Diablo III Fansites Q&A With Developers

A wide ranging Q&A between the Diablo III fansites and the developers at BlizzCon 2013

Developers Interviewed at BlizzCon 2013
A number of Diablo III fansites were represented at BlizzCon 2013, and they had their own Q&A session with some of the Diablo III developers. The developers present were: Josh Mosqueira (Game Director for Diablo III), Christian Lichtner (Art Director for Diablo III), and Julia Humphreys (Senior Producer for Diablo III Console). Topics covered included: new and different social features for the PC and PS4 editions of Diablo III, Adventure Mode and Story Mode, the new difficulty mode replacing both Nightmare/Hell/Inferno modes and Monster Power - and much more!

Here's an overview of the most interesting topics covered in the interview, with links to that section of the full interview, which is transcribed below.
  • The new Adventure and Story Modes will be balanced, so that both are viable.
  • The expanded social features coming include Clans and Communities, which are interest based mega-chat channels.
  • There are a number of Social Features being designed on the PlayStation 4 edition of Diablo III, including: Player Mail, Player Gifts, and a different system called Avenger Kills.
  • The Combat Pacing Changes will be coming in the Loot 2.0 patch, now officially designated Patch 2.0.
  • There won't be a Diablo III PS3 to PS4 $10 Upgrade, since the PS4 edition includes both the base game and the Reaper of Souls expansion content. Characters will be able to upgrade from the PS3 to the PS4 edition of Diablo III, for players who have purchased both.
  • Taking Diablo III development from the PC to the PS4 is an ongoing challenge; the PS4 version won't be released until after the PC expansion comes out.
  • Although there aren't immediate plans to add VOIP chat in Diablo III, the developers would like to see it at some point.
  • The developers are having ongoing meetings discussing how to improve Followers in power and item drops, without them becoming imbalanced.
  • The new Bounty System creates 25 random Bounties every time a player goes into Adventure Mode. There are also targeted areas where certain Legendary items are more likely to drop, to make it easier to have a chance at obtaining specific legendaries.
  • There is a new Difficulty Setting System, which entirely replaces both the old Nightmare/Hell/Inferno difficulty system, and Monster Power.
  • Players looking for more Stash and Character Slots will get half their wish: there will be more character slots in the expansion, but no inventory or stash changes.
  • There will be a greater number of Side Dungeons in Act V compared to the previous Acts, and many of them are more in-depth.
  • There will not be any damage reduction on the Crusader, like the 30% damage reduction bonus that Monks and Barbarians receive.
  • The developers are looking into gating Adventure Mode, so that a player can only go into Adventure Mode in the Acts that they have completed in Story Mode.
  • There are a lot of reasons for removing the Action House, and the developers explained the thought process there.
  • All Legendaries are Account-Bound in the new Loot 2.0 system, although players will have 2 hours to trade a legendary or set item with other players who were in the game when it dropped.
  • Work is being done on the older Monster Affixes, as well as new ones being added.
  • With the Auction House removed, Blizzard won't be getting any RMAH fees, but the developers stated that it won't impact Diablo III's future development.
  • There won't be any Hardcore specific features added, since they want hardcore to feel as close to Normal mode as possible.
  • In Loot 2.0 Rare items are auto-identified on the PC Diablo III, as it already is in the console versions.
  • There will be changes to the cosmetic rewards with the Paragon 2.0 System aesthetics, since the old ones don't fit with unlimited levels in the new system.
  • The Reaper of Souls expansion size is about equal to Act II in base content, but more story with all the scripted sequences; with Adventure Mode it is substantially more to play.
Read on for the full interview!

Interview Topics
Here's the full list of topics in the interview; select a topic to jump directly to that part of the transcript:

  • Interview Date and Location: November 9, 2013 - BlizzCon 2013
  • Interviewees: Josh Mosqueira (Game Director for Diablo III), Christian Lichtner (Art Director for Diablo III), Julia Humphreys (Senior Producer for Diablo III Console)
  • Interviewers: Diablo III Fansite attendees at BlizzCon 2013
  • Organized by: Lylirra (Community Manager for Diablo III)
  • This transcript was made from an audio recording of the developer interview, lightly edited for clarity.

Adventure and Story Modes
Q: With Adventure Mode being a huge part of what you're planning to release in Reaper of Souls, do you plan on people playing Story Mode that much?
Josh Mosqueira: Absolutely. In Story Mode you get to defeat Death, you get to go after Malthael, it has awesome cinematics. Diablo has always had a very strong story, especially a lore component to it. People remember the story of Diablo I, Diablo II, Diablo III all the events, Deckard Cain dying - oh wait, sorry, spoiler! What we want to try to do though, is that we realized we have a game that's about endless replayability. When you have a linear story, you can only make that story so awesome the 500th time you see Deckard Cain die.

So I think one of the benefits we get is, a lot of people will play Story Mode for the story. Or they'll play Story Mode because for the first time you kill a lot of new bosses there's an increased chance of them dropping legendaries, so even if you aren't into the story, you're going to be into the loot. It's always going to be an option, it's always there, and some people are going to replay the story over and over and over again. But in Adventure Mode, we just want to give you guys more options and a different way to play the game. So instead of the story being in the driver's seat, you guys are now in the driver's seat. You guys get to decide, like: I now feel like I want to kill the Butcher, oh now I want to go to the Festering Woods, now I want to go to the Desolate Sands. We're really letting you guys call the shots, but they're two sides of the same coin.

Christian Lichtner: I'll riff off of this. I think one of the components is, to build on what Josh said, giving the players more control over how you want the experience to unfold before you. Adventure Mode is a huge component of that. Then you have Nephalem Rifts, where maybe you can hop in for 10 or 15 minutes, maybe join up with a group and just have an environment that looks different because we light it different, there is a different weather system in there. So maybe you'll have the Oasis looking blood red, or green, or something that you're not really used to from the usual blue.

Most importantly, you'll have combinations of monsters in there that you're not used to. So it's really fun; that part of it, especially when we're playing it, to me adds a huge amount of replayability. Like I'm playing this stuff, and I know all the monsters in certain areas. And once you've played it a few times, you sort of have a rhythm down, right? But as soon you throw a few new monsters in, especially combinations of them, it sort of throws thing off a little bit in a good way. So again, I think the whole goal here is a lot of ways to make sure you're not just tied to one particular spot, or one particular playstyle, or one particular boss that you're going to farm. We want to give you guys the opportunity to play the whole game; we made the entire game for you to play, not just a few, "Hey, min-max this particular area". So I think that's the goal behind it, and that's the goal behind in some ways behind Loot 2.0, I would say.

Q: Experience wise, are they balanced; you don't have a super advantage of going in Adventure Mode versus Story Mode?
Josh Mosqueira: No, I think an important thing for us is that we want to make sure that Story Mode and Adventure Mode are viable. We also realize that with Story Mode, the magic there is that you play it and enjoy the story, and maybe play it a couple of times. But really, once you've had that fill, once you've defeated Malthael, and find out why he wanted the black soulstone -- then it's totally awesome if you guys just want to dive into Adventure Mode, and not leave the pool, so to speak.

Q: So to clarify on difficulty and the game modes, you're basically just streamlining the process entirely?
Josh Mosqueira: Definitely. I love the story, but having to replay the story 4 times in a row is... you can make it super awesome, Star Wars the 800th time you see it is still pretty cool, but not as cool as the first time you saw it. So this is one of the things that I personally wanted to see Diablo move into. I really felt that for a game that's all about replayability and randomness, to force the player to essentially groundhog Diablo over and over.. it felt like it's cool the first time, maybe the second and third time, but after a while it gets repetitive. So Adventure Mode was the answer to that: ok, you've seen the story, you've had fun, now here's a whole world. You guys are in charge, you guys will get to decide where you'll go.

Clans and Communities
Q: What can you tell us about the status of Guild and Clan support?
Josh Mosqueira: With Reaper of Souls, one of our big pillars is that we want to enhance the social online experience for players. So we're definitely going to have Clans, which are part of patch 2.0. And there's a new feature we call Communities, which are sort of mega-chat channels which are interest based. So you have the Barbarian Community, the Harley-Davidson Community for example, and you can sort of join those chat channels and connect with players.

Christian Lichtner: And also to riff off of that a little bit further. I think our realization in some ways, is that the game is most fun when you play it with your friends, you know? A lot of folks when playing the console version, everybody played on the couch. You're sort of harassing each other, sort of nudging each other, that whole experience is so much fun. We've always wanted to make sure the game is fun for groups, or to team up with people. We want to further support that.

I'm maybe going off here a little bit: BlizzCon to me is a celebration of us, as a group, of all the players that love these games that we all work on and we play. And so to whatever degree we can really enhance that and support that in Diablo, that is exactly what we want to do. That's really the goal behind that.

Julia Humphreys: In the interest of full disclosure, I should probably let you know that the PS4 version most likely will not support Groups and Clans. That's because a lot of that functionality for the community is already built into the PlayStation Network, and some of the functionality that they have there. Also, a lot of it kind of centers around the keyboard culture, that type of chatting, those types of interactions that don't make as much sense on the PlayStation 4.

Christian Lichtner: I think you could chat with the controller, and just go click... [laughs]

Julia Humphreys: The PS4 lets you use the Sixaxis to select letters...

Christian Lichtner: Can you really? I didn't know that, that's awesome.

PlayStation 4 Social Features
Julia Humphreys: So we're looking at other things we can do to provide alternative sort of social features for our PlayStation 4 players, so they won't feel like they're left out in the cold. I'll go through them really quickly.

We're looking at Player Mail, Player Gifts, and something we're calling Avenger Kills.

Player Mail is pretty much what it sounds like: you can send your friend a gift through the in-game mail system, some specific item you find in the world that you want to send to them.

Player Gifts builds on the mail system a little bit. Basically any time a Legendary item would drop for you in the game, there's a chance that it could spawn a secondary item that would be identified as a gift for your friend. So say I'm playing, I might get something that says, "Gift for Josh". I click on it, and it will go straight to his mailbox. When he logs into the game, and he goes to his mailbox and opens up that item, it will then roll for his character class. So the advantage here is I don't need to know what he's playing; I don't need to keep in my mind what all my friends are playing, what their current status is, and is this item likely to be an upgrade for them. Keeping that kind of spreadsheet in mind is maybe kind of difficult. All I know is something cool dropped for Josh and he's going to get it, he's going to know that I thought of him and I sent it to him, so that's pretty cool.

And then the third thing is Avenger Kills, which kind of takes monsters into the equation. So let's say that Josh is out adventuring in the world, and some lowly white level monster manages to get that killing blow on him in the midst of a Champion pack. He's going to get the added indignity of possibly seeing that monster level up off of killing Josh's character. So the monster will level up, it'll get some additional powers and affixes and it'll jump through a portal. Next time I log into the game, I might get a message that Josh's killer is now hunting me. And this monster will jump into my game, and I'll have the opportunity to take vengeance on him, get some loot for myself, and also send some loot back to Josh as part of the process.

That's part of the way we're hoping to make people, even if they can't play together at the same time, feel some of the social aspects of the game. So they feel like they're part of the same world, they're part of the same adventure, even if their schedules don't line up.

Christian Lichtner: Which again, ties a little bit into this whole "us as a community" idea.

Q: So those are specific to PlayStation 4?
Julia Humphreys: Yeah, at the moment those are specific to PlayStation 4. As always, we're constantly looking over each other's shoulder, and seeing what we're doing.

Josh Mosqueira: Yeah, I think when we're thinking about the console version: the PC version has an awesome advantage that you're connected to Battle.net. You have all your Battle.net friends, it's already this sort of rich social experience, and again you have the mouse and keyboard so chat works really well. On console a lot of players have what I would describe as an asynchronous social experience. So you're not always online at the same time, so you miss a lot of that great social interaction. I think something like Avenger Kills is a really cool way of saying, "Hey, you're playing Diablo and I play Diablo, and we're not always playing at the same time, but this makes it feel like we're having this experience together."

Q: What about sending items to other PS4 characters to store them, like in World of Warcraft? What's the limit you can send to someone?
Julia Humphreys: The stash you share between all characters on an account. So whatever you put in a stash, whatever your Barb puts in the stash, your Wizard will be able to grab out of their stash when they go into the game. The mail system, at least on console, is really intended between different players. So it's for me to send to Josh or me to Christian, not for me to send to an alt, which I would just use my stash for.

Q: How much mail can the PS4 Player Mail mailbox hold?
Julia Humphreys: That's still to be determined, we're still figuring all this out. Some of the questions we're trying to answer is: do we want to put any restrictions on the type of items you can send? Are we worried about people griefing their friends with hundreds of white items? Or are those people who you're just going to unfriend, and be done with it. Or do we want to draw a line here? We're still working all that out.

Q: So you could send mail to your friend with a bunch of legendaries you don't need right now, and have it sit in their inbox, and just return it when you want it?
Julia Humphreys: It's possible that some people may use it that way.

Josh Mosqueira: That's one of those tricky things we joke about in the office, like: we want to give you guys all this awesome stuff, but you abuse it! [Laughter] That's not what the mail system is for; be nice, we want to do nice things for you! [Laughter]

Q: Sounds like it will be our second stash. [Laughter]

Combat Pacing Changes
Q: For the combat pacing changes, are they all going to go in with 2.0, or are there going to be changes after that in the expansion?
Josh Mosqueira: With something that is as fundamental as combat pacing, we're definitely going to be putting that as part of the patch 2.0 process. That's the heartbeat of the game, everything cascades from that: how many health potions we're dropping, globes, items -- these things all stem from the "click click click kill monster". That's all part of the combat pacing, and the combat mechanics.

Diablo III PS3 to PS4 Upgrade
Q: Why isn't the PS4 version of Diablo III a $10 upgrade from the PS3 version, like some other games on both the PS3 and PS4?
Julia Humphreys: One thing that was on our mind was that, if it had been the exact same game going out to the PS3 and then the PS4, that might have been something we would have investigated more thoroughly. But the PS4 is going to have what we're calling the Ultimate Evil Edition: it's going to have all the original content of Diablo III plus the expansion content, so PS4 users don't need to go buy the original game and then buy the expansion on top of that, we're putting it all in one package. It just made sense to treat it as its own game, the same way that the expansion is going to be treated as its own game on the PC. What we are doing, though, is we are committed to allowing players to carry their character saves and progress forward, from the PS3 over to the PS4. So if they want to move over to the next-gen, they won't lose all the progress that they had on the PS3, and we'll be able to support that for them.

Developing From PC to PS4
Q: So the PlayStation 4 version is going to come out only after the expansion has been released for the PC?
Julia Humphreys: Just like on the original game, we're still going to have the staggered release schedule. We're trying to close that window as much as we can, because we recognize that the best thing for our players would be for them to play on the platform of their choice, at the time that the game comes out.

Christian Lichtner: Just to add to that, and Josh can speak to this really well. I think we're very proud of the console version, I think it came out really well. But there's a lot of changes, some really big ones and some not so big ones, but that took a lot of work. Slight camera changes, animation tweaks, combat tweaks, fluidity; a lot of little things that you may not notice that you take for granted. But we really try to make sure that the experience is as good as it can be. So it's a big challenge for us to develop something on the PC for now, and then translate it on the console, because we really want to make sure that it works on the console. Every time we introduce a new system in our PC build, we have to figure out a way to make that as fluid and integrated as we can into the console. So that lag effect there, is a big challenge for us.

VOIP Chat in Diablo III
Q: Will there be any VOIP chat for the game in Reaper of Souls?
Josh Mosqueira: One of my favorite features of the console version, thanks to Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, is that we get voice chat. Right now we don't have any plans or any announcements, but I do know that it's something that we would all like to see at some point. Especially because you can't really chat and kill monsters at the same time; your fingers are very busy, but we can talk at the same time!

Christian Lichtner: Well, some of us can... me, not so much. [Laughter] No, it's very true, and we're very aware of this. Like Josh said earlier, Diablo definitely has a rhythm, a cadence. That's part of the secret sauce of it, I think, that it goes at a certain rhythm. You can't get that if you're going to be stopping and chatting, so that limits it to some degree for us, and we're aware of that. I'm not sure exactly how we're going to solve that problem, yet.

Improving Followers
Q: So the heroes are supposed to be the main drivers of the story, but are Followers getting any sorts of buff or Legendary items or anything of the sort? Right now they feel like they're there for a minute before they die.
Josh Mosqueira: It's really funny because Tuesday, right before coming out to BlizzCon, we had a meeting about: how can we make Followers more awesome? I mean, I think one of the great side effects of Loot 2.0 is that players are getting a lot more drops. A lot of us are giving our Followers awesome legendaries, because as we get an upgrade, we give the hand-me-downs to the Followers. Because of the build-changing effects of some of the legendaries, the Followers have a lot more versatility. I think that's a by-product of Loot 2.0.

But we're also talking about, can we let them do a bit more damage? You know, it's cool to have your Follower around! If we give the Follower too much power, then you guys won't want to play with each other, because you can get more power from your Follower. So there's this delicate balance we have to play with. But we definitely want to make sure that if you have a Follower with you, it should feel cool, not just because he's saying all these smartass things he's saying, but because he's doing something cool at the same time.

Q: In the Smart Drop system on the console version, occasionally it would be very difficult to find, say you're the Wizard and you prefer the Scoundrel. It's really difficult to gear out your Scoundrel. How are you addressing that with Loot 2.0?
Josh Mosqueira: With magic! [Laughter] No, we totally understand, we have run into exactly the same problem. It's like, playing a Wizard with a Scoundrel... give me something my Scoundrel can use! As part of the meeting we had on Tuesday, this was one of the topics. How can we fix it? There are a number of ways we can try to fix it, we're gonna try at looking at maybe having a Follower Smart Drop system. We know what class you're playing, we know what Follower you're using, so maybe the idea is to use the same thing. Every once in a while say, hey you have a Follower, here's something for that Follower. But there's some pros and cons to that, so we're going to have another followup meeting next week to figure it out. Usually what we like to do is come up with problems and solutions, and then take a couple of days to let them sort of bake, and figure out if anybody can poke any holes in it, then we'll figure out the next step of implementing that.

Bounty System
Q: For the Bounty system in Adventure Mode, are the quests and rewards all random? Or is that something where you're going to go in there from time to time and make a special quest or a special reward?
Josh Mosqueira: So when you click on Adventure Mode, you're going to be presented with a map of Sanctuary. There's an overall map of Sanctuary, and then you'll be able to zoom in to all the different Act areas. Every time we do that, we're going to randomly generate up to 5 Bounties. Now Bounties are dynamically generated objectives. So we have 5 classes of Bounties: kill a boss, do an event, clear a dungeon, kill a unique, kill them all. We just randomly pick where they can happen in the world, and what the objectives are, so it's always going to be different.

Christian Lichtner: And if you complete them all, you get a reward.

Josh Mosqueira: Those are all random too. Diablo is a game where you never know what's going to be around the corner, and you never know what's going to drop from the crate, the monster, or Bounties.

Q: Bounties are random, but in the demo there are targeted areas listed. So if you want a specific Legendary, you can go to Act I and try and hope for that drop. Is that a change you're doing?
Josh Mosqueira: That's definitely something that we're trying out. Obviously, we want to give you guys some degree of, not necessarily control, but predictability as to if you're looking for a specific Legendary, where that might drop. Again, we don't want to make it so targeted that you just keep doing the same thing over and over and over again. But that's in that version of Adventure Mode that you guys are playing, and we keep iterating it over time as we get feedback. It's going to be one of the big components of Adventure Mode, is that it's a way for you guys to try to find Legendaries that you guys have been hunting for.

Q: How do Bounties work in a multiplayer context? How do you coordinate which part you're all going to go after?
Josh Mosqueira: What we've seen in the office and in the internal alpha that we currently have running, is that it really depends on the players. Some players scatter to the four winds, and try to complete all the Bounties. What we see more often is that players like to stick together, and do them in an order that makes sense to them. Again, it's part of the magic of playing together with your friends, is that you try to stick together,and help each other out. And also if you spread out, well the monsters are always buffed if it's multiplayer. So if you spread out it's going to become a lot more dangerous if you guys split up, so don't split up!

Q: But when you're doing PUGs, is there anything planned to coordinate all that effort?
Josh Mosqueira: So far, and we're keeping an eye on it because we definitely want to see what's going to happen when it goes live, but right now I think the players are behaving in a way that they want to stick together. They want to sort of go along together on the journey.

Difficulty Setting System
Q: How much is Monster Power going to effect the rewards from Bounties?
Josh Mosqueira: So that's a topic right now that we're heavily, heavily working on. Obviously one of the big changes is that we're totally revamping the way difficulty works in the game. We love the feedback we got from Monster Power, and we figured, let's really turn that into a proper difficulty setting system. One of the challenges we have there is the risk versus reward. If we make it too easy, and if you can one-shot everything and your efficiency goes up, that's not a good thing. Or if we make it too hard, that you're constantly banging your head against it, that's not ideal either. So right now Wyatt and all our system designers are trying to find out how to best keep those two things in check.

But I think one of the great changes from the old difficulty modes, that essentially everyone was kind of forced to go into, is that now difficulty becomes a player set challenge level. If you find something too hard, you can always go down a difficulty. It's not like what we had before, where the best items were dropping in Inferno, which means you needed to bump your head up against the wall even if you didn't want to. So now we're avoiding that problem, and we're allowing you guys to decide what risk versus reward you want to put up with.

Q: So are you changing it to level 70 for Inferno, like Hell was level 50, Nightmare was level 30?
Josh Mosqueira: One of the things that's really changing is that there's no more difficulty modes: Inferno, Hell, Nightmare, those things don't exist any more. We have a dynamic difficulty system, which means that as you level up the monsters level up with you, to provide a band of challenge. On top of that, you'll be able to set your selective difficulty. We're still trying to figure out the exact names that we want to call these, but to use the console ones: Normal, Hard, Master, Expert. So you'll be able to fine tune how much challenge you want, and conversely, how little of a challenge.

Q: So we shouldn't read too much into the slide where you put a big X over all four modes; it's like, so you're getting rid of all 4 modes.
Josh Mosqueira: In their current incarnation.

Stash and Character Slots
Q: Are there any plans to improve the inventory system, since we're still stuck on 3 Stashes?
Josh Mosqueira: Right now we don't have any plans to change how the inventory system works, no.

Q: What about the number of character slots?
Josh Mosqueira: The plan is to increase the number of character slots, so you can get at least 1 of every class, now that the Crusader is joining the family.

Side Dungeons
Q: In the Reaper of Souls demo in Westmarch, there seem to be a lot more side dungeons, and they're more well rounded, instead of something you clear in 10 seconds. They're almost mini-quests to themselves. Will that continue through the entire Act?
Josh Mosqueira: That's absolutely the intention. All those events, those side dungeons, or what we call cellars, are a great reward. They're fun to run into. When we looked at what we had in Acts I to IV, we knew we wanted to do more. So a really big focus early on in the expansion is: how do we deliver on that promise? How do we make these, like you said, mini-quests or mini-stories? One of the great things about Blizzard games is that we keep evolving. We see what works, what doesn't work, and we keep building and iterating. We're just trying to always make those small tweaks, to make the experience richer and deeper.

Iteration and Theorycrafting
Christian Lichtner: To riff off of that as well: we read the feedback on the forums, we hear about it, we play the game ourselves. Even the feedback session downstairs like after you guys play and give the feedback, we're going to be combing through that stuff. We want to hear it, and sometimes it gets a little brutal, but we want the game to keep getting better and better and better. We spend so much time working on it; nobody wakes up and goes, "Hey you know what, I'm just gonna phone it in." So we really iterate on it. Sometimes, something starts out like a great idea, then you start seeing the reactions, or something crazy happens, and you think, "Oh great, I didn't account for that!"

It's funny, because I think -- this is off topic but I'll throw it out there at you guys -- in game development in general, we spend a lot of time discussing "What ifs?" Like, "Oh we can do this thing, but then it will lead to that, and then this." We call it theorycrafting often-times. We do it for the right reasons, because we want to anticipate any problems. But it's super hard to do, because sometimes you're going down this rabbit hole that just doesn't end. And sometimes you're going down a rabbit hole that maybe is really valid, and really logical, but in real life doesn't actually play out that way.

You can't simulate a game that sells 12 million copies, 14 million now with console; you can't simulate that scale. Even early on when we had server issues, it's very easy for someone to say, "Hey guys, you should have figured this out". We had all the best guestimates early on, we knew from the beta how many people signed up. We did a very generous estimate of what that eventually will mean. And yet, we weren't quite able to hit that. So I'm sharing that with you guys, so that you realize that at no point do we ever wake up in the morning and go, "Hey, just shooting from the hip today!" We're really, really trying very, very hard, so any feedback you guys share with us, we take very much to heart. We really try to make the game as awesome, and as much fun as possible.

Damage Reduction on the Crusader
Q: The Crusader is a mid-ranged character; will it have the innate 30% damage reduction of the melee classes, something in the middle, or none at all?
Josh Mosqueira: Oh my god, that's a really good question that I don't know the answer to. One of things that was important for us with the Crusader, and it kind of touches on the answer, is his shield. We really have to solve the question: if you have the shield you're not dual-wielding and you're not using two-handed weapons. Are players going to be happy having to sacrifice that one slot for the shield? So, two things we've done is: we actually factor in your Block percentage, in terms of your overall damage output. And the Crusader also has a really cool passive skill that allows him to single-handedly use two-handed weapons. So do they get the extra damage resistance that Barbarians and Monks get? That's a really good question... we'll follow up.

[Josh Mosqueira talked to Lylirra, and she emailed senior game designer Andrew Chambers for the answer. He replied that the Crusader will not have the innate damage reduction of the melee classes. She passed that info on to us after this developer interview was over.]

Q: Any plans for seasons in Diablo III?
Josh Mosqueira: You mean like spring, summer, fall, winter... [Laughter] I think so!

Q: I mean like some sort of ranking system.
Josh Mosqueira: Oh like ladders, that you can climb? We have many plans... and many surprises in store for you guys.

Gated Adventure Mode
Q: Do you have to complete the Story Mode before jumping into Adventure Mode, to have access to those Acts in Reaper of Souls?
Josh Mosqueira: So right now, the plan is: you buy Reaper of Souls, and you'll get Story Mode and Adventure Mode, and you can dive right in. It's one of the things that as we go through internal alpha and beta, something that we want to see is how it feels. Obviously, the idea feels great, but there are some concerns that we might be giving you guys your dessert before you have your vegetables. So I'll let you decide if Adventure Mode is the dessert or the vegetables. So we're going to figure out how it feels.

One of the things we are going to be doing and we're talking about the right way to do it: gating it so that if you've only completed Act I, you can only do Adventure Mode in Act I. If you've completed Act IV, you have all the four Acts. And then to get Adventure Mode in Act V, you have to play Act V. Again, Act V is an awesome ride. I know Adventure Mode is all exciting, and new and different. But Malthael is up to some really nasty things, and Sanctuary needs you guys to defeat Malthael.

Q: Thinking about that, otherwise people could buy Reaper of Souls and immediately go to the end boss of Act V.
Christian Lichtner: Yeah, I think that's a big challenge in general. If you cheat at a game, not even saying Diablo in particular, but if you get the opportunity to basically hack a game in some way, you'll feel really great for 5 minutes, "Oh I totally scored here!" And then you're like, "Oh man I'm done, the game is broke." So this is one of those situations where it's not going to break the game necessarily, but we'll have to figure out how to make that work; it's back to the veggies and dessert question.

Removing the Action House
Q: Why remove the Auction House entirely, rather than just remove it from hardcore and softcore in a ladder, if you do that?
Josh Mosqueira: That's a good question, and it really touches on what Christian said about cheating yourself from the joy of the game. If you really think about it, the magic of Diablo is I'm this awesome Barbarian/Demon Hunter/Crusader/whatever it is. And I'm killing monsters, and those monsters are dropping items. The best, the most fun way to get those items is by actually killing those monsters. There's something to be said about the reality that if you go to the Auction House, and you gear yourself up, essentially what you're doing is cheating yourself out of hours of potential upgrades. So you're cheating yourself out of the journey.

So we thought long and hard, but for us the right thing to do is to preserve the integrity of the core experience, which is: if you guys want items, you need to fight and kill monsters to get those items. And any form of an Auction House really short-circuits that reward loop. So it was one of those things that was not an easy decision, we spent a lot of time debating it. But at the end of it the day it was clear that for a game that's about killing monsters and finding loot, you need to make sure that you need to kill monsters to find that loot.

Q: What about the situation where I'm trying to get a full set, and you've spent like 1500 hours getting all the pieces except one, and my buddy has it. Isn't it better to be able to trade to get that last piece?
Christian Lichtner: Josh can probably answer this better than I can, so jump in if I'm screwing this up. I think what I see there, you just said the key phrase, "my buddy has it". That's great, because now you and your buddy are playing together, or you're trading amongst each other, and that's a great experience, that actually makes sense. The Auction House is a bit of an anonymous thing; you never know who you're buying from, you don't chat with them, you don't make a friendship. You don't say, "Hey, dude, we've played 100 hours together, let's meet at BlizzCon and we'll hang out and we'll have a beer or coffee." So I think trading is an integral part in some shape or form. What that actually entails, and what that actually finds it's way into the game in some shape or form, that's really the nut that Josh is trying to crack here. But I think what you're saying has a lot of merit, it's not like we're not aware of that. We're not saying you should just play by yourself, and farm all those items, and get them that way. I think it would be great to have an opportunity to have some shape or form to address that. But the Auction House, again, made it...

Q: Yeah I don't like the AH, I'm happy it's going away. It just seems like some sort of other trading... Not like D2 either, where you have to write a game name and wait 300 games. But maybe something small where you can post what you have, or write about it. Maybe in the guild system to help with this, the chatting area to put in the corner chat box for Wanting to Buy and Wanting to Sell?
Josh Mosqueira: We're sort of entering some uncharted territory, so obviously we don't want to necessarily go straight back to where it was in D2. As you've seen, we're going to put it out, we're going to evolve, we want to hear you guys' feedback. But back to the root of the question: I'm trying to find this one specific item, and how am I going to find it, if I can't trade for it? We're going to make sure that things are dropping more often, and sometimes it may not be the item you were thinking about, but with the great new Legendary effects we have, that you might find something that you didn't know existed. And you're like, "Oh that's even more awesome than what I was looking for." With things like Bounties and Nephalem Rifts, we're trying to get different avenues for you to increase the chances and the probabilities of the items you're looking for actually dropping, so you can find them.

Account-Bound Legendaries
Q: In the BlizzCon demo, legendaries are all automatically Bind on Account, as well as any item that is socketed. Doesn't this go against trading, if we can't trade the legendaries that we find?
Josh Mosqueira: Currently in the game, we're in the process of really figuring out what the trading landscape is going to look like. But if you guys are playing together and a Legendary drops, you guys can trade a Legendary in game, no problem. It's only if you're playing by yourself, that's when the legendaries are Account-Bound. The reason for that goes back to what I mentioned a few times already. We want you guys to play the game to find those items. If the only way to find those items is by playing the game, it mean we can be more generous with them. You guys generate a ton of legendaries on a daily basis, even though it took me a long time to find my first Legendary on my home character. But by making them Account-Bound, we have better control of how many legendaries are out there in the world, and it also means you guys can play the game and have fun killing those monsters, to get those legendaries. But again, if like the 3 of us were playing and I found a Legendary that would be great for Christian's character, I can trade it to him.

Q: So everyone has to be in the game at the time it was dropped, or can you invite someone to the game?
Josh Mosqueira: We're still trying to figure out the specifics. Right now, I have 2 hours to trade it to anyone in the group, but we need to be in the game together when the Legendary dropped.

Monster Affixes
Q: In the expansion there are new Elite pack affixes. Are you going back to rework some of the old ones that were particularly frustrating, like Vortex or Jailer, that you can't escape?
Josh Mosqueira: Yeah, we have a lot of plans, we've been working a lot on the affixes. Both on the actual mechanic level but also at the way we're unlocking them throughout all the difficulty systems as well. Trying to be more clever in how we combine things. Obviously, randomization is great, but sometimes randomization means that you get things that are not fun to play and encounter all the time. So yeah, we're looking at the past affixes for the monsters and tweaking them until they're fun to play.

Q: With the Auction House being removed, it'll be less money in Blizzard's pocket, without the AH fees. Are we going to see fewer updates in the future, because Diablo is not bringing in as much money?
Josh Mosqueira: Of course not. No no, no no no.

Christian Lichtner: This is another thing where I'm incredibly proud to work for Blizzard. We don't make decisions based on, will this make us money or not? We want the game to be awesome. This sort of ties into what I was saying earlier. We really do wake up in the morning and go, "All right, how can we make this game as good as we possibly can?" So those sort of considerations, thank god, are not really part of the equation, which makes it nice to work at Blizzard.

Hardcore Specific Features
Q: For hardcore players, there are certain passives that seem geared towards hardcore or almost required. Are there other specific affixes in the expansion that will be geared the same way, or other gameplay changes that hardcore players might expect?
Josh Mosqueira: Hmmm... nothing specifically like that. Obviously hardcore is a big part of the game. A lot of players really like hardcore, there are a lot of hardcore players in the office. One of the important things with hardcore is that it needs to feel as close to the base experience as possible. You don't want to tweak it too much, because that's part of the question: can I do this with the same systems that exist in the Normal game; how many levels can I survive, with those systems?

Rare Items Auto-Identified
Q: In the demo, yellow (Rare) items are dropping already identified. Is that going to stay in?
Josh Mosqueira: Yeah, so far we're really liking that yellows are dropping identified. It was one of the crazy things we did on console, and it seemed to work out quite well. We really want that moment where you don't know what you're going to get, opening that present, for legendaries. That's part of the magic of legendaries; you click on it, you see the bar, and you don't know what you're going to get. Since we're dropping more legendaries more often, we felt that yellows should be awesome just because they're yellow, and not necessarily because you don't know what's behind them.

Paragon 2.0 System
Q: Right now in the Paragon system it feels really great to get to Paragon 100, with increased aesthetics along the way. Are you planning on putting in incremental bonuses throughout Paragon 2.0 system, even from an aesthetic point of view, for people who get to 200 or 300 Paragon Points in the new system?
Josh Mosqueira: I think that's a really good question. You're totally right, as you're leveling up through the Paragon system, your portrait changes and all these things. Now that we have essentially infinite Paragon, obviously we can't have an infinite number of portrait changes, and such. But this is something that when we really start focusing on those types of rewards, the banners and achievements that are the sort of stuff we really work on towards the end of development, we'll definitely are gonna need to do something.

Expansion Size
Q: The main campaign in the original game was maybe 30 hours long. How much content do you expect to add with this new expansion?
Josh Mosqueira: Reaper of Souls Act V is a pretty big act. I'd say it's close to Act II in terms of content. It probably has more story content in terms of the scripted sequences, the interstitials, because we have a really cool story to tell with Malthael. But that's just the tip of the iceberg; once you guys get into Adventure Mode, then you're off to the races.

Prime Ubers
Q: Any chance of an Uber system, like with all 3 Primes instead of the other guys? I'd love to see that someday.
Josh Mosqueira: That's a great idea.... maybe. For Reaper of Souls, what's gonna be really cool is the Nephalem Rifts and the way that the bosses sort of appear in the middle of the map, and you never know what you're going to run into.

Design a Legendary
Q: For the Design a Legendary project, with the polls: are you disappointed that the community decided to go with one-handed swords? If you are, can we try to steer the community in a different direction, possibly like a melee Demon Hunter's sword? [Laughter]
Josh Mosqueira: You were disappointed? Yeah, that's the thing... give the power to the people, and sometimes they decide some cool and wacky stuff. Do you guys like the whole Design a Legendary idea?

Q: Yeah, for sure.

Josh Mosqueira: Maybe we can do more.

Q: Maybe Design a Monster.

Christian Lichtner: That's outrageous! [Laughter]

Q: I'd do anything for a zombie turkey.

Julia Humphreys: As long as you guys are willing to take art direction from this guy [Christian Lichtner].

Christian Lichtner: A zombie turkey... all right, I'll make a note of that.

How Many Legendaries
Q: How many legendaries do you create, and how many do you end up cut, or go into the actual game?
Josh Mosqueira: Lots, and many.

Q: Any ballpark ideas how many?

Christian Lichtner: I'll go.

Josh Mosqueira: Yeah you actually know this, because you actually have to make the art. [Laughter]

Christian Lichtner: Josh can definitely answer a little bit more on the thought process in terms of design. For us in terms of the art, we try to come up with a little story behind each one of them. We often get that from the designer or sometimes come up with that ourselves. For maybe every one we use, we've drawn 2 or 3 that we don't. So we end up with a fair amount of just... piles of stuff. Luckily they aren't that hard to generate; from an art point of view, it's just a concept, we don't make it completely. At the concept phase we just decide what we like and what we don't.

Maybe this is interesting for you guys, the way we decide what we want to use or not, is usually looking at things like: does this fit what it's supposed to be? That's one thing. Is is interesting? That's another one. Does it fit into what we already made? We don't want to make the same stuff over and over, so does it add variety? The zombie turkey adds variety! It's a lot of little questions like that. So you guys can see here now, hearing each other's questions, not everybody has the exact same aesthetic. Some people would like to have X and some people like Y. So we try to make sure that we serve the entire playerbase, so that it's not just one thing or one look, or one specific thing. So that's where we are from the art side.

Josh Mosqueira: In terms of numbers, it's always tricky to say because we come up with a lot of ideas, and for every Legendary you have to come up with a cool Legendary power for it. I'd say it's in the hundreds; we go back and forth, and whittle it down to what we think are the best of the best.

Cosmetic Pets
Q: Companion scrolls were removed from the game in beta. Are we going to see more vanity items appear in the later games, like the angel wings? There isn't a lot to goof around with; in World of Warcraft, you can throw mounts on the ground and ride them, etc.
Josh Mosqueira: You're going to be happy. I'm not saying happy about what... but yeah. The companion scrolls were cute... maybe they were too cute. [Laughter] If we ever do anything like that, we probably won't call them pets. What should we call them?

Q: Companions, familiars, players, beasts, minions.

Josh Mosqueira: I like minions. I wish I had minions. [Laughter]

Christian Lichtner: Witch Doctors have minions.

That wraps up this interview from the developers. See the BlizzCon 2013 News section for all the interviews and news about Diablo III, still tricking out from BlizzCon.
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