BlizzCon 2008: The Diablo III Class Panel

Jay Wilson, Julian Love, Wyatt Cheng from Blizzard were the first panel from BlizzCon, which was all about the Diablo III class system, including its tweaks and special effects. Unfortunately, we didn't get any more hints at the other two classes which haven't been announced yet. However, with the Witchdoctor and Wizard being so magic heavy, we're sure they'll add another physical fighter that isn't quite as big as the Barbarian. Head after the break to get the new details on the Skill System, the Rune System, and four of the Wizard's spells that involve blowing things up, and / or melting them.
The panel was about how art & design work together, although the meatiest chunk of it focused on the newly announced Wizard class. Blizzard's Wyatt Cheng, technical game designer on Diablo III said, "Players really want a blaster class.. We view it as an iteration of the sorceress." So how did they make it new? They drew their inspiration from pen & paper RPGs. The wizard's powers focus on high magic, manipulating the laws of the universe like time and physics. As opposed to summoning, no life magic, summoning, druidic magic.

They showed us four different spells in the Wizard's arsenal:
  • Magic Missile: functionaly like a Firebolt.
  • Electrocute: like chain lightning, except kicked up a notch.
  • Slow Time: a bubble spell that has a "bullet time" slowdown effect inside. It affects an area and is multiplayer friendly.
  • Disintegrate: "Nothing like disintegrate has been in a Diablo game before." Just hold down the mouse button and melt your opponents. You do more damage as you "heat up" a target.
%Gallery-34236% Jay Wilson, lead designer for D3, took us through the different types of skill structures they looked at. In the original Diablo you would pick up your skills from books, but this let everyone develop the same skills, and you could have a fighter running around hurling firebolts. With Diablo II, they added the skill tree, but this caused people to focus on particular skills and force them to waste points in certain areas in order to level up.

They also looked at the World of Warcraft skills, which they decided didn't quite work well enough for Diablo III. Check out the Skill Systems they developed but didn't end up using in the Skills gallery above. We sure wish they would have gone with the Horadric Skill Cube 2.0, Now With More Bacon!
They ended up going with a simplified Diablo II skilltree system, and what's really impressive is that they admit that it doesn't quite work just yet, and here's all that's wrong with it. You don't really see companies telling us how much something isn't working just yet, and we applaud Blizzard for being so forthcoming. Now just tell us what the other two classes are, dammit!

They also talked about the new Rune System, that can completely change the gameplay of a skill. You slot runes in a skill, and they dramatically effect the way that skill works. Also, the runes aren't locked in once you use them, you can take them out and put a new one whenever you feel like it. Runes also come in tiered and rare flavors, and they'll definitely be sought-after items. They don't have class-specific Runes right now, but it's something they are considering adding.

They showed a few gameplay videos they show how the runes can tweak a skill/spell. The wizard can use Teleport to jump in short hops, which is farily self-explanatory. Put the Striking Rune in, and now every time you hop you do damage to the surrounding enemies, and so on. Slot the Multistrike Rune in with Electrocute, and then you can channel the electricity through multiple enemies. It's meant to literally make you change the way you play as you come across different runes, and we like the fact that you can pop them in and out, which will encourage experimentation. We can't wait to try Disintegrate with a Power Rune.
Lead technical artist Julian Love showed us some of the new in-game death sequences that they'll be featuring in the game, which will include normal deaths, rare deaths, exploding deaths, skill-driven deaths, and even player-specific deaths depending on which big boss you're facing. He also teased some of the artwork they've created for two of the Wizard's skills: Arcane Orb and Tornado, which he said are all about "light shows!"

From the Q&A at the end of the panel came these few tidbits:

Will there be a secret cow level?

Wyatt Cheng: "I think that's a secret."

Are there still difficulty levels in the game?

Yes, Normal, Nightmare, and Hell will still be in there.

Are Runes meant to replace skills?

No, Runes are simple a way to mod skills. They get more powerful and tiered as you play.

Do Runes take up a lot of space in your bag?

They do take up space, but not that much. Speaking of bags, there is a new bag system. No grid system for the inventory anymore. [Ed. - Thank God! No more playing Tetris in your backpack.]

This article was originally published on Joystiq.