BlizzCon 2013: Diablo III Lore and Story Panel

A live blog of the Diablo III Lore and Story Q + A panel at BlizzCon 2013

BlizzCon 2013 Lore and Story Panel
Our live blogs of panels at BlizzCon 2013 continue with the Diablo III Lore and Story Q + A panel.

The official description for the panel: Dying to know more about the Reaper of Souls' story? Bring your Diablo lore–related inquiry before the development team, and walk away a little wiser in the ways of Sanctuary.

Panel attendees:
  • Leonard Boyarsky, Senior Designer
  • Michael Chu, Game Designer/Writer
  • Brian Kindregan, Lead Writer
  • Valerie Watrous, Game Designer/Writer
  • Justin Parker, Diablo Historian

The panelists listen to a question; taken by our reporter in the crowd of press.

4:58 - Ready here, the panel will start shortly.

5:00 - We're off! Justin Parker is a last minute addition.

5:02 - Q: What about a failure cinematic, when you die? A: We couldn't do a cinematic, but we're looking at different things that can happen when you die... can't talk about those yet, not set in stone.

5:03 - Q: Who were these two different Barbarians, Worusk and Bul-Kathos, as detailed in the Immortal King armor set? A: The honorary title of Immortal King was given to the later Worusk, for his work for the tribes, much like the earlier leader Bul-Kathos.

5:04 - Q: What happened to the dragon? A: There hasn't been an appearance in quite some time, there hasn't been a good time to see him again.

5:05 - Q: How do the Templar and Crusader differ in ideology? A: Templar's order rose from the ashes of the Paladin order, a newer group, with questionable practices. Crusaders were created at the same time as the Paladins long ago, disappeared into the marshlands of the east, not heard of in a long time. They trace their origins back to the early days of the Zaka'rum faith.

5:06 - Q: In Zultan Kuule's archive there are coffins, what are they? A: He was interested in anything with magic, including his experiments and magical excitement.

5:07 - Q: What happened to the Worldstone when it shatterd at the end of Diablo II? A: Unknown at this point, where the pieces of it are. As far as we know right now, it's gone.

5:08 - Q: Is Tyrael human, since Human equals Demon + Angel? A: He is not human, he's mortal but just chose the form of a human. He has sympathized with humans for a long time, but he is not a Nephalem, he never had any demon in him. He was pure angel, now he's just a mortal who has a really cool sword. He's not descended from human, he gave up a lot of his powers to help humans.

5:09 - Q: Since the theme of Reaper of Souls is death and Deckard Cain died, are there references to him? A: There are a lot of references to Deckard in Reaper of Souls, there's no way this expansion could play out without hearing his voice and feeling his influence.

5:11 - Q: Was Deckard Cain killed to help move things to Leah? A: We decided that Deckard Cain was going to pass on, to up the emotional stakes for Leah, Tyrael and the player himself. He ended up filling a lot of the role that Tyrael filled.

5:12 - Q: What is Imperius going to be doing in response to Malethael? A: It's a big deal in heaven, that all this is happening. The factions there will react in different ways to these events. Imperius is not as big a fan of mortals as Tyrael, so they're going to have different perspectives on it.

5:13 - Q: What's the history of the Demon Hunter? A: The events of Diablo I and Diablo II had this big affects on the world. Our hero Demon Hunter is one of the people in that, who went north to the Dreadlands to train, to fight and work and take out the demons who they had seen.

5:14 - Q: Have there been other religions other than Christianity that were inspirations for the story? A: The Diablo universe relies heavily on Judeo-Christian iconography and ideas, but there are a lot of themes pulled from different religions. The Monks have a very non-Judeo-Christian take on the world. As far as the story itself at this point, it has taken a life of it's own beyond all of that. Another answer: Diablo is specific to our world, but with a dark fantasy difference.

5:17 - Q: What about Leah's soul, will we have a chance to redeem that? A: We don't have any plans to revisit what happened with Leah... for that fate to have any meaning, it has to exist for a while, with major characters in a game. Leah is on our radar, but we're not looking at doing anything with her right now.

5:18 - Q: In the Book of Tyrael and other places they talk about the Nephalem from before; what were they like, before their power went away? Multiple answers from the panelists:
  • At the temple, they were scared enough to make deals and hide out.
  • The ancients were the first Nephalem, think of Bul'Kathos with his culture. They weren't pre-literate, since they were raised by angels and demons.
  • Nephalem becoming less powerful; they began at their golden age, and then went downhill from there. Their children were born weaker and weaker, which lead to the splintering of these civilizations. A lot of their power and traditions were lost, and only now in the events of Diablo III is a lot of the power coming back.
  • They're this really ancient culture that's related to us, but they're also sort of weird and unknowable.
  • When it's first described in the Diablo manuals, when the Worldstone was attuned to reduced their power, somehow everybody knew about it; but some of them didn't know, or thought they were being struck by some bizarre plague.

5:23 - Q: What are the gods that the Monks pray to? A: They believe in tons and tons of gods. They sort of have a glimpse of reality, and that's who they pray to. Each culture has it's own interpretation of how the world was created; the Witch Doctor is communing with actual spirits, so it's different for each of them.

5:24 - Q: What's up with Adria, is she still backing Diablo, or going with Malthael, or back in her evil lair or what? A: Adria is a very interesting character, she's obviously ticked us off a bit... we haven't forgotten about her, her time will come. She is definitely still a disciple of Diablo, perhaps has an unhealthy obsession with Diablo.

5:25 - Q: If Tyrael was an angel, could he have taken out Malthael? A: If he was an angel, he would not have wiped the floor, the events of the cinematic would have played out the same way. Malthael was one of the most powerful angels around, but since his transformation he has become far more powerful. He feeds on the souls of the dead; even right there, when he is taking in the souls there, he was growing more powerful by the minute.

5:27 - Q: Could Tyrael become an angel again? A: The Anduris Council does not have that ability; we haven't fully explored that yet. As with character deaths, for Tyrael's sacrifice to have meaning it has to be difficult if not impossible to reverse.

5:28 - Q: What happens to human souls when they are killed, like where did Deckard Cain's soul go? A: We haven't said where human souls go, and we aren't going to reveal that. Since the advent of Malthael, a whole lot of souls have not gone where they're supposed to, they were consumed by him instead. That's part of the horror of what's going on; not just that people are dying, but their souls are being consumed.

5:29 - Q: What happened to the hero of Diablo II, with the portal? A: We haven't answered any of this specifically other than the Necromancer who apparently had an apprentice. Generally when people fight the Prime Evils, they generally need a break afterwards!

5:30 - Q: Heroes didn't get much love in Diablo III, Tyrael got the coolest moments. A: We can't show your character in the cinematics, because they won't look like your character. Once you start equipping gear, we want to make sure your character looks like your own, with their gear -- we can't show them because of that. Once D3 came out, we got feedback from the community, and got feedback on what we could do better. In Reaper of Souls, even with that limitation about not showing your character in a cinematic, we wanted to make sure your character is important in the story, and not just being hired monster. We've been looking at ways to make sure your character feels important and driving the story forward.

5:33 - Q: What happened to Diablo II heroes? A: There is at least one Diablo II characters whose fate was revealed, the Sorceress, in the initial short stories written for Diablo III. We're still looking at how to show the stories about characters from the previous games.

5:34 - Q: Anything new with Covetous Shen, he's a mysterious character. A: Absolutely yes! We love these followers, and will be expanding them. There will be some adventures you can go on specifically with your follower characters; with one of them, you find out more about Arianna, and the Prophet, and her characters. You'll find more about Covetous Shen, and that Jewel he keeps looking for... Rather than just talking to your followers and hear about them after the fact, you get to go on certain adventures and help their story advance. And yes, the Thieves' Guild will find you. The Templar is a little upset about the Order at this point, and wants to do something with it.

5:37 - Q: When are we going to see Kingsport? A: You get to go to Westmarch, which is very very close. Unfortunately you are very busy in Westmarch, but because you are close to the Scoundrel's old stomping grounds, a lot of his past shows up.

5:38 - Q: The End of Days prophecy, does that have a dualistic meaning? A: Prophecy is almost always multilayered in meaning, they often go much deeper than initially appear. "Death Spreading His Wings" is pretty indicative of Malthael, but there could be more to it.

5:39 - Q: Are you writing the story based on the prophecy? A: The prophecy plays a part in the story, it's almost the inciting incident. But the people living there react to it, including your hero character, who can change the entire paradigm. As noted in Diablo III, the Nephalem aren't in the Books of Fate, so they're kind of a giant monkey wrench in that.

5:41 - Q: Is Inarius still alive? A: Last we heard, he was still being tortured in hell... even with Mephisto being busy and getting killed, there was no doubt someone still taking care of him.

5:41 - Q: Zultan Kuule has been talked about moral ambiguity; was he written that way? A: At the basic level, it comes down to whether you agree with letting this guy the keys to ruling the world is a good idea or not. We did try to come up with this ambiguous character, where you want to think he has a good point. Zultan Kuule is all about humans; but among humans, he thinks he's the best thing ever. More broadly, a lot of the stories in the game are about a fight for survival and against overwhelming odds. A lot of that struggle doesn't have room for ambiguity; any time we can find a place for valid arguments all around, we always love that, and have people arguing with each other about who was right and who was wrong. And if he was left alive in Reaper of Souls, you'd have to hear that laugh, a lot!

5:44 - Q: We saw the soulstone fall, and then Tyrael is picking it up in heaven. A: There are multiple levels of heaven, it just fell from one tier to another. The angels picked up the soulstone; we have a novel coming out that talk about Tyrael's journey about taking the soulstone from heaven, called Storm of Light.

5:45 - Q: The Book of Tyrael is great; in the encyclopedia the Morbid is mentioned, are we going to encounter him in Reaper of Souls? A: Morbid specifically will be appearing in fiction, not Reaper of Souls. Q: Where did he get his power? A: Detailed in the fiction.

5:47 - Q: What would happen if all the angels just removed their wings and became mortal? A: The wings was more of a symbolic gesture, he needed to lose them to become mortal. Tyrael shed his entire angelic being, but it wasn't the cause of it.

5:48 - Q: Are we be revisiting Pandemonium? A: Yes, we go there and will visit the fortress. One of the things we are revealing in the game is that it is a constantly changing structure, based on the angels and demons who have held it over time. It actually reflects the appearance, feel and even layout of it's current owner. It will not look like the fortress did in Diablo II.

5:49 - Q: Since Tyrael made the soulstone for the Horadrim, why can't he just make another one? A: The original 3 soulstones were made from the Worldstone, and there's no more Worldstone to make another.

5:51 - Q: Why hasn't a new Archangel of Justice stepped forward, after Tyreal left that spot? A: We haven't really explored that. When an angel dies, an replacement isn't instantly born; it's only when the arch is able to do it. Tyrael didn't die, and that's a new thing in the Diablo universe. Also, Tyreal isn't the archangel of justice, but he's still the aspect of justice.

5:53 - Q: How does Leah not believe in demons, but does believe in skeletons? A: They're all mythical to us... but for Leah, she saw skeletons a lot, but never encountered a demon. She especially didn't believe in the overarching angels versus demons; she just believes it's a chaotic universe.

5:57 - Q: In the Heroes of the Storm, we see Tyreal grouped up with Kerrigan. If Tyrael couldn't handle Malthael, could he handle Kerrigan? A: Heroes of the Storm has it's own logic, nothing that happens there is considered canon. But sure, Tyrael could take Kerrigan!

5:58 - Q: Any links between Adria and Belial, could Belial actually be Adria? A: There are links from Adria to Maghda... But no, you defeated Belial for sure, in Diablo III.

That's a wrap for the panel, and for this live blog. We'll have far more news coming up today, and then more live blogging tomorrow with more Diablo III panels!

See the BlizzCon 2013 News section for the latest live blogs and other Diablo III news from BlizzCon! Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the breaking Diablo III news, as it happens.
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