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.
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.
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.
The Interviews & Playtesting
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:
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.
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:
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.
Force's Interview Video (Coming Soon)
DiabloCast "Live" Special
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, . 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:
- D1 Warrior (the Dark Wanderer) was retconned, he is now King Leoric's eldest son.
- Fire reigns from the sky, dead arise from graves, bring heroes to Tristram.
- Book of Cain fills the 20-year gap between LoD and D3.
- Leah is Adria's daughter and Cain's adopted niece.
- 6 active skills instead of 7. Traits revamped into "passive skills," only 3 active at a time.
- Each class has ~20 skills and ~15 passives.
- Cauldron of Jordan: Allows you to sell items from battle.
- Nephalem Cube: Salvages items.
- Stone of Recall: D3's version of a hearthstone.
- Stash is huge! Larger than LoD's and has 5 pages, that you can purchase for gold.
- DH has 2 separate resources, Hatred and Discipline, both regenerate at a certain rate.
- Beta will only be a portion of Act 1 and will be relatively small.
- Real money auction house as well as a gold auction house and direct trading.
- Banner system to represent each person individually.
- Character naming system is exactly like SC2's. Name#XXX.
- Willpower is removed.
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:
- The Worldstone Keep
- InDiablo.de (German)
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!