Two years ago today – assuming you’re reading this on May 15 – the long-awaited sequel to Diablo II launched to the eager masses. It wasn’t all smiles and sunshine at first, as the sheer popularity of the title created server problems for many users. It was only a few days before the bulk of the problems were cleared up, and everybody was free to venture through Sanctuary, cleansing it of the demonic invaders. Much fun was had by all in the persistent quest for gear upgrades and new legendary loot drops.
Fast forward to just a couple of weeks ago, and Reaper of Souls brought a whole new gameplay experience, with tailored loot drops – this meant you could actually USE many of the legendary items you painstakingly farm for, which was one of the biggest complaints about the purely random drops from the original launch – as well as the new adventure mode. It has been well received thus far, and a resurgence in active players was all but inevitable.
That resurgence could get even more pronounced this week as Blizzard has revealed that, as part of the anniversary celebration, all players logging in this week will receive double Rift Fragments and a +100% boost to their chance to find Legendary items. The bonus has already begun and will continue until Thursday, May 22 at 5:00 a.m. PDT.
Despite hundreds of thousands of players now having had a full two years to explore the world of Diablo III, after talking with the Diablo team, it seems there are secrets people have yet to uncover. In addition to listing out a few of their favorites, the good folks at Blizzard have offered us a little bit of insight into just how the Easter Eggs process works. What makes a good Easter Egg. What makes a bad one. Why some get included and some don’t. And how the process has evolved since the golden days of Warcraft II.
In addition to some Q&A with the Diablo team, we’ve also teamed up with Blizzard to set up another giveaway. At the end of this article, residents of US and Canada can enter to win one of two Reaper of Souls Collector’s Editions! We’re pretty excited (and a little jealous, as I only have the standard edition) to be able to offer these up. I do apologize to the international readers out there, but keep an eye out for more international giveaways in the coming weeks! Without further ado, let’s hear what the Diablo team has to say about Easter Eggs.
I asked the team for the top three Easter Eggs. They gave me six instead. The top of the list is exactly what you’d expect: Whimseyshire. It’s no wonder that it’s their favorite inclusion, as the work that had to go into creating a whole level with an entirely different aesthetic from the rest of the game had to be staggering. The team had so much fun making the not-Cow-level that it was even described as “the reward we gave ourselves for finishing the game.” While they never expected to be able to top the original cow level – and the novelty of that for its time is still arguably unbeatable – the team was “really happy with the result!” As well they should be. The first time I managed to piece together the Staff of Herding and make my way to Whimseyshire, I was absolutely blown away. It’s so bright and colorful, fun and whimsical, and devastatingly dangerous. You wouldn’t think fluffy clouds would hit so hard.
The team listed something much more subtle and rare next. Something I’d never even heard of, but that the community has apparently discovered on a few occasions. With the gluttonous mini-boss Ghom, you’ll notice that on death he spews out random debris (it’s not just loot!) that aren’t at-a-glance noteworthy. But if you get really lucky – it’s something like a 1% chance to happen – you might notice a Louisiana license plate fall to the ground after you finish him off. This is a throwback to the movie Jaws, where Richard Dreyfuss is pulling random objects out of the shark’s stomach, including – you guessed it – a Louisiana license plate. “When we were done, it was a trivial little thing for us to go back and add a tiny little Louisiana plate to the debris that drops out.” The team reported. “You don’t even see it every time he dies, but it makes me happy that we put it in there.”
I’ve personally been puzzling over the next one for ages. I’ve got several Black Rock Ledgers sitting in my stash, and I’ve never had any idea what to do with them. It turns out, nobody really does, except the folks behind the inclusion. “During the development of Diablo III we had lots of “Lost” fans on the team. We also had a really awesome ship model that one of the artists thought would make for a great reference to the Black Rock shipwreck found in the show,” the team explained. They dropped the ship model in the Stinging Winds area in Act 2, with a corpse nearby that has a chance to drop one of six special pages of “Black Rock Ledger.” In line with the Lost theme, the numbered pages are the same as the series of numbers from the show; 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42. According to the team, “There are many theories to what these pages do but we haven’t found anyone in the community that has discovered the true secret of the ledger yet.” I, for one, have absolutely no idea, but I encourage you to take to the forums with your own theories, as I’ll be very interested to hear! (Editor’s Note: While the team was kind enough to share their thoughts with me, they were not so kind as to explain this secret. So, seriously, take to the forums and fill me in!)
Their next inclusion is a heartfelt legendary sword called Faithful Memory. Obviously, legendary items are where you’ll frequently find the less subtle Easter Eggs, but this one is as subtle as they come. “One of the original Diablo artists was named Ben Boos, and he was a driving force for the look and fantasy of weapons in the Diablo universe,” the team said, “He was a fantastic artist who really understood his medium, and even published a couple books on the subject before passing away at a young age.” To honor his memory, Diablo III artist Anthony Rivero modeled Faithful Memory in the style of Boos’ weapons, with touching flavor text to match. “The Boosenian smiths forged swords with a technique centuries beyond their time. Few craftsmen have been able to replicate the quality of their work.” This is probably not the kind of thing that your average player will pick up on, but it’s such a genuinely thoughtful Easter Egg, it certainly deserves a place in this list. Kudos!
This one has made its rounds a bit, but it’s still a great nod to Blizzard’s stable of popular games. If you’re venturing through the Ice Caves, you should take a good look in every corner. There’s a good chance you might just encounter something you haven’t seen since Wrath of the Lich King. “We asked the WoW team to share the model and texture for Arthas’s helm and we placed it in one of the Ice Caves’s corner scene,” the team explained. It can even show up multiple times in one level, so you’ve got a fairly good chance of spotting it now that you know it’s there.
I’m very happy to say that the last Easter Egg they shared with me has apparently not yet been discovered by the community. Or at least not publicized very well. These are a nod to yet another franchise, StarCraft. Somewhere in Act 1, there’s a goatmen event scene which features a slightly camouflaged, but still apparently visible Ultralisk skull. You’d think this would be fairly easy to spot, but apparently they blended it so well, that they have yet to see a picture of it show up online. Likewise, there’s a Hydralisk head in a couple of event locations in Act 2, just waiting to be discovered. If you’ve seen either of these, be the first to post your screenshot in the forums. Heck, I’ll even make you a special Skull Hunter badge if you do! Just PM me after you post, and I’ll confirm it and get started on that badge!
Not every idea actually makes the cut, of course. Some are simply too esoteric – if nobody gets the joke, it’s not a good Easter Egg – but others may be wildly popular, but just don’t quite justify the resources required to actually implement them. One such case is the Wirt Monster. If you don’t know Wirt, read this. Now that you’re all caught up, the team was considering a legless, crawling Wirt monster as a rare spawn. “There were so many Wirt’s legs floating around that we had the idea to turn that into the twist,” the team explained. “The idea being that Wirt’s legs had been the nexus of so many magical incidents that what was left of him was transformed, and the thing that was left from him could only feel like parts of him had been stolen.” Perhaps you’d kick over a log, and out would crawl the Wirt Monster, crying “I want them! Give me back my legs!” Ultimately, though, it was just too involved a process to make the cut. There are already nods to Wirt throughout the Diablo universe, and this just wasn’t necessary.
Some surprises are instantly recognizable by virtually anybody. Whimseyshire, for example, was clearly a throwback to the Cow level, and it’d take someone entirely unaware of the Cow level not to realize that, but what about the more obscure stuff. That’s something the team actively tries to avoid, it turns out. “Basically any Easter Egg so obscure as to be confused with actual lore is kind of a failed Easter Egg, and just turns into an inside joke for the developers,” the team said. But that doesn’t mean that obscure Easter Eggs are strictly verboten. “An inside joke that only 15 developers understand is in some ways a waste of resources. But then other times it isn’t. Sage Resko is a magical scholar that pops up all over our lore, and his name is a reference to our production director, Ray Gresko. In this case we get to make that nod, ‘Ray, you kicked ass, we love you, buddy,’ but we also inform the lore by creating this personality that fleshes out the world.”
If you’ve been playing Blizzard games as long as I have, you’re probably familiar with a handful of the classics of Easter Eggs in gaming. When you’re playing Warcraft II and biding your time while your new Town Hall is constructed, you might find yourself clicking on critters. Click them enough, and BOOM! They explode. Clicking on your Peons will initiate a quip, but clicking on them repeatedly will eventually annoy them to the point of humorous backtalk. Look at the StarCraft cheat code for God Mode; Power Overwhelming. You might recognize that as a Hearthstone card. How have Easter Eggs evolved, though? “There isn’t a specific design philosophy around Easter Eggs at Blizzard as a whole but we love a great Easter Egg and how funny they can be,” the team explained. The process, however, has become much more involved. Back in the day of Warcraft 2‘s exploding critters, a single team member can just slip in the Easter Egg, and wait for the rest of the team to discover it. With games becoming more and more involved, however, and working on larger and larger teams, “a developer can feel a little funny putting something into the game that is going to take 9 people to implement in the first pass.” That’s not to mention if there’s a voice involved, in which case “we probably need to get voice-actors in studio to record the little joke that has to be translated into 12 different languages by 40 localization experts.” Times have certainly changed, but Blizzard’s dedication to subtle (and sometime not-so-subtle) humor has made it through unscathed.
There are even whole teams involved in working on some of the more in-depth Easter Eggs. When planning Whimseyshire, they had “fun, hilarious meetings” about how to implement it. “It wasn’t like a little midnight throwaway like how Easter Eggs used to be,” the team said, the planning for Whimseyshire took days, and that’s not to mention the actual implementation. But there are still occasional last-minute, off-the-cuff Easter Eggs that make it into production. “That rare line that Zoltun Kulle where he says, ‘But is it Zoltun cool?’ was a random joke we made in a meeting, but we liked it, and said, ‘screw it, localize that thing'”
Blizzard puts Easter Eggs throughout almost all of its properties, and we here at The Escapist aren’t all that different. If you like Easter Eggs, try entering the Konami Code anywhere on site. Dig around profiles for the Spinning Button badge. Whatever you do, though, don’t click the Red Button Badge! Our favorite web designer @thynameismud who is responsible for most of the Easter Eggs you’ll find on site, even threw this little ditty together just for me.
Finally, as I promised at the beginning, US and Canada residents can sign up for a chance to win one of two Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Collector’s Editions right here!