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Gameplanet: Do you feel like maybe you’re denying the playerbase something that they want?
Chambers: I think people want to kill each other! [Laughs]
Cheng: So I think what people want is to be able to use their singleplayer character. I think that sort of overrides everything else. I spend two hundred hours levelling a character through Normal, Nightmare, Hell and Inferno (difficulties), I want to use that character in PvP. That sort of makes it non-eSport right there.
Gameplanet: Do you foresee in difficulties with the community not getting behind Hardcore mode PvP?
Chambers: Yeah, where did we land on that?
Cheng: Our current position is that you don’t die in PvP in Hardcore mode. So what happened in Diablo II is that anyone who wanted to do Hardcore PvP would basically level a character to level 10, and then they’d find another level 10 character, and they’d fight and one would die. That’s just not really that interesting. So we’re just going to let players engage in PvP.
Gameplanet: What changes have been made to balance as a result of the beta?
Cheng: One of the big ones is the change to Wizards and Witch Doctors to use their weapon damage. That came primarily of wanting them to care about their weapon. So we went through and converted all of those over.
Also some difficulty issues. As an example, people complained a lot about “arcane enchanted” mobs, the purple hydra-like things. So that has been nerfed. In fact, that has been redesigned in some ways. I don’t want to spoil what its been changed to, but certainly those difficulty spikes. I think what makes Diablo fun and interesting – since there’s a lot of randomness to it – you’re going through this ebb and flow of difficulty that goes up and down, and you want to make sure that the lows are never too low, but you also want to make sure that the high points in difficulty are never too high.
Gameplanet: What else on the mob side? I see that you’ve added grenades and so on to mobs.
Cheng: Yeah, I think there’s just a couple of instances of mobs that were too difficult. Andrew’s mum was playing and she died to the zombies on the road at the very beginning—
Chambers: Yeah, go figure!
Gameplanet: Did she go and get a cup of coffee or something?
Cheng: [Laughs] For someone who has never ever played videogames before, those first monsters need to be ridiculously easy. If you look at World of Warcraft, none of the monsters less than level 3 even attack you until you attack them first, they’re yellow, not red. So really providing a safe environment for that first-time player. Fast-forwarding a little bit the very first time you go into the Cathedral, I think there’s some little flying lightning bat-things. We felt those hit a little too hard so we took those down a little bit.
But on the other hand one of the larger corpulent monsters later on, we felt like his normal attack wasn’t hitting hard enough! So we’ve been making lots of little tuning changes like that all the way through the game.
Gameplanet: And how do you extrapolate what you’re learning from the beta – which is such a small tutorial slice of the game – how do you extrapolate that across the game as a whole, where you don’t necessarily have thousands of players interacting with those mobs, or that feedback coming in?
Cheng: Right. Well, we play the game a lot. We have people playing the game over and over—
Chambers: Internally we have a lot of people playing the entire game a lot.
Gameplanet: Sure, but are people’s mums playing it internally?
Chambers: My mum is! [Laughs] After my mum did that, a lot of other people started letting their mums play it or whatever, and we learnt a lot from that – having our wives or spouses play.
Cheng: Establishing a good baseline has been really useful, and then being able to continue that baseline throughout. Making the game more difficult as you progress actually is important. We’ve definitely had builds of Diablo III in the past where the whole game is definitely too easy, and we could tell. And people get bored! If there’s no challenge and everything dies, and you cast one spell and the whole screen explodes? That feels awesome for about 20 seconds. Then you’re bored! So the zombie that just stands there until you kill him at the beginning of the game? Absolutely not appropriate later on. We ramp it up.
Gameplanet: Speaking on difficulty and the different difficulty settings, can you break it down by level? Presumably you finish the Normal difficulty at about level 20 to 30?
Cheng: About 30, and then Nightmare is 30-50, and Hell is 50-60.
Gameplanet: And Inferno—
Cheng: Is 60 […] In Inferno, everything is a higher level than you, which makes it hard!
Gameplanet: You’ve said that there are tiers of items in Inferno, how do you access the different tier tables in Inferno? Do I have to find the tier 1 version before the tier 2 version is added to the table, or?
Cheng: We haven’t finalised that but speaking in general numbers, 70 per cent of our items are in post-Normal, that’s sort of divided throughout. The items are randomly generated, and for those who remember playing in Diablo II, throughout nightmare difficulty I think there was a 10 per cent chance of getting an exceptional weapon, and then in Hell you had a five per cent chance of getting an elite [weapon]. That really was to extend out the item hunt, to make it increasingly difficult and rewarding to get the very best items in the game. For the record, those five and 10 per cent numbers are illustrative of the kinds of things we’re thinking about!