This is a transcript of the BlizzCon 2016 Diablo 20th Anniversary panel. The event was held by the following panelists:

  • Kevin Martens (lead game designer)
  • Wyatt Cheng (technical game designer)
  • John Mueller (art director)
  • Julian Love (lead FX artist)



BlizzCon 2016 Diablo 20th Anniversary Panel Transcript

Narrator: Welcome to the Diablo 20th anniversary panel.

Editor’s Note: Short video clip runs with developers talking about the Diablo 20th Anniversary.

Julia Humphreys: Welcome to my realm of terror.

Developer: Diablo to me is atmosphere wrapped with action.

Developer: Constant action.

Bob Fitch: Diablo is historics.

John Hight: Diablo is loot.

Mike Morhaime: Magic loot.

Derek Duke: Cool loot.

John Lagrave: Phat Loot.

Jeff Kaplan: Diablo is the ultimate…

Julia Humphreys: epic…

Developer: dark…

Bill Roper: gothic…

Developer: scary…

Jeff Kaplan: fight between heaven and hell.

Glenn Stafford: Pa-pa-pa-pa-Pa-pa-pa-PA… No one would know where that is from probably.

Developer: Diablo was a new style of game for us.

Mike Morhaime: Blizzard was making an RPG, why would you do that? RPGs are dead.

Developer: We want to take the twist of turning a turn-based role playing game into a real-time role playing game

Developer: and it made it fast paced, it made it immersive.

Sam Didier: It wasn’t something that you would have to invest millions of hours in because you are trying to answer the questions of this story that is going on. You invest millions of hours in Diablo because it’s fun to play.

Bob Fitch: Who doesn’t remember some of their best boss fights.

Kevin Martens: My favorite boss fight is Belial.

Julia Humphreys: Belial.

Developer: Duriel.

Developer: Duriel.

John Hight: Malthael.

Wyatt Cheng: The Butcher.

Paul Sams: The Butcher.

Developer: The Butcher.

Developer: The Butcher.

Allen Adham: Fresh Meat.

Developer: Fresh Meat… like what was that? And this guy comes out to: chop, chop, chop.

Allen Adham: We want you to feel a little bit nervous, a little bit scared.

Bill Roper: I think the core of the Diablo experience is that terror…

Wyatt Cheng: There’s really two stories going on: there is the story of the game

Kevin Martens: the story of the essence of humanity

Wyatt Cheng: and of course, on the other hand there’s the player story, the story of staying up way later than you should have

Developer: if I could just get to the next waypoint

Bill Roper: like: “Oh man, I’m super close to level.”

Developer: Well, you know, the boss is right around the corner

Developer: before he knew it, it was dark.

Bill Roper: Okay, I’m just going to play to this last area, I’m going to close this out.

Kevin Martens: I called in sick to work that very first day, that very first time I installed Diablo.

Wyatt Cheng: I finished the whole game in one sitting.

Developer: You’re invited to just come in and stay a while. Deckard Cain says it. Stay awhile and listen.

John Hight: Stay a while and listen.

Bob Fitch: Stay a while and listen.

Jeff Kaplan: Stay awhile

John Lagrave: Stay awhile

Glenn Stafford: Stay awhile

Paul Sams: Stay awhile and L– No, I can’t do it.

Developer: Stay a while and listen.

John Hight: What makes Diablo fun is getting that awesome piece of gear.

Wyatt Cheng: For the first time you saw that amazing item,

Developer: and it’s got the stats you’re looking for.

Wyatt Cheng: You know, just completely changed how you thought about your character.

Developer: then when suddenly someone turns the hostile flag on and then kills half the team when they’re in the middle of a boss fight.

John Lagrave: ARGHH… I just died.

Sam Didier: I don’t get to get revenge on the bastard who killed me.

Glenn Stafford: was coming this close to killing Diablo.

Julia Humphreys: missing the treasure goblin

Glenn Stafford: got me to do it all over again

Bob Fitch: but then finally doing it, that’s also what makes it so satisfying.

Allan Adham: I actually would like to see Diablo harder.

Developer: I think that there were a lot of things that took a while for people to discover and find.

Developer: Best kept secrets of Diablo, well…

Julia Humphreys: Hmmm…. secrets.

John Lagrave: There is no cow level.

John Hight: Cow level? No. I’m sure there is no cow level.

Bob Fitch: Of course there’s a cow level

Julia Humphreys: but that doesn’t sound very Diablo to me.

Wyatt Cheng: I know that there is an answer that I’m supposed to say.

Glenn Stafford: I would have to deny the existence of a cow level.

Jeff Kaplan: I would have to deny the existence of the cow level.

Bob Fitch: I’ve played the cow level.

Developer: But it sounds just utterly ridiculous.

Kevin Martens: Frankly, I don’t appreciate the rumor.

John Height: >.> ... <.< ... maybe!

Wyatt Cheng: Diablo has a legacy.

Sam Didier: We're celebrating a 20-year anniversary, and people are still playing this game.

Glenn Stafford: There's all these amazing stories of how people made these connections.

Bill Roper: I remember we got a letter from somebody saying like: "Hey, I met this person playing Diablo and we're going to get married.

John Lagrave: I've given a copy of the game to one of my friends every time and because he's far away I can only really interact with him at times just to say: "hey what's going?" through Diablo, and I think about that bond, that friendship, like it’s massive.

Developer: We come to work with the best people, and day in and day out that's our goal.

Kevin Martens: to make things explode in blood and treasure, and I can't think of a better job that you could have, and I'm so excited to come in every day.

Developer: I just want to say thanks to all of the players.

John Lagrave: Thank you.

Julia Humphreys: Thank you.

Allan Adham: Thank you.

Bill Roper: Thank you.

Developer: Thank you, so much.

Kevin Martens: Thank you, so much.

Mike Morhaime: Thank you for twenty years of Diablo.

Sam Didier: We’ll see you in hell.



Diablo 20th Anniversary Panel Transcript

Kevin: Hello, Blizzcon. Welcome to the 20th Anniversary panel for Diablo III. Before we get started, we have a few new things today. We have a lot of new stuff tomorrow as well. I do want to take a moment and introduce our panelists. My name is Kevin Martens, I’m the lead designer of Diablo III. With me I have Wyatt Cheng (senior designer), Mr. John Mueller (our art director), and Julian Love (the lead visual effects artist). Give a round of applause.

So real quick, we have got three parts here. We're going to talk about the anniversary event: The Darkening of Tristram, where it came from, why it's there, what it does. We're going to have a new feature: the Armory feature unveiled today, and we're going to do a deep dive on the Necromancer: A lot of information, art, new skills, all sorts of things there. So even if you played the necromancer, we've got new things to show you today.



Alright, so twenty years... how many of you played Diablo I? Well, thank you very much and welcome to our 20th anniversary. It has been a crazy time for us. All of us on the Diablo III team are big fans of Diablo I and II. That's why we are here. I know you guys are too, so thank you for this journey with us so far. Let's take a quick trip down memory lane.

Diablo I was released in December 31st in 1996 though Mike Morhaime tells me that unless you lived in Irvine where the desks were physically being distributed you probably didn't play it until January, and it was released in one language: English; and the reason I have an asterisk there, we did a lot more with that later. A lot of fan mods came out to add other languages to it. The game became a lot more popular. I think than Blizzard expected -- which is awesome.



This was the same year that the Nintendo 64 came out, and that is the fact that made me feel super old. You know, and it doesn't feel like twenty years ago. I remember playing that game, and calling in sick to work, and I don't feel that much older; but clearly from the slide I am.



In tech news, this is the year that in chess the IBM Deep Blue computer was beaten by Gary Kasparov, right? So humans won. We beat the AI. Awesome.



But in '97, the computer AI did beat Gary Kasparov, which I'm sure is a fine sign for the future of humanity; and we have nothing to be concerned about whatsoever.



Wyatt: This is the year that Diablo came out on Diablo I came out in 1996, and back then the internet was still young, and it wasn't common for games to have an integrated matchmaking service for online play. So we wanted to make it really clear that when you bought Diablo, the service was going to help you play with other people.



If you remember... those of you who played Diablo I, you had 7 inventory slots, or 7 equip slots. You didn't have a belt because you didn't have any pants. The inventory was 40 squares big, but most of the items took up 6 different spaces, and of course, gold took up space in your inventory as well. You’d have these piles of five thousand gold taking up space in your inventory.



Skills were different in Diablo I, as well. You didn't learn skills from a skill tree. You got them from skill books, and then once you had learned the skill, you could then put it on; and for those of you who can remember way back, you had to have enough magic skilled in order to learn it, and that number of course many will remember went up to 255.



Kevin: So fast forward to June of 2000 when Diablo II came out, and we had grown a lot. It was released in 9 languages, up from 1 -- which is a significant increase, and 640x480 resolution seemed like all anyone would ever need. That was perfectly fine, and I joke about this because this was a huge deal at the time. People wanted 800x600, and I think that at that point we were just really desperate to get this game out right.



A lot of work had been put in, and this was the year that the PS2 came out, which was a huge deal for gaming as well. So a lot of milestones that year. That was also the year the computer AIs did try to kill us all. So... thank you engineers for saving us from that evil overlord there. Good job.


... and then a year later in June 2001, Lord of destruction came out -- which was a huge improvement over Diablo II, and 800x600 resolution saved everything, was all we would ever need, and this was the year that improved dramatically as well.


Wyatt: Now online support continued to improve. We had ladders that were added in Diablo II which allowed everyone to play together, as well as improved online services, as well as the mini models where you can actually see previews of other people who are in the same chat channel as you.



The equips slots continued to evolve, still no pants but we did have a belt, and this belt had special functionality. It held your potions and many of you will remember that joyous moment on a new character when you got that fourth row of potions and you were so happy to have that fourth row that you could have, and we also added a special gold counter, and gold in your stash and the amount of gold you could carry was limited by your character level, and the skill system continued to evolve.



Some of you may recognize the skill tree bonus points for those of you necromancer, recognize the skill tree from Diablo II, and that way rather than being randomly assigned from skill books. You could pick the skills that you wanted.



Kevin: Alright, so fast forward again to May of 2012, and we apologized before for how long that took. Sorry again about that. We released in 12 languages. So as Blizzard had grown, Diablo had grown. As the game industry has grown, Diablo had grown. This story of this 20th year, it's kind of a story of all of us. It's not just about Diablo. Things got bigger.



This is the year that the Mayan calendar tried to kill us all. Now not the Mayans. The calendar, I presume is going to fall on us because it's heavy, but we prevented that as well.



Console for Diablo III. That was something that's very important to us. It took us about 14 months, but in September of 2013, the game came out on Xbox 360 and PS3. So naturally, Microsoft and Sony responded by releasing the next generation of consoles in November of that year. So we answered back by releasing Reaper of Souls, and then also an Evil Edition, and bringing it up to 5 platforms ,and adding one more language: Japanese, for a total of thirteen languages. So Diablo has gotten way way bigger.


Wyatt: Online support continued to improve, and level up with the addition of clans and communities in Diablo III and Reaper of Souls, as well as the friends list you've come to know and love with support not just within the Diablo, but across all Blizzard titles, allowing you to communicate and see the online presence of your friends who are playing World of Warcraft, Starcraft, and other games.



Wyatt: Our inventory augmented now to 13 items, including pants.

Kevin: You know, I have to say for those of you who had ventured for like 16 years without pants, we salute you. Good job.

Wyatt: Yeah, I apologize that we were a little bit behind on that; and then gold also became auto pickup and you can hold as much as you want; and then the skill system continued to evolve with 6 active skills, with 5 skill runes each, dedicated place for your passives that you could choose. The skill system now allowed players to customize their character builds in a multitude of ways.



Kevin: So happy Anniversary Diablo and thank you. And what would our 20th Anniversary be without an in-game party? Let's take a look at the Darkening of Tristram event.



Next: The Darkening of Tristram 20th Anniversary Event

BlizzCon 2016 Diablo 20th Anniversary Panel Transcript
Panel IntroDarkening of TristramThe ArmoryThe NecromancerNecromancer Gameplay

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts