'Items 2.0' Revamp in D3 Won't Happen Before BlizzCon

Part 2 of our developer interview covers the eventual overhaul to loot and other rewards in Diablo III

The massive itemization revamp for Diablo III is moving along, but it won't be done by BlizzCon 2013, according to Diablo III Game Designer Travis Day. Day discussed the work being done on items in an exclusive interview with Diablo Somepage, along with Game Director Josh Mosqueira and Lead Designer Kevin Martens.

Read on for more, in this part 2 of our extensive interview with the Diablo III developers. (See Part 1 and Part 3 for their discussions of working on the console Diablo III, and other topics; the full transcript has all the details.)

Forging the Fantasy in Diablo III
Josh Mosqueira is busy at E3 this week promoting Diablo III in all its forms, especially the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of the game. Once that is wrapped up, he said he will be working with the PC team to continue designing the evolution of the game. "I think the team have kept working on keeping the game evolving and moving forward. Once I come back from E3, that's when I myself will be going to start diving into the deep end of the Diablo 3 PC world," he said. As he discussed in his introduction as Game Director for Diablo III, Mosqueira sees the foundation of Diablo III, going forward, as focusing on the fantasy of the franchise. "I think that Diablo is such a unique Action RPG in terms of the sense that we let these players play these bad-ass heroes, they have these great skills, and they have all these awesome items. The combination of epic heroes and epic loot is, for me, at the heart of the Diablo experience."
"The combination of epic heroes and epic loot is, for me, at the heart of the Diablo experience."
Josh Mosqueira,
Diablo III Game Director

Mosqueira noted that the items are one of the major areas in that fantasy. "We really want to reclaim the Diablo roots, and hold them up high, and focus on: what are the core pillars for our fantasy, how do we make the player feel like they're embodying these epic heroes? How do we create epic villains that will challenge these heroes? How do we make loot meaningful and rewarding, and something that makes you keep coming back for more and more and more. I think those are the sort of the big tent poles that as a team, we're really rallying around, and we really want to drive forward."

The Massive Design of 'Loot 2.0'
Josh Mosqueira is a big fan of the work that has been going on for months, to overhaul the entire loot and reward system in Diablo III. He sees it as a big part of the 'fantasy' of Diablo III that he wants to emphasize. "When it says that we wanted to focus on that core essential fantasy for Diablo, one of the thing we're working on, is something that I've been calling 'Loot 2.0'. That is, how can we really deliver on that fantasy? Diablo is all about items; how do we make those items rewarding, making sure that you're getting good upgrades at a reasonable clip. So the guys have come up with a lot of really cool ideas that we just can't wait for you guys to get your hands on."
It will a while before the itemization revamp is done; it won't be completed by BlizzCon, which runs on November 8-9 this year.

Unfortunately, it will be some months down the road before that wait is at an end. Blizzard is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to projecting dates about patches, and Travis Day gave the standard line that "it's done when it's done" when talking about the completion of the itemization revamp. When asked if it would be done before BlizzCon 2013 he stated, "it'll be a while, it's certainly not before BlizzCon," which is happening on November 8 and 9 this year. So the hopes of fans to enjoy the itemization overhaul this summer (or indeed, likely this year) will not be realized. The itemization revamp patch will not be arriving before 2014.

All these item changes will arrive as one major overhaul, not split up into multiple patches. "Players should not expect to see it coming piecemeal; when it's ready it'll be all as one big change to the system. It's not going to be something that little bits are doled out," Day said. Mosqueira agreed that the items changes are a major overhaul, that will need to be added all at once. "That's true. We're really taking it as a more open-faceted approach to addressing the question of loot. As Travis said, there are a lot of moving pieces; not just within individual items, but sort of overall. I think for everybody to get a real good sense of all of these changes, we're gonna have to give you guys a whole package," Mosqueira said.

Want to read more Diablo III developer interviews? Check out the May 2013 lengthy chat with developers Travis Day and Wyatt Cheng.

Loads of Legendaries
That itemization revamp, which Travis Day is spearheading, involves looking at the entire structure of items and rewards in Diablo III. "There's still a lot of work to be done. There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to Diablo's items and rewards schemes. We want you to remember awesome items because they did something memorable, not just because they had big numbers on them. It's a lot of work to do, and there's a lot of ground to cover," Day said.

The idea of "scaling legendaries" is part of the picture. Day was quick to point out that these are not items that scale in power, like are available with the World of Warcraft Heirloom items. Instead, the power and required level of legendaries will be based on the level of the monster that drops the item. "People are really excited about the possibilities of, 'Oh man, I can find a non-max level The Gidbinn, that's amazing, and have a little fetish running around with me', if that's the effect when we're all said and done," he said.

Deciding on the details for all of those items is itself a massive task. Day noted, "A lot of the moving parts are just coming up with the ideas specifically, like what are the things going to be? How do we generate 200+ ideas, for effects that are completely unique to this item? A lot of the examples that I've given still hold true, and we've gotten a lot of work done in that area, there's still a lot to come up with." One example he has given often, that he mentioned in a previous interview was from a suggestion on the battle.net forums: A set bonus to let Call of the Ancients last forever, and turns the ancient Barbarians summoned by that skill into essentially permanent companions.

Not all of the ideas for legendaries involve such increases in power. Day said, "We've also had more... flavorful ideas, I guess would be the best way to put them. One of the ideas we had come up in our brainstorm sessions which we all got really excited about, and then have to figure out how to make work is: you have a Treasure Goblin who follows you around, and picks up white and grey items, and occasionally throws magical items out of his sack for you." Whether flavorful or powerful, Day wants the legendaries to be more interesting than the ones currently available. "We want you to remember the items because they did that awesome thing. Like when people talk about Windforce in Diablo 2, they remember it because Windforce had this completely unique effect. So we're trying to recapture that as much as we can", he said.

This has been part 2 of an interview with the Diablo III developers. See Part 1 for their thoughts about the Xbox 360 and PS3 console Diablo III versions, and developing for the PC and consoles at the same time. and Part 3 has discussions about item sinks, gold sinks, skills and bosses. Read the full transcript for all the details from the developers.
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