Diablo 4 Reveal Panel ~ BlizzCon, 1 November 2019
Luis Barriga : Diablo 4 takes place decades after the events of Reaper of Souls. Though Malthael’s plans were foiled, the Angel of Death exacted a terrible toll on humanity and Sanctuary suffered grave devastation. Entire populations decimated, cities ravaged, heaven itself suffered great great losses causing them to shutter their gates.
You can imagine what that does to people. Religious schisms, famine, war, basically humanity left to our own devices and we know how well we do on our own.
It is against this backdrop of despair that Lilith returns and that’s when the events in the cinematic happened. This is important because in the mythos of Sanctuary Lilith is the mother of humanity. Lilith represents that demonic half that we all have inside our hearts. In that mythos she and the angle Inarius along with other rebel angles and rebel demons tired of this endless great conflict created a world that would be free of conflict called Sanctuary and along with that created the first mortals. That’s the legend, that’s what we’ve heard.
The scary part of that is that she knows our hearts, she knows what motivates us and can manipulate us. The other scary part of that is she is Mephisto’s daughter and she represents a link to an even great threat, the Greater Evils.
Even though she was summoned for reasons we are not ready to divulge just yet we know it can’t be good. With Heaven having closed their gates there’s no one to answer our prayers. Evan the Horadrim are but mad old men talking to themselves, talking to graves, clutching their bottles are hard as they once clutched their swords.
Tiffany Wat : Diablo 4 is a classic isometric action RPG. It’s going to feature a dark non-linear campaign. It will be a shared open world with 5 distinct continuous regions.
John Mueller : You’ll be able to go from the tip of Scosglen all the way down to Kehjistan.
LB : Complete with weather and day night cycles.
TW : There are hundreds of dungeons to explore and hundreds of Legendaries to find and equip. There are five powerful class, three of them we announced today in our playable demo, the Sorceress, Barbarian and Druid. It is being developed simultaneously for PC, Xbox and Playstation 4.
JM: We are starting a journey together. When you play Diablo 4 everything you see and experience will feel immersive and faithful to the legacy of what we all love about Diablo.
I want to give you an idea of what we mean when we say that. Is it mature scenes, is it blood, is it gore? There was a little bit of gore in that trailer, right just a little bit. Is it the music? It’s all of these things. What we like to say is it’s the totality of that tone that creates that creates that experience that we all know and love. The Butchers’ pit in Diablo 1, you go down, you open that door, everything seems fine and then it all goes horribly wrong. Crazy guy coming out with a Butcher’s knife and in our trailer today you saw that as well. It’s like everything is fine until they open that door!
It’s that contrast, it’s not monotonous; we want to create that sense of space and that world we’re excited to explore.
So here’s how this idea affects our heroes. We’ve taken a more grounded approach to presenting the world of Sanctuary. You can really see from this piece (below). It’s everything from the palette to the design of the armour to the design of the weapons to how we treat magic. In the classes you see the Druid, Barbarian and Sorceress engaged in combat with monsters from different realms around sanctuary and this piece really evokes that tone and that feeling that we are after. It really affects all things in the world.
So how would this tone affect the world of Sanctuary? We have this vast open world and we want to immerse you into that medieval apocalyptic demonic version of Sanctuary like never before. The moments of contrast you will experience in today’s demo are areas like Domhainne Caves, the Drowned Caverns and the Hangman’s Tree to the south which is one of my personal favourites. At Kealer Farm, which invokes these Diablo 1 vibes? The artist who built that was so excited to put that into the demo.
These are all areas that remind us we are in the world of Diablo and what we mean when we talk about a return to darkness.
LB : But it’s not just present in the art, this darkness it is the world, our gameplay and the stories we tell. So what we mean by that is our world is a medieval rpg but rather than be inspired by high fantasy we’re inspired by the occult, the demonic and biblical themes. What we mean by gameplay is that even making a dark very moody world if we create the sort of overpowered characters, with really over the top effects we know we’re going to undermine that sense of darkness. We want to make sure we keep that intact.
Then with stories, you heard me talk about how victories aren’t clean or guaranteed this means that sometimes evil wins. After all, this is the IP where you are sent to save the child Albrecth in the first Diablo and guess what? There’s no saving him. This is the franchise where, even after you kill The Lord of Terror himself, it’s not good enough and you need to risk your own mortal soul to try to contain him and just fend evil off for one more day.
The entirety of Diablo 2 was predicated upon being a day late and a dollar short and we want to encapsulate that feeling put it in a bottle and just create a whole world with that sense. So yes, it’s in the art, the gameplay, the world and in the stories we tell.
TW : But it’s not just the darkness of the previous Diablo games that’s influenced us. Every Diablo game has added great new gameplay features to the series and we are using all of these as inspiration for Diablo 4. We’re taking some of our and your favourite features from past Diablo games and bringing them into Diablo 4. We’ve updated their design, their look, their feel using our brand new engine and all the lessons Blizzard have learnt over the years.
This campfire plays homage to the classic campfire from Diablo 2 and this one of my favourite parts of the demo and the game. So, John what was your inspiration when tackling the character selection screen?
JM : I think when we started the character selection screen it was a really short conversation about what we wanted to do with that. We had a few ideas but the campfire really spoke to us and it really showed off the new engine in a really cool way. It was awesome to see the classes with the high fidelity that we’ve added into our characters with Diablo 4. It was just so much fun.
LB : I love that we left a little room in there and I also love that we don’t put any text there telling you the barbarian is this or that. It’s like yep, the barbarian, it’s the guy that broods in the corner with a bunch of swords. The druid is the guy who has some good boys hanging by him and the sorceress conjures the campfire. It’s so great.
JM : We wanted those classes to be clear without any text. I think we all know who these classes are at this point.
TW : Let’s look closer at the classes. The barbarian. There is a reason we keep bringing this class back. The barbarian is the embodiment of visceral brutal combat that is just so core to Diablo.
So in re-imagining this class for Diablo 4 we drew upon classic barbarian imagery as well as art from our own past. One common theme that kept cropping up was the physicality of these warriors and how armed to the teeth they are with weaponry. Every time you take a look at a barbarian they’ve got axes, swords, pole arms; as many weapons as they can carry.
We really love the fantasy of this class and with that in mind we’ve added the Arsenal system. The barbarian in Diablo 4 will have four weapon slots and will be able to use both 1 handed and 2 handed weapons in the same build and I’m so excited about this level of customisation and being able to equip four legendary items at the same time.
To actually be able to assign items to each skill slot to add yet another layer of customisation and depending on what skill you use the barbarian will automatically pull out the weapon he or she needs, so combat will continue to be seamless on the battlefield.
We are carrying forward Fury to power the aggressive, physical fast-paced attacks of the barbarian but they will also continue to pull the ancient magic of their ancestors to give them all that strength in combat out on the battlefield.
Let’s take a look at the barbarian in action and some art.
Luis Barriga : Next up we have the Druid. The Druid was not part of our original line up for Diablo 4. I know, my bad. That lasted about a day. One of our artists did this amazing piece of art (below) and we went from “I don’t know, Druid, maybe we got….No! We’re making a Druid 100% starting tomorrow!”
John Mueller : The power of art.
LB : It is a theme that art inspires the design in this game. You see it with the arsenal system, you see it with druid. One of the things we said was that we love the idea of druid how do we move it forward. One of the things we did we took some of that fire magic that didn’t feel like it met the fantasy of being somewhat in tune with nature and we replaced it with storm magic and earth magic and we feel pretty great about that.
We kept his nature companions, the wolves, ravens, the vines all of that. The thing that we feel is the ‘special sauce’ is he’s always been able to be this master shapeshifter, he can turn into a werebear, he can turn into a werewolf and it’s pretty cool. He’d be a bear and spam Shockwave and that was pretty awesome but we decided to move that forward in Diablo 4 and now we have something we call ‘seamless shapeshifting’. What that means is if you truly want to embrace the hybrid nature of the class you can start an attack in one form and you’ll begin animating as smooth and fluid as the Diablo 3 combat you’ve enjoyed so far. We’re levelling that up so mid-swing you will transform into the correct form. So you will press that button for a werewolf attack, you’ll start animating castor form finish it in wereworlf form. If you’re surrounded by enemies you can conjure up a bolder push those enemies away and then turn back into a werebear and charge into them.
John Mueller : The Sorceress, the Sorcerer is back. She is elemental carnage on the battlefield whether it’s chilling enemies and smashing them with a fireball or transforming into a chaotic ball of lightning and just completely destroying the battlefield teleporting around and wreaking havoc. She is an unstoppable wrecking machine wading through the hoards of monsters with the power of elemental magic. In a dark oppressive world of Sanctuary the Sorceress lights up our dungeons. When we say we’re returning to darkness our dungeons are really dark and the Sorceress lights it up in an amazing fantastic way with our new engine and our new tech
LB : I love that in addition to bringing the light show, gameplay-wise you feel like a dungeon boss when you play a sorceress. She has control over the battlefield with abilities liked Blizzard, like Firewall that make you feel like you’re doing area of denial attacks on enemies.
JM : How you look in a game like Diablo as you’re laying waste to the hordes of hell is pretty important don’t you think. We’re offering levels of customisation in Diablo 4 more than we’ve ever had before allowing you to make that barbarian of your dreams, that druid of your dreams and this is just a few of the options we have available today in our demo.
These are some concepts of where we are going with this. We really want to give you a kind of template and you can build on that fantasy however you want so if you want to customise the hair, skin, jewelry, scars, the tattoos, those kinds of things. We have a lot of these we are planning, it’s something we’re really excited about and we think you guys will really like it.
LB : It’s not just the appearance. Customisation is at the core of Diablo. What I mean by that is gameplay customisation. Customisation is back with a vengeance. We are bringing back some ideas and new ideas we’ve become inspired by from previous games. We have a trifecta of customisation options with talent trees, skill ranks and runewords. Runewords we’ve taken inspiration from Diablo 2 and given it a fresh new interpretation. It’s no longer a secret recipe but a little bit more freeform with triggers and effects. We are very excited to see the combinations that you come up with but the message we want to bring to you today is we want you to play the build that is inside your head, not the build that I decide for you but the build that you want to play because we realise that your idea of a Frost Sorceress might be different than mine or John’s.
Another thing that is new to Diablo 4 is the sense of world. There’s a very big difference in how we have approached it from different installments. We are coming at it from two angles, the fantasy and the gameplay. On the fantasy side we had planted these seeds. The Druid, we told you he’d come from Scosglen and we had shown little corners of Sanctuary that we knew you guys wanted to explore. Then on the gameplay side we kept making a more or less linear game with Diablo before with Act 1, Act 2, Act 3 and you guys kept wanting to approach it in a more open way jumping around killing stuff and not following the rules. With Reaper of Souls we created Adventure Mode to give you guys a taste of that openness and it was really transformative. That was a moment we learned a lot about how the game could be played and where we saw how you guys were approaching Diablo. Based on those learnings we are making Diablo 4 open from the ground up. We are making an open world with a non-linear campaign so that you can be in charge of how you decide to level. If you’re the type of player that wants to take breaks between the story and do some of the repeatable content, explore a little bit, do side content stuff like that, great. If you’re the type of player who wants to experience the story uninterrupted you can still do that so not only can you customise who your characters is you can customise their experience in Sanctuary.
JM : I think when the concept team got hold of the this, the idea of this vast open world was really exciting and what we would present to the players. Diablo levels have always felt a little bit like a quarters you know, I would skirt around the edges and work my way in towards the middle but there was always that border that was a little frustrating and I think for this game those borders are gone. On the concept team when we were imagining what this space would look like we had to imagine what that would be. What if the region itself was ten or twenty times larger than any previous Diablo region, so big that mounts might be required to cross these distances?
There are going to be five connected regions to explore with distinct geological and unique biomes. We will have the icy mountains for Fractured Peaks. We’re really excited about this one, it’s beautiful. We’ll have the dark force of Scosglen and we’re going to have the desolate grasslands of Dry Steppes, sprawling deserts of Kehjistan and then the fowl swamps of Hawezar to explore. Sounds pretty dark, right?
Tiffany Wat : The world is also how you engage with other players in Diablo 4. We’ll have social hubs in major towns and not only is there where you pick up quests and talk to NPCs but you can also trade, ask someone about their gear, investigate their build, take a look at how they customise their character or what awesome armour they’re wearing. You might even be able to look for a group. You might be wondering why do I want to look for a group? Well, as you’re exploring the open world you’ll come across World Events. You may not want to fight these events alone as they are a little bit tougher experiences. What if you don’t want to play with other people? There will be areas in Sanctuary where players can offer PvP so you can just murder them instead.
You will be able to complete the entirety of Diablo 4 without ever necessarily engaging in these social activities, you can continue to crawl dungeons on your own or form private parties on your own.
LB : I love PvP, not because I’m a great PvPer because I’m kind of middling. It’s the sort of thing where I don’t remember a lot about other games but I remember how I lost my hardcore characters in Diablo 2. Someone befriended me, we did Baal runs for a couple of hours and the person was pretty chill. My bags were full after killing Baal so I went to town, took the town portal back to get the rest of my loot and I don’t know how (this person must have been telepathic), they went hostile right as I was loading up died in a second. That person really enriched my online experience I must say.
TW : John and Luis talked about the expansive open world. There will still be Waypoints to travel around because we think that is really core to the fantasy of Sanctuary. With so much world to explore we saw the opportunity to add a new feature and that is mounts.
So we took a very Diablo approach to this feature both thematically and from a gameplay perspective. Taking a look at the concept art (above), you will be able to swap out the armour pieces, change the saddle and maybe swap out the Fallen head for another trophy. Not only does this add aesthetic customisation but also changes the gameplay. If you’re in PvP and you’re running away from a sorceress who has turned hostile on you you may wish to equip some items that decrease the damage that you take on a mount or make your mount go a little bit faster so you can outrun that Firewall or outrun that Blizzard and keep your ears for another day.
It’s really important that mounts feel grounded in this world. We want these mounts to feel at home in Sanctuary. We’ll have demon horses, flayed horses, there are horses that don’t even have a face anymore. That feels pretty at home in the world of Sanctuary.
Because Diablo is an action RPG we want to get you back into that action as quickly as possible and we want to do it with some flare so we’ve added dismount abilities. Each class will have class-specific abilities that fit our fantasy perfectly . If you’re a sorceress and you just want to get off your horse like normal or you can turn into an ice storm and freeze everything in your path.
JM : When we say return to darkness that is a literal truth for a lot of our dungeons and we are crafting some of the darkest most evil spaces that you have ever explored in a Diablo game to find epic loot.
LB : I love the first time I went to a dungeon in Diablo 4 and I realised I was at home when the corners were dark. This feels so right in a Diablo game.
JM : When the players are down there and have a little pool of light around you and those dark corners it just feels like home.
LB : We should reassure you these are fully randomised. We are building up on our know-how from D3. Our dungeons continue to be randomised but not only that we have new features that, in tomorrow’s panels, you’ll get to check out.
JM : And also exterior dungeons that randomly generated.
TW : So, there is one thing I’m not seeing here John. Where do we usually go in a Diablo game?
JM: Where do you guys want to go in Diablo? Yeah, of course we’re going to hell! It wouldn’t be Diablo without going to hell but we’re doing it. We don’t have it here today with us but I guarantee when you see it we’re going to do it very strong service.
LB : So what good would all of this world and all of these dungeons be if we didn’t have cool stuff to kill? As a former quest designer it really excites me to do a big world RPG in the world of Diablo and finally get into the backgrounds, the backstories and how well the pieces fit together like the Fallen for example, in the demonology, how they fit in. They are at the lowest rung of that demonic hierarchy. All the other demons just crap on them. They get the crumbs of the human remains that are left, maybe some bones. They just take in all this insane cruelty and then they just reflect it back in the world. That’s why you have Fallen Lunatics that are just ready to blow up and these wicked weapons with spikes. They just look like cruel miserable creatures but it all comes from them taking in all this cruelty.
JM : You’re kinda making me feel bad for the Fallen. I want to kill these guys and take their stuff.
LB: Hopefully not too bad but think about that next time you’re killing Bishibosh (Fallen Shaman from D2) or Rakanishu (Fallen Carver from D2).
It’s not just the iconic and genre-defining monsters of Diablo like the Fallen, we’ve got lots of new stuff because we are exploring parts of the world we have never been to. So here’s just one example. This is The Drowned. They are undead that come from the oceans that are linked to ancient maritime curses. As we move forwar4d we are going to keep exploring these families and how they fit into the world and how they work together as a family. They have mechanics where they amp each other up and they’re bigger than the sum of their parts.
LB: Items are one of the most important elements of Diablo, if not the most important. We are really leaning into Legendaries as opening up build possibilities. We realised with D3 we maybe emphasied sets a little too much and we want to make sure we leave room for Legendaries moving forward so we have build variety and we don’t overstepped on that customisation. Sets will continue to be there but they won’t dominate, even non-Legendary affixes will lean into customisation. We will have affixes that will improve your skill ranks and we’ll have affixes that will improve you passive talent ranks and we hope that’ll further differentiate your build from my build.
We are also building in our tools, our pipelines and our know-how and we’re bringing even more Legandaries than ever to the table.
JM: We are making so many Legendaries, these are just some of them here (below).
JB: So there is much much more to come. A game of this scope takes times. This is a very, very early first step. We’re not coming out soon, not even ‘Blizzard soon’. We’re just excited to take this first early step in the journey together with you.