was released in February, the Diablo III developers did slew of interviews about the patch and the
. Here's a look back at an interview done in February at a major gaming event in South Korea, with Diablo III game director Josh Mosqueira and lead level designer Dave Adams.
Keep in mind that this was taken before patch 2.0 was released, so most of the information here has already been explored further. But it's a fun interview, with the Diablo III developers covering various aspects of the patch and expansion.
Here are the topics covered in the interview; select a topic to jump directly to that part of the transcript:
Pools of Reflection
Q: There have been a lot of presentations about Reaper of Souls. Is there anything in Reaper of Souls that has not yet been revealed?
We have done a lot of presentations, we were very excited about a lot of the new features. But even at the last moment, there's still a few new features that not all our players know about, but that we're very excited to talk about. One of them is Pools of Reflection. These are a new feature that essentially look like a health globe. But when you activate one, they give you a persistent experience buff, that gives you extra experience that lasts a good while, and persists through sessions. However, you lose the buff if you die. This is what we call an anti-death bonus.
Launch Issues and Errors
Q: Are there any plans to prevent the issues on release, like Error 37 back at the initial Diablo III release?
Yes. First of all, we deleted Error 37. [laughter] No, it was a very hard moment, not just for our players who really wanted to play the game, but for us as well. I think we've taken a lot of steps and technical solutions to ensure that our capacity and our bandwidth are all ready for March 25 when Reaper of Souls comes out. I think it's one of the reasons why we've had such a prolonged beta, as well, is to find out if there are any potential issues coming up. I think one of the interesting new things is that...
So, part of the problem is that on May 15 2012 when Diablo III launched, everybody was trying to log in at the same time. With Reaper of Souls, you can already be logged in before Reaper goes live. That was one of the reasons why we're doing patch 2.0. The moment Reaper goes live, you can be in game already and be able to press Play, and go right into Act V. So we definitely are trying to take all the steps we can, to avoid repeating the past. We want Reaper's launch to be as smooth as we can make it.
Q: Some of the achievements are bugged from the initial release of the game, that were completed but still don't show as completed on characters. Will that be fixed in Reaper of Souls?
We definitely looked at all the problems and all the issues that happened around launch. As I said before, it wasn't a happy time at Blizzard, it wasn't a happy time for many of our players. Again, we've really taken a lot of steps to make sure everything is ready on March 25.
Wings of Valor
Q: This afternoon, you announced that in the pre-order, players will get the Wings of Imperious. Can you tell us more about how to get the wings?
It's for all pre-orders...
Yeah, so if you've already pre-ordered the game, you will be getting the Wings of Valor. If you pre-order the game at any point going forward before ship, you'll be getting the Wings of Valor. As long as you pre-order, you will be getting your Wings of Valor.
Q: Can you explain the difference between the old difficulty system, and the new Dynamic Difficulty system?
The first big change is that in the original game you were sort of stuck in this continuous loop of: Normal, Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. What we wanted to do is to give players the freedom to really change the difficulty based on what challenge level they wanted. One way to think about it is that the original Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno were game modes
. Whereas now the difficulties are actual challenge levels. So as you increase the difficulty, the challenge increases, and also the rewards get better. This is something you can change; you can change in game if you want, if you set the game too hard you can make it easier. But we really wanted to give players many different options how to play in Diablo III.
Yeah, there's no progression to that challenge level. You can start the game as soon as you get it, you don't have to do Normal. You can go right to Torment and try that out, if that's what you want to do. Where before you kind of had to go through that progression, and there's no progression any more.
Playing With People Who Don't Have the Expansion
Q: Can the players without the expansion play Diablo III with their friends who have Reaper of Souls?
Yeah, absolutely you can play. There are certain parts of the content that you won't be able to play: you won't be able to play Act V, if they go there, or in Adventure Mode. But you will get all the benefits of patch 2.0 so you'll be able to go into that content and have all those benefits with your friends.
Q: For the Crusader, it felt stronger at the start of the beta. After a few patches, the defense still feels good, but the attack isn't as strong now, and fighting elites feels boring. Why didn't you do this patch after the release, instead of during the beta testing?
The reason we did it during the beta test is because we wanted to get as much feedback as we can, so that we can make sure that when March 25 comes out and millions of players are going to come back to play the game, the Crusader feels as awesome as we can make him feel. I think one of the benefits and also disadvantages of being in a beta is that you get to see the way we swing -- it goes from super-overpowered and feels really awesome, and then we sort of go to the other extreme, and then we end up in the middle. One of the reasons why we have staggered beta waves, is that every time we go from one extreme to the other, we want to get new feedback, fresh feedback, to know "Does this feel awesome?" Obviously, if you're used to this [overpowered level], this [underpowered level] is not going to feel awesome, because you were used to the other. But we really want to make sure that come March 25, that Crusader and all the classes and all the game feels solid.
The Crusader has to be balanced against the other characters, as well. You don't want to go into this, where we do the release and there's the one character that's like so much more awesome. We want everybody to play the Crusader, obviously, but we want all the other characters to feel just as powerful.
Q: So to get the Hellfire Ring at level 70, you have to kill Uber Diablo. Did you get that idea from Diablo II?
Yes, it was. It was something that we wanted to do for the original Diablo III, and we thought it would be very cool to add for Reaper of Souls. It was definitely inspired by Diablo II.
Q: Do you have any stories or episodes about fighting uber Diablo in Diablo II, and even Diablo III?
I wouldn't call them episodes, more like nightmares. I definitely got some of those flashbacks while we were testing and balancing the uber Diablo fight. Andrew Chambers and Matthew Berger who were the two designers working on that, they gave me nightmares. They sort of reminded me when I was back playing D2, and clicking away, and getting so close and then dying... yeah, it's fun, hard.
Q: Supposedly you get some Hearthstone cards or packs when you buy the Collector's Edition of Reaper of Souls. Do you know anything about this?
We haven't heard anything about getting any cards or packs from the Collector's Edition.
It's a fun rumor.
Somebody from PR can say if there's anything different.
Q: How is the progression going for PVP or the ladder system?
I don't think we have anything really to talk about that's advanced, anything with PVP. We would love to have PVP in the game, we talk about it on the team, we know the community is very passionate about having PVP. Right now, it's really trying to figure out the best gameplay for that system to work in Diablo. We really haven't come up with that formula yet, so I think right now we're just really focused on Reaper. There were a lot of changes that have happened in the game since launch, and through this expansion. I think all that stuff that's gone on, like Loot 2.0 and everything that's gone on in the new content that we've made has kept us busy during that time, so much so that we really haven't had a lot of time to put into that. It's something that we discuss, we totally understand that people want it, our team wants it, it's just something that we really need to figure out. It's just gonna take time, and we just haven't had that, so far.
I think when it comes time... if
it comes time to make any PVP announcement, we're gonna have a really big party.
Wings of Valor Development
Q: The Wings of Valor weren't listed in the initial announcement for the May 25 release of Reaper of Souls, but it suddenly appeared out of nowhere. Is it a surprise that you wanted to add all along, or did some of the feedback from the community made you decide to add it?
Umm, I don't know! [laughter]
Oh, I know! I think wings are very cool; I always have my Collector's Edition wings from the original, and I really like the console ones as well. I thought it would only be fair if we did a new set of wings for Reaper and especially for the pre-orders. It was partially planned, but it was also a sort of a great last minute opportunity. The whole team was like, "let's do it", and we did it very quickly. A big part of the reason too is that Imperious got a little jealous... Tyrael has wings, Malthael has wings, and poor Imperious didn't get any wings. So we thought it was fair for the Angel of Judgement to get some wing action.
Q: In the console version of Diablo III the angle changes. On the PC version, you can go first-person but it isn't like a zoom. Could you say something about that?
In the PlayStation version, there's no actual camera controls, but the camera is closer, because when you're sitting on the couch you're further away from the screen. When it comes to the PC version, because of the control scheme it's important that your character is always in the center of the screen. So there's not a lot that we can do for the camera. There's two instances in the beta where we're trying to do something cool with the beta. Do you want to talk about those, do you remember what those are?
I don't remember, no, but I can explain why we do some of the stuff with the camera that we do. We build the art in the game to that camera. So it's really difficult to change. Once we have specifications for Westmarch for example, the high buildings and how we construct everything, the camera really can't move much, because you're going to zoom through all of that. So it's built in a specific way to that camera, so we really can't change it much.
So at the very beginning of Act V, when you're in what we call the Westmarch Overlook, we do adjust the camera so that you get a really cool view of Westmarch, so you have a good understanding of the evil that Malthael is bringing on the city. If you've played into Pandamonium with the battering ram, that's another instance where we've changed the camera to really make it as dramatic as possible.
And we also do it right before you enter the Malthael...
Q: So there is a spot where your camera view changes.
Yes, but again, the art is built specifically for those moments.
Q: So with the new skills for characters, like the Barbarian new skill, feedback here is that it feels more like a spell than a Barbarian ability, and feels similar to other skills. As a developer, how do you think about that sort of feedback?
We work very hard to make sure the skills really help reinforce the core fantasy of the class. For the specific example of Avalanche, one of the things that really marks the Barbarian is that he's about might and also that the Barbarians come from the mountains. So I think it was important for us that the skill is called Avalanche for a reason, because we wanted to evoke some of that natural primal element, as part of the core fantasy of the Barbarian. He's somebody who is about might, and mountains, and strength.
We definitely try to make sure that our skills feel as different as we can make them. We sort of feel, when you look at all the new skills, they all serve slightly different roles. Of course we would love to hear feedback that all the skills feel completely different, but I do think there are unique elements to Avalanche, for example, that tactically make it feel different than other skills. Especially when it comes to the runes; the runes are really you can change and tweak and amp the skill.
21:9 Aspect Ratio
Q: Will the expansion support 21:9 aspect ratio? And, a lot of people have very high resolution monitors and systems, and Diablo doesn't fully support that.
Good question, I don't have the exact answer. But I know that some of the programmers on our team have crazy setups, and they keep asking both myself and our tech director, to be able to support those crazy setups. So I'm sure we can find out the answer for you, especially for the 21:9. There was one programmer who used to come to my desk, almost every week, asking the same question. He stopped coming by my desk, so I'm assuming that he stopped coming by my desk because he's happy now, and we've worked on something. But we can get the information.
Q: Since the most important game director of team 3 has arrived in Korea, that means that the game is almost done. Are there any last minute changes or additions?
He's talking to me, the most important one... oh, no. [laughter] I can cover some of the stuff going on right now. At this point, it's last minute little tweaks and stuff. We are still receiving a lot of feedback from the beta, and we will act on that. Even after we launch, we'll still react to that. But a lot of the stuff for level design, anyway, we're doing a lot of tweaks to monster density throughout the game, making sure that it feels good throughout. And a few bugs here and there, but a lot of the time, we've just been playing. We've been having a good time, just finally getting some time in to play the characters a lot, and take in the game at this point. That's what really great about this part of the game, where we can come out to these things and take some time to talk to you guys, but also everyone is back at the office is playing the game and wrapping up a few things here and there.
Yeah, obviously we want to make sure we finish Reaper and it's really strong and awesome. At the same time, it's important for us -- we spend a lot of time working on the game and we're very excited in a couple of weeks not only is patch 2.0 going to go live, but next month Reaper is coming out. I think it's important that not only will we make sure that the team is working and playing the game, but it's really important to come out and spend some time with you guys, and get to talk. We work very hard, and we work hard because we love the game, but we love the game because it brings us together with our players. At the end of the day, that's why we put in all the hard work, because we love our players, and getting to talk to you guys is very special.
Time to Complete Torment 6
Q: In the initial Diablo III release, you guys said to get to Inferno Diablo, it would probably take 6 months.
Yeah, yeah we did. [laughter]
Q: So, this time we have Torment 6 and Malthael. How long do you think it will take? Any thoughts?
You can start in Torment, so...
Yeah, we don't make those kind of statements anymore. [laughter] Our players continually surprise us. Wyatt Cheng is our senior technical designer and does a lot of those sort of final tweaking, he's the one who would tell us, "Oh it's going to take 6 months!" And then when it didn't take 6 months, he wasn't very happy, and he owed us a lot of beer since we had a bet. I think I won on that one. I said it will take less than a month, and he said "No, it'll take 6 months!" And so, for every week less than a month, it's a couple of beers.
I think we underestimated how important it was for people to do that as quickly as possible. I was amazed, how fast... So I can't even guess this time, because people are relentless, they will stop at nothing to achieve whatever it is, as quickly as possible, and be the first guy to do that.
Music from Diablo 1 and 2
Q: In the StarCraft II 2.1 patch, there is an option to listen to the soundtrack from the original StarCraft. There are great soundtracks from Diablo I and II, could we hear that playing maybe in Adventure Mode?
Yes! I that is an idea that actually our music director also suggested. We don't have any announcements right now, but it's definitely... I think it's something a lot of players would really enjoy, I know I would enjoy it as well. So, let's see what the future brings.
Future Content Updates
Q: In the original Diablo III there wasn't a lot of end-game content, and a lot of patches were made to support that. In Reaper of Souls you have a lot of features that supports the end-game content, it's a lot stronger. How is the direction for the future patches, adding to the end-game or something else?
You know, that's starting to get into the future, but I think it's important for me to say that we do have a content roadmap. There are some very exciting things that we're thinking about, that we may be working on. But we also want to see what the reaction is, and what the feedback is when Reaper goes out. As Dave says, when we release Reaper it's not the end, but really the beginning. We have some ideas, but we also want to see the things our players find really exciting, what are the things that they don't find as exciting. It's really a partnership. So we have some ideas, but we're gonna see how you guys react to it, and where we're gonna take this ship together. It's a partnership, we're partners in this endeavor that is Diablo III.
Thank you! [End of interview]