Diablo IV Developer Interview - Time To Reach Level 100, Mercenaries, PvP Balancing, Cow Level
08/12/2022 à 11:05
Blizzard held another Diablo IV group interview with several journalists and content creators. Associate Game Director Joe Piepiora, Game Producer Ash Sweetring, and Lead Class Designer Adam Jackson answered questions about Diablo IV's leveling process, class balance, the secret Cow Level, and much more!
Strongholds, which have been called “Camps” in earlier iterations of the game’s development, are encampments that have been taken over by enemy forces. By liberating them from the evils of Hell, players unlock that part of the map as a friendly location, also potentially unlocking new dungeons, quests, vendors, and general overworld content.
Piepiora adds that Strongholds have a specific power level relative to the characters trying to liberate them. In the Preview build, for example, monsters in Strongholds were two levels higher than the player’s level. However, these differences can vary between Strongholds, so each Stronghold will provide a unique challenge.
Jackson explains that many members of the Diablo IV development team have a lot of balancing experience based on developing other Blizzard titles. The team’s balance goals mainly consist of two factors:
First, there are many ways to build a class, and the team wants to make sure that all builds of a specific class feel similar in terms of power level. All builds should also be good enough to complete the majority of content available in the game Secondly, balance between classes is a top priority. All classes should also have multiple builds at their disposal so that all classes feel as equal as possible.
Blizzard expects some discrepancies at the very top level of play. However, the team plans to support and update the game for a very long time, and that includes balancing classes regularly.
End-Game Systems and Time To Reach Level 100
Players will start to engage with end-game systems around Level 50. Depending on playstyle, players will need roughly 150 to 180 hours to reach Level 100. Even on their way to max level, players can experience challenging pinnacle content, and a lot of challenges will await beyond that, of course. As soon as players start to progress through World Tier difficulties, they will also encounter many new and much more powerful puzzle pieces in terms of loot and itemization.
Sweetring adds that, based on personal playstyle, completing the campaign will take between 35 and 45 hours.
Balancing both PvP and PvE aspects of Diablo IV is very difficult because both ends of the spectrum behave very differently. For launch, Diablo IV will mostly be balanced around the PvE aspects of the game. The PvP meta will sort itself out over time and Blizzard has tried to keep PvP class design as open as possible for Diablo IV’s launch. The team will also work on PvP balance based on player feedback, preferences, and behavior post-launch.
Sweetring says that they want to keep dungeons entertaining and not feel repetitive. Designing different dungeon objective types has been a top priority throughout development. The team has had a lot of liberties when it comes to the flavor of objectives in dungeons, making sure that they capture the art style or story background of the particular place the player sets foot into.
Procedurally Generated Content
Diablo IV’s “overworld” as a big landmass involves a lot of procedural generation. Dungeons are also a great example of their approach to procedural generation, and their design has been excellent from the beginning and the team cares deeply about them. Adding identities to dungeons is key while also making sure that they don’t feel the same even after a third of fourth run of the same dungeon. Providing identity and personality while using truly randomly generated content through procedural generation to its advantage is the main goal. Monster density and random event allocation are additional examples of Diablo IV using procedural generation to provide a unique gameplay experience.
Piepiora adds that procedural generation in Diablo IV also shined a different light on designing more static aspects of the game because the team normally “lives in a procedurally generated content world”, so they spent a lot of time making sure that these aspects also feel right and immersive.
Followers and Mercenaries
As of now, certain named characters will help players out throughout the story but Blizzard doesn't have anything to announce regarding hirelings in Diablo IV. Jackson adds that they may have something to announce in the future - but “no promises”.
Encounter Design and Evade
Monsters and encounters can become pretty deadly in Diablo IV especially in higher World Tiers, so the team added the Evade button for all classes. Not all players will build their characters around movement skills or immunities, so having general access to a movement button enables the team to “threaten the player” with dangerous encounters and mechanics.
Piepiora adds that the Evade ability not only opened up design space in terms of monster abilities. They were also able to add another layer of customization by giving items modifiers that affect Evade, for example by giving characters a movement buff after using it.
According to Piepiora, the Healing Potion is another system that also adds a new layer of complexity to Diablo IV’s combat design approach. Unlike Diablo III, potions are no longer based on a cooldown but on potion charges. A set amount of potion charges changes the way players approach a boss fight or a sticky combat situation. In order to gain more potion charges, players will need to kill or damage monsters, encouraging players to take part in the encounter, damage the enemy and stay aggressive instead of waiting for a potion to go off cooldown and running away a lot because of it.
Paragon Board and Skill Tree Working Together
The Skill tree of Diablo IV is designed to transport class fantasy and convey the basic ideas of the class. Different skill builds will provide different ways to play - but that is just the beginning. After introducing the player to their class through the Skill tree, two different primary methods will provide a lot more ways to customize your characters and dive deep into the game. First, Legendary and Unique items will bend and sometimes even break the rules set by the Skill tree. On top of that, the Paragon Board will let you manipulate your character in terms of stats, and everything together results in your uniquely customized character.
Piepiora adds that the team wants to find opportunities where they can let players play their way. Giving players control to make their own builds and fulfill their own power fantasy is a key goal but also very complicated. The Skill tree helps provide players with ideas to use their freedom in character customization. Another layer that will players help to further augment their build, for example, is the Codex of Power which will provide Legendary powers for Legendary item crafting.
Up to Level 40 or so, Blizzard wants respecs to be very, very affordable. On the way to Level 100, respeccing will get more expensive but you will absolutely be able to respec at any point in the game if you have enough gold for it. There is no “soft lock” in terms of respeccing.
The design approach behind this decision is dictated by character and build permanence. Players shouldn’t be able to completely change their whole build during end-game progression. Diablo IV is designed around approaching all end-game systems with the goal to improve your character and its build. As an example, having the freedom to play many different builds with one character would cause players to keep every single item, invalidating the awesome feeling of finding a great upgrade. Additionally, things like crafting and rerolling high-end items would become much less impactful.
Level Scaling in Party Play
According to Piepiora, monster level will scale dynamically for each player in the party. That being said, certain zones also have certain level floors. For example, if a zone had a level floor of Level 25, a Level 10 player would encounter monsters on Level 25, while their Level 40 friend would fight against Level 40 mobs.
In general, Blizzard wants to make sure that it’s easy to play and level together but they also need to ensure that progressing through the overworld feels meaningful.
Cinematics in Diablo IV
Diablo IV will be the most cinematic game in the series. The Diablo franchise has been very good at telling epic stories, especially through its awesome cinematics. However, Diablo IV also tries to dial down on that part and tell more worldly stories about ordinary mortals within the cosmos of Sanctuary.
The development team wants to make sure that every type of player can play Diablo IV how they want to - alone, in a group, with friends, or with their partner. Diablo IV features a dark world, so the player should feel isolated. While grouping will reward players with a mild experience bonus (note: 3% increased experience in the PR build), Blizzard doesn’t want to take anything away from players intending to play the game on their own.
Blizzard’s reply: “
There is no Cow Level.
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