Starting June 28th, you will no longer be able to log in to a Curse account that was not merged with a Twitch account. If you have not yet merged your Curse account with a Twitch account, please do so here! Otherwise, your account and its content will be inaccessible.
  • published the article Is It Soon Soon™?

    A Blizzard midnight opening. Soon a reality for us Diablo III fans, too?

    With BlizzCon 2011 over, it's time to recollect what we learned. The major thing to notice is that there were no major Diablo III-related announcements. Some might've been disappointed when the major Diablo III events were showing a cinematic and the Diablo III box covers, but I wasn't.

    Why, you might ask? The lack of announcements really shows how far in development the game is. There are no large systems left to reveal, and there is no system still just lying on the drawing board. Therefore, we are living really exciting times. The wait for a new game in the Diablo franchise, started with the release of the Lord of Destruction expansion pack for Diablo II in June 2001, is soon over. Even the thought is surreal.

    Despite the surreality, this article will try to meticulously gather all we know of the game's progress and make educated speculations as to when we might expect to finally play the finished product. I should set forth a disclaimer that I have no secret information that isn't publicly available, and that all the actual conclusions presented will be highly speculative in nature. Although, I'll try to refrain from making too many pure guesses and base my speculation on actual information.

    Definitely far in development...

    Generally Blizzard has adopted a motto of releasing games "when they're done". The biggest sign of that, they have said, is when the entire development team is spending more time playing the game than developing it. In a recent interview conducted by Sixen and Force, the game's lead Jay Wilson said that the team is already busy playing the game over and over and enjoying it.

    The same was basically stated by Senior Game Designer of Diablo III, Andrew Chambers:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Andrew Chambers: Diablo and Diablo 2 were just those kinds of games that you just sunk hours into. It would be like "Oh, wait, it's... morning?" Those types of games. And that's one of the things that's kind of really hard to capture sometimes when you're doing a sequel. But I've been finding myself doing the exact same thing with Diablo 3. Intending to just test one small quest line or something -- like up to the Skeleton King -- and then basically playing the entire game in just one sitting. And then I'd be like,"What, that's not what I was here for!"[...]

    Although never stated directly (damn you people who asked so many irrelevant questions in the Diablo III Q&A panel) the whole game is definitely playable and most likely all of the game models and animations are implemented in some form. Probably some iteration is still left. As I already said, all of the game's systems have been implemented into the game. All cinematics have been finished, all recordings (both dialog, Foley effects and music) have been finished and only some post-production might remain. Not to mention the boxes the game will ship in are ready, and all of the collectibles featured in the CE are ready.

    The game feels altogether very polished as everyone participating in the beta can testify. The team is busy cracking whips to make the game ready. Even the team that is responsible for looking into developing a console version of the game is helping the PC development team to finish the game as soon as possible, as testified here by the Lead Console Developer, Josh Mosqueira:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Josh Mosqueira: Literally, there's three of us on the [Diablo III console] team right now. [...] But actually right now, day-to-day, I'm helping these guys [the PC development team] trying to finish this awesome game, Diablo.

    But now that I got you all excited, you should hold your horses.

    ... but still some more needed
    An example Legendary. Click to see full tool tip.
    Another actual info galore we experienced from BlizzCon is the little bits here and there were the development team admitted that there's still some work left ahead of them.

    The item system is still being worked on. As is evident from the recent update on the official site, where the tentative Legendary Item stats were replaced with the text "Legendary and Set items are being worked on. Check back soon to see their stats!"

    For example, the rune system is not finished. Although Jay Wilson said that the current system, and the system before that, would both have been fine for release, they are going to revise the system trying to incorporate the best of both worlds.

    Also, higher difficulties still require some tuning. Although they are definitely playable, the team is still looking into them. This is not a bad thing per se, since the difficulties are one of the last things to be done, and the fact that the team is working on them speaks wonders.

    The followers were only recently changed to be end-game viable, so there'll still be left some tweaking for them, especially in how they act in later difficulties. The team stated that their intention is to try to hit the sweet-spot where they are viable but not necessary, although they admitted that someone serious about min-maxing will most definitely use them.

    As for the beta, some of the recent skill changes (that are on the game's official site) were only recently updated into the beta. That means that there are still several beta patches to go.

    What can history teach us?

    Now that we've definitely noticed that the development is on home stretch, it's time to look back into history and see what we can learn from it. I have gathered the following data of the previous 4 Blizzard releases:

    Although timelines in the past tell nothing about the future by themselves, we can assume that Blizzard has an internal strategy about how they prefer to transition from beta to launch. The data should be pretty self-explanatory, but on the left we have various dates for SCII and three WoW expansion packs and on the right I laid out the times between release date announcement and game release, and beta closure and release date.

    I intentionally excluded the launch of the original World of Warcraft and previous games, since from the fact that WoW's release date was announced only a couple weeks before release we can make that the agenda was simply to put the game out as soon as it's done.

    Let's first look at how far in advance Blizzard has preferred to announce their release dates. Right now we know that Diablo III is aimed at Q1 of 2012, which would place the prospective release date between January and March. Blizzard has gravitated between a steady window of 8-9.5 weeks for the time period they have chosen between release date announcement and actual release date. Only exception is Starcraft II, but because the game was delayed from an original release date in 2009 to 2010, we might assume that Blizzard wanted to give the fans a decent forewarning as the delays were mostly associated with 2.0 infrastructure rather than the game itself.

    Therefore we could safely assume that Diablo III release date is going to be announced at least 8 weeks before the release takes place. So a January release would be announced this November and a February release the coming December, and so forth.

    The login screen we all want to see eventually.
    Now, turning our attention to beta closure. We should first keep in mind that the Diablo III beta key sweepstakes on Facebook have been announced to continue until December 12. It would make sense that whoever decided on the duration of the sweepstakes had the most recent knowledge available. It would also make sense if Blizzard intended to run the sweepstakes for at least its full duration, since it'd be bad press to stop them earlier than intended, while as prolonging it would be only positive.

    The two most recent betas have been closed roughly 2-3 weeks in advance from release, so we might expect this trend to continue. Therefore at earliest the beta could be sensibly predicted to close right after the Boxing Day (Dec 26). I do expect the beta to continue a little bit longer, but probably not much.

    Thus the earliest sensible release date for the actual game is a Tuesday, two weeks from the Boxing Day, which would be January 10 2012. But because we're talking of Blizzard, any predictions we make should include a couple weeks of extra buffer.

    If I had to make a guess for the release date, I'd place it around January 31 or February 7 2012. However, what's most interesting is that an earlier release date would probably be announced during this November. Henceforth, in just four week's time, we can safely assume whether the game is going to come out in January or February. If the release date hasn't been announced by the end of November, we can pretty safely assume that the date is going to be announced during December and the actual release take place during February.

    An event when we probably won't get the release date.
    Tomorrow, on November 8, Activision-Blizzard will have its third quarter financial results conference call. I'm prone to say that we won't get an exact release date, but it's very possible that Blizzard might clarify their release window to please investors. It might be something as simple as "we expect to launch the game before the end of February", or then they might simply restate their earlier Q1 2012 prediction. We'll cover the podcast in any case, so be sure to check our front page if I'm proven wrong.

    Nevertheless, the end of the year will be a very exciting time for us all. Stay tuned!
    Posted in: Is It Soon Soon™?
  • published the article Upcoming Diablo Publications
    This post is going to take a look at all the upcoming Diablo publications in print. While we knew the existence of all these titles already, we learned a great deal of new information from the Blizzard Publishing panel during this year's BlizzCon.

    This post is not going to cover all of the publications presented in the panel, since some of them were World of Warcraft and Starcraft II novels and comics.

    Book of Cain

    A mock-up copy of the book.
    Click for full size.
    We've known for this release for quite some time already. Planned for a December 13 2011 release, the book is in essence an illustrated sourcebook cataloging history, characters, lands, mythology, both codifying and cleaning up the history of the Diablo franchise and unveiling new details about it. It's planned to act as a common stepping stone to understand the greatly extended lore of Diablo III, which will hopefully shed some light on events of the past games. The book will have lots of Cain's first person journal entries, and his comments and thoughts on several events and topics. We'll basically get as far inside into Cain's head as we have ever.

    Basically, Cain has these theories that the apocalypse is imminent and has been trying to codify all his knowledge to try to save humanity. Cain thinks that the last lords of Burning
    The Book of Cain open.
    Click for a readable image.
    Hells are up to some shenanigans and the mortal world will involuntarily partake in their plans.

    And if that wasn't enough of a sales pitch to the lore nerds amongst us, the book is going to have continuity with the upcoming game. And as such it won't necessarily be lore for lore's sake, but instead work to create an even richer backdrop for the game. Of course, you won't need to read this to understand the game, and not everyone is in love with Diablo lore, it's also perfectly okay to just like bashing some demon skulls in. But for the lore buffs among us, this will be nothing short of a must-have.

    Some of the first pages are readable on the publisher's website. They are also transcribed and featured here on our forums.

    Many topics touched in the book were also featured in the Lore panel. In the near future, Phrozendragon is going to post a lore write-up on the lore ramifications so thereby I'll skip them in this post.

    The Order

    Author Nate Kenyon.
    The Order is the name for their upcoming Diablo novel, which we found about recently. It's still scheduled for a March 2012 publication.

    We know little so far about the story. It's going to leech into Diablo III story, so unlike many previous Diablo books, this one won't seem as distant from the in-game events. We also know that the story is going to be focused on Cain. That's about all we know of its contents, besides the fact that according to its author Nate Kenyon, it's going to be a "a big, long epic book with lots of epic battles."

    It's going to be darker, leaner and grittier and it's intended to sort of restart the Diablo franchise in novel form with post-Diablo III storylines. The author has written lot of dark sci-fi and horror before, and he hinted that this book is going to incorporate a lot of horror themes into it.

    Sword of Justice

    Issue 1# cover.
    Click to see the full slide presented.
    The final Diablo publication is Sword of Justice, a comic done in collaboration with DC Comics which we learned about recently. It'll first run as a limited series of 5 issues and later be released as a hardcover graphic novel. The first issue is going to be out in November 23. The story will be written by Aaron Willians and artwork is being done by Joseph Lacroix and coloring by Dave Stewart.

    Story-wise it takes place between Lord of Destruction's end and Diablo III's beginning. The events start immediately after the events at the end of the Diablo II expansion pack, where Tyrael is forced to destroy the Worldstone corrupted by Baal.

    In the initial setting of the story, Tyrael immediately vanished right after the Worldstone was destroyed, but his sword remained at the scene. The story continue's by a mortal finding Tyrael's sword, and the mortal becoming an avatar of justice in sanctuary.

    Here's the official story summary:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    From the world and legends of Sanctuary, the setting for the award-winning Diablo video game, comes the tale of a hero's birth. Jacob has fled from his homelands in the north, hunted by his kinsmen for the crime of murder.

    Led by the visions of an ancient prophet, pursued by his childhood friend, Jacob finds his destiny in a desert cave at the foot of a mountain carved in two by the sword of an archangel-- Tyrael. But will Jacob be able to claim the sword that could save his people, if not the world, before he's brought to 'justice?'"

    This is all the current Diablo publications in the horizon, but I can fairly confidently say that they won't be the last ones. With the imminent release of the game, we'll probably be flooded with even further novels taking place in its world during 2012.
    Posted in: Upcoming Diablo Publications
  • published the article BlizzCon 2011 Opening Ceremony
    So, I'm sure many of you watched the BlizzCon 2011 opening ceremony. Since we're a Diablo fansite, I will focus on the relevant parts from a Diablo perspective. As a friendly reminder, if you're interested, you should check MMO-Champion for World of Warcraft coverage and SC2Mapster for Starcraft II coverage.

    First the bad news. No, there was no release date announced.

    However, we got probably the second best thing. During the opening ceremony we were shown what is the opening cinematic of Diablo III. Bits and pieces of the cinematic were shown in the original cinematic teaser released back in 2008. The cinematic has been slightly edited by removing some bits to preserve the freshness of the story for the release.

    I doubt any amount of words can do it justice. Watch and re-watch it below to your heart's fullest delight.

    We were also shown the Diablo III box art in all of its glory, and also the Collector's Edition box, seen below.

    Click image to view in full size.

    The contents of the Collector's Edition were also announced:

    Click image to zoom.

    • DIII aesthetic items and other items for WoW and SCII. For Diablo III we'll get equippable wings, an exclusive banner and two exclusive dyes (whose effects remain unknown for now).
    • Behind the scenes DVD/BLU-RAY two disc set.
    • An artbook consisting of DIII artwork.
    • A soulstone-shaped USB-stick with DII loaded into it.
    • A soundtrack CD.

    The major other Diablo III related topic that was touched during the opening ceremony is that Diablo III will be offered without additional cost to those that bind themselves into the new WoW 12-month subscription. Although I'm certain this is good news to those of you that enjoy WoW as well, the biggest news flash was without a shadow of the doubt that this means that Diablo III, just like WoW: Cataclysm, will be offered as a digital download, probably downloadable beforehand and playable instantly after midnight on the release date.

    Stay tuned in for more Diablo III coverage.
    Posted in: BlizzCon 2011 Opening Ceremony
  • published the article Another Diablo III book underway.

    Author Nate Kenyon.
    It is becoming clear that 2012 will be a Diablo III year. It has come to our attention that there is a new Diablo III novel (besides the Diablo III: Book of Cain) in the works, scheduled for a March 27 2012 release. This has been revealed to us by the listing of the item on for preorder.

    The book's title has not been revealed, which makes me think that it might have been too big of a spoiler. Another hint at the book's contents is that since Diablo III is now scheduled for an early 2012 release, it would make sense that this book builds up on the story of Diablo III. I doubt the release date in March has anything to do with Diablo III's release date, since it is probable that the game itself will be released earlier than that.

    The book will be written by Nate Kenyon, who wrote the recent Starcraft II book StarCraft: Ghost--Spectres, which was released this week. He has written a lot of horror literature, so would it be a far stretch that we can expect a horror-themed Diablo III book?
    Posted in: Another Diablo III book underway.
  • published the article New Pals: Blizzard and PayPal
    Some fans have been concerned whether the real money auction house might delay our favorite demon-slaying sequel, - Diablo III Diablo III, since specifics on the auction house, as we were told, were still under development when the feature was announced. The feature is a rather bold move never before seen in games, at least in the way it comes with Diablo III. Fans were concerned with this move, since Blizzard hasn't offered such services in the past.

    Now we know at least one further detail -- which might alleviate at least some concerns -- as Blizzard has announced their partnership with the popular online payments service, PayPal.

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    We're pleased to announce that in most regions, PayPal will be our payment-service partner for the Diablo III auction house, allowing players who trade with real-world currency the ability to cash out the spoils of their battle-torn adventures via a PayPal account.

    PayPal will also soon be added in several regions as a payment option on, providing another convenient and secure payment method for digital purchases of Blizzard products and services.

    We’ll share region-related specifics, as well as further details on everything mentioned above, in the near future. Stay tuned!

    Read the original post.

    What we can expect from this partnership? Of course, this is still purely speculation, as details await unveiling, but I doubt it's unreasonable to expect a seamless integration between Diablo III real money auction house and PayPal. Transferring money to the auction house and out of it will probably be as seamless as using eBay.

    This makes close to perfect sense in retrospect, since the details Blizzard has given us regarding the real money auction house and its functionality with cashing out using a third party payment transfer service sounded a lot like how PayPal functions in the first place. Now we need not speculate any longer, since most of the world will be using PayPal in conjunction with Diablo III's auction house. PayPal will also be available to purchase other Blizzard-related items and services, probably things such as digital copies of their games and World of Warcraft game time.

    As some of you might know, PayPal is wholly owned by the internet's most popular auction house service, eBay. I doubt I'm the only one asking, whether eBay will be offering help for Blizzard in building their auction house, as eBay has had a well-functioning and safe auction house running for years. This could well mean what Blizzard means when they talk about their partnership with PayPal: their parent company and they themselves would have a lot of expertise in the field Blizzard is trying to enter into.

    I'm sure that the real money auction house will still continue to divide the fan-base, but I'm certain that this announcement is a relief to most and a surprise to few.
    Posted in: New Pals: Blizzard and PayPal
  • published the article A DiabloFans Editorial: Termination in Tertiary Order

    Now that the start of the beta is possibly just weeks away, there couldn't be a better time to take a look at some fundamental design challenges the Diablo III development team faces. I have postponed my evaluation of some already-announced design choices up until the game is playable since most of them make sense to me at least on a theoretical level. Therefore, the scope of my editorials is limited to concepts that are yet to be disclosed. This time I'll focus on how Diablo III will deal with the mortality of the player characters. I'll follow up with the next specific design challenge soon(tm).

    I'm going to work based on the assumption that most people prefer a reasonable amount of challenge in their games. Those who have defeated a game using cheat codes or a walkthrough know the sense of a hollow victory that it nigh inevitably brings. Therefore, a key ingredient for an excellent game is neither too much difficulty to frustrate the player or too little to bore the player, but instead just the right amount to make advancement rewarding.

    Generally, the core mechanics of any given game can be reduced into simplistic essentials. Mostly, the difficulty in games works by rewarding and punishing the player. To use the clichéd idiom, it's either the carrot or the stick. The perks are usually something along the lines of letting the player advance into the next level or seeing the plot unfold some more or giving concrete in-game rewards such as items. For the scope of this editorial, I'll be ignoring the prize aspect nigh totally. In case you missed it, Scyberdragon wrote a nice speculative piece on Diablo III storyline, and it's definitely worth checking out if you are interested.

    As for the stick part, in most games where death is possible, it makes for a majority of the punishment the player receives. Death is used to punish bad play or just downright failing to meet given objectives. Traditionally death has meant that the game is over, and games where this is the case require no specific death penalty. The need to repeat a varying length of the game is generally enough of a deterrent to dying. Only games where death is not the end of it all demand a specific penalty for dying to discourage reckless plays and reward strategic moves.

    Death in Diablos One and Two

    Let's move on to what all this means for the Diablo franchise. The original Diablo was very traditional in the way it handled death. Death was simply the end of the game and all the player could do was to load their saved game. With just one save allowed, it wasn't unheard of to occasionally forget to save or have a save rendered invalid by a misjudgment in its timing. It wasn't that hard to save in that unfortunate moment where the grim reaper was just about to take its toll and every loaded game ended in that same invariable result.

    The message every hardcore player dreaded. Click for full size.
    Therefore I do understand the changes that Diablo II made for this recipe. In a way, Diablo II was very honest to its predecessor. The death system was deviated into two separate game modes -- or difficulty settings, if you will -- the - hardcore hardcore and non-hardcore, also known as softcore. Hardcore was a direct continuation of how the first Diablo handed death. Death was permanent and the only difference was that loading a saved game wasn't allowed, resulting in the permanent loss of a character. The original Diablo did not require a separate hardcore mode, since it wouldn't have differed much from way it normally handled death.

    Softcore, on the other hand, deviated the recipe into a slightly easier direction. In it, death was no longer permanent. This resulted in the need of introducing various penalties for dying. They were designed to be rather plenty in Diablo II: the player lost their gear, some of their gold and - experience experience and their items received a - durability durability loss. The player could retrieve their items and a majority of their experience by venturing into the spot of their untimely demise and retrieving their earthly remains.

    Having to do all this without their original gear made it rather tricky and equipping an alternative kit of gear brought forth the risk of losing some items since the game saved only one corpse's worth of items. With all this in mind, it could be said that even in softcore, death penalties were designed to be rather harsh and possibly slightly excessive. The player could get their corpse by exiting and re-entering the game, but then they weren't able to keep any of the experience they lost.

    Termination in Tertiary Order

    Dying in Diablo III. Click for full size.

    Now that we have recapped how past Diablo games handled death, it's time to look forward into the third installment of the series.

    An old friend we'll meet.

    Initially, the development team told us that town portals were taken out of the game. They allowed for various combat loopholes, which resulted in some trends the developers seemingly didn't prepare for. Only recently we were informed that this is no longer the case. Since Bashiok strongly suggested that the team is serious about avoiding the pitfalls town portals brought forth, I'm going to assume that all they have been avoided one way or another.

    An example of town portals' pitfalls was the circumvention of the death penalty of Diablo II: by either setting one's own portal beforehand or having their friends cast one, the players were able to pick up their corpses quickly and effortlessly. An especially popular strategy was to cast a town portal before a specifically nasty boss monster to allow for repeated successive attacks on the boss despite death intervening. This strategy allowed characters to easily chip off bosses' health down gradually. Another story was the fact that town portals allowed the player to escape death altogether by escaping to town. Although unrelated to town portals, the same could be achieved as well by saving and exiting the game quickly in a hairy situation.

    This particular method leads me to the conclusion that in spite of the fact that Diablo II had plenty excessive death penalties, only the minute loss of experience and gold mattered at all and was significant only at later levels of slow experience after patch 1.10. This is one of the reasons why none of the bosses were particularly hard, as town portals allowed for strategic players to avoid dying or almost all of the punishment death brought with it.

    In Diablo III some of the functionality that town portals had in this sense has been integrated into the death system as the new" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - checkpoint"/> checkpoint system. Upon death the player character no longer spawns at town, but at the latest checkpoint instead. In the past BlizzCon demos the checkpoints have been spaced rather frequently. Whether this was something to decrease downtime in order to accommodate the testing needs of BlizzCon or an actual design choice remains to be seen when the beta begins. After all, with a limited playtime, long idle time would have been counter-beneficial to both Blizzard and the players. My personal guess is that the final product might not harbor as many checkpoints.

    In terms of actual direct death penalties, players might be delighted that they no longer lose experience or gold directly. Death no longer takes a handling fee. Below is a quotation from Bashiok dating back to October 2010:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    I don't think death penalties need to edge into the 'punishment' definition (although I realize that's a confusion of terms) to be worthwhile.

    Making sure someone can't endlessly throw themselves against monsters/die/repeat and eventually win is something we'd want to stop. To make the player take pause and realize they're not going to get past them unless they straighten up and pay attention and play better, or take some extra measures to buff up, or simply come up with a different strategy, those are the types of death penalties that work. Those are the ones we like and that I'm talking about.

    Taking gold away from people, or taking a full level of experience away, yeah, that's a wake up call. It's also the quickest way to get someone to uninstall the game. A very select few people will put up with something like that. It's fine in Diablo II because gold has almost no use, but imagine if it did. You'd be encouraged through the mechanic to grind in easier areas where you're sure you couldn't die just so you could earn gold safely. That sounds terrible. Without a gold penalty you can play the content you want to play and meanwhile you're finding items and amounts of gold that are relevant. That sounds like fun.

    However, what Bashiok didn't touch was that since durability has been confirmed to return, one confirmed death penalty is a durability hit. Lead Director Jay Wilson had this to say on durability loss upon death in a interview in August 2010:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Wilson: You [the player] respawn at a checkpoint and all your gear will lose some durability. This results in repair costs. And that's it. We simply require a bit of gold from the player. And with the repair we make sure that players can't avoid the gold penalty by storing their gold on their other characters. Apart from some hardcore players retrieving the body, for most people it was just a point where they actually quit the game. Because if you then log right back on your character, the body is located in the town. Most players actually did that, so that they do not have to go through the trouble to collect their body again. A feature that motivates the players to quit the game and then log right back, is just not good.

    I'd like to thank FingolfinGR on the translation of the interview posted in German.

    When the reasoning is put like this, I can't do anything but agree with why they opted for durability loss instead of direct gold loss. This way there is no incentive to transfer gold back and forth which can't be anything but tedious. It's also a good way to possibly balance the gold loss. If better gear is more expensive to repair, higher level characters will lose more gold. This way there won't be an unnecessary penalty to low-level characters that might have more gold than their level would suggest. Many people like trading in Diablo III after all.

    Final Conclusions

    So, all that being said, while it would seem at a first glance that Diablo III has less death penalties than its predecessors, making sure that they are unavoidable will even the scales. It will all boil down to finding the perfect balance between enough deterrence to dying and little enough to not frustrate non-hardcore players. The balance can be found by tinkering with the spacing of checkpoints and the amount of gold repairing items will take. All of the components required seem to be in place, now the challenge will boil down to adjusting them just right.

    Hopefully we will find soon enough when the beta starts whether they've struck the right chord with the death penalties.
    Posted in: A DiabloFans Editorial: Termination in Tertiary Order
  • published the article I Spy With My Little Eye...
    Bashiok gave us an interesting tweet of new information about checking out items in Diablo III. Nothing that will completely revise our image of the upcoming monster-slaying fest, but something definitely worth knowing.

    The tweet was in reply to our member Doomscream, in which Bashiok strongly suggested the existence of both an inspection feature and an armory:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Doomscream: @Diablo Will there be an inspect feature in D3, both in-game and an armory-like page?

    Diablo: @doomscream Extremely likely if not completely assured for both.

    What the inspector might see.
    Click for full size.
    From the fact that Bashiok didn't say that they both are implemented, I'd say that his wording could be interpreted to strongly suggest that both are either upcoming or planned features in the development pipeline. Even while the start of the beta might be around the corner, there's still plenty enough time to develop secondary functions like these. We'll probably see them in a patch by latest if not the initial launch of the game.

    There was a discussion on our forums regarding the possibility of an inspect feature and an armory site. Opinions were presented for and against whether there should be such a feature. While certainly not the only game to have these, players of World of Warcraft are familiar with both gimmicks. This tweet will surely end the speculation, although I'm pretty sure most fans were expecting these two concepts to be in Diablo III.

    For those that are not familiar, the inspect functionality is simply a way to see what other people are wearing in-game. Many Diablo II players are familiar with non-allowed third-party programs that, besides other more frowned-upon things, allowed to see other players' gear: they will be not necessary any more. The armory serves a similar purpose out of the game: it's basically a dedicated site to spy what other people are wearing. You can spy the Warcraft one here.

    As someone who is totally obsessed about the itemization side of the Diablo franchise, I personally welcome these features with open arms. It'll be interesting to see what items others have chosen.

    Are you happy that you will be able to see what friends and foes are wearing? Do you think it's beneficial or would you rather not tell everyone what you are wearing?
    Posted in: I Spy With My Little Eye...
  • published the article Bashiok on Skill Balancing in PvE and PvP
    We posted the first episode of our new podcast series called the DiabloCast this past Sunday. Featuring our community manager Sixen and Force from ForceStrategyGaming, the podcast discussed some contemporary topics about Diablo III. In case you have missed the episode and yearn for some spoken dialog about the game, I highly recommend tuning in to the cast.

    Meanwhile, Bashiok felt the need to clarify one of the topics discussed within the podcast. Ever since BlizzCon 2010 a common interpretation of the talks Blizzard representatives had during the open Q&A panel was that PvP would be balanced separately from PvE, possibly resulting in skills behaving wildly different within these two environments.

    Bashiok clarified this to be only partially correct:

    Official Blizzard Quote:


    On the note of balancing PvE and PvP separately you guys talked about a little bit, it's something we want to largely avoid. I'm actually sort of confused where that info came from (I know you guys didn't just make it up I've seen it elsewhere). Somehow I feel like it's my fault, but maybe it was talked about at BlizzCon. We do have the ability to keep separate functionality, but we want to try to avoid big differences that make it feel like two different games when you play PvE and PvP. One area where things work differently, and we think it's ok, is in the case of CC, like stuns, snares, slows, etc. The duration of these skills is fairly significantly reduced when used against players, however, that same reduction in effectiveness is also see in the PvE game when it comes to unique/champion/boss monsters. So, it's not only a jarring difference, it's also actually experienced in PvE.

    Bottom line is we'll have to wait and see but, as I said, it's something we have the ability to do if needed but would prefer to largely avoid. I just didn't want anyone to think that we're actively balancing them completely independently as that's not accurate.

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Ah, yes, it's the first question that was asked at the open Q&A. Well that was easy to find!

    So, yeah he's specifically stating we don't want to impact PvE by balancing PvP. That doesn't necessarily mean that they have to be designed completely independently or each other, though. I don't know, it's one of those things we'll have to wait and see how it pans out in more serious balance testing closer to release.
    Arena fighting. Click for full view.

    While this interpretation was able to be deduced from the original statements, it surely clarifies the topic slightly further. We now know that PvE always comes first, and any balancing done to skills will be done primarily with PvE in mind.

    On the other hand, they haven't yet set in stone how different skills work in PvP, as that indeed sounds something best done during the beta testing and when every other aspect of the game is done. In-between lines we can probably read additional confirmation to the fact that the beta will consist mostly of PvP testing. Or to rephrase that, there is a lot in PvP that Blizzard can't fully test with in-house QA teams, unlike the PvE content that can mostly be tested behind closed doors.

    As Bashiok pointed out, various crowd control skills are obvious candidates for functioning differently against players. However, it is interesting to know that their functionality against players won't differ how they affect special monsters such as champions, uniques and bosses.
    Posted in: Bashiok on Skill Balancing in PvE and PvP
  • published the article A DiabloFans Editorial: the Guiding Parchment

    One of the more crucial features of the interface is the map. Designed to guide players into unexplored areas, help them to return into towns, and overall find their way in the realm of Sanctuary, a bad map implementation can lead into countless moments of frustration. This is an editorial restating all that we can gather from the map functionality of Diablo III and comparing them with how the map was handled in the earlier installments; Diablo I and Diablo II.

    Earlier installments

    Diablo I automap. Click for full view.
    The original Diablo featured a crude mini-map. It wasn't able to be used in the town, and as such made maneuvering in the town trial and error for the beginners. On the other hand it allowed the player to find various places of interest in the town on their own. The moment of finding the greedy - Wirt Wirt hiding across the river, or the mysterious - Adria Adria's shack a distance away from the town made exploring rewarding.

    Once players entered the dungeon underneath the ominous cathedral, they were allowed one style of map: the overcast map. This map was rather simple and consisted mostly of lines, an arrow to mark the location of the player and simple box with an arrow to point players to the descending stairs. The map simply did what it was supposed to do: guided the player around in the randomly generated surroundings.
    Diablo II automap. Click for full view.

    Diablo II featured some changes to the map. The Diablo I-styled overcast map was still the default, but players were able to move the map to the left upper corner. The overlay map did its job much better, and I personally know only a few people that used the corner map. However, even the overcast map had its issues as well. It was easy to get distracted from the action with the map remaining in front of the screen. I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one who from time to time found themselves looking more at the map and less at the action that was taking behind it.

    Development History of the Map

    Early Diablo III mini-map.
    Click for full view.
    Map of Diablo III has clearly been given some more thought than its predecessors' maps. A number of screenshots that allegedly show what Diablo III looked before the closure of Blizzard North have surfaced. While I have no reason to seriously doubt their authenticity, a disclaimer is in place that these are not officially confirmed to be genuine. These screenshots however allow us to look at how the map looked before the game was announced in 2008.

    The map is in fact the only aspect of those screenshots that can be seen to bear any resemblance to how Diablo III looks today. While the map has gone through several stages of iteration, the essence of it was present already in this early version. It was placed in the upper right corner of the screen with the name of the area above it. It seems that this version of the game did not confine the area the mini-map showed, so it functioned similar to
    WWI '08 mini-map. Click for full view.
    the overcast map of earlier games with the exception of being relocated to the upper right corner.

    The first glimpse we were given of the map was during the game's announcement in WWI '08 in Paris, France. It is probable that the map has undergone even more changes in the past, but with our limited amount of vantage points available, we need to focus on the iterations of the map shown to us.

    The core gist of the map has remained unaltered since the announcement: it is a square box in the upper right corner. The initial announcement featured a very plain map with a title text telling the name of the area, a globe next to it and a square-shaped mini-map below these confined in a opaque box with the borders only partially visible. The only significant change at this stage from the Blizzard North version seems to be that the area of the mini-map was confined into a box.
    Mini-map from 2009.
    The next version was shown in the '09 demo, where the borders of the box and the globe button were removed, but the map remained otherwise unchanged. From this demo we have our first screenshot of the Local Map, which is a feature I'll skip right now. I'll return to it later on with a big detailed image.
    Latest revision. Click for high-res.

    Finally, third and latest revision of the map was first shown in the GamesCom 2010 Caravan Trailer. As a sort of analogue to the entire game, the map looks a lot more polished and increasingly in-tune with the various interface elements. As is evident from seeing this picture, the name of the area is now showcased in a detailed box instead of just plain white text. The scroll next to the area name does what the globe probably did in earlier versions; takes the player to the Local Map. The map remained unchanged in the BlizzCon 2010 demo from this revision.

    Judging from the greatly advanced looks, I think it wouldn't be unreasonable to suggest that this is pretty much the final version of the map. I expect only small iterative changes at most to its design. As such, it is a good time to look deeper into the maps functionality.

    Functionality of the Map

    Quests are well integrated into the mini-map.
    Click for full size.
    The map will tell the player everything they need to know. Under the map the player's quests are shown in minimalistic form [see left]. With only simple objectives shown, the player is allowed to remind themselves what they were looking for. More detailed quest descriptions and lore can be found within the quest interface. New quests are marked with an exclamation mark [marked 1.; see right] on the map. In both images, the exclamation mark is pointing at Cain, in tune with the quest text on the left image.
    Various elements referenced.

    The map shows the stash as a chest [2.]. After this image was seen, a shared stash has been implemented into the game. We have no knowledge at this point how the map will distinguish between the personal and shared stash - if at all. Both stashes could possibly be accessed through the same in-game object with a tabbed interface. Another way would be that there were be two chest-objects available, one for each stash. For example, this was the way Torchlight handled the different stashes. I'd personally consider a single tabbed stash much more convenient, albeit slightly worse immersion-wise.
    Party member dots from BlizzCon '10.
    The player is shown as an orange dot with a gray ornate border[3.]. There is an arrow telling the player what direction they are facing at. As seen in the left picture from BlizzCon 2010, party members are depicted with glowing blue circles [A. and B.]. Their names aren't visible on the mini-map, this purpose is left for the local map, probably to avoid unnecessary visual clutter.

    At the bottom of the mini-map we can see what could reasonably be guessed to be the waypoint [4.]. I doubt it's a checkpoint, because they haven't been
    Comparison of elements.
    marked on the mini-map in the playable demos. The icon's design is fairly evidently in tune with how waypoints looked in Diablo II. We haven't so far seen how waypoints look in Diablo III, but their functionality is known to resemble that of Diablo II equivalents. The distance between two waypoints is however planned to be slightly less.

    The map also shows a campfire [5.]. Since it is improbable that the map would show unnecessary clutter, it'll probably have a function. It might be as simple as telling the player where the safe zone towns are. It could also have some other alternative utility. Perhaps it is a sort of "looking for a group"-interface? Possibilities are endless, and we probably won't know for sure until we're told.

    The differences in the elements shown in these two screenshots on the right indicate that at least in the development build some of the elements shown on the mini-map are optional. It would certainly make sense for some elements to be able to be toggled on and off. Not everyone might want to see the location of every friendly NPC as that version of the map looks slightly crowded. However, I don't know who would want to toggle waypoints off, and thus I'm not sure whether the missing NPC dots are only due to difference in build version.

    The Local Map. Click for full view.
    As I already briefly touched upon, the other map we will be using is the Local Map [see left]. It is separate from the mini-map, and brought on the screen when the player wishes and it'll cover the entire screen. It shows the surrounding areas much further and in greater detail than the mini-map. The Local Map is something the players will bring up once in a while if they're not sure for example where they should be or where their team mates are. This map will also show who of your team is located where with name plates, unlike the mini-map.

    We don't know whether there will be an overcast map option in Diablo III, but right now it seems that the mini-map has inherited most of the overcast maps functions. Some of the less used features have been moved to the Local Map (such as finding one's way over greater distances than is usually necessary).

    We know fairly little of the Local Map besides the couple odd recollections of the people that have played the various Diablo demos present in selected gaming conventions. It would certainly take a special mindset to spend too many precious demo minutes learning about the Local Map in great detail, opposed to just enjoying the game. We will learn more of how it functions when beta starts. You can however compare the Local Map with the BlizzCon 2009 demo mini-map I presented earlier, because both are from the same area.

    We haven't been hinted at this, but it is totally within the realm of possibility that in addition to the Local Map, we could have a World Map. The naming of the map could be taken as a hint for that. After all, why not just call it the "Map" if it's the only one? To increase the likelihood even further, the World Map has already been made and is showcased on the official website. It'd be little effort to tell the player where each act is taking place on it. This could help with the immersion and allow players to pinpoint with greater ease than previously where exactly they are in the grander scale of things.

    All in all, I think I'm personally pretty satisfied with how the mini-map looks and functions right now. It certainly seems that the problems Diablo II had, with its map distancing the player from the action taking place behind it, have been solved. A world map could be a cool addition to the Local Map and help with the immersion, while having little practical value. If I had to guess, I'd say that there is a big chance that a World Map might make its way into the game.

    Hope you enjoyed reading this look into maps!
    Posted in: A DiabloFans Editorial: the Guiding Parchment
  • published the article Resurrections, Shrines, Poison Clouds and Rune Effects
    Now that the dust has settled since the second batch of images was released as a part of the Facebook call to arms, it's time to recap what has recently been said in Twitter.

    Some of these Tweets are already a few days old, but because they're interesting nevertheless, I'll recap them as well. I will go through the tweets from the newest to the oldest in a rough order.

    First off, Bashiok clarified how the co-op resurrection works in Diablo III in a two-part tweet:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo - Will you be allowed to resurrect your team mate in Arenas? If not, are resurrection potions still in the game for regular play?
    Diablo: @NocturneGS Once you're dead in the Arena you have to wait until the next round.

    Diablo: @NocturneGS No reagents for resurrecting friends in co-op, instead there's a short window of time to click on them or they're running back.

    While the bit regarding resurrections in the" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - arena"/> arena was hardly new news, I added it for completeness' sake.

    However, the second half regarding how resurrection works when playing with others was rather interesting. It seems that once your friend is dead, you have a limited time to click his or her corpse so that they join you in the fight against Diablo's minions. This sounds like it would create interesting tactical dilemmas if the time window was short. Then players would be faced with the choice of either fighting more safely, but forcing their friends to run, or risking their own safety and running to resurrect their team mates.

    I would assume this system will also have a sort of cooldown or a limit to how many times it can be used during the same combat. This would be quite necessary to avoid it being abused in harder boss fights, where the team members would resurrect one another several times in one fight.

    We were also informed that there will be no fundamental differences between playing alone and with friends in this reply to our member kiowa:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo Will there be any random encounters or quest that we won’t find in the Single play?
    Diablo: @kiowa81 We're building the game for co-op. Single player is just like playing the co-op game by yourself. So, no, no planned differences.

    Diablo: @kiowa81 Aside from difficulty, of course.

    In essence this means that there are no plans to having events such as the - Pandemonium Event Pandemonium Event or - Uber Diablo Uber Diablo, that will be exclusive to the realms. As someone who likes playing alone as well, I think this is pretty good news.

    Furthermore, @Diablo told us more about shrines:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo How many shrine effects will be in the game? Are there some new effects (compared to D2) or maybe negative or random (like in D1)?
    Diablo: @Rocky3007 Diablo III shrine effects are short term buffs designed to push you into combat to get the most from them. No penalties.

    A while back we were told that shrines had received a new look. However, we were still very much in the dark about the exact functionality of the" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - shrines"/> shrines. All we knew was the couple shrines that were present in the BlizzCon 2009 demo.

    Now we know that negative and permanent shrines are out of the question. While they were featured in the original" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - Diablo"/> Diablo, it would seem to me that they're too unforgiving a mechanic to fit the general feel of Diablo III.

    A shrine tooltip
    What is also interesting is the short description of how they have approached shrines this time. It would seem to me that we could expect shrines with substantial, but short duration buffs. One speculative example would be a shrine that made the player and his entire party deal 100% more damage for 30 seconds.

    Regarding the already mentioned second batch of screenshots, we were also informed about the exact nature of the green cloud of poison visible at the left edge of the Monk screenshot in a reply to our member, Akuma_gin:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo The new concept art and screenshot are GREAT! What's the green cloud, a gas potion or a skill maybe?
    Diablo: @akumagin Looks to me like the monk just killed a rare monster with the Plague affix.

    I can only wait to encounter" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - cold"/> cold or - fire enchanted fire enchanted monsters, if the plague effect looks that cool!

    At the end of last week, we were also given several glimpses to how rune effects function. First in this reply to our news staff manager extraordinaire, Scyberdragon, we were given further insight into how runes change skills that aren't so much direct attacks:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @diablo How are you guys handling runes for ore passive skills like shouts or auras?
    Diablo: @Scyberdragon Depends. Mostly increasing effect/duration, but some do actually change to offensive abilities or change mechanics entirely.

    Without a specific example, it's hard to know what they have in store for us, but I could see it an interesting design choice to have Monk have only a limited number of auras, if - skill runes skill runes would change the function of those completely.

    In addition to that, we were given two examples of various movement skill rune effects, one to our staff member, FingolfinGR:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo The Barbarian Charge skill- Any rune effects applied to it that you can tell us about?
    Diablo: @swordadpt Furious Charge! So cool all by itself. One rune gives a run speed boost after use. Another leaves a trail that damages enemies.

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo what effects (other than damage on impact) do runes have on mobility skills?
    Diablo: @FingolfinGR Witch doctor's Spirit Walk applying DoTs on enemies you move through is a good one.

    It seems that even movement skills will have an interesting range of variety to them via the skill runes.

    Stay tuned for more news!
    Posted in: Resurrections, Shrines, Poison Clouds and Rune Effects
  • published the article Blizzard Hopes to Release Diablo III in 2011
    After the Activision Blizzard Fourth Quarter Calendar 2010 Results Conference Call, the fans of Diablo let out a collective outcry. They were dissatisfied with these widely misinterpreted words from the CFO of the Activision Publishing, Thomas Tippl:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Blizzard has not announced a release date for its next global release. If we don’t release a major title in 2011, then for planning purposes we would expect to launch two titles in 2012.

    While these words were carefully chosen to not exclude a Diablo III release during 2011, the fans were lit ablaze. After all, the truth was told within those words: Blizzard is not sure whether they will finish Diablo III during this year. With almost ten years since the latest installment in our favorite demon-slaying franchise, the Diablo II expansion pack Lord of Destruction, the fans' eagerness to revisit the demon-infested realm of Sanctuary can be understood.

    Initially after the conference call, numerous threads emerged on all imaginable forums. Including our own. There was one particularly amusing change of words between the Diablo III Community Manager, Bashiok, and a particularly displeased fan.

    Bashiok was also quick to say that 2011 isn't completely ruled out as a possible release year for the game.

    The Activision Blizzard stock dropped a bit over 11% at worst since the start of the conference call, not only due to no confirmed Blizzard release during 2011, but because of the axing of a past money-making machine, Guitar Hero, and discontinuation of several other games. While the stock recovered slightly, with this background it should come as no surprise that Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime and Rob Pardo, the executive vice president of game design at Blizzard Entertainment, decided to take a slight deviation from their usual norm of silence regarding speculating the release of Diablo III.

    They had this to say to Kotaku:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    [Brian Crecente of Kotaku:]"Will I be christening my new computer with Diablo III this year?

    "We really, really hope so. That's our goal," Pardo said. "Our goal is to get there. But you know, at the end of the day, we are going to get it right. That's more important.

    "We're going to promise, we're going to get it out there when it's awesome. And, we're crossing our fingers, maybe it will be this year."

    While this conveys little in the form of shocking new information, their plans were laid out plain in front of us.

    Diablo III is speeding through development, and whether it will be released later this year or during 2012 depends solely on whether they have got it "right". This was of course already legible in-between the lines, but now we have more than speculation about the truth.

    Knowing Blizzard's high standards of quality, I think we as fans should brace ourselves for the fact that the game is going to be nearly completed at the end of the year. Key word being nearly. But if that extra polish will help the game to go the extra mile, I personally would by no means be disappointed.

    While the development has certainly been a long road, don't lose hope. Remember that we should perhaps be hearing more about the beta come May, by the time of the next financial results conference call.
    Posted in: Blizzard Hopes to Release Diablo III in 2011
  • published the article First Batch of Screenshots and Art
    Just two days ago, Blizzard issued a Call to Arms for all DiabloFans, promising some pretty epic goodies in return. Well folks, last night Diablo reached the first goal of many (18 to be exact): 550,000 'Likes', and Blizzard has most certainly followed up. Here at DiabloFans we got our hands on some juicy high resolution versions of the pictures posted on Diablo's Facebook page just moments ago.

    Click the images to see bask in the glory of the full resolution versions that you likely won't see anywhere else!

    UPDATE: After I notified that the Leoric one was from the press kit they released a second concept art:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Diablo: @DonGuillotine Another has been added to make up for it. As it turns out not all of the images we're releasing will be completely exclusive.

    So just to note, not all images released are necessarily new. For example, this - King Leoric King Leoric screenshot is from the BlizzCon 2010 Press Kit.

    This one is perhaps the best piece of concept art I've seen so far. It shows the Witch Doctor's skill - Wall of Zombies Wall of Zombies. As with the others, we have got the full resolution version in all of its glory:

    First we have a look at the - Demon Hunter Demon Hunter killing a group of demons with a deadly combination of her - Bola Shot Bola Shot and Grenade skills.

    Secondly we get a look at the - Witch Doctor Witch Doctor using his - Blow Dart Blow Dart skill along with what appears to be a bit of - Locust Swarm Locust Swarm to take care of some monsters in the Halls of Agony.

    Last but not least, we have some awesome concept art of everyone's favorite insane ruler, - King Leoric King Leoric. This was already within the BlizzCon 2010 press kit, but it is still just as good.

    Now we just have to wait for just a bit over 21,000 more likes! Go visit and like the page to speed the war effort!
    Posted in: First Batch of Screenshots and Art
  • published the article The Good and the Bad News
    This week has started off a bit slower than the ones before, but it's time to look at what new we've learned so far. As always, there's some good and some bad news to be expected. In tune with this, I divided this news post under two headlines, first bringing you into euphoria with the good news and then dragging you down to the ground level with the bad.

    The Good

    To start off, @Diablo touched perhaps the biggest subject that is on everyone's mind: when the game is ready?

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo At Blizzcon i saw some cool skill runes effects, but nothing about the skill runes for the monk class. How is the monk progressing?
    Diablo: @Lytus Really well. All skills and runes are at least at first pass implementation for all classes.
    Rune socketing. Runes' names have since changed, but the idea remains.

    This is really good news. Now we know that all the skills and rune effects for no less than all classes are at least in the first pass implementation stage. This means that the two least developed classes, the - Demon Hunter Demon Hunter and the - Monk Monk have gained some speed.

    No skills or rune effects are left as mere conceptualizations on the effects artists' flip charts. All skills and runes can be tested within the game. Of course, countless iterative passes are required for all of them to reach the level of quality required for the game to ship.

    It doesn't seem too far-fetched to assume that the rest of the game would have shown similar progression in the three months since BlizzCon 2010 in October. After all, one could play through the entire game already back then:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Interviewer: Can you play the game from the beginning to the end right now?

    Jay Wilson: Yea, you can actually play the game from the beginning to an end right now.

    Interviewer: How long has it been like that?

    JW: Um, not very long.

    Interviewer: Okay

    JW: So, and some of it is like, you know, I could say yes, you can play the game, you know, but like you walk in and a boss is like a big dude that just stands there and doesn't move. And you hit him once, and it says: "Congratulations! You killed the boss".

    So a lot of stuff we put in place so that we can see how the game flows. And then we add in the elements later. So when I say that we can play through, there are some really rough sections. It's not like it's all one hundred per cent done. But you can actually walk from beginning to end.

    It's hard to know whether these speculations have any real base. However, with the time that has passed since then, it really wouldn't seem too far-fetched to guess that the actual game areas would be in a similar shape to the skills. Perhaps some sound effects missing here and some animations there. But, this would indicate that they seem to be entering the iteration process preceding the actual game launch. We mustn't get ahead of ourselves, though, as no-one can really know how long the iteration process might take.

    But it's good to know that within the impenetrable walls of Blizzard's Irvine offices progress is being made.

    Other piece of good knows was literally small:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo Will there be little critters on the ground that you can splash with your boots? I loved it in D2.
    Diablo: @Venator_ Yes! And there are a ton more.
    Duriel's maggots
    This is good news for all the haters of spiders and scorpions, for whom one of the highlights of Diablo II were the sounds those little bugs made when they stomped on them. Who here admits that - Duriel Duriel's bad loot was more than made up by all those entertaining maggots he released upon death?

    The Bad

    For every yin there is a yang, for every coin there is its backside, and for every good news the bad news. This is the bad news.

    The villain in this thread is the Demon Hunter:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo Can we expect to see the male Demon Hunter before February?
    Diablo: @Lytus Unlikely. He went back to animation, some of his moves weren't gelling quite right.

    So, to slightly diminish the anticipation created two weeks ago, we have at least another week of waiting ahead of us. Probably some more. We learned that the Demon Hunter required further work in the animations department.

    With this new revelation, I wouldn't perhaps wait for him to be revealed before mid February.

    One thing to take home from this statement is the fact that why does it matter if some of his animations were sub-par if all they're going to reveal is some concept art and the idle animation on the webpage? Perhaps they plan to release a Demon Hunter skill or two alongside the male DH, with the newly released male version showcasing them in short clips. Maybe we're finally to see the enigmatic Sentry?

    Perhaps this is what @Diablo referred to in his reply to Sixen:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo: Are there any plans for a site update in the not-too-distant future?
    Diablo: @TheChatGem Define distant...

    Maybe there is a small site update to celebrate the announcement of the male DH? Don't get too excited, as this might not be the case. The prospect is enticing, however.

    Another piece of slightly less bad news is this:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    @Diablo I was also wondering if we'll get a look at the WD's Gargantuan anytime soon.
    Diablo: @Hakuro93 Probably not super soon, but the model was recently completed.

    Gargantuan, one of the - Witch Doctor Witch Doctor's summons has so far been eluded screenshots fervently, but now we learned why. In tune with the piece of information that all skills are in the first stage of implementation, the summon's model was finished recently.

    We know little of Witch Doctor's Gargantuan, besides the skill description:

    "Summon a large Zombie follower to fight for you."

    While the two games share little in common, and have a totally different style of graphics, but I must not be the only one who has an image of the Gargantuar from Plants vs. Zombies, the PopCap Games' hit game. I just can't wait to see a huge zombie bashing some demon skulls in. I have a feeling that the Gargantuan will work similar to how the - Necromancer Necromancer's" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - Golems"/> Golems and the - Druid Druid's Bear" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - Grizzly Bear"/> Grizzly Bear did in Diablo II.

    This concludes this post. Lets hope the week will see some more exciting tweets or blue posts. In case you're suffering from some withdrawal symptoms, be sure to check the gameplay footage compendium here for your daily fix.
    Posted in: The Good and the Bad News
  • published the article A DiabloFans Editorial: Reunions

    Blizzard is rather known for making subtle inter-game and intercultural references and hiding easter eggs into their games. Therefore we have reason to expect that Diablo III will be no exception. More than likely it'll be littered with references to earlier Diablo games and perhaps some other Blizzard franchises as well. After all, - Wirt Wirt from the original Diablo has had his first leg in Diablo II, second leg in Warcraft III and third leg in World of Warcraft.

    One kind of a reference is cameo roles by characters that appeared in previous games. Because twenty years have passed since the happenings of Diablo II and its expansion pack, the Lord of Destruction, this affects which of the NPCs we are prone to encounter in the upcoming sequel. This editorial is an attempt in making an educated guess as to who we are going to perhaps meet.

    Most of the embedded pictures will take you to a higher resolution version if you click them.

    Confirmed Cameos
    Cain and his stepdaughter Leah.
    Right now and probably up until release the most clearly confirmed cameo will be no other than - Deckard Cain Deckard Cain aka the Elder" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - Cain the Elder"/> Cain the Elder. A pivotal character in all the earlier Diablo games, Cain was featured in the announcement video from Worldwide Invitational 2008 event in Paris and as well in the background of some screenshots showcasing the artisan system, standing in the town of - New Tristram New Tristram with his stepdaughter, - Leah Leah.

    Another confirmed cameo role will be performed by the lone other survivor of - Tristram Tristram; - Adria Adria the Witch. Featured in a piece of concept art and confirmed by Jay Wilson in an interview, she has been confirmed to have survived the ransacking of the town.

    Up until recently, a third confirmed cameo was the Barbarian from Diablo II. Originally the Barbarian in Diablo III had been confirmed to be the same barbarian from the prequel twenty years later. However, recently Bashiok flashed the possibility that they might consider changing this so that the barbarian would follow the trend where both genders of each of the classes have the same background:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    the barbarian is the only class that has a separate backstory for each gender.

    There were talks shortly after BlizzCon about this and I believe the idea to give the male barbarian a unique story as compared to the female gender is now in question. It's very likely to be simplified, the male barbarian would not be unique, and would no longer be spelled out as the barbarian from Diablo II.

    Fourth confirmed cameo is no other than the Archangel - Tyrael Tyrael. A major protagonist in the events of Diablo, he has been seen in the cinematic trailer that was launched alongside the game itself. There has been widespread confusion about the true nature of Tyrael, and some have hypothesized that the Archangel is actually evil in nature. See here for discussion on this subject. Without restating too much that has already been said over and over again, one cannot but wonder what was Tyrael's motive behind sending - Marius Marius, the narrator of the first five act cinematics of Diablo II, for a mission that was bound to fail. We will perhaps know when the game is released.

    After these four, we enter the shady area that is mostly based on speculation on what areas we might possibly visit and which of the NPCs from the past might be inhabiting these locations. One guideline for guessing who we might encounter is considering how old the NPCs were during the events of Diablo II and estimating whether they are still alive twenty years after.
    However, this is no strict rule that Blizzard is forced to follow as the survival of the elderly Deckard Cain proves us.

    It is hard to guess which of the past enemies we are going to see in a form or another, as the appearance of - King Leoric King Leoric from Diablo I as the - Skeleton King Skeleton King tells us, so I will keep the focus of this editorial on the heroes and town NPCs, since the possibility of undead revival can bring us back basically anyone Blizzard considers worthy of resurrection.

    Update: - Asheara Asheara is a confirmed cameo as well. She gave the first quest in the BlizzCon 2009 demo.


    Some of the most prominent cameos we saw in Diablo II were the three heroes of the original game. Maddened by their descend into the hell beneath Tristram, we met them as shambling shells of their past selves. The - Rogue Rogue as the - Blood Raven Blood Raven, the - Sorcerer Sorcerer as - The Summoner The Summoner and most notably the - Warrior Warrior as the - Dark Wanderer Dark Wanderer, host to no other than the Lord of Terror - Diablo Diablo himself.

    We've already been hinted that we will be meeting most if not all of the heroes from Diablo II:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Q: In Diablo 2, we saw the fate of heroes from Diablo 1. Will we see Diablo 2 heroes in Diablo 3?

    Wilson: You will see the fate of not necessarily every hero, but we do plan to put in at least one. I would like us to do more. One we had planned was cut.

    The seven Diablo II heroes.

    Some fans felt dissatisfied with the way the fates of the original three heroes were handled and as such, it is doubtful that Blizzard will play the "mad heroes" card extensively this time. As already mentioned, the Barbarian we are supposed to play with, and it isn't ruled out that others might return as playable classes in the expansion.

    An interesting detail to remember is that out of the classes featured in the original Diablo's Sierra-made only partially canon expansion pack, the Hellfire, - Barbarian Barbarian and the - Monk Monk have later surfaced as official classes. Only the Bard remains unaccounted for. There was an April Fools' Day joke about the class, though, so I doubt we'll be seeing her. The reason for these cameos is probably the fact that most of Hellfire consisted of material Blizzard had already made but decided to cut from the original due to quality reasons.

    Because Blizzard might have plans to reintroduce some of the old classes, we might not see the fate of every Diablo II hero. Biggest candidates for revival might be the - Paladin Paladin or - Necromancer Necromancer. - Sorcerer Sorcerer is too similar to the - Wizard Wizard and the - Assassin Assassin and - Amazon Amazon share a lot of overlap with the - Demon Hunter Demon Hunter. - Druid Druid might be a wild card as the class was quite underwhelming in Diablo II, but it might cause an outcry as World of Warcraft's Druid class is already heavily based on Diablo II's equivalent. As of now, Diablo III lacks a shape-shifting class, but Druid's overlap with the Witch Doctor in summoning skills might prevent his return.

    Act I

    Entrance to the Rogue Monastery in Diablo II.
    A while back the Lead World Designer of Diablo III, Leonard Boyarsky, had this to say about revisiting old locations:

    Official Blizzard Quote:

    Q: Besides a return to Tristram and its Cathedral. Can players expect to revisit locations in the previous games?

    Leonard Boyarsky: Locations? No. We had actually talked about revisiting some of them and we went through a lot different iterations, as we do on everything, but it just seems like we wanted to go to new places and expose more of the world, because people have seen those places and we wanted to kind of really just expand what people experience of the world.

    As such, they didn't have plans to revisit locations back then. This is probably due to the fact that Diablo III will be the last game in this particular story arch that begun with the events of the original Diablo. This conjoined with the fact that Act I was perhaps one of the most iconic and best depicted acts of Diablo II tells us that we more than likely are not going to visit Rogue Monastery and the areas surrounding it. After all, we have the whole rest of the kingdom of Westmarch left to visit and Blizzard isn't confined by past decisions when deciding the look and feel of these unvisited new areas.

    However, since twenty years has passed, this is not an obstacle for most of the NPCs as they might just have moved into settlements we are visiting in Diablo III.
    As a caravan head, - Warriv Warriv lives a very nomadic lifestyle. I'd say that he is more than probably going to be met in a form or another during Diablo III. More so because he was the first NPC we talked in Diablo II, giving us the introductory speech to the game, and as such is a possibility for a memorable story arch that is hard to pass. - Charsi Charsi, by the virtue of being one of the youngest members of the - Rogue Encampment Rogue Encampment, more than probably is alive. It is within the realm of possibility that we will be meeting her in one of the towns and cities we will be visiting. Perhaps after the events of Diablo II, she followed her passion
    Gheed and Gheed's hat.
    for Barbarians and has traveled up north and we are going to encounter her in - Bastion's Keep Bastion's Keep.

    The traveling merchant - Gheed Gheed, with his witty remarks and wide array of wares available for gambling is one of the most remembered characters of the Rogue Encampment. He could easily be mistaken to be older than what he really is. What at first glance looks like white hair is actually a white hat. As such, he's probably still alive and being a travelling merchant, we are prone to meet him during Diablo III. Perhaps he's seen profiting in New Tristram? Or perhaps he has since changed his league and is a major figure in - Caldeum Caldeum? Only the future will tell.

    As members of the Rogue sisterhood, - Akara Akara, - Flavie Flavie and - Kashya Kashya are probably bound by location the most out of all the inhabitants we encountered in the Rogue Encampment. The possibility of seeing them someplace acting as messengers or ambassadors exists, but I doubt we are going to see all three.

    Act II

    Lut Gholein as seen in a Diablo II cinematic.
    Not unlike the Rogue Encampment, we are probably not going to revisit - Lut Gholein Lut Gholein. Even more so because Caldeum, bearing much resemblance in style of the city has been confirmed to be a location we're visiting. Due to all this, I doubt we're going to meet all of the citizens we met there.
    Meshif in Act II
    As a seafaring traveler, I'd say that we more than likely will encounter the ship captain - Meshif Meshif. Perhaps his ship is docked in some of the major cities we might end up visiting during the first act: Westmarch or Kingsport mayhap. Perhaps he will once more help the story's heroes cross the Twin Seas. I'd consider this probable. - Fara Fara and - Greiz Greiz are perhaps the most likely candidates for NPCs we will be encountering after Meshif. Greiz because after we banished most of the evil from the deserts surrounding Lut Gholein in Diablo II, the hired guards would probably be no longer needed as much. Furthermore, because we cleared the Arcane Sanctuary underneath Jerhyn's palace and as such Jerhyn's own guards could resume their duties guarding the town. If there are mercenaries in Diablo III, my guess is that one of the people we hire them from will be Greiz.

    Fara on the other hand might have migrated elsewhere as she didn't seem to be much tied to the city and most of her business selling and repairing armor for the city's guards and mercenaries would have probably slowed during the peaceful times. Because of her background as a former Holy warrior for the Church of Light who left because she saw the corruption, it is totally possible we might encounter her waging a war against the corrupted church of Zakarum. - Drognan Drognan, - Elzix Elzix and - Lysander Lysander were rather old in Diablo II, so their probable status is deceased by now. Jerhyn as the leader of Lut Gholein is most bound by it. - Atma Atma, as the innkeeper, is probably too busy to leave Lut Gholein. - Kaelan Kaelan (the man who guarded Jerhyn's palace) is a bit of a mystery, but it is within the realm of possibility that he has risen in rank and acts now as Jerhyn's ambassador someplace. Who knows.

    Act III

    A concept image of some jungle ruins. Travincal?
    After - Kurast Kurast was destroyed during the events of Diablo II, its inhabitants fled to Caldeum, which we will be visiting. This makes it more than likely that we will be meeting a number of old NPCs from - Kurast Docks Kurast Docks.

    The mad poet Ormus - Ormus Ormus was quite the interesting character, so I'd see it quite a high possibility that Blizzard would want him to return. His age is hard to estimate, but the mad poet seems to be young enough to still be alive. However, an interesting thing to remember is that - Natalya Natalya was in the Kurast Docks to monitor Ormus and make sure he wasn't corrupted by Mephisto. Perhaps Mephisto succeeded after all and Ormus will be a major antagonist in the sequel? Can't wait to know.

    Natalya, the mysterious watchwoman and a member of the - Vizjerei Vizjerei clan's private assassin order, the - Viz-Jaq'taar Viz-Jaq'taar, was perhaps one of the most underutilized characters of Diablo II. Since Caldeum is home to the Vizerjei among other mage clans, I have a gut feeling that we will be learning more of this mysterious woman and her secret order of mage-slayers. - Alkor Alkor, the grumpy potion dealer, most likely will have died by now. Which of the others we will encounter I cannot really say. None of them didn't really seem pivotal characters, so it's up to Blizzard once again whether we will be seeing - Hratli Hratli.

    Update: - Asheara Asheara is a confirmed cameo. She gave the first quest in the BlizzCon 2009 demo. As such, we will be seeing the leader of the Iron Wolves again.

    Act IV

    A concept art of Tyrael.
    We know little of the denizens of the - Pandemonium Fortress Pandemonium Fortress or even the fortress itself. Both of its dwellers - - Halbu Halbu and - Jamella Jamella - appeared young enough to basically be still alive twenty years later. Both are warriors of light, brave enough to journey to the stronghold at the footsteps of evil. Their appearances in Diablo II were so enigmatic that whether they will appear in the sequel and in what
    form is totally up to what the story writers at Blizzard decide. As such, I won't even attempt to make guesses.

    One probable cameo we might be encountering is - Hadriel Hadriel, the Angel tirelessly guarding the entrance into Diablo's - Chaos Sanctuary Chaos Sanctuary. As the other Angel of the only two depicted in the game, I don't see how Blizzard could pass on the chance to have us visit him. After all, the other Act IV angel, Tyrael, is practically confirmed to be seen.

    Act V

    A concept image of a snowy city. Early concept of Bastion's Keep? - Harrogath Harrogath was destroyed at the end of Diablo II when - Mount Arreat Mount Arreat and the - Worldstone Worldstone within exploded. It is unknown whether this might have killed some of the townsfolk, but judging from the fact that Deckard Cain and probably all the player heroes survived, - Tyrael Tyrael might have protected all of the others as well.

    Bastion's Keep, the new barbarian stronghold, which was confirmed to a great length to be one of Diablo III locations in one of the BlizzCon 2010 panels, more than likely will sport some of the still living NPCs from Harrogath.
    Saved Anya - Anya Anya by the virtue of her young age and as a daughter of one of the clan elders slain by - Baal Baal, is basically nothing short of a confirmed cameo. She will probably be the leader or at least one of the leaders of Bastion's Keep and the barbarians therein. I have a feeling she will play an important role in the story.

    Another likely candidate is - Larzuk Larzuk, the young blacksmith of the barbarians. It wouldn't probably be a too far-fetched guess to make that he'll be the master of Bastion's Keeps armory. Either him or Charsi - or perhaps both.

    On the other hand, the elderly - Malah Malah - Anya's grandmother - and - Qual-Kehk Qual-Kehk have more than likely perished by old age by now. I doubt we will be encountering them.

    I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it.

    But what do you think, who are we going to meet?
    Posted in: A DiabloFans Editorial: Reunions
  • published the article Two Stashes, No Jewels, New Shrines and the Enigmatic Sentry
    As usual, along the week we have been graced with little teaser-length tweets that have told us little insignificant glimpses of the development of Diablo III. Nothing to really warrant for their own news posts, though. This is a collection of such interesting glimpses with the necessary background provided to fit the tweets into the correct context. I purposefully omitted those containing little to none new information, but you can see them in our tracker.

    The first tweets were posted already last week, where they continued to tell us details of the shared stash they told they had now implemented into the game:

    @Diablo Awesome! So, do players only get a shared stash, or do they get a shared stash and a normal stash?
    Diablo: @GenericJargon Both. And they're huge.[/BLIZZ]

    To continue this elaboration of the stashes, they assured us that mules won't be as prominent a feature as they were back in Diablo II, in reply to our own news staff member Jackzor:

    @Diablo Even with a huge stash, wont we eventually fill it up across large amounts of characters? r the shared & normal stashs the same size
    Diablo: @Jackzor24 I would never presume to underestimate someone's desire to amass large amounts of junk. Mules will happen. But not as much.[/BLIZZ]

    This should delight all the pack rats out there. I personally don't really think that a stash could be too big. I also like that there will be in fact two stashes, a personal and a shared one.

    In a reply to an another of our staff members, Ophion, Blizzard confirmed us that right now gems are the only items able to be inserted into sockets:

    @Diablo Will we be able to socket our items with something other than gems? Jewels perhaps?
    Diablo: @emilemil1 There's a potential for it, but as it stands now sockets have one item type that can be placed into them - gems.[/BLIZZ]
    This follows in the footsteps of the earlier installment. In the original game gems were the only socketable just alike. This array of choices was expanded in the expansion pack, which introduced - Jewels Jewels and - Runes Runes. You can see a DIII gem on the right, click for a bigger picture.

    While it seems that runes won't be returning in the form they were back in Diablo II because runes are placed into skills now, Jewels might return, but probably in an expansion pack at earliest. There always exists other kinds of possible socketable systems Blizzard might implement, and only future alone knows. Right now I'm satisfied with a balanced Gem system, where collecting the highest gem levels is going to take some time.

    Last week they told us about the Sentry, a new Demon Hunter skill, but remained mysterious about its workings. The name alone brought us memories of the - Assassin Assassin and her various traps, called sentries just alike. This made many fans ponder whether this new DH skill shared some similarities with those traps. @Diablo shot those lines of thought down:

    @Diablo So the Sentry was given to the Demon Hunter. Is this identical to the Assassin's sentry? I'm dying to know how runes change it.
    Diablo: @NocturneGS The assassin sentries were more like stationary magic dispensers. The demon hunter sentry is more like something a spy would sap[/BLIZZ]

    That was about all we could deduct from this tweet. It once again raised abundance of new questions. What is something a spy would sap? Perhaps this contraption isn't magical? Sapping brought debuffs instantly into my mind, while others thought of the Engineer's Sentry Gun in Team Fortress II. But on the other hand, the tweet lets us understand that this gadget might be a mobile..." class="wiki-link">" alt=" - Valkyrie"/> Valkyrie-equivalent?

    We probably won't know before Blizzard tells us more.

    Finally, @Diablo told us that" class="wiki-link">" alt=" - Shrines"/> Shrines are going to receive a new cohesive look:

    [BLIZZ=""]Diablo: Shrines are receiving new visuals to give them a more cohesive look.[/BLIZZ]

    While the existence of shrines in Diablo III isn't a surprise for those who have played the BlizzCon demos, we know little of how shrines will work in Diablo III. You can see a blurry cropped still from this video, featuring a shrine. It's unclear whether they refer to the same shrine looking cohesive in different acts, shrines looking cohesive within the environment they are in or different shrines looking cohesive - or perhaps all of these. Can't wait to see the new shrines.

    However, they have touched the shrine functionality a couple of times so it might be in place to recap the little we know, for example during BlizzCon 2008 press conference Jay Wilson had this to say:

    [BLIZZ=""]Question: Will there be shrines in Diablo 3?

    Jay Wilson: We have not decided about it. We have ideas for shrines. The things is that only two shrines were actually interesting to the player: Experience Shrines and Monster Shrines. Other shrines where like “nah”. We want to bring some system in with this functionality. This is where the combo exp bonus comes from. It’s not replacing shrines, but it’s playing in to it.[/BLIZZ]

    Side note: the combo exp bonus Jay is referring to means the system where you gain additional experience if you kill a large number of monsters in rapid succession.

    The latest news we've got regarding shrines was featured in the BlizzCast 8:

    [BLIZZ=""]Bornakk: We have a couple Q&A questions for you today. The first one is from Daleks on USEast. Will shrines be making a return to the world of Sanctuary in Diablo 3?

    Jay Wilson: Well there are some aspects of shrines that we liked, experience shrines I think are probably the prime example everyone uses. They're fun because they drive the player forward. Monster shrines are sometimes fun because they bring out a rare that you didn’t know or weren’t expecting that could come from any direction and that’s cool. But for the most part, the pure mechanic of shrines, a random powerup that just appears in the world for no reason, we don’t really want to litteraly bring that back. What we are going to try to do is integrate a lot of the best things of shrines into our quest and event systems so that when you encounter a random quest or random event that has a story context within the game it either rewards you like a shrine would reward you or something that is actually built into the gameplay of the quest. So while technically no shrines are not coming back verbatim, we are trying to bring back kind of the best things of them in a different form.

    Bornakk: So you'll still have the randomness and spontanenity of it.

    Jay Wilson: Exactly, and really they are kind of there to change up the gameplay and add a little factor of randomness, but we felt that very few of the shrines actually did that – accomplish that goal...

    Bornakk: Stamina shrine?

    Jay Wilson: Yeah, stamina shrine lets you run a long time. Skill shrine made you a little bit more powerful. We feel like we can take the best and put them within actual events that are a lot more fun and have a lot more gameplay to them.[/BLIZZ]

    They have also told us, for example, that there will be a MF shrine. That sounds like a perfect one to fit their design philosophy. Nothing to get you in a flurry to kill as many monsters as possible like a temporary buff increasing your drop chances. I still like the sound of that.

    Now, back to wait in anticipation for the Male Demon Hunter.
    Posted in: Two Stashes, No Jewels, New Shrines and the Enigmatic Sentry