PC Interview

Jay Wilson talks Diablo III

Fire rains down over GamesCom

Blizzard today presented Gamescom attendees with the opportunity to pick the brain of Diablo III game director Jay Wilson, which led to the unveiling of an interesting new feature and, of course, saw members of the audience desperately rewording the "when will it hit retail" question a number of times as if it were the only thing in the world that genuinely mattered. For some of them, it probably is.

Batting such questions away with a well-practiced efficiency, Wilson turned the initial request for the game's release date upon the audience itself, a canny move that garnered miserable murmurs of "when it's done," from the darkness. The "when it's done" response has long since been Blizzard's stock answer regarding any and all of its titles - much to the consternation of impatient fans.

Before opening himself up to actual questions of worth, Wilson first ran a demo highlighting Diablo III's new Artisan feature. This essentially introduces a set of three upgradable NPC vendors into the world, through which the player can craft and enhance specific items, and also break unwanted items into further re-usable crafting material (a la Torchlight).

According to Wilson, the 'Blacksmith', 'Mystic' and 'Jeweller' artisans and their crafting stalls continuously evolve throughout the game, thus granting the player access to a host of weapons, armour, and other important items that improve in quest value alongside each artisan's level.

However, rather that just plopping a clear gaming benefit into player laps, getting to use the artisans must first be earned by successfully completing mini quests, puzzles and problems for each of them.Once artisan loyalty has been obtained, at which point their accompanying quests come to an end, they remain loyal to player.

Capable of craft queuing and armed with individual special abilities (i.e., the blacksmith can repair weaponry, while the mystic can enchant items), the artisans have been introduced to allow for greater depth and to create more gold-pulling from Diablo's oft-criticised economy.

With the brief demo over and the new feature showcased, Wilson then welcomed questions from the gathered attendees, and was immediately asked if the game will be region locked. Shooting his accompanying PR guy a glance, he cautiously admitted that he had no idea.

Back on topic, he was then asked whether players will be able to use all three artisan characters at the same time and whether players will be able to have more than one of each type. While all three artisans will indeed be open for use simultaneously, Wilson was quick to quash hopes of having three individual mystics on the go or the possibility of re-specialising artisans to perform a different job.

In terms of their set abilities, the blacksmith is able to craft and repair weapons and armour, while the mystic can create and enchant wands, items and light armour pieces, and the jeweller can craft amulets, rings and gems, and can even recover gems from item sockets. Blizzard's hope with this last aspect is that players will feel more adventurous when experimenting with gems, knowing they won't lose them in the process.

By way of throwing in a minor player hindrance alongside an associated plus point, Wilson added that artisans must be at least the same level of all items the player wants them to craft, while the addition of salvaging means players can get recycle unwanted items quickly and remain out in the game world for much longer as a result.

Asked about the level of security in Diablo III with regard to Malware attacks, Wilson said security is "one of our biggest issues at Blizzard, we work very hard on it." Without going into specifics, he also the game is "as secure as possible," and added that the studio has a large team of people solely committed to maintaining security.

On the subject of those supposed Diablo fans who've bemoaned the Diablo III art style, Wilson intimated that there will always be an element of the fanbase that's not happy with the visuals. In defending Blizzard's design choices, he said only that the studio had monitored fan responses to certain negative forum posts complaining about the graphics, and they had revealed around 90 percent positive feedback.

Tackling a "how far is the game along in development" question, the game's director nimbly replied by saying that Blizzard doesn't speak in percentages when it comes to quantifying production progress. Teams at the studio, according to Wilson, work in constant microcosms of activity. Unlike other game studios, Blizzard doesn't work under a single all-encompassing system of pre-production, development and polish.

Serious Diablo fans will be thrilled to learn that Diablo III will include a hardcore mode and also the ability to create hardcore characters. As with Diablo II, if hardcore characters die in Diablo III, they are dead forever. Gone.

Asked about possible console iterations and challenged with providing a driving reason why fans of Diablo II should make the leap to Diablo III, Wilson outlined that the game boasts improved ionisation, enhanced graphics, deeper combat mechanics, and more class selections. As for Blizzard games appearing on consoles, it's not something the studio is currently exploring, although he did suggest it could certainly happen in the future.

The final question of the session saw someone with an outrageously deep voice ask if it will be possible in Diablo III to collect ears and make a necklace from them. After a ripple of laughter from the audience, Wilson said he would absolutely make sure that's an activity that finds its way into the final game... when it's done.

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