Yesterday we were privileged to a "sneak peek" of the new Followers system that will be used in Diablo III. Unfortunately, this leaked video left us with only the basic construct of the system and left room for plenty of speculation. Well, today comes with a slew of interviews from Jay Wilson and Leonard Boyarsky. They go into some detail about just how the system is working and how we will interact with these newly added characters.
First, some nitty gritty about the characters themselves. We learned yesterday that the three Followers are the Enchantress, Scoundrel, and Templar, but just who are these characters? Each one will have their own unique story and personality to add to the game. As you play through the main story arc, you will run across these characters in need of some form of assistance. After helping them through their own journey, they will lend their abilities to you. As they venture with you, you will explore their backstories. They will make note of particular instances or comment on something that is going on. They will help tell the story to the player while they are out fighting demons instead of having to sit and read some books.
Beginning with the Templar, named Kormac, he is a stoic character with righteousness on his side. His order is actually trying to retrieve scrolls and books that Lazarus had taken before the story of Diablo I. Betrayed by a corrupt member, you will find Kormac locked up in a dungeon. After you free him and slay the corrupt order member, the Templar will offer his services of protection to you. Kormac has a varying play style that will be valuable no matter what class you are playing. If you need a tank character, he will be able to fill this role very well. However, if you are already a melee oriented character, the Templar can offer healing and other supportive abilities.
After finding and rescuing Kormac, the next Follower you will run into is Lyndon the Scoundrel. Lyndon is a dark humor type character with a questionable sense of morality. Once belonging to a thieves guild, Lyndon was disgraced and thrown out of the guild. Perhaps motivated for more personal gain, he will join you for opportunities to obtain better riches and items. Lyndon is a sort of throw back to the Diablo I Rogue. His focus will be on ranged attacks with the use of a bow or crossbow. However, if a ranged damage dealer is not something you are interested in, he also has a variety of other skills that are more focused on his Scoundrel title like helping you get more gold.
The last Follower you will run into, about a third of the way into the story, is the Enchantress Eirena. Her story is a bit more shady and will unravel as the story continues. All we know when we meet her is that she is following a Prophet who has the ability to control people. In the midst of a fight, she is trying to protect some people and needs your help to save them. After doing so, she will follow you on your heroic journey. Offering magic-based ranged attacks, Eirena will be able to cast from afar to deal damage. However, thanks to her skills gained from the Prophet, she can also offer you services in helping control your foes for you to kill.
Moving past their stories, we go into the mechanics of how this system will work. First and foremost, it is important to note that the Followers system will only be available to those playing in a game by themselves. If another player joins the game, the Follower will head back to your caravan. However, if you find yourself alone again in this fight, the Follower will come right back to aid you. This was done to help players who want to play by themselves but decrease the clutter if multiple people are in one game. Along with this, despite having all three Followers at your disposal, you may only use the services of one at a time. But do not worry, all three will gain experience regardless if they are being used or not. This will allow you to use them when you want to and not because you have to in order to level them up. You can also switch them out whenever you want to aid you best in different scenarios. If a follower "dies," you will not have to go back to town resurrect them. This is how it was originally planned but Blizzard felt like it took too much time away from fighting and caused players to not even use them. Instead, the characters will be knocked out temporarily. After about 15-20 seconds, they will regain consciousness and rejoin the fight. If this is too much time for you, you can channel on them and help revive them sooner. To help keep them fighting longer, they will also gain the effect from any health globe you pick up.
Each Follower comes with their own unique skill set to choose from. Every five levels up to 20, you will gain access to a new set with three different choices. You can choose one from that set to help cater to your liking. Along with skills, you will be able to customize your Followers with some gear. One amulet and two rings will be able to be equipped by them to help customize their stats to the play style you have planned for them. Along with this is a weapon slot. Each Follower will have a distinct group of weapon choices that they can equip but there will still be some variety. Perhaps a heavy damage dealer is what you want for your Templar, so you give him a two-handed weapon. But if you are looking for a tank, then you can give them a sword and shield. The last item slot, which can be seen in the inventory screenshots, is for a class specific item. The only one we know for sure is the Templar's tomes. Speculation for the other two may be a satchel or quiver for the Scoundrel and perhaps some off-hand orb for the Enchantress. These unique items will only be for each particular Follower. These characters were purposely left with a limit to their customization and stats to help lighten the load of these characters. Blizzard did not want players to feel like they were leveling a second character. Instead, you are able to help design this person who will fight along with you when needed.
Moving on to the last part, the way the Followers function in a game is very important. Their are no direct controls for your Followers. Meaning, you cannot tell them to attack a particular unit or to heal you whenever. Instead, this will all be handled by the advanced AI system that has improved since the previous game. Player control is more based on the skills you give them. An example that was given of the AI is the Enchantress' energy bomb skill. A massive AoE, the Enchantress will use this skill when the player is low on health to help clear out some demons and hopefully get some health orbs. Healing and other support skills will be used similarly to best help your character in the fight. Now, there are a lot of people who are afraid that these Followers can be used to do all the killing for you while you just stand and wait; this will not be the case. This is handled in two ways. First, monster AI is improved. Back in Diablo II, you could just stand back as all of the demons would attack your hireling. Now, monsters will not just target the player closest to them. Certain monsters are programmed to go after the person in the back first while others will go after the biggest threat at the moment. Players will constantly have to be on their toes this time when fighting hordes of enemies. If this is not enough for you, then each Follower can be managed to not steal kills from you and instead just help you kill them more easily. If you do not want to spec you Follower with damage skills, then you can focus on more crowd control skills so you can still do all of the killing, or even choose more passive bonuses like extra magic or gold find. Either way, they have designed these Followers to not be a necessity to the game but will just aid you if you would like. Keep in mind, that they will also still level with you even if they are not being used so if you decide you want to use them later, you will not have to go back to re-level them.
If you would like to read any of the interviews that were conducted, you can check out the links below. You can also check out the official Diablo3 site page.