Lead Designer: ‘Diablo III’ To Have Less “Carpal Tunnel,” More Action And Better Story

A few hours after the announcement of “Diablo III” and a quick gameplay demo, lead designer Jay Wilson outlined the design goals for the game in a jam-packed panel at the Blizzard Worldwide Invitational.

He promised that “Diablo III” will stay true to the spirit and gameplay of previous “Diablo” games. Overall, they want to improve “Diablo” by adding more fast-paced action and expanding the RPG experience without sacrificing the ease of play. He said there are new systems, but they’re not talking about them this weekend.

However, Wilson did speak about plenty of other “Diablo III” game design elements, such as:

Increased randomness for replayability. One of the features of past “Diablo” games was random environments. Every time you visit a dungeon or area, it will be in a new layout to the player as well as more random monster encounters and items. What’s new for “Diablo III” will be random adventures, where scripted bits will appear almost anywhere in the game, prompting new quests. Examples that Wilson gave: players may meet a caravan that needs protecting for a short period of time, or run into an enemy camp with a boss. “Every time you go through the game, we want you to experience something different and have something to keep coming back to,” he said.

More powerful heroes. “Diablo III” will support large-scale combat with characters who can deal with a lot monsters. Characters will not only have impressive new skills, but players will feel more powerful just by sounds and effects. It will feel “crazy and over the top,” he said.

Strong and unique archetypes. The dev teams want to create cool, distinct characters with class-specific tactics, hence the introduction of the new Witch Doctor class. He said that all the classes got a “fresh start.” There’s also no final decision on the number of classes, and they will not necessarily bring back all the classes of “Diablo II.”

Large-scale combat. The game will have many on-screen monsters with sounds and effects to make the players’ characters feel “crazy and over the top.” The game will still be a “mouse killer,” but it won’t be “as carpal tunnel as ’Diablo II.'”

Accessibility. “If you can click on a mouse, you can play ’Diablo,'” Wilson said.

Co-op play. As in the past, the game will focus on co-op play but with the new version of battlenet premiering with “Starcraft II,” the communication and connection between players will be easier and able to support more massive co-op battles.

Cheating. The new and improved battlenet will also attempt to stop cheating. “That’s one of our biggest focuses,” Wilson said.

Improved controls. With the addition of the hotbar, the game will focus on using diverse skills versus potion use. Players in previous games could simply smack the potion button until they defeated a boss. “It was a battle of attrition, and that’s not the most fun way to play a game,” Wilson said. There will be no use of the complex “F” keys of the past. The mouse wheel or the Tab key will let players swap between skills.

New health system. Wilson said the dev team experimented with a lot of different ideas, including the “Halo” shield system. However it caused players to leave combat to recover health, which is what the designers didn’t want. They also didn’t want to use the “World of Warcraft” system of stopping and drinking or eating because it slows down the pace of the game. “No downtime is one of our goals,” he said. Thus, the health globes are there for players to easily recover their health. Also, in co-op play, if a player picks up a health globe, any friends nearby receive the same benefits.

Better story. Wilson said they wanted to improve the story but not lose the feeling of the “Diablo” franchise. However, if you’re not interested in the story, you’re not going to be subjected to mountains of text. But if you are, it’s there for you. The inclusion of voices for the player-characters will also help drive the story forward, as well as more engaging NPCs.

Group size. Though the team hasn’t decided how many people will be in a group, Wilson said to expect four to five players.

Inventory size. While the final inventory system isn’t final, Wilson promised a improved trading system between a player’s multiple characters as well as other players.

Considering “WoW” players. During the Q&A session, when someone asked if they were considering “WoW” players in making the game, Wilson said matter-of-factly, “Not really. We want to make a game for ’Diablo’ players and people who love ’Diablo.’ We don’t worry about finding an audience, and we don’t worry about ’WoW’ either. It will just continue to do well. We think there’s plenty of room for both [games].”

Hardcore mode. The mode hasn’t been thought about yet, but Wilson said, “I don’t see why we wouldn’t [bring it back].”

Group loot. When a boss was killed in the old games, the player with the fastest connection would typically grab the loot first. However, in “Diablo III,” the loot will generate and drop for each player.

Respecing skills. Wilson said they won’t be talking about the skill system and specs yet, but he revealed, “I will say I think it’s a bad idea to not let you respec your character.”

System specs. There are no system specs yet, but the game is expected to support the broadest set of systems possible. “We’ll go as low as we can,” he said.

What do you think of the new “Diablo III” design so far? If you have any questions for lead producer Keith Lee let me know by June 28 at 4 a.m. EST, and I will try to fit your question into my interview.