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BlizzCon 2008: Diablo III lore & art panel

Kevin Kelly

Story guru Leonard Boyarsky and background artist Chris Donnelson spoke at yesterday's Diablo III Lore & Art panel just before the closing BlizzCon eremonies, and they detailed how the background of the previous two Diablo games will tie into this one. Check out the highlights after the break, and find out how the gameplay has been changed to emphasize the story and art in this title, and what's been happening in the 20 in-game years since the events of Diablo II.

Gallery: BlizzCon 2008: Diablo III Art & Lore | 19 Photos

Boyarsky, who also worked on the previous two Fallout games, talked about the unexplored potential in previous games, and that they really want to push the feeling of this being a living world. He talked about two of the cities, Caldeum and Skovos that are heavily referenced in the story in Diablo III. Caldeum is a political city built on trade and commerce, and Skovos is based in legend and mythology, and is also where the Amazons and Rogues hail from.

To help emphasize the story in D3, they're giving more weight and context to the choices that the player makes. They're also zooming the camera in on conversations to make the player pay more attention to them, rather that keeping the same pulled-back view the entire time. Each class and sex will have their own character-specific dialogue, and NPC characters will react to you based on what race you choose.

In the opening scene, when the Wizard approached Captain Rumsford to enter the ruins of Tristram, she was treated with respect and welcomed, but when the Witch Doctor entered she got a lot of sass from him, "The only think you'll be finding in there is your death. Have fun." There's also a guy burning bodies from a wagon in the background, which Boyarsky pointed out as a piece of art that tells a story without dialogue or gameplay: clearly something very bad has been happening here.

The story is set some 20 years after the events of Diablo II: Lord of Destruction. The world hasn't ended, and Hell did not invade. The central character of the story is Deckard Cain, who is wracked with guilt from ignoring the stories he heard as a child about the Horadrim and Diablo. Deckard feels like he could have ended the threat before it began and has been scouring the planet looking for lore and items to defeat the demons.

Most people in the world now believe that the events of Diablo I and II were myth, and don't think that Hell is going to invade. In the game you'll find out what has happened to Tyrael and Baal. You'll also encounter Paladins and other classes from previous games in Diablo III, and you'll find out from them why they aren't participating in the events that are currently happening. Boyarsky said, "There are Necromancers in the world, and I can bet money that you're going to run into one."

Chris Donnelson explained the artwork guidelines they're working under for this game, including stressing style over realism, and putting a strong emphasis on horror. On the controversial color direction in Diablo III, Donnelson said, "Our memory was that the previous Diablo games were dark, but we found that there were colorful environments and characters throguhout the game. Film uses color as key to set the mood, and we expanded on that." He explains that they're using color as a "gameplay tool to guide the player"

During the Q&A, both Boyarsky and Donnelson revealed a few things:

  • Some things from the Diablo books will be coming into the game
  • The demo level at BlizzCon is a random dungeon set in the Sanctuary Cathedral
  • Each character will have a specific backstory, which will explain why they are in the game
  • There will also be class-specific quests for each class
  • No more Horadric cube
  • There will be more places to spend your gold in the game
  • The will bring a sense of closure to the Diablo story, but will not close off the universe
  • Heaven will be featured at some point, although maybe not in this game
  • Someone asked if you could get Wirt's second leg in the game, and Boyarsky said "But, his other leg was real..." Hey, you said you wanted horror, Blizzard.
One thing we enjoyed was the fact that Boyarsky commented on the sheer number of in-game items they're creating for D3. When asked if those come from the lore, he said that due to the number, he's just "slapping the lore on whatever they create."

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