BlizzCon 2010: The Art and Design of Diablo III

John Funk | 5 Nov 2010 17:00
Interviews - RSS 2.0

TE: It was announced yesterday that you have a mind-boggling 97 billion character combinations, and that's not even getting into traits or armor. Do you worry that it's going to be a bit hard for players to tell the difference? They'll ask, "What's the difference between 20 points in this skill and 19 points in this skill, and vice versa?"

Jason: That's funny. We have a pretty systematic approach to this. We start with "What's a cool skill?" - take skills with runes as an example. "What's a cool skill? OK, Magic Missile." "What are cool runes? Maybe Magic Missile tracks, maybe you shoot more of them." And then we come up with some cool ideas for runes. Maybe they explode on the area when you use them. OK, how does that compare against my other skills? Is this redundant to my other wizard skills? It grows naturally. And from there - by the way this system works - we have a good grip on how all these things interact.

That said, in PvP, we're not going to balance 97 billion things perfectly and we know that. That's affected our approach to PvP to some extent. It's more a fun party environment. PvP is supposed to be a blast, where you're creative and you come up with really cool builds and we don't really balance it. It's affected the way we look at it - we're not looking at it the same way StarCraft does where there's perfect balance and it's really important for the sport. We are more worried about how cool it is to have all these options in PvE and then the PvP grows from that as its own thing.

TE: It's more drawing a clear line between the two. What you do over here won't necessarily work over there, right?

Jason: Right. For example, I gave you the example of that particular skill. We know if you put a level 1 runestone, you're going to shoot 1 extra bolt with Magic Missile and if you put in a higher level one, you're going to shoot 8 or what have you. We make sure both of those are fun. From there, we're pretty sure that the 3 through 7 bolts are going to be pretty good. And we balance it and we look at every one of these things individually. We have some very clever guys that spent a lot of time running the numbers to make sure it's good. Also, we play the heck out of this game. We play a lot, so we have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn't and that really helps guide us and simplifies the problems.

TE: From an artistic standpoint, Christian, was it hard to make these all feel distinct visually?

Christian: Absolutely. But it's also a huge amount of fun! We love doing this stuff because we come up with crazy ideas. Zombie bear is one example. My personal favorite, Giant Toad - eating monsters and puking up the loot and gold - that sort of thing. Those are just fun. And we live for that stuff. Those are some of the things that, when we're playing a game, we're having a huge amount of fun and a blast doing that stuff. We think the players themselves will like it. But it is pretty intimidating coming up with these differences and iterating on it. It's definitely doable and it's fun. It's a tough job, but it's a fun job.

Jason: A trick we use is that when we introduce something to the team that they haven't seen before, just to let the team play with it and see what they think ... we kind of overpower it a little bit to give people a fair chance to like it. Then we know, once we get some honest opinions on what people thought about it, we can roll it back and bring it in line with everything else balance-wise. It's a heck of a balancing act. It's pretty tricky.

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