With all of the commotion surrounding the recent announcement of Diablo 3, a lot of questions are being asked regarding all aspects of the game. I sat down at a panel at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational to discuss the world lore and environment art of Blizzard’s latest creation.
Blizzard has recognized that there is unexplored potential in Diablo 1 and Diablo 2. Overall, the Diablo franchise is much darker than any of Blizzard’s other properties. The story itself is about angels and demons compared to other games in the same genre. The Diablo universe is a world. It’s a civilization on it’s own and therefore, has a history and Diablo 3 is going to tap into that history more than ever before.
We are introduced to Caldeum. Caldeum is a new city not previously explored, however it is the largest trade center in all Sanctuary. Caldeum is mentioned in the lore, yet until now, has simply been just a name. The writers hope to take more from what is already established and build upon it. On the other hand, the game is made more immersive as well by introducing additional areas that we won’t see, however play a part in the game. Skovos is one of these societies. They are an ancient society that hasn’t had a lot of contact with the world and because of this have a different view. Even their founding is different. Skovos came into existence because of an angel and her human lover.
Expanding upon the historical details allowed for deeper characters because deeper characters need culture. Therefore, in Diablo 3, we will be able to distinguish more between a character and learn from their dress, speech, influences, and hints about their daily life. They are going from using long speeches to explain a culture to using the environment and the power of observation to establish a presence.
The purpose of a story in a game is to give context to a players’ actions Some players care about the story, others would rather just skip past it, however the story deepens the universe as a whole. To do this, characters will have more voice and dialog than the predecessors. The environment will also tell part of the story in order to engage those players that would prefer to just skip past it.
So, what is Diablo 3‘s story? Diablo 3 takes place 20 years past the events of Diablo 2. Deckard Cain is still around and is convinced that hell is going to invade. He feels as though he is responsible for what has happened. Unfortunately, he is not well received. The events of Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 are seen as legend. The regular people think it is a myth because they know that they would never be able to face evil of that magnitude so they write it off as nothing. However, hell hasn’t invaded yet, despite Cain’s warnings so as time goes on, the likelihood of a myth gets higher. Tyrael is also still missing, no one has talked to him and no one has heard from him. What has happened to Tyrael and why hasn’t hell invaded yet? Blizzard left it at that.
Blizzard did mention, however, that we don’t know whether or not Mephisto is coming back. In addition, there are seven lords of hell and it would be wise to count how many we have killed up until this point. All we know is that the game starts in New Tristram, Cain comes back and we’ll probably see some old NPCs and a hero or two in the journey.
The art of Diablo has always been very unique focusing on a few key points: stylization over reality, dynamic animations, strong silhouettes, don’t be afraid of color, and support the gameplay. To reach these goals for Diablo 3 a few things had to happen. First, Blizzard needed to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the previous styles and condense each down to the core. In doing so, Blizzard realized that the Diablo brand has an emphasis on horror and in doing so they wanted to capture the feeling of the horror genre, yet maintain Blizzard’s key design points.
All of these goals are then applied to updating the classic Diablo looks. In doing so, they explore a new visual look using a 3D isometric camera rather than the traditional 2D. This helps the environments come alive. In doing so, Blizzard pays special attention to respecting the overall franchise and the expectations established by the previous games.
Overall, it’s important for the art to maintain the traditions but take advantage of new technologies. Blizzard is expecting to use both the art and story to drive Diablo 3, yet also maintain an exciting game for those not quite as interested in the story.