made its spectacular debut at BlizzCon
last year, and we were lucky enough to not only play it
but talk to the team at length
. And since then we’ve wanted nothing more than to dive back into this new-look Sanctuary. There was a lot of info we gleaned too, an explosion of action-RPG goodness if you will. From the return to the dark gothic vibes of Diablo II
in terms of art direction and presentation to the large open and seamless Sanctuary you can explore that features an impressive and dynamic day-night and weather system.
For those that need a refresher, here’s a handy list
of everything learned about Diablo IV in 2019.
With no BlizzCon this year the Diablo IV team is still hard at work on the game (naturally) and will continue to provide in-depth quarterly updates on its progress throughout 2020. With that in mind today we got exactly that -- a new and in-depth look
at the game’s development, giving us all even more Diablo goodness to sink our skill points into. This is the sort of Quarterly Report that that “forms a rift in your path that increases your Critical Strike chance by 39% for 5 seconds”.
So, let’s go through it all.
An Entire Region, the Dry Steppes, is Fully Playable
Diablo IV features a huge world where you can travel between with five connected regions at will. In fact, one of the most striking revelations from BlizzCon was that you could walk from one end of Sanctuary to the other without hitting a road-block in the form of a loading screen. The latest Diablo IV playtest at Blizzard
– where the entire development team sat down to experience the game together - focused on the dry desert setting of the Dry Steppes. One of the huge regions in the game.
"The Diablo IV team is still hard at work on the game (naturally) and will continue to provide in-depth quarterly updates on its progress throughout 2020.”
What made this recent playtest an important milestone was that all campaign content and quests were there alongside open-world events, dungeons, a PvP area, and cinematics. From this revelation we learn that you can complete an entire zone or region before moving on, but that it isn’t necessary, and you can simply work through the story and come back later. Tackling side-activities at your own pace.
Having all elements ready and playable in a single region has allowed the team to “see how all the current features harmonise over a longer playtime” according to Game Director Luis Barriga. Plus, PvP is now confirmed as in-game and functioning. Very cool. Development on other regions, the campaign, dungeons, and activities are of course happening too -- but this focus on the Dry Steppes paints the picture of a game coming together.
Storytelling in Diablo IV
Diablo IV will feature real-time cut-scenes where the camera will zoom in to provide a detailed and highly cinematic presentation of key story events. Having these happen in real-time has the benefit of allowing your character’s equipment and player-created look to be presented right there alongside using the current resolution and graphics settings of your rig or platform. In terms of the Dry Steppes playtest, the team at Blizzard created one of these dramatic real-time cinematics in full utilising the many improvements made to the system since BlizzCon.
The results look stunning.
In addition to this we learn that simple interactions with NPCs – akin to those profile overlays we saw throughout Diablo III – are also being given the cinematic treatment. Retaining the isometric viewpoint of the series and the action-RPG genre at large, Diablo IV will draw on a larger library of animations to present these sequences in a more dynamic fashion. And for those conversations that are a little more complex – say someone interacting with an item or scene – the isometric viewpoint will feature hand-crafted animations specific to those sequences. According to Luis Barriga, “this lets us deliver story moments that are complex while keeping you in the world as much as possible”.
Camps to Liberate Are a Part of the Open, Open-World Sanctuary
This statement from Luis sums up the approach taken with Diablo IV perfectly – “If you want to take a break from the main campaign and go exploring, crafting, or PvPing, you are free to do so”. For the playtest those that simply played through the story and campaign completed their run in far less time than those that went off to explore.
This statement sums up the approach taken perfectly – “If you want to take a break from the main campaign and go exploring, crafting, or PvPing, you are free to do so”
A new open world event and dynamic feature revealed by Blizzard as part of its latest development update involves Camps. These are enemy controlled territories that you can liberate – where once you do so become friendly outposts home to NPCs and a handy waypoint. And probably access to someone to sell all that excess loot to. Blizzard notes that there is story and history tied to each individual Camp and that they’re not exactly tied to traditional quests but the world itself.
“One of the camps in the zone was a town afflicted by a curse that turned villagers into piles of salt,” Luis writes. “Another was a crypt, haunted by a spirit that possesses the bodies of various undead—jumping from skeleton to skeleton until you defeat him.” Yeah, awesome.
Mounts Will Be Customisable
Attaching a trophy to your saddle to highlight some of the more interesting moments in your adventures – confirmed. As per Luis “itemization for mounts also opened up a new axis of progression” and form a pure exploration perspective they’ll no doubt change how we perceive moving from one region to another. Not only speed-wise but in bypassing having to clear mobs or treat movement through the world as a part of combat. Mount progression in a traditional MMO is often slow and tied to microtransactions, but as Diablo IV is not that at all, we’re keen to see if the itemisation offers more than maybe extra storage or speed – something like a Legendary dismount attack or series of them to unlock for the playable classes would be very cool.
Multiplayer and It’s Effect on the World
At BlizzCon we saw the first example of, and got to experience, a World Boss. A giant foe where the camera zooms out and dozens of players seamlessly join-up for a large-scale PvE encounter. It was something the series hadn’t done before, and it was certainly cool to see, but it also raised a few questions. Would the game still feel like Diablo if you see players running around all over the place? A town overrun by characters all talking to and handing in quests on the same NPC – MMO stuff that immediately breaks immersion.
Thankfully, this is a feeling all too familiar to the team. “We find that the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers”, the update notes. In Diablo IV all key story moments and dungeons are private, to players and their party. That said a key part of Diablo IV is its multiplayer, where towns become social hubs (though Blizzard notes you’d only run into a few strangers) and a world where you can see others engaging in combat or attempting to take on a World Boss like Ashava. Engagement is entirely optional at the discretion of the player, so you can join in on an event, claim the reward, and then move on without having to join a party of instanced multiplayer session.
Blizzard notes that it is creating in-game tools for those looking to join a group and that overall the balance feels right, “in our tests so far, the world feels alive and dynamic without compromising the feel of Diablo”.
Being this open with the development process is very unlike Blizzard, and Luis Barriga notes, “we still have a lot of work ahead of us and to be clear, we are not at an Alpha or Beta stage yet.” Adding, “we don’t typically discuss our early milestones publicly during the course of development, but we think it’s especially important to continue to share our progress during a year without a BlizzCon.”
Being this open with the development process is very unlike Blizzard, but the team notes “we still have a lot of work ahead of us and to be clear, we are not at an Alpha or Beta stage yet.”
And you can’t get more open that a look at actual in-game Legendary and non- Legendary drops from the recent Dry Steppes playtest (seen above). Here we can see a direction that is vastly different to Diablo III and something that feels more in-depth, malleable, and open to build diversity based on item and skill synergy over sets. These items also leverage the post-BlizzCon implementation of Angelic Power, Demonic Power, and Ancestral Power.
Angelic Power, increases the duration of all beneficial effects (like self-buffs or healing).
Demonic Power, increases the duration of all negative effects (like debuffs or damage over time)
Ancestral Power, increases the chance of on-hit effects (aka increased proc chance)
On that note a bigger update on loot and items in Diablo IV is coming – so we’ll have a lot more to pick up and equip in the coming months.
And Now, This…
Finally, a cool look at how the team tests and iterates on content alongside the development of art and the world. These “blockout” elements are cheaper and more effective to change than final assets – and on that note here’s a look at a dungeon and demon. Two things that Diablo is all about.