According to lead "Diablo III" designer Jay Wilson, the team has to appease an "extremely broad audience" as well as hardcore fans.
"Up until fairly recently, 'Diablo II' was Blizzard's best-selling game," Wilson recently told me when I asked him just who "Diablo" fans are. "'World of Warcraft' has finally surpassed it, but it took it several years to do that. And part of the reason is how approachable the game is."
Keeping the game approachable is key for Wilson. "It's one of the reasons why we made some of the choices we made, like when we pulled out the potion system," he said. "When we wanted to add a hot bar we knew we had to pull the potion stuff out. Every time we add something, we have to pull something out to keep the game very simple and straightforward to play."
"One of the things that happened in 'Diablo II'," Wilson continued, "was the player was faster than most of the monsters and had pretty much infinite health because they would just pop as many potions as they wanted. So when you have a player who has more mobility, more health and endless power, essentially the only thing you can really do to challenge [the players] is to kill them... by just spiking the difficulty."
"When you have a player who has more mobility, more health and endless power, essentially the only thing you can really do to challenge [the players] is to kill them."
But in "Diablo III," players will have to pick up health orbs after they've killed enemies, which will restore their health upon contact. Wilson saw on the forums that people were worried that this might make the game "ridiculously hard." He said that fans shouldn't worry.
"That's only if we tuned it like 'Diablo II,'" he said. "When the player has similar downsides, it means we can make a lot more interesting monsters. We don't have to kill you to challenge you. We can make a monster that affects your mobility, we can make a monster that has different kinds of attacks that are dangerous to you and that you actually have to avoid. And so it makes the combat a lot more interesting."
While Wilson said they'll keep the game accessible, he knows "Diablo III" has to ultimately appease their hardcore fans. He assured me that the team has kept this in mind, and is making the game progressively harder.
"I think that hardcore players, long-term, will find a game that has lot more depth for them."
"A lot of the choices we make are styled towards knowing the long term," he said. "I think that hardcore players, long-term, will find a game that has lot more depth for them but we distinctly made the choice that in the first stage of difficulty, the game's really easy. So it's easy to get through, it's fun to play and you can kind of spam with one skill. But as you get further and further into the game, you start having to go, 'Okay now I've really got to use this ground stomp thing to stun some monsters and get some distance from them to recover.' That's something that we focus on more later in the game."