BlizzCon 2018 Diablo Immortal Panel Transcript

During BlizzCon 2018, the Diablo developers announced a new MMO-Action RPG game for mobile devices. Diablo Immortal is set 5 years after the destruction of the Worldstone, filling the gap storywise for what happened between Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and Diablo III.

Among the panelists were:

  • Wyatt Cheng (principal lead designer)

  • Kris Zierhut (technical game designer)

  • Matthew Berger (senior designer)

BlizzCon 2018 Diablo Immortal Panel Transcript

BlizzCon 2018 Diablo Immortal Panel Transcript

Wyatt: Hello, everybody. Hello, BlizzCon. Welcome to the Diablo Immortal: What's Next panel. My name is Wyatt Cheng, I’m the lead designer on Diablo Immortal, and I'm joined by two senior designers from the Diablo Immortal team.

Kris: Hi, I'm Kris Zierhut, I’m senior designer on Diablo Immortal.

Matthew: Hi everybody, I'm Matthew Berger, also a senior designer.

Wyatt: Alright, let's get started. Diablo Immortal takes place in between the events of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction and Diablo III. At the end of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction, we saw the Worldstone get destroyed.

Kris: At the beginning of Diablo III, we see Tyrael falling from heaven. How do we get from the shattered Worldstone to the falling star? And what else is going on? There's a full 20 years gap between these two events, where all kinds of things are happening in Sanctuary.

Wyatt: What was Deckard Cain doing prior to taking a young girl named Leah under his care? We know a bit about his time with her, but what happened during the years before that?

Kris: What about Magda and Adria? What kind of schemes were they up to? How about the formation of the demon hunters? You'll journey with a young Valla and see her being trained by her master Josen.

Wyatt: And of course, let's not forget about Baal, the lord of destruction. Baal’s corruption and his corrupting essence had corrupted the Worldstone; and knowing this, Tyrael shattered the Worldstone.

Matthew: When the Worldstone was shattered, it wasn't completely destroyed. Fragments of the Worldstone survived, and they were scattered throughout Sanctuary. Wherever they landed, corruption and death followed. And you guys are going to go there. In Diablo Immortal, at launch, we will have 8 public zones for you to explore. We're going to go from the jungles of the Bilefen to the desert of the Shassare Sea. From the Tomb of Fahir to the cold wastes of the Frozen Tundra.

Wyatt: Now, for those of you who heard, Matthew said: "at launch." It is our plan to have Diablo Immortal be an ongoing game.


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Matthew: Alright, let's have a look at some of these zones. Let's start with the Bilefen. The Bilefen is filled with everything to ruin your day from... mostly abandoned, ancient, semihaunted temples to giant mosquitoes, maggots, Fallen, and over-aggressive Fetish monsters.

bilefen map

Kris: Here you'll help the leader of Port Justinian deal with that fetish problem, meet a mysterious wizard and help a scholar in distress.

Matthew: Now Sanctuary is huge, and you're going to be going to some new zones such as the Bilefen; and then also returning favorites, such as the Frozen Tundra.

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Kris: The Frozen Tundra is located next to Mount Arreat, close to the location where Tyrael shattered the Worldstone.

Frozen Tundra map

Matthew: The devastation of the Worldstone and of Mount Arreat is merely 5 years old. It is a fresh scar on this land and on the Barbarian People.

Now, the Frozen Tundra is a harsh land, surviving here is a struggle against nature in the very best of times and these will not be the best of times. Far from it.

Frozen Tundra preview

From the Frozen Tundra, we go to the desert. We go to Zoltun Kulle's library. This ancient repository of knowledge is replete with powerful artifacts and the many traps that are there to keep them out of prying hands.

Zoltun Kulle library

Matthew: Do you think it's going to be the real Zoltun Kulle there?

Kris: No! No!

Matthew: Who do you think?

Kris: Some kind of imposter?

Matthew: An imposter Zoltun Kulle? Really? You think so? I don't think so. Wyatt?

Wyatt: Imposter Zoltun Kulle?

Matthew: In the in the library? Is this. Haven't we been here before? I feel like we've been here before.

Wyatt: These are not the same arc library as we visited in Diablo III. This is a new area. Zoltun Kulle actually had a number of archive stashed across all of Sanctuary. And this is a previously unvisited one.

Matthew: So what you're saying is that Zoltun Kulle is some sort of magical hoarder.

Wyatt: Alright, he has archives all over the place.

Matthew: Alright, the man mage himself is not going to be present within this library. However, as is always the case with him, Zoltun Kulle has left behind suitably dangerous defenses. In fact, he has left behind the kind of Defenses that only a true egomaniac would employ.

Kris: And caught in the middle of it all is a family of unfortunate thieves who thought they could make a good score, and some cultist trying to get their hands on a Worldstone shard. It's a recipe for disaster. So the perfect place for you to vacation.

Kris: When you come for a Worldstone shard, but you stay because everything is trying to kill you.

Wyatt: Alright, so these are the shared public outdoor zones that you'll be able to see in Diablo Immortal. As you wander the outdoor world, you have the opportunity to come across other players. These types of shared organic interactions change the texture of your game.

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Matthew: World of Warcraft players would probably remember the first time they fought Hogger.

Wyatt: Boo!

Matthew: You got in over your head, you probably died a few times, but then some other players showed up, you joined forces, Hogger died, you got sweet loot, and you made some new friends along the way. That's the experience you want for Diablo Immortal.


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Wyatt: So we have the shared outdoor zones, but sometimes you want a more intimate experience. So we also have the Instance Dungeons. These are 4-player experiences for you and some close friends. Let's have a look at these starting at the Kikuras Rapids.

Matthew: The Kikuras Rapids, deep within the Bilefen, this river sneaks its way through a jungle brimming with monstrosities. From bug lurkers, to the aforementioned horrible little fetish creatures that I really, really hate and don't ever want to play against ever again. Ever!

Wyatt: You mean these guys here?

Matthew: Yeah, I don't want to--

Wyatt: These guys I think are the best. They remind me of playing Diablo II, and making my way through the jungles outside Kurast.

Kris: No, fetishes really are the worst.

Matthew: Yeah! They're the worst. And you know what would make this even worse? More fetishes. Okay? Put a pin in that.

But what is even worse is standing on a rickety piece of wood going down a river towards a certain horrific watery grave while these tiny little demons are trying to fill you with their darts, or gently donate their swords to you, pointy end first.

Wyatt: How kind of them.

Kris: How kind of them.

Kris: Alright, alright, how about something more pleasant? Something quieter, maybe a tomb. Tombs are nice. No fetishes, no rapids.

Wyatt: No rapids.

Matthew: The Tomb of Fahir. Its skeletons. Its spiders. Its treasure room (not a treasure chest. A measly little treasure chest)... a treasure room, a room brimming with golden glowing treasure chest filled with loot. A room defended by mummies, maybe on fire; but that's not going to stop adventurers such as yourselves. Mummy's on fire, no panic.

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But I get it, sometimes we want simpler things in Diablo. Quieter things. Diablo-quiet. A Dark Tower perhaps? Some cultists, a few reli--

Wyatt: And I know where you're going.

Matthew: Yeah.

Wyatt: We are also going to the Forgotten Tower. Many of you will remember the Forgotten Tower from Diablo II. Except in Diablo II, you slayed the Countess; and yet, activity still brews here. And Diablo Immortal will be our opportunity to go back and see what has gone awry.

Matthew: You know, in the next panel we’ll talk about the Countess.

Wyatt: You will have a sneak peek of what the Countess has been up to in the Forgotten Tower. So we've talked about the shared public zones, and here we have Instance Dungeons that are set aside for you and your party. It gives us a chance to do different things. In the outdoor world, the monsters respawn after a period of time, but in the Instance Dungeons, the monsters stay dead.

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Matthew: This allows us to create a custom experience designed for former players with tougher monsters and bosses with fight mechanics designed to challenge you.


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Wyatt: Alright we've talked about the shared public zones, the Instance Dungeons, but what we really need to bring a game to life is a capital city. And the much the same way that World of Warcraft has Orgrimmar and Stormwind, we have Westmarch.

Matthew: Westmarch is the perfect choice for a capital city for Diablo Immortal. Before this, the only time we've seen Westmarch is at the beginning of Reaper of Souls; and at that point, the city is under assault by Malthael's forces. Much of Westmarch is either rubble, or in flames. However, in the timeline of Diablo Immortal, Westmarch is still a thriving, vibrant, lively capital city.

Kris: Let's take a look at some Westmarch concept art. In Westmarch, you can visit some NPCs, go shopping, or maybe just examine your stash. But it's also a place where you can find and meet other players. Westmarch will be a hub of activity. It is the kind of shared online public space where you can be wandering around and run into a player wearing some awesome gear you've never seen before.


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Wyatt: That's right. So, far we've talked about shared public zones, we have Instance Dungeons, and we have a capital city. And I know what many of you would also like to be able to see, is to have a look at the classes and how the game plays.

To prepare, we've put together a short video so you can see what Diablo Immortal classes look like in action.

Wyatt: Alright, so those are the six classes we’ll have at launch for Diablo Immortal. But Diablo Immortal is a game that we hope to expand over time through live content patches. So we hope to add additional classes over time.

Matthew: And since I actually have the stage, I get a vote. So I would like to see in our future, I would like to see the Assassin. She was my favorite in Diablo II. I want to play the Assassin again.

Wyatt: My favorite.

Matthew: Alright? Assassin! THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN!!!

Kris: My favorite in Diablo II was the Necro, but for Diablo Immortal, I would love to see a Witch Doctor.

Wyatt: Alright, so we do look forward to being able to add additional classes over time, and we'll listen and be following the conversation in the community to see what players are looking for, and what makes sense.

So, we take a look at the classes, but I'm sure a lot of you are wondering, how it controls? And at Blizzard, one of our values is: Control is King. And we always knew that one of the challenges in bringing a game like Diablo to mobile was always going to be the controls.

Matthew: Before it can feel like Diablo, it really has to play like Diablo.

Kris: Implementing a virtual control stick in mobile is really tricky and hard to get right. To be honest, I was pretty skeptical we could even pull it off; but we did. For those of you here at BlizzCon, go play the demo. Playing is believing.

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Matthew: Okay, Kris was right. Getting the movement right is tricky; but moving is only an excuse to get to the enemy. That's where the real fun begins. Being a touch screen device gives us new opportunities for controls in Diablo Immortal. For the first time in a Diablo game, you will be able to move and aim your skills at the same time.

Wyatt: So here's how it works. In the video, you can see a wizard using a skill called Chill Wind. When you place your thumb down, we create a small targeting control right on the skill button. This allows you to aim the skill while it’s being charged up. You put your thumb down, and you start to build up and damage, and additional range. You can move, aim, and when you've got the enemy in your sights, release your thumb to just unleash Wintery Fury all over the enemy.

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Matthew: In addition to charging up skills, you can also aim them, or just activate them in a more traditional manner.

Here we have an example of a barbarian using furious charges and abilities, and then following it up with whirlwind and activated one. To use whirlwind just tap the button and then move around the screen using the normal movement control.

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Wyatt: Now, it wouldn't be a new Diablo game without a few new abilities, and here we have the wizard using Lightning Nova. Lightning Nova creates a circle of bolts that travel out in all directions, and then returns back to you.

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Now if you’ve moved in between, the bolts actually travel back to your new location.

Matthew: Lighting Nova is a ton of fun to use in all kinds of situations; but if you really want to see it shine, combine it with a mobility skill like teleport, and an expert player can deal devastating damage.

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Wyatt: I want to see that again.

Matthew: Yeah!

Kris: Was that you or was it Caleb?

Matthew: It wasn't me, it was Caleb.

Kris: It was Caleb?

Matthew: Yeah!

Wyatt: Good job. Alright so, all classes in Diablo Immortal have 12 or more skills, and you will be able to choose 5 of those skills to equip on your hotbar in the active ability section at a time.

Matthew: New Diablo game, new skills, new gameplay, new gear. Of course, cool looking gear. So here we have some early concept work for two of our classes, The Barbarian and The Wizard showing their gear progression.

Kris: And of course, we'll have legendaries. We love the way Diablo III Legendaries changed the way you play; and will carry forward that great customizable gameplay into Diablo Immortal.

Wyatt: I love the way the wizard on the bottom row in the right looks, you know, really proud of herself for having the best gear.

Kris: Yeah! Yeah! She's really proud... except she's over there for everybody else.

Wyatt: Diablo Immortal is a social game. So we're adding social features to Diablo Immortal as well. When you login and connect your account, all of your friends will be right there waiting for you.

Kris: This means you could be playing Diablo on your phone, while chatting with your friends who are about to start a WoW raid, or messege your buddies who are busy in Overwatch and tell them to hurry up and finish, so they can come and help you kill a boss in Diablo Immortal.

Wyatt: As we mentioned in the opening ceremonies, we've partnered with NetEase Games to make Diablo Immortal.

At this time, I'd like to invite a few folks to join us here on stage. Please join me in welcoming from Blizzard Entertainment, this is Joe Hsu (senior producer), and from NetEase Games Li Yang (studio general manager), ##Unsure of spelling##: Wong Peng (lead designer), Woo Bo (lead artist), and Wong Jahan (lead engineer). The studio general manager has prepared a few words that he would like to share.

Li Yang: Just like those of you here at BlizzCon, we're all big fans of Blizzard games. Especially, Diablo.

Everyone on the team was thrilled to learn about the opportunity to collaborate with our longtime partners at Blizzard on creating the next Diablo game. Diablo Immortal is a dream come true. The team's excitement and energy is deeply infused into the entire development process.

Just as Wyatt said, Diablo Immortal is been developed by two passionate groups of Diablo fans, and we will combine to form one amazing team. We're very eager to bring you an awesome game very soon, and we hope you enjoyed the demo on the show floor. On behalf of the Diablo Immortal development team, we would like to thank you, and we look forward to vanquishing evil with you in the world of Sanctuary. Thank you.


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Wyatt: The passion that NetEase has for Diablo shows every day, and the partnership is going well. At this time, we have some time for questions. I think over here on my left there should be Brandy, our community manager. Brandy?

Kris: She's there. Brandy is here. She’s waving at you.

Wyatt: Okay, okay, awesome! And then over here on the right we have Caleb, senior producer on Diablo Immortal.

Fan #1: I want to know what happened to Druids?

Matthew: What happened to Druids?

Fan #1: You guys skipped Druids at Diablo III, and you skipped it in Diablo Immortal.

[bluepost]Wyatt: Well, we are planning on adding additional classes over time. So, you know, Matthew got a vote, Chris got a vote, you have a vote. It's kind of a three-way tie. We'll see what happens next.

Kris: My World of Warcraft's main is a Druid. So...

Wyatt: Oh! I see, I see why.[/bluepost]

Fan #2: So how long has Diablo Immortal been in development, and how is it affecting other Diablo projects?

[bluepost]Wyatt: Well, you may or may not have heard.

Matthew: You want to take that one, or do you want me to take it?

Wyatt: It's almost kind of unmovable(sp?) at one point, right? That we have multiple Diablo projects in the works. Diablo Immortal has been an idea we've talked about for a long time. We've been working with NetEase for almost 10 years. They work with Blizzard for all of our games, and we're super excited about it.[/bluepost]

(Someone in the audience yells: Druids for Reaper of Souls!)

Fan #3: Okay, my question is, do you have a time-frame on when we’ll see this?

[bluepost]Kris: When it's ready. When it's done.

Matthew: The usual answer.

Kris: Yeah! Sorry.

Wyatt: Caleb, do we have a question on the side as well? Sorry about that.[/bluepost]

Fan #4: Hey! So when you guys were showing off the sizzle reel for the classes, it started off with like a really high-poly, hair-flowing model that didn't appear to be in the game. Are those in cinematics, or was that just for that trailer?

[bluepost]Wyatt: The trailer, actually those are in-game models, and they’re rendered cinematically, using a cinematic camera; and that is the game running on a mobile device.[/bluepost]

Fan #4: Are they going to appear any other time during the game, or is it just like a character select kind of thing?

[bluepost]Wyatt: Those particular sequences that you saw are character selection, and actually if you go play the demo, you can see them running. We have the demo running here and those same sequences are available to watch.[/bluepost]

Fan #4: Awesome! Thanks.

[bluepost]Wyatt: You’re welcome.

Matthew: Monk.

Wyatt: Oh, Yeah! Monk.[/bluepost]

Fan #5: The armor progression you showed, is that going to be a straight linear, or will the different pieces of gear supply a different model of armor on the skeletons?

[bluepost]Wyatt: This is one for you guys.

Kris: So, definitely our plan is that all kinds of different legendary items will have their own unique look and not be part of a set. So, it's going to depend on what legendary items you're wearing that ultimately determines what the character looks like.[/bluepost]

Fan #6: Hi, guys. My question is, as a theorycrafter, is there going to be anything for like a skill trees, skill set, or anything like that where we’ll be able to dig in and kind of customize how the spells will work for us as a player?

[bluepost]Wyatt: Yeah! Yeah! We're still working out all of the systems. Unfortunately, we’re still too far out to be able to say for sure; but we do want there to be some nitty-gritty to dig into. Yeah! I wish I had more to say at this time.

Kris: We love customizing away, so we'll find it somehow.

Wyatt: Yeah![/bluepost]

Fan #7: Hi, Lord fluffy face of Diablo. I was curious. I see a lot of mechanics that we kind of have been begging for in Diablo III in this. Is there any plans to make this playable on PC, or is this strictly mobile forever?

[bluepost]Wyatt: Yeah! The current plan is to be on mobile, both Android and iOS. We don't have any plans at the moment to do a PC.[/bluepost]

(Crowd boos!)

[bluepost]Wyatt: Do you guys not have a phone? Yeah! Do you guys all have phones?

Kris: You can play it on your tablet, too. Yes. It's also on the Nintendo Switch. You're right.[/bluepost]

Fan #8: My question is how hard can the content be in this game? A lot of players like to go on Infernal Mode, Hardcore, stuff like that. So how hard can we expect the difficulty curve to get in this game?

[bluepost]Matthew: I think it's a little early for us to give a definite answer, but I think the best way to look at it is... this is a true Diablo experience. And we want to make sure that that's the case. So do you have anything else you want to add on top of that?

Wyatt: No, I think that's accurate. I mean, I think... We are looking to make sure that the game is challenging. And I think one of the nice things about Diablo is that, in many regards, there are portions of the game that are a little bit easier, and then there are portions of the game that are harder.

And I think when you look at many action RPGs, depending on your mood, you want to be able to engage with content that fits the mood that you're in for at that time when you sit down to play. My hope would be that Diablo Immortal would reflect that flexibility and play session as well.

Matthew: Now one thing to keep in mind is, when you go play the demo, we always make sure the demo is accessible to the widest audience possible. And sometimes, it's the first time you play this game. So it won't represent the challenge you're expecting, but that's not representative of the final game in terms of the difficulty.[/bluepost]

Fan #9: Hi, there. This actually might tie-in with the last question a little bit. So, my apologies. Me and my friends play pretty much like extensively Hardcore Mode. Is there any chance that we might see that in this version?

[bluepost]Wyatt: Hardcore. So... We're excited about bringing Diablo to mobile. The reality is that, we're not sure that mobile platform is ready for the sort of a Hardcore situation where a disconnect, or something could cause you to lose your character.

That said, we do like the high stakes nature of Hardcore. If there's something on the line, or there’s something you can be excited about, if it's not just... "Oh! I lost 30 seconds, or something, because I died."

I think finding ways to make the play sessions meaningful for you to care about dying or not dying, I think we'll look at those types of mechanics to make sure that, there's stakes; but Hardcore itself, I think, it’s still an open question for us; but we're not sure. It's great that we can be on mobile and provide like a top-tier Diablo experience; but Hardcore, we'd have to wait and see.[/bluepost]

Fan #10: Hey! I just was wondering, is this an out of season April Fool's joke?

[bluepost]Matthew: No, it's a fully-fledged Diablo experience on mobile, which everybody will get to play; and hopefully, which will bring new heroes to Sanctuary, as well as welcoming our community back into it; and something we're very excited about.

Wyatt: I should say, we're super excited about Diablo Immortal. We brought Diablo to Consoles, PC, Xbox, PlayStation. We're gamers. Everyone at Blizzard has gamers, we play games on all platforms, and we're really excited about making a new Diablo game for mobile.

Matthew: And the other thing is... the other thing to keep in mind is that every time we've launched a new Diablo game, especially on a new, sort of on a new format, on a console-- every time we've improved the experience, and we brought that back to all the other versions of Diablo. So when we went on console, we brought things back on PC, we then improve both of them.

The world of Diablo is vibrant. This is one of the best times to be part of this community, and I think the future is... while not bright, because Sanctuary is bleak, the future for you is going to be awesome.

Wyatt: Alright. We have time for about one or two more questions.

Matthew: No, we have time for one question. One that will be fast.[/bluepost]

Fan #11: Okay. Well, this is going to be a good question then, because it's about why it's going to mobile? In particular, the majority of the games are PC-oriented with Blizzard. Hearthstone being one of the other mobile games. Why bring it to mobile? Are you trying to reach a new audience of players?

[bluepost]Matthew: We're always trying to reach a new audience. We always want more people to join the Blizzard community. We want more people to come to BlizzCon. More people to play Diablo, and this is a great opportunity for that. And we're very excited about it.

Kris: Play Diablo anytime, anywhere, with anyone. Sounds pretty awesome to me.

Wyatt: I would say that our mobile phones are actually super powerful supercomputers. I think we treat them for social media and text messaging, but they can do so much more than that. If you look at the technical specs on a mobile phone today, and compare it to supercomputers from just five years ago, like we're walking around with full-fledged gaming devices in our pocket; and we want to make a full-fledged game for mobile.

Matthew: Alright. So, unfortunately, we are running out of time; but we have another panel tomorrow. When is it Wyatt?

Matthew: It’s at 5:45 tomorrow. You can join Matthew and I here on the Mythic Stage. We'll talk more about Diablo Immortal, the world, the story, the history leading up to the events -- since this game does take place in between Diablo II and Diablo III.

Matthew: Okay. But this is deceptive, because it's missing something. What else are you going to be talking about during that panel?

Wyatt: Is it the characters?

Matthew: Yeah!

Wyatt: Oh, and some skills.

Matthew: And some skills, and some new skills, right?

Wyatt: Okay, alright, alright, yeah! More, you’ll have more.

Kris: You’ve promised the Countess. Yea!

Wyatt: Alright, thank you very much everybody, and have an epic BlizzCon.


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