AusGamers Diablo 3 Julian Love Video Interview and Transcript
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 08:29am 04/08/11 | Comments
Amidst all the Diablo III commotion out at Blizzard's Irvine, CA campus, AusGamers managed to steal away Lead Technical Artist, Julian Love, for a quick video interview where we learn some Barbarian origins linked to a certain hulking green guy, and a pent up fake Greek God. Read on for the full details...
Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for the HD option.
Julian is the Lead Technical Artist on the game and looks over a lot of the pipeline stuff and is basically just the man that makes the game look as good as it does. So Julian, let’s get straight into that. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and what your team does?
Julian Love: Sure so, Lead Technical Artist; I run a team of other Technical Artists and we cover... well actually we wear a lot of hats. We do things from rigging up the characters for the animators, we also do a fair amount of tool development for the artists. Probably the thing that you can see in the game that’s easiest to grasp is that we do all of the special effects. So all of the skill graphics, the things that your hero does. We’re really closely involved with our programming and designer partners in terms of realising those things.
AusGamers: Do you guys develop all of your effects and stuff like that in-house? Is it all internal?
Julian: Yeah, it’s all internal. Everything is developed within our own actual editor -- our own internal tool -- called Axe. We maybe take some textures from third-party programs, but everything else is developed within the actual game itself.
AusGamers: And is that stuff spread across all the other teams as well, or is this core to Diablo III?
Julian: Oh it’s core to Diablo III. A lot of that stuff is really borne out of a lot of experiments we’ve done years and years ago when we first started the project and it really has been built specifically for this game from the ground up.
AusGamers: Now we had some technical problems before, but I just want to roll back into something that you mentioned to me earlier. I was talking about how I was playing with the Barbarian and he felt really awesome, like, such deliberation in his movements. Can we get back to that source material, because that was really cool?
Julian: Yeah, when we were developing the Barbarian, what we were looking at was we wanted it to feel like an unstoppable physical force -- that was the big thing; that’s how he should feel. And so how do we go about doing that? The first step was to go reference some actual material out there that we felt... what were some other characters in books or movies or whatever games, where a character felt like that to us?
So the first obvious step was, we looked at The Incredible Hulk. We didn’t necessarily want to do things that were exactly like The Incredible Hulk. We didn’t want him to turn green and “Hulk out” necessarily, but we wanted to get at that feeling that he’s all physical but he cannot be stopped. And we looked at some other places, like God of War for Kratos. He had a lot of the same kind of feeling and vibe that we were shooting for. So we take from those things, make them our own and twist them a little bit and get them in the Diablo game and really uniquify the Barbarian with that kind of feeling.
AusGamers: Did that process apply with the other classes? I mean obviously the Monk draws a lot of inspiration from fighting games. Did you guys look at a bunch of different fighting games and string that together?
Julian: Oh yeah, we even had a tournament here where we were playing a bunch of fighting games and I would do terribly and just got killed horribly. But we have a lot of people on the team who are just huge fans of that stuff, so everybody kind of came to the table with all sorts of ideas and feelings about how that should work. We also wanted to mix that with a sort of Western cultural vibe as well. Give it a little bit of a twist so it’s not exactly the same thing that you would really expect.
When you say the word monk, everybody kind of... this picture kind of jumps into everybody’s head. We wanted to defy that a little bit so that he feels a little bit fresh; a little bit new.
AusGamers: In terms of the iterative process in nailing how all of the classes felt and the characters looked. I guess how long was that? Obviously the game has been in development for a while and who’s changed the most?
Julian: Wow, so “Who’s changed the most?” I think the Witch Doctor probably has changed the most from end to end -- we really didn’t know what we were shooting for. In terms of the Barbarian, I think that’s just gotten bigger and bigger and bigger as we’ve gone, but it hasn’t taken many twists and turns. The Witch Doctor, I think out of the gate there was some things that we knew we really wanted, but there were other things that were kind of elusive. I’m not sure where they came from, but maybe we just didn’t have a read on “what does the voodoo vibe mean and how crazy can we get with that?”.
So the earlier versions did have that strong voodoo vibe, but it just never really quite took off until we did a pass. That’s kind of what we do, we look at the character when we’ve gotten a certain amount of stuff in and we back up and say “well, is it really hitting it; is it really as fun?” and we do a pass on it where we focus on it for a month or two and on about the third pass, all of this crazy stuff started to open up with the witchdoctor where we got the toads and the zombie-bears and then the fire-bats and then shooting a snake out of a blow-gun. It’s just exploded, and that’s where that character finally hit.
AusGamers: You mentioned that special effects is where you guys really shine and obviously you can’t just give the player that right at the very beginning. It’s all about getting to that point where you’re uber-powerful and there’s so much stuff going on on the screen. I guess what was the biggest challenge for you guys in regards to the high-end effects that you did for the characters and what’s your favourite effect overall that you guys have created?
Julian: Oh wow, my favourite is going to be difficult [laughs]. In terms of dealing with that high-end/low-end thing, I think our process has always been to cross that line boldly, then realise that we’ve crossed it and maybe pull back a little bit. So usually when we’re developing skill graphics, what we’ll try and do is just go nuts. Like how far is too far and we’ll just go beyond that?
Then once we’ve got that in the game, we’ll all agree that “yeah, this is crazy”. Then comes the realisation that maybe it’s too crazy, because this is level one right. And that’s when we say “well, maybe we tailor it and see how well it survives having been tailored back”. Sometimes during that process, we look at it and say “you know, this skill is like an atomic bomb. You can’t scale that back”. So I think we just made a decision that this isn’t going to be a level one skill anymore “click”, let’s kick it on down the line and make it something really big and let it be as big as it feels it needs to be.
AusGamers: Okay, we have to wrap it up now, but finally I’m going to go back to favourites again. Your favourite class to play with?
Julian: Favourite class? Well I think right now, it’s still stands as the Wizard. That was really kind of my first love -- especially coming from Diablo II where I played Sorceress so much. That’s the class where I probably have the most personal investment and so a lot of the stuff that’s in there really resonates with me.
AusGamers: I know everybody can sort of do it in After-Effects these days, but the electricity on that character looks so good.
Julian: Thanks. Well after painting it like 20 times... it’s hard not to love the character when you put that much effort into it.
AusGamers: Awesome, well we have to wrap it up there. Thank you so much, the game looks fantastic, we can’t wait to get it out. Cheers.
Julian: Thank you