Diablo IV Quarterly Update For June 2021
The latest quarterly update for Diablo IV is now live, with a heavy focus on the art side of development!
Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment (Official Post)
Table of Contents
- John Mueller, Art Director
- Arnaud Kotelnikoff, Lead Character Artist
- Nick Chilano, Associate Art Director, Characters
Hello, and welcome once again to a new Diablo IV Quarterly Update! We hope you enjoyed the Rogue class announcement during BlizzConline. We had a blast creating the Rogue and open-world video segments, sharing them with you, and seeing your reactions. It was especially cool to share our updates as part of the larger Diablo family alongside Diablo: Immortal and the all-new Diablo II: Resurrected (both of which I personally can’t wait to play with you all).
As we transition back to a blog format, we will continue to spotlight different aspects of development. Today we’re going to be focusing on Diablo IV character art—player characters, monsters, and allies.
Art is a critical part of what makes Diablo, well... Diablo. Our signature randomized dungeons would not feel like Diablo without the ominous lighting setting the mood as players uncover horrifying details around every dark corner. Combat only feels visceral thanks to carefully crafted animations and visual effects that make spells and abilities sing. And while stats might make or break an item, we often can’t wait to get our hands on a piece of gear purely because of how incredible it looks.
Character art is equally important as it encompasses two of Diablo’s key elements: classes and monsters. The look and feel of the classes has always been one of Diablo’s secret ingredients, each class instantly recognizable and imbued with a strong and unique personality. Diablo IV offers players more customization options than ever in a Diablo game, which makes achieving that result more challenging, but the outcome is well worth it. Your Barbarian is different from anyone else’s but still feels undeniably like a Barbarian. With monsters, the focus has been on creating new foes and updating classics drawn from the pantheon of atrocities in our previous games, while using new processes and technology to their fullest.
To give us a better look at everything involved in this process, I now leave the rest of the update in the hands of our very own Art Director, John Mueller, and his team.
We hope you enjoy it and look forward to your thoughts and reactions! As always, let us know what topics you want to hear about in the future. Be sure to stay tuned, as we’re planning to delve deeper into the topics of sound design and endgame systems later this year.
Thank you, and until next time!
Game Director, Diablo IV
We are excited to do a deep dive on the character art for Diablo IV! This is a pretty exciting topic for our team, because so damn much has changed from Diablo III! You will get to hear from our Lead Character Artist, Arnaud Kotelnikof, and Nick Chilano, our Associate Character Art Director. They will be sharing a lot of cool visuals from our ongoing development related to character art that we’re revealing here for the first time. There’s a lot of ‘work in progress’ here; our goal is to give you an early look at content to get a sense of the direction we are taking. I don’t have a lot of caveats, though, as at this point the work is a very good representation of what you will see when the game is in your hands.
When it comes to the topic of character art, I can say we've had an epic journey during development, so let's pull back the curtain and take a look! First, I need to give a big shout-out to our amazing character art team, engineering team, animators, lighting artists, and technical artists—without them, none of this would be possible!
When I think back to the beginning, I think at the highest level, our goal was to make the characters in Diablo IV look as artistic and as hand-crafted as possible using the latest tools and techniques. Over time, our ambitions around what we thought we could achieve evolved and really solidified into what you see today. We wanted to use the latest tools and techniques, but we did have a concern about leaning into ‘realism’ in a way that wouldn’t have that hand-crafted feeling we felt was fundamental to a Blizzard game. We didn’t want the characters to feel procedural or generic because of these processes. We also embraced realism in terms of materials and character appearance. I think the touchpoint being the amazing pre-rendered look from the Diablo III cinematics. We loved those and it felt like a strong foundation to build upon in regards to the characters and achieving that warm quality that came through in the cinematics but in a real-time game environment. We thought it was ambitious, but possible. This of course is a simplified summary of the thousands of conversations it took to achieve the results we have today, but what's meaningful is that during the journey nobody was arguing for our limitations. Nobody ever said we shouldn't, we couldn't, or we can't...everyone said yes, even when it meant starting over or throwing out work, everyone really pushed and brought their best to this work. I think this is one of the truly unique aspects of Blizzard...we all said 'Yes, and...' instead of 'No, because...' it's a wonderful aspect of working here.
That singular focus and commitment to quality led us down a very long, winding, and challenging path to where we are today. The challenges required us to completely rebuild our rendering engine and authoring tools. We needed to assemble a world-class character team comprised of artists, tools engineers, rigging specialists, lighting and surfacing experts. This was a complete overhaul.
We made massive improvements to the level of detail, the surfacing of complex materials like skin, cloth simulation, hair, fur, metal, even down to the details of the highlights of the eyes and rivulets of perspiration. We built a robust character customization system that is entirely new to Diablo and it was a daunting amount of technical character work. These solutions had to work not just for a single character, but for hundreds of componentized armor sets, different body types, dozens of unique personas, and completely unique art for five distinct classes (to start). This was an entirely new challenge for our team to tackle.
I can say now (with the hard work behind us and the comforting steady hum of our pipeline) that it was all worth it. We hope you agree (when you play it) that it really enhances the overall experience of the character's journey exploring the world of Sanctuary and makes the story, the gear, and the ways you see the characters of Sanctuary that much more enjoyable.
Most importantly, we hope you feel the love and care we've put into creating the gear and characters you will see in the game. Beyond just living out my most awesome Barbarian fantasy, we're honored to bring this work to you!
One of the benefits of the investments we've made in our character art development pipeline is that now most of our story cutscenes will be rendered in our engine using the game models. In previous Diablo games, the high fidelity cinematic story moments were all pre-rendered. We will still have those amazing cinematic moments from Blizzard Animation, but now we also have cinematic moments that feature your character up close, rendered in our game engine. We have been working closely with the legendary Blizzard Animation team to bring as much of their knowledge into our process as possible. The Rogue Announce trailer was a really fantastic collaboration where we were able to push the limits of our tech and tools.