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AusGamers Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls Developer Interview with Jesse McCree and Leonard Boyarski
Post by Steve Farrelly @ 11:58am 19/11/13 | Comments
At BlizzCon 2013, AusGamers was given a chance to catch up with Blizzard's Jesse McCree and Leonard Boyarski to talk about the PC (and a little of the console) version of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls. Read on or watch for what they had to say...

Watch the full video interview embedded above, or click here for a direct link.

AusGamers: Ladies and gents, welcome back to AusGamers. You are here once again with Stephen Farrelly, out at BlizzCon this year. There’s lots of cool stuff you guys have been talking about, there’s tonnes of announcements. I’m at a bit of a disadvantage, because we haven’t seen the Reaper of Souls BlizzCon panel yet (it took place on the next day - Steve.), so I don’t know what you guys are going to be revealing here.

So do you want to just run me through what are the big things you’re revealing here?

Jesse McCree: Sure. So for Reaper of Souls, we’ve got a whole new act: Act V, which starts in Westmarch and takes you through a whole bunch of different areas, and finally to Pandemonium, to fight Malthael, who’s our villain. We’ve also added a new class: the Crusader, he’s kind of that knight in battle-scarred armour, very tough guy and super-fun to play.

We’ve added a whole new way to play: on top of campaign mode, we’ve added adventure mode, which unlocks all of the way points and lets you teleport between any given area. It adds a system we’ve called Bounties, which are randomised quests, and we’ve also added what we call Nephalem Rifts (which at GamesCom we called Loot Runs) and those are random dungeons. So we randomise the dungeon -- it’s one to ten floors deep -- we randomise the monsters, we put a boss into it, and those are just repeatable and randomised. So lots of cool stuff.

AusGamers: Where did all of that stem from? Obviously some of that stuff is not really part of any Diablo legacy, so were you perhaps trialling that for a while to sate people because there is no PvP at the moment? Can you talk about the genesis?

Leonard Boyarsky: It really has nothing to do with the whole PvP situation. It’s just a matter of: no matter how much we can do with the story, once you’ve played through four or five times, you really don’t want to go through that all again, it really turns it all into loot runs and the things we’re doing now with Nephalem Trials and the bounty system -- we kind of just open the whole world to you.

It’s kind of the way that people have been playing Diablo forever, it’s just that before they would have to pick specific runs to do. You know, “this run is the most advantageous for the period of time I’m going to play and I’ll get the most loot”. That wasn’t necessarily quote: “the most fun way to play”, but it was just people really finding ways to maximise their time in the game. So we thought we should create, not a system, but a whole way to play that doesn't force you to keep doing the same thing over and over again to get that kind of result.

Jesse was talking about the Nephalem Rifts, and the Nephalem Rifts are fantastic, because you can go from a level of the cathedral, to a cave, to some totally different dungeon -- different lighting, different weather systems, different monsters -- so it’s always this randomly generated situation or experience that you’re going to have.

Jesse: And the way that we come up with a lot of that sort of stuff, is we play the game and we watch what our players are doing, and we try to adjust and find what’s really fun. Now that we have an expansion, it’s a great opportunity to add a whole bunch of new features, that we couldn’t just piecemeal in with patches and things like that.

AusGamers: Is that stuff available from the outset for players, and if so do you guys foresee a problem with players just grinding those to get as good a loot drops as they can, to be able to just breeze through end-game content?

Jesse: You can play adventure mode right from the beginning -- you can make a new crusader and jump into adventure mode -- you can also play the campaign mode. So it’s up to you; you can play however you want to play. As far as getting upgrades and actually doing these things though, that’s actually what we want you to do. We want you to play the game and find upgrades and experience that process, and it’s been super-fun to play it internally.

Leonard: As far as the Act V content, we’re still deciding as to whether you can just jump right into that, or have to play that before you can do loot runs for it. I’m not sure if we’ve 100% completely decided on Acts I through IV yet, but those were a little bit more open to… we figure you’ve already played them if you’re playing the expansion set, so you can just get right into those and play in adventure mode.

AusGamers: From a world-building perspective, was it more challenging this time around to find something that offset what players played through with D3? Obviously it’s a bit darker and it’s a whole new type of area. You talked about randomised dungeons. So you’re building an adventure mode that has random stuff, but obviously the main game also still has random levels as well, right? How do you differentiate that? What’s the challenge there?

Leonard: Well, one of the things we did in this expansion, is we change all of the areas to random. Before, the exteriors had set boundaries, and we could replace certain things within them; now all areas are completely random. It was really... kind of the trajectory of that we had from the beginning, was to show different parts of the world -- we really wanted to explore the different parts of the world, and you had seen very small areas before.

Westmarch just became very obvious with us. We really wanted to explore a big city as we’d never done that before in a Diablo game. We started touching on that a little bit with Caldeum, but that mostly turned into desert; Tristram was just a small town. We said we really wanted a dark, gothic city. So I feel like we really delivered on that, and it’s really fun.

Then of course, Pandemonium is this place that you didn’t really visit in Diablo II -- you just kind of stuck your foot in the water -- but we really wanted to explore that as a place because it has been in the lore a lot. Westmarch as well, has been in the lore for a long time, so we wanted to show players what those places were like.

As far as adventure mode, and just having more maps and more places to go really just opens it up. It actually gives us more to work with, which is what Jesse was saying, as opposed to making it more difficult to make effective or fun.

AusGamers: This was sort of said during the BlizzCon opening ceremony, that community has helped build so much of what Blizzard is giving everybody today, and things like Heroes of the Storm are actually built from players handling tools and creating their own game modes.

I’ve often asked this question of the Diablo teams whenever I’ve had an opportunity, but it sort of seems like, especially with something like adventure mode, that you could probably give some tools to players, in terms of being able to play around with level design of their own. I know it’s random, but if you gave a bunch of assets and different items and systems for people to play with… has that ever come across…

Jesse: That’s a really awesome idea. I came from the community; I started out as a mod developer and ran websites for how to do that, and always loved getting my hands on tools. What the StarCraft team did when they were building their toolset, was from the ground-up, they intended it to be usable by the community, and we didn’t do that. So to make our tools useable at this point, would be very difficult.

As much as it would be very fun to attempt, it would definitely take a lot of time away from the actual development of the game. So I totally see the desire for that… in terms of practicality, it could be a little bit tricky.

Leonard: I also think the fact that we’ve randomised it even more… I think it would be fun for people to play with, but I don’t know how much the other users would get out of that, compared with what we’ve done with adventure mode which I think is very successful -- just being able to go in there and play all of these different maps.

If somebody handcrafts a map, you can play it a couple of times, but our system is just completely randomly generated now, so [you] have literally just an infinite amount (well, not infinite, but a very large amount [laughs]) of content that you can play through that’s going to be different every time.

AusGamers: Let’s talk about the Crusader, he’s a very cool and I’m definitely going to roll him straight away. What was the process going in to him? Obviously you kind of drew from the Paladin, and he’s got a kind of Barbarian feel to him as well. But a lot of people complained about certain characters not being able to handle certain bosses towards the end of D3. Have you guys respec'd other characters as well to compliment the crusader? How has the design process there worked?

Jesse: In terms of monster balance, since it’s an expansion, we have the opportunity now to go back and retune things and make sure everything is playing the way we want -- make sure ranged characters can have their shot, as well as close combat characters. Leonard can probably talk about the Crusader a little bit more than I can.

Leonard: The impetus from a lore standpoint, was that we really wanted a walking tank. We really wanted somebody who kind of personified the next generation of this holy warrior. From a strategy standpoint, we really kind of wanted somebody who was a midrange character, as opposed to only melee, or only… like the wizard where you’re attacking from a distance.

It’s a very visceral character. I don’t know if you’ve played it on the floor yet, but it just feels like he has so much power, even when he’s attacking from a distance. We had some very interesting things lore-wise, from the Zakarum religion, that go back to Diablo II, and we just wanted to explore that more. His interactions with the Templar, and his interactions with the game itself, plus his backstory of how they got started and all of that, was something that we really wanted to explore from a lore standpoint.

AusGamers: I’ve been asked by some of my colleagues to ask this question, and don’t know if you guys can answer it: It is a transition phase at the moment, obviously [Reaper of Souls] is heading to console which is something that you guys had been working on and teasing for quite a while, but it was a no brainer, it fits on consoles so well -- my wife and I play all the time at home; it’s fantastic.

Has it changed the development of Reaper of Souls much, that it’s also coming out on console? Are you guys talking to the teams and sharing stuff, learning something from the console guys at all?

Jesse: Yeah, well we’re not actually separate teams. So the console developers and the PC developers… we’re the Diablo developers. So we’re hand-in-hand and we’re always talking, and we think of the game more -- now that we’ve shipped on console -- as the game. And when we look at the PS4 version, and the new Xbox, and how it works with the PC, we try and make things… I wouldn’t say identical, because the console has some interesting UI challenges, but as far as gameplay goes, and what we want out of the player experience, they’re very tight-knit.

AusGamers: On that, and speaking of transition, it seems like even the PC space is going through a bit of an upheaval. You’ve got SteamOS coming out and these other things, and obviously is a big factor for Blizzard. Linux is a bit question that crops up with our community quite a bit. Is that something that’s on the cards at all?

Jesse: Interesting. I don’t know. I haven’t followed that very well.

Leonard: Yeah, we’re over on the other side of stuff completely.

Jesse: I’m sure our programmers talk about that a lot. Are you talking about putting the game on Linux or supporting Linux?

AusGamers: Yeah.

Jesse: I don’t know [laughs].

AusGamers: Alright, well I’ll chase that up elsewhere then.

Jesse: That’s cool. Is Linux coming back up?

AusGamers: Apparently, but we’ve got a lots of really hardcore guys, so maybe they just hope that it’s coming up.

Jesse: Yeah, I did some Unix in university, and it was pretty cool.

AusGamers: Finally, from a play perspective, in terms of… it seems like you’ve just added so many layers to the game to keep people coming back. What sort of investment time can people… is it endless now? Is that the point? Did you guys want to be able to play it for even double the time of Diablo III? Was there ever a goal in terms of time investment and management?

Jesse: I wouldn’t say there’s a goal in terms of time investment. We do want people to be able to play a short period of time, and feel like they’re making progress and having a good time. When you play through the story mode, you get a lot of that, because you’re constantly progressing the story. You’re learning new things and interesting things are happening. When you’re playing adventure mode, since we’ve added bounties, we’re giving you sort of bite-sized gameplay chunks.

So if you can only play 15 minutes or half an hour, you feel like you’ve made some progress. The way we’ve structured the reward system for that, is we give you kind of a randomised bag of loot for everyone that you complete. So you click on that and get a bunch of stuff. If you happen to do a whole act’s worth, then you get a bigger version of that.

So we’re definitely looking at, how does the short term play feel? As far as long term play, that’s something we have to watch. We’ve got to go to beta, we’ve got to see how it goes, and how it plays over a long period of time.

Personally, I’ve been playing Nephalem Rifts for months, and I haven’t got bored yet. I’m constantly refining it and tweaking on it, but it’s definitely fun to play and I keep going back to it, so it’s really interesting.

AusGamers: Is it safe to assume that with patch rollouts after the game is released that we’ll see more bounties and stuff like that being added to the game?

Jesse: It’s possible. After shipping the last game, we had a bunch of patches, and we’re trying to do a better job on keeping a handle on the number of patches we do. We’re trying to make sure that the game is really solid when we ship it. Because we would rather focus our efforts on kind of bigger things to come, than a lot of little noodley things.

AusGamers: I did actually have one last question: The Auction House is gone obviously, and you’ve got the game out on console, which is offline. The bigger question then is, are we going to see the game playable offline on PC.

Jesse: Offline for PC... the way we feel about the PC version of the game is it’s most fun to play with your friends. So we want to make sure we have systems in place where you can find your friends to play with. They’re constantly available, the tie-in with is huge. Being able to see across games, like “Hey, my buddy’s playing Warcraft or StarCraft”, and being able to coordinate with them, is a big deal for us, so we definitely want to keep that available.

Leonard: I think just the fact that I could have played the original Diablo III and not played for a couple of years and come back and play this one. If we do content in the future, your character is always going to be there. Because you’re on our servers, we’re not going to delete any of your characters. Obviously we have a limited number that you can have, but as long as those characters are on our servers, and as long as our servers exist, those characters will be there for you to come back [to], which is really important.

Jesse: And as far as community goes, we’re even beefing that up. So clans and groups is a thing. We’re adding a lot more kind of community-based stuff into the game.

AusGamers: Any social aspects? Obviously the next generation of consoles have a really big focus on being able to immediately share to things like Facebook and Twitter. Are you guys looking at factoring that into the PC version?

Jesse: For PC, we’re not doing that. But we are adding clans and groups. So you can form groups with people that have similar interests. There’s UI for that; chat support; you can see what drops people are getting. A lot of things like that are going into the PC version.

AusGamers: Alright, awesome. Well, thanks so much for that Jesse; Leonard.

Leonard: Thank you

Jesse: Thank you, that was awesome.

AusGamers: Cheers. Awesome.
Read more about Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 10:05pm 19/11/13
Local Servers...... why wasn't that asked about? Why would i ever look at diablo 3 when other games offer a better experience? If indie devs can do it - blizz can, no excuse.
Posted 10:25pm 19/11/13
I like when probed about always online they spout some bulls*** about being able to connect to friends, or always having your characters there if you want to play them again in 10 years. I mean, come on guys, worst f*****g PR spinning bulls*** ever.

I wish you asked them why it is that they didn't make it always online for console if they wanted them to have the same features?

I've lost a lot of respect for Blizzard since Diablo 3. It just seems like they don't really give a f*** about the community anymore.
Posted 01:13am 20/11/13
No wonder I'll never buy this game, Blizzard is just as stubborn and stupid as ever. I used to have a lot of respect for this company but after Warcraft 3 everything tastes bad for me.

They want all the "best" for the PC gamers but not the same for Console ones, it's obvious they're trying to avoid piracy, no excuse will change that.
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