Special: Diablo 3
»The guy with the big axe never gets old«
In our most recent Blizzard interview, we are talking to Christian Leitner, the art director of Diablo 3, and Jason Bender, one of the senior game designers. Topics: the male demon hunter, different rune types, boring barbarians and leaked screenshots.
GameStar Recently, screenshots from an early version of Diablo 3 appeared on the web. Are those real?
Jason & Christian …
Christian Leitner I’m not familiar with the shots yet, so I can’t really comment on them.
GameStar The shots are showing an alleged early version of the game featuring a more realistic graphics style and not looking as comic-like as the current version. Do you understand the fans who call for a return to the realistic style of Diablo 1 and 2?
Christian Leitner We are big fans of Diablo 1 and 2 ourselves, we played those games for many, many hours. In making Diablo 3 it was very important to us that we hold true to the old games. We wanted to retain their flavour and their gloominess. At the same time we also wanted to create a world you want to spend more time in. That’s a difficult balance to strike, but the feedback we are getting is incredibly positive.
Bild 1 von 17
Christian Leitner I would add that Diablo 3 is still dark and gritty in a lot of ways. It’s one of the cool things about the demon hunter that he a darker class. There is nothing light about him, he is a serious dude.
GameStar How did you conceive the design of the male demon hunter? Was it influenced by other characters, maybe from movies or comics?
Jason Bender Not directly, but we definitely love comics and movies. That’s why those influences always find their ways into our design. First and foremost we wanted to make sure that the male demon hunter is still read as a ranged class. So it should be related to the female demon hunter while not being an exact copy.
Male and female demon hunter
Christian Leitner We want to give the player something to choose from instead of just having a class with a switch model between female and male. In that regard, the male demon hunter is more the Clint Eastwood type: He is a litte bit more wiry and not as big and muscular as some of the other classes. At the same time, he still got his cloak and very aggressive shapes in his armor, so you get the feeling that he is a little bit on the dark side. For players who like to play someone who does not know exactly where he stands, this is the class to play.
GameStar He’s also got glowing eyes. Is there any background story to that?
Christian Leitner The idea is that he dabbled so much into the demonic arts to understand his enemies, that this abyss has changed him.
GameStar Will this influence gameplay? Is he a shape shifter?
Jason Bender No, but he still has the most duality of all our classes. Our Designers developed this cool idea of hatred and discipline as the two aspects of the demon hunter. Those aspects balance out in his abilities. He’s got abilities that are very technical and take a lot of preparation to use, like setting traps or his dead-eye shot. On the other hand, some of his abilities are just pure rage, like firing a lot of arrows or throwing lots of grenades at once.
The demon hunter bombs his enemies with grenades while luring them into his spike trap at the same time.
GameStar Will the demon hunter always look like on the concept art or is there class-specific pieces of armor that look that … spiky?
Christian Leitner There is armor that looks like that. We have gone to extreme lengths to ensure one thing: What armor looks like in the backpack is what it looks like on the body. So what you see is what you get. In addition, we have class-specific items for all of our classes. For example, the demon hunter is the only class that can use crossbow pistols. But the difference will also be represented in the look, so when playing co-op you can easily tell who’s who.
GameStar Will every unique item get its own model?
Christian Leitner Yes, there will be legendary items that have unique art. Of course, those things are pretty rare, so it will be pretty hard to find them.
GameStar Back to the classes: The model for the wizard looks distinctly Asian, but we’ve never seen Asian people in Diablo. Where do they come from?
Christian Leitner When we design classes we want to make sure that they have a very broad appeal. And Blizzard is a very global company now.
GameStar Alright, but there has to be an in-universe explanation for the wizard’s origin.
Christian Leitner Of course, it is harkening back on the fact that Diablo is a bigger universe. So the witch doctor shows some Caribbean and African influences, for the demon hunter we looked at desert and middle-eastern scenarios.
Jason Bender That’s why every class comes from a different region, the barbarians are from the mountains, the witch doctor is from the jungle, the Wizard comes from a city in the east. There are books in the game that tell you about those places. So we are showing you more of Sanctuary without actually sending you there – unlike in World of Warcraft, where you can just go wherever you want.
GameStar But weren’t the artists bored when they saw the return of the barbarian, as his design was already finished?
Jason Bender Ah, I can answer that, the barbarian is the thing I’m working on most at the moment. And there is something that never gets old about being a really strong guy with a really big axe. We try to highlight a different kind of gameplay style with each class, and the gameplay style of the barbarian is very straightforward. He doesn’t like subtlety, he get’s in there and beats stuff silly. And that’s something we can take advantage of, because not everybody wants to be a glass cannon and teleport around and freeze stuff.
GameStar An important part of character design is visibility. But when we played the game at Blizzcon or Gamescom, there were so many effects on the screen that we could hardly follow our own character. How do you make sure players don’t lose track?
Christian Leitner That is a very interesting challenge for us, and it’s something that we are continually tuning and that we are very aware of. For example, the background should not interfere with the foreground characters that much. So we adjust the colours and the contrast ratio. The characters are high contrast while the background is a little bit softer. So we usually make the backgrounds as crazy as possible and then we tune them back to make sure they don’t interfere with gameplay.
Blizzard wants to make sure that every character is always clearly visible.
Jason Bender This also applies to the skills, we are constantly tuning what we have done. To make people excited about a new skill we often say: »Wow, this is the most burning fire of flaminess you’ve ever seen!« Then we realize we’ve also done that with all the other skills, every fire is most flamy. So we have to tune it down to make the abilities work together while getting them as cool as they can possibly be.
GameStar In addition, every rune-skill combination will get a unique effect. How many of those are finished?
Combined with a certain rune, the witch doctor's toad swarm transforms into a single giant toad.
Jason Bender There are five different runes in the game, and every class has a couple of dozen skills. So there are way more than 100 possible combinations. But then each rune also comes in different levels, which make the effects even crazier. For example, with a standard rune you might get one zombie bear, whereas on higher levels you get three zombie bears. We’re definitely making a lot of progress on the effects, some of which you could see at Blizzcon. I don’t know how many are finished though. We’ve still got a lot of work to to.
GameStar What’s your favourite rune effect?
Jason Bendner That totally depends on the day. They’re all really cool! [laughs]
Christian Leitner The witch doctor’s giant toad is one of my favorites.
Jason Bender Oh yeah, the giant toad is awesome! One effect that’s been creeping me out lately is the ability to throw jars full of spiders. I don’t like spiders, and every time I use this skill I scare myself! [lacht]
GameStar Thank you very much. Also for the spider nightmares.