As Dawdle reported last Saturday, the big news that came out of the Diablo 3 Class Design panel at BlizzCon 2008 was the introduction of the Wizard class, the third announced playable class in the third entry of the Diablo series.
However, there was much, much more discussed at the panel, including how they came up with the Wizard concept, the current Skill system and how it works, the new Rune system for ability modification, special effects differentiation, and even a mention of Wirt's fourth leg!
Follow along as Jay Wilson, Diablo 3's Game Director, takes us through Blizzard's class design process:
The Wizard Class
Right from the start, the Wizard's design goal is to be the blaster class: the nuker; the quintessential glass cannon.
Unlike the Sorceress in Diablo 2, who dealt with elemental magic, the source of the Wizard's magic is "High Magic" - the direct manipulation of the physical world through magic. The inspiration for the spells comes from old school pen and paper RPGs like D&D, which is evident in one of the first skills you start out with: Magic Missile.
"At first we though of a fireball as one of her main skills, but that was more elemental magic, and we felt we couldn't come up with different ways for a fireball to look. It wasn't as versatile as we wanted. Magic missile has that old school flavour we were looking for." Magic Missile shows up as a purple glob of energy that shoots from the Wizard's hands and smashes into a mob, causing damage. "The look of the Magic Missile established the look of arcane magic in the Diablo world."
That's not the only old school spell D&D players will be familiar with; the Wizard will also have Disintegrate - the "face melter." Showing up as a satisfyingly red energy ray emanating from your Wizard, Disintegrate works by letting you hold down the mouse button and sweeping the mouse around the screen to aim your ray of doom. The longer you keep the ray on a target, the more damage you will do over time.
"One of the first really big ideas we came up with for the Barbarian was this charge swing, where you would hold down the mouse button to stand there and charge your swing. The longer you held it the more powerful your blow would be. We quickly found out that making people sit still and hold a mouse button waiting to deploy a swing was not fun." The idea of holding down the mouse button for an ability; however, wasn't completely thrown out the window, and after playing around with different iterations, Disintegrate for the Wizard was born. "Yeah, you're holding down the mouse button, but you're melting faces as you do it. That's fun."
Hit the "Read More" link below to continue our in depth coverage of the Wizard class, special effects, the skill and rune system, and the panel's Q&A session!
In theme with the "High Magic" manipulation of physics, the Wizard also has a Slow Time ability. "We took our inspiration from books and movies for this ability," said Jay. "At first, we made the ability slow down everything on screen, but then we quickly realised this wouldn't work at all for multi-player." Blizzard instead decided on a bubble of warped space time that looks like the city's shield from Stargate Atlantis that forms around the Wizard, slowing any object that comes inside except the Wizard herself.
Blizzard didn't completely avoid elemental based magic; however, as they revealed a fourth ability: Electrocute. "Controlling the weather feels really epic, so we had to include the ability to shoot lightning," said Jay as a video showed the Wizard arcing lightning across multiple mobs, leaving satisfyingly charred corpses behind.
Blizzard wanted a skill system that was simple and compelling in both the early and late game. It needed to support 6 active skills and a large number of builds. Most importantly, they did not want Diablo 2 style point dumping into one skill.
While the skill system isn't finalised, Blizzard did show us what they've come up with so far: a modified tree system that has main abilities as its trunk, and skill points that augment each main ability as branches from the trunk.
"We're still unhappy with this version, however, so you're likely to see it changed before release," Jay told us as he explained that it presents too many choices to the player, and still feels unintuitive to play testers.
"However, we also wanted to maintain a random drop component for abilities, which is where the Rune System comes in."
The Rune System
Runes are a random drop from mobs that serve as modifiers to your abilities. Each of your main abilities has a rune slot where you drop a rune in. Depending on the type and power level of the rune, your ability will be modified in effect, size, damage and even how it looks like on screen! All runes are interchangeable and class agnostic.
At this point, Jay showed us multiple ways you could change the look, feel, and power of abilities with different runes:
- Wizard's Teleport + strike rune = and offensive teleport ability. Each time the Wizard teleports to a spot, blades strike out upon her arrival, dealing damage to mobs.
- Wizard's Teleport + multistrike rune = when you teleport, the Wizard splits into multiple images of herself, causing a mirror image effect.
- Witchdoctor's Skull of Flame + multistrike rune = the burning skull bounces. The more powerful the rune, the more bounces your skull can do.
- Witchdoctor's Skull of Flame + power rune = the skull leaves a burning area on the ground that damages mobs.
- Wizard's Electrocute + multistrike rune = chain lightning effect that spans along multiple enemies.
- Wizard's Electrocute + lethality rune = mobs blow up when killed by the ability. (This was especially cool to watch!)
Each rune combination created a different look for each spell that was unique. "We wanted player's abilities to look different, even though they're playing the same class."
From what I saw, they succeeded.
Each class has their own unique palette of special effect that helps differentiate it from the other classes:
The Barbarian is all about physical damage, but he can also call upon some Ancestral powers that manifest as ghostly energy that augments his physical abilities.
The Witchdoctor is all about indirect damage, and that inspires all his effects and abilities: he fills a skull with a concoction and throws it at a mob to make it blow up. He sends swarms after his enemies. His hands never directly touch the mobs he decimates.
Wizards are all about the light show. The arcane orbs they hold in their hand (and that you can see in the trailer) are "inspired by cosmology." "We came up with the Tornado ability that we first made to look realistic: swirling dust, etc., but it looked so boring, so we came up with this," Jay narrated as he showed a video of the Wizard creating shiny swirling vortexes of light that spun around her. "This is much more attractive visually speaking." I'd have to agree. It looked magical and powerful. It makes you feel like you're actually manipulating the world.
Blizzard also showed off the Wizard's Blizzard ability, which had a decidedly old school feel about it: heavy chunks of ice raining down upon the Wizard's enemies leaving the ground covered in snow. "We wanted it to feel slushy."
The attention to special effects doesn't stop at class abilities, but also extends to mob deaths. Blizzard doesn't want to have one standard death for each type of mob. If you crit on a mob, it explodes into a satisfying shower of meaty chunks. Rare mobs explode with even more gusto. The Wizard's Disintegrate ability even inspired Blizzard to create different death effects for mobs depending on the ability they die to (Disintegrate has the mob char into dust as it dies to your face melting power.)
Question & Answer
- Will there be a cow level? A: "We cannot comment on the bovine content of our games at this time."
- How will you deal with power leveling? A: "We're not. It's not something we feel is pressing in Diablo."
- Will all runes be global? A: "We haven't decided yet. We may make some ability specific runes."
- What about magic resist on mobs? Will there be magic-type immune mobs? A: "This isn't as big an issue in Diablo 3 due to the focus on more skills. You're just simply not going to focus on making one ability all powerful, so having a mob resistant to your one ability is no longer relevant. Our aim is for you to have 6 main skills that you're using. That said, we are looking to tone back resist importance, but we're not getting rid of it."
- Will it be possible to collect all the runes in the game? A: "Runes will drop frequently, but they are randomised loot. There are also different power levels on the runes, each will drop frequently."
- What's the class breakdown going to look like? How many melee/dps/casters? A: "No comment. They're all DPS classes. Nice try."
- Will there still be multiple difficulties? (Normal, Nightmare, Hell, Hardcore)? A: "Yep."
- What about Hammerdins? A: "No comment."
- Will player deaths be generic, or will there be custom deaths depending on mobs? A: "Our plan is to make custom player death sequences with bosses."
- Will runes take up bag space? A: "Yes they will. However, you'll have more bag space, and we're not using the grid system from Diablo 2. It's straight up slots for items."
- How will the overall difficulty of the game compare with Diablo 2? A: "Diablo 3 will be more challenging. You'll have less ways to escape, less health. We want that feeling of danger you get from being low on health and getting by on the skin of your teeth that was present in Diablo 1. We want to put an emphasis on a wide use of skills."
- Will you be putting more emphasis on character growth via skills or items? A: "Both. We want all the classes to care about items, including casters. We're going to have spell damage gear so items matter more to them now. Item impact will be bigger than Diablo 2."
- Will there be a Wirt's fourth leg? A: "Well... I mean how many legs can a guy have? Maybe we can do the arms? With hooks! Post your ideas on the forums, they might make it in the game."
Stay tuned for the rest of our coverage from BlizzCon 2008 during the rest of the week!
Here's the schedule for the rest of our coverage:
- Wed.) StarCraft 2 Gameplay Design, WoW Class Design
- Thurs.) Diablo 3 Lore & Art Design, WoW Raid & Dungeon Design
- Fri.) Q&A with The Guild cast, Diablo 3 Hands-On Impressions
- Sat.) Diablo 3 Gameplay Design, StarCraft 2 Hands-On Impressions