The Road to Diablo III
September 18, 2009 Page 3 of 3
We're heard a lot about some of what Battle.net is doing for StarCraft II -- a deeper league system, a mod community, and so on. Can you speak at all about how Diablo III will take advantage of the new Battle.net in gameplay terms?
Kevin Martens: We're definitely using it. A lot of the things that StarCraft is doing, we're paying really close attention to. We've got coders from the Diablo development team working on Battle.net to make sure that they're laying the groundwork for the things we want to do.
Primarily at this point, we're interested in trying to make the co-op game as fast and as easy for players to get into as we can.
More co-op support is our primary interest, and the rest of the Battle.net stuff, we'll develop as StarCraft II develops it. We're watching that process, and we definitely like what we see.
I notice you significantly redesigned parts of the Barbarian again after his previous unveiling. It's interesting to see the character undergo those changes from outside the studio. As far as that general iterative process you described earlier, does it feel in practical terms that you essentially have an indefinite amount of time to spend on any particular game? At what point do you say, "Well, we do need to ship this game"?
Kevin Martens: I would say when all of the elements are at an equal level of not just quality -- not just how polished and balanced it is -- but also an equal level of awesome. One of the reasons we keep retooling the Barbarian stuff -- some of the Barbarian skills were done a long time ago -- is because as we added a new class or added higher level skills in, we did something else that was more awesome. And part of the Blizzard design is that if something is too awesome, we generally try to make everything else as awesome as opposed to pulling that one back.
That's one of the reasons that the iteration takes a while, but it's also one of the reasons why everything is over the top. The example about art -- you find the line by crossing it -- applies to the design as well. You make things way cool, smashy, explodey -- everything. Then you pull it back a little bit, for balance reasons more than anything.
Julian Love: There is another thing I could mention to round that out. There is kind of a sign we look for internally, which is when we can't get any more work done on the game because everybody's busy playing it. That's when we know it's ready to go. I've had that experience within the company. It's just like, "Okay, nobody's working. Everybody's playing. Maybe it's time to go."
That sounds like Blizzard is fairly flat-structured from a design standpoint in many ways, where someone can just decide, "This thing needs to be improved, let's improve it."
Kevin Martens: Yeah. It definitely is. It doesn't even have to be within your area of expertise. If I have an idea for a spell effect, I can go right to Julian and say, "Hey, what if the guy did this and ice went out his spine and blah blah blah?" and vice versa. Anyone. QA guys come in and offer brand new class ideas. It's very open-ended. It's the good ideas that come to the top. It doesn't really matter where they come from.
Julian Love: Even in QA, we have a core value that says every voice matters. Literally, every voice. Anybody, even sometimes outside the company -- you listen to what they've got to say and consider it, which is exactly how we got to a new form of [the Barbarian's skill] Whirlwind. Even though it wasn't the message we wanted to hear, there's something to it.
Kevin Martens: We feel privileged that our other games are popular enough that we can take the time to do it. We know not every developer gets the chance to do that. So, we want to make sure that we use that wisely and make better games as a result.
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