BlizzCon 2014 – Diablo III: What’s Next Panel Transcript

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Greater Rift Changes

Cheng: Thanks, Jonny. In Patch 2.1 we released Greater Rifts which have been a huge hit. You guys have been hitting up the Greater Rifts?

(Audience cheers)

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Cheng: But we know that there are still improvements that needs to be made to Greater Rifts. A big one has to do with randomness. On the team we feel that randomness is a tool to help make the game feel more replayable. We know that you want to do a rift again and again because you are trying to get that sweet piece of the loot.

We want to make sure that the game stays interesting and dynamic so that every time you play the game it’s different. So our general philosophy on randomness is that we are not trying to treat randomness as a goal within itself but we are trying to use it as a tool to keep the replayability of Diablo III as high as possible.

Wyatt Cheng

I’m going go through some examples of changes that are going to come with Greater Rifts and how our philosophy on randomness plays out.

Let’s talk about Pylons a little bit. There’s a common thread on the community and forums and so forth that the conduit pylons stands out as a huge outlier.

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People always talking about how for certain builds you get to the Rift Guardian and you have conduit pile on and that’s the only way that you can beat that Highest Rift. That when you are about to fail on; and then you’re just trying to figure out if you’re going to get to a conduit, or am I not?

The most common request we get is to remove the Conduit Pylon. That’s not what we want to do, but we are considering some changes to Conduit. What we would rather do is focus on the question why is the Conduit Pylon getting so much attention?

There’s five different pylons in the game. Why isn’t the Speed Pylon or the Shielding Pylon getting some attention? What if they were just as good as the Conduit Pylon for improving your time?

So on PTR on 2.1.2, we are going to experiment with some changes to the Speed Pylon. It’s going to last the whole minute instead of 30 seconds. It’s going to let you run through waller. It’s going to let you run through monsters, and knock them up into the air.

We are making some changes to the Shielding Pylon. When monsters hit you, you are going to do reflect damage on them. Also when the shielding ends you are going to explode and do damage to everything that is near you at the time that the Shielding Pylon wears off.

(Audience cheers)

Cheng: So that’s kind of an example of how we are looking at these pylons and we are saying we don’t want to take the pylons out because that’s going to make every rift run feel more lamey.

It’s actually going to reduce the replayability factor of the rifts. What we would rather do is say it’s not a question of if I can get a conduit or not; it’s which pylon did I get this time and what did I do with that.

We are also looking at how many pylons do I get, you know sometimes you get one pylon and sometimes you get six. So we are doing some special changes to it to make sure that you get pretty much between two and four pylons everytime. Again we are trying to keep the randomness in there but not let it be the sole determinant by whether or not you reach a high Greater Rift.

Let’s take a look at another example, of course, monster density right? Everyone’s favourite topic. We are looking at improving the monster density in all the rifts that are low. These changes include making sure the elite is there, the elite bosses are there, that the theme is consistent.

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We want to make sure that success or failure doesn’t matter on the random number generator. There’s always going to be monsters there for you to slay. The only question is what kind of monsters are there going to be? And searching through the dungeon to find a good set of distribution.

Of course, there is Rift Guardians. Sometimes you go through a whole rift and you get down to the last guardian and you are like “Ohh no! I got Rime. This is so bad.”

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Don’t worry about it! We are looking at that. We are looking at all the rift guardians. You know, again we don’t just want to say ok in order to make this as fair as possible we are just going to get rid of all the guardians and just use one cause that’s not going to be as interesting.

What we are focusing on right now is making sure that every rift guardian is memorable for its own reasons. So we are looking at making sure that they have new and interesting mechanics– and there’s going to be a preview of that later on coming from Kevin– but one of the newest guardians, but in general the idea is it’s not a question again.

You have heard me say it three times already we don’t want randomness to dictate your success or failure, we want it to be: “Hey, what was my distribution?,” “Hey, What was my rift guardian?”

And your success or failure will depend on how well you change how you play to take on this guardian. And of course, there is level distribution, you guys have had levels like this before?

(Audience cheers)

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Cheng: So when I see that I would be honest, I’d be like… “Ohh my goodness that level looks so boring,” and Kevin is like “Ahh, but it’s also really fast and efficient and fun. So I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Ebbert: I have to decide there, the first time I got one of these I had just gone into the highest rift level; and all I had was Westmarch Boots (one of these). So every time I died they changed on me. I timed it 7 minutes to get back to it so it isn’t always quite as efficient as you think.

Martens: Well, you don’t die and it’s very efficient.

(Audience laughs)

Cheng: The distributions are great, but of course not every level is like that, and you know honestly you wouldn’t want every level to be like that. I mean the different tile sets, the different layouts… that’s one of the things that makes Diablo highly replayable.

So what we are looking at is– look, if we are going to have a dead end can it not be a dead end at the end of a super long two and a half minute hallway? So we are removing all the really long dead ends so that it’s never more than like a five second backtrack or we are also looking at the loops.

I mean loops aren’t technically a dead end but if it’s a really big loop then you explore the whole thing, then you kinda feel like it was a dead end, right? So we are going to get rid of those too.

We are going to make sure that the random level generator (in the way that it does the layout) still keeps the game interesting and fresh; but again, doesn’t dictate whether or not you are going to be able to beat that last tier.

And then, you know, it’s funny that Johhny and Kevin were talking about death; because another problem with that really long hallway (of course) is what happens when you die.

Now we are not going to change hardcore because of course you know you are dead permanently; but in softcore your success or failure can depend on whether or not your run back to your corpse is really long.

It’s a really inconsistent death penalty. In fact, when you look at some of the best clears sometimes the death happen near the checkpoint because there the death penalty is irrelevant. And if it’s at the end of a long two and a half minute run you die once and your whole run you are going to basically fail that tier.

So we are looking at this screen and when we are thinking (you know): “Hey, we got this other rez/corpse respawn that we have disabled. What if we turn that back on, but we still want death to have some teeth to it?”

So again this is just experimental. We are going to put this up on PTR. Try this out. You guys can give us your feedback, but we are going to try incrementing a death timer so it would be 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 each time you die– up to a cap. And that way the most important thing to take away is: death will still be meaningful, but the size of the death penalty doesn’t matter on the kind of level that was generated.

So it feels more like you’re in control. It’s your responsibility to stay alive. You didn’t? Here’s a consistent death penalty. So this–

(Audience claps)

Cheng: Awesome.

Ebbert: How would you like that?

Cheng: You know we should probably take some time out. I think we were talking about Deckard Cain going on that research mission. Let’s check in and see how he’s doing.

(Audience laughs)

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Cheng: Hey, that’s not bad!

Martens: He’s really super slow.

Cheng: Yea. Not the right person to pick. Alright he’s not there yet, so I guess we can use this time. We can talk about Season 2 a little bit.

(Audience screams)

Cheng: So season two is going to be on the PTR soon, and there’s going to be changes again. Let’s take a quick preview of some of the things that are coming in Season 2.

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So let’s talk about Conquests. As you know, there are five conquests: 10 in total, because for both hardcore and softcore which is supposed to be unique different ways to complete and play the game.

There are some conquests that we like and there are some conquests that we didn’t like. So what we are going to do is, we are going to bring back some of our favourite conquests like the one that get to a high greater rift here.

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Tomas Hernandez is owner of Blizzplanet.com since 2003. I post news about World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Hearthstone, Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard Careers, and the Warcraft film.

Blizzplanet is a leading fansite covering news about upcoming Blizzard Entertainment licensed products. I also post previews and reviews. I have interviewed book writers and Blizzard game developers.

I was previously an employee of the OGaming Network (2003), and IncGamers (2008-2010). I was a guest newsposter for GosuGamers (World of Warcraft) a few years ago and for Diablofans.com (formerly Diablo3.com)

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