GP: Is there going to be the ability to reverse modifications to weapons and characters, perhaps like unsocketing and things like that? Or is that still yet to be decided?
KM: Possibly. Everything's on the table. There's multiple ideas, in some cases there's even multiple ideas about one specific thing, so it's too early to say.
GP: Have you guys ever played any of the mods that you get for Diablo II, the likes of the Median XL mod? Have you heard of that?
KM: Oh yeah, I played that like crazy! I love it!
GP: So have you taken any sort of inspiration from some of the changes he has made at all?
KM: You bet! It kinda hit us a few months back, people started playing a lot of it and brought it in and we took a look at it. There's some things that people have done with that game that I think are exemplary. He's done an awesome job actually of monster placement and creating combat scenarios where monsters tend to 'bleed in' from the outside, and take a combat situation that at first seemed like it was something you could handle, and then suddenly grows into something that is way out of hand! And it creates these really awesome moments. He came up with some really novel monster abilities and skills and stuff. It's a terrific example of a mod.
A lot of people will look at Diablo changes that we make sometimes and say "if you do that you'll ruin the game!", and then here's an example of somebody who's changed almost everything about Diablo II, but somehow preserved the game, you know, it still feels a lot like Diablo II! Even though lots of things have changed, including the health system - things that are like, totally taboo, don't change that or it's over! And yet they did it. So that's a terrific example of exactly the kinds of forward thinking that we like. I don't know how he got half that stuff in there! In fact I went back and I asked one of the original artists on the game, how did he do that?! And they were like, I don't know! (laughs)
GP: Obviously the Battle.net integration with Diablo III is going to be a big feature. How are you going to talk to your friends - say if you're in the middle of a battle and your friend pops up and messages you, it's not like World of Warcraft where you can just sit back and not do anything - how are you going to stop the combat, particularly in multiplayer, so you can chat to your friend?
KM: Luckily we don't have to answer that question, because StarCraft's going to find out before us! (laughs) At this point Battle.net and StarCraft II are going forward hand in hand. We've got a Diablo programmer from the dev team working currently on the Battle.net code, laying the groundwork for us, but at this point we're just paying very close attention to what the StarCraft team are doing. We were involved with the original design of [the new] Battle.net, so that they would be able to do what we want in the future. I think we have a big advantage by being able to see what happens over the next little while with StarCraft.
GP: In the inventory screen on the demo, there's a gap on the right hand side, is that for another bag, so you could have two bags?
KM: (pauses) I'm just trying to think what you mean... It might be the quest item thing, or maybe... Certainly we had a 'second bag' idea at one time but I don't know if it's still in there.
JL: The thing with the UI - more so than many things in the game - is it's in a constant state of flux, it's getting changed every day. So sometimes there's things in it that may not apply to the game.
GP: Are you guys still thinking about Aussie and NZ servers for the game?
JL: At this point we're just making content, so I really don't know.
GP: These sidekicks - you've talked about NPC's actually following heroes around. Do those NPC's provide abilities to the hero, like a proper party system?
JL: That's also not yet finalised. We're trying to make them definitely a step above the henchmen of Diablo II, but how big of a step is something I can't say yet. Hopefully next time we reveal something I can show you more.
GP: What about the ability to swap stuff between characters, are you going to be able to do this?
KM: I've heard Dave say that we know training and item swapping is a pain in the butt in Diablo II, so that's not the kind of experience that we want players to have. We haven't decided how we're going to solve this problem, but we're absolutely going to tackle it.
JL: Yeah. I just don't want to say 'yes' for sure, and then have people on my back saying "you promised!!" Honestly, you know, people are such rabid fans that it actually makes us nervous about having dialogues about certain issues...
GP: In World of Warcraft the main bosses generally drop the same particular items all the time. Is it going to be like this in Diablo III or is it completely random like Diablo II?
JL: It's probably going to be more on the random end of things. On that note though, we're trying to have it so that there's more things to do than just, like, when you've played the game a ton, rather than just doing boss runs to get items, we want to have more things like quest runs or things like that, different challenges you can do to get the item drops we have. We want to vary up that late-game stuff for the super experienced guys.
GP: Is there an upper limit on the number of quests you guys are planning on integrating into the game? Do you have a target?
JL: Probably, but it's undetermined at this point. I think in the demo that we have here, there's just over 30 different things that can happen in all the spots. Whether that's too high or too low will be partly based on what feedback we're going to see from the people that actually got a chance to play it here, and based on what we feel like. We know how we feel about it right now but we want to compare that to what the players who have a chance to play feel, and then we're going to try to look at that again. So this is one big area, what a smaller area or one that's more linear has is also yet to be determined. But certainly way more things will happen in one playing area than happened in Diablo II.
GP: In terms of the size of the world, can we get some kind of comparison to Diablo II?
JL: I honestly don't know the answer to that, whether it's bigger or smaller. I know that we're using the areas more effectively, and the replay value is definitely more real, it's more authentic, because you see different quests and events every time you play it. But whether it's bigger or not I'm not sure...
KM: It's pretty hard to say if it's bigger or smaller, but I think the density factor is the difference. Also, we're not going to let certain levels go on forever so that you get tired of them. Like for example the Catacombs (in Diablo II), being a four-level dungeon is maybe a bit too much of the same, essentially repeating content - and each of those levels were gigantic on top of it. So we probably won't do anything like the size of that. We're paying much more attention to the tempo of things--
JL: Right, you're going to see new art more frequently, which is going to mean more variance in the gameplay challenge within given pieces of art. So if you're getting sick of the desert, after a little while something new, something different in the game will present itself to you, to keep it fresh, that sort of thing.
GP: Thanks for your time - we'll be looking forward to seeing more at BlizzCon next year!