The information presented in these archived FotDs is now outdated, but that's often the most interesting thing about them, seeing how much the game has changed from then to now.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.
October 1, 1999
- Fire Arrow, a Clvl One Amazon skill from the Bow and Crossbow Skill tab, is one of the Amazons most basic attacks. It adds fire damage to a regular arrow shot, at the cost of some mana, of course. The added damage is not large, but for a beginning Amazon, every little bit counts, and it can also be of some use adding light to a dark area, with the fire providing light. Higher Slvls of the skill will do more damage at less mana cost, and you must enable Fire Arrow to get to the more powerful Exploding and Immolating Arrow skills.
Fire Arrow looked identical back then, but the old screenie here is interesting to check out now.
October 2, 1999
- Power Strike, a Clvl 5 Amazon skill from the Javelin and Spear Skill Tab, adds a small amount of lightning damage to a normal melee attack with a spear. You can see it in use here. This is useful for a beginning Amazon, but it's really just a stepping stone to the much more powerful melee bonus attacks, such as Lightning Strike, which you can see here.
Power Strike looks just the same, but the early look at Lightning Strike is interesting, with a much more detailed graphic. Both screenies are very old though, showing monsters in places they no longer can be found.
October 3, 1999
- Seen in many previously released screenshots, HellHounds, (formerly known as BigHeads and shown in this early D2 render) are anticipated to be a prominent member of the Act One monster menagerie. Equipped with a melee attack as well as ranged lightning and cold based attacks, they have been seen in both outdoor and indoor areas of the act. Often found in the company of Fallen, they have also been spotted, in recent shots, with Bone Mages in the Monastery levels.
Big Heads were seen from the very earliest screenshots of Act One. We figured they had a nasty melee bite, as they look like dogs (according to the D2 lore, they are the mutated hunting/guard dogs of the Rogues) but as we know by now, in game they just stand back and spit lightning balls. The screenshot linked to here is one of the very oldest shots Blizzard ever released. Weird background art that's not in the final game
October 4, 1999
- Multi-shot Arrow is a Clvl Five Amazon Skill, from the Bow and Crossbow Skill Tab. This skill allows the Amazon to fire more than one arrow at a time, in a sort of fan pattern. There are two arrows fired at Slvl 1, three at Slvl 2, and presumably more at higher levels, with possibly increased damage as well. It is not known how aiming works; if they always go out at the same wide angle, or if this can be controlled somewhat to hit a close target with several arrows. This skill will likely use up your arrow supply at a frightening rate.
It was thought that MS would use multiple arrows per shot, and it did initially, but Blizzard changed that after play testing. Strafe also used up multiple arrows per use, that was said to be one of the main differences between it and MS around the time of the beta (only Clvl 1, 6, and 12 skills were in the beta, so no one tested Strafe then). However it became one arrow per use, even if you were firing 30+ shots with it.
The screenshot linked to is the earliest shot showing MS in action.
October 5, 1999
- Monster generators are an interesting addition to Diablo II's menagerie. This one is the only one yet pictured, a Foul Crow generator, and you can see quite a swarm of them in the full sized screenshot. This generator crawls around the Act One wilderness, spewing worth Foul Crows until you catch up to it and smash it. There are said to be numerous other types of Monster Generators, in all the acts of the game, but exactly how they will function is not yet known.
This is a great old screenshot, and our first look at a monster generator. Early on Blizzard said that they would move around or spawn in cleared areas, helping to repopulate already-cleared zones. The whole concept of monster respawning was eventually ditched, but the few monster generators in the game stayed.
It was expected pre-game that they would be more or less like the generators in Gauntlet, just square boxes that stood there and had beasties appear next to them. So first seeing these Foul Crow generators was a surprise, due to the organic nature of them, how they pulsed and breathed and gave birth to more crows with a weird tube thing. These used to move around much faster, at about a character's walking speed, though they moved randomly, not fleeing or pursuing you.
October 6, 1999
- Leap Attack is a Clvl 15 Barbarian skill that you can see in action here. An impressive skill, though it's never been seen in action, just in this screenshot, so we don't know if the Barbarian slashes his weapons at the target as he descends, or if he actually lands on them and does damage with something like a concussion wave. However the actual damage is dealt, it's sure to be deadly. As you can see in the shot, he attains amazing altitude, well over the head of even the tallest of monsters.
This links to the shot from the Sept 29 FotD, which has the longest caption ever. The main difference between Leap and Leap Attack in the final game, for most uses, is that Leap Attack has full screen range with just one point in it. Blizzard never mentioned that in any sort of preview or discussion of the skills. It was always just that Leap Attack hit the target when you landed. The skill is mostly used for leaping over things, rather than as an offensive maneuver, so it would be interesting to see how many people bothered with Leap Attack if Leap had the same range. Of course both are pre-reqs for Whirlwind, so practically every Barb would have them both anyway.
October 8, 1999
- Poison Javelin is a Clvl 5 Amazon skill from the Spear and Javelin Tab. With this skill the Amazon can hurl a javelin in a laser beam-straight line, at high speed, and add poison damage to the attack. It leaves a gorgeous contrail of writing green clouds in its wake, billowing and expanding as they disperse. The back trail of poison gas can also damage anything that strays into it. There have not been any screenshots of this skill yet released, but you can see it in used repeatedly in the Amazon.avi.
Poison Javelin was never seen in any screenshots, though we did get some of Plague Javelin eventually. Poison was amazing early on, before Bliz had to cut down the graphical intensity of it for machine load reasons. I still remember how amazing a poison shrine I clicked at E3 1999 was, with the incredible detail to the green clouds as they roiled and boiled. Of course it took a supercomputer to display it at more than 2 FPS...
October 10, 1999
- Teeth is a Clvl One Necromancer skill, and the first direct spell attack a Necromancer will experiment with. It's a useful skill, shooting out a spray pattern of writhing "teeth" that fly across the screen at a moderate speed, hitting anything in their path and inflicting moderate damage. The number of "teeth" fired goes up rapidly with the Slvl, (example of about Slvl 7) but the damage remains pretty weak. It is unknown what sort of damage Bone spells do, now that "magic" has been removed from the game as a base type of damage. Physical, probably.
The old screenie of Teeth is nice, they look about the same then as now. You can't tell how much they wiggle in flight from a still shot, so that was a surprise when we saw them actually in the game, for the first time.
Blizzard announced that they'd removed Magical Resistance from the character window, as you see in the Char window screenie linked here. So we assumed that meant it was out of the game entirely, and there was much speculation about what sort of damage the Necromancer's Bone skills would now do.
No one ever imagined at the time that just because it was gone as a player resistance didn't mean it was out of the game entirely.
October 11, 1999
- Familiar is a Clvl One Necromancer skill from the Summoning and Control Skill Tab. Or at least it was. Familiar has been reported to be out of the game, though the skill trees are in constant flux, so it might return, or it might not. At any rate, Familiar is a scouting skill, whereby the Necromancer sends out a large, glowing jellyfish sort of object, and it is under your direct control. You can fly it around for a short period of time, and the screen follows with it, while the Necromancer stays motionless at the spot where he cast the spell.
One of the many skills that lived for a while during development, and then vanished forever. The graphic for Familiar was pretty cool, seen at E3 1999, but as Blizzard did more play testing it became clear the Necromancer had no need for a scouting skill, and it was removed. I can't imagine when I'd ever use it in the final game, so hard to argue with their decision. Pity we never got a screenie of it, though.
Check out this animation of Familiar, it was extracted from the unused game art and sent in by Caerlink and Bard.
October 12, 1999
- Jab, a Clvl One Amazon skill from her Spear and Javelin Tab, is one of the better Clvl 1 skills in the game. This one enables the Amazon, with a spear or javelin equipped, to make several melee strikes at a very high rate of speed. Three or four hits in just over the time it would take to do one normally, though these "jabs" do much lower damage, they will incapicate the monster on the receiving end "stun locking" it, to use a term from Diablo.
Jab was the spear skill in D2, before Bliz nerfed it with the weapon speed factor in D2X. Why they felt the need to ruin the one really useful skill a very weak character build (Spearazon) had in the first place is a good question to debate.
October 13, 1999
- Polearm Mastery is a Barbarian skill from his Combat Masteries skill tab. It works only when the Barbarian has a PoleArm equipped and it raises his damage and to/hit when using a polearm. There are also Axe, Sword, Blunt, Throwing, and Spear Masteries, and as far as we know, all are identical in their affects upon their particular weapon type. This may change though, to include more variety in the final game.
It did change a little bit, since the Clvl 6 masteries have slightly higher starting stats in the final game. There were no such things as Polearms in D1, so there was a lot of interest in trying out this new type of weapon in D2.
October 14, 1999
- Shards are the current place holder name for the numerous servers, scattered all around the world, that we'll be playing Diablo II over on Bnet. There are "open" and "closed" shards, which correspond to "open" and "closed" characters, the two types of characters in Diablo II that can never mix. Blizzard is currently looking for a better name than "shards" for these servers, so if you come up with one, share it.
This one originally linked to our forum, since when Blizzard announced the Shard concept, they asked for name suggestions. Eventually Max Schaeffer at Blizzard North came up with "Realms" and that's the term that stuck.
October 15, 1999
- Plague Javelin is a Clvl 15 skill from the Amazon's Spear and Javelin Skill Tab. This skill is the big brother of Poison Javelin. Where as Poison Javelin just hits the target for some poison damage on top of the javelin damage, this one is explosive-tipped, and upon impact detonates into a massive green cloud that engulfs the target, and anything near it. Huge poison damage ensues.
There was no screenshot of this skill available at this time, so people had trouble believing that it could really fill a room completely with poison clouds.
October 16, 1999
- Fetish are small, quick and nasty. A monster thus far only spotted in Act Three, they are short humanoid creatures with scary dried corpse-like faces, giant cleavers for weapons, and cute little grass skirts. Attacking in packs, they move with frightening haste. There are two known varieties, discernable only by the bright green, or olive green skirts. This type looks to be well organized, attacking in neat rows.
Early shots of Fetish they seemed to have about the same skin color, but just different loin cloth colors. Perhaps Blizzard was going to just change their accessories, but found that wasn't enough graphical difference, so they added skin color changes also? Unknown.
At some time between the last Fetish/Flayer FotD mentions and this one their name changed. Since all the old shots referred to them as Imps, or Jungle Imps. You'll note that the Act 5 monsters are called Imps, but we don't know if Bliz abandoned that name for Fetish and then used it again much later when they were doing the Act Five monsters for the expansion, or if work on the Expansion was far enough along on monster design that they figured the name would be better for them, and had to think up a new one for the Act Three guys.
We were able to speak recently (December 18, 2001) with Blizzard North artist Kelly Johnson, the man who created the original artwork and concept of the Fetish, and he said this about the name change:
"We don't really have a set way to name creatures. They end up having several names for various reasons. The first name is usually given by the artist who designs and or creates the creature. I initially called the little guys in Act 3 Fetish because they were based on fetish dolls. Usually the artist gives a name that is based on how the creature looks. One of the first creatures I made for D2 was something that was eventually called the Doom Ape (Act 3). When I first made it I called it a Razorback. Spineyback was more descriptive but Razorback sounded cooler. When an artist delivers a creature to the programmers to be put into the game it gets whatever name the programmer chooses and they always choose a different name than the artists. Once the creature is in the game it is given an official name by whoever is in charge of giving names (no, I dont know who that is). Several names have to be created for every beast because of our infamous palette shifting.
So, most creatures end up having three names. The name the artists gives, the name the programmer gives, and the official game name. In the case of the Fetish they were first called Fetish and Pygmie demons by me, then the programmers gave them the imp name, and finally Fetish was given as a game name. The Fetish were created and named way before the Imps in Expansion were ever thought of. Imp didnt stick as name for Fetish but it suits the little guys in Expansion. Sometimes as an artist you have no idea what something will be called before you see it in game. Like Rat Man, I never even heard that around the office yet at some point it was given as a name to a version of the Fetish in Act 1."
So it wasn't any sort of simple switch of names, there are multiple names for creatures going around, and which one ends up in the final game is hard to predict. Thanks to Kelly for the great info.
October 17, 1999
- Corpse Explosion is a Clvl 10 Necromancer skill from the Poison and Bone Skill Tab. This one is a strong early favorite for coolest skill in Diablo II. With this skill the Necromancer targets a corpse and casts the spell, and the corpse detonates in an enormously messy blast. This deals high physical damage to anything near by, with the damage based on the hit points of the monster that was blown up. Well over 100% of its hit points can be transferred, so this skill can easily kill additional monsters with one shot.
There was such excitement about the Necromancer pre-game, and this skill especially, since all reports were that it was just awesome. Including our report from seeing it at E3 1999.
October 18, 1999
- Golem is a Clvl Five Necromancer skill from the Summoning and Control Skill Tab. This is the most basic and weakest of the Necromancer's four golems, and will be extensively used by a beginning Necromancer. There is no reagent required, just some mana, and it works much like the Golem did in Diablo; basically it walks around and beats on things. Much improved graphics, which you can see here, and it also has better AI and more durability.
Clay golem looked the same from the earliest screenies of D2. They upgraded the look from D1, and stuck with it through all the game development. It looks fine, so can't argue their lack of fine-tuning.
October 20, 1999
- Pierce (passive) is a Clvl 25 Amazon skill from the Passive and Magic Skills Tab. An essential Amazon skill, this one enables her projectile (arrows, bolts or javelins) to hit a target, do it damage, and keep on going, possibly hitting additional monsters behind the first one. We killed as many as six Fallen with a single hurled Poison Javelin once this skill was working. Higher levels of the skill should allow the projectile to pass through more monsters and do each one more damage.
Yes, Pierce initially had a bonus damage aspect, rather than just the Piercing effect. The D2 Team found this was too powerful in play testing though.
October 21, 1999
- Might is a Clvl One skill from the Paladin's Offensive Auras Tab. Might is a useful beginning skill; while it is in effect it increases the Paladin's damage, as well as providing a similar boost to anyone else in his party who's shared in the aura's benefit. We don't yet know any actual figures on the damage bonus, but likely some percentage that will increase with higher levels of the skill.
This one stayed the same.
October 22, 1999
- Fanaticism is a Clvl 25 Skill from the Paladin's Offensive Auras Tab. A very useful skill, this one speeds up the attack of the Paladin and anyone else in his party who is near enough to share in the benefit. Higher Slvls of it make the attack rate even faster, though it does top off, you can't increase it infinitely. The icon has just been revealed for the first time, and interestingly enough, it's the icon for Resurrect from Diablo. Apparently it's just reused; there is no known connection in skill function.
It's likely that the Resurrection icon was just used as a place holder for a short time, when the screenshot showing it in the skill tree was taken. The Paladin's skill trees changed completely during development, he used to have just one aura tree and a Healing tree, so Bliz turned the Healing tree into another Aura tree, and moved all the Auras around, and created new skills. When you are doing that much work on something, getting the icons representative of the actual skill can't be real high priority.
October 23, 1999
- Fist of Ares is a Clvl 20 skill from the Amazon's Passive and Active Skill Tab. This skill has never been seen in action, but the description of it sounds very interesting. It is said to create an orbiting ball that will mirror all of the Amazon's ranged attacks, including arrows, javelins, and other thrown items, effectively doubling her firepower. Imagine this with Multiple Arrow, or Plague Javelin, and it could yield some very impressive results.
This skill was totally removed. It was in the place that Decoy is now, on the Passive Tab. Initially only the Necromancer was going to have any sort of summoning skills or minions. Over time Blizzard realized that the Amazon and Paladin were basically fighter chars, but they didn't want them to be as powerful as the Barbarian. Giving the Amazon and Pally (via Convert) minions was a good way to keep them a bit less powerful than the Barbarian, but still have them playable.
Since Fist of Ares was an incredibly powerful skill, too powerful to fit with their design of the Amazon, Blizzard was able to remove it (and change Slow Monster to Slow Missile) and make some other changes once the Valkyrie was invented to tank.
October 25, 1999
- Stun, a Clvl 10 Barbarian Skill from the Combat Skills Tab, does just what it sounds like. It is a special attack that "stuns" the target briefly, allowing the Barbarian to run, change equipment, drink a potion, or mostly likely just beat the stunned monster completely to a pulp. Higher Slvls will likely increase the length of the stun, and perhaps the % of success as well.
Stun works much as anticipated.
October 26, 1999
- Poison Nova is a Clvl 25 Necromancer Skill from the Poison and Bone Skill Tab. You can see it in action here. Much like the Sorceress' Nova skills, Poison Nova sends out a rapidly-expanding ring of poison that does high damage as well as having a chance to poison the target. This skill has never been tested or seen in use, but as a Clvl 25 skill, it is expected to be highly damaging.
This was the first look at Poison Nova, and it's not changed at all graphically since then. Some skills Bliz likes their first effort on appearance, and others take endless tweaking. Generally skill functions are changed more than graphics though.
October 27, 1999
- Reverse Vampire is a Clvl 15 skill from the Necromancer's Curses Skill Tab. This one should come in handy, as it's about the only way the Necromancer has to heal, besides drinking potions. Anything affected by this curse is a walking honey pot for the Necromancer; he can beat on them and gain hit points back for every hit, as can his summoned creatures or allies. A useful party skill. Higher Slvl's should increase the percent of hit points returned per damage dealt.
This skill changed names to Life Tap shortly before the beta. Reverse Vampire was a complicated name, people were always asking for explanations of just how this worked, how it helped the Necromancer with anything. At the time healing was looking to be difficult to obtain, and we figured Necromancers would need to keep their stats up enough to be somewhat useful with a weapon, so they could leech with this skill. Didn't quite turn out that way, as we know now.
October 29, 1999
- Poison Dagger is a Clvl One Necromancer Skill from the Poison and Bone Skill Tab. This skill can enhance any melee attack when the Necromancer has a "dagger-like" weapon equipped. It's not know just how "dagger-like" it must be, perhaps short swords would work while a bastard sword wouldn't? The logic is that the weapon has to be something to slice through the skin, so no staves or mauls. Higher Slvls of this skill will increase the poison damage, and also the likelihood to poison the target.
It wasn't known early on that this was a specific attack skill. It was thought (or possibly it was this way in the game) that you could just select it, and any attack you did, with any type of weapon, would deal poison damage.
October 30, 1999
- Skeleton Mastery is a Clvl One Necromancer Skill, from the Summoning Skill Tab. A prerequisite for both Clay Golem and Golem Mastery, Skeleton Mastery "Increases damage and hit points of controlled monsters and skeletons." A useful and necessary skill for the Necromancer, to be sure.
The skill is much the same now, but the tree design has been changed, so that this skill is no longer a pre-req for anything.