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Diablo 4 is a long ways out, but that won’t stop us from delving into the bowels of hell in search of all the news and rumors we can on Blizzard’s upcoming hack ‘n slash adventure.
Diablo as a series is undergoing quite the resurgence right now. First announced at Blizzcon 2019, Diablo 4 development has supposedly been steadily progressing since. Diablo 2 Resurrected, a remaster of the PC classic, has recently released and Diablo Immortal is expected to arrive on Android and iOS devices soon.
Even with so much demon slaying to look forward to on mobile, PC and consoles, we’re naturally most excited about the release of Diablo 4. Thanks to Blizzard’s quarterly development updates, we’re learning more about it all the time.
The key detail that eludes us (and we imagine will do so for a while yet) is Diablo 4’s release date, which we’re certain won’t be anytime in 2021 with so little of the year left to go. While we wait, though, here’s all the news, updates and rumors we’ve collated about Diablo 4 so far.
[Update: Diablo 4’s new director has been confirmed. Read on to find out more.]
Cut to the chase
- What is it? The next installation in the veteran action-role playing dungeon-crawling series, Diablo.
- When can I play it? The Diablo 4 release date is unconfirmed, but ‘not soon’ is what we’re hearing.
- What can I play it on? Xbox One, PS4 and PC (likely PS5 and Xbox Series X too).
Diablo 4 release date
Bad news here: Diablo 4 probably won’t be released anytime soon. At a Blizzcon 2019 deep dive on the game, the game’s director said that he doesn’t expect the game to be finished anytime soon, “even by Blizzard’s standards of soon.”
That said, the fact that the team is developing the game for PS4 and Xbox One heavily implies that the game will be released within the next two to three years – as the lifespan of those consoles won’t be long now the PS5 and Xbox Series S are on the market.
In February 2021, Activision Blizzard confirmed that it doesn’t expect Diablo 4 to launch in 2021. During a financial call, Activision Blizzard’s CFO, Dennis Durkin, said the company’s outlook doesn’t involve Overwatch 2 or Diablo 4 releasing in 2021.
According to Durkin, the company expects “Blizzard’s net bookings to grow given the momentum in World of Warcraft and the other growth initiatives we have in the business,” but added, “Our outlook does not include Diablo 4 or Overwatch 2 launching in 2021. And while Diablo Immortal is progressing well, and we anticipate its launch later this year we don’t have any material contribution from the title in our outlook presently.”
So, at the moment, Diablo 4’s release date is still a mystery.
Diablo 4 trailers
The latest glimpse at Diablo 4 came during BlizzCon 2021, when Blizzard unveiled the game’s fourth character class: the Rogue. In her very own trailer, the Rogue is shown to be fast and deadly in some brief gameplay clips accompanied by an overarching cinematic.
Post BlizzCon 2019, GameInformer brought us plenty of gameplay from Diablo 4 to pore over. Familiar in the best possible way, this footage showcases Diablo 4’s return to an intensely Gothic game world and that addictive gameplay loop that’s made it so famous.
Given the game’s release is some time away (maybe years) it’s possible that everything in this footage could change. But it’s exciting to get a glimpse of the direction in which the game’s development is going.
Below you can watch videos of the the game’s three classes in action: Barbarian, Sorceress and then Druid. All in all it’s about an hour of gameplay which is quite something. Given the game is still a while off yet, maybe ration it.
Diablo 4 was officially announced at Blizzcon 2019 where we got the chance to see both the announcement story cinemati and the first gameplay trailer.
Check both trailers out below:
Diablo 4 news, previous leaks and features
New director announced
Following the departure of Luis Barriga, Blizzard has announced that Diablo 4’s new director is Joe Shely. Shely is a long-time employee who’s worked on several World of Warcraft expansions and on Diablo 3. He’s not new to Diablo 4 either—he’s been working as a design lead on the game since development started.
Shely addressed fans in the October quarterly update, saying, “A lot has happened since our last blog and the hard work of practicing the values we aspire to must continue. In parallel with that important work, development of Diablo IV continues too.”
“Over the past few years,” Shely continues, “we’ve assembled a strong team with incredible passion for Diablo IV. You, Diablo’s fans, are a critical part of this team. With the help of your valuable feedback, we’ve steadily refined and deepened the game experience. We have ways to go, and while much has changed, our commitment to the game is unwavering.
Sanctuary should always be items glittering in dark dungeons. Tales of powerful heroes standing against the onslaught of hell. Lands where trials, treasure, and terrible monsters lie around every corner, equal parts familiar and boundless in its possibilities. Doing this world justice is a solemn responsibility.”
The quarterly update also gives an insight into the game’s sound design, with Sound Supervisor Kris Giampa explaining that for Diablo 4’s soundscape, the team has “continued the tradition of gratifying combat, expanded upon the ambience to support the epic open world, continued to embrace the darkness in tone and gore while also trying to deliver a cleaner-yet-punchy audio mix that’s adapting to the situations as you play.”
Diablo 4 director, Luis Barriga, and lead designer, Jesse McCree, are confirmed to no longer be working at Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard confirmed these departures in a statement to Kotaku which reads:
“We can confirm Luis Barriga, Jesse McCree, and Jonathan LeCraft are no longer with the company.
“We have a deep, talented roster of developers already in place and new leaders have been assigned where appropriate. We are confident in our ability to continue progress, deliver amazing experiences to our players, and move forward to ensure a safe, productive work environment for all.”
A reason for these departures hasn’t been given and it remains unclear whether the departures of two of Diablo 4’s most senior staff in conjunction with the ongoing litigation against Activision Blizzard will affect Diablo 4’s development at this time.
Over multiple years
It seems like Activision Blizzard wants Diablo 4 to be a game you play for a long time. In a recent quarterly earnings call (via MP1st), Activision President & COO Daniel Alegre gave a brief update on the game, saying that “Blizzard continues to make strong progress” and that “the game is shaping up incredibly well”. According to Alegre, “the team is allocating substantial resources to creating exciting content to drive engagement over multiple years.”
Enhanced character customization
Blizzard is pushing player character uniqueness harder than ever before in Diablo 4. Diablo 3 did a good job of changing your hero’s appearance over time based on what gear they had equipped, but it looks like Diablo 4 is taking it to the next level in terms of the options players will have creating a style all of their own.
Announced during Blizzard’s quarterly update on Diablo 4, players will be able to carve out a unique look for themselves with armor styles, tattoos, makeup, jewelry, facial hair and more.
“You will be able to change the face of your character, the hairstyle, the facial hair (beards and eyebrows), and add jewelry (nose piercing or earrings), makeup, and body markings such as tattoos or body paint,” explained Arnaud Kotelnikoff, Lead Character Artist for Diablo 4.
“You will also be able to change the color values of your character’s skin, eyes, hair/facial hair, and body markings. Some elements will be class specific, to support the classes’ unique backgrounds, but many will be shared between classes allowing more possibilities to mix and match.”
In what the team calls “the Lair Scene”, players will also be able to customize their character with a new wardrobe system “that allows you to mix and match hundreds of armor components unique to your class, alongside custom color palettes to create the class fantasy that best represents your character.”
“The look and feel of the classes has always been one of Diablo’s secret ingredients, each class instantly recognizable and imbued with a strong and unique personality,” Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga said.
“Diablo IV offers players more customization options than ever in a Diablo game, which makes achieving that result more challenging, but the outcome is well worth it. Your Barbarian is different from anyone else’s but still feels undeniably like a Barbarian. With monsters, the focus has been on creating new foes and updating classics drawn from the pantheon of atrocities in our previous games, while using new processes and technology to their fullest.”
Blizzard emphasized its commitment to making deeper visual customization possible, with art director John Mueller explaining the developer had to “completely rebuild [its] rendering engine and authoring tools…”
“We wanted to use the latest tools and techniques, but we did have a concern about leaning into ‘realism’ in a way that wouldn’t have that hand-crafted feeling we felt was fundamental to a Blizzard game. We didn’t want the characters to feel procedural or generic because of these processes. We also embraced realism in terms of materials and character appearance. I think the touchpoint being the amazing pre-rendered look from the Diablo III cinematics.”
According to Mueller, “massive improvements” were made to “the level of detail, the surfacing of complex materials like skin, cloth simulation, hair, fur, metal, even down to the details of the highlights of the eyes and rivulets of perspiration.”
He describes the completely new character customization system as “robust” and adds “it was a daunting amount of technical character work. These solutions had to work not just for a single character, but for hundreds of componentized armor sets, different body types, dozens of unique personas, and completely unique art for five distinct classes (to start). This was an entirely new challenge for our team to tackle.”
According to Mueller, these improvements mean that “most of our story cutscenes will be rendered in our engine using the game models.” So, while there will still be “amazing cinematic moments from Blizzard Animation,” there’ll also be “cinematic moments that feature your character up close, rendered in our game engine.”
Character customization is certainly both looking and sounding impressive in Diablo 4, and is sure to be a huge selling point for more casual fans or newcomers, as well as giving those who stick to the game ample reasons to fine tune their character long after the story content has wrapped up.
Grotesque new monsters
Blizzard is starting to grow more confident in its Diablo 4 development updates, and that showed tremendously with the showcasing of some in-engine monster designs. Rest assured, the beasts, demons and otherworldly creatures we’ll be fighting in Diablo 4 look intimidating and fittingly grotesque: everything you’d want from a Diablo game, really.
Diablo 4 art director John Mueller states that “[at] this point the work is a very good representation of what you will see when the game is in your hands.”
As such, we can begin to imagine (or perhaps we really can’t, depending on how many of these creatures’ looks will be beyond human comprehension) what manner of creatures we’ll be put up against in Diablo 4. And the best part is that the art direction looks to be taking inspiration from earlier games in the series, deviating from Diablo 3’s colorful, cleaner look.
BlizzCon 2021 cancelled
Activision Blizzard has announced that the physical version of BlizzCon 2021 will not be taking place this year, reducing our chances of seeing a big Diablo 4 announcement towards the end of the year.
“The ongoing complexities and uncertainties of the pandemic have impacted our ability to properly move forward on many of these fronts, and ultimately we’re now past the point where we’d be able to develop the kind of event we’d want to create for you in November,” writes Saralyn Smith, Executive Producer of BlizzCon.
Instead, another online event, like this year’s Blizzconline, will be held in early 2022 with “smaller in-person gatherings” of some kind as well. More details on this are expected early in 2022.
Advancing the genre
In a recent conference call for its financial results in the first quarter of 2021 (via PCGamesN), Activision Blizzard mentioned Diablo 4. The company’s chief operating officer Daniel Alegre said that development is progressing well and that the company feels that Diablo 4 will “advance the art of the action-RPG genre”.
Activision has apparently uploaded a game to the PlayStation Network database. With PS4 and PS5 builds, the game is 44GB and, according to Twitter user Justtinxrubin (via Wccftech), there’ a Diablo 4 logo in the distribution assets. While this doesn’t mean that the game will release any time soon, it’s possible that, if this is accurate, it could point towards the game’s developers doing some kind of closed testing soon.
Yes it’s definitely Activision. look up Oberon on https://t.co/4PHnkrQPQK There’s a PS5 and PS4 content-id codename “WELOOOOVEDOGS” both are Diablo IV https://t.co/3WjvStPW1LMay 17, 2021
Diablo 2 Resurrected’s technical alpha bodes well for Diablo 4
We don’t know the exact release date for Diablo 4 just yet but our recent experience playing in Diablo 2 Resurrected’s technical alpha has made the wait even harder.
The modernizations and tweaks that we’ve had the chance to see, including improvements to gameplay, audio and visuals (that 4K facelift!) have made Diablo 2 really enjoyable but they’ve made us more excited for what Diablo 4 is going to bring to the table.
We want “something that takes the learnings of Diablo 3, and wraps that in the gothic, gory atmosphere that made Diablo 2 so imitable and inviting. And, from what we’ve heard about and seen so far from Diablo 4, that’s exactly what it will be, bringing open-world mechanics, slick visuals and always-online drop-in-and-out multiplayer on top of all the modern advancements the series has built up over Diablo 3’s lifespan.”
While the wait feels painfully long for Diablo 4, at least we know that Diablo 2 Resurrected will be capable of tiding us over.
More on Diablo 4’s open world
We interviewed Diablo 4’s art director John Mueller and lead designer Joe Shelly at BlizzCon 2021, getting the chance to find out more about the series’ shift to an open world and how it’s going to work, especially with “each of its five regions being up to 10 times bigger than any of those in Diablo 3.”
A key element of Diablo 4 is that it won’t follow a standard path of linear Act progression. “There’s an entry point in the game, then there’s a point when things diverge and you have a lot of options about which way you can go”, John Mueller explained. “For the first part of the game there’s a path in, then a lot of options about where you can go from there. At a much later point it converges back together for the final act”.
An example of this is that after the opening segment of the game, you’ll be able to pursue three quest lines in three regions of the world in any order you like. That’s not to say that Diablo 4 will stray into completely open territory though; Mueller confirmed that there will be no branching storylines or dialogue options.
Beyond the quest, players should expect plenty of “fun things that pull you off the path.” Describing how a day of playing Diablo 4 might look, Joe Shelly said, “You might waypoint into the Fractured Peaks, hop on your mount, ride out to a camp, complete it, along the way you might get distracted by an event… maybe some Goat Men are harassing some villagers. Then, having completed the Camp you might discover that a World Boss has showed up in Scosglen, so maybe you head up there to deal with that with some other players”.
There will also be a Camp system which will see players find camps in the open world populated by different kinds of enemies, with Mueller stressing that “every camp that the designers have done has been unique – there’s always cool little scriptures, lore bits, that kind of stuff”. Defeating the enemies in these camps will free the residents of Sanctuary, which results in knock-on effects that show off the newly reactive world.
From what we can tell, it looks like Diablo 4 is trying to avoid fragmentation with a world that seamlessly brings together its different elements and encourages players to engage with them.
During BlizzCon 2021, the Diablo development team took the chance to do a deep-dive into some of Diablo 4’s PvP elements are going to work when the game launches.
In Diablo 4, PvP is entirely optional and can be accessed in the Fields of Hatred, areas integrated seamlessly into the main game’s open world.
When players enter these areas, they’ll find a mix of PvE and PvP gameplay—as well as being able to kill one another, players will have monsters to contend with and it’s possible to team up and take down a monster before turning on one another.
The aim of the Fields of Hatred is to gather shards of hatred. These can be earned by doing a number of things in the Fields of Hatred, from killing other players and monsters to less violent acts. At first, these shards are completely possible to lose if you die, so if you want to lock them in you’ll have to take them to an altar to purify them. This in itself is a dangerous act and puts a target on your back.
As Shards of Hatred are a currency, once purified they can be spent at special vendors so there is a real incentive to collect them. Getting them is a high-risk, high-reward process.
It seems that engaging in PvP combat isn’t always necessary in the Fields of Hatred, though. In an interview with Eurogamer, John Mueller said that he’ll go into the area and “do some of the events or try to kill one of the bosses, which adds this element of tension because you never know if somebody might come in and try to go hostile on you while you’re doing stuff like that.”
Players who really just are out for blood, though, can make use of a new mechanic called the Vessel of Hatred. The more people a player kills and the longer they’re hostile, they become marked on the map of other players. This means players can either stay away from you or form an alliance to bring you down. Vessels of Hatred are likely to be attractive targets as they’re going to be in possession of plenty of shards of hatred.
Fortunately for players who can’t think of anything worse than PvP, it’s going to be entirely optional.
Rogue Class unveiled
During BlizzCon 2021, one of the biggest bits of Diablo 4 information revealed was the game’s fourth character class: the Rogue.
Blizzard itself has described her as “an adaptable, agile warrior who can specialize in ranged or close quarters combat. She can best any foe with her imbued weapons, perform powerful combo attacks, and can augment her arsenal with deadly poisons and shadow magic to slay demons with impunity.”
In an interview with Polygon, Diablo 4 game director Luis Barriga and art director John Mueller have said that the character of the Rogue “actually feels really fresh” for Diablo 4. Though the team has taken the Rogue from the original Diablo “as an aesthetic and fantasy starting point” and there are elements of of the Assassin and Demon Hunter classes in there, there are also “some new ideas that we felt specifically appropriate for the Diablo rogue.”
Some of the features unique to the rogue include a weapon imbuing system and the options to choose between three different specializations for different styles of play: Combo Points, Shadow Realm, and Exploit Weakness. This makes the Rogue a more flexible character class in a way that the others aren’t and, of course, there will be customization freedom to create the Rogue you want.
Now that the Rogue has been revealed, we’re still waiting for the reveal of Diablo 4’s fifth character class but at the moment we’re not sure when that’s coming.
Not in 2021
Activision Blizzard has confirmed that it doesn’t expect Diablo 4 to launch in 2021. This comes from Activision Blizzard’s CFO, Dennis Durkin, who, speaking during a financial call in February 2021, said the company’s outlook doesn’t involve Overwatch 2 or Diablo 4 releasing in 2021.
According to Durkin, the company expects “Blizzard’s net bookings to grow given the momentum in World of Warcraft and the other growth initiatives we have in the business,” but added, “Our outlook does not include Diablo 4 or Overwatch 2 launching in 2021. And while Diablo Immortal is progressing well, and we anticipate its launch later this year we don’t have any material contribution from the title in our outlook presently.”
Quarterly update – September 2020
Another quarterly update about the game, which dives into skills and talents, enchantment system and some end-game progression details have been shared in September by David Kim, Lead System Designer for Diablo IV.
Before going into the main topics, Kim gave a quick update regarding a previously mentioned system – the Ancestral/Demonic/Angelic power. As it stands, the idea “just isn’t cool enough” and it will be worked on going forward.
Due to player feedback, the devs are keen to avoid a situation where a character’s power is too dependent on legendary items. To this end, the current plan is to “put more of the player’s power back into the character to make build choices more impact, rather than have the majority of player power coming from the items they have equipped.”
We’ve been told to expect more on legendary items in the next blog post.
New Skill System
Diablo IV is going to make some huge changes to skills and talents. The blog post indicates that, due to community feedback, the talents system needs “more depth.” Skills, as well, were labelled “too simple” because it “created issues where a player would have no meaningful reason to spend their skill points.”
To illustrate this point, Blizzard shared a screenshot of the Sorceress skill tree.
Looking at the Sorceress skill tree, you can see all the branches contain skills and skill upgrades, while the roots contain powerful passive effects.
As you level up, you’ll get more skill points. That means you will be spending your skill points in the upper ‘Skills’ section of the tree which unlocks new skills, additional functionality for skills, and unlock Passive Points. You will be able to spend passive points on the lower Passive section of the tree.
Explaining the skill tree, Kim writes: “The Skill Tree you see above consists of many specific nodes, a sample of which you can see in the screenshots above. If we imagine every single node on that massive Skill Tree affecting different skills in different ways, the path that you decide to take will determine big power increases and playstyle choices.”
Importantly, the blog post goes on to explain that through the course of the game player will not be acquiring every single one of these Skill Tree nodes. “We’re currently aiming for 30~40% of the nodes filled in for end game, so that players can have very distinct, and different ways they build out their character.”
Sorceress Enchantment system
The team is currently looking into more unique class-specific abilities, just like the Warrior’s Arsenal system which allows those classes to change between deadly weapons smoothly.
“We’ve also been exploring unique class mechanics for our other classes. The main goal for us here is to have very unique class-specific mechanics in Diablo IV.”
This blog post highlights a possible idea for the Sorceress class, called the Enchantment system.
Here, the Sorceress would be able to place a skill in either an active skill slot and a special Enchantment slot (which would be unique to the Sorceress). Placing a skill into the latter option will take the skill out of use for you, but instead, give you a unique bonus power.
Kim explains this system using the Meteor skill. “Meteor allows you to call a fiery chunk of rock from the sky. If you choose to slot it as an Enchantment, you won’t be able to control your Meteors, but they’ll fall onto enemies periodically.” Check it out in action here.
The team is also looking at a Druid-specific class mechanic as well, and we’ll no doubt hear about that as time goes on.
End game progression
The end game in Diablo is always the true game and some small details on how progression will work have been shared, albeit rather cryptically.
“This important feature is going to take a little more time (it won’t be in the next blog), but we wanted to mention it here because it will be the other significant source of power that comes from your class.”
Whatever this new system being teased is, the post explains that it is intended t provide more depth and replayability than the Paragon system from Diablo 3.
“We, and many Blizzard gamers, have talked about the concept of “easy to learn, difficult to master.” We believe that the end game progression system is where the difficult to master component will come in and should meet the expectations of the most hardcore Diablo players out there.”
It’s important to remember that none of this is set in stone as the final game is still in development.
Quarterly update – June 2020
In the absence of BlizzCon 2020 Blizzard has posted a brand new quarterly update for Diablo 4, detailing how the development of the game is progressing as well as some new details.
The first and most important thing to be gleaned from the post by game director Luis Barriga is that, despite the home working that’s been made necessary by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, progress on Diablo 4 seems to be going at a good pace.
The development team has managed to make an entire area of the game called The Dry Steppes fully playable, with the campaign, open-world elements, itemization, a PvP subzone, dungeons, and a cinematic for an on-team two-day playtesting session. This doesn’t mean the game is ready for any kind of Alpha or Beta yet as there’s still “a lot of work ahead” but this test has enabled new insights and revelations detailed below.
The first revelation relates to the game’s storytelling which will be changed up a little for Diablo 4. First up, the development team will be moving away from the conversation panes of Diablo 3 towards a mixture of tool-generated and choreographed camera angles that should improve both simple and complex NPC interactions. Diablo 4 will also make use of real-time cutscenes to bring a cinematic feel to some of the game’s more important narrative moments as well as a more seamless transition back to player-controlled gameplay.
Also up for discussion is the series’ new open-world approach to Sanctuary in which players will go through the main story campaign while also dipping into side content such as quests, events, crafting and PvPing at their leisure.
As a result of the playtests, the team was able to see that, on average, it took a few hours to complete the main campaign content in the Dry Steppes, though those who focused solely on the story got through the arc “in less than half the average time”. These players were, however, able to dive into the side content afterwards and it was decided that giving players the freedom to go at their own pace should make playing and re-playing the campaign more enjoyable.
Other important aspects of the open-world system mentioned include camps and mounts. Camps are locations in the game that are overrun by enemies but when they’re cleared out they’ll become safe havens for the player, populated by NPCs and a waypoint. Each camp will have a back story—examples given include curses and spirits—but a lot of the storytelling will be visual and finding the camps will require exploration since the main quest won’t explicitly guide players to them.
Mounts can also be found while playing the game and they’ll help players move around the open world more quickly. While there’s more work to be done on them, at the moment it’s possible to customise mounts and it seems it’ll also be possible to ride them during combat as the post explains that some fine-tuning needs to be done as it’s currently too easy “to get dismounted by a random enemy projectile”.
When it comes to multiplayer, the development team is trying to ensure that including shared open-world elements won’t make the game feel like an MMO. According to Barriga “the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers.” To keep things under control, dungeons and key story moments will always just be players and their party. When towns become social hubs, however, and players are on the move there’s a chance they’ll run into strangers. Naturally, there’s an even greater chance of encountering other players in areas where world events are taking place.
Players will never be forced to join a party so those who prefer to go solo will still be able to head to an event and take part. Those who do want to team up, however, will “have new tools available to find a group, whether by activity or proximity in the game world.”
According to Barriga, even in these early stages, Diablo IV “is very fun to play”. In future updates, there will be more on how the game’s classes are developing as well as talent trees, items and music.
Blizzcon 2020 cancelled
After a few uncertain weeks of trying to decide whether or not to cancel BlizzCon 2020, Blizzard has finally declared that its annual gaming convention officially cancelled – at least for this year.
BlizzCon Executive Producer Saralyn Smith recently took to the BlizzCon website to announce that BlizzCon organizers have decided against holding an event this year, citing health and safety concerns as the main reasons.
Blizzard won’t be holding a digital alternative in 2020, as Smith noted the company needed more time to adapt the BlizzCon experience to an online event. So when will we get more Diablo 4 news? We can only hope the company will give us some juicy updates later this year, even if we won’t have the spectacle of Blizzcon.
Rod Fergusson’s teasing tweets
After departing The Coalition to lead Blizzard’s Diablo team, Rod Fergusson has been posting some interesting tweets about what he’s seeing behind-the-scenes of Diablo 4’s development in the first few days of his new job. In his short time with the team, Fergusson has praised the “beautiful, yet disturbing” imagery created by the art team. We’ll be keeping an eye on his Twitter feed over the next few days to see if he mentions anything else about Diablo 4.
Day 2 – I got access to the #Diablo4 art archive today and OMG there is some very beautiful, yet disturbing, images in there. Very cool. So much talent on this team! #excited #alsonightmarefuel Any possible picture attachment has been redacted.March 5, 2020
Quarterly Update – February 2019
As promised, Blizzard has posted a quarterly update for the development of Diablo 4. The lengthy update, published to the Blizzard website, has words from Angela Del Priore, Lead UI Designer, and Candace Thomas, Senior Encounter Designer.
Angela Del Priore’s update delves into UI changes, couch co-op and controller support.
As far as UI changes are concerned, the inventory will not have different-sized items “to avoid interrupting gameplay with pockets of inventory management”. Item icons are being re-approached with the aim of giving them “natural texture and realism” opposed to the “painterly style” initially pursued. In line with achieving greater realism, the brightness and saturation of icon backgrounds has been toned down and rarity indicators are visually more subtle.
Based on more non-specific feedback, the inventory has also been reorganized for a more “balanced composition”.
In addition to this, there will be more flexibility in binding options based on players asking “to rebind their primary skill to anything but the left mouse button so that they could separate moving from attacking.” As well as making it possible to assign any skill to any slot from the start, all skill slots can have their keys rebound with the intention to support skill rebinding on controllers too.
Finally, the game’s action bar’s location has been up for discussion and based on feedback and field-of-view it’s been decided that it will take a left-corner position on consoles while PC players will be able to choose from a corner or centre position.
Diablo 4 will support controllers on PC and according to Blizzard the aim is to give players “the ability to switch between the two options freely”. As a result, a more unified UI is needed while “keeping established keyboard and mouse conventions” and “creating controller-friendly shortcuts or alternate flows”. Efforts are apparently being made to ensure both inputs feel “native” to the game.
For Diablo 4 the development team is looking to improve the 2-player co-op experience from Diablo 3 and set up “core progression UI screens such that they can be opened independently or at the same time.”
Senior Encounter Designer Candace Thomas, on the other hand, gives fans a look at a new kind of enemy that will feature in Diablo 4: Cannibals.
New enemy: Cannibal Tribes
Cannibals are one of the monster families that will feature in Diablo 4 alongside other such as the Fallen and the Drowned.
For Diablo 4, the team aims to “build Sanctuary as a living, breathing character—especially through its creatures” and so its monsters have been re-imagined in a more gritty style.
According to Thomas they have “lovingly handcrafted every creature you’ll encounter from the ground up: that includes demons, NPCs, Act Bosses, and even the skittering critters you can crush underfoot. Though we still pay tribute to some hallmark gameplay—such as Fallen Shamans resurrecting other Fallen—we have completely reimagined things in other places.”
The lore around the Cannibals states that no one knows where they’ve come from but the rumor is that they’re a former band of barbarians, exiled to the Dry Steppes where they prey on caravans and villages.
The Cannibal family has four members, each with a unique weapon, silhouette or stance so you can tell them apart. Two of them are melee combatants, one with a two-handed greatsword cleaver; the other with a lightweight halberd.
The bruiser member uses a spiked club in each hand to deliver heavy blows while there are also dual-axe-wielding swarmers that unleash faster, flurried frontal attacks. The members are dangerous individually but combinations of their attacks are positively deadly.
Something the Cannibal family doesn’t have is ranged units. Instead, they rely on speed which can make for a very distinctive and stressful combat experience.
Rod Fergusson is overseeing the Diablo franchise
The Coalition studio head Rod Fergusson has announced he’s leaving the Gear of War developer to oversee the Diablo franchise at Blizzard Entertainment.
Fergusson officially made the announcement on Twitter, revealing that he will be joining Blizzard in March where he will, no doubt, join the team in developing the upcoming Diablo 4 and Diablo 4 Immortal.
Check his tweet out below:
Starting in March, I will join Blizzard to oversee the Diablo franchise. Leaving is bittersweet as I love our Gears family, the fans, and everyone at The Coalition and Xbox. Thank you, it has been an honor and a privilege to work with you all. pic.twitter.com/0FuO3RFYSQFebruary 5, 2020
Responding to concerns
In 2019, Blizzard stated its intentions to release quarterly updates on the progress of Diablo 4 in 2020. After a post on Reddit called out a lack of updates from the developer, a community manager has responded to manage expectations.
In a multi-pointed response, community manager Nevalistis stated that the game is in “very, very early in development” so there’s not a lot to share at the moment and what is shareable has been shared already. Not only that, they pointed out that the Diablo team Blizzard is at work on more than one project and pacing is therefore necessary.
Given the first quarter of 2020 runs up until March, we could see an update on the game any time between now and then. More likely to be closer to then than now. Part of the reason for any time taken will also be to ensure that what is shown is at the highest standard possible. According to Nevalistis “We want to put a lot of time, effort, and polish into these updates because they are so few and we care a lot about our work. However, ultimately, the content will be decided by (1) what’s ready to show and (2) what conversations we’re ready to have with the community.”
The post finishes up by promising that while cool stuff is in the works, the team will be taking its time to create an excellent game for fans as “while we want to maintain transparency, we also don’t want to risk over-promising and under delivering. This happens all too often by showing features too early.”
No more Ancient Legendaries
Lead systems designer, David Kim, has written an update for fans with regards to Diablo 4’s systems. The update reveals that the game won’t have Ancient Legendaries and highlights there will be some new stats.
In order to make Diablo 4’s itemisation “deep and rewarding”, Kim writes, Ancient Legendaries will be removed and replaced with a new consumable which will make it possible to apply a Legendary affix to a non-Legendary item.
Affixes on items generally will increase which is expected to raise the importance of non-Legendary affixes with regards to overall power. However, three new stats—Angelic Power, Demonic Power and Ancestral Power—will also appear as new affixes.
As a result, according to Kim, “Legendary powers should no longer completely dwarf the strength of your affixes, and the affixes themselves provide more interesting choices because their strength depends on how much of the relevant Powers you’ve accumulated on the rest of your gear. You might find an amulet with the perfect stats for your build, but some of its Affixes may require Demonic Power when you’ve previously focused on Ancestral. Maybe your current amulet is the primary source of your Ancestral Power, so equipping a new amulet would mean potentially making sacrifices elsewhere.
With this system, it will be easy to identify items with good stats, but it will take some thought and planning to decide whether the item is good for your build.”
The team is also streamlining Attack and Defense. Now, attack will only be found on weapons, defence will only be found on armor, and jewellery won’t have an impact on either.
In an interview with AusGamers Diablo 4’s Game Director Luis Barriga and Art Director John Mueller have given an insight into the big ambitions the team has for Diablo 4 and its expansions.
We already know that Lilith will be the main villain for the game, rather than Diablo, but Mueller has suggested that there will eventually more to tell than this, with more characters and stories that could be told in expansions: “Diablo IV is like the first chapter of a book. We want to tell a big story and we want to tell it, hopefully, for a very long time. Treating this like the first chapter of a book and Lilith as a key character in this story, it feels great knowing that there are still all these other characters that could come back in the future. Or, new characters that we haven’t seen before.”
The pair also touch on just how big the world of Sanctuary is going to be:
“There’s going to be five contiguous regions in the world and you can actually go from the North, the Northern most point of Scosglen, which is the area seen in the demo, all the way down through the Dry Steppes and into the deserts of Kejhistan. And you’ll never see a loading screen. It’s completely seamless. That’s the level of detail we’ve added into creating the world.”
In a blog post post-BlizzCon, Diablo 4’s game director Luis Barriba has said that fans can expect a “cool update” on the game’s progress come February 2020. This update will be the “first in a series of quarterly updates” which will come across the year.
Baribba also addresses the discussions that have been happening around how Diablo 4 will approach items and stats in the community with a promise that it’s being carefully considered and clarifications are coming.
“We also know that one topic is burning hotter than the rest. We want you to know that we are having the same conversations about items and stats that you are having—whether on the official discussion threads or external sites, we read it all! Getting this right is at the top of our minds, and in the coming weeks our lead systems designer David Kim will provide a few clarifications, share some of his thoughts, and address some of your open questions.”
During a conversation at BlizzCon 2019, Twitch streamer Quin69 (via PCGamesN) had a conversation with Diablo 4’s lead designer Joe Shely during which it was said that the game will likely have microtransactions but that they’ll be cosmetic in nature (so no selling Power) and that there’ll also be expansions on top of the base game:
“Diablo IV will be available as a base game, and […] we’re going to have expansions. You also will be able to acquire cosmetics in the game.”
Shely added that it’s still early days for the game so naturally things could change as development progresses.
Blizzcon 2019 unveiling
Diablo 4 was officially confirmed at Blizzcon 2019 on November 1, where it was revealed the game would focus on Lilith – the daughter of Mephisto.
Like its predecessors, the game is an isometric, action RPG and will have PVP zones in the overworld – with the first three classes being barbarian, sorceress and druid. It’s also being developed for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.
Story and setting
For those who haven’t been following along in the in-game events, Diablo 4 will be set after Diablo 3 Reaper of Souls. At this point, the gates of heaven have been closed after Malthael, the Angel of Death, destroyed much of Sanctuary.
It’s through Heaven’s ignorance of the events transpiring in Sanctuary that Lilith, the daughter of Mephisto and canonical mother of humanity, is set lose from her prison.
What we know about the overworld right now is that it’s all open, with five unique regions and both a day/night cycle and ever-changing weather. Missions are non-linear and according to the game’s director, you’re free to take them on however you’d like.
Other players will appear in your game for shared events, meaning you will have to always be online to play. This isn’t an feature you can turn off but you can choose not to group up with others. We don’t know the exact details about how this will work.
Skill changes and talent trees
According to Eurogamer, the rune system is gone, instead replaced by a system that sees you spending points on skills to improve them – with some gainer new effects at higher levels.
In addition, each class has a talent tree that allows players to customize their build. You can also enhance equipment and weapons through a new Rune Word socketing system.
Dungeons and loot
Like previous entries, you’re going to spend a lot of time in dungeons – all of which will be randomly generated in a similar way to Diablo 3. According to the game’s director, there will be ‘hundreds of dungeons’ in the game to explore ‘in which you’ll find hundreds of legendary items to equip’.
Each class has five abilities including Evade and an Ultimate attack.
Which classes are available?
At launch, Diablo 4 will feature five classes – three of which we already know about. The Barbarian, a series staple will return in Diablo 4 and will be available to wield both double- and single-handed weapons in a single build, and will have four weapon slots.
The Sorceress, another returning favorite, will have AOE attacks that control the battlefield and will be able to turn into a ball of energy to incinerate enemies, while the Druid has both animal companion NPCs and the ability to shapeshift.
Diablo 4 confirmed
Diablo 4 was officially announced at Blizzcon 2019 after much speculation.