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Wyatt Cheng Q&A About Diablo III Development: Inferno Difficulty, Talismans, RMAH Intentions
16/05/2022 alle 11:16
In light of
Diablo III's 10-year anniversary
, Blizzard veteran
has invited the community to an impromptu Q&A on Twitter where he replied to questions regarding Diablo III's development before the release of the Reaper of Souls expansion. Cheng has joined the Diablo III team as a Senior Technical Game Designer after working on World of Warcraft Classic and The Burning Crusade. The whole community - Blizzard employees, writers, streamers, and fans of the franchise - asked in-depth questions, and we have gathered all the important points:
The RMAH was designed to help players trade in-game instead of using external websites or tools and was not designed as part of a "game as a service".
Initially, Diablo 3 difficulty was influenced by WoW raiding.
Weeks after launch, the development team recognized that it would be more rewarding for players to farm challenging content efficiently repeatedly instead of overcoming extremely difficult content.
Players were supposed to have a dedicated Talisman inventory with up to 9 slots. Internal testing showed that players either ignored the system or found it too tedious, and so it was scrapped.
The Paragon system was not part of the original D3 design idea.
There were 2 "versions" of Diablo 3 developed at Blizzard North. Today's version of Diablo 3 was developed after Blizzard North became a part of today's Blizzard.
Cheng's favorite "cut" feature was a multiplayer hub town similar to Westmarch of Diablo Immortal.
PvP didn't make it into D3 because the team had problems to balance the complex interactions between skills, skill runes, legendary items, and visual noise.
Full List of Questions & Answers
Skill trees and skill runes were heavily reworked just before the launch (during beta), how was that decision of simplifying skills made? Skill trees were an iconic characteristic of D2 which removal was hard to understand.
Skill runes were items for the majority of Diablo 3's development. The change to level unlock was made for many reasons but I'll highlight the most important: we determined during internal playtesting that players were not getting enough reward for levelling up. In Diablo 2 you got Attribute Points and a Skill Point every time you leveled up - this made gaining a level super exciting. In Diablo 3 when you leveled up you got - nothing. We totally explored giving you attribute points but the feeling was that some people get sweaty having to spend attribute points because it's an intimidating decision that you don't feel informed enough to make. You don't know if those choices are permanent, you don't know what you're going to want 20 hours from now, so you end up hoarding the points and it doesn't even feel like a reward. So the decision was made to turn all the runes into level-up rewards instead.
In hindsight, this is one of the decisions I regret the most on Diablo 3 (though it seemed like the right decision at the time). When a player unlocks a new skill rune you're not always eager to try it out - you're happy with the skill you have! Furthermore, the effects of skill runes overlap heavily with a design space that is much better occupied by Legendary Items. Not every skill matches nicely to having 5 rune effects. Some skills benefit from having more! I call this "Designing to a number" and it is a common pitfall in game design. Our brains love symmetry and patterns and sometimes systems are designed to match a number (ie: 5 skill runes for every skill) rather than designing for what makes sense in context of each skill. Legendary Items solve all of these problems! Early on in Diablo Immortal development, we made the decision to unlock skills at various level ranks but modifications to the skill (what was previously runes) would be accomplished via Legendary items.
What was the goal behind having enrage timers on all elite packs? And seeing how they were removed later, what do you think of the concept now? Not in today's D3 but in retrospect looking at their impact on vanilla.
Oh the enrage timers! I had forgotten about those. Okay those were totally my fault.
Broadly speaking there are 2 major categories that determine a player's ability to defeat an enemy. Damage output and Survivability. In Diablo 3 the player has huge control via customization choices (gearing, skill choices, etc.) how much of their character is focused on Damage and how much is Survivability. This is by a factor of 10x or more. In order for the game to be fun, and for itemization to feel fun, it's important that both categories are valued by the player. What generally happens is players prioritize Damage as much as possible and they don't think about Survivability until they really have to. This is where Enrage timers come in. Without Enrage timers it's possible (and common) that as the difficulty of your game gets turned up players will do one of two things.
They'll either ignore defense COMPLETELY, crank up their Damage output and rely on player finesse at avoiding enemy attacks to defeat content anyway (see: Demon Hunters in Act 2 during the initial days of release) OR players will crank up their Survivability really high and accept that monsters take longer to kill. Enrage timers are a solution to this second outcome. The game is less fun if the normal way to play is to trade off your Damage for Survivability but then enemies take 30 minutes to kill. Enrage timers were intended as a "save the players from themselves". As a side note, defeating a difficult enemy after a 30 minute nail-biter feels AWESOME. That sounds great. It's less fun when that's how you play the game all day long. Okay - so if all that is true - why were the enrage timers ultimately removed? In the end game Diablo isn't about whether you can beat something or not, it's about how efficiently you can beat something.
Even though players CAN spend 30 minutes fighting something, they're not going to if it's not the most efficient way to get gear. Morgan Day over on the WoW team passionately tried to tell me this before ship but I foolishly ignored him. As a final thought - the problem of having to test a player's balance of Damage vs. Survivability still exists, but it exists on content that is intended to test a player's character. Greater Rifts (with their 15 minute timer) is the modern example of that. he lesson learned is that for outdoor adventuring where efficiency is the name of the game - there's no need for time limits. For situations where players are proving and testing the limits of their character timers can still be appropriate.
I was always curious about the Talisman. Could you share some of the concepts around it and what pros/cons it had that led to its removal from the game?
Oh the Talisman! Good memory. So the Talisman was originally designed as an evolution of D2 charms. What's cool about charms? More items that make your character more powerful with a great deal of flexibility in choosing what stats you want to focus on what wasn't cool (for some people) about charms? Stuffing up your inventory so you had to play even more inventory Tetris. So our answer was the Talisman, a dedicated place that could hold 9 charms. We also played around with making a charm mini-game. Maybe they would have color and matching colors would give a multiplier.
Maybe there were patterns that you could link to get bonuses. As we got close to launch though we could never shake the feeling that it just felt super mathy. The more interesting we tried to make the mini-game, the more the non-mathy people felt like they had to go onto an external website to "solve" an optimal solution for them. What was worse, is with a variety of mini-game mechanics, when you found a NEW charm, you sometimes had to stop and redo your entire charm configuration. Internal testing people were either ignoring the system completely or finding it really tedious. We swung the other way too and tried just making it a flat storage of 9 charms with no matching bonuses.
This was actually mildly successful. But then it just felt like 9 extra inventory slots that didn't have enough personality. We cut it for scope. I still think back fondly to that talisman. If we had a live-service mentality at the time instead of cutting it we probably would have just backlogged it as something to revisit as a post-ship feature.
I’d love to know more about the experiments in PvP. What concepts were tested and/or some of the ideas thrown around? What was the original goal for hardcore PvP?
We tested a lot of modes internally. We had
- an arena with 4 pillars
- a MOBA style 3-lane map with towers and creeps.
- one player plays as a boss against 4 heroes
- "Hostile Bounties" you are doing bounties but PvP is enabled outdoors.
The Paragon system originated in D3 and is now continuing into Immortal and D4. Was it always a planned D3 feature? It seemed at the time that it came in as a reaction to players wanting more to do post-60. Needless to say, it has had a profound effect on the game since.
The Paragon system was not part of the original D3 design and we didn't realize we needed it until after ship. One of the changes we made between D2 and D3 is lowering the level cap from a near-impossible-to-attain level 99 to a very attainable level 60. I don't think we fully appreciated at the time the gravity of that decision. Once you hit level 60 suddenly the game became WAY less rewarding. So, shortly after ship we started talking about making sure you still had reasons to want to gain more XP as we were discussing the Paragon system we realized it could solve a second problem - due to the effects of the repair costs it was very common to sit down for a session of Diablo 3 only to find at the end of the game session you were further behind than when you started! You'd literally sit down to play, find no new items, and lose 100,000 gold. From a progression standpoint you shouldn't have played at all. So now we were really committed to making sure you could gain XP (and we don't have an XP loss system on death).
So now we know we want a Paragon system so you can feel good about XP, gain more levels, and always end a play session feeling like you had advanced, but what reward would Paragon give? Enter Magic Find and Gold Find. MF% and GF% were causing all sorts of problems in the game. You had to choose between using gear that optimized for rewards and using gear that made your character more powerful. In groups, players were wearing MF%/GF% gear and leeching off others. So we did an analysis of how much magic find and gold find could a player POSSIBLY get and we got a number somewhere in the 250%-280% range. So when Paragon came out we said there is now a 300% MF% and GF% cap. This affects nobody since it was higher than the theoretical limit. Then we set it up so every time you gained a Paragon level you would gain 3% MF and 3% GF. Players who reached Paragon 100 would shed all their previous MF%/GF% gear and it would be done using a "buff rather than nerf" approach.
Two birds, one stone!
What was a developmental decision or call that you had to make during D3's development that felt risky at the time but ended up really working out? Do you think future Diablo games should have whatever you made as a result?
The original Natalya's 4-piece bonus that gave 2 discipline a second. Due to a bug it went live with 2 discipline/second instead of the originally intended 0.2 discipline/second. Of course, players started collecting those pieces immediately. It was WAY out of line with all other set bonuses and legendary items at the time. We had a huge debate internally about whether we should very quickly hotfix nerf it, or let it ride.
Ultimately we kept it because some players would have spent real money at this point to get the items and it would have been disastrous to nerf an item in that situation. Travis Day and Andrew Chambers picked up the banner and said "Hey, you know how players are always saying just buff everything else to match? Why don't we actually do that this time?". (note, never nerfing and always buffing to match is not actually a good strategy for the super-long term, but it was the right call in this case). So that sorta heralded the beginning of Legendary items as we know them today. Travis said "Let's treat this 2 discipline/second as a starting point", and then he threw down the gauntlet and said "Royal Ring - reduces the number of set items required to get a set bonus by 1" and it totally blew my mind. Lesson learned:
1. It's okay to give the players fun toys
2. For Diablo specifically, gate power by rarity. It's okay to have some legendary items that are way more powerful than others, just make them rarer / harder to get.
What was your favorite feature that didn't make it to the final product, or changed significantly enough to be considered more or less a different feature?
That's an easy one - a multiplayer hub town. There were discussions about a hub town at Blizzard North. I think Brevik has talked about this before. When you're actually evaluating the cost of the feature on the production schedule it's hard to justify the cost of a hub town. But when a multiplayer hub town exists, it makes the world feel alive and real. During the very first Diablo Immortal technical alpha test last year, many players commented how different Diablo Immortal feels just because Westmarch is a town you can see other players running by.
Looking back at original Inferno difficulty, the eventual nerfs and balancing only to later introduce Monster Power 10 (which if I recall was much more difficult than Inferno release). Would you have held out on nerfs and balance for short-term boost because of player builds?
One of the game design lessons learned is that when you are providing difficulty settings it's important for players to be able to pick an appropriate difficulty setting for themselves. This is obvious when stated plainly and with the benefit of hindsight. Your lowest difficulty needs to be for the least skilled player in the worst gear. Your highest difficulty should be for a highly skilled player in great gear. Hope we can agree on that.
So then how many difficulties should be in between? Is it what just "feels right?" How many fit on the UI? How many you can come up with clever names for? How many do you think the average player can conceptualize emotionally?
Turns out the correct number is however many you need so that a player doesn't feel STRANDED between two difficulties. The worse is if difficulty N is way too easy but difficulty N+1 is punishingly hard to the point of being unfun or hopeless. This is depending on the amount of power scaling you have between those low-tier and high-tier players. Once we understood that, we introduced MP1-10, and then later this evolved in RoS into the Torment + Greater Rift system.
The Diablo series has mostly been comprised of linear narratives. Would love to hear about efforts and thoughts on having an emergent narrative, or varied narrative experiences in D3!
We experimented multiple times with an "Angelic/Demonic" influence system both at Blizzard North and again when the project was rebooted in Irvine. The idea was that narrative choices you made would influence your character and your character's development. We were inspired heavily by Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic. The idea that players could choose to walk down a light path or a dark path was super compelling to us. There are a TON of positive cool things that came from this idea and we were super excited. Three reasons it got killed (not exhaustive):
One - Not all players were interested in reading all the dialogue required to make the good/evil choices meaningful. Two - Players often identified often as "always good" or "always bad", so you didn't end up with a game with a lot of nuance, you had players just pushing more and more towards one side or the other. This was fine for a single playthrough but not great for repeat playthroughs
Two - Players often identified often as "always good" or "always bad", so you didn't end up with a game with a lot of nuance, you had players just pushing more and more towards one side or the other. This was fine for a single playthrough but not great for repeat playthroughs
Three - We tried to tie mechanics to this system. For example - you must have 50 Demonic alignment points to unlock X skill or equip X item. This put player build choices at odds with the player fantasy. When your head cannon runs up against the build you want to play the type of player who plays Diablo a lot tends to prioritize the build they want to play. This causes uncomfortable dissonance as you make dialogue tree choices that aren't what you love.
Hey candlesan! So, was Skovos close to being a spot we visited in D3? I know there was concept art pre-release and then the Tyrael/Lorath convo in RoS. Thank you :)
Oh man - I LOVE Skovos. There is this amazing piece of art from Peter Lee that used to sit in the hallway when you first came into the Diablo 3 team area. Yes - we were absolutely thinking of going to Skovos. In creative work it's always a best practice to put MORE ideas than you need on the table, and then cut down to the strongest ideas for what you need. Whether it's skills for a class, ideas for a story, writing a book - it's easier to go wide and trim.
In the case of Skovos, in addition to finding the right place for it within the story ONE of the reasons (I'll stress this was just one of the reasons) was because the visuals were reminiscent of Titan Quest. At the time we were deciding whether or not to cut Skovos from D3 Titan Quest was the most recent isometric ARPG. We felt visually it was too similar and we had better opportunities elsewhere. I'd love for the Diablo franchise to explore going to Skovos again someday.
Was the team happy with the level cap? As 70 felt strange when going for my first playthrough.
The level cap at launch was 60! Initially it was actually 99 (like Diablo 2) but we lowered it to 60 during development to better match the pacing of the zones with the expectation you would hit 60 at the end of the campaign.
How did the dev team land on the settings and values behind the core game difficulty at launch? What metrics were used? Was the game being "hard" more of a design philosophy thing or the result of well-received internal testing and more of a "this makes sense" decision?
The game being "hard" was influenced heavily by the popularity of raiding in WoW. It wasn't until after ship that we realized the outdoor world (Act 1-4) wasn't the right place to put "super difficult content". Hence the introduction of systems such as Greater Rifts in RoS.
During Blizzcon, I remember Jay said something along the lines "we're not gonna nerf Inferno", which lasted about 3 weeks from the launch. What happened? And what idea was behind having players pay so much gold for repairs?
We realized the extreme difficulty scaling of Inferno wasn't making the game more fun. The fun comes from running the content efficiently and repeatedly, not from overcoming a very difficult challenge once. (both can be fun, just speaking in broad terms here) We quickly realized after launch that players had beaten Inferno, it just wasn't fun to do.
So we pivoted quickly to try and make repeat clearing more fun. As for repair costs - it was just an unchecked assumption. Conventional wisdom at the time was that repair costs keep your gold economy in check. This is false, and good economy design is much more sophisticated than that. (and the game industry as a whole has advanced collectively in this regard as well)
I'd love to know how you looked at D3, broke down the key issues and turned it completely around for RoS.
This is a huge topic but there was no silver bullet. Game dev on RoS went similar to how it does anywhere else. Collect feedback from the community and from the team. Make a list all the major problems. Make a list of aspirational goals. Brainstorm a list of solutions. We had a huge excel file that stack-ranked all of the solution ideas. Evaluate how well each initiative addresses concerns. Add a dash developer intuition. Measure the cost of each feature, draw the line somewhere, and implement as much as you can.
If you could go back in time to any point during d3 development and change one thing without humanity ever knowing you did, what would it be and why?
I would have a serious evaluation of whether we are a Box Product game or a game that ships content patches regularly. Shipping as one and then shifting due to player expectations to the other was painful. Definitely something we're doing differently with Diablo Immortal.
Through how many iterations did D3 go until you arrived at the product that the public got to see on release? And how many years of development were spent on that final iteration?
You can't really count a "number of iterations". Iteration happens at both macro and micro levels. At the super macro-level, there were 2 versions of Diablo 3 developed at Blizzard North. Then after Blizzard North closed we began work on the version you know today.
1. Was were ever a class planned that uses Whips as a class weapon. 2. Have you ever thought about adding mod support? 3. I really liked SC2 Nova Mission. Would it be something for D3 to add paid f.e. a new Class + Side story campaign?
1. Yes, it's always something that comes up.
2. Yes. That said for a game like Diablo 3 supporting mods is a HUGE commitment and risks fragmenting the community among many other technical and design challenges.
3. Good question for the modern D3 devs!
What was the most critical thing you've learned pre-RoS that influenced all the further design going forward?
I don't know if there's a single /most/ critical thing but I'll just throw out something meaningful. Players don't like it when things get nerfed, and they like it when things get buffed. Everybody says they are okay with nerfs until it happens to your beloved build. Even putting something on PTR (public TEST realm) and then "nerfing" is seen as a nerf and hurts.
What was the expected end game playstyle in original Diablo 3? What content did the developers expect people to repeat continuously?
The endgame of Diablo 3 was expected at the time to mimic the endgame of Diablo 2 - playing various parts of the campaign.
I have another question. Why is it so hard to add more stash tabs, etc into D3. Couldn't there a chest with the same amount of storage, that is not loaded in multiplayer games. So it is only accessible in Solo.
I'm not a server engineer so I can't give details, but I know our server engineers are VERY good. Does the challenge come from what are you optimizing for? Some architectural decisions were made to optimize performance for the game as we knew it rather than the game as it is today.
What inspired the Witch Doctor Class and were there any others in development that ya know ... might make it into Immortal ;)
On D3 making a class was heavily influenced by what the team thought would be cool. The artists were excited about Witch Doctor so we made it happen.
As for Immortal - I don't want to take away from the DI hype train but let me say our plan for post-launch classes is pretty sweet.
Why was "This skill first starts its cooldown until after its effects expire" only implemented on eg Smoke Screen, Spirit Walk, etc, but not on skills like WotB, Archon, Ignore Pain?
Spirit Walk etc makes you invulnerable, so it made sense there, but giving other skills that ...
Yeah honestly some of those decisions were made ad hoc. Sometimes once a game is live you just gotta let some design decisions ride and this is one of them. Going back it would be nice if the cooldown rule was consistent across the game.
What feedback drove the concept that buying gear, via $/gold, was engaging enough to throttle drop rates to such a low point that many players felt frustrated by the lack of good drops, especially given the gear checks in Inferno (Act 2 specifically).
Drop rates were never throttled low because of the AH. Drop rates were designed to be fun for a player playing solo.
Here's a thought experiment. Choose any drop rate you want. Now introduce an Auction House that puts the player at the 99.99% percentile of loot.
So to extend the thought experiment further.
Invent a die-rolling game. You can pick any number of sides (let's say, 6-sided dice), and you can roll any number of dice (let's say, 10).
So you roll 10d6 and the sum is a proxy for an imaginary quality of an item.
Now, imagine you're playing this game by yourself. Every time you roll a higher number, write it down as your new highest score and eat a piece of candy to celebrate.
Now imagine that there are 1 million people playing and everybody's best-rolled results are shared. One person's best roll on 10d6 is a 54. They roll a 55. Now they GIVE the 54 to somebody else.
What does the average person experience? I enter the game and I get handed a 58. I only get to eat candy if I roll a 59 or 60.
The point is that it doesn't matter which dice you choose (quality of stats on items or how awesome those stats are), how many times you roll them (number of properties on an item) or even how frequently you get to roll the dice (drop rates), most players can't get upgrades in a near zero-friction environment.
Roll 3d4 (three 4-sided dice) once per day. You're still handed an 11 on day 1 by the millions of players playing before you.
Roll 8d20 (eight 20-sided dice) as fast as you can (the sky is raining legendary items). You're still handed a 158 on day 1 (maybe even a 160, because you let everybody roll as fast as they could by increasing drop rates thereby accelerating movement towards perfect items).
The problem is only solved by adding friction to trade or removing it completely.
Serious question: what's the best that didn't get released to the world, due to technical limitations? Less serious question: what's more exciting: the last 10 years, or the next 10 years?
I would have loved it if tooltips on skills could update to reflect the damage done using the gear you're currently wearing. It says "180% weapon damage" or whatever because that's how the tech is built.
Hard to judge the last 10 years against the next 10 years but I will say that the next 10 years for Blizzard are SUPER exciting.
In the first D3 gameplay trailer we saw the WD empower his dogs with Locust. What was the reason to abandon these kinds of skill interactions?
The interaction between Locust Swarm and the dogs was super fun! We had some concerns that creating a synergy between two specific skills would force players to feel like they always had to use those two skills together.
It was still a totally workable design, we would have just had to design a lot more interactions between a lot more skills to really make it work. We started to explore going down that path but when we started looking at rune effects, and having 5 runes for every skill. We shifted the "burning" and "plagued" properties of the Zombie dogs into rune modifiers instead. We didn't think it was possible to sustain both rune modifiers and those specific skill interactions. A lot of this is because the interactions were coded specifically between specific skills. In Diablo Immortal we have interactions between skills (such as Wizard Scorch + Arcane Wind) but this is based on a property of one skill (fire) interacting with the property of another.
Hey Wyatt! Were there ever any discussions to bring back an item-driven economy, or were the cons of RMT too glaring? Very exciting getting a rare drop knowing you can trade it away.
Okay so zooming WAY out, even outside of game design to just general economy design - there's a bunch of properties for "currency". You can google this but it's things like Durability, Recognizable, Stable, Divisible, Transportable, etc. Digital doesn't worry about "Durable", but you do worry about things like Stable, Divisible and Transportable.
Transportable is a big one - are there caps on how much currency you can hold? Recognizable is important too - does everybody agree that the currency holds value? Going to an "item-based" economy just means you purposely don't introduce a resource (such as gold) that holds all the necessary properties to function as a usable currency. I think deciding to do that varies from game to game and the higher-level goals and vision for that game. For Diablo 3 it's not something we ever considered seriously. Something like an SoJ economy was viewed more as a side-effect of not providing a currency that players could actually trade in (Gold in D2 is not "transportable", and it's also not "Stable").
Was Imperius written as the next 'bad guy' internally from the very start of D3 development? When did this change? And why? Thank you for doing this, btw! Still playing D3 actively :)
I can't speak authoritatively in terms of "intent" or the exact moment different narrative ideas came to life. I was focused on combat and systems and there was a group building the story (including Jay Wilson, Leonard Boyarsky, Metzen and others) who made those decisions.
A couple of months before the game launched there was a rework of the attribute system where you switched from a more generic Attack/Precision/Defense/Vitality system to a class-specific Str/Dex/Int/Vit system. Can you provide some context for the reasoning behind this?
Oooh - another system I had forgotten about until now. There were two problems
1. Some player types don't like doing math, they just want to pick what sounds cool. Attack, Precision, Defense and Vitality do not sound as cool as Str/Dex/Int/Vit
2. Attack and Vitality were straightforward qualities. They both went up linearly and described how much damage you could do and how much health you had in easy to understand ways.
Precision and Defense on the other hand were not. They got converted into Critical Hit Chance and Damage Reduction under the hood - both of which are percentages.
The problem is when you have stats the player invests in and grow in value for a percentage effect you have to run them through a conversion formula. Precision was effectively "Critical Hit Chance Rating" and Defense was effectively "Damage Reduction Percent Rating". Ratings are harder to understand and value as a player. When a player is looking at 2 items and thinking "What do I want, Attack or Precision?" or "Do I want Vitality or Defense?" you're left scratching your head and the answer is always "IT DEPENDS". So we scrapped that and pivoted to the system you know today.
As streaming has progressed over the years, how have you approached content creators to keep things new and fresh?
Hey Snuggie! Content Creators were less a thing during D3's development - we were venturing into this brave new "
world. (Heck, even YOUTUBE was new'ish when Diablo 3 was first starting). Nowadays I think content creators are partners in a game's success. I like thinking about creating awesome moments for people to get excited about.
We rely on creators to communicate information or design intent. I think modern gamers have a greater capacity for endgame complexity than they did 15 years ago thanks to creators. It's an important partnership because often times content creators know some crazy minutiae about the game that the developers don't know about. Devs know what we built, how we built it, and what we intended. But we can't put in the sheer hours the way a content creator can.
What drove the team to select the classes you did? I think it’s a fascinatingly diverse roster, but what compelled you to choose, for example, a barbarian over a warrior? Thank you for your hard work!
Okay, slightly facetious response with a hint of truth to it:
Barbarian - Jay loves the Hulk
Demon Hunter - Jay also loves Kate Beckinsale in Van Helsing.
Wizard - D2 Sorcerer + second Harry Potter movie
Witch Doctor - Chris Haga and Julian Love love the vibe and geniuses
Monk - Wanted to do a twist on the Paladin and thought Avatar (the anime, not the blue guys) was awesome.
First, thanks! Was D3 designed as a game as a service? Was RMAH income good enough (or hoped to be good enough) to provide that?
D3 was not originally designed as a service. Many decisions we made were for box product. Example: The decision to limit the beta to level 13 was because we didn't want to spoil the story. We would not have decided it that way if we had a live-service model in mind at the time.
Which feature was the hardest to develop or make work?
Many of the really hard parts of game development are, when executed properly, invisible to the player. When account creation "just works". When a character animation plays and the feet aren't sliding. When the camera let's you see all the action and ISN'T occluded by geometry.
I'm curious about the design reasons why PvP was dropped. Care to share any specifics that may have slipped through the cracks over the years?
Speaking in broad terms here - all of our internal PvP tests using fixed templated characters were super fun up until you could bring in your real character. Fixed characters have ability sets the design creates to be fun first, then the player gets to try and optimize play. With Diablo 3's wide skills + skill runes + (later) legendary items it was a monumental task to reconcile having 6 abilities being fun to play as, and fun to play against. Add in visual noise, mixed expectations of what happens to your gear, and other development priorities.
Was the idea for the auction house based on an easier way to allow for player trading?
Yes. It came from looking at how players in Diablo 2 had to spend hours in trade chat or resort to external web sites and wanting to make the experience better for them.
How stressful was launch day for the team?
Launch day itself was a celebration. Launch week and launch month was another story...
It's like triage at the ER. Sure players are farming pots in Act 4, but these other folks can't even log in. How do you juggle these priorities?
Hey Wyatt thank you for taking the time to answer questions! D2 was and still is my fav game. Also played D1 since day 1. Of course I enjoyed a lot of D3 too. Would you agree that too much of D3 design was to solve the glaring problems with D2?
No way. The game industry evolves as a whole. Everybody industry plays a lot of games. Almost all games made by any team at any company are inspired by the successes and learn from the mistakes of previous games.
Would you say that development on DI was more intense and heavy than on D3 + RoS?
Making games is hard. Both projects were intense and heavy but in different ways.
Disclaimer: We have slightly edited some of the original questions and answers for the sake of readability.
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