Reaper of Souls First Look: Storming Pandemonium

Blizzard has released another teaser for the upcoming Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Expansion!

Reaper of Souls™ First Look: Storming Pandemonium

The last vestiges of an endless battle echo across the decimated terrain of an ancient crossroads. Once the epicenter of the Eternal Conflict, the war-torn fields that stretch before you now are eerily silent, save for the occasional scuffle of straggling soldiers and primordial scavengers that have made the best of this inhospitable expanse.

An abandoned fortress looms chillingly in the distance. Previously an outpost that stood as the last bastion of the Light before the Gates of the Burning Hells, it now houses a threat unlike any before.

Welcome to Pandemonium.


The Epitome of Endless Strife

Pandemonium is the scar of creation’s birth, where angels and demons once fought fervently over control of the Worldstone. An ancient artifact with the power to shape reality, ownership of the Worldstone changed hands for eons—the High Heavens and Burning Hells trading blows, creating worlds, and then watching their inherently flawed creations wither away over and over again.

Those who are familiar with the events of the Sin War know that the renegade angel Inarius, along with the daughter of Mephisto, Lilith, stole away with the Worldstone, creating the world we now know as Sanctuary. With the artifact well hidden in this refuge, the battles in Pandemonium slowed over time and, eventually, ground to a halt.

Diablo III Anniversary Inarius and Lilith by Ziom05
Inarius and Lilith by Ziom05

Players will soon have the opportunity to revisit the estranged combat zone, but those who have previously walked the halls of Pandemonium Fortress will find it an entirely new experience. The battlefields have never before been traversed by Sanctuary’s heroes, and though Pandemonium Fortress was once the base of operations in Act IV of Diablo II, the nephalem arriving now will find it much less hospitable.

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Originally constructed by Tyrael to house and protect the Worldstone, one of the unique properties of the Pandemonium Fortress is that the structure takes on the appearance of those who control it. Though it’s been conquered and reclaimed through the ages, without the ultimate prize that once lay within, the interest from both angels and demons in holding this keep has severely waned. However, such disinterest does prime the location for hiding away another artifact with the power to tip the scales in the Eternal Conflict forever.


Re-Imagining the Battlefield

Pandemonium has long been a locale our designers and writers have wished to explore to the fullest, and the previous excursion in Diablo II barely scratched the surface of what this realm has to offer. The concept of a nexus between the High Heavens and Burning Hells is a compelling one, but capturing the desired other-worldly feel without extending so far into the unknown as to be alien was a great challenge.

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As Pandemonium was barely touched upon, there was a lot of room to draw outside inspiration. Everyone on the design and development team as well as any player who played Diablo II has an idea of what Pandemonium could be, and the idea of infinite possibilities remained strong among these concepts. This meant the best bet for fulfilling the fantasy of this location was to take all those ideas, mesh them together, and boil the resulting amalgamation down into a unified vision that makes you stop in your tracks and say, “Yes. That’s Pandemonium.”

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Of course, it was important to make sure this zone felt like nothing else ever explored in Sanctuary, since it’s a place that the nephalem should find unfamiliar. It’s a place where angels and demons have battled for eternity and so presented the question of what that would look like. What kind of inhabitants would remain in this land? Scavengers that live off the battlefield remnants, forgotten angels and demons that continue to fight forever, and unique creatures like the Realm Walker, an ancient beast burdened with the portal to an eternal prison, all resulted from these explorations in design.

Ultimately, Pandemonium needed to epitomize the idea of “The Eternal Conflict.” This was, and remains in some ways, the center for the war itself. As the literal crossroads between the domains of all beings, every feature needed to be carefully placed and considered to create the kind of chaotic balance that could not be found anywhere else.


Pushing Boundaries – Encompassing Eternity

External zones are always the most challenging, but Pandemonium takes this to an entirely new level. Both the battlefields and the Fortress itself needed to encompass the feelings of being ancient and infinite without losing players in a way that would distract from gameplay. In particular, our designers carefully avoided the perception of being displaced or wandering in outer space. The challenge was in ensuring a sense of grandeur that could house colossal enemies, evoke the excitement of the unexplored, and still sell the basic idea of plumbing the depths of a massive, ancient fortress.

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This sort of dungeon delving is hardly new to the Diablo franchise, let alone in Act V. Pandemonium Fortress needed to be different from the Ruins of Corvus in the Blood Marsh or Bastion’s Keep at the edge of Arreat Crater. Instead of finding an earthly construct, you’ll find this eerie keep maintains the notion of a militant garrison while distinctly lacking the trappings of what one would expect from a human site.

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Getting into the perfect balance of extra planar and relatable took fare more than the thoughts of an individual. In speaking to Lead Level Designer Dave Adams, he shared some insight on “ideation days,” a process that the design team utilized in exploring this space. “We break up into groups and try and create single scene events that take place on 240 foot by 240 foot tiles. Seeing what each group comes up with and how different those ideas can be is really amazing. We often use this to steer the direction on an area. We had a lot of awesome events that came out of that, and you’ll experience them in the game.”

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Knocking at Death’s Door: The Last Stand

The Pandemonium Fortress has become home to the starring villain of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls™. Malthael hopes to end the Eternal Conflict once and for all, regardless of what consequences and costs his actions might have. It is time now, heroes, to stretch beyond the limits of what you once believed possible and stop the Angel of Death from destroying all you know and love.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our First Look series behind the scenes of Act V’s locations. Can no one truly stop Death? Let us know in the comments below what you’re looking most forward to tackling on the Battlefields of Eternity or within Pandemonium Fortress, and we hope you join us in the fight to save Sanctuary on March 25.

 

Level 61 Class Skill Videos Now Available!

Level 61 Class Skill Videos Now Available!

Of the plethora of new features coming in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls™, perhaps some of the most eagerly anticipated are the bold new powers that await heroes who journey beyond level 60. Each class will unlock a new skill at level 61, as well five equally awe-inspiring runes as they slaughter their way to 70.

Care for a tiny peek? Thought you would.

AVALANCHE

Barbarian

VENGEANCE

 Demon Hunter

EPIPHANY

Monk

PIRANHAS

Witch Doctor

BLACK HOLE

Wizard

Mastering these abilities will be no easy task and are sure to raise your game to the next level. But which skill are you looking forward to using the most? Submit your vote in the poll below or let us know in the comments.

We’ll see you on March 25!

 

How to get Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition Delivered on March 25

This has been a secret trick I have used for the past few years to get my Collector’s Editions delivered on release day.

Have you pre-ordered a Collector’s Edition and it gets delivered 2 days after the official release date? Maybe even longer? It is a nightmare when it takes several days to arrive. Especially with the Heroes of the Storm Valla Hero redeemable until March 31. Learn how to here.

How about getting it delivered exactly on the official release date? You can. If you follow my trick, you will get the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls CE delivered to your door on March 25th in the afternoon (tops).

Usually when the release date is approaching, Amazon adds the “On Release Day” shipping option. What happens is that the Collector’s Edition leaves the store and gets shipped on March 23 with a 2-day shipping. Amazon makes sure that the delivery arrives on the release date (March 25th).

1. Go to the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls Collector’s Edition page.

2. Login to your Amazon account.

3. Hit the pre-order button.

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4. Whenever you see the shipping options, make sure to choose the following option: “Two-Day Shipping — get it on its release day: Tuesday, March 25.”

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5. The option will cost an additional $7.98 (more or less depending where you live in the United States), but it is totally worth it.

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A few years ago, I contacted an Amazon representative via chat when I first noticed the Release Day option. She had to explain it to me several times as I was skeptic. I was surprised when on release date the delivery man knocked my door. The Collector’s Edition was on my door on release date afternoon.

Hopefully, this may be of help to someone. If you had pre-ordered before, simply pre-order it again. Once you finish the order and you notice the estimate shipping date is on Release date, feel free to cancel the older order.

Building a Hero: Crusader Skill Design

Building a Hero: Crusader Skill Design

“The Crusader. Our knight in battle-scarred armor.” – Josh Mosqueira

Although the Crusader may share the same faith as their Zakarum brethren, they are an altogether new breed of holy warrior. Rightfully so, the Crusaders deserve a set of skills all their own, one that reflects their resourcefulness, resilience, and (of course) religious fervor.

But how exactly does that happen in a game like Diablo III?

Brace yourselves, nephalem, and get ready to explore the creative process behind concepting, designing, and implementing the mighty powers of our newest hero.


 

A Crusader’s Core

Before diving into the development of the Crusader’s skill set, there were some very important details that needed to be mapped out. These details were the class’s core “pillars,” or touchpoints that would serve as the inspiration and outline for the mechanical design of the class moving forward.

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To establish these pillars, the designers focused on the fantasy. When it came to the Crusader, one thing was clear right from the beginning: this was a big, badass melee hero who loves being in the middle of the action. Equally powerful was the idea that Crusaders are members of a holy order, possessing ranged abilities (spells) that can annihilate enemies from afar.

With those very basic concepts in mind, three key pillars were chosen:

  • The Crusader’s power is holy and derived from the Light.
  • They come from a martial order and therefore are never truly alone.
  • Crusaders are tanks. They’re not a traditional “tank,” serving simply to absorb damage and redirect attention from other allies. Instead, the Crusaders are more like an actual war time tank (e.g. Panzer, Sherman, Abram), controlling the battlefield and their opponents through sheer force—and, of course, dealing plenty of damage along the way.

 


 

Hero of the Brainstorm

Armed with these pillars, the system designers moved to the brainstorming phase of design. This phase included a number of different meetings as well as an open invitation to the team’s designers, artists, engineers, programmers, and producers to share their ideas for Crusader skills, too. Everyone on the development team could participate in the ongoing brainstorm and no idea was considered too silly or too simple so long as it related back to the pillars.

Ideas could come in the form of pictures, of a word or sentence, or some swanky combination of both! They could be entirely unique or reference existing imagery from a movie, television show, book, comic, or game. The High Heavens were the limit.

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For the original five heroes, the goal of this phase was to generate a variety of different ideas that could then be distilled into three to five iconic skills for each class. With this kind of experience in skill building already established, however, the team decided to skip that particular step for the Crusader. Instead, they split the Crusader’s skill list right down the middle, dedicated half its skills to melee and half to ranged attacks, and immediately started to translate different ideas from the brainstorm into something playable.

Whether it was the image of a powerful warrior swinging a massive weapon and sending his enemies flying every which way like Sauron in Fellowship of the Ring (Sweep Attack), hurling a shield like Captain America and watching it ricochet between demonic skulls (Blessed Shield), or calling down the wrath of the heavens like Zeus himself (Heaven’s Fury), brainstorming played a pivotal role in the creation of the Crusader skills you see today.

 


 

Building the Kit

After the brainstorm phase, the team moved into building out the Crusader’s skill kit—or the entire complement of skills and runes that would accompany the class. This process included not only fleshing out the mechanics of the skills (i.e. how they work), but also what each skill would look like visually.

There were a few skills that fell into place immediately.

Fist of the Heavens:

If you played Diablo II, it’s easy to see that there are several parallels between the Paladins of the past and these new Crusaders—and this is due largely to their shared heritage. Keeping that connection in mind, there was one truly iconic skill screaming to be brought forward, and it was Fist of the Heavens.

 

Fist of the Heavens is actually the first skill in the Crusader kit to be completed, both in terms of the how the skill worked and its supporting art. It’s a great example of a mid-range ability, one that allows the Crusader to stay in the heat of combat while taking out baddies just beyond the reach of his mighty weapons.

Blessed Hammer:

In addition to Fist of Heavens, the Crusaders also possess another ability inherited from their Paladin forebears. This one has to do with hammers.

Cue the trimuphant return of Blessed Hammer, the skill well known for summoning a mallet of pure divine force that circles its conjurer, laying waste to all that surrounds him.

But why stop there? With Diablo III’s extensive rune system, it had to be asked what more could be done with this exemplary skill. The Crusader flawlessly wields the power of the Light and it was important to play up this idea of him being a Holy conduit. This lead to the creation of skill runes like Thunderstruck, which charges the hammers with lightning, and Dominion, which allows the hammers to orbit and protect the Crusader as he moves.

Steed Charge:

The Crusader’s movement skill was next in line, and the team knew it needed to be iconic. This was a simple matter, as a “knight in battle-scarred armor” would be nothing without his horse. And so Steed Charge was born.

With this skill, the Crusader summons a celestial horse, and gallops around the battlefield at a fierce speed, charging into enemies as the player pleases. Aside from providing a considerable buff to movement speed, when equipped with the right runes, Steed Charge can also leave a trail of flames in its wake, heal the Crusader while active, and shackle any opponents who dare cross his path.

Lessons Learned

Not all the skills in the Crusader’s kit came quite so easily, though.

Heaven’s Fury is a great example of how an initial idea for a skill and its actual implementation can vary. As noted above, the concept for this skill started as the “hand of god” reaching down and smiting the Crusader’s enemies. While that sounded epic on paper, how exactly would it work in terms of gameplay?

In its first implemention, players could direct the path of Heaven’s Fury using a series of right clicks, causing beams of light to rain down destruction on the battlefield in snake-like patterns. This version was pretty cool visually, but it was insanely loud and, in a multiplayer game, had the potential to become wildly annoying.

And so it was scrapped.

Iteration began and the team landed on a version where the beam of light was channeled and would chase the player’s mouse cursor around. This looked epic and felt really powerful, but it was a little rough mechanically. In addition, having a channeled skill for the Crusader just didn’t feel right. In terms of design, the Crusader is a hero that should be constantly running around and hitting things, not standing idle on the battlefield.

And so that was scrapped too.

From here, the designers decided to give Heaven’s Fury its own AI, removing any need for players to manage the beam itself and freeing up their time to go smack something else in the face. This design also played into the initial idea of the skill being a “hand of god,” or some kind of manifestation of the heavens that has its own will.

This is the final version of Heaven’s Fury, which will unlock for all Crusaders at level 30 in Reaper of Souls. As you can see, it still captures that original idea of a Zeus-like bolt from the heavens discussed in the brainstorm, but also delivers a great gameplay experience (which is a paramount in a game like Diablo III).

 

A Skill Set Is Born

Adding these skills together results in an unyielding veteran of the battlefield. A dauntless warrior that charges fearlessly into combat, crushing foes with fire and steel. A war machine made human. A Crusader.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed this inside look at how the class’s skills were created and iterated uon, and that you jump in on March 25th to experience the full arsenal yourself!

 

Blizzplanet Wants your Questions for Reaper of Souls London & Los Angeles Launch Party Interviews

Blizzplanet staff members will be attending the Diablo III: Reaper of Souls launch parties to take video and photos. Naka (@dperschonok) is attending the event in Los Angeles on March 24th where a Live Q&A will take place. Lugia (@Lugia_Blizz) is attending the London launch party and Blizzard EU has scheduled an interview with Diablo III lead game producer Alex Mayberry.

We would love to gather questions from our fans and visitors to relay them to the Reaper of Souls game developers.

Twitter: Send us questions at @blizzplanetcom with the hashtag #ROSinterview (feel free to send multiple tweets/questions).

Facebook: Post your questions at the following page: http://www.facebook.com/blizzplanetcom

Don’t have Facebook or Twitter? Submit your question through this form, or post in the Livefyre comments section at the bottom.

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Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – The End is Near

A trailer to hype for us fans waiting. 7 days to go until the release of Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

Diablo III: Reaper of Souls™ Gameplay Trailer Debut

Only one week remains until Malthael, the Angel of Death, makes his terrifying return to the mortal realm. One week until you can lay siege to Act V, charge forth as the Crusader, master powerful new skills, and explore the world of Sanctuary like never before. One week! Source

To tide you over until death’s descent, we’ve just unleashed our official gameplay trailer on YouTube. Discover what harrowing challenges and tantalizing rewards await your heroes beyond the gates of Westmarch in the all-new video below.

Are you ready to go anywhere and slay anything? We sure as hell are! Diablo III: Reaper of Souls™arrives on March 25, but remember: death is only the beginning.  

 

Blizzard Takes PAX East by Storm


The time to equip your flail and shield is coming, brave nephalem, because Reaper of Souls™ for PlayStation® 4 is headed to PAX EAST!

General Information:

What: Hosted annually in Boston, PAX East is a celebration of gaming culture and community
Where: Boston Convention & Exhibition Center
When: April 11–13, 2014

Head on over to east.paxsite.com for panel schedules, hotel and travel information, forums, and more. If you have an iPhoneAndroidBlackBerry, or Windows 7 smart phone, you can also download the super sexy (and super official) PAX East 2014 app from Guidebook for free.

Join the Crusade:

If you’re attending the event, be sure to join us in the battle for Westmarch at the official Blizzard booth. You’ll have the opportunity to get your hands on our latest Ultimate Evil Edition™ demo, test your RNG luck with some sweet giveaways, and more! This is also your chance to raise hell with the all-new Crusader class wielding Sony’s streamlined DUALSHOCK® 4 wireless controller.

We’ll have demo stations available from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EDT in booth #848 of the Expo Hall, so if you’re in the area (and in the mood for some ritual demon slaughter), be sure to stop by and check it out! 

Here’s what else you can expect at this year’s PAX East Blizzard booth:

  • A brand new hands-on demo for Warlords of Draenor featuring updated character models and the intro experience for the upcoming expansion.
  • A brand-new demo for Heroes of the Storm, featuring new Heroes playable for the first time anywhere outside of Blizzard.
  • A chance to find out what’s in the cards for Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, and play the mobile version on iPad.
  • Blizzard developers on-hand to chat about your favorite games.
  • Blizzard developers will also be giving a presentation at the Albatross Theatre on Friday, April 11 at 10:30 a.m. EDT titled Heroes of the Storm: The Ultimate Blizzard Mashup (streamed live on one of the official PAX Twitch channels for those not in attendance).
  • And did we mention there will be giveaways, prizes, and more? If not . . . there will be giveaways, prizes, and more!

We hope to see you there!

 

Diablo III Auction House Comes to a Close

The Diablo Auction House is now closed. People have until June 24, 2014 to claim their gold and items.

Diablo III Auction House Comes to a Close

The gold and real-money auction houses are now shut down in the Americas. For more information, including how the shutdown will affect active auctions, items in the Completed Tab, and your existing Battle.net Balance, please visit our Auction House Update FAQ.
 

Garwulf’s Corner: An Odyssey into Diablo and the World Beyond the Video Game

Diablo fans who followed the Garwulf’s Corner at the former Diabloii.net years ago might be excited to learn something shared with me by its author Robert B. Marks.

Before we get into that, for those who weren’t around the Blizzard community back then — Garwulf’s Corner was a bi-weekly column discussing everything Diablo and Diablo II, as well as life topics in general such as movies, literature, video games, etc.

Robert B. Marks is also the author of Diablo: Demonsbane. Demonsbane was the first Diablo eBook published in 2000 and he is author of the EverQuest Companion. Most likely the first book in the Blizzard novel collection, and likely the pioneer of gaming eBooks in general — at a time where Kindle didn’t exist, and eBooks were just a first-time experiment.

Diablo: Demonsbane can be read in printing nowadays within the pages of the Diablo Archive.

Last night, Robert B. Marks informed me he is publishing a book titled … Garwulf’s Corner: An Odyssey into Diablo and The World Beyond the Video Game.

I’ll keep you updated as details become available. I’ll get a review copy as soon as it comes out of printing. The book is slated to ship on October 2014 from the Legacy Books Press. Robert B. Marks websites: The Dragonmage’s Realm and Garwulf’s Corner (Livejournal)

At the dawn of the 21st Century, the video game industry experienced a period of wild creativity, fighting for recogniztion as an art form while making the transformation into a media juggernaut. And as it did, Garwulf’s Corner was there.

One of the earliest, if not the first, video game issues columns on the internet, Garwulf’s Corner ran every two weeks from 2000 to 2002 on Diabloii.net, Written by Robert B. Marks, author of Diablo: Demonsbane and The EverQuest Companion, it explored everything up to and including Diablo, the birth of artificial intelligence, hackers, literature and movies, and the video game’s struggle for legitimacy.

Collected here for the first time in print — whith new introductions and updates — are all 52 installments of Garwulf’s Corner, along with the three columns written years later for the unpublished Blurred Edge Magazine, the holiday issue that never was, and the author’s final word (so far) on Diablo III and Diablo in general. Insightful, controversial, witty, and thought-provoking, Garwulf’s Corner is a journey into the world of video games that is still relevant today.

ISBN: 9781927537107
Price: $19.99 US

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