Blizzard's Jay Wilson Talks Diablo 3 with AusGamers
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 01:47pm 03/08/11 | Comments
AusGamers sat in on a round-table with Blizzard's Jay Wilson to talk Diablo 3, the following transcript is strictly our own questions to the game director. Read on for what he had to say...
AusGamers: I’ll kick it off, and I guess we kind of understand why, but can you elaborate on the online-only aspect and what the decision-making behind that was, because you know, Diablo isn’t like StarCraft or anything with a deep multiplayer component,
Jay Wilson: It was a decision that we’ve kind of creeped into over the duration of the project, part of it is to just give the players the experience that we think is the best possible experience. We did feel like we’ve reached a saturation point with online play and networking that we felt like it was just not a big concern. You know, 99.9% of people out there have an Internet connections, even planes have Internet connections now, so the old argument of “I want to be able to play on the plane”, well, plane’s got Internet connection now too, so...
AusGamers: Not in Australia yet.
Jay Wilson: Not in Australia yet?! Sorry (smiles). So we felt like there was enough pervasive online connectivity that the best possible experience that we can give players in terms of being able to offer them persistent characters; characters that could play multiplayer at any time - that we can store, forever, [and] don’t get deleted; which is something we had to do for the preview system just because of storage concerns. And also just the enhanced security we can do with a game that’s only online. The big problem with Diablo II was security, and security’s a lot better, I mean we essentially don’t have to ship all the server infrastructure out with the game.
AusGamers: Just on that issue of connectivity, for anyone who does have a bad connection and experiences a drop out, what happens in that instance?
Jay: Well, if you just completely drop your character could die, but we don’t have a case where that penalty is so harsh, unless you’re playing a Hardcore character, in which case I wouldn’t do that with a tough connection, but then Hardcore characters are generally the types of characters people only want to play online because they want to play them for bragging rights. You can’t really brag if it’s on a home computer where you could have cheated to create the character.
But yeah, you could die, but the penalty for death isn’t extremely harsh, it’s essentially a small durability hit on items which costs a little bit of gold, not too bad. And there’re no corpse runs or anything like that, and even if there were, in Diablo II that was not too harsh, it was pretty easy if you broke out of the game and came back in your body would still be there waiting for you.
AusGamers: Did you toy with the idea at all, of just locking the player out for offline play and if they wanted to play online they’d have to start over again?
Jay: Well that was the Diablo II way and what essentially drove us to this was how bad an experience we felt that was. Because it was so common in Diablo II for people to start up a game, finish it, get through on Normal difficulty and think “Okay, I’m ready to go and play with my friends now”, and then realise, no you can’t actually play with your friends. We did have the offline Battle.net experience, but if you’re friends were on Battle.net - where most people were - then you didn’t actually get to play with them. So that was one of the things that drove us to that decision.
AusGamers: In terms of co-op, and we were talking about this before but need some clarification, is it just a drop-in system? Like, if you’re in a dungeon and your friends come online and see you’re in that dungeon, can they just drop in there with you? Can you just run us through how it works...
Jay: Sure. So the short answer is yes. It’s dynamic. You can jump in any time; so any game can instantly become a co-op game from single-player to two-player, three-player, four-player co-op. And the way it works is, for example, come online get a toast, they can send you a message, you send them a message and then you can just Right Click directly on their name, invite them to your party, in which case if they accept they’ll each come in or they can send you an invite request.
They’ll [then] show up in town, but the Banners that we showed, they actually appear in town... so every time a new player comes in, their banner shows up and it shows up at the right point in time and you just right click the player to teleport directly to you.
So it’s basically a very quick mechanism. We wanted to get rid of the usage of Town Portals, because it put all the burden on the people out in the world and we wanted to put the burden on the people who want to get to you - they’re the ones who get to decide when to go and where they’re going to go. And it’s just an easier system.
AusGamers: In terms of sharing... I guess the narrative components such as the Lore Books and what have you, as part of a team, does everyone get that Lore Book to access in their UI when one person has found one?
Jay: Yeah. If you’re nearby when things get picked up like the Lore Books, it just automatically gets put on everyone.
AusGamers: Besides using us (games media) how do you plan to relay any of this to the player - especially to newcomers of Diablo III? There’s a lot of new players out there; people who’ve gone from casual to core... are you using any kind of in-game tutorial or... what’s the process for you guys in explaining the Auction House and the benefits of it to new players?
Jay: We haven’t really gotten to that stage yet, it’s one of the last things we do when working through a system. We are designing it to be a very accessible, very easy-to-use system. It looks a lot like eBay [and] has a lot of features like eBay; it looks a lot like the WoW Auction House, so it’s a pretty easy system to get into and there’s a lot of automation to it, you know, when we talked about searching by class, one of the things you can literally do is point it at one of your characters and say “give me more items like this”, and it’ll say “oh okay, you’re a Barbarian, so we’re obviously not going to give you any Witch Doctor items, we’re going to give you Barbarian items. And you seem to really like Precision which increases your Critics, so we’re not only going to give you Precision stats, we’re going to give you other stats related to Critic.” And then you can always go through and say “you know what, I actually really want to shift to more Attack-related stats or more Fury-related stats”, and that’s just a modifier you can put on it and it’ll then generate a list of items for you.
So it’s a pretty easy system to use, but if we find we need to do some kind of Tutorial on it we’ll definitely add some.
AusGamers: Any chance you might introduce iPhone applications for [the Auction House]?
Jay: I don’t think it’s out of the question. But it’s not something we’re currently discussing - one thing at a time (smiles).
AusGamers: This is not specifically related to D3’s Battle.net, but I guess it stems from there - but this system you’ve created, specifically the Auction House, could you see this particular system, or is it even remotely considerable that, internally this was a testing ground for spreading this across other Blizzard products, in terms of the player incentive to play the game like this?
Jay: So the way we design our games at Blizzard is we design products and services first. Games that we think players will want to play and services we think they’ll appreciate. And then we think about “okay, how can we make those financially viable?”. We don’t start with the financial model - we never have, on any project [and] said “hmm, we can make a lot of money if we did this” - we never start there. We also start with “this would be a really cool thing for the players - is it something we won’t lose our shirts over? No, okay cool, then we’ll do it”. And sometimes it’s something we can actually make some really good money on. Awesome. That’s great, too.
So, is it possible that another game would use this system, yes. But only if it was a system that catered to that game’s design. Is there a chance that we would take a current game like World of Warcraft and transfer this system over to it? Well in the case of World of Warcraft, I don’t see that happening - I actually think it would really destroy the game. And luckily Rob and Tom agree with me...
AusGamers: Could you elaborate on why you think it would break [World of Warcraft]?
Jay: Well, Diablo is a game based around trading, it always has been, so the best items in the game come from people who trade actively with other players. World of Warcraft is not a game based around trading. The best items in the game come from the Raiding experience. So if you transferred the game over to one where you said “well okay, now we’re going to let people...” well you’d have to take some of the major systems of the game and overhaul them and say “we’re going to let people trade items now”. Well now you’ve taken what used to be the process for the most valuable items and you’ve altered it irrevocably and you changed the core nature of the game - the root of World of Warcraft is it’s not a trading game, it’s more of a progression-based raiding experience. So the two are not directly compatible.
AusGamers: Okay, this is a bit of a gnarly [question] to end on, but obviously there’s a bit question floating around about the console viability of this particular product...
Jay: That’s not a gnarly question! (Laughs)
AusGamers: Wait for it!
Jay: Oh wait, I spoke too soon...
AusGamers: So obviously Battle.net is the system you guys have created to deliver your games and now you’ve got an e-commerce system involved with it; Valve is a really good example of a similar system with Steam... Sony obviously just allowed Steam to function on the PlayStation 3 - have you guys been exploring anything similar? You can say you’ve been exploring console development, surely you’ve been exploring whether or not Battle.net is a viable option on the consoles [and] clearly Microsoft are jerks on that front, but...
Jay: That is a gnarly question. Yeah, I’m not touching that question... yeah I can’t really comment on that I mean if we were...
AusGamers: If you were going to move to console, would Battle.net be the ideal way for you to deliver Blizzard products to console?
Jay: If we did a jump to console, then our goal would be to give players the best possible console experience we could. So we would try to make decisions that would focus on that first and foremost... if we felt like putting Battle.net on consoles would be the best possible experience, then we would work with console developers to make that happen, but it kind of depends on the experience that we want to give them, it depends upon the console developers themselves... so there’s a lot of “ifs” and “ands” there.
AusGamers: Okay, cool. Thanks Jay.