BlizzCon 2013: Diablo III Q and A Panel

A live blog of the question and answer session about all things Diablo III

BlizzCon 2013 Diablo III Q and A Panel
Now for the final Diablo III panel from BlizzCon 2013, the Q&A session. We will have a live blog covering all the questions, and the answers from the developers and designers.

The official description for the panel: Ask the creators of Diablo III any questions you have about the PC and console versions of Diablo III, and permanently increase your personal Intelligence stat.

The people on this panel:
  • Matthew Berger, Senior Level Designer, Console
  • Wyatt Cheng, Senior Technical Game Designer
  • John Hight, Production Director
  • Brian Kindregan, Lead Writer
  • Christian Lichtner, Art Director
  • Kevin Martens, Lead Designer
  • Josh Mosqueira, Game Director
  • Jason Regier, Technical Director

3:07PM PDT - Waiting for the panel to start, which should happen in 7 minutes!

3:15 - And here we go!

Q: Which items are account bound?
A: We've been saying in interviews all day: when we had the AH live, trading was a valid way to get items, but the scale was way out of whack. So we wanted to rebalance that, we still see the usefulness of trading, and we want a social aspect to trading. Likely, which could change by ship: probably the top tier of legendaries and probably commodities will be account bound.

Q: Reaper of Souls only PS4?
A: We are committed to taking your PS3 saves to PS4... not talking about anything other than PS4 for consoles at this point.

Q: More stash space?
A: At this point, no. We're trying to find more things to do with the items you have, so you feel less of a need to hold on to them. With Enchanting and Blacksmithing, you should feel like a less useful item is worth breaking down into crafting materials. In Loot 2.0 you're getting better smarter drops in a more consistent way, so you don't feel the need to hold on to as much.

Q: With "Less is More", we still need crafting materials. Will we ever do anything with whites and greys?
A: Currently white items salvage into some crafting materials. One change we're making to crafting is that instead of the different tiers of crafting reagents at Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno mode, we're unifying it: from level 1-60 will all use the same tier of crafting reagents. Crafting shouldn't be a huge bookkeeping chore.

Q: Lore question about the Sisterhood of the Silent Sigh, how the Rogues are doing?
A: During development of D3 there were a lot of plans, things we tried and explored putting certain things in, and sometimes it was just too much information or no good place for it. The Book of Tyrael and the Book of Cain explain a little bit more about what is going on with them, and other factions.

Q: New monster affixes? Current ones are pretty boring.
A: The monster affixes, the goal is to combine the abilities the monsters have, with a random affix pool. We are adding new ones in RoS, but we're also looking at the monsters that exist, and that their abilities are shining through. You want to layer on top of that the random affixes, and we want both the base abilities of the monsters and the randomness both interesting.

Q: How far along are you on RoS?
A: We are as far along as you see on the floor. We put out 8 updates in the basic game, and that may have slowed down development of RoS.

Q: Will there be more expansions?
A: Maybe!

Q: Longtime fan of Barbarian, and I loved finding a big two-hander and single-wielding it in Diablo II. Are you bringing that back?
A: The Crusader has a passive that allows you to use a shield in one hand and a two-hander in the other... so that's one approach.

Q: Ladder exclusive drop items?
A: Not talking about ladder, we haven't announced any ladder system. We do know there is a desire for something, and D2 had ladder-specific runewords. So if we looked at that system, we'd look at what's most appealing for that.

Q: Beta keys for those who pre-ordered?
A: We haven't announced pre-orders and exclusives. Our marketing guy was out there, we should have brought him up to answer these questions.

Q: With social interaction, will there be a full D2 style chat lobby?
A: There is a clan roster window, with dedicated clan chat. We have made major improvements to the chat interface, but we haven't gone back to the chat lobby, although we have talked about it. We're going to see how this looks over the next few months with the clans, and we'll take it from there.

Q: Devil's Hand mode, any hints?
A: No; it's cool though!

Q: Banners for a virtual goodie, why not wings or something?
A: Kevin loves the banner, so it's Kevin's fault.

Q: With very popular builds like Crit Mass and Whirlwind builds; are those changing?
A: We've talked about Loot 2.0, and how legendaries open up ways to play the game. We want the legendaries plus your skills make a build, not just the build being skills and then items being a bunch of stats on top of that.

Q: Lifesteal, what's happening with that?
A: We do see Lifesteal as an issue, especially as a comparison to other item stats; it distorts how you evaluate and look at your items. We're looking at making letting you decide if you want more Toughness, Healing or Damage, instead of hyper-focusing on Damage all the time; removing Lifesteal does that.

Q: Crusaders feel like glass cannons in the demo; they're dying a lot, but killing stuff really quickly.
A: There's a few things going on there. We tend to overemphasize the combat abilities, the direct damage abilities, when we put a demo together because they're flashier and more fun to see. We are still doing a lot of tuning; it's not a Crusader-specific issue, health and damage numbers are still being iterated on. We're tuning those numbers once a week, until after release, once everyone hits it we continue to tune it as well.

Q: What about an endless dungeon; if you die you have to start all over?
A: That request has come up before, within and without the team. I call that a bottomless dungeon; Nephalem Rifts are like an endless dungeon with all the random nature of what they provide, an endless way to experience the game in dungeons. We aren't working on a bottomless dungeon right now, but we do like that idea and might work on it going forward.

Q: Anything like a small buff for staying alive for over an hour, to make death matter more in softcore mode?
A: We do prefer to give a bonus instead of penalize, whenever we can. We have a death penalty that works well enough, but we do occasionally discuss the idea of a buff for staying alive, and have ideas for it.

Q: Any more tie-in novels beyond Storm of Light coming out? More than a new novel once every 2 years?
A: Right now we think the novels are in a good place, we see more coming on the horizon. We don't have a release schedule or cadence, it's based on when we have a story we really want to tell. Early on in the development in Reaper of Souls, we realized there was this entire story between the end of Diablo III and the start of Reaper of Souls, with Tyrael and how he was going to deal with the soulstone. When we find a story that we want to tell, that doesn't lend itself to being in the game, we look at other media like stories on the web, graphic novels, or novels.

Q: Are you doing anything to get away from trifecta being overwhelming on gear?
A: There's a multipronged approach on trifecta. By removing Lifesteal, we're hoping that the overemphasis on damage will ease up a little bit. We have the Primary and Secondary split for stats on gear, so that power stats don't compete with utility stats. We don't want to take away from trifecta, but we want to give you so many more options on an item, 7 or 8 of them on an item that you have to choose between them all to improve your character.

The bonus damage to a particular skill is a deep well we can go to, to change how people play their build. When you get a couple of items that provide boosts to a specific skill like Seven-Sided Strike, it can make a big difference.

Q: Currently the Uniques and Elites are boring; are you making any changes for them?
A: We have internally done some changes to both Champion and Rare packs. Champions mostly we varied the number of guys, so it's not just 3 blue dudes who are the same. For Rares, instead of 1 yellow guy + 3 smaller ones, we're varying from 2-7 for minions, and changing them so they are different creatures. There will be variety in the types of monsters who can spawn with a Rare.

Q: All damage is derived from weapon; is that staying the same for Reaper of Souls?
A: We're pretty happy with it, it's a series of design trade-offs. The Wizard uses their weapon damage to power skills, that's different from D2, but in D2 you often didn't care about your weapon at all. You could stack up stats like Magic Find in all your other slots and you didn't care about your weapon.

Q: Demonic Essences; will they be used in Reaper of Souls for higher level gear?
A: We can't answer that today.

Q: Critical Mass used in over 95% of Wizard builds; is the problem with the passive, or the way it's used with a skill like Frost Nova?
A: The problem might be with the passive itself. It's aggravated by extremely high proc scales on a number of Wizard skills. We want to look at both of them, and make sure the Wizard has viable alternative passives. There are no plans to alter Frost Nova; it's great to be able to crowd control enemies. While it feels powerful to permanently CC an enemy, that's bad for the long-term of the game. We don't want characters in the place where they can perma-stun enemies in the game.

Q: Right now Ubers are part of the "end game content", but you need to do them for the Hellfire Rings. Will we have this for level 70 items?
A: There could be a place for something like that in the future, but we're not announcing anything involving Ubers today.

Q: Why did you split the item properties into categories? Will this impact the Mystic rolling things for those categories?
A: There are some item properties that will never match the trifecta and the main stat, like Pickup Radius. But it's nice to have properties like that, so we didn't want them to compete. With the Mystic, you can enchant either the Secondary or the Primary properties; you can't reroll a Secondary into a Primary or vice-versa. When you go to enchant a stat, it shows the potential other properties it can roll into.

Q: If there are collector's edition of Reaper of Souls, will you make enough of them so we don't have to go to a scalper to buy one?
A: The best bet is to pre-order the collector's edition; we don't actually determine how many are made, they're based on the number of pre-orders that the retailers see.

Q: When the expansion arrives, will characters who already have really high gear and Paragon Levels just be too powerful, and roll through the game?
A: It's challenging to have such a big disparity in character power between a new level 60, and one with really great gear. We still want to have characters playing if they enjoy it. We will have a way for over-geared characters a way to tune it up, not Monster Power, so powerful characters will still find things challenging.

Q: Regarding the art direction for angels as enemies, will some of them look different in terms of art and lore? We see different types of demons, but only one kind of angel.
A: It's pretty challenging to design stuff like that, because people have very specific views of what they should look like. It's tough to make them look interesting, but still close to what we've done before. We used the idea of constructs, not demonic but things that Malthael has created and turned into bastardizations of angels; it's angelic armor with monstrous sort of looks. We wanted to make sure it didn't look like demons straight up, that would be too easy.

The angels closer to Malthael have become corrupted in different ways. Even though they are doing something horrible to humanity, they aren't demons, so it's important that there are the distinct 3 sides. Some of these angels in Pandemonium are starting to look more different than the angels you have seen so far.

Q: Any possibility to release Diablo I again, maybe as bonus content?
A: We've thought about it; sometimes seeing those old games again on current tech, it doesn't look quite as good. It isn't something we're against.

Q: What about the soundtrack for Diablo I?
A: No plans so far, but bug that marketing guy back there!

Q: Since you're limited by gear in D3, and MP10 was a great addition... why not a slider that goes up to MP100, just for the challenge?
A: The Monster Power system was something of a stop-gap, it did a decent job for the time we patched that in. [Technical glitch]

Q: Anything about PVP arena?
A: We talk about it every week, we need to find a PVP mode that does justice to the core fantasy of Diablo. We're off to an interesting direction with PVE right now and the advancement of Diablo; we'll see where it goes.

Q: What about a new follower?
A: The whole idea of finding the fantasy of Diablo applies to the followers as well; we had a serious talk about adding a new one, early in the expansion. Instead we wanted to deepen the followers we have, we didn't do everything we wanted to with them. So we took the same amount of development time and made the current ones better.

From a narrative standpoint, the followers in Diablo III: you talked to them in town and heard their backstory, but it was just a conversation. In Reaper of Souls, each follower's story will continue to evolve. You go on adventures with the follower, and help their story advance. They're also getting a good tuning pass as well.

Q: Any chance of removing the strobe light effect when monsters are hit, so it feels darker and more Gothic?
A: We make a lot of choices that aren't "real", such as highlighting the monsters with outlines. When playing the game, we focus a lot on legibility. We use backgrounds that are a little softer, and the monsters and characters are harsher with different light, so they pop out from the background. The highlighting is the same; you want a visual feedback that a monster is taking damage and about to die, without having to look at the numbers. It's a good point, we struggle with it, the sweet spot between providing the dark Gothic feel, but you aren't getting frustrated playing because you have no visual feedback.

Q: Your character sheet DPS doesn't line up with your effective DPS. Any chance of tools in game to help get more accurate numbers?
A: One of the difficulties for the audience in general, is that there's a conflict between what we want to do as players, and what we want to do as designers. This is one of those areas. I wish the focus wasn't so high on damage. Diablo is an Action RPG, the game isn't in a good state when everyone is hyper-focused on how much damage someone did, and comparing the damage each person in a group did on a boss. Things like mobility, or crowd control, should matter more, than just the damage. We're focused on adding more things that matter, like combat pacing and playing strategically. We wouldn't want to add more tools that encourage people to focus even more on maximizing a number.

Q: Playing in Eyefinity mode, the character and inventory windows are way off to the side; any chance of changing that?
A: We don't have any plans to customize the UI at this point. We will consider it for down the road.

Q: Every class has a way to convert Crit to resources. How do we do resource generation without crit on gear?
A: It's the over-focus on the trifecta. Our job isn't to make crit worse, our job is to give you more things that you might want to do instead; there should be passives or rune options that give cooldown reduction or resource cost reduction instead. There are no plans to hit crit head on.

Q: Playing with nVidia 3D it looks great; will the PS4 have 3D capabilities?
A: That's a good suggestion. We haven't planned anything like that for the PS4, but that's a great idea; the PS4 has so much horsepower.

Q: Have you considered bringing PVE elements into a PVP mode, so it's not just about the balance of the classes, but also fighting the monster as well?
A: That element of adding PVE elements, there might be something there. We have discussions along those lines, as we keep thinking about it, that's part of the solutions. Maybe it's something like PVEVP; right now we're just focusing on what's in front of us, and hopefully at some point in the future we'll have something.

Q: How do the moves that use click and drag work on the PS4, as mentioned for a Crusader skill?
A: The final version of that skill has it's own AI, you don't have to click and drag. We shouldn't have that issue. There are certain skills that require more precision, like Falling Sword, or Leap, where you target more generally where you want to go. It's more of a challenge on the console side; if you look at how Leap is set up, we'll probably use that same sort of targeting.

Q: Right now Cold is the only elemental effect that does something. What will the other weapons elemental effects do?
A: We haven't worked that out yet.

Q: Can we have a lot more pets for Witch Doctors, or anything that grows your damage?
A: Doubling or tripling the damage is often done by skills like the new Demon Hunter skill. We have fewer pets, and they are getting a tuning pass so they are becoming more useful overall. We'd rather you have less, but more powerful pets on your Witch Doctor, or missiles in the air; so you can see what's going on more. There's something cool about the Necromancer filling half the screen with his own army. But the way we do it in Diablo III, that means we can put more of other stuff on the screen; more enemies and cooler effects. In Nephalem Rifts in particular, there are some crazy high density stuff, where you can barely move (unless you have the legendary boots that let you move through monsters!) It's very interesting to try to use your skills in a place like that. The more player pets there are on screen, the less we can do something like that.

Q: What about high level gems dropping?
A: We talk about that, we have to evaluate exactly what we want to do, especially with the removal of the AH. The way the gems were experienced as a player is very different as self-found than with an AH to get all those components. We're looking at what the removal of the AH should do for things like gems.

Q: Diablo is very linear overall. With the Adventure Mode providing the randomness, could the quests in game have consequences?
A: We have tried that long before Reaper of Souls in Diablo III development. It makes your game more complex, and it necessarily has less randomness elsewhere. Most of the events in the game are self-contained, because it lets the game be much faster. It lets you leave whenever you want, and come back, without having to deal with all those half-done quests.

When going on adventures with your followers; if you don't do that quest for them, their story doesn't progress. We do have a couple of events in part of the game, that are sequential. If the first event rolls, and you do it, you have a chance to eventually do the second event. If you don't do the first event when it rolls, you're back to that next time around.

Out of time, and that's a wrap! That's it for the Diablo III panels. We will be updating these live blogs over the next couple of days, to include extra details missed the first time through.

See the BlizzCon 2013 News section for the rest of the 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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