On June 25, Diablo IV’s game director took to the Blizzard blog to provide fans excited for the upcoming title some insight into its development. Director Luis Barriga began the update with a quick look into how COVID-19 had affected development on the project. “As is the case with many other game and technology companies at the time of writing this, the Diablo IV team has fully transitioned to working from home,” wrote Barriga. “While the transition has introduced challenges, we feel very fortunate to be able to keep the momentum going strong on the development of Diablo IV.”
Barriga then went into depth on how the Diablo team playtests, revealing the layout of a small region ingame. “…we focused on blocking in all the elements in a region known as the Dry Steppes, complete with campaign content, open-world elements, itemization, a PvP subzone, dungeons, and a cinematic to cap the completion of the region’s narrative,” he writes. “Of course, we play the game all the time, but we’re often examining individual features or areas. Taking the time to play the same build together as a team over multiple days gives us a different perspective.”
The next portion of the update is dedicated to storytelling. “A couple of things have evolved with how we deliver story in Diablo IV,” leads Barriga. “We’re experimenting with a mix of tool-generated and manually choreographed cameras to tackle conversations. For simple interactions with NPCs, we bring the camera in closer to the characters and use a library of animations to deliver the general gist of the conversations.” Not only will Diablo IV have more immersive conversation, but it will also feature real-time cutscenes (RTCs). They’ll be reserved for important story moments, and they’ll feature your character in their current appearance and at the same resolution and graphics as your gameplay, making them feel more like a part of the game.
Next, Barriga delves into the world of Diablo IV, revealing a new Camp mechanic. “These are locations of importance that have been overrun by enemies, which once cleansed turn into friendly outposts with NPCs and a waypoint location,” writes Barriga. “While there is a backstory to each camp, most of the storytelling is visual and quests don’t directly send you to them. For example, one of the camps in the zone was a town afflicted by a curse that turned villagers into piles of salt. Another was a crypt, haunted by a spirit that possesses the bodies of various undead—jumping from skeleton to skeleton until you defeat him.” IV will also feature customizable mounts, making travel and reaching objectives easier, and allowing players to show off what challenges they’ve completed through the display mechanic.
“Fine-tuning the right approach to multiplayer in Diablo IV has been challenging,” writes Barriga as he begins to talk about multiplayer. “We find that the game stops feeling like Diablo and the world feels less dangerous when you see other players too often or in too high numbers.” Multiplayer in IV will be staggered in a way – dungeons and key story moments will be limited to just the player and their personal party, and as stories are finished and towns turn into hubs, players will begin to encounter each other every now and then.
The section on items and progression is a bit brief but promising. “A friend of mine used to say that Diablo is the game that you keep playing inside your head and Diablo IV is no different,” says Barriga. “In addition to the official playtime allotted to the team during the playtest, I could feel the game lingering in my mind, thinking about the items that could possibly drop for my build, and talents I could finally unlock to get me those key skill interactions,” Barriga emphasizes the importance of skill and gear choices made by the player, while also revealing some new items dropped directly within Diablo IV playtests.
“The overall feedback from the team was that even at these early stages, Diablo IV is very fun to play. The classes especially are going down a promising path that we’re excited about,” says Barriga, as he begins to conclude the update: “The playtest was also a really good way to put our tech through its paces. Since we played at home, we got to test the game on a lot of different setups—from graphics cards, to screen aspect ratios, to network speeds.” Barriga makes it clear that Diablo IV still has a long ways to go before release, and that fans shouldn’t expect an Alpha or Beta stage just yet.
“We hope you’ve enjoyed this update and, as always, we welcome you to share your thoughts on the platform of your choice—whether it’s our own forums, other sites, or social media, we read and appreciate your comments and feedback…thank you for taking the time to read this update. We can’t wait to share more of Sanctuary with you!” he concludes.
If you want to read the update in its entirety, you can find it here.