Blizzcon 2008

Blizzcon 08: Diablo 3 Game Design


The second of the Diablo 3 discussion panels focused on Blizzard’s game design. Lead Designer Jay Wilson did all the talking with Technical Game Designer Wyatt Cheng there for moral support.


The Diablo 3 team, according to Wilson, spent time examining the successes and challenges in the first two Diablo games. From there, devs came up with several “true-isms” for D3:

  • Stay true to the series.
  • Provide amazing moment-to-moment action.
  • Expand players’ RPG experience.
  • Add new systems such as the newly announced/overhauled run system.

To accomplish these ‘true-isms’, Wilson spent about a half hour outlining the four major goals for Diablo 3:

Replayable RPG

To make the game replayable, devs are focusing their attention on the best things from D1 and D2 such as random dungeons and loot, to name two. Environments, encounters, item drops, and dungeons will be highly randomized. The latter will be less ‘generic’ to give players the feeling that they’re not in Kansas anymore every time they step into a dungeon.

Blizzard is also adding something new called ‘adventures’ which are randomly placed in the gaming environment and will change every time the game is played. Adventures can be placed anywhere at any time. Examples might be abandoned houses to explore, an evil cult to destroy, etc.

Epic Heroes

Blizzard honestly does understand the Diablo fanbase when they hand over powerful heroes and let them engage in epic combat. D3 will bring many opportunities to fight as many monsters as can be stuffed on the screen as possible and will give players the chance to feel, to quote Wilson, ‘ludicrously powerful’. Large scale combat with buckets of goo flying around one’s character can do that I’d say.

Make the Game Approachable

Just because a man designs games for a living doesn’t mean his family shares his enthusiasm. Wilson let loose with a story about his wife and her, shall we say, lack of gaming prowess. However, “even she” could play Diablo 3. Wilson’s words were, “If you can click a mouse, you can play D3.”

Following in the grand tradition of the series, D3 will bring isometric game play, a deep gaming experience and a smooth difficulty curve back to fans. It’s supposed to be easy on normal. And take heart: Nightmare, Hell and Hardcore will be returning as well.

Cooperative Play

Battle.Net has been redesigned from the ground up. The goal, according to Wilson, is to make it as simple as possible to find one’s friends and literally jump into the game and almost literally in their back pocket.

Players will also have the opportunity to join massive cooperative battles with one another. The details on this were very sketchy but Wilson said that “more” will be announced soon.

A Better Action Game

Kick Ass.


That pretty well sums up this particular goal and Blizzard has several new improvements to help that happen. They’ve improved the controls, provided “less spam and more depth” and created a new breed of monster.

Gone are the days of the two skill button mash. D3 will feature a skills hotbar, though it is small. Players will be able to map up to six skills to the hotbar. Given the nature of the D3 beasts (see more on this below), players can (and should) map out escape, crowd control and buff skills to their hotbar. Yes, that’s right: More than just “run up and kill the monster” will be necessary in D3.

Kiss those full rejuvs goodbye too. D3 is all about skills over potions. Rather than a belt full of rejuvs, healing potions and/or mana potions, players will find monsters dropping health balls. Not only will they heal the character running into them, but they will heal all in the immediate vicinity making them more valuable for team play and a way for characters to help one another out. Wilson said that there should be times when a character’s health is down.

Gone are the days of being weakened and either escaping to town or chugging a potion while in the middle of battle. These monsters aren’t your grandma’s monsters anymore. They are aggressive and can deal massive amounts of damage.


For instance, the Berserker is highly aggressive and can deal huge amounts of damage through his charged attack. He’s vulnerable if he misses and players will have the chance at a few cheap shots while he’s working his hammer out of the ground.

Skeletal Shieldbearer

This bad boy would be a meat shield if he had any meat on his bones but he does have a huge shield that can be ‘whittled’ away by players though it takes a long time. They are slow and methodical and provide cover for ranged monsters. They are literally, according to Wilson, a ‘wall of health’ for the baddies in the back.

Better RPG

Wilson wrapped up this panel with the notion that D3 is going to be more about story and provide players a chance to be more involved with it. There won’t be that “opt in” feel to the story with more NPC interactions, better quests and events. The new adventure system plays into this as well.

My feeling from this panel is that Wilson and his team have a lot more up their collective sleeve to entice the community. This bunch is passionate about the game and, contrary to many opinions, they actually do listen to their community.

Stay tuned for more about the story and lore in D3 later today as the final panel is set for 4:30pm PST.

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