The information presented in these archived FotDs is now outdated, but that's often the most interesting thing about them, seeing how much the game has changed from then to now.
The original FotDs are indented and italicized. Explanatory comments below them were written by Flux at the time the FotDs were archived, usually a couple/few months after the original FotDs had been presented.
May 2, 1999
- Item sets, several pieces of matching armor complementing each other, are another great new feature of Diablo II. The way they will work is if you have equipped several pieces of the same type of armor, your benefit will be greater than the sum of the parts. One short example Blizzard gave was, (paraphrased) "...if you have a 22 AC helm of bone and a 22 AC bone armor, then you will get more than 44 AC.
Item sets were a brand new idea in D2, and they initially thought of doing them much as they are in D2X, with partial set bonuses. However this didn't happen in D2, where you had to have a whole set on to get any special bonuses.
May 3, 1999
- Moving around the towns in Diablo II will be much less tedious than it was in the first game. Not only will there be a different sort of town in each of the 4 Acts, but they will be somewhat randomized, the NPC's will roam around a bit, your character will be able to run to speed things up, and there will also be Portals at various locations in each act to pop you about and save even more time.
The "portals" concept became Waypoints, a necessary feature with the acts being so huge in D2. It's interesting how many of the best features in D2 evolved over the course of the game design and play testing. You can see why Blizzard games take a long time to finish, they are constantly adding more features while they go.
Check out this very early picture of a waypoint, with the menu system totally different than how it is in the final game.
The earliest waypoint animation was very cool, like a stack of blocks and when clicked on they rose up one by one and formed a circle in the air, rotating around the outside of it, with the portal in the middle, sort of like a ring for a tiger to leap through in the circus. Much cooler than the squares on the ground we see in the final game.
May 5, 1999
- Diablo II will feature a world wide ranking system, operating over Battle.net. There will be rankings for Arena games, recording the results of head to head combat, with separate ladders for each char class, possibly divided up by Clvl. It is not known if there will be any sort of ranking system or competition for monster-killing, or any sort of team ladders for arena games with more than two combatants.
Ladder plans for D2 were scaled back several times, mostly since the D2 team never really had time to work on it. Arena games didn't make the final game at all, so took any chance of a PvP ladder with them, since there's no way to have PVP rankings derived from uncontrolled FFA battles in games.
May 7, 1999
- Act Three will take place in the city of Kurast and the tropical rainforest around it. This act will feature dense, lush, even impenetrable vegetation, crumbling stone temples, and foul swamp creatures and crazed cult members for monsters. And that's just the stuff Blizzard will admit to! See it here.
This came with links to a few of the first shots in Act Three. The screenies are unremarkable now, though at the time, after we'd had only images of Act 1 and 2 for many months, all shots of Act 3 were devoured ravenously.
May 10, 1999
- Cold Arrow is an Amazon skill, the weakest of her three cold arrow skills. Where Freezing Arrow creates an explosion of cold and can freeze other monsters, and Ice Arrow paralyzes the target, Cold Arrow just turns them blue and slows them down. Still, for a young Amazon just being able to slow the monsters, and then pin cushion them, will be a very useful skill.
The function of those three skills seems little changed in the time since. The Amazon was the first character Blizzard worked on extensively, with the Sorceress and Paladin the next two, so the skills for those chars were developed sooner than the Necromancer and Barbarian, who weren't even revealed for over a year after the game was first announced.
May 11, 1999
- Quests will be much more involved and character-driven in Diablo II. NPC's will actually run up to you and offer them, or comment on ongoing ones, and your success of failure at completing them will have consequences, such as an NPC bearing a grudge against you for not completing one, or giving you some special favors if you do.
The quest rewards were elaborated and made very cool in D2 and D2X, but Blizzard didn't really include the NPCs being angry with you if you didn't do the quests. Initial plans were for quest items to come with choices. You could give an item to one NPC for one reward, or someone else for a different bonus, and in either case the one you didn't give it to would be somewhat peeved at you, and that would carry on for the life of that character, at least on that difficulty level. Might have been impossible to work this in MP games, where different characters had different quest histories, or just wasn't fun, and was removed in play testing.
May 13, 1999
- Teleport returns to Diablo II, but this time as a Sorceress spell. It is also packing a new icon, as you can see here. Possibly the Necromancer will have some sort of teleportation spell at his disposal, but this is unknown. It is also unknown how teleport will work, with the improved line of sight features, I. E. will you be able to pop over walls, or just to spots you can see? More info on this in a couple of days.
In D1 all characters could Teleport, once they read a book to learn the skill. The line of sight issues were of course resolved in favor of the player, and anyone can teleport anywhere they could stand, in D2X. Though all but the Sorcy require teleport charges to do so.
May 15, 1999
- The Barbarian skill Taunt has a Clvl five requirement, and the name sums it up. It is a taunting skill. It infuriates the monsters, making them too angry to run from you. This is useful with Fallen, as they scatter when one dies, but also later in the game, where many monsters will fight until they are low on hps, and then flee at a running speed, making it very difficult to get that last killing hit in.
Skills were initially set at Slvl 1, 5, 10, 15, 20, and 25. Blizzard increased them to go up by sixes later in development. Taunt appears to be unchanged in the final game from this early plan.
Blizzard removed the flee when almost dead AI from most monsters, since it was just annoying to have to chase things to deal that last hit or two. Only a few monsters, such as Giant Spiders and Baboon Demons, still display this behavior on a regular basis, and most of these are found in the early acts, which were worked on first. Blizzard probably found that behavior as annoying as the players do, so didn't give it to many monsters in Act 3 or 4, and very few in the Expansion Act Five.
May 17, 1999
- The Barbarian skill Find Heart is what he has for a healing spell now. The way it worked at E3 was that the Barbarian would kill a monster, then click this skill and target a monster corpse (they are distinct and highlightable now) and with a click the corpse would often yield a monster heart. The Barbarian could then pick up the heart and use Convert to turn it into a healing potion.
This skill became Find Potion, once Convert (and monster reagents like hearts) was removed from the game. Blizzard long planned to have no healing potions purchasable from NPCs in D2, since everyone had bought them and they were so easy to keep healed by in D1. So healing potions were going to be scarce, having to be made by convert or found.
To provide healing, initially all characters had a healing skill, in one of their skill trees (all characters could learn Heal in Diablo). This changed to all characters having a healing sort of skill, unique to them. The only one that remains is the Paladin's Prayer. Eventually Blizzard decided to once again have healing potions purchasable, so the need for healing skills was largely removed. Making healing potions fill over time was the main thing Blizzard changed, so that healing didn't work like rejuvenations.
May 19, 1999
- Convert is a new skill that debuted at E3. All characters have this skill, along with Attack, Kick, and Throw. The way Convert works is that you scavenge various monster body parts, including hearts, eyes, tails, and spines, and use the convert skill on them to turn them into useful items, such as healing or mana potions, or arrows. Convert is still in early testing, and will likely change a lot in function before the final game.
Here's something you probably have never even heard of, if you weren't around long before D2 was released. Convert was a big skill for quite a while, until Bliz abandoned it in late 1999. The first news it was gone was when we found it out on our visit to Bliz North in December 1999.
Convert was going to be used much like the Horadric Cube is now, you'd turn something into something else. There weren't any found healing or mana potions, for instance back then. You found monster hearts, and used convert to turn them into a healing potion.
In testing Blizzard found Convert to be cumbersome and eventually scrapped it, after coming up with the idea of the Horadric Cube, which kept the converting (transmute) concept in the game.
May 20, 1999
- Throw is a skill that all characters will have in Diablo II. The way it works is that you must have the item you wish to throw as your only equipped item, and then you simply select the Throw icon, and with a right click, you throw (An exploding or poison potion, or else a throwing weapon, such as a knife or axe.) the item in a high arc. You have to "lead" the monsters a bit, as the thrown item has some hang time.
Initially knives and axes were not thrown in the line drives we see now, but had some arc to them, though not as much as potions.
May 22, 1999
- There will be various weather effects in Diablo II. At E3, it was frequently raining in Act One and Three. Originally, Blizzard North was planning on including Sandstorms in Act Two, which would have been visibility-limiting, and also making rain effect the game play, turning patches of ground muddy and slowing down characters and monsters as they tried to pass through them. However these features appear to have been decided against at this time.
It would have been interesting if you ran slower in the rain, eh? And sandstorms for visibility problems would have been weird also, with Act Two so open and clear most of the time.
May 23, 1999
- Jab, is a Clvl 1 required Amazon skill that we found to be of great use playing the demo at E3. It is a melee attack, and strikes the target three times very rapidly, much faster than a normal spear attack. Best of all, there is a nifty animation for it, where the Amazon's movements are sort of blurred, like the super fast punching effects in a Kung Fu movie.
After E3 we had first hand play experience, which gave us much more insight into how things worked in the game. You can see our 1999 E3 report still, it goes into frightening detail. Jab still works like this, though it's much slower in D2X with weapon speed factored in.
May 24, 1999
- Hireable mercenaries are a new addition to Diablo II. In Act One there are NPC rogues you can hire, and in Act Two there are town guards in Lut Gholein. A merc acts somewhat like a golem in Diablo, as they follow you about and attack monsters on sight, but they have a little icon and health bar in the corner of the screen, and you can order them to specific spots on the screen. They regenerate hps slowly, but you can not give them equipment or have them carry things for you.
This one linked to shots of Act 1 and 2 NPCs, but they looked just the same then as now.
Their predicted functions are much different though. Blizzard had talked about being able to position your merc exactly, but at some point this feature went away. However adding in equipment for Mercs was certainly a good move. They'd be much less fun if they were all identical.
There are still speech effects for these commands on the game cd. All of the mercs have various "Yes", "No", "On my way." etc sort of commands, much like the grunts in Warcraft when you order them to a spot. Obviously this was changed to a more fluid self-targeting AI in later testing. Thanks to Lanth for remembering this.
May 25, 1999
- Monster AI is much improved in Diablo II. In addition to moving more quickly and often running, monsters have much quicker response times to your character's actions, and don't get confused and pause every few steps. They can heal themselves, and when they get low on hps they will run away, trying to get some time to heal, and often lead you into others as you pursue them. Also, they will chase you doggedly if you try to run, keeping on your heels for as long as you can run.
Most of these predictions turned out to be accurate, and certainly compared to Diablo the monsters are geniuses, but they still aren't all that bright.
May 26, 1999
- Teleport returns to Diablo II as a Sorceress spell. It works much like it did in Diablo, an instant relocation to another spot, though the graphic is much improved, with a little squiggle of lightning running over the Sorceress as she vanishes and reappears. The biggest change with this spell is that it now obeys line of sight issues. You can not teleport to places you can't see, so not over walls, up over cliffs, etc.
There was another Teleport FotD prior to this one, but we had new info at this time, that it wouldn't work out of your LoS. This was changed at some point before the final game, obviously.
May 28, 1999
- Diablo II will have difficulty levels, though what they will be called and how many of them there will be is yet to be determined. (Three levels is a safe bet though.) A great improvement is that there will be higher quality items only findable on the harder difficult levels, which promises greater rewards for greater effort, unlike the easy normal/hell item runs of Diablo.
Blizzard said for some time they probably wouldn't call the levels "Normal", "Nightmare", and "Hell" this time, but of course they eventually did. The item finding is a nice change, in D1 you could find virtually every item in the game on normal, so the only reason to play Nightmare and Hell was for greater experience and challenge.
May 30, 1999
- In Diablo II, monster bosses will be much like they were in Diablo. They will generally be encountered with a pack of others of their kind, and have a light radius, and probably be a different color. (Though at E3 they were not.) One difference is that they will have semi-randomly-generated named, for more variety.
This one turned out to be accurate enough. All monster bosses were SuperUnique, so to speak, in Diablo. Same name, same properties, same location. They spawned somewhat randomly, you didn't always get the exact same boss the same place, but that was due to the much greater monster variety in a given area in D1. If a given type of monster spawned on a level, then you'd always get the same named boss of that monster type there.