Blizzard has updated the Diablo III media just prior to the Christmas holidays. Fans are greeted with three new concept artworks and five new gameplay screenshots to hold your breath until the next update.
The first concept art tells us a few things. It is Caldeum and it is described as a bandit city. It is unknown if the place will be hostile to players or if it is just a market place where adventurers may spend some coins on merchadise and to be able to hire mercenaries (followers). The art is signed by Trent (2007). The second artwork shows the beautiful interiors of a palace with a large central pool. It is signed by Peter Lee (2006). The third artwork shows the entrance to a dungeon, presumably. It is signed by Victor Lee (March 2007). So we are seeing three different concept artists and artwork dating back to 2006 and 2007.
The five screenshots show off the female Wizard, the Witch Doctor and the Barbarian in action. The Wizard’s spell graphics is with no doubt awesome. She hurls a lightning bolt across half the screen to hit a target on the other side of the room. The Witch Doctor throws an explosive concoction and up to four fiery pets engage ghostly spellcasters that seem to have been triggered by a trap mechanism that introduces them into the room from the below the ground. The third screenshot shows the Wizard casting a very powerful laser-like beam of fire. It looks more like a continuous redish photon stream that desintegrates anything caught in its path. It covers a large area of the screen. The stream doesn’t stop on the target, it goes through it and continues all the way off the screen.
Something I am liking a lot from these five pictures is that the dungeon is dark. The candles do offer some illumination, but for the most part some areas are dark. Your character and incoming mobs are brighter so that you are able to identify the mobs. The spells are represented with bright and intense pitch white and many variations of pleasant colors. This is not only appealing to your visual input. It gives you a new perspective of the Diablo II dungeons in full 3D, allowing you to recognize and identify monsters around you easier than before, and the spells are just gorgeous. The art direction is going smoothly on my book.
The economic recession across the United States is seriously affecting every industry: from General Motors and other Automobile manufacturers down to book publishers and beyond. Sadly, I have to inform that my personal contacts at Pocket Star Books and Tokyopop have been laid off. I had heard a few weeks ago that Tim Beedle (Starcraft/ Warcraft manga editor) and Susan Hale were no longer at Tokyopop. I don’t know the perks, but now I have figured out it is due to lay offs.
Today, after visiting Keith R.A. DeCandido’s blog, I found out that Marco Palmieri was among the 35 employees laid off by Simon & Schuster on December 3. He was the editor of all Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo novels, and more notoriously known as editor of 65% of the Star Trek pocket star books published in the past 11 years. It is a very sad day for hundreds of writers, including Richard A. Knaak, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Christie Golden, Jeff Grubb, Graham McNeill, and Aaron Rosenberg who had the opportunity to meet and work with him. I am still in shock. I sent him an email just a day ago on Saturday not even knowing he may not even be able to read it from the office.
In my email I was letting him know the URL to the Night of the Dragon review and to ask a few things about the Starcraft Ghost: Spectre. I am really saddened to hear about his sudden departure. I have been in contact with Marco Palmieri for about two or three years. He would ship review copies of most Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft pocket star books to my home. The latest ones Diablo Archive, World of Warcraft: Beyond the Dark Portal and World of Warcraft: Night of the Dragon.
I have no words to thank him for his great support to keep fans updated with lore and upcoming books. Thanks to him, Blizzplanet has been the main source of Blizzard novel news for other fansites, fans and even wiki enthusiasts in the past years. I had the opportunity to hand-shake Marco Palmieri this year at the New York Comic Con and to thank him face-to-face. I was looking forward to meeting him again on 2009. I will get in contact with the new editor, but it will not be the same without Marco. I am not the only one with that sentiment. All of the Blizzard novel writers feel the same way. We hope Marco Palmieri finds a new job doing what he does and loves best. Not only for him, but for his wife and two children. Best wishes to the other 34 employees who were laid off too.
The next Warcraft novel is expected to hit bookstores on April 21 as a hardcover (retail price: $ 25) under the title World of Warcraft: Arthas, The Rise of the Lich King—by Christie Golden. Hopefully, the layoffs won’t delay the release dates and script proposal and revisions for upcoming books.
Source: Keith R.A. DeCandido’s blog
I am fortunate to be one of the lucky people who played the Diablo III demo showcased at Blizzcon 2008 in Anaheim. Not only was it a pleasure to play it, but left me craving for more. I decided to create a female Wizard. She spawns in the outskirts of the Tristram Woods where Captain Rumford and an armored warrior are piling up a bonfire of corpses. The warrior can be seen transporting the corpses off a wagon and into the bonfire.
Captain Rumford says they are burning the corpses to prevent them from rising as undead. NPCs that have something to say have a black oval with dots hovering above them when you place the cursor over them. A popup window displays the “introduction” option, feature that remains a constant from Diablo II. However, not only does each NPC talk to you. Your very own character talks back, interacting with the NPCs. By saying talk, I mean both: the NPC and your character have voice over actors adding emotion and life to the Action / RPG.
Read below a lengthy preview on various features observed in the Diablo III hands-on demo
I started pressing keys to see what options were available. Pressing (C) opens the Character window, Inventory (I), Quest (Q), Skill trees (S), and mini-map toogle (N), Game Menu (ESCAPE button)
At level 5, these were the stats I found on my Wizard character. Hope these stats offer you a better scope of how the Wizard stats and abilities work:
Melee damage: 2-8 | Spell damage: 12-23 | Armor: 34
- 16 Strength – Physical damage bonus: 16% | Armor Bonus 26%
- 28 Dexterity – Crit chance 7.0% | Dodge chance: 7.0
- 18 Vitality – Life: 56 | Mana Regen: 0.9 sec.
- 94 Willpower – Spell damage bonus: 52.8% | Health globe bonus: 0.0%
In Diablo II, you get points after leveling to spend on these four stats. In Diablo III, thus far, these stats increase automatically. You no longer have control over where these points are spent into. At the bottom of the Character (C) window, you can find a table with two columns displaying the following data:
|1.20 Attacks per second
70% Physical crit chance
150.0% Physical crit damage
|0.0% Block amount
6.0% Block chance
2.5% Physical damage reduction
At the bottom left of the Character (C) window you will find your character resistances. These can be determined by icons:
Blue snowflake = Frost
Red Flame = Fire
Purple Thunder = Lightning
Green Skull = Poison
Yellow icon = Arcane
The Inventory window shows a lot of visual information. It has a simple and intuitive UI frame with colorful gradients of orange and dark brown, and stylized symbols that highlight a gothic-like feeling. You can see your character model viewer which allows you to rotate your character. Around the viewer, you have 12 gear slots: helm, medallion, chest, sash, 2 rings, weapon, shield, boots, pants, gloves, and shoulder. Between the weapon and the shield is a strange circle. When clicking it, a new window pops forward. Based on the demo observation and loot, this window with 9 circles resembles the Glyphs window from World of Warcraft. In the case of Diablo 3, these 9 circles are reserved for Runes. Thus far in the Blizzcon demo, only the Wizard can equip runes. (i.e. certain monsters may randomly drop a minor power rune).
Beneath the character viewer and gear slots can be seen the bag inventory—all in the same window. There are 30 slots, but only a few are enabled. You can expand to the full 30 slots by adding bags into the bag slots. On the bottom-right you can see four slots. There is where you drag the bags into. By dropping the bag item into that slot, you increase the amount of slots enabled. Eventually your goal is to enable all 30 slots. Each slot is thin and tall, and certain items can stack in the same slot. Doesn’t look like there is a special slot bar for potions, but mini-health potions have been seen, as well as elixir of dexterity and elixir of vitality which may have durations of up to 300 seconds (5 minutes).
Not much was revealed about [WIKI]Runes[/WIKI]. [WIKI]Barbarian[/WIKI] and [WIKI]Witchdoctor[/WIKI] classes don’t have runes enabled in the Blizzcon demo, so it looks like it is something still in the works. In a press panel, [WIKI]Jay Wilson[/WIKI] revealed these runes will change the visual effects of your character and its spells/abilities. Imagine your lightning spell increasing its glow making it look more powerful and actually increasing your damage output.
You may toggle the mini-map by pressing (N). It is more effective than the old Diablo II map overlay (tab). The mini-map is located on the upper-right corner. It has no frame like the World of Warcraft circle framed mini-map. It has an unframed tall rectangular area. By pressing the arrow keys you can move the mini-map in any direction. To reset simply press (N) twice, or escape.
How is this new mini-map more effective? Diablo II’s overlay map would take the whole screen, and would interfere your line of sight affecting what you could see on-screen. By placing the overlay map to the upper-right corner, your whole screen is visible for gameplay purposes. Each [WIKI]NPC[/WIKI] is displayed as a tiny yellow dot. Place your mouse cursor over the yellow dots, and automatically a window pops up above the dot displaying the name of the NPC. You can see and identify NPCs ahead of you, not yet within visual range. Update: Monsters are not displayed by the mini-map. You will still have the element of surprise. The mini-map helps you locate NPCs that might have a quest for you, or some interaction options to learn some lore.
RARE MONSTERS / BOSS
In Diablo II, it was hard sometimes to notice a rare [WIKI]monster[/WIKI] among a bunch of mobs. Sometimes you would even get killed before noticing a rare was behind that bunch of mobs. In Diablo III, before the rare monster or boss enters into view, a name tag pops at the top-center with a health bar. The health bar is divided into a few rectangles. The health bar / name tag window displays the special attributes of the monster (i.e. a rare named Head of Grief had three attributes beneath its name tag: Vampiric, Froze, Fast.
While exploring the world, you will find NPCs with a yellow exclamation sign floating above their head. When you accept the [WIKI]quest[/WIKI], the title and objectives are displayed onscreen at the right-center for few seconds, then fades out. You can access the quest window by pressing (Q). It’s very similar to World of Warcraft. After walking away from the bonefire of corpses at the Tristram Woods, you enter the Ruins of Tristram. There are a few destroyed buildings. You can see the Physix engine in action when randomly some debris of the ruins crumble down. Placing your mouse cursor over some of the door signs you will find Griswold’s Blacksmith Shop. While exploring, you find a well. It can be highlighted if you place your cursor on. A quest starts and it is automatically displayed onscreen to the right: Little Girl Lost. Objective: Find a way to free the little girl’s spirit from the old well in Tristram.
When you stand near the well you can hear the girl’s voice over and weeping. She is trapped inside the well. Something funny … some of her quotes resemble that of the girl in the Poltergeist film. Exploring further into the Tristram ruins you find a female ghost and listen to her voice over which is repeated over and over randomly: Where has gone my girl? She must be so lonely. She never goes away without her doll. She’s lost without it!
Not far from the ghost you will find a chest on the ground. Within lies the doll. Loot it and return to the well. The quest is completed as you return the doll. The spirit of the girl ascends from within the deep well and thank you. A reward is automatically placed in your inventory. You will read a message onscreen saying how much XP (experience) you gained, and the name of the looted item. In my case, a Socketed Boots of Brawn (+9 armor, 1 socket, + 2 strength).
Before reaching the Cathedral of Tristram entrance, you will find [WIKI]zombies[/WIKI] kneeled on the ground as if eating from a body. Once you kill them, the body on the ground – tagged Dying Adventurer – automatically highlights a yellow exclamation sign enabling a new quest: The Return of the Skeleton King.
The voice over says something along these lines: “Please … listen to me! The fire, somehow … it awoke him. The Skeleton King’s evil haunts the cathedral once more.”
Your character’s voice over says: “Skeleton King, huh? Sounds interesting. Rest easy. I will show him the err of his ways.”
Enter the cathedral. Eventually you will find an NPC with a yellow sign on his head. Take the quest. Guess who the NPC is? If you have played Diablo 1 or have visited DiabloWiki.net the name Lachdanan will ring a bell. He was the loyal friend of King Leoric in Diablo 1. Lachdanan killed King Leoric, who cursed him on his last dying breath.
SCROLLS & BOOKS
This is probably the most lovely lore source feature for players who decide to immerse themselves into the world of Sanctuary. Let’s say you enter a dungeon, and find a pedestal. When you highlight the pedestal, by moving your mouse cursor over it and clicking it, you loot the book. Open your Inventory (I) and click the book or scroll. A sound clip pops up at the bottom-right of the screen. Underneath the clip are three buttons: play, stop, close. It is a voice over recording telling the story within the book.
For example, in the Cathedral of Tristram, the Journal of King Leoric tells his story during the time Diablo possessed his son Albrecht (Diablo I).
The three buttons to the right of the main UI correspond to the Left Mouse button, Right Mouse button and an alternate Right button that switches those last two by pressing TAB button.
- Click the left mouse button to move and attack enemies.
- Click right mouse button to use the assigned skill
- Press the alt key to show all dropped items
- Use the 1-4 keys to activate assigned hot bar skills
- Right-click on a hot bar, or mouse button slot to assign a new skill.
- Press TAB or scroll the mouse wheel to swap between right mouse and alternate right mouse skills.
The Skeleton King appears at the third level of the Tristram Cathedral. Former King Leoric has a large axe. As told by Jay Wilson in the past, boss events can feel epic without the town portal escape trick or the heal potion spam mechanic. Once the Skeleton King engages in combat, dozens of zombies enter the room to attack you. The boss has an animation that alerts you when he is about to slam his long axe toward you. The idea here is to attack him a few times, and run away before he slams the axe in front of him. It can be avoided. Kill a few mobs for health orbs, and attack the Skeleton King again. Rinse and repeat. I was able to kill King Leoric without dying by doing these steps. Sadly, the Diablo III demo finished after killing this first boss, with a message from Blizzard congratulating me for killing the Skeleton King in this BlizzCon 2008 demo.
After playing the demo at Blizzcon, I can only say—hopefully not sounding heretic – that I loved Diablo III, and look forward for the announcement of the remaining two classes. No release date for Diablo III unfortunately, but personally I wish this game was on stores around October 2009. Gameplay mechanics are very similar to Diablo II, except much better. The graphics are vibrant and colorful, without taking away the epic and dark feel of the previous games. The Physix engine honors the [WIKI]Barbarian[/WIKI] class pretty well, smashing stuff and debris in all directions.
You can click emblems on the walls, that activate a mechanism that drops a candelabrum. If timed correctly, it could smash onto a group of mobs. If you move your character quickly into the area the candelabrum drops on, your character gains daze effect for a few seconds (funny). It would be cool to interact more with objects and traps using the Physix engine to benefit you on bosses and monster encounters. For those who asked me recently if [WIKI]Stashes[/WIKI] and [WIKI]Waypoints[/WIKI] are returning in Diablo III, I asked [WIKI]Jay Wilson[/WIKI] and the answer is yes. Waypoints however will play a different function this time around. Upon death you respawn at the [WIKI]check point[/WIKI]. Check points I observed in the BlizzCon demo happen by the door toward the next catacomb (for example). Some objects spawn near you at the check point. You need to equip them again. This means no more running back to your corpse which is surrounded by 15 monsters. Diablo III is enhancing everything that was broken in Diablo II.
After receiving the Diablo Archive, boasting 752 pages, just recently, I decided to read through it backwards starting with Diablo: Demonsbane by Robert B. Marks (of Garwulf’s Corner fame).
I am sure the Diablo Archive will be a jewel among my Blizzard novels collection. Better to have four Diablo novels on a single tome, than have invididual books all around the place unable to find them at times. There is one thing I disapprove from the Diablo Archive however. For such a big tome, and quiet heavy in weight, the cover designer Richard Yoo or whoever chose the cover material should have gone for thick cardboard material. This huge archive is no pocket book. It is about two inches thick. The cover material is made of the same material as any other pocket book with the same thin thickness. The result is a jellyfish-effect when you handle the heavy book around. I usually read on my bed. At times when I am uncomfortable, I usually lie on my back and rise the book above me in the air. The weight is almost unbearable after 20 minutes, but the material doesn’t help. Enough with the material rant.
What can be found inside is worth the nuisance. For years, I have heard of Diablo: Demonsbane. A lecture painted in myth. Something I knew existed, but couldn’t reach. It was a few years ago, when I first heard of its existence. It was released on 2000 in ebook format. I have a lot of Warcraft RPG books in ebook format, and even purchased Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor as an ebook. But for some odd reason I never got around reading Diablo: Demonsbane, even when I craved it more than any other book. Curiosity compels one’s craving. I have never read a review of Demonsbane, or heard what it was about. I just knew it was the first of the Diablo stories ever released.
I reported about the first printing of Diablo: Demonsbane on paper two years ago on July 2, 2006. It was titled Blizzard Legends Vol. 1. It contained a printed version of three ebooks from each game franchise: Warcraft: Of Blood and Honor (by Chris Metzen), Starcraft: Uprising (by Micky Neilson), and Diablo: Demonsbane (by Robert B. Marks).
However, it is now with the release of Diablo Archive that fans have the opportunity to get this craved story more broadly as it comes bundled along with Diablo: Kingdom of Shadow, Diablo: The Black Road, and Diablo: Legacy of Blood.
Personally, I was expecting something different in Diablo: Demonsbane. More of a dark fantasy meets Lord of the Rings with some fancy Shakesperian old-english language accent. Part of the myth I envisioned for lack of any knowledge of a Demonsbane’s summary.
I started reading on Sunday evening and couldn’t stop reading. It caught my attention. It is a short novella spanning through page 685-738. According to the epilogue, these events take place on year 302 and seem to happen during the Sin War. Right at the end when I read the epilogue, it made me wonder. Did Diablo: The Sin War somehow retconned Demonsbane? I have no idea. What I do know is that none of the events of the Sin War trilogy seem to be mentioned in it. Nor did the main character in Demonsbane show up in the Sin War trilogy.
Which book comes first in the timeline is also a mystery to me. One thing does gets mentioned that might help those who have better knowledge of the timeline than me. Sarnakyle the Kejistan mage of the Spirit Mage Clan mentioned he was among the party of mages that killed Bartuc the Warlord of Blood at Viz-jun two years earlier.
The story is centered around Siggard, a warrior who fought at Blackmarch with the Entsteig’s army. They had fought demons there led by the favored archdemon of the Lord of Terror: Lord Assur. This archdemon has a peculiar glyph of invincibility that makes him feared by the Vizjerei Mage clans. There is however one thing that may kill him, and that would be spoiling it. I did see it coming when I read what could kill him, but was unsure as the requirements for it to happen were not clear at sight, specially with the interaction of Siggard with the other characters.
Ever since the Night of Souls through the events in Brennor, it kept bouncing around my mind why Siggard can’t remember anything about Blackmarch until certain point as if he had magically forgotten. As I was reaching the last pages of the story, it was more evident my suspicions were right, but the idea resulted contradictory. Making me doubt. Robert B. Marks wrote here a very nice story, and wrapped up with a surprise few could have seen coming. It keeps a fast pace, while adding elements of suspense. I enjoyed the read and don’t regret it. One well-known character appears a couple of times, but heavily weights on the outcome of the story: Tyrael.
I will be reading through the Diablo Archive in upcoming days. One thing I am glad of doing, however, is to have started backwards, reading Diablo: Demonsbane first. It is a pity this story was brought as an ebook and as a short novella. As an ebook, it didn’t get the attention it deserved in 2000. And as a novella, it was too short. The story was worth an entire book of 378 pages. I hope the author writes a continuation of Siggard’s adventures. Otherwise, I would like to read a new story from him again. Take note Blizzard. Cheers, Robert B. Marks.
Go grab your copy of the Diablo Archive.