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Chatty Q&A: Blizzard talks Reaper of Souls and the future of Diablo 3

Diablo III's dev team, led by Production Director John Hight, took time out of their busy schedules to speak to Shacknews about Reaper of Souls, Diablo III's revival on PC, the next big PC patch, the upcoming console versions of Reaper of Souls, the long-awaited PvP mode, and also answer several questions from Chatty.

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It's been roughly a month since Blizzard released the Reaper of Souls expansion for Diablo 3. PC players have not only had the opportunity to check out the game's continuing story, but have also been able to check out some of the PC version's major improvements that were implemented with the recent 2.0 patch.

However, Blizzard is far from done with Diablo 3. The development team is hard at work on some new content, for both the rejuvenated PC version and for Diablo 3's console version. Production Director John Hight, Game Director Joshua Mosqueira, Lead Designer Kevin Martens, Senior Game Producer Julia Humphreys, and Project Music Director Derek Duke all took time out of their busy schedules to speak to Shacknews and answer some email questions about Reaper of Souls' next big patch, Diablo 3's console versions, and the game's long-awaited PvP mode.

Shacknews: No rest for the weary. Even after releasing Reaper of Souls, you guys are already looking ahead to the big summer update. Can you tell us about some of what you have planned for 2.1?

Production Director John Hight: We're working on two major systems for the 2.1 release, first is Seasons. Seasons are a shard of the existing game where everything is a fresh start. You start with a brand new character without access to any of the gold or items you collected with your primary account for the length of the season. We plan on creating brand new, powerful legendaries that only drop within in the season. After the season ends, all of your progress — your experience, your items, your gold, etc. — will be rolled into the main roster. The goal is the fresh-start feeling — so many changes and tweaks have happened since the launch of Diablo III — it is really energizing and fun to recreate that 'first-moment-in-a-new-game' feeling.

We've also added leaderboards. Players can race on a variety of metrics to try to become the leader in their region or the top of their friends and clan lists. That friendly competition angle lends itself really well to Diablo games.

Second is Tiered Rifts. Tiered Rifts are variations on the Nephalem Rifts concept from Reaper of Souls. You have a timer to finish a Rift (kill enough monsters to draw out the boss and slay the boss) and the better you do, the more challenging the level that you get to tackle. For example, if you finished a Tiered Rift in just a few minutes, you’d get to jump ahead to a much harder rift. These will also have unique rewards, custom leaderboards, etc. Tiered Rifts are a new end game activity that offers both challenge and competition but are easy enough for everyone at max level (70) to try.

Shacknews: With so much going into Diablo III and Reaper of Souls for PC, what can Blizzard tell console owners that are waiting patiently for their opportunity to jump into the expansion? Will the console Diablo III: Reaper of Souls feature all of the updates currently available on PC?

Hight: We showed Reaper of Souls running on PS4 at BlizzCon and again at PAX East. We're very excited about the PS4 and we've announced some cool additions to our Ultimate Evil Edition to take advantage of this technology: action combat, co-op loot, apprentice mode, nemesis kills, mail system, player gifts, touch pad & light bar support. We also plan to include all the updates to Diablo III: Reaper of Souls up to patch 2.0.4. We'll have more console news soon.

Shacknews: Should console players expect a bonus XP period, similar to what PC players got?

Hight: This is something we would love to do, I mean who doesn't want bonus XP, after all. However, we are still working out the details, but stay tuned.

Shacknews: Diablo III has seen a renaissance on PC, mostly because of the recent updates, but also in part because of how well it was received on consoles. With that in mind, has Blizzard given consideration to bringing controller support to the PC version?

Hight: We made a great many changes to how skills work for console to make them feel right on a controller. If we were to embark on such a project it would require bringing the console and PC skills inline, and while I think for the most part this would be very cool, it would mean changes to PC skills. At the end of the day, if this is something our community wants, we could explore at some future point.

Shacknews: It sounds like so much of Diablo is starting to come together, but there's still one aspect of the game that's seemingly disappeared off everyone's radar. What's become of the game's PvP mode that's been in the works for so long?

Hight: Yes, PvP is still a hotly debated topic on the team. Brawling only scratches the surface for sure, but to bring a full PvP mode to Diablo, and to make it feel right for Diablo, is no simple matter given how the game works since it was designed as a PvE experience. However at the heart of the PvP question is the desire to have some form of competition, and this is why we are so excited about Tiered Rifts. We feel this feature will give players a way to keep score in a very Diablo way.

The development team also answered a number of questions from Shacknews' Chatty community, many of whom have already spent several hours on Reaper of Souls.

Frozen Pixel: With the Damage and Toughness stats starting to get into the millions, are there plans to rebalance the stats similar to what is happening in World of Warcraft?

Hight: At the moment, no. We will see how things evolve and adjust as needed. We like big numbers.

Ambient80: How many people from the original, main development team of D3 still remained for RoS development, and how hard was it for them to see the game changed so drastically from release?

Hight: The majority of the original Diablo III team went on to develop Reaper of Souls. We added some new leadership, but the original development team was largely responsible for most of the changes. We spent a lot of time sifting through player feedback and gathered our own impressions before moving forward with the 2.0.1 update and the Reaper of Souls expansion. As a team, we're very happy with the reception from the Diablo community. We play the game regularly ourselves and we're having a blast!

kallanta: What was the discussion like that led to shutting down the Auction House (atmosphere in the room, employee reaction the decision, etc.)?

Hight: We had a lot of debates. Most players agreed that the Auction House was impacting the core gameplay. We considered a lot of different proposals. The final decision took place in a meeting where we went over the various pros and cons and after a lengthy discussion, Mike Morhaime asked "What is the best thing for the game?" and we said "we should shut down the Auction House." Mike said, "OK then that's what we'll have to do." We walked out and told the team and the cheers went up. We were proud that Blizzard was willing to do this. It takes courage for a company to stand behind its players this way.

ArtilleryMarker: Will any form of trading come back for high-end items?

Hight: This is another topic we often discuss internally. For now we are happy with the current ecosystem because it allows us to drop more items, and it means every player needs to earn their awesome legendaries. But, we understand the social component of trading and how it's missing at the moment. For now we have no plans to add trading of high end items.

sleepytea: What influenced the music direction for Reaper of Souls? It feels like a noticeable change from previous soundtracks.

Project Music Director Derek Duke: Like a lot of things about Reaper, we wanted the music darker and more gothic inspired, very dialed in to the mood, story, and art direction. We also made a concerted effort at giving the player more memorable melodies and to further differentiate Diablo's music from Blizzard's other IPs.

vile: Are there any plans for further deepening socketing, such as reintroducing runes and runewords?

Hight We don't have any short term plans at the moment, but we all agree that the socketing game is not super deep and we’ve said so before. We are talking seriously about some legendary gem ideas that will offer new tactical options to players. Stay tuned as we do hope that this design gathers steam.

EricZBA, happynoodle, Downforce, and Frozen Pixel: Why did the team decide to end Reaper of Souls the way they did?

Hight: We wanted to make the ending of Reaper (without giving any spoilers away) very focused on the player and their hero. We wanted to make it personal. Because of that, it made more sense and it felt right to go with the hand-drawn style of the current ending. I do not think we could have done the player and their awesome hero justice otherwise. We didn't want a generic stand in.

Senior Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    April 24, 2014 9:15 AM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Chatty Q&A: Blizzard talks Reaper of Souls and the future of Diablo 3.

    Diablo III's dev team, led by Production Director John Hight, took time out of their busy schedules to speak to Shacknews about Reaper of Souls, Diablo III's revival on PC, the next big PC patch, the upcoming console versions of Reaper of Souls, the long-awaited PvP mode, and also answer several questions from Chatty.

    • reply
      April 24, 2014 9:57 AM

      Good read thanks. Did I miss the 'submit your questions' article?

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      April 24, 2014 9:57 AM

      Interesting stuff for sure.

      I must admit that I'm not sure how I feel about "season exclusive" legendary items. Adding a ladder system is great and one of the most requested features but giving exclusive benefits to those using it feels wrong to me.

      I don't want to feel like I'm forced to play in the ladder-seasons just to get those items.

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        April 24, 2014 10:19 AM

        Agreed. Walling off items behind competitive play when the game is otherwise cooperative isn't something I like. Especially given that making and playing new characters from scratch is just about the least fun thing you can do in D3, IMO.

        If they added exclusive transmogs or something, I'd be fine with that.

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        April 24, 2014 1:28 PM

        I'm actually pretty into it. There's definitely a point where continuing to grind the same characters through end-game gets old, and since you get to keep the items and char after, this'll be a fun way to kill some time.

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        April 24, 2014 1:43 PM

        I'm hoping they're "timed exclusives" type thing. Like, when Season 3 starts, the Season 1 legendaries get folded into the base game.

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      April 24, 2014 10:06 AM

      I don't understand why someone would want to reroll. Running all this stuff over and over right now isn't enough? I'll pass on seasons.

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        April 24, 2014 10:34 AM

        People who want those specific legendaries. You get to keep the items and gold. Just not the character.

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          April 24, 2014 10:49 AM

          It's still stupid. Forcing those items into seasons pretty much just creates an artificial reason to reroll. I don't like the idea of walling off new items to only people who reroll.

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            April 24, 2014 10:53 AM

            The thing I'd be more worried about is fragmenting the community further making it harder to find multiplayer games. You already have a bunch of difficulty levels, and then bounties and rifts.

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            April 24, 2014 10:54 AM

            Yeah I agree ... There will be a few BiS legs that will probably only drop from seasons also.

          • Zek
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            April 24, 2014 4:53 PM

            I don't know if I like the new legendary incentive, but when you've played the game long enough you start to hit a wall - upgrades become more and more scarce just by virtue of hitting the ARPG power ceiling. Eventually the rate of reward just isn't satisfying anymore and you quit. Seasons are about bringing back that fresh feeling of rolling a new character and seeing upgrades all the time. It's also sort of a community event - people who stopped playing months ago will go recruit their friends to all come back and reroll together.

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          April 24, 2014 10:51 AM

          You get to keep the character too I think?

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            April 24, 2014 10:52 AM

            Or maybe not, I guess there's a 12 character limit and that might mess things up.

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              April 24, 2014 1:06 PM

              I'm betting they're going to do something like allowing you to add your Seasons character's experience total to an existing character, if you don't want to keep it as a separate character. Or maybe they'll just say "tough luck".

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        April 24, 2014 1:56 PM

        The power curve from a level 1 character through gearing out the same character at 70 is much steeper than playing the same character at 70 endlessly and hitting the gear wall.

        When you add that to the fact that all progress is cumulative and will be added to your non-ladder account at the end of the season, THAT is why it sounds like fun to people.

        The season specific legendaries are the icing on the cake.

        I'm planning on playing a different class each season and having fun with it that way.

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        April 25, 2014 12:48 AM

        Couldn't football always be the Superbowl? I jus wan it to end!!!1

      • reply
        April 25, 2014 12:52 AM

        Seriously though, if they roll it into your permanent account at the end it sounds kind of fun. And it's optional.

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      April 24, 2014 10:14 AM

      The Auction House scrapping sounds like it was a pretty popular idea at Blizz. I wonder if it was just Jay Wilson pushing the AH originally.

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        April 24, 2014 10:34 AM

        Sounds like it since the Blizz guy says the majority of the same team worked on RoS, just the leadership changed.

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          April 24, 2014 10:44 AM

          Don't forget it's not like Jay Wilson had this ultimate control. Upper management had to approve things since it involved paypal integration and other things so you had their board which includes Morhaim approving this.

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        April 24, 2014 2:04 PM

        It was popular with a lot of people until the game shipped

      • reply
        April 27, 2014 6:47 AM

        Haha, do you seriously believe Jay Wilson could decide stuff at his own will? You need to get a job.

    • reply
      April 24, 2014 10:20 AM

      What an incredible question by me. I'm truly an asset to the community.

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        April 24, 2014 10:37 AM

        his response was awesome though. the idea of legendary gems is cool as shit

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          April 24, 2014 10:38 AM

          Yep. That's exactly what I wanted to hear. That sort of thing would add a lot.

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          April 24, 2014 10:59 AM

          The more valuable gems become, the more valuable sockets become. I really wish there was a more stable way to obtain sockets. Or perhaps they should just always have helm/chest/pants/weapon be socketed, since those seem to be required at end-game currently.

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            April 24, 2014 11:02 AM

            Helm sockets are pretty rare at end-game, excluding builds that use lots of Cooldown-Reduction. After that though you're absolutely correct.

            Though I think enchanting is a pretty stable way to get sockets, though it can be very frustrating in some cases.

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              April 24, 2014 11:18 AM

              Enchanting for Chest/Pants sockets isn't too bad, sure, because there aren't many affix options. Not for weapon though. And weapons are nearly useless without a socket. Chest/Pants can be "okay" without sockets, but certainly not as bad as a weapon without a socket.

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                April 24, 2014 11:41 AM

                I just want the runeword system to come back. Also charms I thought were really interesting.

                Blizzard pls :(

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                  April 24, 2014 1:51 PM

                  Charms were interesting, but I'd rather see a new implementation rather than the fill your inventory with extra junk approach from D2.

        • reply
          April 24, 2014 11:55 AM

          Yeah that got me excited

    • reply
      April 24, 2014 10:24 AM

      Thanks, Ozzie!

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      April 24, 2014 10:32 AM

      Nice. One thing I'd like to see them improve is clan perks. A clan vault and sharing items would be cool.

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        April 24, 2014 10:43 AM

        I appreciate the thought but Clan vault / sharing is a terrible idea.

        The amount of exploitation that would create is immense. Clan jumping and any number of other things would be rampant.

        Sure, they could then add more arbitrary rules to joining clans, wait periods and the like, but that would only make the exploits harder.

        In addition to the exploits it would create a massive incentive for homogeneous clans. I wouldn't bother being in a clan with my friends, I would instead be in a clan with 100 people who play the same class as me at the same level.

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          April 24, 2014 10:54 AM

          There would immediately be clans like d2jsp that would just sell stuff for $$$. It just depends on how much blizzard wants to fight that stuff.

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          April 24, 2014 11:18 AM

          You suggested the other day bind on equip, but that is even more exploitable than a clan delay. I'm not saying either is right, but you'd just have farmers botting and trading them.

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            April 24, 2014 11:44 AM

            Totally different scenarios.

            The clan thing would be meant as a benefit for clans / friends, so using it as a general trading system would be exploiting it.

            BoE is a different approach to trading in general.

            Also I generally classify botting in a different category than exploiting. Botting is just cheating, exploiting is using game mechanics well outside of their intended use.

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              April 24, 2014 1:38 PM

              Blizzard is mainly trying to make it so you find your own items and prevent mass items coming in which is what the AH provided. So BoE doesn't really solve the problem at all either.

              At some point every solution is pretty much exploitable or ruins the game play, it's now about how much. Do you want botters or people to become anti social? Also while you'll have some people like yourself who'd join a clan of wizards I doubt the majority of people would do such a thing. I certainly could be wrong though.

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          April 24, 2014 12:28 PM

          Make vault items behave like library books. Players can check out an item and use it for a couple weeks (or a set amount of time that can be increased/decreased) and then it goes back in the vault. Other people can sign up to use it next and users have a cooldown before they can sign up to check it out again.

          THANK YOU GIVE ME MY MONEY HATS NOW

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        April 24, 2014 12:51 PM

        I hope they do something. Maybe open up the 2 hour window to all clan.

    • reply
      April 24, 2014 10:51 AM

      He answered my question! *squeal*

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      April 24, 2014 12:04 PM

      I get the pushback on Seasons but it kind of appeals to me. However I am of the minority. I only have one class I've played through the campaign with. It's all still fresh to me. I haven't even touched Adventure mode yet.

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        April 24, 2014 12:47 PM

        I feel like I don't play it that much, and I've got all but one class at max level and geared for at least T1.

        I have zero desire to ever go through the leveling process again, and really hope they have something that addresses this and doesn't seriously wall off cool legendaries.

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          April 24, 2014 2:01 PM

          Ya I get it. Still sounds ok to me though, except. What is their plan for low level gear you aquire in a season? If you play during a season and never make it to 70, what do you do with a level 21 Legendary on your Lvl 70 classes when the season is over? There must be something else to it other than salvaging it. That would kinda suck and make me feel like I totally wasted my time.

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            April 24, 2014 2:11 PM

            It would be cool if you could "sell" your legendaries for 1M/piece or something at the end of the season.

            People have been saying that money is tight in RoS, esp. with rerolling, crafting, and high level gems.

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            April 24, 2014 2:19 PM

            Who gives a shit what happens to a level 20 legendary? It takes like two hours to get to level 20 if you're playing slowly.

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              April 24, 2014 2:23 PM

              Ya but it takes a long time to get to lvl 70. How many level 40 or 50 legends you specing on a level 70 character?

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                April 24, 2014 2:24 PM

                What the hell are you complaining about? I'd like to know before telling you to shut up.

                Well, fuckit. Just shut up.

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                  April 24, 2014 3:24 PM

                  Whoa whoa whoa hold on there mate. Why you mad bro?

                  I'm not complaining, just asking the question. What do you do with low level Legends in that situation? Sharding it, as you said, seems like the best solution I guess. Unless Blizz has other options in mind.

                  • Zek
                    reply
                    April 24, 2014 8:19 PM

                    That's exactly what you do with low level legendaries today. Once you've out-leveled it (and your alt of the same stat type has out-leveled it) it's junk. Most of the time it's no big loss since the Legendary wasn't anything special anyway - it only sucks once in a while when you get a low level Thunderfury or something.

                  • reply
                    April 25, 2014 12:55 AM

                    Yes you shard it. It's crap. Was that hard?

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            April 24, 2014 2:23 PM

            You shard it and have the transmog unlock if you don't already.

          • Zek
            reply
            April 24, 2014 5:28 PM

            Low level gear is low level gear. Seasons will probably be at least a few months long, so you'll be 70 and have real stuff to carry over.

            However they will probably start a new Season as soon as the old one ends. So if you're a Seasons player, sending it to your normal account is the same as deleting it anyway.

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        April 24, 2014 1:16 PM

        The second part, with leaderboards, basically makes it sound like Diablo 3 speedruns, which is an interesting way to add a competitive element to the game. I wonder how they'll flatten out the RNG factor to make it fair.

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      April 24, 2014 2:28 PM

      They didn't ask my question: "Whose dick does Jingletard have to suck to get the recent latency issues fixed?"

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        April 24, 2014 3:12 PM

        The big giant latency thread on their support forums indicates the latency issue it was looking at may be fixed.

        There may be others, but it might be better tonight. Sounds like it was an issue with their backbone provider.

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      April 24, 2014 2:57 PM

      I'm holding my breath until they release the PS4 version gyyyyyyyyaaaaaaaaddammit.

      • reply
        April 24, 2014 5:57 PM

        Same here. I'm really looking forward to it. Hopefully it comes out soon (and not blizzard soon)

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      April 24, 2014 5:18 PM

      Good read. I really like the way you noted the community-based questions. Very cool to see that sort of inclusiveness in the process. Great job!

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      April 24, 2014 8:50 PM

      There are a still a lot of problems with the game that leave me scratching my head. I can't understand why they didn't take the opportunity to fix monk's passives, why two-handers are useless, and why sockets are required.

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        April 25, 2014 2:34 AM

        2 handers are awesome for crusaders

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        April 25, 2014 3:23 AM

        The socket thing really needs to be addressed. I get that you can enchant to fix it, but when they are absolutely a requirement on weapons, they either need balancing with other stats or they need to just make every single weapon come with a socket.

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      April 27, 2014 6:00 PM

      what Dale responded I didnt even know that a student can get paid $7197 in four weeks on the internet . website here

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