BlizzCon 2013: Reaper of Souls Preview Panel

A live blog of the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Preview panel from BlizzCon 2013

It's time for some serious info about the Reaper of Souls expansion! This is a live blog of the Reaper of Souls Preview Panel at BlizzCon 2013. Refresh for all the latest info.

The official description for the panel: Get a deeper, darker look at what’s coming in the Diablo III expansion, as the development team reveals new details on the environments, monsters, game modes, features, and more.

Scheduled to be on the panel:
  • Zaven Haroutunian, Level Designer
  • Tim Linn, Lead Interior Environment Artist
  • Julian Love, Lead Technical Artist
  • Kevin Martens, Lead Designer
  • Jesse McCree, Senior Level Designer
  • Josh Mosqueira, Game Director
  • Joe Shely, Senior Game Designer
  • Stephen Wong, Senior Gameplay Programmer

Update: Here's a video of the panel, with the live blog below.

3:25PM Pacific Time - The panel will start in just a couple of minutes! In the meantime, check out the recently (officially) released Reaper of Souls gameplay systems video, as well as a PS4 Diablo III video.

3:30 - The Reaper of Souls cinematic trailer is playing, as released at gamescom.

3:34 - Everyone is out! Starting with Josh Mosqueira, talking about the dark, gothic heart of Reaper of Souls. Pandemonium, the final battleground where you try to confront Death. Wanted to make sure there was an endgame for everyone. Not only are you going to have a great Story Mode, but a brand new way of playing, with Adventure Mode. Kevin Martens comes up to talk about that.

3:36 - Adventure Mode is here to fix some of the things that weren't playing well. Playing the campaign over and over through Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno didn't fit with the random nature of Diablo III. New idea is "Go Anywhere, Slay Anything". You can play when you want to, you don't have to go through the game linearly.

3:40 - Why not unlock all the Acts? They went even further, you can go anywhere from Act I to Act V, freely playable. The features are Bounties and Nephalem Rifts. Bounties are your tour guide through Adventure Mode, to give you the reason to play.

3:43 - Stephen Wong up to talk about Bounties. Random quests given to you at the start of the game, in all 5 acts, through all the bosses, side dungeons, and everything else in the game. 25 bounties at the start of a game, 5 in each act. It's not on rails, you can go do these Bounties however you like, and get rewards from them.

3:45 - Bounties can be:
  • Kill a Boss
  • Complete an Event
  • Kill a Unique
  • Clear a Dungeon
Many of the Uniques are moved out of their area to random places in the game, made bounties from them. Rewards include gold, experience, powerful items, and Rift Keystones to unlock Nephalem Rifts. Nephalem Rifts are very different, they can be 1 to 10 level deep dungeons.

3:47 - Nephalem Rift can have crazy buffs, better than in normal mode. Because they are self-contained dungeons, the developers can go a little crazy with everything in there. Now a video of a Crusader going through fast combat in a Nephalem Rift.

3:50 - Joe Schely comes up to talk about new monsters in Reaper of Souls, and a quick video of them. Talking about some of the monsters from Blood Marsh, including a new "family" of monsters that interact with each other.

3:54 - A new dungeon later on has mobs called a Scarab, which are tiny but spawn in massive ways. Players can now walk through specific mobs like these fast spawning Scarabs, so that lets the developers make mobs that spawn a lot.

3:55 - Julian Love comes up to talk about what monsters do. They want monsters to be memorable, even as you're killing them quickly. Right now we have ranged monsters, that back off from the player a bit... but they have to turn around and walk away, to do that. A new capability is called the Backpedal; ranged monsters can backup without changing direction, and keep attacking while they move. A simple change, that affects how you feel about that monster. Back in the Blood Marsh, looking at the Brute and Boggits mobs. The Brute literally summons mobs and throws them at you, instead of them just running towards the player.

3:58 - The Terror Bat can pick up Boggits, pick up and bite them, which transform into Brutes... which spawn more Boggits! This makes for a crazy circle of life.

4:00 - How monsters die: it's very important in a game like this, and a way to tell a little story about the monster, or what's being done in the world. The Realm Walker is guarding a portal that he has on his head, where he brings in monsters from another realm. When he dies, he can spawn a portal, that the player can jump into and go kill monsters in there. The Trapper Tower has a bunch of guys shooting at you; when you kill them, they get dismembered by their own traps, in a giant bloody mess.

4:02 - Westmarch Hound, looks like a bulldog, which chews on stuff. So he treats the player like a chew toy. When he kills the player, he turns and actually pees on them!

4:04 - Kevin Martens comes up to talk about Pandemonium, the eternal battlefield where Angels and Demons fought their Eternal Conflict. They have shown this area a lot, including the original Diablo III cinematic.

4:06 - Where does the zone fit into a game? In this case, the story and placement meant a couple of things. The expansion begins in Westmarch, a massive city now destroyed. So they put Pandemonium as the end zone, where Malthael now resides. This is beyond humanity, a place where creatures other than humans have fought for eons. Humans are a combination of angels and demons, an abomination that Malthael does not think should exist.

4:09 - Tim Linn comes up to talk about the look of Pandemonium, with a lot of shots of different working concepts, and the final look. Pandemonium has a fully randomized exterior, anytime you play it the zone is random. There are battles frozen in time, creatures trapped in bubbles that you can go in and kill, and get the loot from them! A video of a Crusader going through Pandemonium.

4:14 - Josh is back up to close things up, talking about how excited they are about everything coming in Reaper of Souls and the Loot 2.0 patch. Now the Reaper of Souls gameplay systems video mentioned above, showing a lot of new features for the expansion. Up next, some Q&A.

4:17 - Q: What's going on with ladders?
Josh: "Ladders are awesome to climb... they have rungs, the whole point is to get to the top." Stay tuned; they aren't talking about them today.

4:19 - Q: What about gold without the AH?
Lots of gold sinks are coming, Enchanting is a big one; Transmogrify is not a big gold sink. New and better Blacksmith recipes coming, with Smart Drops so the crafting is better. We don't want to make it so that if you don't have 40 billion gold, you can't participate; but gold is not going to be as big a delta factor for how powerful a character is, when the AH is live.

4:20 - All acts are available in Adventure Mode, all waypoints opened up to bounce around. Josh: Random stuff is really in Nephalem Rifts.

4:20 - Q: What about an offline mode?
Josh: We feel that Diablo plays best when you're playing with your friends, when you can connect to the community of Blizzard. It also allows us to make sure your characters are stored, and the social aspect of the game. Groups and Clans were teased in the trailer, another feature that makes being online even better.

4:21 - Q: With the removal of the AH, what sort of sanctioned trading model will be in?
Josh: We're still in the process of figuring out what trading means for Diablo. It's fundamental to the Loot 2.0 philosophy that killing monsters in game is the best, most satisfying way to get your hands on those items.

4:23 - Q: Monsters sit around, why not have them move around?
A: In Nephalem Rifts it is set up that way; when the boss spawns, he can spawn anywhere, including right on top of champions you are killing.

4:24 - Q: PVP?
Josh gives the same answer from before; still working on PVE, before going to PVP.

4:24 - Q: So monsters can backpedal; what about keyboard turning monsters? It's echoing up at the panel, they can't understand the question...

4:25 - Q: What about unique items, the best loot in the game? Effects don't seem as cool as basic stats like Crit and basic DPS stats.
Kevin: There are multiple steps being taken to deal with that. Narrowing the range on stats, so that instead of 1-500 Strength, at the upper tier it'll be more like 300-500. New legendaries do things to help you change your build, by making changes to specific skills. Smart Drops means that your primary stat is rolled, etc. More on the panel tomorrow, about loot!

4:27 - Q: At the beginning of the first Act, there are a lot of side dungeons, but not as many in later Acts; will there be more, or freshen up the first 4 Acts?
Kevin: In the later Acts, like Act IV we felt that people just really wanted to get to Diablo, so we intentionally didn't add as many side dungeons. This will be somewhat addressed with Adventure Mode. With removing that requirement to worry about the story at all, and making the side dungeons into Bounties, we've given you occasionally a good reason to go there.

4:29 - Q: Last question: any architectural improvements to help with being always on and connected, and losing characters in hardcore?
Kevin: We are adding server capacity, and QA is constantly fixing issues. We're conscious of that and doing everything we can to solve issues like that.

4:30 - And that's a wrap for the panel, but Josh Mosqueira is coming up to answer questions shortly on the live stream. We'll continue to update this with that.

4:32 - Video about the making of the Crusader. The same sort of ideas that the developers have talked about regarding the class: a big tank style character, with a huge shield and classical armor. One set of the armor is a nod towards the Diablo II Paladin in style. The Crusader is being the Gothic medieval knight. Flails just look really mean; a big tower shield is the unique Crusader class item.

4:36 - Josh is here, talking about the game. Q: Are the PS4 and PC Reaper of Souls being made simultaneously?
Josh: PC is still first, we aren't going to be releasing them simultaneously. Extra time is being taken to add console-specific stuff, but social infrastructure like the Guilds and Clans are going to be PC-exclusive.

4:38 - Q: Xbox One?
Josh: we're just focusing on one platform at a time.

4:38 - Q: When can we expect some Necro love?
Josh: There's no second class in Reaper of Souls, but the Necromancer is an NPC that you will meet in the expansion.

4:38 - Q: Ladders?
Josh dodges the question, says no info at BlizzCon, but post-BlizzCon there will be info.

4:39 - Q: Build changing legendaries are great, but how do you get a specific one without an AH?
Josh: We're still thinking about the social aspect of trading, but Diablo is about finding the epic drop for your class, by fighting monsters in game. We're adding different ways to get them; the Mystic helps adjust the power of items. We really want people to feel that there's a hope that they'll get the item they're looking for; but with hundreds of items being added, you might get one another you didn't even know about, but that is great for you.

4:41 - Q: If you have PS3 Diablo III, is there a price discount for Reaper of Souls?
Josh: Unknown at this time, but you can definitely import any PS3 Diablo III character to the PS4 version.

4:41 - Q: Will Reaper of Souls bring changes to Acts 1-4, apart from the skills and such?
Josh: There are small refinements, but really only a different perspective as a Crusader character.

4:42 - Q: Are you planning on combining Paragon levels between characters?
Josh talks about account-wide Paragon levels.

4:42 - Q: How are Paragon levels figured out?
Josh: Each of the points you spend feel meaningful, whether you have 1 Paragon Level, or 200 Paragon levels.

4:43 - Q: Are Paragon levels on hold while leveling from 60-70?
A: Yes

4:44 - Q: Is PS4 Diablo III a 1080p game?
Josh: Yes, it's at 1080p. 60fps is what we're aiming for, although it dips a bti below that at times on the PC. The game looks great on the PS4.

4:44 - Q: What is the hardest idea to get the team on board with?
Josh: Everybody got on board quickly with the changes. Adventure Mode was the biggest question because it's so different, but now we're playing it non-stop at the office.

4:45 - End of Q&A on the live stream, and that's a wrap!

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