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Interview: The World Design Of Diablo III
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Interview: The World Design Of Diablo III

August 12, 2011 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next
 

[Blizzard designer Leonard Boyarsky talks to Gamasutra about the process of expanding the Diablo universe significantly with the third installment of the series, talking about what has both worked and what has not.]

Tackling mammoth expectations while building a world for a highly-anticipated sequel would be daunting for most game designers. Thankfully, Leonard Boyarsky isn't just any designer. With nearly 20 years in the industry, Boyarsky's career encompasses several PC cult classics, including art direction for Fallout and Fallout 2 at Interplay, as well as Arcanum and Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines during his helm as CEO and co-founder of Troika Games.

After Troika's demise, Boyarsky joined Blizzard in 2006, where he's been hard at work as Diablo III's game world designer. He has integrated his years of know-how into crafting a game that evokes the feel of its predecessors while driving a more plot-focused experience.

In this interview, Boyarsky details the experience of working on a title with lofty expectations, infusing Diablo III with more back story, and scrapped iterations of the game on its long journey from concept to product.

What's challenging about going from wholesale crafting an aesthetic -- as you did in Fallout -- to working within a certain set of expectations?

Leonard Boyarsky: Well, it's really just interesting to come in and work with an established franchise, but a lot of the process is the same: trying to find interesting ways to explore the story, to develop the universe.

I think the most interesting thing about the Diablo universe is just that there's so much richness to it that hadn't been really explored.

So, I think that's the way I approached it, looking at what we could do with this universe that really hasn't been exploited. [VP of creative development] Chris Metzen was really on board with that because he really had a lot of ideas and a lot of things that he wanted to see in the series that hadn't been brought to the forefront. So, it's been a very creative process. It's been very challenging but enriching at the same time.

Can you provide some examples of elements within the Diablo lore in which there were gaps for you to expand upon?

LB: Well, I think they had a lot of ideas -- like Chris was talking about [during the Diablo III presentation preceding this interview], the battle between Heaven and Hell, and all that stuff -- where they kind of touched on some of that stuff, but they didn't really explore it.

A perfect example is like Deckard Cain, you know. He identified your items, and he threw out a bit of lore for you in the first two games, but you know, we've give him this extra depth that we feel like he should've been able to see... if he had taken the Horadric teaching a little more seriously earlier on, he could have avoided what happened during Diablo. Kind of giving him a little more depth as a character, we feel.

And it's a different time in terms of game-making. You know, we want the characters to be deeper. We want them to have more realistic motivations, I guess you'd say, have reasons for what they're doing, and feel like they have a background and history to them.

In your long career of working on different franchises from Fallout to working with Vampire: The Masquerade, you've definitely dealt with very passionate, vocal fans. Would you say that's given you thicker skin for coming into Diablo III?

LB: [laughs] Yes. You would definitely have to have thick skin, because there's always going to be people who don't like what you've done or are objecting to your latest decisions. So, you get used to it after a while. Try not to take it too [personally]...

It's a double-edged sword because it's very helpful to hear what people have to say, how people see things and what people want to see from a franchise, whether it's one that you created or whether it's one that you're carrying on.

It's not to say that we always have to blindly follow what the fans want, but it's nice to know what the fans are looking for, if that makes sense. [It's important to know] what people are expecting, what people are looking for, the questions that they feel that they need to have answers to. Because if you don't deliver on at least some of those things, then you've kind of failed.


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Comments


Wylie Garvin
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Huh? "[T]he story and the story delivery is really focused on the single-player aspect." That's surprising considering Blizzard's decision to shaft the single-player market by not providing any offline single-player mode.

Jeff Stolt
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I believe that's more about security and anti-duping procedures. I don't see it as moving away from single-player. You can still play D3 completely solo, but it must be online...kinda like Portal 2 requiring you to be logged into Steam.

Dean Boytor
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Bioshock 2 made you do that too but it was more for acheivement sake and having your points allocated to your Live ID.

Wylie Garvin
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Right. It has no offline single-player mode. In my case, that equals no sale. I still play Diablo 2 even now, and I pretty much always play it single-player and without connecting to the Internet.

Ronildson Palermo
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I heard modding and player-created items were a pain to deal with in Diablo's 1 & 2 multiplayer... That's my bet why they changed it to this kind of DRM.

samuel huggins
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I didn't buy SC2 and I won't buy D3 as it stands. I still play D2 offline places where the internet doesn't exist (my parents house, car dealership etc.).



I'll play League of Legends for free if I want online action.

Jesus Rambal Llano
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I agree. While I dislike the always online (ok, I hate it), when they made the real money auction house they opened the door to a universe of dupes and other kind of tricks. So, stoping the offline advantage is a defensive way to go.

Steven Algarin
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With it being always online that's a SURE FIRE way to eliminate dupes. Don't be so negative to the thought of the auction house. Think about it, D2 has a site that uses forum gold, one guy had this idea and made millions off of people who use it daily and still do. This would eliminate that and actually give a player the chance to make money for a game they like.

Remember, D2 has a lot of features that have been exploited that are now a part of game because the devs did not have hindsight or realize the potential existed to exploit "broken" features.

In every patch they've molded the game to actually work with what they didn't foolproof. The game that exist's today would be comepletly different if they were able to fix what was broken. It's still fun as hell, but theres just a lot of BS that you have to deal with.

Now, you don't have to do as everyone else does, but after endgame, the only thing is PVP or MF grind. The either learn the curve, move on or re-roll and keep at it. They have learned so much from constantly patching D2 and creating WoW that it's quite possible that D3 could easily be as good or even better then D2

John Martins
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Hooray for the console versions!

Joe Clifton
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I have trouble understanding why the same story and lore experience can't be offered to players in a multiplayer setting, and I commend the team for driving this point home through their choices for the gameplay.



I think this so-called shafting of the single player market was mostly in response to the millions of illegal copies of Diablo 2 that were downloaded. Alienating a very insignificant portion of the fan-base (one that will continue to dwindle in the years ahead as internet connections worldwide become more reliable and affordable) in order to secure a purchase from players that would pirate the game for the sake of it being available to them is an ingenious business decision.



The industry changes. Twelve years ago it was just as difficult to provide content delivery through the internet, for example, as it would have been to require players to be online constantly. Imagine what we'll be seeing twelve years from now that would be considered impossible to maintain with current technology.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Eric Spain
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The problem is, based on the volume of noise over the controversy, the 'very insignificant portion of the fan-base' is not as insignificant as all the online supporting people seem to think. There are a lot more people that would like offline mode than previously thought, and a lot more willing to forgo the game because of that requirement.

Nicholas McKay
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"There are a lot more people that would like offline mode than previously thought, and a lot more willing to forgo the game because of that requirement."



http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2011/8/8/



Third panel is key. Simple as that. Fact of the matter is a bunch of people bitching up a storm online are still going to buy it. They say they won't, they'll declare their stand, and they'll have the $200 collector's edition with the resin model on their desk on release day. We see this with every sequel for every successful game released. A contingent of the fanbase bitches, acts like there's going to be some kind of massive exodus or boycott, and ultimately proves they're full of it upon release. Very rarely does it happen differently, and I doubt D3 will be one of those times. They're not restructuring the game mid-life cycle so everyone's suddenly a jedi or anything. :P

Mike Engle
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Agreed. This image pops to mind too:

http://www.ubercharged.net/2010/06/24/e3-impressions-tf2-is-the-a
nti-scam/



And MW2 players even had a reasonable argument, since decentralized player hosting tended to be extremely unreliable for MW2. With D3 there's no noticeable downside except the fractional group of players who a fraction of their gaming time disconnected (a fraction of a fraction.)



Great article, and glad to hear they're trying to stay true to the Diablo action aesthetic.

Cartrell Hampton
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Hey.



"... because there's always going to be people who don't like what you've done or are objecting to your latest decisions. So, you get used to it after a while. Try not to take it too [personally]..."



"...it's very helpful to hear what people have to say..."



So true. But, know the difference between (1) those who may not agree but will still provide objective feedback (can disagree without being disagreeable), and (2) those who simply blast your product without providing anything constructive (the haters). You need not pay any attention to the latter. (:



- Ziro out.

Jesus Rambal Llano
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I really admire Mr. Boyarsky. It's a great designer and you can see his hand on the visuals of the games he works on.



While I hate the always online thing, I still believe the team behind Diablo III can deliver an extremely strong game.

Chad Wagner
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I must be getting old, but seems like I remember HUGE uproar about Fallout from the fan community. The existing vocal fanbase for Fallout were fans of “Wasteland” They had many opinions about what should and shouldn't be in there. And that's not even counting the whole GURPS debacle.



Brian Fargo spent an enormous amount of time defraying just exactly the kind of rumors, concern, and vocal disagreement as we're seeing today regarding Diablo III (not to mention the excited anticipation). The biggest difference being the the communication channels are much wider today, with the maturing of the internet.

Steven Algarin
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@ Jesus Llano - With it being always online that's a SURE FIRE way to eliminate dupes. Don't be so negative to the thought of the auction house. Think about it, D2 has a site that uses forum gold, one guy had this idea and made millions off of people who use it daily and still do. This would eliminate that and actually give a player the chance to make money for a game they like.

Remember, D2 has a lot of features that have been exploited that are now a part of game because the devs did not have hindsight or realize the potential existed to exploit "broken" features.

In every patch they've molded the game to actually work with what they didn't foolproof. The game that exist's today would be comepletly different if they were able to fix what was broken. It's still fun as hell, but theres just a lot of BS that you have to deal with.

Now, you don't have to do as everyone else does, but after endgame, the only thing is PVP or MF grind. The either learn the curve, move on or re-roll and keep at it. They have learned so much from constantly patching D2 and creating WoW that it's quite possible that D3 could easily be as good or even better then D2


none
 
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