Diablo 2: Resurrected interview: Remaking a classic

Hours ahead of its release, Blizzard's Chris Lena and Dustin King spoke with Shacknews in regards to Diablo 2: Resurrected and what went into remaking this classic for a new generation.


The Diablo franchise looks to be more active than ever. Diablo 3 continues to move along with new seasons, Diablo Immortal is looking to bring Blizzard's dungeon crawler to mobile devices, and Diablo 4 will usher in the series' future. The next step for Diablo involves tapping into the series' acclaimed past with Diablo 2: Resurrected.

Blizzard's been on a kick of re-releasing games, as of late. However, Diablo 2 holds a particularly special place in the hearts of the older gaming generation. With the wounds of a certain other remaster still fresh, there's a lot of hope, as well as a lot of apprehension, tied to Diablo 2: Resurrected. To learn more about what's coming, Shacknews recently spoke with Lead Producer Chris Lena and Associate Art Director Dustin King.

Before we dive into this interview, we wish to acknowledge the continuing situation at Activision Blizzard. It's been more than a month without word from management regarding the demands of employees. As a show of respect to those employees, we would like to take a moment to repost those demands that they made public prior to their walkout. Furthermore, we would like to encourage our readers to donate to the following charities: Black Girls CODE, FUTURES, Girls Who Code, RAINN, Women in Animation, and Women in Games International.

Shacknews: A more general question to start, what are your feelings as we approach the launch of Diablo 2: Resurrected.

Chris Lena, Lead Producer: Excited! I'm excited both as a game developer and as a player. I played this game when it came out originally. One of my first jobs in the games industry was working technical support during the Diablo 2 era. So, personally, I'm just thrilled.

Dustin King, Associate Art Director: I'm just gonna second that. As a huge fan of the series, growing up with it, I'm really excited for this week.

Shacknews: What made this the right time to release this game, particular with Diablo 3 still drawing in players and Diablo 4 right around the corner? What made now the right time to release Diablo 2: Resurrected?

Lena: It's a combination of a lot of different things. One being technology being where it is, it let us take advantage of that. Also, a remaster of this game was a huge undertaking, with every single art element completely redone and other aspects of the game rewritten, repackaged, made more accessible, put on consoles. This takes a lot of planning and time for execution. So what better time than around the 20th anniversary. Well... a little late for the 20th anniversary, but close!

Shacknews: How were you able to balance modernizing Resurrected for a new audience while also keeping it the Diablo 2 that older generations revere?

King: We stacked our team with Diablo 2 fans and purists. We wanted to make sure we got this right. We have a lot of people that are huge fans of the game, they are vetting all of our decisions, and making sure that it still feels and plays just like Diablo 2, because it is Diablo 2.

Lena: I think there's a lot of quality of life things we looked at. Not all of those questions were easy to answer, either. One example is shared stash. Being able to share a stash, share inventory between characters, that's something everybody really loves. But we didn't touch inventory for your individual character when you go out of the game itself. That's a really good stark example between something that impacts the gameplay, changing your actual inventory and how much you can carry, versus a shared stash that you share between characters, which is something that you could get around if you really wanted to in the original Diablo, as well. Looking at every little decision with that viewpoint and that kind of perspective is how we got to where we are today.

Shacknews: You've updated many of Diablo 2's assets for a newer, HD format. Was there anything, whether it was a specific monster or environment, that proved challenging when it came to redesigning it?

King: Pretty much any monster with hair. Hair is a tricky thing. One of the things you'll notice in Diablo 2: Resurrected is that if it's a furry creature, it has fur now, not just a texture of fur. We actually have fur on all of our creatures, as well as our character models and NPCs. I would say, technically speaking, hair is something really complex traditionally in video games, and it's even more complex from this very acute viewing angle. But, I believe, we've been able to thread that needle. We were able to get that hair looking just like its old images, but now 3D.

Shacknews: What were the challenges in getting Diablo 2: Resurrected optimized for multiple platforms. I ask, specifically, were there any challenges in optimizing it for the Nintendo Switch?

Lena: We approached it like trying to make the best game possible for each one of those platforms. Every platform has its own unique pieces to it, the Switch, especially. When I think of the Switch, I think of being able to take a game on the go, being really portable. But, we have to optimize the game for that platform, just like any other platform, so there is challenges across all of them.

Shacknews: The Blizzard teams are all so close and when I think of a remaster, I think of Blizzard's last remaster — Warcraft 3: Reforged. I remember one of the biggest issues with its launch involved the quality of cutscenes. Fans expected a higher quality while Blizzard wanted to stay closer to the spirit of what the original game was. Was there any such debate with Diablo 2: Resurrected and what to do with those cutscenes? Was there a particular philosophy to how you approached them?

Lena: There's debates about absolutely everything we've done. For these, in particular, when we were building the game... we think it looks great, we think it looks accessible to a modern audience, the art came out really great... it just didn't make sense to have cutscenes and cinematics played between it that didn't match. Once we really started to see art come in for the game itself, we said, "We have to make sure we're making cinematics and cutscenes that match the game" or it would feel really jarring.

Shacknews: Lastly, what are the plans for after launch? Beyond new seasons, can players expect to see new content or mod support?

Lena: We're focused on getting to launch this week, but we also want to hear all the feedback. We got a lot of great feedback through our betas and the technical alpha. We made a lot of adjustments during that time period. I'm sure there will be plenty of feedback from launch that we're going to take a look at. That'll be our number one goal: Let's get this thing in people's hands, see how they react, and we'll be making changes based on how they react.

Diablo 2: Resurrected will release this Thursday, September 23 on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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