Is it real or is it fake? The fanboy sentiments churning just under the skin of any true Diablo fan make us want to believe in a concrete release date with the recent delay to 2012 and a development cycle that seems an accomplishment on its own.
Excitement and dashed expectations both contributed to the hype behind a recently posted image, supposedly a leaked email containing the full itinerary of this year's BlizzCon. Among the now-known reveals of the weekend's events, it also contains:
In addition to the accurate BlizzCon reveals and itinerary, the image also has a unalterable imgur.com upload date for a period two months ago (see bottom of linked web page.) All this together makes for a compelling argument for a leaked release date.
At a cursory glance, this is all fine and dandy. But maybe there's more to this supposed leak than meets the eye. After letting the initial heat of discovery run its course, deeper inspection implores reason.
Besides wondering at why someone would go through the trouble of directly posting images of slideshow slides in an email and not simply typing the information out (if this were coming from a legitimate source, why would slides be needed to add authenticity?), the date, itself, is subject to scrutiny. In fact, the date shown below the hosted image reflects only its upload date.
The email is simple enough. Sending two empty slide images to himself, the supposed email recipient could then snap a picture, upload it to imgur.com, and wait a couple months. With the information revealed at BlizzCon, the uploaded image could then be edited directly with the website's software--without changing the upload date.
Last, we wonder why on earth Blizzard would want to release a game into the market on Thanksgiving of all days, a day when most Americans--a major audience--aren't even home to rush to the stores or man cash registers?
All this to say, please be careful when you read supposed "leaks" about release dates. As we like to warn our members, any release date not from the lips--or fingers--of an official Blizzard representative can easily be faked, as we have seen in numerous cases in the past with faked Diablo III game boxes and faked Diablo III announcements. A simple image editor and some human ingenuity can go a long way, and so can gullibility.
When we were kids, we thought monsters came from under the bed or in the close. As we grew up, film makers told us they came from outer space. Mary Shelley told us they were created in ghastly laboratories. H.G. Wells, H.P. Lovecraft, and any number of abbreviation-happy authors told us otherwise.
But they were all wrong. Very wrong.
Today, we'll examine the various ways the baddies in Diablo III beta are able to crawl out of the woodwork and scare la merde (pardon my French) out of the careless adventurer.
Caution: Contains spoilers; no effort will be made to disguise information after this point.
In Diablo III, there's hardly a clean-cut way to look at all the ways monsters spawn. For simplicity's sake, we'll break down monster spawn points into three categories: randomized, or spawn points that occur quite commonly and randomly across an environment; reproduced, where we have monsters perpetuating other monsters; and quest-specific, where spawn points are more unique and often have more interesting animations and outcomes.
This article is not comprehensive. It's not meant to be. But a good effort has been put forth to give you a good idea of where to be cautious when taking your first steps into Sanctuary twenty years after the fall of the three Prime Evils.
I previously said that randomized spawn points quote "occur quite commonly and randomly across an environment." Several of you are shaming because I used the word in the definition, and the rest of you are likely wondering what I mean by such a vague statement.
Well, it's all intended.
This is the catch-all category for the stuff that doesn't quite fit anywhere else. We have environment blocks that have spawn points, monsters that serve as spawn points, crap you click on that spawns stuff. Anything that's not specifically quest-related pretty much got stuffed in here.
To make things a little easier to digest, we'll look at said spawn points in two subcategories: environmental and triggered.
It seems the Dead like to squeeze themselves into every crevice imaginable. Erupting from dark, gaping maws in the earth, the Risen wait in secret to ambush travelers on Old Tristram Road. Occasionally, Crawling Torsos are seen shambling from the underbrush, entrails whipping close behind.
But as strange as it is to see zombies crawling from the underearth to grasp at your throat and heels, Tomb Guardians, a variation on the Skeletal Summoner monster class, are even more bizarre.
Gothic Fresco? Nay!
Passing through the depths of the old Act_I#Tristram_Cathedral, Gothic depictions of the triumphs of the angels and other equally epic scenes can be viewed in floor-to-ceiling artwork. Many of such images are innocent enough, but occasionally the Dead take notice to your passing. In a brilliant flash of violet light and a high-pitched cackle of insanity, a Tomb Guardian breaks through.
Tomb Guardians have several interesting skills that make them annoying by themselves and deadly in groups. They shoot slow-moving blasts of purple-hued magic, their basic ranged attack, raise minions from the afterlife (which we will talk about later in the reproduction section), and teleport across short distances if given the chance.
Although not nearly as flashy as the Tomb Guardians' entrance, these Skeleton (Diablo III) still give dragging you kicking and screaming into the afterlife a decent effort. After they successfully reassemble themselves after falling through the crush of stone debris and dry bone matter, two or three of these cadaverous warriors raise their swords against you and your team mates.
More entertaining still is seeing teams of skeletons vault through the subterranean windows in the lower levels of the Cathedral. Seemingly innocent library wings come alive for a precious few moments as magic whizzes, axes swing, and bones shatter.
Aside from using the environment for concealment, monsters also spawn from simple containers, like barrels. Levels of the Cathedral and the Royal Crypts both randomly generate loose floor tiles which, when clicked, spit out a bit of loot and occasionally a skeleton that doesn't like its hole being bothered. (Dirty mind. Shame on you.)
Treasure chests are not your friends. Open with care.
Even treasure chests are triggers for disaster. On some very rare occasions, special chests known as Resplendent Chests will randomly populate an area. They're distinguishable by their seductive golden glow. Don't be fooled. Many times these chests come accompanied by a throng of jealous adversaries, waiting to spring on you as soon as you loose the latch.
Sometimes, traps are more obvious. For instance, in the above image (see right), notice the piles of bones around the ordinary treasure chest. Once the chest is opened, each skeleton raises from the dead, ready to assault unwary treasure enthusiasts.
But not even the recently dead are safe to scavenge. While click-happy players of Diablo II might have found the mutilated victim's of Diablo's reign of terror to be excellent sources of income, corpses in Diablo III are just as likely to vomit up a hidden zombie or skeleton as they are to spill some gold or a magical item.
The lesson: Whether it's a barrel rotting away in the ruins of Old Tristram, a dusty coffin laid to rest in any of the Forsaken Cemetery's many tombs, or a collection of urns stuffed with ashes in the Royal Crypts, smash with care--you never know what might be waiting inside.
Not all monsters are reclusive moles in the sodden earth. Nor are all of them rattling in their deathbeds, bloodthirsty for action. It would seem that even demons have dysfunctional families.
If you've read any of the recent beta articles we've been churning out, you're probably already familiar with many of the coming monsters, such as the Wretched Mother and the Grotesque. But we're going to charge on through them, anyway, because that's what real fans do.
Wretched Mothers. Because just when you thought the Diablo III developers couldn't get any more disgusting, they vomit all over your shoes and a zombie pops up.
Apparently, after a Mother feasts on "the remains of cadavers," they realize that their dinner tasted awful and spit up an acidic solution right before your very eyes. Seconds later, a fresh Risen rises (I wonder where they got the name from?) from the mess. These bad girls are encountered on the Old Tristram Road.
And, of course, who could pass up an opportunity to mention the Grotesque in this context? Yes, technically speaking, the Grotesque pictured at the left is of the Harvester monster class variety. The same principles apply.
Beat the snot out of this over-stuffed, fleshy Barta Bus and he pops just like a zit. In addition to puss and some other less appetizing things (if you think puss is appetizing to start with), the vanilla Grotesque spawns a variety of three-pack Lampreys, while the Harvester, a close cousin, will expel a number of cowering, ADD-prone Imps.
Tip: Don't kill more than one at a time unless you know you can handle them all. Otherwise, not only will you take damage from their gory explosions, but you will also have to content with a slaughter of annoying minions biting at your feet. Sometimes, after the explosions, the little guys are enough to wear away that last drop of health.
If you'll remember back to when we explored the spawning mechanic of the Skeletal Summoner (Tomb Guardian variety), you'll remember that I mentioned that they often raise skeleton minions to fight by their side. Well, not exactly. The skeletons are the annoying meat shields that keep you from actually killing the Guardian. Meanwhile, the Guardian shoots its reasonably powerful blobs of amorphous purple light at you, wearing down your health, and raises even more skeletons. If you encounter any more than one Tomb Guardian at a time, proceed with caution.
The key difference between the Grotesque, the Wretched Mother, and the Skeletal Summoner is that each employs a slightly different tactic to provide the brunt of the damage. Where the Grotesque largely relies on its physical attack and subsequent body burst to take you down, leaving its minions to do the rest, the Wretched Mother's Risen offspring do most of the damage, themselves, while she stays in the back to spawn more. The Skeletal Summoner relies mostly on its magic missile attack to deal damage, although hordes of skeletons will soon overtake you if you're not careful.
For the last of the self-replicating monsters, we'll examine a more comical case: the wandering Crawling Torso.
One-half of its legged progenitor, the Walking Corpse, the Crawling Torso appears when its original body is re-killed (zombies, remember?), rising again, like an inglorious phoenix, to slay its enemy.
The Crawling Torso isn't so much a deadly adversary as it is part of the atmosphere of the game. They deal very minimal damage, crawl around by the bony nubs of their finger tips as they drag their useless semi-arses behind (The Walking Dead S01E01, anyone?), and are generally not a threat. Think of them like Fallen_(Diablo_II) of the beta portion of Act I: powerless filler monsters. For the most part, the Crawling Torso just adds visual variety among its two-legged zombie counterparts.
Last, but certainly not least, we will explore the (possibly more interesting) quest-specific monster spawning mechanisms. Again, for examination purposes, we'll look at them in respect to two categories: randomized quests and static quests.
Randomized Quest Spawning
Part of the allure of Diablo's nostalgic gameplay has always been the unpredictability of what comes next. Okay, if you played any of the games into the wee hours of morning every night for months--maybe years--on end, things got predictable. But to the average, sane, healthy gamer (possibly an oxymoronic phrase), this randomization brought fresh adventures and experiences with nearly every session.
For Diablo III, Blizzard bumped it up a notch from Diablo II, looking back to a feature of Diablo I that made journeys worth remembering.
You won't bump into every quest on a single play through with Diablo III. Many interesting quests are randomly generated when your personal game map is created. And these quests are nothing to scoff at. They include unique animations and objects, and some even have their own dialogue and quest objectives.
Although we're not here to talk about the fine details of randomized quests, we are here to look at the interesting ways monsters spawn during a select few of these random quests.
Pandora's Box? Try opening this
The Jar of Souls
The Jar of Souls event, which pops up in one of the three crypts in the Forsaken Cemetery, is one of the more challenging feats available in the beta, maybe more so than even the slaying of the Skeleton King. Sitting in the center of the room is a single glass jar, glowing with an otherworldly light (a sign that you should not frickin' touch that thing, but you have to, so you will) set on a lone pedestal.
So you click it. And the jar begins to float, shooting off plumes of ghostly blue light. Another sign that you screwed yourself.
From four directions in the tomb, the dead begin to rise. Skeleton (Diablo III)s are the first to come, followed by progressively denser mobs and more challenging Undead enemies. If you ever played Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance, this event has some marked similarities to the final battle in its first act: waves of the risen dead, a gloomy, dust crypt, and a mysterious, floating center of supernatural activity.
Enemies continue to spawn for (by my measurements) sixty seconds, after which the jar's magic subsides and you are free to gather all the hard-earned loot. This event is great for experience grinding, to say nothing of the exhilarating challenge.
Careful not to smash the
The Matriarch's Bones
By far one of the cooler randomized quests, The Matriarch's Bones combines elements of a cute little story, custom dialogue, and waves of Undead minions to send back to the afterlfe. The ghost of the Patriarch's wife desires to join her husband in eternal rest, but her remains seem to have wandered away from the sarcophagus. She implores you to search the area for Funerary Urns, smash them open, and bear her remains back to the coffin.
Much like trap chests, as mentioned earlier, if a Funerary Urn does not contain the remains of the Patriarch, the dead climb up from the floor for a brief battle. If you're unlucky, you'll have to search several areas and defeat several spawned mobs.
However, in addition to spawning skeletons and the like, false Funerary Urns also spawn one Tormented Spirit. These guys have more health, more damage, and are generally more annoying to fight than the rest of the walking dead. Luckily, they're only one per false Urn.
Static Quest Spawning
The siege of New Tristram is probably the most well-known spawning event, especially because of the prevalence of beta videos. After some NPC interaction, Crawling Torsos and Risen clamber from the woods immediately to the right of the screen. Several waves of these go by, and then admittance into the fledgling village is granted.
But the dead aren't very respectful of New Tristram's ramshackle borders. In the Slaughtered Calf Inn, for instance, we see the development of several villager NPC's into newly risen Risen. Later, in the Shattered Crown quest sequence, the village blacksmith, Haedrig Eamon, also has something dark and nasty lurking in his own basement. His wife (beta contest entry number two, anyone?), as well as a nameless rabble of other villagers beginning to turn, pull a Houdini and morph into rotting husks before your very eyes. I'm not even sure if entropy works that fast on human bodies.
When I say the Templar is devout, I mean it. When we encounter the holy warrior in the depths of the Tristram Cathedral, he is withstanding the corrupting demonic magic of seven Dark Cultists. Upon arrival, heroes are assailed by one of the Cultists, and soon enough the rest begin summoning a contingent of Undead warriors from the circle. Don't worry, they're not particularly threatening. Just your average-grade living dead.
But the spawn isn't infinite. After a few moments, the last of the skeletons spawns. Killing all of the Cultists or waiting out the spawning period are the only two ways that the spawning stops. And no, no matter how long you wait, the Templar does not get possessed. He apparently has the iron resolve of a saint.
This battle is something along the lines of the Jar of Souls randomized quest mentioned earlier. Deep, deep in the Royal Crypts, our heroes encounter the Skeleton King's first attempt to frighten them from their objective. After some snappy dialogue iconic of boss fights in the Diablo series, Leoric vanishes, leaving behind the glowing Pillars.
Like the Jar of Souls quest, the dead start spawning from the pillars, typical skeleton-like enemies. And, like the Jar of Souls quest, the eerie blue light in the pillars is indicative of supernatural magic. The dead spawn in a continual stream until those pillars are smashed.
Leoric: Before the Battle
Much like the epic fight with Baal in the heart of Mount Arreat, the confrontation with the Skeleton King is preceded by a tussle with a wave of Undead minions. A handful of skeleton-based enemies raise from the suspended walkways of the deep tomb at the beckon's of King Leoric's ghostly magical beckons, possibly splitting up player parties across the narrow bridge. If not anticipated, they do come as a shock, but since I've ruined that for you, just know that the monsters, themselves, are actually quite easy to kill.
And there you go, a quick summary of most of the more interesting ways spooks can creep out of the world to catch you when you least expect it. Keep you eyes keen, your crossbows nocked, your swords at the ready, your wands. . . well, you get the idea. Sanctuary is a dangerous place--be careful where you step.
Welcome to week four of the DiabloFans Beta Key Contest! This week is going to be slightly different than the previous three weeks: this time we're doing a mini-writing contest. If any of you haven't seen already, there is an NPC in Diablo III named Binkles the Frog and we're dying to find out more about him! We want you to come up with his backstory, fit him into the Lore of the Diablo Universe, and simply tell us what in the world he is doing around Sanctuary.
We'll choose the best one or two entries week and they'll be granted a Diablo III Beta Key. In addition, the winning piece(s) will be placed on his wiki page permanently as his "fan lore." Submissions should be posted in this thread and you are allowed more than one entry if you'd like! You have until October 31st at midnight to get your submissions in.
All too often the cinematic side of games are overlooked by the majority of players. In many cases, especially in todays day and age, more effort is placed into these short hyper-detailed cinematographs than any scene of similar length from most full length movies. An exceptionally executed short clip often suffers due to its length. Being so short, it can be easily overlooked, or skipped without much second thought.
What I'd like to help get across in this article is how much collaboration and skill it takes to create a truly fantastic cinematic. To fabricate such a believable, and detailed world through a computer takes an insane amount of time and precision. It could take thousands of man hours to create a three minute clip as seen in The Black Soulstone. I'll do my best to convoy the process as talked about at this panel. Also for the sake of not turning this article into a picture book, I'm going to link relative picture to text, so click the links to check out the pics.
Before the presentation had even really begun, we found out that The Black Soulstone clip (which is not the full clip due to spoilers) is only 3 out of 27 minutes of cinematic cutscenes that will be in Diablo III. I don't know about you guys, but 27 minutes of cutscenes like this is in itself enough for me to get a bag of popcorn and watch one by one.
The most important part of a cinematic is how well it tells a story. This process starts off as storyboards, a collective effort from the team to sketch out in minimal detail scenes they want to link together forming the cinematic. A directer and their crew sits down and forms the storyboard, with close collaboration of the relative crews that will help work on it. This process covers the entire production from start to finish. Be it visual, musical, or character progression; everything has to be planned in the storyboard.
An example given was how Leah is afraid of Azmodan. How she expresses this fear has to be planned in the storyboard. This one small choice can make a huge impact on Leahs' character progression. If she screams and freaks out, this says something completely different about her than if she just flinches and shies away. Camera angles and focal points also help convoy character emotion. Again, this is where it all begins.
Color has a huge effect on how a scene is perceived, this fact is supported by mentioning there is an entire crew devoted to just color scripting. Diablo with all of its earthy hues is particularly sensitive to this color directing. It is so important in fact that the color translation from early rendering to final production is very often spot on the same.
The development of a character in Diablo III pivots around three main concepts, game relevance, suiting to the story, and available technology. Azmodan has gone through many iterations, from a mix of Angel and Demon, through a kind of warrior look, and finally to the crab/sumo wrestler you see today. This final concept was chosen because it represents all of the seven sins in which Azmodan, the Lord Of Sin encompasses. For example the shape of his body suggests gluttony and greed, while his body decorations suggest pride and vanity.
After a characters concept is complete, it must be brought to life. Through a massive effort from many teams, a character is modeled in 3D, textured & colored, rigged for ease of animation, animated, and tweaked for who knows how long before finally making the directors standard. To state that this is an over-simplification is a understatement.
At this level of professionalism, not everything takes as long as you may think though. For example most of the demon horde you seen in the cinematic was conceptualized and preliminarily modeled in just two days. Life is in the details though, and these details are what take the most time to perfect in these creature models. After initial modeling, the item is passed onto the next team which specializes in texturing. Using the initial 2D concept art, the texture team works on translating that 2D texture into 3D, and accurately spreading it around the creature. They aim to perfectly match the 2D concept, since that is indeed where the director chose to finalize the creature.
Beyond the character models themselves, there are tons of surrounding particle effects that add just as much "character" to the character as the traditional traits like skin, voice, and attitude do. For example, the smokey effect from the Lich Kings eyes adds a lot of supernatural meaning to him. Another example is the smoke rolling off the demons in the Black Soulstone cinematic. These effects have to be subtle, for if they draw too much attention to themselves it distracts the viewer from much more important things happening on screen.
Reference From Real Life
When you're aiming to make something believable, what better way than to study related things in real life? This is exactly what the cinematic teams do throughout their work. This is done through setting up target textures, lighting effects, skin tones/textures, etc and photographing them in real life. Then after capturing their target images, the team recreates them over the computer. This is painstakingly done brush stroke by brush stroke using various software.
The results of this can be truly amazing
As with perfecting textures and lighting effects, to perfect a believable rendered human first you must study one. To drive the development of Leah, the teams studied how things appear in real life when under similar conditions to what they wanted to reproduce in the cinematic. In general they setup a photographic environment like the one at the beginning of the cinematic, complete with a stone, a girl (their producer), candles, and great lighting. The photograph was then manipulated to closer match what the director wanted to see as the final result in the cinematic.
Continuing with their study, they took close-up shots of various eyes and facial expressions to better understand how to accurately reproduce a face, which is arguably the hardest thing to do when speaking of realistic art. In Blizzard fashion, they went so much further than just simple photos. They setup a specialized camera rig to capture light exposure, color saturation, and texture mapping of various faces, which they can directly use while creating the character model. From early rendering to near completion takes hundreds and hundreds of tweaks to everything from lighting, to textures, shaders, and many other factors even with the assistance of real life examples.
As with lighting and texturing, the animation team began their study via photographing relative real life objects. They first took hundreds of photos of different facial expressions to identify how the different facial muscles moved during each expression. Their goal in this was to replicate every muscle in the face into their character model so they would be able to perfectly reproduce different emotions through the character, they reached this goal, and the results speak for themselves.
They did the same thing for eye expressions. When observed closely, the human eyes and eyelids have tiny micro twitches, which we don't even notice until they're not there. When viewing older character models up close in cinematics, something looks off. You can't always place your finger on it, but something tips your brain off that this isn't real, and that negatively effects how that character conveys emotions. It's through these tiny movements that the character comes to life, and suddenly all of their emotions become so much more believable. This can be seen as Leah falls asleep into her dream during the cinematic.
This trend of study also made its way into hand and writing observations. Little things like how a pen indents the paper as you write, or how certain small muscles contract during tiny movements. Through the close collaboration of the animation, rigging, and modeling teams they eventually achieved their goals of a believable character, interacting with a believable world.
Features of a character which constantly change drastically are known as Dynamic Systems. Take hair, and clothes for example. With their success in real life studies, similar simulation techniques were used to perfect hair animation. They tracked down a coworker with similar hair to Leah, found a fan, and went to work replicating movements Leah had to do in the cinematic, with the added effect of wind.
After they had all the info and observations they needed, they moved onto modeling, and animation. Hair poses a problem in that there are hundreds of thousands of strands of air, which are near impossible to compute or individually animate. So instead of dealing with each strand one by one, they start off with very large chunks, maybe five in total. Then they'll break those chunks up to say 200. Those smaller number of strands are what actually move individually. On top of those large strands they add in hair models and effects in order to make it look like there are hundreds of thousands of strands moving.
Another thing the Dynamic Systems Team covers are rigs. Essentially rigs are basic models of the character that are broken down into separate parts and placed on different pivot points to enable the animation team to make the characters move. Think of a rig like an action figure. This process in itself is precision work, since if a model isn't rigged correctly, it will be impossible to creature realistic movements in the end character.
What's interesting is that the movements don't always have to make perfect sense, as long as you're not looking at the entire model. In the scene to the bottom left Azmodan is completely hunched over, which looks reasonable from that camera angle. Now if you zoom out and look at the entire rig to the bottom center, you now see he is actually broken, which says that his movement was impossible speaking realistically.
To make those believable movements, first the team had to observe similar creatures in real life. Sad fact though, nothing on Earth is exactly like Azmodan. So instead, they choice to observe crabs for lower body movements, and sumo wrestlers for his upper body movements. Through excellent creativity they managed to merge these two and were left with a very believable rig.
Their next production challenge was to get Azmodan to believably speak without any lips. In order to produce sounds such as "P" and "B" you need to have a way to block air flow for a second. It just so happens Azmodan has no lips, so instead they used very pronounced movements of his mandibles and tongue to create relative actions to syllables. The end result comes across great, and adds to his creepy factor during the close-up shots.
The Hordes Of Hell
During the end of the cinematic there are tons of creatures marching around, each seemingly doing their own things. In order to populate the entire screen with great looking creature animations, they needed to use some smoke and mirrors. The creatures in the far back are using very simple animations, which don't have those little detailed movements we see in more important close-up shots. The more important, and unique animations are called "Hero Animations". As the link shows, this classification of animation is not bound to living creatures. Another trick they used in order to create the illusion of every creature having uniqueness, is to individually tweak how they hold their weapons. By tweaking this they create a great silhouette across the entire army, where no two spears are tilted in the exact same direction.
The Right Stuff
Not everything makes it into the final cut, in fact most of the original concepts don't. On of these that they talked about was Azmodans lava drool. They tested all different kind of viscosities until they found one that worked, they added lighting and texture, and even went as far as you add it on the finial model. Even through all this, the end result didn't come across right. They felt it made Azmo feel sloppy, and even comical, two things that are not part of Azmodans characteristics; so they cut it completely. Some effects that did make the final cut for Azmodan include awesome things like active lighting effects from his mouth and eyes along side a heat distortion filter.
Lighting effects can make or break everything in a cinematic. During the panel Blizzard mentioned how they adopted the same cutting edge effects major motion picture companies are using. These effects make for great lighting across the entire world, but in particular, faces. No one looks good under a harsh light, it blows out every little detail to an undesirable degree. Through combining the crisp detail of a hard light, and the blended effects of a soft light, they achieved a great shot which looks both crisp and delicate.
A character has many different light sources effecting them at once. The example they showed was of Leah, which is under five completely different light sources when she faces Azmodan in her dream. When combining all of these, they can go back and tweak each one until they are happy with the result. The second type of lighting passes they spoke about are called render elements. These are essentially just the various layers of each shot. Each other these layers have their own effects which add to the shot, but don't effect one another directly.
Bringing Down The Walls
Moving onto the scene where Azmodan brings down the rock wall, revealing his plan to evade Sanctuary, how this was achieved is pretty amazing. Aside from all the lighting effects which had to be changed as the wall comes down, how they broke the wall itself is pretty interesting. They used a shaping technique called Voronoi. Essentially, they place random dots across a plane, draw lines equal distances from these dots, then uses the lines to create organic shapes which look very natural.
It is also worth mentioning that the falling rocks didn't go through any type of physics simulator. The director had a very specific visual in mind, and so every single one of the 40,000+ rocks you see were animated individually as the fell and interacted with each other.
Well that about wraps it up, I hope you enjoyed our journey through the making of the Black Soulstone Cinematic, and learned a little bit about the absurd amount of effort that goes into creating these windows into Sanctuary.
For the full experience be sure to watch the panel!
Special thanks to Verity for uploading it.
If you missed any of our other Blizzcon coverages, by sure to check out the Blizzcon Hub, and catch up on what happened regarding Diablo III.
After the massive lore panel, it was time to get some feedback from the diehard fans that managed to pilgrimage to this year's convention. Here are the highlights from the Open Q&A; just keep in mind that this isn't meant to be a transcript, so all of it is paraphrased.
Caution: The following may contain spoilers.
Q: You made the followers more powerful for end game content. Will they be viable all the way through Inferno?
Blizzard representatives responded positively, saying that companions will be able to fight adequately alongside heroes through each difficulty. They have done some testing with companions through the difficulties, and although this is a very recent change, they do believe that changes they have incorporated into the hirelings will make then viable in the endgame.
Q: Is Diablo a girl?
The cover art for the event booklet made Diablo look anything but the usual muscular, bulky monster we've seen in his more animal incarnations in the previous games. While nothing was confirmed on why Diablo looked so distinctly female, with the sleekness of the abdomen and the wide hips, they did acknowledge that it was done. So it was on purpose. Maybe there's something to the popular Leah-possession lore speculation prevalent in our lore discussion forum.
Q: Can you elaborate on hardcore mode and how it's different from the previous games?
They mostly confirmed what is already known about Diablo III's hardcore mode: it will have its own Auction House that does not interact with normal, softcore players, said Auction House will use only gold as a currency (not real money), and so on. However, it was mentioned that if a player is killed, other players will not be able to pick the gear from the fallen character. In Diablo II, players were able to set their hardcore characters to "lootable" to other, trusted party members in the event of an untimely death. Unless misspoken, this is a marked change from the previous games. When you die, your gear is gone. Period.
Q: Can fresh sixty players succeed in Inferno, and will Inferno ever be nerfed for newer players?
In step with sentiments spoken yesterday about the difficulty of Inferno mode at the tail end of the Gameplay and Auction House panel the other day, it was confirmed that newly max-leveled characters (sixty is Diablo III's cap) will not be able to succeed easily, if at all, in Inferno mode. It's meant to be a challenge in every sense of the word, no matter what level characters are at.
While they were vehement about not nerfing it for the newbie's sake, they did add a caveat: as they address hardcore, there may be some balancing to account for hardcore players in Inferno mode. But they will not be simplifying Inferno mode for casual players.
Q: Why is light radius not in the game?
Light radius is not entirely gone, and it still works well in some contexts, like deep dungeons, but they found that using the new 3D engine really looked lack-luster when limiting light sources to only that of the player. They really want to utilize different light points to add interest to the 3D environment, so it's no longer a major element throughout the game.
Q: What's being done to protect against botting?
Probably a topic near and dear to any players getting ready to compete in Diablo II's upcoming ladder reset, botting has always been a controversial and annoying issue. Bots served as everything from farmers to level grinders, making the ladder ranking system essentially a hopeless, pointless list of bots outstripping human players. It was argued that the actual gameplay of the game renders botting more difficult to achieve, but that they will be policing it well, likely actively and with more robust security measures. It is also important to them to address spam bots, likely by watching join/leave events.
Q: Will WASD control be available?
While it had been played around with, they ultimately felt that non-analog controls didn't work well with Diablo's very analog-focused gameplay.
Q: Will runewords ever be added to the newest game?
They stated that the new gameplay mechanics and customization options account for what was previously done with runewords. The new, more robust crafting system allows for vast player-generated gear, runestones allow for heavy skill customization, and any other number of mechanics compensate or surpass what was accomplished with runewords in Diablo II.
Q: Can you confirm a console version?
They did not want to officially confirm a console version because they want to be completely sure it's something that will work and work well. They have been hiring console developers to work internally on console ideas, and they feel that it plays very well with the kind of game Diablo is, but they don't want to announce anything until they're entirely sure everything will work out.
Of primary concern is not wanting to compromise the PC version, likely in playability or release (as stated any number of times over the last months.) For now, they're focusing on filling out a console team.
Q: Attuned runes essentially allow for a ton of specialized runes for each character skill, creating a huge inventory problem with storage. What's being done to address this?
They acknowledged that they are aware of the issue and are thinking of ways to fix it. They believe that attuned runes add an interesting new facet to skill selection, customization, and build commitment, so they don't foresee removing them, but there is definitely an inventory issue that needs to be addressed.
Q: What are some of the issues seen in developing a console version?
Targetting skills becomes more difficult when using a controller and not a mouse and keyboard although they feel that player movement is greatly improved. Monster AI seems somewhat different when interacting with the game in a new way. They found that they spend the most time working with controls with a console iteration. They don't want a potential console version to feel like a port of the PC version, but a quality version that plays well as it is.
Q: Can we get more beta keys?
They have more waves coming out after the BlizzCon and are very happy with the feedback that they've received so far. In addition to more beta access sweeping across Battle.net accounts, they also said that a major patch is coming for the beta version of Diablo III very soon. We can guess that this will likely include the skill updates and other changes seen in the beta iteration seen in the PvM demo here at BlizzCon.
Q: What comes after Inferno?
While the team feels that Inferno mode will pose huge challenges for players for a long time to come, they have said that they will add more endgame content should they find that players demand more. There's also secret content, which they have confirmed to be in the game, so perhaps we'll see content similar to the Cow Level for endgame enjoyment. At the moment, they are more focused on just getting the game as-is out to the public.
Q: With the Wizard's cast rate announced as being based on weapon speed, what is being done to reward opting for other items besides cast rate-oriented equipment?
They believe that choosing cast rate-centric gear versus more obscure equipment is entirely based on the build a player opts for. If a player decides to use skills that benefit more from faster cast rates, it will be logical to use weapons that allow for faster cast rates, while skills which do not focus on cast rates, like Meteor, will allow players to focus on more damage-centric weapons.
Q: Will there be more skill slots?
The team believes that allowing more skill slots removes choices and, by extension, build diversity across a playerbase, so they will not be adding more skill slots.
Q: How will RMAH PvP players be matched with PvP players that do not spend real money on the Auction House for gear?
Buying higher gear will cause a player to be matched with peers of a like power level through the hidden ranking system, so purchasing gear with real money will only cause players to be matched against more experienced or more powerful characters. The actual outcomes of PvP games will not be affected.
Q: Will there be more PvP modes besides arena mode?
The developers found that PvP in Diablo II mostly split players up for fear of getting ganked, meaning more players were playing in private games than playing together in public ones. This led to a focus on on a dedicated PvP mode with dedicated PvP support, the arena, and a PvP progression system. However, more PvP modes are being considered, and Jay Wilson even said that they are looking into a dueling option similar to Diablo II, although nothing concrete is yet known and they aren't sure if such a mode will make the initial release.
Q: Will there be guild support?
Guilds and clans in Diablo II were often organized using chat bots and out-of-game online communities. Hope had arisen that this would mean the developers saw this need as enough to implement guild support in Diablo III, but the idea was shot down. They will not have guild functionality available for release, but something may be implemented after release. They saw a lot of guild ideas that didn't get implemented in Diablo II as great mechanics that they want to work on in the future, but they want to make sure that if they do implement guild functionality, they will do it right.
Q: Will boss AI be scaled with difficulty to allow for more interesting and less repetitive battles at different difficulty levels??
They're looking across the major bosses for the game and tuning their AI to be refreshing and challenging according to difficulty mode, but they aren't sure if the changes will be really drastic from difficulty to difficulty or only minor, although they want such differences to be big. It seems to be another question of what will make it into the initial release.
Q: Will players be able to use their skills together in combination attacks?
They have seen many players using strategic implementation of skills, like a Wizard freezing enemies and then melee characters shattering frozen enemies. They think that more sophisticated team play would be fantastic, but they don't want payers choosing not to play with other players because of class choices in certain situations, which they view as adverse to encouraging group play.
Q: Will there be an API for the Auction House?
They have talked about it at length, but it will not make the launch version of the game. It may be added after release. They seemed positive about such an implementation.
Q: With the 12-month account for WoW players allowing a free digital purchase of Diablo III, will there be any compensation for purchasing a collector's edition of Diablo III?
Buying a collector's edition of Diablo III will count as credit towards a 12-month account.
Those were most of the more interesting questions asked, but we encourage you to stay tuned as we upload video versions of each of the panels and keep your eyes peeled for full transcriptions. There may be things that you will find more interesting on a personal level, and with so much up in the air with Diablo III, there are a lot of questions that didn't get answered very directly and were cut from this report.