BlizzCon 2016 Diablo 20th Anniversary Panel Transcript

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-00001

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.

[bluepost]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.[/bluepost]

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00002

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00004

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00005

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00006

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00007

Wyatt: This is the year that Diablo came out on Battle.net. 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 Battle.net service was going to help you play with other people.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00008

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00009

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00010

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00011

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.

[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="large" ids="41624,41625"]

... 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 Battle.net improved dramatically as well.

[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="large" ids="41626,41627"]

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00016

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00017

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00018

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00021

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00022

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.

[gallery link="file" size="large" ids="41633,41634,41635"]

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00026

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00028

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.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00031

Next: The Darkening of Tristram 20th Anniversary Event

[table id=89 /] [table id=86 /]

The Darkening of Tristram 20th Anniversary Event

So in the beginning, this was a totally different thing. So we were just going to add the classic music tracks to the game. So as you are playing adventure mode, Interesting you hear this song, you hear some of the other songs as you wander around doing bounties or rifts, and that was going to be cool.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00032

We'd have a party here, that video you watched... it was all going to be good; but that was not enough for this team. So instead of just the music tracks, you are getting 16 dungeon levels plus the boss level. All 4 of the bosses recreated: both the models and the AI of those bosses, all presented in glorious pixelated retro-vision, and we are giving you lots of anniversary presents.

So the Darkening of Tristram (at this point) the things to watch for are (as Frank mentioned) we checked out most of the animations. They are about 25% of the movement animations. So the character walks around all stilted, and they don't have turn animations. The run animation is gone completely, the camera has changed to make it feel more 2D. The audio is tiny on purpose, so it sounds like the 1990s.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00033

Our tech director told me that we are not trying to recreate 1996, because Diablo’s engine was actually really advanced for its time, so we really had to capture that late 1997 sound. So that's what we have gone for here.

Alright. I'm just going to shut up and show you. I do want to say one thing though, on these big monitors it turns out that the pixelation doesn't really come across very well, so maybe pay attention more to the animations and the sound; and when you play it next week on PTR, you will see the retro-vision in all its glory.

There he is heading to the Tristram Cathedral. Okay, combat is Diablo III, but the movement in everything is straight from the 90s. We have taken all the levels that most closely match those of the four different major looks of Diablo I, we have recreated the monsters with the ones that look closest to it. In some cases, we did our changes, they have new AIs so they matched the monsters from there like we always had. The fall and #### for example but now we have all the variants and they have more simplistic AI than they do in Diablo III, and the retro UI is one thing you can't see in that movie.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00035

This was another example of something that was out of scope for this, but this mode just kept scope creeping like crazy. It was good. One of our artists, Josh Manning, found out we were going to cut this part of it, and he is like: "Okay, I will do it." So he grabbed a team of people, they did it largely on their own time just so you guys could get this little feeling from it.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00035

When this event happens, you're going to see this pentagram near the old ruins. and when you go there, you are going to find this portal near the fountain and you enter, and everything gets crappy.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00037

So in the retro-vision, all Tristram, look around. There is a ton of Easter eggs there, and a lot of stuff ties into what you find in the dungeon.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00038

You are going to unlock some mysteries. So the presents we have for you. First up, we have cosmetic items like portraits that are based on those original health and mana globes from Diablo I, we've got a banner and sigil to commemorate this event. You can earn this every year, and we have pets. Of course we have pets.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00040

So bit of a spoiler: the Butcher is in the game. This is baby Butcher, and instead of a teddy bear, he has got a little piece of meat that he chews on; and we presume it's fresh, but nobody wants to get close enough to find out; and he will follow you around. So you can earn him. I think you can imagine how you get him, and of course, at the end the cinematic plays.

[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="large" ids="41650,41651"]

Because.... every character class including the necromancer gets a transmog of the soulstone in their skull, because this is our first helmet slot legendary gem which is the soul of Diablo from Diablo I; and it unleashes a Ring of Fire (that you can’t control the demonic energy within you) every so often.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00044

So our first helmet slot legendary with that transmog for every character class: male and female. Thank you, and for weapon transmog, of course, we have classic Butcher's Cleaver and Wirt’s wooden Leg.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00045

"Wait..." you might say. "Don't we already have Wirt’s Leg in the game?" We do, because now you can do a Wirt’s Leg: both his wooden one and his original skeleton one; and I think the guilt meter of what we have done to Wirt at this point is very high. So maybe we're not going to do any more to him in the future.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00046

Alright, since you already know the Butcher is in the game, I did want to show you one of the four bosses and that exactly mirrors my experience when I first found the Butcher in Diablo I.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00047

Alright, so here is an example of what we have done to the bosses. So the ones you already know like Skeleton King and Butcher, their art has been redone to look more like the 90s versions of them.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00048

So that is just one example of the four bosses, and of course, Lazarus we had to create because he's not currently in the game. So of course, when can you play this? It goes on PTR next week, but this is patch 2.4.3 and it has more than just the Anniversary Event, including a bunch of items that we are going to unveil tomorrow at our Day 2 panel. So please come to that.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00049

Lastly, the event goes live worldwide in January, and this will be an annual event. So every January, for the month of January approximately, the Darkening of Tristram event will be live, and you can earn all of these rewards and all the ones I didn't tell you about which I hope you find next week. Alright. And of course, this is on PC, PS4, and XBox One. So now I want to pass it over to Wyatt to talk about the armory.

Next: The Armory

[table id=89 /] [table id=86 /]

The Armory

Wyatt: Thanks Kevin. So we have a lot in store for you in 2017. As Kevin mentioned, there is the Anniversary Event, in a little bit you are going to hear more about the Necromancer, but for some of you, I think that the biggest feature coming in 2017 might actually be something we haven't talked yet a lot about... which is the Armory.

Now I know some of you are wondering: "What's the armory?" Let me set the stage. Have you ever been out as a monk in a Dashing Rift set, Dashing Strike Monk set, but you actually wanted to put on your Uliana's gear.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00050

So you have to swap your items, and swap all your skills. By the time you are done, your group doesn't need you anymore.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00051

We are going to fix that. You guessed it. We have a full equipment manager coming in a future patch in 2017. You're going to be able save 5 loadouts per character, all your skills, all your passives, all your items, Kanai’s Cube powers. Everything is saved for you.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00053

Let's take a look at what that looks like. So here we want to save our Dashing Strike set. You can see the armory is located right next to the stash. You can name the set the way that you want. So that you can remember what it is later.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00054

Once you have saved it, You can inspect it, to remind yourself what items were in there, what Kanai’s Cube power you have, what passives you had selected.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00055

Later on, when you want to retrieve that set. let's say that you just came back from doing some rifts as an Uliana's, and now you want to go back to your Dashing Strike set. You switch back to your Dashing Strike set. Hit a single button. Here it comes. Boom! Just like that. Done.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00039

Now you are ready to go off in your Dashing Strike set. There is a lot of details we had to work out to get this to work properly. A lot of questions people have: "What happens to my Paragon points?" You know, it's interesting we actually don't save your paragon points, but it's for a good reason: you are constantly earning paragon levels, and we didn't want it to be that we saved your paragon point distribution, and then you come back just twenty minutes later, you've gone into extra Paragon points, you have to reallocate those two points and save it again. It was actually more inconvenient. We want this to be a convenient feature for you.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00058

"How about my gems? I've got lots of different gems." We actually remember the engineer who is in charge of the feature, Mr. Kevin Hassett, he wanted to make sure that this feature did exactly what you wanted. So if you put in some Marquise rubies, but then later on you come back to a set, you have actually upgraded to Flawless Royal, it wll grab those Flawless Royal rubies for you, and put those in automatically.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00059

Now some people wonder: "Well, I have to swap the gems back and forth. How do I pay for it? ... because we want to be able to swap back and forth, but moving those rubies around every time cost money." Right? No, it doesn't. Not anymore, because starting in the future patch with the Armory, we are removing the unsocketing costs.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00060

We want you to have no reason at all not to swap back and forth between all the sets and toys that you have accumulated. We are doing the same thing for your legendary gems. Let's say that you have got your Bane of the Trapped, and you are going to level it up, or you use one for an augment. It will go to whatever your highest ranked gem is, of the type that you saved at the time that you wanted to save your set. Everything is handled for you.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00061

And of course, the Armory is coming to both PC and Console. Here is a quick shot of the Console implementation.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00062

So up next, to talk about the necromancer I'd like to introduce Mr. John Mueller (our art director) -- who fun fact: did the design for the shirt that I'm wearing right now. This is a Diablo Dev Team shirt.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00063

So if you see anybody on the showfloor wearing this shirt, they are going to be a member of the Development Team. It's got this skull design on the back for the Dark Wanderers. They want to talk to you, all the members of the Diablo team want to talk to you. So if you see somebody wearing the shirt, go up to them. Say hi. Tell them what you are looking forward to in a future patch. So I'm going to pass it off to John, but before we do that -- in case you haven't seen it yet -- first we are going to play the Necromancer reveal cinematic.

[bluepost]Necromancer: Death has ravaged our world and the balance that sustained us has been lost. We feel this day would come when the lands are ruined and the champions of the light no longer save those in need, but I will, for I wield the power they cannot, the new army of the dead shall rise at my command. All who threaten the balance, beware.

[/bluepost]

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00064

Next: The Necromancer

[table id=89 /] [table id=86 /]

The Necromancer

John: Wasn't it amazing? That was created by the Blizzard in-game cinematic team, so quick round of applause for them. That was awesome. OK, so I'm excited to be here representing the Diablo art team to walk you guys through what it was like reimagining the necromancer for Diablo III, and this really gets to what sounds like a simple question.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00065

But when we kind of got into it, got a little bit complex, because we had to answer this question: "Who is the necromancer?" and that question on the surface, well, the Necromancer is a priest of Rathma who wields powers of the undead.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00066

Well, that sounds kind of boring, because with the necromancer... actually as we found is 16 years of player experiences, and when we started to talk to the team, we realized we had to go far and wide, and this is where at Blizzard we use this process called brainstorming and ideation; and that's where we get all the best ideas from all of our developers to get the best results we can get.

Now this first concept was-- now this is all stuff that sort of influenced where we arrived about who the Necromancer was. This was created by Aaron Gaines (character artist), and this is sort of this theme of the necromancers: the king of the dead. Right? This was a very common theme that came up as we were developing the class.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00067

This next one, this is by Victor Lee, I call this one "The Hunter," and this one is like the necromancer... this fearsome character who like wears the trophies of the dead on his armor. He's got the demon head in his hand, and he's got the scythe. Just looks completely badass, and then I call this guy this is by Michael Franchina and I call this guy "the Crypt Keeper" because he's sort of like looks like he is literally living with the dead. He's sort of got his hand out, he's smiling, his eyes are torn out, and he's sort of like welcome to my crypt you know like just a very happy necromancer living with the dead.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00069

Okay, so where did we arrive through this sort of ideation process? and this landed us at this very simple statement which is that the Necromancer is the commander of the dead, that he is a rockstar. This was an interesting theme that came up because he's got like an entourage of skeletons, right? Like the coolest entourage any rock star could ever dream of, and we thought that this was a really cool theme that we could access to bring the class forward into Diablo III, and most importantly, the necromancer is just cool. He's one of the coolest classes.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00071

This is when we talked to everybody. The players stories: "Wouldn't it be cool if the necromancer did this..." there was just so much that we accessed there, and additionally, we had the fun task of introducing the first female necromancer into the world of Diablo.

Okay, so now we know who the Necromancer is. The necromancer is the commander of the dead. Now production begins. This is sort of we start to put all the pixels and polygons in their plates, and this is the classic set. Our goal is to stay true to the necromancer to make sure that we are accessing those players' stories as well as adding our own flavors to it, and we start to begin to add these flavors, and this is that Hunter theme reimagined by Ryan Metcalf, and this is wearing the trophies of his enemies. This is trying to get all the themes of the sort of paganism that we liked about that theme of sacrifice; and of course, we have this idea that the Necromancer is also a sophisticated character, and this comes through in the sort of aristocratic theme that we came up with.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00074

Okay, now it's hard to have some fun, because we start to mix and match some of these themes that we discovered, and this is the -- what I call the bone saint, and this is where we take the idea that the Necromancer is all about the dead, but he's also a king. He's also you know kind of like a saint of the dead; and of course, now we have these really cool themes that are pure themes, and this is something that we added to the class which is like we want to do a whole armor set that is just all about blood; and the necromancer's shoulderpads which are hearts that literally pump blood as he runs through the world wreaking havoc; and of course, what necromancer would be complete without a full Akushima of Bone Armor that was sort of like ... we knew we were going to do that one of those pure themes that we are going to explore. That's by Victor Lee.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00075

So on the left, you can see the necromancer from Diablo II. On the right, you can see our reimagined Necromancer in Diablo III, and this was the first set that we did, this is that classic armor set you saw in the intro cinematic trailer.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00076

We really knew that we had to get this part of it right, and then we could begin to add all the cool themes that we had come up with in our journey of reimagining what this class would be like in Diablo III.

And of course, here they are together. The legacy continues. The necromancers are back in Sanctuary, and we just couldn’t be more excited about it. That’s for like giving you a little tour of what it was like reimagining the necromancer.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00077

Next up, our Master of Disaster our lead FX artist: Mr Julian Love.

Next: Necromancer Gameplay

[table id=89 /] [table id=86 /]

Necromancer Gameplay

Julian: Wow, those armor sets are looking really sweet. I really want that Blood set. Yeah, like in real-life I want that Blood set.... where's that speed dating? It would be awesome. So not everybody in the room today has played the necromancer before, you might be a little unfamiliar, so as we take a look at the necromancer from a gameplay perspective, I just want to start at the top, make sure we are bringing everybody along for the ride.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00080

So what is a necromancer? Really quick. You know they are what we would call a pet and ranged magic class, very darkly themed. They are going to be our darkest class ever for sure.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00081

Why are these so dark? Well, they are commanders of the dead, and that means they're going to be leading armies of skeletons, and sometimes dead beings, and mostly dead things; and (oh, yeah!) their magic centers on the manipulation of blood, and bone, and reanimation. These are dark gritty themes.

[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="large" ids="41688,41689"]

And of course, curses are like a personal wish onto your enemies that influences the outcome of battles. So it's like dark heavy stuff. Okay so that's necromancy in a nutshell. The thing you might have been asking yourself looking at that first line is: "Yea... Pet, and ranged magic class .... like isn't that the witch doctor? How are these two things going to be any different?"

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00084

That's a great question. I'm glad you asked, because we have built a bunch of slides and I'm obligated to talk about them. Okay, so well, let's do some comparison. Right? Witch doctor versus necromancer, and see how they're different.

Witch doctor themes - we start with themes, because themes inform all the decisions that we make about developing a class. So really quick, you know these stuff. Witch doctors, you got your zombies, zombie dogs, zombie bears. And then you get your creepy crawlers and spiders, snakes, stuff like that.

[gallery link="file" columns="2" size="large" ids="41692,41693"]

And then, you've got jungle culture, right? And you see this in things like big bad voodoo, hexing, even fetishes. They are like a whole jungle culture inside the culture kit of the witch doctor.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00087

And you know, here's the thing. Witch doctors. They are dark. No question, but they're also kind of light-hearted. Like if you really want someone to take you seriously, maybe you should ditch that plan where you turn into a chicken every 5 seconds, and explode in feathers.

Alright. So now let's compare that to the necromancer a little bit. Now instead of zombies, we have got skeletons, corpses, reanimation. These are darker, grittier takes on the undead vibe; and then, the curse is like a sense of very personal wishing a bad stuff to happen. And then, magic -- the focus is on blood and bone which is like the raw materials of life.

[gallery link="file" size="large" ids="41695,41696,41697"]

What I want you to see when you look at all that stuff... What it really adds up to is a class that is very serious, grim, visceral, dark. There is not a lot of humor going on in the necromancer. So you know if you're thinking about swinging by the Necropolis for drinks after work, just know the priests of Rathma happy hour... It's not a thing. They don't do that.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00091

Alright, so now what about... do they play any different? Right? We should talk about that. How they get to play different? So our focus on pets for a second. Witch doctor pets are entirely passive, right? You pick your pet, skill, you put it in your button bar, you hit the button, pets come out, and then that’s it. They don’t do anything else. There's nothing to do. They just run off to do their thing.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00092

So here's how we're going to make necromancer pets different. Alright. They are all going to be what we call active passives which might be a new term for you, but you have played skills like this. The monk Mantras are a great example in that when you pick a skill, you get a passive benefit, but when you press the button for that skill you also get a short term active benefit that lets you interact with that skill in a strategic way.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00093

This is how we are going to make all necromancer pets. Let's look at our first skill: Command Skeletons, to see how this is going to play out.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00094

So when you pick Command Skeletons, you put it on your button bar, you are instantly going to get an army of 10 skeletons. Some melee, and some ranged, but when you activate the skill it allows you to tell your pets... command them to attack specific targets; and then you get a damage buff for doing it.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00095

So here is the thing... you don’t have to wait for your pets to like be distracted on that whatever was going on in the lower left corner of the screen. You can lead them around the battlefield and selectively take down targets: the ones that you want. This makes them a very effective single-target takedown skill, and they are a significant contributor to your overall damage output. So the difference between witch doctor and necromancer now: witchdoctor (passive).... necromancer (active).

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00096

Okay, what about resource? Let's talk about resource. Witch doctor, as you know, is Mana. Necromancer... we are going to have a new resource called: Essence. So here is how Essence is going to work. It is a large pool of resource. It is going to power a lot of your spenders. But it doesn't regenerate over time like mana does. You will have to take specific action to get your essence back. We will talk about that in a minute.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00097

The really big news here though is that the necromancer has two resources. The other one is corpses. That's right. Corpses are actually like resource. That's out in the battlefield laying on the ground. You generate them by killing monsters. And then, you get to use that stuff to power some of your skills. Here is how we are bringing this gameplay feature forward into Diablo III. When a monster dies by any means (whether you kill them or somebody else kills them).

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00098

In addition, to the body that goes flying across the screen or gets melted it into a sickly goo of acid, or disintegrates, there is going to be a little bit of extra corpse material left behind that only necromancers can see, and these are the corpses that the necromancers can use to power their corpse skills. Really simple.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00099

Now what we would be doing in a Diablo III game with corpses? Blow them up. That's right. Corpse Explosion! We are bringing it forward from Diablo II.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00100

We’re going to let you blow corpses to smithereens. Works exactly as you'd expect. You have some corpses on the ground. Some monsters nearby. Goodbye, monsters.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00101

The thing is we made it better. We let you blow up up to ten corpses at a time per click. It is totally unfair to monsters. Totally unfair. They use to think like, they know better. They read the terms of service down there page 33. It said might get exploded by corpse explosion. They made the choice. Alright, so Corpse Explosion. We are bringing that forward, right?

What else? How about Bone Spear? You need something to make corpses with, right? You got to kill stuff first before you get them. So Bone Spear works exactly like it did in Diablo II. Right. It's a 100% piercing projectile skill powered by Essence. It is a significant damage output, it's great for killing monsters, and making corpses. Now once you have Bone Speared a few of times you are going to run out of Essence. So you have to do stuff about that.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00102

Now Decrepify is a great way for us to keep monsters clumped together. So that's our first curse coming back from Diablo II. The way that works is you can curse a very broad area, and the monsters that are cursed by Decrepify will be slowed by 80%, have their damage output reduced by20%. This is great for keeping monsters clumped together.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00103

So now about that essence thing. How you going to get your essence back when you have spent it all? This is where a new skill called Siphon Blood comes into play. Siphon Blood is a single-target channeled spell that lets you quickly recover both life and essence by stealing it from your enemy. So when you run out of essence pull out siphon blood, refill on your essence. go back to your monster murdering mayhem.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00104

And we have got another skill: Blood Rush. You need to be able to move around the battlefield quickly sometimes: Pick up some gold, get some loot, great rifts, and that sort of thing. So blood rush is your skill of choice for this. The basic idea here is that when a necromancer wants to move quickly around the battlefield, the skin ... it just gets in the way. if you could get rid of that skin, you could go so much faster. So they throw up all your skin, and organs, and other gross bits... channel the blood forward, and then reappear on the other side mechanically. It has a lot of the same features that teleport has. It is very precise. Let's you jump across chasms.

Those skills that I have just covered are all the ones that you can play here in the demo at the show. But we didn't want to just leave you with those six. I wanted to give you a peek into the future. You wanted that, right? You want more. Yea, I thought.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00105

So let's take a look at-- well, we haven't talked about golems. What about blood golems? We are going to bring golems back. You are going to have multiple golems to pick from. But the first one we are going to show today is Blood Golem.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00106

Remember when I said the Necromancer is a serious class? Look at that guy. All business. They are going to work a lot like they did in Diablo II. They are going to be big. They are going to be brutes. And of course, because they are pets, they are going to be active passive. You are going to get to tell them to do things. It would be really cool.

One more, I think. We have got one more. So if you are going to be a commander of the dead, I think it is pretty important that at some point you have got an army to command. So what if we could just summon all of the skeletons that had ever died in an area to come to help? ... and I'm talking about a skill called Army of the Dead.

How many skeletons make an Army? 20? 25? Ehh... That is like a squad. Right? That is not good enough. What about 50 skeletons? That would be good enough. That is kind of like a platoon. I mean... I don’t have my military manual here, but it is not... 100... who said 100? How about a 100+? Over a 100! How are we going to do that? A 100+ skeletons obeying your command, attacking an area. What is that going to look like? Awesome! I'm going to tell you, I know when we have got a hit on our hands, when we make a skill, we put it in the game because I can walk around the office, and I'll see everybody. We have got mode on they're doing this.

(audience wows)

Yeah... look at all those ribcages flying all over the place. Doesn’t it just warm your heart? That's awesome! So that’s been a look at the necromancer from a gameplay standpoint.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00108

I want to encourage you all to head by the demo area and experience the necromancer in all his necromantastic goodness. Back to Kevin.

Kevin: Thank you, Julian. Alright. So we are almost out of time. The Rise of the Necromancer Pack. It is packed full of stuff. It is not just the necromancer -- with everything you'd expect from the class. It's:

  • 2 characters slots

  • 2 stash tabs on PC

  • Cosmetic goodies

  • Pets

  • Portrait frames

  • Etc

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00109

So it's a lot of stuff and more information will be coming in 2017 for that. If you haven't played him, Hall C is the Diablo booth. Go play him. If you have played him, go play him again, and... "When is he coming out?" -- I'm sure is the main question you have.

I am going to say next year. Is that a good enough answer?

(Audience: Nooooo.)

Alright. Second Halfish. Yeah, you are welcome. So this is an early look for the necromancer, we thought you guys would prefer to see it early and have to wait a little while for the fully filtered class to be out rather than just wait until next year and get it all at once.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00110

So I did hope you enjoyed your sneak peek. So real quick: the Darkening of Tristram comes out in 2.4.3 on PTR next week. Please come help us test it out. It goes live on all of our platforms in January. And then later is the Armory, and Rise of the Necromancer Pack.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00111

Tomorrow at the Dev Talk Q&A, we do have a bunch of other things. We have a brand new game mode called Challenge Rifts. We’re going to explain more about the new zones, a whole bunch of features around Greater Rifts, and Inventory Management, Seasons are coming to console -- so XBox One and PS4 guys, more info on that tomorrow.

And we have lightning talks again tomorrow on the community stage upstairs at the Darkmoon Faire on the third floor. So if you're interested in deep dives on any of these subjects some of them are happening tomorrow.

blizzcon-2016-diablo-20th-anniversary-panel-00112

So before we wrap it up, I do want to say one last thing on behalf of this team. It is absolutely our privilege to be up here and represent this team. They so love you guys. They put their hearts and souls into this every day. They go above and beyond. They care what you think. They want you to have fun, and they love this game as much as we do. Thank you. And it's been 20 years. One last time: How about 20 more years? Thank you very much. See you all on the showfloor.

[table id=89 /] [table id=86 /] [table id=88 /]