That's right folks, the female Demon Hunter has finally found a companion. This announcement has been a long time coming; he was about ready sometime last month until he went back to the Animation Department for some further adjustments. Last week, Bashiok let the general public know that he was "pretty much ready to go," and now here he is, in all his glory. I know you're all excited, so without further ado, DiabloFans would like to present to you... the Male Demon Hunter!
DiabloFans: Did you have a quality assurance team of women to make sure that he's visually pleasing?
Christian Lichtner: Yeah, we actually sorta do because our team is made up of girls and guys, obviously, because every voice matters at Blizzard. We get a lot of feedback from all different artists on the team, and designers, and programmers, so everybody has a say in these things, especially when it comes to class design. It's so important to try to get classes that really appeal to a wide variety of fans, and the community itself. We want to make sure that we hit sort of different themes and also make sure that we are really in-line with the fantasy of each class. We have a ranged that isn't just ranged, it's more like ranged with a little twist to it. So we definitely do that, I know it sounds like a joke question, but actually we do. And yeah, the girls on the team definitely have very strong opinions on what they think works and what doesn't and it's very valuable to us.
DiabloFans: What were the major sources of inspiration for the looks of the male Demon Hunter?
Lichtner: We've actually gotten this question a few times in the past and it's hard to say. Obviously, a lot of stuff just finds its way into the design, in terms of: we're all fans, we play video games, we read comic books, we watch movies and TV shows, and even art books and stuff like that. I think ultimately, these things sort of find themselves into the designs in some way, shape, or another. But for the Demon Hunter, I think the most important thing was that it was a ranged class. As a result, we made the Male Demon Hunter a little bit more wiry, a little bit skinnier, maybe even a little bit more like Trent Reznor or Clint Eastwood type, like a badass who isn't that physical. In the end it goes back to gameplay too. We want to make sure it really reads correctly, like 'Hey, this is what the class is about' and we also want to make sure it reads very much in terms of [the fact that] it's a dual-wielded crossbow class, it's got the gadgets, so it's a little bit of Van Helsing/Kate Beckinsale in Underworld. But, those are really far-reaching starting points. Ultimately, we really strive to make something that maybe has a tone of its' own so that you don't necessarily point to something and say, 'Oh they got it from here or there.'
DiabloFans: As we've previously heard, the male Demon Hunter was sent to the animations department and slightly delayed. Can you elaborate on what exactly were you dissatisfied with?
Lichtner: That's actually a great question. I'll give you a little bit more background on this.. Obviously, every time we design classes, we really want to make sure that each class sort of fulfills a niche. What I mean by that is, I think I'm very pleased and very happy when people say maybe, 'Oh, my favorite is the Monk,' or ' my favorite is the Barb.' If not everybody agrees on necessarily which one is their favorite, then that is a good thing, because I feel like then we have done our job. Different people like different classes, for different reasons: it has a wide appeal. I feel that for the Demon Hunter, we really wanted it to be a dark class, a little on the edgier side. He's still a hero, obviously, but he's been hunting demons for so long and he has been so immersed in that world, he begins to take on some of their characteristics. So really, each class should have it's own feel and it really makes us happy when we realize that each class appeals to different people. One of our goals definitely is to make it so all classes appeal to different segments, or a variety of gamers, in that regard. For the Demon Hunter, the animations just came across a little silly early on. There was a lot of flavor and it looked really cool, but they just didn't quite mesh with the dark edginess of the character. Again, for us, this was a class where it would really sort of hearken back to maybe a little bit like the Necro, but really ultimately just much darker. We wanted a class that was very knowledgeable. They sort of just 'get it', they know a little bit more than everybody else, they know that the demons are coming upon us, and that there is this war brewing. We just needed animations that supported it, to be honest with you.
EDIT 2/18/11 - Lichtner: During our interview, we misunderstood the question regarding the demon hunter’s animations and wanted to clarify. We had just finished prepping the character for his big reveal on www.Diablo3.com, and in the course of doing so, had to make a lot of adjustments to account for the camera angle the website uses. That was an unusually tricky business!
Progress on the actual game character has been going very well. The Demonhunter has some of the coolest abilities we’ve created yet, and the character’s animations have been an important part of crafting the personality of our final hero. We can’t wait for you guys to see him in action.
DiabloFans: Moving on to the Demon Hunter in general, about how far in development is this class compared to the others?
Jason Bender: This class is coming in a bit later obviously, because we've been doing them in order to an extent because we can only do so much at one time. But, a lot of the skills are in and working, and we're testing synergies with them, and we're having a lot of fun doing that, and we're trying to find out what plays really well. At this point, a lot of this stuff is pretty far along, so we're able to play and spend a lot of time with the Demon Hunter, so we've been having fun for that reason.
DiabloFans: Will the Demon Hunter be in the back attacking from afar like the Wizard and the Witch Doctor, or will the Demon Hunter maybe have some moments up front with the Barbarian and the Monk?
Bender: The Demon Hunter has some things that are a little bit shorter range, [but] definitely the Demon Hunter is a long range one with the Wizard; the Witch Doctor is a kind of little more medium. So most of the time probably in the back, but because of the nature of their skill set -- they don't just have archery type of skills; they're not just all about dual-wielding crossbow pistols, right -- they have traps and mechanical things and gadgets. A lot of those gadgets tend to work when you're a little closer up, they're great for an escape. So the Demon Hunter has cool abilities that allow him to, when he's overwhelmed, he drops a trap and gets out of the way or leaves the combat one way or another. So what's cool about it is that it's kind of like the range of the Wizard with the agility of the Monk. So if you're really strategic and tactical, you're probably jumping in and out a lot. But obviously, the bow tends to be long ranged.
The DH creating a choke point via Spike Trap.
Bender: They're definitely focused on the bow weapon line, as far as their primary weapon is concerned with range, but their gadgets focus on a variety of ranges, so they do have things that are point-blank range. It's not so much a melee, like take out a hammer and hit something, it's much more like: drop a trap on the ground, spikes or something, and get out of the way, and then kite things into it, or block a door. So it's more about ground control than it is about melee.
DiabloFans: How will the traits affect these skills?
Bender: Well, we synergize things, so the skills are coming from two schools of thought: there's the idea of the Hatred skills, which is what we are calling that school, which is the aggressive, shooty things that dish out lots of damage, like multi-shot arrow that you saw at BlizzCon, versus the Discipline school of thought, which is more about preparations and traps, and getting ready, and being more deliberate. So, the traits back up both of those kind of schools, so if you like traps more, there are traits that back that up, if you like movement, there are traits to back that up, if you like just shooting and spamming damage, there are also traits for that. So as we play, it's a zeroed process finding out exactly where the magic is, we don't tend to put stuff on paper and never iterate. We iterate everything. We like to find magic and tune the traits and skills, to make those builds really frank.
DiabloFans: Will we see any familiar ranged attacks besides Multishot making a comeback? Maybe Guided Arrow?
Bender: Multishot isn't going to work quite the way it works in D2. We are definitely revisiting what we liked about the archery stuff in D2 and are trying to figure out what exactly that means for D3. What is the equivalence of our multi-shot? What is the equivalence of our Guided Arrow? We want to look at those and if they make sense, we integrate it into the [Demon Hunter] class. So we are definitely spending time scrutinizing those. There are a lot of fan favorites in there, a lot of stuff we love to play with, so we want to make sure they're represented, because as you know this our weapon-based ranged class and we have to make sure deliver on all the goodness we know can come from new things, and also integrating new versions of familiar ideas from Diablo 2.
DiabloFans: Will the Demon Hunter be using other elements in his ranged attacks other than fire? Or is this where the skill runes come into play?
Bender: I can tell you a little bit about the game-play side of it, and Christian can elaborate on the art inspiration. We feel like the Wizard is our more lightning, frost, fire, more energy based magic. The Demon Hunter is much more wicked and a little more typical, in that some of these things are gadgets, and what makes sense with gadgets? Sometimes blades, spikes, and flying metal, but he also has a great sense of what makes demons tick, and in the process of learning that, he gained some measure of mastery over walking the lines on things like shadow. So we tend to use fire because fire is pretty natural, it's naturally occurring, metal in spikes, and then shadow is a big part of it because that is something that's kind of a sort of magic, but it's more of a psuedo-demonic version of it that the Demon Hunter knows more about than the Wizard does.
Lichtner: Yeah, from an art point of view, we really are trying to support those elements. What I mean by that is we try to make each class and their skills and traits certain looks that differentiate them from other classes. If for no other reason than for PvP where you’ve got a certain class, out of the corner of your eye, you can tell that this is a Monk, or a Barb, or what not. Of course that gets really challenging once start you increasing the numbers of the skills, you can’t just make every skill red, or blue, or whatever for each class, you want some variety in that mix as well. We are definitely trying to make sure that those things are differentiated enough. So for the Demon Hunter for example, we are trying to have them all seem a little bit more towards darker looking things. Meaning whipping out the shadow magic or shadowy looking elemental sort of look, like no inkiness and sort of like a torn-paper look, or really aggressive zig-zaggy shapes for the glyphs and things like that... Dark purples, reds, sort of the stuff that you would associate with maybe more demoniacal things. That’s not to say that certain powers won’t have things that don’t necessarily go beyond that.
Bender: Yeah, if there’s a trap that looks like a dynamo and should shoot lightning, then we’ll use lightning. But it’s not like they’re fitted to call down the power of the clouds and thunder and storms, it’s more like, ‘this trap looks like it has a dynamo and should shock you,’ so it’s grounded in more material reality.
DiabloFans: Speaking of which, how are traps going to work in PvP? More specifically, can the other team see them?
Bender: Well yeah, traps are a term we use, but gadgets would be a more accurate term. If we drop something on the ground that shoots arrows out yeah, you’ll be able to see it, just like you can see the Wizard’s Hydra. There are some traps that do require a little more stealth, we’re playing with those and seeing how that stuff plays. We have to make a determination, just as you say, you’re right on target with that, is it fun to not see something on the ground and have their legs ripped off? A lot of cases the answer is no, but if you have the tools to negotiate that then it can be fun, but most of those traps are more gadgets that are deployed into the battlefield that monsters kind of ignore and stumble into, and players will run around. But that’s great, because forcing the player to decide whether they have to run through this trap full of spinning blades, or run around it and possibly into a Wizard’s Hydra is an interesting game play choice.
DiabloFans: Can you tell us about the more detailed workings of the Sentry skill?
Bender: So like I was saying, there are different kinds of traps and they are sort of the usual to some extent and then we have weird some stuff. The Sentry is by default your standard trap as you would expect, it’s a lot like Hydra. I will say that the runes will change how that works. I don’t want to get into too much specifics about the runes yet, because those are still in development. But you have seen what the runes can do to the Wizard and what kinds of things it can do specifically for the Hydra, but with the gadget theme we can do even crazier and funkier stuff with gadgets, because we’ve learned so much from running for the Wizard’s powers that we can take a lot of that knowledge forward and take some ideas off the shelf and put those into things like the Sentry. Definitely though, there are a ton of traps that can shoot out ranged stuff that can track you and then there’s traps that cover the ground and if you step on it, it’s going to hurt. So, the vanilla version of the Sentry is just what you expect, it’ll just shoot arrows.
DiabloFans: Are there plans to include any kind of a minion for the class, whether it be temporary or permanent?
Bender: We like the idea of a Demon Hunter having some sort of cool companion, right? But we’re not talking about exactly what that means for the class yet. But we definitely could see how awesome that is visually, and from the narrative of the character.
DiabloFans: What resource does the class use and how does it work?
Bender: The resource system specifically is still in development, but I can tell you a little bit more about what I mentioned before, which is the school of thought that backed up how the resources met the plan and how the character is meant to act. This character sort of has more duality and has a more unusual field in that the Demon Hunter is so personally obsessed with fighting demons that they almost can’t control themselves. But at the same time, like any good hunter or vigilante, they have to be deliberate so they don’t get themselves killed, because they are outnumbered and largely outgunned, so they have to be careful. So what we’ve done is taken a look at the Hatred side of things and said OK, what does an obsessed hunter do? Lots of damage, just out of control, burstiness that allows you to do long range burst damage and get out of trouble short range by willing yourself out of that situation with close ranged attacks. On the other side is the preparation and the knowledge that goes into hunting something without that outnumbers you a million to one. That’s the Discipline side of things, these are abilities that are a little more elaborate that you’ll generally use less often, so you really have to plan when you want to use these skills. So we can’t draw out the resource system in specific details but that is the theme you’re going to see.
DiabloFans: Earlier you were talking about how the Demon Hunter needs to look bad ass wielding dual-crossbows, will they be able to wield anything else? Like maybe a one-handed crossbow with a shield or just two crossbows?
Bender: They can use a two-handed crossbow, a two-handed bow, and we are looking into maybe the idea of them having a one-handed crossbow in one hand, and a quiver in the other for special ammo, or things like that. But they are definitely going to focus on ranged weapon based attack. They are not going to be necessarily shooting energy-type things like the Wizard and they are not going to be focusing on melee weapons either. There are some close-ranged style attacks built into their skills that invoke things like knives, but their focus is certainly on shooting arrows of every possible variety and turning demons into pin cushions.
DiabloFans: I thought that ammo was not going to make a comeback. There is going to be some sort of special quiver/ammo thing going on?
Bender: Certainly, there will not be hundreds of useless bolts lying around the floor you have to pick up. It is definitely not going to work like ammo back in D2. The Wizards have their orbs for example that give them attributes that are going to tend to be favorable toward the Wizard, you know not every time but there are class based items and we want to make sure that these class based items highlight what is cool about the class. It makes sense to us that if you are using a bow and you are a Demon Hunter and you spend all this time obsessing over how to kill demons, that you would have some sort of special ammunition. We want to give them ammunition that is going to give affixes that tend toward benefiting and synergizing with ranged weapon-based attacks.
DiabloFans: On to a little bit of lore side of things. Are we going to the Dreadlands, the Demon Hunter’s training camp?
Bender: We are not the best experts as far as lore goes so it is probably something we don’t necessarily want to delve into.
DiabloFans: Can you tell more of one of the most creative Demon Hunter skills that maybe you haven’t show us yet?
Bender: Well, we can’t get into specifics that we haven’t shown them yet. Keep an eye out on the difference between these two kinds of, aggressive versus operations based skills. That is the stuff that we will be highlighting a little more going forward.
DiabloFans: Are there any examples or any kind of other gadget based skills that the Demon Hunter might have to offer other than the sentry?
Bender: I think you saw some of those at BlizzCon but I don’t think they had runes yet so we have been focusing on a different ways to make those BlizzCon based skills runed, which of course... you know...[laughter] of course we are not going into that. But, regrettably I don’t have anything handy to get into detail about that front.
DiabloFans: Maybe a little bit more about runes... You were telling us about them earlier. How are they coming for the class as a whole?
Bender: Um...Great [laughter]. We got all this feedback from BlizzCon. You know, we had those kiosks there where you could give us feedback, right next to where you played Diablo. That kind of stuff we have been integrating into how the runes work. Another cool thing is that the runes have been benefiting really greatly from the fact that we have done the Barbarian and the Wizard and stuff like that. So we had some specially nifty ideas that we have been playing with. But, like I said, I can’t get into specifics, but I can tell you we like to mess with stuff like that. We like to take a basic idea of, the cool gadget and what is the core of the ability, and most runes heighten that core and other runes really break it into something really crazy and nutty. But a lot of the really cool nuttiness comes from gadgets.
DiabloFans: You may not be able to answer this question, but are we going to be able to see any kind of personal tragedies or maybe understand why the Demon Hunter wants to get revenge? Like you said before, this is the class that knows more about everything, they kind of have bad-assery in the sense that they want to kill lots of demons. Are we going to find out why?
Lichtner: We definitely made an effort in the game to focus a little bit more on the back stories of each of the classes and give you a little bit more meat to sink your teeth into. A lot of this back story and lore was already there in D2, it is just that we didn’t necessarily have the opportunity to tell it. Now is sort of the opportunity for us to delve into it a little further in the little opportunities or ways we
The DH using Fan of Knives.
Bender: I will elaborate on that a little bit. So, while I won’t say whether we are going to be getting into the specific tragedy of the specific Demon Hunter, because its also important to think theoretically, you want your Demon Hunter to be yours and mine to be mine. So we have to be different, a little bit, in our own heads so we can customize our characters and really think that they are our own. But when you play through the story you will be seeing more of the character, of each class, what they think about is going on and why they are here. Because, you know, there’s a war for Sanctuary going on. The Barbarians see it one way, the Barbarians have a rich history of fighting demons at war, and its a big deal for them, and they look at it as a test of strength and a big history of vengeance and all that. The Demon Hunters look at it in a different way. The character has been alone, who has been trying to convince the people the demons have been invading for forever and a lot of simple villagers just don’t really believe these fairy tales. So, their perspective is different and we are giving the characters opportunity to give their perspective on the story every place there is. So the places will be different for classes and it will color the way the story plays out.
DiabloFans: Maybe to just expand a bit, is there going to be any other Non-PC Demon Hunters that we may see hanging around the wilderness?
Bender: Well, generally speaking, we do what we can to try to bring the world to life, now that we have better tools to do so. That’s one cool thing about Diablo III, we can bring in more NPC’s, we can highlight the world in a whole new life, so there will be characters that you run into in the world that tell you a little bit more about what’s going on, but I don’t want to give you any spoilers, so you can see it for yourself because it’s pretty good stuff..
DiabloFans: Now that the Male Demon Hunter is here, is there anything other than the beta to wait for over the next few months?
Bender: [crickets]... [laughter]... We are hoping that you’re looking forward to playing it at some point. Basically, we want to get it as ready as we can so you guys can give us your opinion and play more of it.
Before closing up, a few comments about the looks of the Male DH that we can deduct from this concept alone are in place. We think the concept was successfully in tune with the female version of the character. They both read very well in that they belong to the same group of individuals. It's a shame we didn't get a view of his face, but we think we will catch a glimpse of that in the upcoming months. We also think the hand and shoulder blades really look nasty, wonder how well they translated into 3D-models... Something else to take note of is the Male's double-quivers, showing that he may wander around for long periods of time, and requires a bit more stocking up of ammo.
Based on these responses, I think we can get an even better feel on the Demon Hunter entirely, especially now that we kind of have a better sense of their art direction. If anyone is interested in the other exclusive images we were given, you can find them at the bottom of the Demon Hunter's wiki page. I'd like to give a big thanks to both Christian and Jason for answering all of our questions, as well as Bashiok and Ryan from the PR Department for setting this all up. I hope you all had as much fun reading through this as we did conducting it.