BlizzCon: How to Make a Monster in Diablo III and Open Q&A

BlizzCon 2009 wasn't just about World of Warcraft. Diablo III, though still two years away, also made an appearance with the announcement of the new monk class. Several Blizzard developers walked us through the process of creating a monster in the game, and then the floor was opened up to fan questions. Join us as we take a look at the Diablo III goodies offered at BlizzCon '09.
Blizzard Entertainment continues work on Diablo III, and it certainly wasn’t absent from BlizzCon this year. The introduction of the monk class along with several other exciting announcements (that may have been brought up on a somewhat low key) had Diablo fans at the convention reeling with excitement.

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Entertainment continues work on Diablo
and it certainly wasn’t absent from
BlizzCon this year. The introduction of the monk class along with
several other exciting announcements (that may have been brought up on
a somewhat low key) had Diablo
fans at the convention reeling with excitement.

The Heroes and Monsters panel was of particular interest this year as
well as the Diablo III
Open Q&A where Blizzard took an hour to answer questions from
the players.

Jay Wilson, Game Director; Leonard Boyarsky, Lead World Designer; Wyatt
Chang, Technical Designer and Julian Love, Lead Technical Artist were
our hosts at the Heroes and Monsters panel. Jay Wilson kicked things
off with an answer to the question: “Why monk?”

The monk being the new class for Diablo
announced at the convention, the question certainly
was pertinent. Wilson explained the class was inspired by the pen and
paper RPG classes that don’t often make an appearance in
typical RP games. The class is fast and fragile, offering a good
contrast from the Barbarian. The team also wanted to have a bit of a
fighting game style in Diablo
and wanted to do something that wasn’t a
necessarily expected class. The class would have a lot of combo moves
and a lot of martial arts spiced up with holy magic to again contrast
the Barbarian class. Moreover, the team wanted a class that would be
more challenging to play at the beginning of the game, offering an
alternative to players that desired a less forgiving game.

Leonard Boyarsky then took over the discussion explaining that the monk
was envisioned as an Asian kung-fu meets Eastern European monk. These
holy fighters come from Ivgorod and were raised in monasteries where
they learned structure, meditation, and fighting techniques. A tattoo
on their backs of their 1001 gods takes a lifetime to complete. As the
holy warrior, they do the dirty work of the church. Monks are known
throughout the world and are feared and respected.

Wyatt Chang then led into an explanation of the combo system. The
emphasis of the game is on simple two mouse button play, but each click
is progressional, which allows unique combos. For example, a player
could open with the “Dash” from “Way of
the Hundred Fists,” followed by the second stage of
“Crippling Wave,” which is a debuff, and finish off
with the "Exploding Palm" which would place a Bleed effect on a
monster, causing it to explode shortly after. With a combo system like
this, the possibility for varied gameplay greatly increases.

Next, Julian Love walked us through how the monk’s style kit
was developed. A careful blending of martial arts animations with a
holy color palette of golds and silvers sprinkled lightly with runic
symbols flesh out the class’ overall feel and look. To finish
things off, to hint at a 2D-fighter game, some stylized effects are
added into various monk skills.

Monks haven’t been the sole focus of the developers, Love
noted. The Witchdoctor’s Spider Totem seen at last
year’s BlizzCon has changed to Carrion Spiders, which,
instead of a lot of small spiders scrambling out from a totem, fewer,
but much larger spiders will now come out of a summoned corpse. Also,
the Wizard Stoneskin defensive ability changed from a stoney texture to
a bright crystalline feel to compliment the theme of the class as a
light show. Barbarians, too, have had their whirlwind effect upgraded
to one-up the whirlwind ability of a new monster recently added to the
game, the Dune Dervish.

At that point, Wilson then discussed resource systems for the classes,
such as mana, fury and the like. Based on a similarity to the
Warrior’s Rage system from style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft,
the Barbarian’s Fury increases as the Barbarian does damage.
To meet the fast gameplay of the Diablo universe, Fury can be regained
much faster than one would see in the afore mentioned style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft.
A properly timed Barbarian can regenerate fury as fast as they can
spend it, but they do have to be careful they don’t waste
their skills, as it will slow Fury regeneration.

Attendees were then offered a brief run-down of monster design
philosophy. Wilson outlined that monsters in the game work best when
they’re simple. They have short life spans, so they really
only need to accomplish one job each. Complexity and depth comes from
combining several monster types together in a battle. Also important is
the need for players to quickly and easily identify which monster type
they are facing. This is done through shape, profile and color of the

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are split into several archetypes. There are many archetypes, but
Wilson only highlighted a few.

  • Swarmers – weak, usually melee
  • Ranged – Speed and distance
  • Lieutenant – Rezzers, Debuffers, Spawners
  • Elite – Tough, Strong attacks
  • AoE – Changes playspace, like setting the ground
    on fire, forcing the player to move.
  • Weakeners – Debuffers, slowers, drainers

Some one-off types for which Wilson didn’t offer explanations
were Sleepers, Alarms, Bee Hives, Linked, Sappers, and Thieves.

How do monsters make it into Diablo
? Chang answered that a concept can come from anywhere,
from a visual someone saw in Hawaii, to environmental, like a desert
themed wasp, to a behavioral concept such as a monster that leaps off

After the concept is introduced, the design is laid out on paper,
followed by a rough art pass. Then, the monster gets prototyped and
archetyped before it is put into a level to see how it looks, behaves
and interacts. Finally, more detailed tuning takes place and then
topped off by the final art pass. This method is followed for all
monsters in the game, from the natural “bullet
hell” Sandwasp to the Fallen Lunatic who will charge a
player, and stab itself repeatedly in the stomach until it explodes.

As an extra treat at BlizzCon, players could ask their own questions of
Blizzard. Below we’ve highlighted some of the key points
taken from the Q&A session.

  • The PvP system will not support “go hostile at
    any time” type play from previous games as it hurts
    cooperative game play too much.
  • PvP will be supported better than any of style="font-style: italic;">Diablo’s
    predecessors, but the team was unable to elaborate any more than that
    at this time.
  • Synergies are no longer needed with the current skill
    system in Diablo III.
    There will, however, be plenty of customization options.
  • The team wants to provide compelling reasons to revisit
    areas. They do this by making sure that the fastest way to progress is
    also the most fun way and offer a replayability.
  • Other classes that may not be playable may still appear in
    the world and story.
  • They want to create a real world feel while playing the
    game by exploring the cultures of the world.
  • There are no plans to support UI addons. What makes the
    game work is the simplicity and straightforward design. UI mods
    increase complexity of design.
  • Priority is gameplay. It needs to be easy to understand
    what’s going on. That trumps all, even immersion.
  • The team wants currency to be meaningful. They have learned
    lessons from Diablo II
    and WoW.
  • A waypoint system will likely be very similar to style="font-style: italic;">Diablo II. 
    They may remove town portals as they were meant to be a convenience
    tool, and not an escape tool. There is a checkpoint system for death
    and dungeons have exits at the end. All of these mechanics are meant to
    speed up travel.
  • All items are dropped on a per player basis. A boss will
    drop loot for all players. You’d see your loot, but would not
    be able to see your friend’s loot. This means anything you
    see in the world is yours to pick up without having to worry about
    finding fair ways to split the loot.
  • There will be a way to transfer items between your
    characters. The exact method has not yet been decided, but it will be
    in the game.
  • Blizzard had no comment on crafting yet.
  • There will be no map editor.
  • The game does have class specific items like fist weapons
    for monks. These will be useful for certain builds, but they
    won’t be must-have items.

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