they wanted, but at 6, they start having to make really hard choices about what to get. It seems like just a one skill difference, but it actually made a really big impact. So you combine that with having to choose from one of several different rune effects per skill and you start getting a lot of diversity in builds. And building those characters becomes really compelling, and that’s what we were going for. A system that has a really compelling build process to it. I realize this is not the cliff notes. The last thing I would throw out about this, and this is something that we always kind of had a pipe dream about that I think this last revision of the system actually might be the first skill system that we’ve ever done where the player’s first instinct is not going to be to go to a website and check out what their build is, and that’s wonderful. That’s what we want. We want players to discover within the playspace, make choices based on information, not just based on “well, this sounds good, I hope it works, but I never got a chance to try it out.” So that’s one of the advantages of the system.
Q: So everything is scalable; is it just by level or is it by your attack, or...?
A: So there’s several ways your abilities will scale. One is, as you level up, abilities naturally scale. So it depends upon the ability. An ability like Bash is based on weapon damage, so it doesn’t need to scale because your weapon damage is going to scale it so it automatically gets better. An ability like Magic Missile which has a set damage amount scales as you level up automatically. There are several attributes on items, some that you get leveling up - you don’t get many attributes leveling up, but you get a little bit - that affect abilities. Primarily Attack, which increases your damage, but Precision, which is a side-effect of crit; some abilities key off of crits, there’s even some abilities that key off of your defense value, so those can affect it. Runes are probably one of the biggest ways to extend the power of skills. There’s 7 kind of power levels of runes, each better than the last. And those continue well beyond Normal difficulty up into Nightmare and Hell.
Q: What can you tell us about how monsters scale with difficulty?
A: Essentially, monsters get tougher in a very similar way to D2: we primarily raise their level. We have this big, cool spreadsheet that is the Monster Spreadsheet, and what it does is it has all these different stats and down the side it has levels. So it says, “this is a level 5 monster,” and we go through it and set: level 5 monster damage is this, level 5 monster average health is this, resistances, attack speed, armor, defence, etc. is all in there. So we set those all globally for the monsters. And then we go into the monster and when we set the health of the monster, we don’t just put a number in there, we put in a percentage. So we say, this is an average monster, so it gets 100% health. If it’s kind of a weak monster, it gets maybe 50-80%. If it’s a really tough monster, it can get 200-500%. We can also alter the experience gain that they give, chance for dropping treasure, all those things. All done as a percentage. So if we want to move that creature around, say “this is Nightmare difficulty, this creature needs to be tougher now,” we just change its level. It might be a different answer than you want, but it’s a really easy process for us and it works really well.
Q: Since it’s all online, can that be changed with hotfixes? Like if the difficulty is a little too hard...?
A: I’m probably not the right person to ask about that, but probably yes.
Q: Is AI and group composition in NM/Hell going to change?
A: No. Well, some of the inputs change, because things like attack rate; we have a lot of little inputs that control AI, like for example, how quickly I choose to pursue you; that actually does get altered and we have some global variables, so we’ll just say, “this thing we want to globally go down across all creatures.” So we do have some elements like that, but our AI has a lot of script inputs into it, so we alter a lot of those, but the core of what drives it doesn’t really change.
Q: I’m curious as to why you guys did away with the ability to set your own stats.
A: Well, the main reason we didn’t do attribute point spending was that as a customization system, it wasn’t very good. What you found was, my favorite example is, if you want to know how to build pretty much any character in D2, you take enough strength to use the armor that you’re targeting. That’s usually around 120-220, depending on what type of armor you take. 75 Dexterity, because that’s generally the number you need for a good block percentage, you take no Energy at all (unless you’re making a Sorceress build using Energy Shield) and then everything else in Vitality. That’s a shitty customization system. That’s just not a good system. And the thing is, once you get into just pure, mathematical attribute spending, there’s a mathematically correct answer. And we are not so smart as to outsmart all the incredibly intelligent people in our community who will find that correct answer. So we focus on customization systems that literally are that, that feel like customization systems, that are catering to playstyle, as opposed to just being able to move around these attribute points and knowing that there’s an optimum way to do that. So that’s the primary reason.
Q: For some of the classes where the resource is actually split, like the DH, if I were to choose to be heavy on abilities that only use one of the resources, and not the other, I kind of screw myself. I’m wondering if there’s any way a player can have more control over that at some point other than just speccing your items.
A: Well part of how you build and play a character is how you interact with all the systems in there. So if you’re making a character that’s interacting completely with one resource, well one: you’re probably running out of resource a lot and not taking full advantage of that other one. That’s probably not an optimum build. Anytime you have a customization system that allows player interaction, to have good builds, you have to have bad ones. So if you’re not utilizing that second resource, maybe you’ve built a bad build. Or, maybe you’ve figured out how to use runes to recycle your common resource so well that you don’t need the secondary resource, in which case, that’s your Uber Hatred build. And you can post online “I figured out how to make a build that doesn’t even use Discipline..and it’s awesome!” Most likely, what you’ll figure out is that, even with your Hatred build, there’s something in that second resource that’s going to make you better. At the very least, you take Shadow Power because you can fire it off all the time if you’re not using Discipline and it gives you a really good attack damage buff. Everybody loves attack damage. So I think there’s always a way to build a character, but I don’t think it’s invalid to, say, build a character...you could build a Wizard that barely uses her resource at all. And that’s fine if you can figure out how to do it. That’s kind of how we’ve built the system. But we’ve also tried to make sure that if you do that, you’re probably not optimal, but that’s OK too. A lot about how you build characters in Diablo is about not having to be optimal. I actually showed off the Battlemage builds specifically because I think the Battlemage is a great example of how people build characters in Diablo, which is if you’re trying to make an optimal character, a melee mage is not the thing you should be building. And yet, in D2, I don’t know of a Battlemage build that I would call optimal, but they’re incredibly popular. And they are viable, and that’s what’s actually important. Diablo is a game of viable builds, not optimal builds.
Q: So runes...we saw the demo for them and they look fantastic. When are we actually going to get to play with them, because if they’re not in the beta, at what point will they come in?
A: The beta likely won’t be more than the first act. They show up in Act 2. There is some interesting stuff about the rune system that I would like to talk to you about, but no one’s asked me a question about it...
Q: Well do it! What would you like to tell us about the runes?
A: So one of the things that...the rune system is probably the only significant system that still has a significant amount of revision coming to it. So all the content isn’t changing: the different types of runes and the way you alter the skills and everything, that’s all basically staying the same. One of the things we’ve found...and you guys haven’t gotten a chance to play with it unfortunately, but...one of the things we’ve found is when you take a rune and look at it, you get “this is what it can do in all six skills.” It’s a nightmare point of comparison. It feels really bad after a while and that’s one of the things in the internal alpha that we got feedback on that we tried to address. So we also kind of like the idea of...runes are not items in the true Diablo sense of what an “item” is. And by the way, this is all theory; we haven’t put this in yet, so this is the way we think we’re going to go, but it’s not solidified. So keep that in mind when you report on it, make sure you say “this is theory,” but I feel like it’s theory worth sharing, especially with the fan community. What I mean by “they’re not items in the traditional sense” is they dont have randomness to them. A rank 7 Indigo rune is a rank 7 Indigo rune. It doesn’t have a better or worse version of it. Runes are also this awesome way for us to add a little more investment into the skills that you’ve chosen. So what we’re thinking about doing is essentially having runes dropped Unattuned, which means they’re kind of grey and generic, they don’t actually have a type. And then you pop them into a skill, and when you do that, the rune attunes to that skill; you can still remove the rune freely whenever you want, but now that rune is not an Indigo rune, it is a Magic Missile splitting rune. And on top of the Magic Missile splitting effect, it might give you a couple other affixes, like +10 Attack or something like that. And the reason we’re talking about doing that is, one, it...with the ability to kind of switch skills out, it would be nice to kind of have a soft mechanism that does make you want to focus on the skills that you want to focus on. When you have a rune that only has one effect on one skill, the point of comparison becomes a lot easier. And it really adds in the item game. It means that there’s really valuable rank 7 runes and meh OK rank 7 runes. And that’s something that we’d really like to see because it plays into how we want the item game in Diablo to play.
Q: So you’re saying that any rank 7 rune would fit any class’s specific skills, or you’re saying it would just fit one specific skill?
A: Well, when it drops it fits nothing. It could be put anywhere. But once you put it, it (SCHWING!) and at that point it transforms into Magic Missile rune or whatever skill you put it into. And at that point, it’s locked forever. So that kind of a lock choice we like because it’s one that you can make over and over again. And it’s one that, yeah, if you didn’t get something you want, that’s not that dissimilar to getting any other item drop that you don’t want. So that feels a lot better than making a permanent choice that I can never unmake. We felt like it was a really kind of different idea. We haven’t tried it out yet. So it might suck. I’m gonna put that caveat out there, but that’s the one thing we still want to try with that system, and if it works, we’ll keep it. If it doesn’t, then the system works pretty well as it is.
Q: This morning, and it’s hard to understand exactly what we’re seeing, but the Arcane Orb, you used a rune that made it swirl around and protect your character. My understanding is that the runes have different effects based upon the type.
A: Well that was one of the things that didn’t...well, the reason we created the different classifications of runes was actually to solve the inventory issue. If we had a rune for every effect on every skill plus every rank, that’s 3500 different items - too many items to dump on the player. So we said “we need to come up with a solution to that” so let’s do classifications. But the classifications need to be loose, because we need to be able to look at every skill and decide at the skill what we want to change. We don’t want to create these hard-locked classifications, like, for example, this rune always turns everything into an armor/protective ability. That’d be the kind of hard classification that could be understood, but how do you use that with every single skill? We’d get into these situations where, well, what would we do with Electrocute? Well, we’d probably turn it into Storm Armor. But we already have Storm Armor. And hey, we actually want to do something completely different with Electrocute. So you create these really loose classifications, say like Crimson is damage. But what does a Crimson rune do when you put it in a buff? Well, sometimes we figure out how to make it increase damage, and sometimes you go, we don’t have a good damage idea for this, so we’re going to have it do something different. The problem is that that created a lot of confusion. People wanted to know what’s a Crimson rune, because they had this Crimson rune and they had to figure out what skills to put it in, and it did something different in every skill, and wow, that’s really overwhelming. Can’t you guys just make it so it always does the same thing? Well, if we did, we actually think the system would kind of suck because you get these wildly variant effects in different skills. That’s what we want. So our inventory solution didn’t really match with our goal for the system. And that’s why we’re considering this change.
Q: How would making the runes random solve that problem? I’m sitting here thinking, OK, if you still go with the 5 potential random sets of effects, how would that make it so people would always know what that is? If I’m a new player and I get this rune and pop it in and think, cool, now it just made my Magic Missiles hit different enemies, how would I know what I can potentially get with each new rune and what if I get the same thing twice...?
A: Well, so part of it is to some degree, you don’t know. That could be a potential downside to this system. It could be an upside; that it’s fun to experiment. We do expect rune drops to be frequent enough, especially in the early game, that you don’t mind experimenting. In the later game, rune drops become more precious, but at that point you kind of already understand the system and that’s like higher rank runes. The reason why we feel it would solve a lot of inventory issues is, one, quality of the rune will have a big effect. If you get a rune that’s lower quality than one you already have, you’ll tend to toss it out like you would an item. The other factor is that because runes are more of a resource now, you’re not going to generally pop them into skills you don’t want to use. So you’re going to tend to focus on your core set of abilites.
Q: How would you know you don’t want to use it if you don’t know what it does? If it’s random as soon as you put it in, how do you know you don’t want to use it?
A: Well, I’d say you more know ahead of time, if you’re playing a Wizard and you don’t like electricity, you’re probably not going to waste your runes on Electrocute. So..you could make the argument that “if I knew what Electrocute could really do, maybe I would!” I think there’s a small percentage of players who would feel that way, and unfortunately, that’s what the internet’s for. And I know I said earlier that it’s awesome that the system doesn’t need to use the internet, now we’re going to make this other system that makes you use the internet. But, I think it’s a very small percentage of players that will want to obsessively know what every rune does ahead of time before they ever make a decision.
Q: Well, I mean, if I can possibly make a build without screwing up...like you say, in D2 I usually just wait until I hit level 80 and then just dump all my points in because I know that’s what I can do. So if I have to be careful on where I spend my runes, I’m not going to spend them as much.
A: But the thing is, you’re not going to need to be careful with rank 1 runes. And rank 1 runes will give you an idea of what a rank 7 rune will do.
Q: That actually leads me to my next question: what is the difference between the level rankings? Is it like damage or is it maybe an increase in effect or what...?
A: So the basic effect doesn’t change, the effect will scale or the math within it will scale. So Magic Missile: I put a rank 1 Indigo rune in it and it splits into 2 missiles, with a rank 7, it fires 8 missiles. Take the Obsidian rune and put it in Energy Twister, if two tornadoes collide, they’ll combine into one bigger, higher damage tornado. So that one, the dork(?) tornado does even more damage. So every rune effect has some element of it that scales. But, the basic idea of what it does doesn’t change with ranks, it just gets more powerful. So you can experiment; rank 1 runes are like candy, you can throw ‘em out and experiment all you want to figure out exactly what you like before you sort of invest in it, if that makes sense.
Micah: Just want to make a point with runes about recycling them in various ways, blah blah.
A: Yeah. The AH and we are actually talking about rune recycling mechanics. We may allow you to...and because we haven’t implemented this system yet, we don’t know what supports we need for it yet, but, for example, one of the things we might need is take it to the Mystic and pay her a cost and wipe the effect off the rune. In which case you can get it back. So if the system feels like it needs things like that...
Q: Well that kind of solves the problem that I was talking about before, how do I know if I want to use that...
A: And the thing is, that might be a real problem, and it might not. So we kind of want to get it in the game and see if it is, and if it is, then we kind of already have some backup solutions like that’s one, we’ve also talked about runes maybe producing really useful crafting materials so that when you’re done with it, “oh, I didn’t really get what I wanted from it, but I still got something out of it.” The notion that you just take runes and after you attune them, they have no value, that’s probably not going to be cool. But sometimes it’s really important not to pre-solve a problem. We don’t know exactly how new ideas are going to work. Sometimes they work exactly how we think, and sometimes they don’t. So we try not to spend too much time...if we’ve got 2 or 3 ideas on how to solve the problem, good enough. We move forward, put it in, see if the problem is real, and then we solve it.
Q: So, once they’re attuned, then you can swap them out and you can sell them? So in theory you could make a perfect build if you do use the internet and just buy the runes that you want.
A: Yep, you could make a really awesome build if you invest a lot of money in the trading process.
Q: And you’re also saying that there’s a possibility that once you attune it, it can get unique affixes that might further change...
A: Well, not change the rune, but it would almost act a little like charms in a way. When they’re socketed, then you get a little stat boost of some kind. So they work very much like wearable items. If it works. Fingers crossed. The nice thing is, the system is already cool so if it doesn’t work, eh, we’ll probably just leave it like it is.
Q: I know you mentioned that in the PvP arena there will be a matchmaking system that will pit you against players of your equal skill or gear level and that there will not be a number one team. Does that mean there is no ranking what so ever, there are no points attached to you PvP teams? And with the said, if there are points attached to PvP teams, can we have multiple teams so I can play with my friends who are terrible but I can have my hardcore team, I can do both?
A: There is no ranking. There is an invisible ranking that we use for matchmaking but it’s a per player basis. When you are on a team, we kind combine the rank together in a super smart way. The guy who does that is wicked smart. He works all of that out. But we don’t have a “I’m a 2200 rated player and therefore I am better than you as a 2100 rated player”. What we are focusing on is a more of a progression based system which is “I am a level 20 PvPer” which means I have played a lot of PvP.
Q: Can we expect a win/loss ratio?
A: Currently, we don’t even do a win/loss ratio. We might do a number of wins but not a number of losses. Even in SC, we found that the number of wins actually feels a lot better than showing a win/loss ratio. That’s why people recycle accounts because people don’t want those losses shown. So, the solution was to not show them. We want to keep it more casual. With the leveling system, you’re always winning slightly faster than losing. Even if you go on and lose it up for a hundred hours, you will be able to get just as far as someone who always wins.
Q: Is there anything you can reveal as far as rewards for the system like vanity items?
A: Right now it is focused primarily on achievements. Right now there is a whole array of PvP oriented achievements and titles and part of the banner is dedicated just for PvP. So as you get to higher and higher ranks, it levels that up.
Q: Hardcore, you had mentioned that you changed it to a death match where you respawn and do total kills. Is this still when you die that first time you are dead forever?
A: That’s what I want to do. There is a lot of pushback on the team. I announced that at Blizzcon and the community were all for it. We have gotten a bit of mixed results outside of Blizzcon. It’s easy for me to get a crowd worked up so… The PvP strike team that focuses on that area, they are pretty nervous about it. Their basic feeling is that if that is what happens, then hardcore characters just won’t PvP. But then there was hardcore dueling in D2 so we may change that. We may allow hardcore PvP players to play without dying. That being said, I still want a way for hardcore players to duel even if not at ship. I am going to push for a way. Even if its basically just a place where you can go in the world where you are flagged for PvP. Even if it is that simple, there is a community, even if it’s a small community that I want to support. Those fuckers are crazy. Part of me it like aww you crazy bastards.
Q: In team death match, you can spawn as many time and then the winning team gets their characters.
A: Yeah, we’ve talked about that too. We’ll see. Feel free to hold polls and see how the community feels.
Q: With the AH, I was really excited because to me it is some way you guys can have some consistent income. So, there is some justification for more development and on-going things that will make Diablo 3 more than just a game I play for 2 months and then forget about for four years. Are there any plans for daily quests or community events, things that will keep the community engaged?
A: We have talked a lot about for what we want to do with end game and continuing content. We do have some ideas and some of which will make it into the shipping product. We would talk about if we have played them a little more but we haven’t locked them down enough yet to talk about. But a lot of which at ship, it will be the tip of the iceberg. In terms of exactly what we are going to do, we don’t know because we haven’t seen how the community interacts with the game. I would really like to build out that future based on how players like to play the game and what would be most fun. Diablo is not really a game about questing so a daily quest is not the exact right thing. We are not even sure if we want to encourage people to have to come and play every day. I’m not sure we want to do that, maybe a weekly quest. I think the idea of WoW is that it is a very community oriented game so you want people playing at least once a day so they can check in with their guild because everything changes so much. Where with Diablo, it is really our intent that you are able to play it more casual so any systems that we enter like that feel that way, they feel more casual.
Q: Is there a cow level?
A: Is there a super secret cow level? You want my standard answer? It’s a secret.
Q: Has any community suggestions made it into the game.
A: Yeah, a lot of stuff has made it into the game.
Q: Can you give us any examples.
A: My favorite example goes back… well, yeah I’ll still use that example but I’ll give you another but it actually hasn’t made it into the game if ever. Back when we first announced, we had all of the art style controversy. Most of the feedback we got was positive but we really reviewed all of the criticism to see what we agree with and what we don’t agree with. One of them was “art style is fine but when the battle is over everything gets faded out and it doesn’t look like we just had a battle. I understand it’s for performance reasons but instead of fading everything out, why don’t you just fade out the oldest models and keep a certain amount in there. So, keep 10 or 20 models but never more”. We thought that was a great idea and we had never thought about that before. So, we put it in and it worked great. I think that is an example of an idea we got from the community that made the game a lot better.
One of the ones we have gotten recently was when we announced, and this is one we haven’t done anything with yet and I am not sure we are, but when we announced followers, one of the things we talked about was that it was really more of a normal difficulty feature. Our concern was that there were some players that said that if they give them more power, I am going to take it even if I hate it. There was about a third of the players who hate followers and didn’t want them. They didn’t like hirelings in D2 but they took them but they took them because they felt they had to get the extra power boost. And a third loved followers and always wanted to take them and the other third didn’t care either way. We felt a third is pretty big and it’s even but we don’t like forcing choices on the player. So we sided with the people who didn’t want them and catered to them. We still kept them but we consider them more of a story component anyway. But then the community really responded strongly to that. The third who liked followers were like “come on, please, we love followers”. So, we thought about it and we haven’t exactly found a solution but we are looking into a way the player can trade a portion of power equivalent to what the follower would be because they like followers, that gives players the choice who doesn’t want them to not trade that power. For example, a passive skill that enhances the follower that basically brings him up to the level he needs to be for the higher difficulties. But now you have dropped a passive skill and the players who don’t want them can keep their passive skill. We are considering things like that.
Those are some examples, we really try to listen to what people are saying. My favorite was “So, you say followers can’t be used past normal difficulty. Challenge accepted”. So, we’ll see.
Q: Do we currently have any systems in place beside a death match for the PvP arena. Like a horde mode with constant streams of enemies or enemies in the arena with the players.
A: We have definitely talked about some other modes. Not at ship but who knows about the future. I really like the idea of a mode that involves monsters and players of some kind. We have played around with modes like that but the biggest issue was that they didn’t feel like Diablo. I think that was just the design we had but there is a way to do it that feels like Diablo.
As long as we are talking about PvP, it’s worth noting how we have changed the PvP a little bit. We went away from the last man standing approach. As we have said frequently, the point of the pvp system is that it is supposed to be casual and fun. We felt that the “I died and I have to wait for the next round now” was much more of an e-sport feel to it. And now, the team death match model where you die but then you respwan within a few seconds and you are back in the battle is what we have. We found that it is much more approachable so we get people in who don’t even like pvp or who are not very good and they have a great time. They feel like they have a chance to stay in a fight, that death isn’t as big of a penalty, and they can learn what the other team is doing and what they are using and see how they can figure them out. We have these big swings in the fight where one side will start off really strong but then the other side will figure them out and come back and then the other side will come back. It feels very similar because it is still an arena and team placed game but it feels more casual.
Q: What’s the average timer on that?
A: I think it is 10 mins. We are hoping that this Blizzcon that we will be able to have people play that again to see how it’s different. I think ultimately that the reaction will be pretty positive. One of the things we also noticed is that you don’t get quite the shut outs you did in the arena version. You can still get them and that’s something we are talking about. Do we want to do any kind of rubberbanding for that? Mostly for starter players because once you get good skill matching, it’s not needed. But with this big diversity, ehh… rubberbanding can be awesome because it can make the match more fair but it can make the winners feel like they didn’t earn it. But hopefully we will be able to show pvp again this year at Blizzcon so people can try it out.
Q: Any thoughts about a wagering system for PvP?
Micah: (Side stage)Yes
A: Apparently Micah is all for it. If there was ever a way we could make it into an e-sport, which is exactly what we don’t want to do, no not really. And that is the reason why. We know people are going to want to turn it into an e-sport but it won’t be from any encouragement from us. The big reason being is that we are never going to allow, or at least over my dead body, the PvP game to wag the tail on game balance. We want the PvE game to rule it. Even the amount that PvP can alter the PvE game in WoW is unacceptable to us. Whenever we run into a case where “this would be really awesome for PvE” and the PvP guys says “ that kind of screw PvP” the answer is always “shut up PvP guy, it’s awesome in PvE”.
Q: Why can’t you just add features that are cool and if it helps e-sports, then it helps e-sport? Why would you go out of your way to not make the game an e-sport?
A: Because when you make the game an e-sport, it has to be balanced like an e-sport.
Q: Why can’t you just say “sorry, we’re not balancing it”?
A: Because then you confuse the audience. You can’t give the people an e-sport set up and then say it’s not an e-sport. If you are going to commit to that, then you have to commit to it. It’s not an e-sport, we are not going to do that high of level of feature set. It’s also one of those things where, from the outside it looks like we have endless time and budget but the truth is we don’t. The truth is we work our butts off to get the game out and we make choices and adding features like that to make it an e-sport when it’s not a goal for us, when we could be spending those dollars making the PvP game better or the PvE game better, we are going to spend the money there.
Q: Since we are on PvP, I know you guys had mentioned that some skills will be retooled for PvP, will that be like diminishing returns or will the skill look entirely different at all?
A: What we have is within the data of the skill, we have these things called snows that are little containments of data. You can open up the magic missile snow and see everything that magic missile does. We have this other column that is PvP and it can take any of the attributes for the regular skill and change it. We primarily use it to change how long a stun lasts or… We don’t have any diminishing returns and we are hoping not to. Cooldowns, damage could change but we try not to mess with those because they are really tricky. Crowd control durations. Those are the big things that tend to change that are game breaking.
Q: What can you tell us about your current plans for the talisman and charms system?
A: The currently plan for the talisman and charms is that they are gone, primarily because they weren’t cool enough. So , we had the choice of trying to make the system cool enough with a complete overhaul or we can shave a little time off the estimated release date. So we decided to hold on. It sounds like a really cool expansion feature. We have so many systems and we felt it always got the short end of the stick and nobody paid it attention. So we decided to make it a major expansion feature. Then we can make sure it really gets the attention. The original talisman was much more elaborate and it was pretty cool but it got shaved down to where it was at now and we were not happy with it.
Q: What did it do originally?
A: I don’t want to say because I don’t want to promise how we handle it. We never got to try it out so I am not sure it will work. It was quite different and possibly over worked but we will see.
Q: Do you see the auction house a good way to generate revenue for servers and stuff like that? Was that a deciding factor to switch to real world currency?
A: It wasn’t a deciding or driving factor for us. We don’t know what the auction house is going to do for us monetarily. We have a lot of projections and they wildly vary. We are pretty sure we are not going to lose money. That was the most important thing. If we are going to do this, it’s a lot of server infrastructure, it’s a lot of hardware. We have to make sure we can at least cover this cost. The thing that drove our decision to do this was the same that drives us how we doing everything at Blizzard. We felt it was a really good service for players. It was something that we could do for players that we thought they would appreciate; that we felt would make the game experience better. As a company, that is kind of where we always start.
I had someone earlier ask me if we are going to make mobile games. Well, we are going to make games and if a mobile platform is a good platform for the game we make, then we will make a mobile game. Most of the companies I worked for didn’t think that way. They figured out what platform do we want, what is our financial model, what IP would the community like. Ok, make a game out of that. WE go completely the other way. We say “ ahh, that would be cool to make this game”. So we make the game and then decided how we can make sure not to lose our shirt on this. That is kind of the start with the hopes it will make a lot of money. But we have never been too worried about that because if you making something good, the money will always follow. That is always the better way to approach it. What cool things can we do for the players, what cool games can we make?
Q: Off the heels of that, console plans?
A: We are exploring a console version of the game, nothing to announce this time. If we can get it to work, it is definitely something we would like to do. It’s a perfect example, I think more so than any other game we make, this is the best one to do that transfer and will make that transfer the easiest. A lot of this is going to be based around us being able to build a good R&D team that can actually build it. One of the things I encourage is that when you guys post this interview, if anyone in the game industry wants a job, we are really serious about it. We would really love it if they would apply.
Q: When you say transformed version, do you mean like a port of the game or a spin-off title?
A: We would want it to be Diablo 3. We wouldn’t want it to be a whole different game. But I think port is a dirty word for a lot of people. Usually because when people port games, they don’t really design the game for that system. Our feeling is, we don’t ever want to do a port like that again. If we transfer Diablo 3 to another platform, we want it to be the best game it can be on that platform. We want to approach it the same way we make it for PC and Mac.
Q: So it would still be Diablo 3?
A: Yeah, we would focus on making Diablo 3 but we would make it feel like it had been built from the ground up for that console. If we can’t do that, that would be the only reason we wouldn’t do it.
Thanks a lot guys, these are always the most fun for me.
Now, this is what I said I was a bit iffy on... Jay referred to their new theoretical runestone system, which I'm not a huge fan of -- I like knowing everything that we can potentially get. If they make runestones effects random, then it'll be a lot harder to know what the best possible combination is and we may also end up wasting runestones in the process. If I have a level 7 runestone and it turns into an Alabaster rune when I wanted an Indigo rune, I just wasted a very unique level 7 runestone. On the other hand, I have the potential to hit the maximum/perfect rune for the particular skill.. So yes, there is a lot of risk, but there's also a lot more potential for success with this new system.
Shortly after the last interview with Jay (a little past 6pm), we were kicked outta BlizzHQ and then proceeded to the Irvine Spectrum outside Mall thingy with Bashiok, Zarhym, Nethaera, and a couple of other fansite guys. While they were all busy drinking, Force and I snuck away to shoot a live video podcast that quickly ran through the major changes we heard earlier, as well as some quick thoughts that we had on them. After the podcast, we hungout until the wee hours of the night (OK, just 11pm) with the the few Community Managers, Jay Wilson, and the various other fansites that attended, at a pretty awesome restaurant in the Spectrum. Those of you curious, I ate a cheeseburger, :P. This concluded my trip (I flew out the next morning at 8:30am, yuck).
Within the Press Kit Blizzard provided us, we were given several Q&A's to share with all of you. If you want more information, I highly recommend giving them a read through, as they are uber helpful.
July 2011 FAQ:
Q: What is Diablo III?
A: We’re developing Diablo III to be the definitive action role-playing game and a true continuation of the Diablo series. Players will adventure through rich and varied settings, unraveling an epic storyline, engaging in combat with hordes of monsters and challenging bosses, growing in experience and ability, and acquiring items of incredible power. Diablo III will be a fitting sequel to Diablo II, with the easy interface, fast-paced action, and visceral gameplay that Diablo players have come to expect and enjoy. It will also include many new features that will take the Diablo action-RPG experience to the next level.
Q: Which characters will be in Diablo III?
A: Players will create a male or female hero from one of five distinct classes -- barbarian, witch doctor, wizard, monk, or demon hunter -- each equipped with an array of spells and abilities. New customization options will provide for an even greater level of character specialization than the previous Diablo games, allowing players to create unique characters brimming with power.
Q: What can you say about the different classes?
A: The dual-wielding barbarian is one of the stoic guardians of Mount Arreat. Armed with powerful abilities and moves, this plate-wearing savage wields ferocious weapons to annihilate the demonic forces threatening the world of Sanctuary.
The fearsome witch doctor hails from the terrifying Tribe of the Five Hills of the legendary umbaru race. The witch doctor is equipped with spells and alchemical powers; can summon mongrels, locust swarms, and zombie armies; and hurls fiery concoctions to annihilate any demon foolish enough to trifle with the powers of the umbaru.
The wizard is a wielder of the elements and a master manipulator of time, who combats the hordes of the Burning Hells by launching environment-shattering lightning bolts, channeling explosive arcane energies, and creating pockets of space outside of the normal flow of time.
The monk is a skilled warrior of unparalleled dexterity. Armed with speed, holy fervor, and a quest for physical and spiritual perfection, the monk becomes a deadly apparition in the heat of battle, moving faster than the eye can follow to strike down enemies with a barrage of lightning-fast blows.
The demon hunter has a sole purpose in life: to track down and destroy every last demonic being that dares to threaten humanity. Lithe and notoriously deadly with a pair of dual crossbows, the demon hunter brings an entire arsenal of arcane gadgets and mystical traps to the battlefields of Sanctuary.
Q: What is the story of Diablo III?
A: The game takes place on Sanctuary, a world of dark fantasy. Unbeknownst to most of its inhabitants, Sanctuary was saved some twenty years ago from the demonic forces of the underworld by a few brave and powerful heroes. Most of those warriors who directly faced the armies of the Burning Hells -- and were fortunate enough to survive -- went mad from their experiences. And most of the others have buried their haunted memories and pushed the horrors from their thoughts. In Diablo III, players will return to Sanctuary to confront evil in its many forms once again.
Q: Will players interact with any familiar faces or places in Diablo III?
A: Yes, definitely. Players will return to Tristram and certain other locations from the previous games, and they’ll also be exploring new areas of Sanctuary. Players will also encounter several new characters as well as a number of characters from the previous games, including Deckard Cain.
Q: Will Diablo III be running on a new engine?
A: Diablo III is powered by a new graphics engine that can display characters and hordes of monsters in lush, fully 3D environments. Powerful special-effects and physics systems allow for realistic object dynamics and cloth simulation, enabling players to lay waste to the minions of the Burning Hells in spectacular ways.
Q: Will Diablo still have randomized events?
A: Diablo III builds on the random environments of the previous Diablo games by adding random scripted events and encounters throughout the game, creating a dense and exciting world alive with quests, NPCs, and dynamic encounters.
Q: Will there be a hardcore mode?
A: Yes, players who seek the thrill of constant peril that comes with the possibility of permanent death for their character will again have that option in Diablo III. We’ll share more information about Diablo III’s hardcore mode at a later date.
Q: What can you tell us about Battle.net?
A: Diablo III will benefit from Battle.net upgrades that will provide some exciting new features for players. Cooperative online play remains a primary focus, with multiple enhancements being planned to make connecting with your friends easier and playing together even more fun.
Q: Will I need to be connected to the Internet to play Diablo III?
A: Yes, players must be online in order to play Diablo III. Diablo III was built from the ground up to take full advantage of the new version of Blizzard's powerful Battle.net platform. Players will have access to several features through Battle.net, including an advanced achievement system as well as the Diablo III banner system; a powerful co-op and PvP matchmaking system; comprehensive stat-tracking; persistent characters that will not expire and are accessible from any computer that has Diablo III installed;
a persistent Real ID friends list across multiple Blizzard games, along with cross-game chat; a shared stash accessible by all Diablo III characters on the Battle.net account; and the ability to have friends seamlessly jump in and join you at any time during your quest against the Burning Hells. Together with the security-related benefits that Battle.net provides, these Battle.net-based features are integral to the Diablo III game experience.
Q: How will PvP be implemented in Diablo III?
A: While Diablo III is designed primarily for cooperative multiplayer, we are building in support for competitive player-vs.-player gameplay as well. We’re focusing on team-based PvP in an arena setting, and we’re being careful to avoid PvP features that can easily lead to griefing, such as the ability to go hostile at will. We also plan to integrate Battle.net’s matchmaking system, a progression-based ranking system, and more.
Q: What matchmaking functionality will the game include?
A: With Diablo III, it will be easier than ever to quickly group up with your friends or other players in the community. When looking for a group, players will be able to simply broadcast an invite to all of their Real ID friends. Anyone who sees this broadcast can accept the offer with one click and automatically be added to their friend’s game.
We’ll also be including a robust public game finder for those times when you just want to play with whoever’s available on Battle.net as opposed to Real ID friends specifically. This feature will bring together players based on different factors, such as the part of the game they’re looking to play through.
Regardless of whom you group with, the game is designed to offer a seamless, fun experience. Players will be able to easily transition between single-player and cooperative play with their characters at any point during their Diablo III campaign, and the map will dynamically adjust to accommodate for additional players midstream. This means more-powerfuldemons to slay, more loot exploding out of corpses, and more fun on the fly. In addition, the game will offer each player their own individual loot drops, health globes will be automatically shared among players, and players will be unable to go hostile at will, all of which should help cut down on unfair ambushes and other types of griefing.
For player-vs.-player matchmaking, the game will group players together in the PvP arenas based on level and skill, making for fun, closely matched PvP action.
Q: What is the banner system?
A: Think you're better than all of your friends? Your banner will prove it. The banner system will be avisual representation of the achievements players earn across all of their Diablo III characters on their Battle.net account. A player’s banner will have multiple components that can be earned through various modes of gameplay. Completing different parts of the game at different difficulty levels, defeating bosses, earning achievements in PvP, and earning various other achievements will unlock ways for players to customize their banner and show off their progress in the game.
Q: What is the shared stash?
A: The shared stash is an inventory-management feature that allows players to stash items in a collective storage space for all of their characters. Items in the shared stash are accessible to the player regardless of which character is currently being played.
Q: When will Diablo III be released?
A: It’s too early to estimate Diablo III’s release date. As with all Blizzard Entertainment games, our goal is to create a game that is as fun, balanced, and polished as possible. We intend to take as much time developing Diablo III as is necessary to ensure the game meets our own high expectations and those of our players. We’re aiming to release Diablo III on both Mac and Windows simultaneously in as many regions as possible, and to localize the game in several languages. We’ll have more details to share about countries, languages, and specific dates as we get closer to release.
Q: What will Diablo III be rated?
A: The Diablo III rating will be determined by the ratings boards in each region. We will announce the rating that Diablo III has received in each region as we get closer to launch.
Q: What are the system requirements for Diablo III?
A: We’ll announce specific system requirements at a later date.
Q: Will Diablo III include support for bots and/or mods?
Q: Will Diablo III be offered digitally as well as at retail stores? How much will it cost?
A: As with our previous game releases, we do intend to offer Diablo III for purchase digitally as well as at retail. Specific details regarding pricing and availability for each region will be announced closer to the release of the game.
Auction House Overview:
We’re introducing a powerful auction house system that will provide a safe, fun, and easy-to-use way for players to buy and sell the loot they obtain in the game. Items can be sold and purchased using real-world money or in-game gold.
An Easier Way To Trade
Sure, slaying monsters, demons, and cultists is a surefire way to obtain a ton of random new loot in Diablo III, but with the new auction house feature, it’ll be easier than ever to gear up your character with the exact items you’re looking for. You can also post the items you don’t need for players who are desperately searching for what you’ve got!
Don’t Need It? Put It Up For Auction!
Nearly everything found in the game, including gold, can be exchanged with other players directly or through the auction house system. So say you’re a witch doctor and you’ve just found an incredibly rare, incredibly powerful axe that only barbarians can use. In the previous Diablo games your best option might have been to sell the axe to an in-game vendor, but in Diablo III, you now have the ability to list that axe in the auction house for your fellow barbarian players to bid on. And you know another player will probably appreciate the true value of that axe more than some heartless vendor who’ll likely just melt it down for scrap….
Amazing Search Functionality
The auction house’s "smart search" functionality can automatically sort items in the auction house based on which upgrades would be most beneficial to your character. Also, searching for the best gear for multiple characters on the same Battle.net account can be done all from the same interface without having to log out.
The Choice Is Yours
Use of either the real-money or gold-based auction house is completely optional -- that decision can be made on a per-item basis, and both versions of the auction house are functionally the same. In addition, players have the option to simply sell the items they obtain to in-game vendors for gold. They can also trade items to other players through a direct character-to-character trading system in the game in exchange for gold, other items, or just an overwhelming sense of goodwill.
Blizzard does not plan to post items for sale in the auction house. The driving purpose of the auction house is to provide players with a fun additional in-game option for what they do with the items they obtain in the game. Items sold in the auction house will be posted by players and purchased by players.
Safe and Sanctified
The real-money auction house provides players with an easy-to-use, Blizzard-sanctioned way to collect money for items they obtain while playing Diablo III. It also helps protect players from the scams and theft often associated with questionable third-party sites by providing a secure, completely in-game method for purchasing and obtaining the items they want for their characters.
Faster Than A Seven-Sided Strike
Sellers can post items for auction from any of the Diablo III characters on their Battle.net account, or from their shared stash (extra inventory space accessible with any of the characters on their account), without logging out. And after a buyer has won an auction, the item will become immediately available to be equipped and put to good use in the ongoing struggle against the forces of the Burning Hells.
Auction House FAQ:
AUCTION HOUSE SYSTEM - GENERAL INFO
Q: What is the Diablo III auction house system?
A: Acquiring epic new gear for your characters has always been a big part of the Diablo experience. Because of this, players have found a number of different ways to trade and otherwise obtain items both within and outside of the game. Many of these methods were inconvenient and either tedious (for example, repeatedly advertising for a desired trade in Battle.net chat channels and waiting for responses) or unsafe (e.g., giving credit card information to third-party trading sites). With Diablo III, we’re introducing a powerful auction house system that will provide a safe, fun, and easy-to-use way for players to buy and sell the loot they find in the game, such as weapons, armor, and runestones. Two different versions of the auction house will be available in Diablo III: one based on in-game gold, which players acquire through their adventures, and one based on real-world currency.
Q: What’s the difference between the gold-based auction house and the currency-based auction house?
A: The gold-based auction house uses in-game gold for purchases and sales. With the currency-based auction house, players will be able to conduct these transactions using actual currency from an authorized payment method or from funds that have been added to their Battle.net account. Players can choose to participate in whichever version of the auction house they prefer, on a per-transaction basis.
Q: How does the auction house system work?
A: Players can open the auction house interface from anywhere in the game to make purchases or list items for sale. Items can be sold from the shared stash (storage shared among all the characters on your Battle.net account) or from any individual character’s inventory. When posting the item, the seller picks whether it will be sold in the gold-based auction house or the currency-based auction house. The item is then held by the auction house system until the listing expires or a purchase is made. Items that are not sold are returned to the seller’s shared stash, and items that are sold are delivered to the winning bidder’s shared stash. In either case, the auction house system will deduct a nominal fixed transaction fee from the seller, the amount of which is determined by whether or not the item was sold (see below). For the currency-based auction house, players will have a few different options for how to pay for item purchases and receive funds for item sales, as discussed elsewhere in this FAQ. There may be differences in how this system will work in different regions of the world. We’ll provide further details at a later date.
Q: How is the transaction fee determined?
A: A nominal fixed transaction fee will be deducted from the seller for each item listed in the auction house. This fee consists of a fixed charge to list the item, which is assessed whether or not the item is successfully sold, and an additional fixed charge that is assessed only if the item is sold. Because the listing portion of the fee is charged even if the item doesn’t sell, it will be in the seller’s interest to list items he or she believes other players will be interested in, and to do so at a competitive price. Specific details related to the transaction fee for the currency-based auction house will vary by region and will be announced at a later date.
Please note that we plan to waive the listing portion of the fee for a limited number of transactions per account. In other words, for these transactions, the seller will only pay a transaction fee if the item is successfully sold, and that fee will not include the listing charge. We’ll have further details on this as well at a later date.
Q: Why are you creating a currency-based version of the auction house?
A: Our goal with all of our games is to ensure players have a highly enjoyable, rewarding, and secure experience. Acquiring items has always been an important part of the Diablo series, but the previous games have not had a robust, centralized system for facilitating trades, and as a result players have turned to inconvenient and potentially unsafe alternatives, such as third-party real-money-trading organizations. Many of the transactions between players and these organizations led to a poor player experience and countless customer-service issues involving scams and item/account theft, to name a few. To that end, we wanted to create a convenient, powerful, and fully integrated tool to meet the demand of players who wished to purchase or sell items for real-world currency, and who would likely have turned to a less-secure third-party service for this convenience.
Q: How will the currency-based auction house work?
A: Players will be able to make purchases in the currency-based auction house using a registered form of payment attached to their Battle.net account. As with other popular online-purchase services, players will also have the option to charge up their Battle.net account with a balance of funds that can be drawn from for purchases of any digital product available through Battle.net -- this includes not only auction house items but also things like World of Warcraft subscription time and paid services, to name a few examples. On the flipside, when players sell an item in the currency-based auction house, the proceeds of the sale are deposited into their Battle.net account and can then be used as described above. Note that this process might be different for certain regions; we’ll provide further region-specific details as we get closer to launch.
Q: Can players choose to get cash from currency-based auction house sales, instead of having the proceeds deposited into their Battle.net account?
A: Yes, as an advanced feature, players will have the option of attaching an account with an approved third-party payment service to their Battle.net account. Once this has been completed, proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house can be deposited into their third-party payment service account. “Cashing out” would then be handled through the third-party payment service. Note that this process will be subject to applicable fees charged by Blizzard and the third-party payment service. Also, any proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house that have been deposited into the Battle.net account will not be transferrable to the third-party payment service account. Not all regions will support this advanced feature at launch. Region-specific details, as well as details regarding which third-party payment services will be supported and the fee that Blizzard will charge for the cash-out process, will all be provided at a later date.
Q: Is the currency-based version of the auction house optional?
A: Yes, the currency-based auction house is available as an option for players who wish to purchase or sell Diablo III items for real money. Players are also able to buy and sell items through the gold-based auction house, and they can trade items with each other as well through direct character-to-character in-game trading.
Q: Why would I want to pay real money to buy or sell in-game items?
A: Acquiring items has always been a core part of the Diablo series' appeal. With the previous Diablo games, many players have shown a great interest in buying, selling, or exchanging items for their characters using real-world currency, turning to potentially unsafe avenues to accomplish this goal. The currency-based version of the auction house provides players with an easy-to-use, Blizzard-sanctioned way to collect money for items obtained while playing Diablo III. In addition, it helps protect players from scams and disreputable third-party sites by providing a secure, in-game method to search for and purchase items posted by other players that are a perfect fit for their character and play style.
The currency-based auction house is completely optional. Players who aren't interested in paying real money for items will still be able to rely on items they acquire through their own adventures, and they'll also be able to trade with friends and use the full-featured gold-based auction house.
Q: Can I play on a server without a currency-based version of the auction house?
A: We want to provide a secure, fun environment for our players to purchase and sell in-game items using gold or real money and have no plans to divide the community. Players are free to participate in the gold-based auction house or the currency-based auction house, or to opt out of using any of the auction houses at all, progressing through Diablo III using only the items they obtain through their own adventures or direct trade with other players.
Q: Does Blizzard plan to post weapons, armor, and other such items for sale in the currency-based version of the auction house?
A: The currency-based auction house is a place for players to purchase or sell items they’ve obtained within the game. Blizzard does not plan to post items that affect gameplay, such as gear or character-enhancing runestones, for sale in the auction house.
Q: Will Blizzard sell anything directly through the auction house?
A: We don't have any plans at this time to post items for sale in the auction house.
Q: Does the currency-based auction house signify a shift in Blizzard’s business and revenue model?
A: We’ve always tailored our business models to match what we’ve felt would be most appropriate and effective for each game and in each region, and that’s the case with Diablo III as well. The item-based nature of Diablo gameplay has always lent itself to an active trade-based ecosystem, and a significant part of this trade has been conducted through unsecure third-party organizations. This has led to numerous customer-service and game-experience issues that we’ve needed to account for. Our primary goal with the Diablo III auction house system is for it to serve as the foundation for a player-driven economy that’s safe, fun, and accessible for everyone.
Q: What’s Blizzard’s cut?
A: As with other online auction sites and real-world auction houses, our fee structure will vary by region. However, we plan to collect a nominal fixed transaction fee for each item listed in the auction house. This fee consists of a fixed charge to list the item, which is assessed whether or not the item is successfully sold, and an additional fixed charge that is assessed only if the item is sold. The listing portion of the fee, which helps encourage sensible listing prices and discourage the mass posting of items that are very low quality or would be of little interest to other players, will be waived for a limited number of transactions per account. For players who opt to have the proceeds of their auction house sales go to their third-party payment service account instead of to their Battle.net account, Blizzard will collect a separate “cash-out” fee. Specific details regarding these fees will be announced at a later date.
Q: Why would I even want to use the gold-based auction house?
A: We recognize that not all players would prefer or have the means to participate in the currency-based auction house, and it was important to us to provide these players with a full-featured alternative.
Q: Can we buy gold from the currency-based auction house?
A: Players will be able to buy and sell gold through the currency-based auction house at whatever the current market price is, as established by the player community.
Q: If I no longer need an item I bought in the auction house, can I relist it in the auction house?
A: Yes. Once you've purchased an item you can do anything with it that you could if you had acquired it through your own adventures, whether that be using it yourself, or, after a cool-down period, trading it to another character or relisting it on either the gold-based or currency-based auction house. In fact, you can generally do any combination of these things -- for example, you can purchase an item in the auction house, use it for a while, and then relist it or trade it to another character. Aside from certain quest items, there will be very few (if any) items that will be “soulbound” to your character and therefore untradable. Please note that the duration of the cool-down period mentioned above will be discussed at a later date.
AUCTION HOUSE FUNCTIONALITY
Q: What items can be traded in Diablo III?
A: Nearly everything that drops on the ground, including gold, can be traded with other players directly or through the auction house system. Aside from certain quest items, there will be very few (if any) items that will be “soulbound” to your character and therefore untradable. We are also planning to allow players to buy and sell characters in the auction house at some point in the future and will have more details to share on that at a later date.
Q: What is "smart searching"?
A: When players launch the auction house interface, they’ll be able to select any Diablo III character associated with their Battle.net account. The "smart search" feature will assess which item slots have available upgrades and will sort items available in the auction house based on which upgrades would be most beneficial to the character. You can also search for specific stats to match the requirements of a particular character build.
Q: How does bidding work?
A: Players will be able to place a current bid as well as a maximum bid if they wish to engage in automatic bidding. In addition, they’ll be able to check the status of their bids on the "Currently Winning" page and the "Outbid" page in the auction house interface.
Q: Can I buyout items that I want to purchase immediately?
A: Yes, the Diablo III auction houses will support a buyout feature as well as standard bids.
Q: How do I pay for items?
A: For the gold-based auction house, purchases will be made using in-game gold. For the currency-based auction house, players can make purchases using a registered form of payment attached to their Battle.net account. As with other popular online-purchase services, players will also have the option to charge up their Battle.net account with a balance of funds that can be drawn from for purchasing items in the currency-based auction house. Note that this process might be different for certain regions; we’ll provide further region-specific details as we get closer to launch.
Q: How do I receive the items I’ve won?
A: After winning an auction, the item will be available to pick up through the built-in auction house interface in the Diablo III client. Players will then be able to immediately send that item to their shared stash (storage shared among all the characters on a Battle.net account) or repost the item in the auction house after a cool-down period. The duration of the cool-down period will be discussed at a later date.
Q: How do I sell items?
A: From the auction house interface, players will be able to select items from their shared stash or from a specific character's inventory. They will then be able to post items for sale by listing a starting bid and buyout price.
Q: How do I cash out from the currency-based auction house?
A: As an advanced feature, players will have the option of attaching an account with an approved third-party payment service to their Battle.net account. Once this has been completed, proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house can be deposited into their third-party payment service account. “Cashing out” would then be handled through the third-party payment service. Note that this process will be subject to applicable fees charged by Blizzard and the third-party payment service. Also, any proceeds from the sale of items in the currency-based auction house that have been deposited into the Battle.net account will not be transferrable to the third-party payment service account. Not all regions will support this advanced feature at launch. Region-specific details, as well as details regarding which third-party payment services will be supported and the fee that Blizzard will charge for the cash-out process, will all be provided at a later date.
Q: Will buying or selling items in the auction house reveal my identity?
A: No. All player transactions in the gold-based and currency-based auction houses will be anonymous, and neither your real name nor your character name will be revealed to other players.
Q: Will there be a mobile or Web-based auction house?
A: We're always on the lookout for opportunities to enhance the game experience and keep our community connected to our games through the Web or mobile devices. However, we do not have any plans to share along those lines at this time.
Q: When will this be available for testing?
A: We'll share more information on our auction house testing plans as we get closer to launch.
REGIONAL AUCTION HOUSE DETAILS
Q: Which regions will have currency-based auction house support?
A: We plan to roll out the currency-based version of the auction house in as many regions as possible with the launch of Diablo III. In regions where the currency-based auction house will not be available, players will still have access to a gold-based auction house. We'll share more details in the future.
Q: Will there be separate auction houses in each region? Will I be allowed to bid on items from players outside my own region?
A: Due to various factors, including technology, language, and currency, there will be multiple separate auction houses serving different player communities around the world. We’ll share specific details on how the auction houses will work for each region as we get closer to launch.
Q: If I live in Australia/New Zealand/Southeast Asia, what server will I play Diablo III on?
A: As with StarCraft II, players who purchase the Australia/New Zealand/Southeast Asia version of Diablo III will have their own regional servers, offering lower latency and more action during peak hours. While we encourage players to play on these servers, we recognize that many have longstanding friendships with North American players and would like to continue playing with them. Because of this, we're again giving Australia/New Zealand/ Southeast Asia gamers access to both regions' servers so they can choose where they'd prefer to play.
Q: How does this impact the items I have purchased in the auction house?
A: Auction house purchases are bound to the servers in the region in which they're bought. Any items acquired on the Australia/New Zealand/Southeast Asia servers, in-game or otherwise, are bound to those servers and are not transferrable to the North American servers (and vice versa). Please keep this in mind when making purchases in the auction house.
Q: What currencies will be available? What currency will items in the auction house be viewed in? Can players purchase items using local credit cards or bank accounts?
A: Our goal is to make the auction house experience in each region as seamless as possible for players, and we are currently exploring various currency and payment options to help achieve that goal. We’ll provide further details as we get closer to launch.
AUCTION HOUSE GAMEPLAY ISSUES
Q: Will I be able to use third-party mods to track auction prices?
Q: Can Hardcore-mode characters use the currency-based auction house?
A: No. Hardcore characters will only have the option to buy and sell items together with other Hardcore characters via a separate "Hardcore-only" gold-based auction house; they will not be able to use the currency-based auction house. Hardcore mode is designed as an optional experience for players who enjoy the sense of constant peril that comes with the possibility of permanent death for a character. All of a Hardcore character’s items are forever lost upon that character’s death, so to avoid the risk of a player spending real money on items that could then be permanently lost when the character dies, we decided restrict the use of the currency-based auction house in Hardcore mode.
Q: If my character dies in Hardcore mode, will I lose the items that I purchased in the "Hardcore-only" gold-based auction house for that character?
A: Yes. Again, Hardcore-mode characters will only have access to a "Hardcore-only" gold-based auction house, not the currency-based auction house, and will not be able to trade with non-Hardcore characters. Hardcore is an optional mode designed for players who enjoy playing with the risk of permanently losing their character if the character dies, and that includes the items they acquired with that character.
Q: Can I just buy the most powerful items and breeze through the game?
A: Items will be level-restricted, meaning your character won't be able to use an item until he or she is at the appropriate level for that item.
AUCTION HOUSE CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Q: What happens if a player does not receive a purchased item?
A: The auction process is automated, but if a player purchases an item and for some reason does not receive it, he or she will be able to contact our customer service team to look into the issue.
Q: What happens if there is a patch and the item I purchased is altered?
A: It's important for us to ensure that Diablo III remains balanced and fun for years after launch. To that end, it may be necessary to change stats or alter abilities of items from time to time. It’s very important to note that Blizzard will not be providing refunds or making other accommodations if a purchased item is later altered in a patch. Given this, it's up to players to determine whether they're comfortable purchasing items in the currency-based auction house.
Q: Someone bought an item on my account without my permission. Can I get a refund?
Q: I accidentally lost or dropped an item I just purchased -- can I get a refund?
A: No. After a purchase is made, players will be responsible for what they do with the item.
Q: How will you address bots or cheaters?
A: We take cheating very seriously, and we've designed Diablo III and Battle.net to include measures to detect and prevent unfair play. In addition, we will have anti-cheating policies in place and will take action to address any issues as they arise.
After 10 years of anticipation following Blizzard Entertainment’s Diablo II (2000) and its expansion, Diablo II: Lord of Destruction (2001), the iconic action-RPG gameplay of the Diablo series is back with a vengeance in Diablo III. In the upcoming Diablo III beta test, selected participants will be among the first in the world to rejoin the battle against the minions of the Burning Hells as they explore part of the game’s foreboding first act.
Stay Awhile And Listen!
Meet up with Deckard Cain in New Tristram and get up to speed on what’s been happening in Sanctuary since the events of Diablo II. Interact with the townspeople and introduce yourself to Leah to immerse yourself in the world and lore of Diablo.
Choose Your Hero Wisely
All 5 character classes will be playable in the beta test: the dual-wielding barbarian, the fearsome witch doctor, the elementally adept wizard, the dexterous monk, and the notoriously deadly demon hunter. Each character brings the pain to the demons and undead of Sanctuary in unique and spectacular ways.
Who’s Afraid Of The Big Bad Skeleton King?
Evil is alive once more in the bowels of the Tristram Cathedral as the once-vanquished Skeleton King returns to plague the tiny village with gruesome horrors. The beta will pit players against this returning Diablo villain as they battle to restore peace and tranquility to New Tristam -- and to finally put the tortured soul of King Leoric to rest.
Good Company In Bad Times
Players will be able to meet and interact with some of the Artisans and Followers of Sanctuary during the beta test. These characters will aid your hero in different ways along his or her journey, providing some valuable services and much-needed martial companionship.
Something Looks Different…
Each play-through of the beta test will feel like a new experience thanks to the randomized elements of Diablo III. Randomized maps, monster distribution, scripted events, and loot all make for highly replayable gameplay.
A (Treasure) Hunting We Will Go
Finding, collecting, enhancing, and trading items has always been a core component of the Diablo series, and like its predecessors, Diablo III was designed from the ground up to make the rewards as much fun as the challenges. During the beta test, players will experience the joy of anticipation and discovery with every enemy they lay waste to, ever-searching for that amazing upgrade that will take their character to a whole new realm of power.
Make It Your Own
Each character is brimming with possibilities. Which potent combination of skills, weapons, armor, and enhancements -- including gems, charms, and runestones -- will you assemble? With countless ways to customize each hero, players will definitely get a taste of what it means to be unique in the Diablo III beta test.
Q: What are your goals for this beta?
A: The primary reason for the Diablo III beta test is for us to test out our new hardware, see how the server–client infrastructure holds up, and look for bugs in the installer and patcher as well as the game. We’re also looking to get some quality feedback about the beginning game experience and how the different classes feel. The beta test will help us ensure that the release is stable and fun, and that we’re ultimately able to deliver the experience we intend with Diablo III.
Q: How do I sign up for the Diablo III beta test?
A: To sign up for the Diablo III beta test or future Blizzard Entertainment beta tests, you first need to create a Battle.net account. You can then opt-in to the beta test for Diablo III, as well as beta tests for future Blizzard Entertainment games, through the beta opt-in process. To get started, simply click Beta Profile Settings in Battle.net Account Management. Please note that opting in to a beta test through this method does not guarantee that you will be selected.
Q: If I opted in to the Diablo III beta, how will I know if I’ve been selected to participate?
A: If you are selected, you will receive an email from Blizzard instructing you to log in to your Battle.net account at www.battle.net if you don’t already have one. You’ll then be able to download the beta client directly from within Battle.net Account Management. We plan on inviting players in waves, so if you do not receive an invitation in the beginning of the testing period, there’s a chance you might receive one in a later wave.
Q: 1,000 Diablo III beta keys were promised at BlizzCon; how do I know if I am winner?
A: We will be sending out emails with beta keys to winners along with detailed instructions on how to access the beta test. Players who receive a beta key via email will need to create a Battle.net account, click “Add or Upgrade a Game” in Account Management, and enter the key there. The beta client will then be available for download from within Battle.net Account Management.
Q: How long will the beta test last?
A: We have not determined an exact date for the end of the beta test. We will notify participants when the beta test is nearing completion.
Q: How many players do you plan to invite to the beta test?
A: The number of players we invite will be based on our testing needs. If during the course of testing we determine we need more players to participate, we’ll invite more.
Q: How are beta test participants selected from the opt-in pool?
A: Beta testers are chosen according to their system specs and other factors, including luck. Our goal is to have a good variety of system types to best test compatibility.
Q: Which regions will be able to participate in the beta test?
A: All regions will be able to participate in the Diablo III beta test; however, to keep the process as efficient as possible, and ultimately to release the game as soon as possible, we plan to roll out the hardware infrastructure for Diablo III in waves, starting with North America. This means that players outside of North America who are granted access to the beta test may experience some latency issues.
Q: What game content will be available in the beta?
A: You’ll be able to try out all 5 character classes and experience the early stages of Diablo III from the start of the game through the Skeleton King encounter. You’ll be able to interact with new and returning characters in New Tristram and fight the reawakened evils emanating from the cursed Tristram Cathedral. You’ll also experience the randomized elements of Diablo III as well many of the new system designs that take many of the core Diablo design elements to a whole new level.
Q: Will the progress I make during the beta test carry over when the game launches?
A: No, the purpose of the beta test is to ensure that the game and hardware infrastructure are ready to go as soon as possible. The main benefit of participating is being able to be among the first to play the game extensively prior to release. However, everyone will start on equal footing once the game is launched.
Q: Will the Diablo III Auction House be available in the beta?
A: Yes, we plan on testing the functionality of the Diablo III gold-based auction house during the beta phase.
Q: Will Mac users be able to participate in the beta?
A: Yes, Mac users will be able to participate in the beta at the same time as Windows-based users.
I also wanted to let everyone know about ActivisionBlizzard's upcoming Conference Call, on August 3rd, at 1:30PM PST. Force and I will be doing a live DiabloCast again, starting at 1PM PST, where we will answer any/all community questions (I'm sure you'll all have a lot), cover the Conference Call, and then discuss any potential new reveals they give us! Stay tuned for more information.
Here is a list of all the images, minus the gameplay screenshots (because I figured interface would be more fun). However, you can check out the Art Reel for the gameplay screenshots, courtesy of Force.
I feel like the press event went really well and was a great way for all of us following the game all these years to get some really new information. Regardless of the major changes made to the game, I still believe that the game will be epic, I don't doubt that whatsoever. As far as the Beta goes, I was told that it will be relatively small, which I think means relatively short... which means we're still looking at a potential 2011 release! It seems to me like the Beta should be starting any time now. Maybe this is what we'll hear at the Conference Call? ;). If you're curious and want to see any other coverage of the press event feel free to visit the other sites that attended:
Big thanks to Kickin_It and ScyberDragon for transcribing the two Jay Wilson interviews, Doomscream for creating the list of press, and Force for creating most of the video content you see above (except for the B-rollvideo). I would also like to thank Bashiok, Jay Wilson, and Ryan (PR Guy!) for making this all possible!
With only another day or so until we can reveal everything from the press event, we still had some stuff to talk about from the past week. This time around, we discussed the beta box art, casual vs. hardcore, and the upcoming conference call (which we'll be doing a live podcast for). If you missed the eighteenth episode, you can check it out here. Otherwise, the nineteenth episode covered the following topics: