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Exclusive Diablo III Interview from Leipzig GC '08 - Full Transcript

Posted Thu, Sep 04, 2008 by Garrett Fuller

By Garrett Fuller, Industry Relations

During Ten Ton Hammer’s visit to the Leipzig Games Convention, we had the opportunity to sit down with Diablo III’s lead designer, Jay Wilson, and have an in-depth conversation about the upcoming RPG, what players should expect from the game, and how Diablo III will take the Diablo experience to the next level. While our video interview has been live for a few days, we’re now happy to present a transcript of the encounter for those individuals without fast connections and/or poor audio. Sit back, grab a cold beverage, and enjoy the interview!


There are three core goals for the Diablo III development team.

Ten Ton Hammer: We have the great chance to talk with Jay Wilson, Lead designer of Diablo 3 here at the Leipzig Game conference.

To start off Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 were huge game play initiatives in the gaming industry; they bought so much to the table. There have been a ton of imitators, but now Diablo 3 has the chance to bring something great to the table again, what will Diablo 3 be bringing to the table this time around?

Jay Wilson: Well, initially what we talk about is sort of the core three goals for Diablo 3. The first one is to kind of live up to Diablo franchise. Which may seem obvious, but it is not a franchise or a genre that has really been thoroughly explored. So we want to make sure that when people play the game it at its core it feels like Diablo, but we also look at the two complete components which is action and role playing. We want to enhance both of those. So on the action side we made a lot of what seem like small changes, but they actually have a big impact overall on how the game is played.

We changed how the health system works, so you can make combat more tactical. So you know don’t have to aimlessly pop potions anymore to get health back. You actually have to get health out of the world from monsters that drop globes and things that create all kinds of tactical situations. It allows us to design monsters that are a lot more varied and don’t just crush you with damage because the player class is not quite the insurmountable character they were in Diablo 2. They have a little bit more limitation. We also tried to up the individual sense of power, so when you see the Barbarian or Witch Doctor moving through the world they are incredibly powerful, visceral characters. Even though we have given them some restriction in the action set, they are incredibly visceral more so than the previous games.

On the role playing side what we really focused on is the Diablo series is as a series a fairly limited kind of story. It was given a small treatment and it was mostly just kind of a big box filled with monsters. That is one of the things we really wanted to change. We wanted to blow out the Diablo world, really explore it and give it some dimensions and depth. We wanted it to feel like a world that is alive. So what we focused is ways to integrate the scripted events and story events into our random features.

We have a new system called Adventurers which allows us to randomly place scripted events almost anywhere in the world. Those events lead to all kinds of stories. We have also given the player characters their own voice in the story. Their character and their classes have their own story lines, background, and quests. Our quests are really involved and really affect game play. So we really tried to expand the core elements of the Diablo series.

The Witch Doctor is a new class in Diablo III.

Ten Ton Hammer: Let’s talks classes for a second. We have seen the Barbarian. I am convinced that Blizzard does voodoo, witch doctor theme better than anyone. Can you tell us about the new face in Diablo, the Witch Doctor?

Jay Wilson: The Witch Doctor is really all about how we had this idea of a character who used a lot of voodoo, zombies, mind control, disease, and fire, we through fire in because to set stuff on fire is pretty awesome. So, for us, he is a really interesting class to play. We had this idea of a pet class character whose pets are very transient. We actually consider the Wall of Zombies spell like a pet. A pet that shows up and kills some things then goes away. Then some of his more long term pets, he does not really have ways for them to recover; he just recycles them a lot.

If they are near death he just blows them up and uses them as a weapon as well. He is really the focus. Unlike some pet classes whose pets are really the focus for damage, his pets don’t do a lot of damage on their own, unless he blows them up. He really does all the damage. He is also though a short range kind of class. He does not have a lot of health, so using those pets and mind control spells are a really necessary element to having him deliver his core damage.

Ten Ton Hammer: As I said, the voodoo thing is just great.

Jay Wilson: We are really happy with how the class turned out.

Ten Ton Hammer: Battle.net was a huge factor for Diablo and Diablo 2. With the explosion of the online game market, as you well know, what will the new Battle.net do for players?

Jay Wilson: Well we have a brand new version of the Battle.net that is in the works. It’s going to come out with Starcraft 2. I cannot really steal their thunder in terms of the specific feature set, because that is their announcement to make. What I can talk about is the philosophy. It is essentially as a company our goal is to provide the best online experience that players will have in gaming.

We have the best fan base in the world. Our fans our wonderful, dedicated, loyal, they give us great feedback. We could not be luckier to have such a great fan base. One of the things that we think makes them so great is as a community how they come together. So we want to be able to provide them tools to facilitate that community more easily. We want them to be able to communicate with one another really easily when they are playing online. To be able to jump into games with one another, find friends both new and old in a very simple manner. That is really what it is about.

Ten Ton Hammer: Tell us a little about how the character customization will play into the game?

Blizzard has the best fan base in the world, according to Jay.

Jay Wilson: One of the things that we decided to stick too is that the Diablo series tends to be like once you start the game you get in really, really fast. So we did avoid a lot of visual customizations, also the character is fairly small on screen so when we play around with ideas like that we found that most of them didn’t play well. So we decided that we wanted to get into the game and get into the action, but we wanted to make sure that players could choose their own gender. It is pretty important. Probably more so than we initially realized back when Diablo 2 was made, I don’t think anyone really thought about it much. Then we found that some players would not play classes because they did not want to play the opposite gender. Or they did not like the choice that they had to make. So we definitely wanted to add that.

In game, a lot of the customization in Diablo 2 focuses around the skill system or the loot. The skill system we cannot reveal yet, but we are definitely looking to not only match the level of customization that Diablo 2 to had, but expand on it. On the loot side, one of the great things about Diablo games which we really are holding true too is that there is an enormous amount of items threw random generation. All of our items are randomly generated, even the stats on them. Even on items that are named, specific items,   
We might determine what kinds of properties, but even the range of those properties is still random. So there is a lot of, it is almost like a never ending treasure hunt.

In terms of visual customization we have raised across the board how loot affects the player. In Diablo 2 it was the head piece, chest piece, and weapons where the only things that impacted the player. Some people thought that the boots and the gloves did, but they did not actually affect the look of the player it was all based on the quality of the chest piece. We’ve actually added gloves, boots, we’ve added new slots for hands and shoulders, chest piece, helmets, weapons all affect the look of the character. We have a lot more variants in look switches than the previous game did. Even across regular items but also weapons and everything like that there is going to be a lot more items that affect the look of the game.

Ten Ton Hammer: I am very excited to ask you this, one of the huge elements of the Diablo series is the boss fights. Everybody looks forward to those big boss fights. I know you have a special place in your heart for it. So tell us about the boss fights!

Jay Wilson: Well, the thing is I love really good boss fights. I would use games like God of War, Zelda, andWorld of Warcraft, as an example of fantastic boss fights. I look at Diablo 2 and the characters were really impressive, but a lot of the boss fights were just this giant sack of health and damage. That you ended up playing a battle of attrition with. We definitely want to get away from that.

One of the things that I wanted to point out about the game play video we had released there are a couple of creatures in there that people call bosses which aren’t. We actually do not consider those bosses. The first one you encounter is just a normal monster that you deal with. The last one is sort of a mini boss, so he is not really one of the big in the back bosses. You know our goal is to create very elaborate staged bosses that offer very dynamic game play. We don’t really want a game that crushed you with damage; that is not a very interesting fight. We also don’t want a fight where you come up toe to toe and trade punches and stuff. So we really want a fight where there is mechanics that you have to deal with. I would use, again to go back to any good boss fight from the previous games that we mentioned; that is what we want.

The Diablo team wants to create really solid boss fights.

Ten Ton Hammer: Last question because I know we’re low on time. As Lead Designer on the game, what excites you most about the game, from a personal standpoint?

 Jay Wilson: Personally, what I like the most is how we have handled the characters, you know the playable classes. As a player my favorite thing is that guy that I am on the screen. I want that guy to be ridiculous. I want him to be totally over the top. I want him to be able to take on one hundred monsters with out breaking a sweat. I want the ground to shake with my foot steps. That is something I think with Diablo 2, it is one of the things I love about the game is that the player classes were so powerful and cool. But, I think we did an even better job with that in Diablo 3.

If you look at what we have showed so far, we really tried to amp up that feeling and not just the actual skills and abilities, but the fact that the player classes have a voice. One of the things that we really make a big deal about that we really have not shown, but is really important to us is that the quests you get in the game, not all of them come from NPCs, a lot of them come from you. You decide I’m going to go and take that guy out. Because you are as much a part of the story and a bigger driver of the story than anyone else, and so you should really be initiating some of those things. So we like the fact that we’ve given the character voices, we have given them their own stories, their own character arcs. I think that really plays into the fact that we want those player characters and the player’s relationship with those characters to be really strong.

Ten Ton Hammer: Awesome. Jay I cannot thank you enough for taking time to chat with Ten Ton Hammer.

Jay Wilson: My pleasure.

Ten Ton Hammer: We all are looking forward to Diablo 3 when it comes out.  

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