Gameplanet: What are your main objectives for the Diablo III beta?
Wyatt Cheng: Definitely a big one was the installer: the launcher, patcher and server stability. Those were really the big things that are really difficult to do on our own. Beyond that, knowing that we’re headed in the right direction, validation. We always have a sense of what’s working and what’s not, certainly the beta confirmed some of those things. When people are asking to see more, or [asking] when does it come out – getting more excited – or [asking] if we’re going to add more content to the beta, those kind of questions all speak to me as, “I’m really excited about what you’re doing, and I can’t wait for it to come out!”
Andrew Chambers: “Keep doing that, and give me more.”
Gameplanet: What have the beta players taught you about your game?
Chambers: Being able to swap skills in the middle of combat is not cool. It’s aberrant behaviour. We love the ability to freely swap skills, we like that it encourages customisation, and the ability for players to really explore their characters without getting locked in, but we made it a bit too free, you know? It was too easy – well, it wasn’t easy at all to have your skill panel open and swapping skills in the middle, that sort of stuff, but that’s what the system allowed for. So learning from that we’re trying out an in-town skill swapping system internally, where you can only change your skill load-out when you’re actually in town.
Gameplanet: How does that work with the death and checkpoint system? If I run into a fight, I die and am checkpointed back, do I then have to go into town, change my skills and then come back?
Cheng: Yeah, we have the stone of recall, which functions like a personal portal back to town, so it’s not too difficult. Town is never more than 10 seconds away.
Gameplanet: Can you talk us through the remaining crafters? We’ve seen the Blacksmith but not much of the others.
Chambers: So the Jeweller is all about the gems. You can combine gems, make lower-level gems better, and add sockets to existing items. He can also remove gems from items that have gems in them. That’s really big because in Diablo II you felt like you were committing, and a lot of people didn’t want to commit gems. So being able to get them back is a really cool thing.
The Mystic focuses on enhancing items. So she can add plus experience to gloves, or something like that.
Gameplanet: Is it randomised or can it be selected?
Chambers: You specify the item you want, then you choose the enhancement you want, and that enhancement actually has a range. So say the plus experience might be 10 to 20 per cent: when she applies it you might get plus 15 per cent experience. You can reapply that and you’ll have a change of getting plus 16 or plus 17 experience and it’ll never go beneath the current enhancement, but you’ll have a chance of getting something better.
Gameplanet: What changes have been made since we saw PvP last year?
Chambers: The big one is that it’s Team Deathmatch now. So rather than Arena – Arena was great, we showed it last year and there was a lot of good feedback from that, but the dominant [feedback was] it kind of sucks to sit there and wait and watch other people play while you’re dead. There was also a lot of pressure on new players going into arena. They felt like they were going to let their team down if they died, so they felt like they had to be really good whereas with Team Deathmatch you can die and you’ll come back. It doesn’t really matter, you’re in the fight in three seconds. The team with the most kills wins but the match is 10 minutes long so you have a chance to come back. It encourages you to explore your character, try crazy builds – make your crazy wizard mirror image build that just spawns a thousand mirror images on the screen – and that’s fine, right? Sure you’re not killing everyone but you’re having a lot of fun playing the game.
Gameplanet: So obviously one thousand wizards on the screen is hyperbole, but—
Gameplanet: One of the discussions last year around PvP was “particle soup” and having too many characters and effects on the screen at once. Now we’re talking four versus four which is a new limit, is it not?
Cheng: Yeah, when we started trialling four versus four internally and getting a lot of feedback from people in the company, they were like, “No, I can figure out what’s going on.” The noise is there, it’s still Diablo III, it’s still pretty heavy on the noise, but the overall response was that it’s more fun with four players, especially in Team Deathmatch, and the respawning. You get these interesting attack waves happening. There’s a big fight in the middle and one guy dies, and the other team takes over, then suddenly that guy comes back into the fight with full health and comes in with Barbarian Call of the Ancients and just wrecks hell!
Gameplanet: So is the design directive for PvP still “fun” rather than “competitive”?
Chambers: Yes, absolutely.
Gameplanet: Do you feel like maybe you’re denying the playerbase something that they want?