The information presented in these archived FotDs is now outdated, but that's often the most interesting thing about them, seeing how much the game has changed from then to now.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.
September 4, 1999
- Sand Maggot- Lying in wait under the desert sands surrounding Lut Gholein and its environs are the Sand Maggots. Featuring a
multifaceted threat including a melee based pincer attack and a ranged poison spit attack they also can rapidly hatch many maggot young if not eliminated quickly. All three parts of its life cycle can be seen in this screenshot.
The link is live, to one of the very oldest Act Two screenies. Most of them then had various skeleton warriors roaming around the Act Two surface, something we no longer see in the game.
September 6, 1999
- The Paladin Clvl One Aura, Prayer. Like all auras, there is a golden tinge to the icon, so do not adjust your monitor. This one creates an aura around the Paladin that allows him to slowly rejuvenate hit points. The rate of regeneration is not known, but it is pretty slow at lower levels of this skill. Possibly with more points in it the rate is increased enough to make it useful in combat. However any way to heal is useful in Diablo II, with healing potions perpetually scarce.
This was back in the days before healing potions could be purchased, and healing was going to be much more of a challenge. Blizzard didn't want it to be like D1, where play was an endless consumption of red and blue potions. Of course now it's just endless leeching to keep full health and mana, with belts full of purples for emergencies, but they probably didn't anticipate that either.
September 10, 1999
- Diablo II add the dimension of corpses to the game. Rather than them being just decoration on the floor, as in Diablo, corpses are now selectable objects, acting much like a chest when you die, with all of your equipped items left inside it. Monster corpses are also targetable, with skills such as Find Heart and Corpse Explosion working on them. These skills can not be used on player corpses however, so no blowing up your enemy after you defeat him with your evil Necromancer.
There was much debate about whether Corpse Explosion should work on players or not, back when we first found out about this. Find Heart became Find Potion, once reagents and convert were removed from the game.
September 11, 1999
- Resist Cold, a Paladin Clvl 5 skill from the Defensive Aura skill tab, is an interesting spell. You can see it in use in a recent screenshot, and it is one of several resist auras the Paladin has, including Resist Fire and Resist Lightning. The interesting aspect of Resist Cold is that unlike fire and lightning, which only do damage, cold spells can also freeze your character, turning them blue and slowing or stopping them. For that reason, having good resistance to cold would seem to be a very important thing.
Interesting screenie and caption, it's the first one ever showing the repair wireframe, and was a surprise at the time since Blizzard had said durability was out of the game, after it was annoying to repair or have items break and vanish in D1. The funny part here is that now (Dec 2001) we have no idea if this aura for Resist Cold is the same or not, since none of us have ever used or seen it used in D2 or D2X. ;)
Early on the Paladin's Defensive Aura tree had all of the types of resistance as prerequisites for Salvation, so you had to sink points into Resist Fire, Cold, and Lightning to get to the really useful one. Bliz changed that long before the beta though.
September 13, 1999
- Bone Armor is a Clvl One spell from the Poison and Bone Skill Tab. It creates a protective barrier around the Necromancer that absorbs damage from attacks, sort of like the various types of "Osmosis" or "Absorption" suffixes did in Diablo. The skill absorbs more damage and lasts longer at higher levels, and there are three of the whirling white things when the skill is first cast. As damage is taken they vanish one by one, giving a visual indication of the relative strength of remaining protection.
You can see the final concept for Bone Armor was set pretty early on.
September 14, 1999
Initially Blizzard said that few skills could be mapped to the left click, just ones that were melee combat. It was thought that if some sort of spell were set to it, like Fireball for example, you'd just stand still and shoot Fireballs instead of walking/running. Only later did the idea of moving unless a valid target were clicked on come into being
September 15, 1999
- Item prefixes and suffixes in Diablo II are almost completely new and different. Two new types of magic, cold and poison, obviously need new families of modifiers to resist them and new types of modifiers on items that deal them. There are boots, gloves, and belts, that add new sorts of modifiers, such as "of the horse" on boots that add to stamina. And there are tons of completely new modifiers, such as "of greed" which increases the gold monsters drop, and "of fortune" which increases the monsters' chances of dropping magical items.
Of Horse obviously got a name change at some point, though it's a good name for a modifier that would have boosted your running. We'd only just heard of greed and fortune at this time, since nothing like that existed in Diablo 1. Hard to imagine D2 or D2X without MF or GF gear at this point, with it being such a focus of the game for so many players.
September 16, 1999
- Amplify Damage is a Clvl 1 Necromancer skill from the Curses Skill Tab. This one causes all affected monsters or characters to take extra damage from attacks. The amount of additional damage increases with the skill level, but in recent testing it was at +100% at Slvl 1, and +150% at Slvl 2. So definitely a noticable increase in damage. The graphic for Amplify Damage is a red cloud, and affected monsters gain several pretty red cross-shaped things orbiting around over their heads. You can see this skill here.
This is the first screenshot ever of PvP action, so it's interesting for historical reasons. Interesting thing is that we thought Amplify Damage made a number of little red crosses orbit around the head of the afflicted target, since in this shot several of the red overhead curse portions are vaguely cross-shaped. Funny the ideas you get about animations in the game from just seeing them in still screenshots.
September 17, 1999
- Claw Vipers are a ubiquitous Act Two monster seen in many palette shifted colors distributed throughout the desert surrounding Lut Gholein and also in many of act's indoor levels. They have a multi-pronged melee attack using their sharp foreclaws and their pointed barbed tail. It is believed, though unconfirmed at this time, that some variants may feature a poison based attack. They have been noted in the Desert, in the Catacombs, in the Tombs, and in the Sewer levels of the act. There were green versions of them sighted in Act Three at E3.
This shot is probably the first ever showing a Boss monster, though that's still open to debate.
Interesting how much Claw Vipers changed. They were in virtually every Act Two screenshot in the early days, and their cool effect was that they could do knock back with their claws, and then a fast scorpion-like stabbing attack with their tail, over their backs. That huge spike on their tail was there for a reason, though it's not active in the final game. And they were virtually removed from the game, left only in their Temple in Act Two, and a few of the Kurast temples in Act Three. You hear about Claw Vipers in a quest from the NPCs before you actually see any, to know what they are talking about.
Initially monsters were going to be much more natural, as though they'd evolved somewhat to their habitat. Desert creatures would have fire resistance and fire attacks, and be physically tough. Act Three monsters were mostly going to have poison attacks, etc. This got all scrambled around in the final game, with resistances and elemental attacks mostly randomized, and now desert Claw Vipers have a cold damage hit.
September 18, 1999
- Lightning Strike is a Clvl 25 Amazon skill from the Javelin Skill Tree. This is a melee attack skill, creating a fierce lightning spray that travels through the target, and hits other monsters for a substantial distance behind the struck monster. This skill is the big big brother of Charged Strike, which was seen in the Amazon.avi. You can see Lightning Strike in action in this brand new screenshot.
The older graphics for this and other lightning skills are much more impressive than what we saw in the final game, since the computer load lag was too heavy. Unfortunately there aren't any screenies of the oldest look of lightning. Blizzard reduced the lightning detail even more in D2X, finally making Javazons playable with Lightning Fury on less than a super computer.
September 19, 1999
- Smite is a Clvl One Paladin skill. Formerly called "Shield Bash", the icon still shows the resemblance, as the clenched fist is identical to the Barbarian skill "Bash", but this one shows the fist over a shield. This skill allows the Paladin to strike a target with his shield, knocking it back a few paces, much like Kick, though Smite does more damage.
So if you want to know what Kick was like, use Smite and pretend you are doing it with your leg, though kick didn't have the stun time, just the knock back. You could put points into it though, long ago (when you could also put points into Attack and Throw, to boost their effectiveness.
September 20, 1999
- Thought originally to be of the fairer sex, due to their long hair and robes, the Zakarum Zealots have since been confirmed to be male. There are warriors and priests, though we've only seen the warriors thus far in screenshots. They wield unusual, long-shafted axe-like weapons designed to be used with both hands. The priests are spell-casters with elemental attacks, though only one, Ice Strike, has been named thus far. You can see a render of various designs of the warrior Zealots here.
Zealots were fearsome in early sightings of them. They ran nearly as fast as Fetish, and were dogged in their pursuit, swarming the player with their very damaging polearm attacks. Imagine much faster Hell Bovines. Blizzard toned them way down at some point in play testing, since they are wimpy in the final game. We didn't know what Polearms were at the time of this FotD, as you can note by the awkward description of Zealot weaponry.
September 21, 1999
- Critical Shot, (AKA Critical Hit) a Clvl One Amazon skill from the Passive and Magic Skill Tab, will be a very useful skill. It is passive, and adds an X% chance of any attack doing double damage. At Slvl 1 it is about a 20% chance, and the percentage increases with higher Slvls. You want this skill.
This skill remained much the same, though the percentages of it were tweaked somewhat.
September 23, 1999
- The Thorned Hulk, a massive spike-encrusted monster, looks to be quite a bruiser. Big, slow, and powerful, this creature has been seen in several older Act One screenshots. However it was most recently seen in a screenshot from Act Three, and speculation holds that they might not be found in Act One in the final game, being too powerful for that early act. This monster was featured in an early D2 multiple render piece titled Anatomy of the Thorned Hulk which showed the intricate process by which Blizzard North creates the monsters for the game.
Both screenshot links are live, the first one restored for this FotD archive section, with the old and somewhat amusing caption intact. The speculation about monster location proved accurate here, as we don't see Thorned Hulks until Act Three in the final game.
September 24, 1999
- Resist Fire is a Clvl One Paladin skill that does what it says. It boosts his resistance to fire. Higher levels of the skill will provide longer lasting, more effective, and cheaper to cast protection. And like all auras, this one can be transferred to "friendly" other characters or summoned creatures, if they just stand right next to the Paladin for a moment. The transferred aura doesn't lower the durability of the Paladin's main aura, but the transferred one isn't as powerful for the individual that borrowed it.
As you can tell from this FotD, Auras used to work much differently. Auras had to be cast, sort of like Bone Armor, and had a certain amount of durability, or perhaps duration. They could be shared, but the player sharing in them didn't get the full benefit that the Paladin got. Initially there was only one Aura skill tree, with just ten auras, so you can see that much changed in game development.
September 25, 1999
- Dim Vision, a Clvl 5 Necromancer skill, has never been seen in use, though we do at least have this snazzy icon. All the Curse icons look the same, with the sort of tattered pennant, though of course the symbol on it differs for each curse. Dim Vision is said to lower the vision radius of the afflicted monsters, which would presumably make them easier to sneak up on, or run away from.
Curses seemed very exotic and clever early on, when we didn't know much about how they'd work or be used.
September 26, 1999
September 27, 1999
- Expected to be formidable spellcasters, the Dark Lords have been seen in released gameplay videos to feature a full range of fire based spells including Fireball, Firewall, and Meteor. From their extensive distribution throughout many of the second act levels it is clear that fire resistance will be an important asset during your Act Two travels. It is thought that this render may be of a Dark Lord but since no horns have been noted on those seen in videos and screenshots the render ID is uncertain at this time. There are also known to be "Vampire Lords" in Act Three, presumably a more powerful version of Dark Lords.
Both links are good, the one to the Dark Lords shows the screenshot this thumbnail is from, and it's interesting. Weird blood stuff the Dark Lords spray out when hit, different from how it looks in the final game.
September 28, 1999
- Dodge, a (passive) Clvl five Amazon skill, is the weakest of the Amazon's three avoidance skills. Dodge allows her to "dodge" melee attacks while standing still. It is unknown in there is an actual animation, like a side step, or (more likely) if the Amazon remains standing there (probably firing a bow or stabbing with a spear) and the attacker just has a penalty to their to/hit. Higher Slvls = greater chance to dodge the attack.
Well, we know how it works now.
September 29, 1999
Jump, a Clvl One Barbarian skill, is an impressive action indeed. The Barbarian can use this to jump right over the heads' of several monsters, as he gets up around 10 feet (3 meters) in the scale of the game, of course. Jump was shown off in the Barbarian.AVI, and you can see Offensive Jump, which looks very similar, here. This skill has many strategic uses, including escaping a corner, hopping over small obstacles, or leaping monsters to get to something behind them.
"Jump" changed to "Leap" at some point.
This screenshot was voted the best ever by our readers, and it's certainly the longest caption ever. Interesting in that it shows a huge battle in the Valley of the Snakes, where no monsters spawn in the final game (for no clear reason).
September 30, 1999
- Each character has thirty unique skills in Diablo II. These encompass many abilities that are more like "spells" than "skills", but they are all "skills" for organizational purposes. Skills can be either active of "passive". Passive skills are ones that work all the time, once they are activated by having one (or more) skill points placed in them. Skills like Warmth and Dodge are passive. Masteries are also passive, but they can affect a number of other things, such as Fire Mastery, which boosts the damage of all of the Sorceress' Fire Spells, or Spear Mastery, which adds to the Barbarian's damage and to/hit any time he is wielding a spear.
These concepts weren't at all understood back then, people were forever posting asking what passive meant, if they would have to hot key it, etc. Also there was a real mixture of skills back then that could and could not have points added to them. Some were set to be just 1 point allowed, while others could have multiple points in them. The D2 team concluded that this was unnecessarily complicated at some point, and modified things so all skills get points added, up to 20.