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d3 Diablo III Season Five Postmortem

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A look at the legacy of Season Five, and how it has shaped the game.

What will we think of when looking back at Season Five?


Another Season has come to pass in Sanctuary, and with it some pretty massive revelations. We saw a rise in certain playstyles, reactions from Devs, changes in Team Diablo, No-Boss runs, Banwave after Banwave, and even new ways to play the game.


So what is the lasting impact of Diablo Season Five?


Disclaimer: This post is purely the opinion of the author, Realbookwurm, and is intended to review from the broad community perspective what Season Five was like to many players. Many arguments here have subjective components, and as such should not be taken as fact. Your mileage or experience probably varied. 


Let us start with the bad, and work our way to the good stuff, since there is a lot more that Season Five has done to impact the game positively than negatively.


The Ugly



  • Set Dungeons: While the concept is novel, the execution and reality did not meet the standards of the community by-and-large. Born as an attempt to give players a specific goal, something which Diablo often lacks, the idea was sound. Why not create a scenario where players can demonstrate mastery of a Set's mechanics, and even be rewarded in game for the their efforts? Well, the schism between great idea and the reality is probably most related to the actual objectives of the dungeons. Some set dungeons were quite easy to grasp and execute, the Immortal King's Dungeon for an example. Others suffered from mechanics that were unclear, counter-intuitive or just plain at the mercy of RNG. Firebird's Finery Dungeon asked players to die on purpose. Shadow's Mantle Dungeon gave an objective that failed players for consecutive hits on an enemy. Jade Harvester Dungeon gave you invisible enemies, and penalised you for not killing them. Wrath of the Wastes Dungeon put you in a Melee build and told you not to take ANY physical damage. The number of dungeons which seemed to nail it were small, and the ones that frustrated players seemed numerous.  


  • Power Creep: While this is always present, Season Five saw an unprecedented leap forward in the average player's experience. From people doubling their highest Greater Rift, to Paragons running into the thousands, the whole game now has a higher bar set. There were many reported situations of public groups that would kick people for "only being Paragon 800" or similar. Players in groups cleared Greater Rifts well past the 105 mark, while solo saw numbers in the 90s. Season 4 had not even saw the group move past 90, so seeing people now doing it alone has really driven this point home. 


  • Paragon Disparity: This point is substantially tied to the previous issue, but deserves a special nod, as many player find themselves on one side of the divide or the other. The group meta saw legitimate players spanning well into several thousand paragons, and on the flip side any number of posts in r/Diablo's reddit detailing solo player journeys saw people hitting new highs in the hundreds. While many were not directly affected by this divide, the solo leaderboards closed in a stranglehold not from the Solo players themselves, but instead were mainly comprised of group players who then leveraged their superior paragons and gear in order to also dominate in this area. 


  • No-Boss Runs: This one was saved for last on this list, because it is a bridge between the two previous issues listed, and The Worst issue which is near the end of this editorial. While it was not a new idea, the prevalence of this phenomenon in Season Five had new levels of impact. The idea behind a No-Boss Runs is that players in a group (or even solo) run an extremely high greater rift level (usually higher than could actually be cleared) and play up until the rift guardian is spawned. Players then exit the game and make a new rift, repeating the procedure. The result is massive amounts of XP gained, lending handily to the paragon disparity. Since the rift guardian is usually the bulk of time spent in a rift, and nets significantly less experience per time spent comparative to the rest of the rift, this practice born of pragmatism characterized greater rift pushing this season. 



The Bad



  • Lost Devs: This season saw the departure of many strongly talented figures from Team Diablo, and while some could potentially return, others are lost for good. How this will affect the game moving forward remains to be seen, but the figures lost were those who had direct and observable impact on the game as a whole.


  • Class Diversity: In what always results in a continued struggle, Diablo's developers yet again took painstaking efforts in balancing, with a goal of roughly approximating all sets to be equal in terms of power. Once more, we saw a season ruled by flavor-of-the-month builds, and a particular class warping the entire group meta in around itself. While Season Four was the Year of the Monk, Season Five will forever be the Year of the Wizard. Like the Static Charge Monk of yester-season, the strength of the Energy Twister Wizard left an indelible mark on the group play of Diablo, and even caused a series of severely hard-hitting changes to several class and item mechanics. Health Globe spawning as a purposeful mechanic has all but been removed from the game, and the warp was so massive that even other classes had their skill mechanics changed thanks to the Wizard build in question.  






  • Buff UI: While this issue is actually part of larger change that has positively impacted the game, it also has some quirks that presented and still require a clean up. The changes to the Buff UI that came baked into Patch 2.4 are overall successful. Making the bar more concise, it grew in Season Five to be the tool of information it was also supposed to be, and no longer is quite the source of player focus it once was. While the goal of making players engage the game (not their buff bar) seems to have been achieved, the improvements have left some aspects seemingly unpolished. The two most common issues that now seem to arise in discussion are the lack of drop shadow on stack numbers, and the paragon point allocation button covering part of the bar itself. With some minor tweaks, these could be changed and really let the newly designed buff bar come into its own glory. Rightfully so, as it now is leagues ahead of its old counterpart! 


  • Stash Tab: While this might be a confusing place to find the stash tab, please read on as to why it finds a home here. Many players, myself included, were ecstatic about the inclusion of this reward. To me, the gaining of the extra space was massive, and let me fully devote a tab of stash to each class, as I am an alt-a-holic. I did not have any issue with the implementation, but the implementation was inline with how I play the game already. For many players, the implementation did not line up with their playstyle, or desired mode of play, and this is what lands the stash tab here. Like a billion dollars in the bank, it's great for those who have it, and not so much so for those who don't. I play seasons exclusively now in Diablo, and even quit during the interseason period to recharge and play other games. While Seasons are on, I religiously play each weekend with some friends, and manage to go far in, or complete the season journey. Getting the stash tab for me was merely a consequence. Now, my playstyle is not the only one. Many players don't play seasons. Others, are not as able or willing to devote the many hours needed to get to where I do. As a result, many groups found themselves left out, or struggling with a game (something we play for fun) to get what they felt was necessary to enjoy the game. This lack of fun for those players, well it's rough. I applaud the developers for setting a standard which players must achieve to be rewarded optional content in the game. Likewise, I see the strong argument from those who do not like being forced to play a game mode they do not enjoy in order to get access to something they want, and sometimes feel compulsion to gain. I am not sure what the right answer here is, and as such it remains in the murky waters of mixed. My only input is that I do think there is strong value in rewarding players for certain achievements. The term reward is defined as "a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement." Perhaps the discussion should focus not on what is wrong, but what else can be opened as an avenue for others to also achieve. 


The Good



  • Single Player XP: Wait, wasn't there something about paragon disparity earlier? Yes, but there is strong hope for solo players, and Season Five gave the most compelling evidence. While by season's close the gap was huge, the early reports of the season saw solo players hitting 70 in roughly the same time as partied groups. This was the first time this had occurred in season play without some form of XP exploit being used. The main driver behind this was the addition of bonus kill-streaks which had previously been seen in console versions. Additionally, changes were made to group dynamics and xp sharing. More changes are coming with Season Six, meaning the outlook for this aspect is high. Perhaps this issue will eventually see a form of parity between groups and solo players. Certainly, we are seeing that goal closer than further as of writing.




  • Death's Breath: They're a distinct color now, making them much easier to distinguish. This optimizes time spent while farming, and is a seemingly small, yet huge-in-impact change that I have yet to see a complaint about. An all around victory. 


  • New Zones: For those who saw the Diablo panel at Blizzcon this year, the amount of changes coming with 2.4 seemed impossibly large. Since Season Five is a child of Patch 2.4, the addition of new zones with the patch meant that many players saw these sights for the first time in season. From minor additions with the Library at Leoric's Manor, to the entire zone replete with new mobs, tiles and lore (Greyhollow Island) there is not a fair argument against these additions. Free is free, but quality additions for free are just gravy!


The Great




  • Empowered Rifts/Caldesann's Despair: While Wyatt Cheng (@Candlesan on Twitter) might hide his despair of this change behind a weak anagram, finally having a viable and impactful gold sink enter the game has many of the Diablo 1% jumping for joy. With so much gold coming from regular farming of high torments, and trips to The Vault, the community saw gold inflation in the highest order. With so many sources of generation, and few sources of loss, the amount players had stashed away became looney (Canadian money jokes). The idea of slightly lessening the time needed to level gems, and thus getting to imbue gear with the new enchanting recipe in Kanai's Cube faster, all while making gold worthwhile again was a massive victory for Team Diablo. It addressed an issue in a creative, fun, and engaging way that had players wanting to play the game more. It also diversified to a greater extent what players did while playing at endgame, and I think it is easy to classify this as an example of creative game design which resulted in a victory. 




  • Haedrig's Gift: The thorn in my side, (I played Invoker's Burden Crusader this Season) I have to admit that this feature was a success from the community perspective. I will freely admit that I was bent out of shape with the announcement of this feature, and still question its merit. However, I was shown how my opinion here is narrow, and needs broader context. As a gamer who loved the early adventure games such as Sierra's King's Quest line, or the amazing LucasArt's Monkey Island series, I lamented the inclusion of "free sets" as a softening up of gaming culture, and an attempt to cater to those who want things without working for them. I also still question if this sped up the progression of seasonal character too much, leading to faster burn-out or season completion. The second point I hold true to, the first, I was gravely mistaken on. While I can be crusty old gamer who complains about walking uphill to school both ways "back in my day," I also have my scope wrongly adjusted to those old games. Many old computer games are famously confusing and difficult at times, and often lead to out-of-the-box or just plain weird solutions. These games also could often be played, once you knew what to do, in a matter of hours. You might sink lots of time into solving the puzzles initially, but the actual game length is relatively short. Now, we have a whole genre of game with the word massive in its title. These are games where a player can take an hour just to make a character's appearance right if they so choose. In this wave of massive gameplay comes things like Diablo, which actually never end. Sure you can beat the game, but that's not the goal for most. Set dungeons still leave the stopping point role unfulfilled. Instead we continue to push hard, faster and further a group each season, and many players were not having fun anymore trying to keep up. Enter the Gift, and now player who might have never even owned a full set before are getting a chance to explore the game in new and exciting ways. This is obviously a positive, and something that is good for the health of the game. In practice my Softcore Crusader who received Invoker's Burden through the Gift, and my Hardcore Crusader who farmed the pieces had very little difference of experience. It was a small gap in time spent between their progression, several hours to be fair. My enjoyment was no less on my softcore crusader, and progression only felt slightly slower on my hardcore one. The upshot? It let players with limited time, or perhaps those who don't spend hours talking theorycraft on the forums to be able to get moving faster and enjoying themselves sooner. Thus, I have to concede this to the clear win category. 


  • Diablo Unannounced Project/Job Postings: While this isn't anything related with the Season, it did come to light during the season, and had a measurable effect on the community. The posting of various jobs to Blizzard's career page, and the mention in those posting about a "Diablo Unannounced Project" have many speculating. With the possibility of another Diablo III expansion, to another game set in the Diablo universe, to Diablo IV, the community is abuzz with theories. Only time will tell exactly what it is that Blizzard has up their sleeve, but many remain exceptionally excited for whatever that could be. More Diablo is always welcome.


  • Kanai Event: Like the previous entry, this is more something that merely came to light during Season Five, and is not a direct product of it, but it certainly merits mention. The event consisted of a longstanding mystery of Kanai's Throne Room finally being revealed. Since the arrival of Ruins of Sescheron in Patch 2.3, there were cryptic in game clues and references to the "right time" in Kanai's Throne Room. The right time turned up in Season Five, with the Kanai's Stomping Ground event coming to life in March. This tribute is touching and tasteful on behalf of Blizzard, and is set to outlive this past season, by coming around each March. More can be read about the event and the person it honors here. 


  • Legacy of Nightmares/Invoker's Burden: These two sets might not share anything in mechanics, but what makes their birth in the Season 5 meta important is that both represent a paradigm shift in what makes a character powerful in Diablo. Firstly, let's examine Invokers. This set, also known as the Thorns Set, offers a look into a world where Crit Chance/Crit Damage stats and Sheet DPS are utterly irrelevant. This change was lauded by many long term pundits of the game, who often argued that Crit was a stat too crucial to DPS output. This new way of thinking about how you get your damaged threw convention out the window, and did so successfully. 97,786 is how much DPS when my Invoker Crusader cleared his first 70 Greater Rift, something I know because I immortalized it via screen capture.28rp37o.jpg With DPS figures ranging in the 2-3 million range for well-geared and high paragon toons, the idea that 97,786 could do anything of impact seemed astounding. It still is, if you think about Diablo convention to this point. This brings us to Legacy of Nightmares, another fly-in-the-face of conventional Diablo 3 Since the Loot 2.0 revamp, sets have been king of DPS. Some argue the lack of true diversity is gone in builds, something Vanilla had a surprising amount of in contrast. Few arguments could be mounted for anything but set based builds of late, and enter unique_ring_014_x1_demonhunter_male.pngThe Legacy of Nightmares . The "No-Set Set" gave rise to a new and exciting branch of gameplay that satisfied many of the prior complaints of too heavy reliance on set bonuses. While the issue is still not dead, after all Wizards couldn't seem to materialize a competitive build with LoN, it went on to dominate the solo leaderboards for classes like Crusader and Demon Hunter. I will state there is much work to be done here, but like Apollo 11, this was a "Giant Leap" for Diablo III. 


Now, the heart of article is revealed. We have made it this far, and now the rock bottom and the sky-high aspects of Season Five come to light. 


The Worst



  • A Support Meta/Single DPS Gameplay: This is probably not a twist(er) to those who played Season Five, as we saw a worrying trend that began in Season Four take a whole new level of notoriety in Season Five. In a game that is all about smacking skeletons until they collapse, a striking meta emerges where 75% of a Four-man group are not doing it. David Brevik (you know, the guy who envisioned Diablo and worked so hard to make the game a reality) stated fondly of working on the first Diablo "I clicked on the mouse, and the warrior walked over and smacked the skeleton down. And I was like, ‘Oh my god! ...That was awesome!'" Thus was born the Action Role Playing Game, or ARPG. This quote characterizes what makes the arpg so special, and for many what their first Diablo experience was like. With this in mind, consider a situation where only one out four in a party are doing the skeleton smacking. Change might be good, but such a dramatic shift away from what seems so core to the arpg and the Diablo experience is nearing criminal. The reaction from the developers behind the game seems to be in vein with my own take on the situation, as they have mobilized en masse to try and cull this type of gameplay. Even well-known community figures admit that they only partake in it because it is the most efficient, not because it's what they enjoy. It is how to climb the leaderboards, for better or worse. Worse, really. This will likely be the most remembered aspect of Season Five looking back. Actually, strike that. The most remembered thing about Season Five, the thing that will put it down in the history books as what went right is: 


The Win



  • Season Five saw the purge of the Botter, and humans attaining victory. An update to Blizzard's Warden, in conjunction with well timed and decisive waves, saw the leaderboards all but purified of those who chose to break the Terms of Service by utilizing suspect third party softwares. Whether you and Brother Chris played Diablo 24/7, or you used a software which rhymes with MurboMud, or maybe plotted your trips through Sanctuary using some GPS, you probably saw the boot. While not all elicit software users were burned by the righteous fires of the purge, a great chunk saw, and thus now fear the Light. Whatever this means moving forward, the message has been sent, and the result are clear for all to see: Play by the rules, or risk consequences. Exceptionally well played on Blizzard's part with timing and deployment, the banwave has many of the jaded questioning if perhaps there is much to be said about the game after all. Excellent work to Blizzard, and I personally hope that you keep this momentum you've gained. 





Season Five has come and gone, and with it a new legacy was born. What the full effect is still remains to be seen, but we can assess some core principles in the immediate. What we know is that like any Season, there are going to be bad aspects, and those that make us remember exactly what has us logging in again and again and again. Season Five seemed to polarize the issues, making the extremes of the bad, as well as the good, more apparent than ever. In the end there more good than bad, and this should have all fans of the franchise reaching for that mouse.


Personally, I had a great time in Season Five, and I am looking forward to Season Six, which will begin as follows: 

  • North America: Friday, April 29 @ 5:00 p.m. PDT
  • Europe: Friday, April 29 @ 5:00 p.m. CEST
  • Asia: Friday, April 29 @ 5:00 p.m. KST


I want to thank readers, and now that I have said my piece, I open the comment box to all of you below. Do you agree or disagree with my take? Let me know! 


In the meantime, happy farming! 

Edited by Realbookwurm

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Well written and interesting reading. I agree with you on most of your conclusions.



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Great article! I definitely agree with your points but I feel like you forgot to mention how upset many players got with the addition to insane skill damage on legendary items like The Gavel of Judgment or Tzo Krin's Gaze thus removing some creativity to changing builds up. In know Quin ranted a lot about how he did not like this. I was rather indifferent about the issue but I know from the forums that many people hated it.

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Good stuff.  In reference to the extra stash tabs, I would call it bad if not ugly,  Of course, you've heard me gripe about this before. biggrin.png


You said that you come from a gaming culture that believes in working for rewards, so from that perspective, the seasonal cache tab reward is good.  For the most part, I agree.  The problem in this case is, lack of storage is such an issue in this game that offering a fix for it via a reward is ludicrous.  It's like they said, "Oh, your game crashes to the desktop every 30 minutes?  Do well enough in the next season and you can earn a fix for that!"  Seriously--if they said this, I'd consider it no more ridiculous than earning new stash tabs.  When part of the game is broken, don't ask me to "earn" a patch for it.


But I realize I'm on the extreme end of wanting storage.  I could easily put to use 10 times as much stash space.  So considering the normal players, ok, they want to offer the tabs as rewards.  They still messed it up, and here's why:


In-game rewards fall into two categories--cosmetic and useful.


Cosmetic: wings, transmorgs, pets, banners, etc.  It's perfectly ok to lock these things up to where the casual player simply can't get them.  No matter how cool I think those wings look, if I can't put in the time to get them, it doesn't hold back my game.


Useful: armor, weapons, skills, recipes, NPCs, maps, waypoints, stash tabs, etc., etc.  Anything effecting actual gameplay.  It is never ok to lock these things completely away from the casual player.  Non-casual players will earn these things a lot sooner and faster and more often, but the casual player will get there eventually.  They may go a really long time before they finally get to Cube a Furnace, but it will happen and be really cool when it does.


Extra Stash Tabs are useful items (very useful) that have been completely locked away from the casual player.  No matter how long I keep playing the game, an extra stash tab won't finally "drop" (because the Season expires before I can get there.)  Then they add insult to injury by locking them away from even some non-casual players by requiring a game mode they don't enjoy.  All this for something that should have been considered a fix--not a reward--in the first place.



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      Rob Foote: My first job was as a game tester for Diablo II on the 1.04 patch. Blizzard was a lot smaller back then, and so was our QA team. We basically had to brute-force test Diablo, and if you’ve played D2, it’s very challenging to do because there’s so many different sets and Uniques. One of the craziest bugs we found arose from the set number of facings for each character. We had this checklist where you hold each weapon type and check every single one of the facings, and I thought “We’re never gonna find anything wrong with this; why even run the checklist?” But sure enough, one of the items, in one of the facings, disappeared from my character’s hands.
      Q: How did you get started on the team and in your current role?
      Rob Foote: I started at Blizzard 16 years ago, and my first job was as a game tester. I also worked on Lord of Destruction as a tester, worked my way up as a producer on World of Warcraft, and then came back as a producer on Diablo III. Now I’m a lead producer on Diablo III, and our job is to manage the schedule and ensure we get stuff done on time so we can publish patches. A lot of the job is about tasking individuals with work that needs to be done, and meeting with designers and asking what they want to accomplish with a feature. We set priorities with the team about the must-haves and the nice-to-haves, then go to work to get stuff done in the best way possible. Our designers have seemingly infinite ideas, so it’s usually a question of when we can get something done, and what can we deliver for each patch.
      Q: What is your favorite Diablo item?
      Rob Foote: In the first Diablo, it was the Godly Plate of the Whale. In Diablo II, the Stone of Jordan was THE item that consumed us. For Diablo III . . . I’m very unlucky and for the longest time I was trying to find Lut Socks. I needed them for my Earthquake/Leap build, and I waited for the longest time to get them, and it was the last piece to complete my build so I was very happy when I finally got them.
      Q: What classes are you playing currently? Do you play Hardcore or Softcore?
      Rob Foote: Last season I played a Witch Doctor, and I’ve played a lot of Barbarian. In Diablo II, Barbarian was one of my favorite classes; I also played a lot of Necromancers and Amazons, so in Diablo III I played Witch Doctor, and now with the Necromancer coming out next I’m excited about playing it again. I’ve played the Necromancer internally and it’s a lot of fun. In Season 8 I played my first Hardcore character to 70 and now I think I’ll probably switch back and forth. Hardcore’s a different game; you’re not pushing to the absolute limit, but instead pushing cautiously to the limit with the knowledge that if you die, you lose it all.
      Q: What’s it like working on the Diablo team?
      Rob Foote: When people ask me what the best part of working at Blizzard is, I always answer, “the people.” Everyone here loves games and our games in particular, so motivation isn’t a factor. People come in every day to make amazing games and that makes our job very rewarding and pretty straightforward. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and our designers regularly have brainstorm sessions with the entire team. It’s all about having great ideas and putting them into the game. Every year, we get better at making Diablo; we trust each other, we listen to each other, and we collaborate. It’s a great place to be and we’re always excited to come in to work.
      Q: What do you think is the historical legacy of Diablo? What will people be reading about the series 10–20 years from now?
      Rob Foote: I think if, 20 years from now, someone is flipping through a college textbook on game design, and they see the entry on “Action RPG,” the entry would say “see: Diablo.” Anyone who plays that genre and loves it has played Diablo games. I think Diablo satisfies the need to build heroes over time, grow in power, get awesome loot, slay monsters, play with your friends, and share those experiences with others.
      Q: What‘s the one thing that would cause Diablo to no longer be Diablo if we removed it from the game?
      Rob Foote: Loot. The loot is what drives the game to me. They’re like presents; you get to open them and they can dramatically change your character. When you get a powerful item, you can really feel the increase in your performance; it’s not a 0.4% increase but a 20% increase in damage and you’re just slaying things you used to struggle with in one hit. That’s really satisfying.
      Q: Can you give us an example of something you’re really excited to have worked on?
      Rob Foote: There are many moments, but I think the greatest moment for me was when Reaper of Souls shipped. It was obviously a commercial success, but, more importantly, it was also a huge success in the eyes of our players. The community loved it; our family and friends contacted us saying they loved it, the launch went very smoothly, and it was well-received by a lot of people. Second would be shipping Lord of Destruction, because it was the first time I got a credit in the game industry. I still have the instruction manual with my name printed on it.
      Q: Can you tell us a little about the Darkening of Tristram (Patch 2.4.3) and how the patch came to be?
      Rob Foote: The initial conversation was along the lines of, “we want to do something for the 20th anniversary; what’s the plan?” Initially, we were going to just add the old-school music from Diablo into Diablo III. That evolved into, “what if we could get you to play a representation of Diablo in Diablo III?” That became, “well, one level was pretty easy to do, there’s only 15 more, let’s just do them all.” We had some very passionate people who were dedicated to making it happen, and it kind of snowballed—in a good way—into having all 16 levels, then finding monsters that work within those levels to make it reminiscent of the Diablo I experience. Someone had the idea to run the game in 640x480 resolution, but it wasn’t really feasible—so we created a visual filter instead to get the pixelated look.
      Q: What are some of the series’ most difficult and memorable bosses? Any tips?
      Rob Foote: The first time you fight the Butcher. Back in the day, there were no spoilers. You didn’t know what was going to happen when you walked into his room, and he instantly killed you. Just “fresh meat!” and you’re dead. And you’re like, “Whoa! What just happened?” I think that’s very memorable.
      Q: If you could go back in time and tell the developers of the original Diablo anything, what would it be?
      Rob Foote: I don’t think I’d have them change a thing, even things we perceive as flaws. We never consider those things flaws unless, over time, something changes our perspective. You can’t run in Diablo I, which was fine at the time. After Diablo II came out; it let you run, and so obviously we thought, “oh, this is so much better!” But I never thought about that when I was playing D1.
      Q: Is it possible to kill Diablo for good?
      Rob Foote: In Diablo, the heroes never celebrate. Even when you think you beat him, Diablo is always coming back. Be on your guard. Evil lurks everywhere, and Sanctuary is a dangerous place.
      Julian Love, Lead VFX Artist
      Q: How long have you been a Diablo fan?
      Julian Love, Lead VFX Artist: I’d have to go back 20 years to my first year in the industry, 1996. I was working at Sierra Online and our lead programmer brought in a game and said “you’ve got to play this, this is awesome”—it was Diablo. I immediately fell in love. There was a secret pact between the lead engineer, the lead designer, and I—every day we’d just play Diablo together all the time. The producer would show up and be angry at us, or someone would sneak across the hall and say “I died. You’ve got to come help me!” 
      Q: What is it about the Diablo series that appeals to you?
      Julian Love: Back in 1996 I was playing a lot of Diablo. Some of the guys who played with me wanted to go off on their own and make their own games and we were asking ourselves “what kind of game do you want to make?” and one guy goes, “I want to make a horse racing game!” and I was like, “no way, I want to make a Diablo game!”
      And then Diablo II came out and a coworker commented “You know, you show up every day and all you do is talk about Diablo and you know more about it than anyone else. Why aren’t you working there?” So, after six years in the industry, it hit me: “What am I doing? Why am I not working there? I can work there, right?” I quit the next day and I got a job at Blizzard North shortly after.
      Q: Do you remember the first thing you worked on when you joined the Diablo team?
      Julian Love: What I did was a bit more mundane in nature. We were working on a project that eventually became the engine for Diablo III. Back then you could model a character, but a bunch of steps needed to happen before you could get the character in the game so it could move around. You want to automate as much of it as possible, but back then that wasn’t an industry standard. Nobody had done it. So I worked on the process that lets you turn a polygon into a fully usable character. This process is still in use today; in fact, the Necromancer is being made using the same pipeline I built in 2002.
      Q: How did you get started on the team and in your current role?
      Julian Love: I started as a technical artist working on the D3 engine, and about six months in, I noticed people were doing special effects for their characters and—this is going to sound a bit strange—there was a character with a gun. Every time the gun was shot, a little puff of smoke would come out of the barrel. I saw the smoke come out and then shrink down to a point. As you know, smoke does not do that. What I discovered was, many people on the team did their own special effects but no one in particular was passionate about it. They just saw it as something else they had to do.
      I really love special effects, so much that at one point I considered working in the film industry. So I built some stuff, everyone loved it and so I said "Seriously, give all of that work to me. Hire someone else to do what I'm doing now and let me do ALL special effects. Nobody gets to do it but me!" because I loved it so much. 
      Q: What is your favorite Diablo item?
      Julian Love: Two items from Diablo II are my favorites. The first one is Ume's Lament. When I first played Diablo II, the Necromancer completely captured my attention. Playing Hardcore, you have a lot of opportunities to play the same class over and over. I made a few Necromancers and they were terrible. I had no idea what I was doing, so I decided I had to play something else. I picked a Paladin—which was also terrible—but I eventually killed Diablo, and he dropped Ume's Lament. I took it as a sign that I should go back and play more of the Necromancer now that I had a good item for it, so I did—and was much more successful.
      Years and years later when I was working at Blizzard North, I had taken a break from the game, so I started again on a fresh character. At that point I had played a lot of Diablo, so I was kind of unsure, like, "Am I going to dig this? Or am I really just done with it?" I walk out of town, the first monster I kill drops a Gull dagger, and just like that I was sucked back into the game again for at least another six months. It was great.
      Q: What classes are you playing currently? Do you play Hardcore or Softcore?
      Julian Love: Witch Doctor. The variety of builds you can create for Witch Doctor means I've been playing a lot of it. My second class is Monk; he's so fast and responsive it’s hard not to like, but then again, we built him like that. I always play Hardcore and I don't have any Softcore characters. I used to play Softcore exclusively and then I tried Hardcore out of curiosity. Clicking one box changed the whole game. Suddenly everything you do is scarier, and it was awesome. That was it for me. I couldn't go back to Softcore.
      Q: What’s it like working on the Diablo team? What do you do for fun?
      Julian Love: There's an old saying for games: "You can't make fun without having fun." I think if you could hear the giggling and laughing at the preposterousness of proposing "let's put over 100 skeletons on the screen for Army of the Dead" and the process of realizing that, you’d understand. No one thinks of these things in isolation, no one sits at their desk alone and comes up with an amazing idea that lights up the world; what happens is we get together and bounce things around and try to one-up each other, and be silly and comical, and propose the most absurd ideas. But it's also very safe to say those things, because there's a lot of trust. Others forgive me for saying something that sounds really off the wall, because they know the next ridiculous, seemingly undoable idea might come from them. Nobody judges the ideas during brainstorms and we let our creativity run wild. We trust that we're coming up with something crazy, but it's always to try and make the game as fun as it can be.
      Q: What do you think is the historical legacy of Diablo? What will people be reading about the series 10–20 years from now?
      Julian Love: Diablo takes a kind of experience—the fantasy RPG experience—and makes it accessible to everyone. At the time of Diablo’s release, that kind of experience came only to a certain kind of person, and only if you could delve deeply into all the systems, and all the complexities that came with them could you then enjoy the experience. Diablo made it accessible for the rest of us. I can say this with a lot of authority, because I have a relative who I'd say is the quintessential "anti-gamer." He's someone who thinks games are silly; a waste of time. When D3 came out, I convinced him to try it out. After giving him a little direction, he starts clicking, starts killing monsters, and he just lost himself in the game for three hours and had a delightful experience. To me, that's the magic of Diablo.
      Q: What‘s the one thing that would cause Diablo to no longer be Diablo if we removed it from the game?
      Julian Love: There's a good argument to be made for loot. But I think the important one is preserving the ability to play with one hand. Even though most players will use two hands pretty much all the time, the fact that you can play with just your mouse is crucial to the accessibility the series is known for. If I had to pick a close second, it would be the ability to beat the crap out of so many monsters. Monster-slaying is core to the experience, and if at some point you're not using your skills and items to beat demons into submission, it ceases to be a Diablo game.
      Q: Can you give us an example of something you’re really excited to have worked on?
      Julian Love: I always enjoy trying to figure out new things that will delight our players, and then see their delight when we present it to the world. When we were making the new Witch Doctor skill for Reaper of Souls—Piranhas—the original design was a bit vague, just some kind of summoned debuff, with maybe "some bugs" as a visual. I said, "we need a story here; besides, how will this be different from Locust Swarm? We need something else." You don't want to rehash ideas, and you don't want something that doesn’t fit the class fantasy, but instead something in between, familiar and still new and fresh. Using bugs wasn't good enough, but the idea of animals wasn't bad . . . so what about piranhas? The team latched on to that idea; it was easy to associate it with the Witch Doctor, so we made it. Seeing the reaction as people used that spell for the first time was delightful.
      Q: Can you talk about the Necromancer visuals and some of the skills we saw at BlizzCon?
      Julian Love: As soon as we decided we were doing the Necromancer, there were skills that made us all say "we can't have a Necromancer without this." Corpse Explosion was at the top of the list. Looking back at Diablo II, the graphics themselves didn't really do the skill justice; the corpses on the ground were iconic, but the notion and the concept of the skill carried it a lot further than visuals did. We have the opportunity to put a strong, clear visual on it, to ensure the skill will feel visceral and fit the fantasy.
      When you're working with something with a previous incarnation like this, it's like working with a clay statue that hasn't hardened yet. You're going to touch it and something will change; the question is how.
      For Army of the Dead, we knew we wanted a long cooldown, flashy spell, and I knew we needed a spell to show people how we were going to bring the Necromancer to the next level. We gave it a name from a skill which also exists in World of Warcraft, and people just assumed, "oh, okay, they're just going to copy-paste that." Then we got to show it at BlizzCon, and there were literally over one hundred skeletons on the screen. Is this a world record? It has to be. Seeing the reaction from the crowd at BlizzCon was really satisfying. I'm always looking forward to those moments.
      Those skills are very grounded and visceral, and that has a lot to do with the visual identity of the Necromancer, who was a very serious, sinister, dark class in Diablo II. We want to make sure we preserve that feeling.
      Q: What are some of the series’ most difficult and memorable bosses? Any tips?
      Julian Love: I worked on getting patch 1.10 out the door for Diablo II. I showed up, and they were testing Über Diablo, and the guy who was working on it says, “oh, you’re going to LOVE this! It’s almost unbeatable.” He fires up a character outfitted with all rare—yellow—gear, and goes, “look at how HARD this is!” I’m like “You’re kidding, right? Can you get my dual-wielding Barbarian from” A couple days later, I get on my Barbarian, and I say, “okay, watch this,” and I proceed to waste that incarnation of Über Diablo in like 10 seconds. I showed them they were not testing it right, and we started pulling characters from to test it, which ended up meaning a 3-month delay to the patch—sorry, everyone!—but in the end the boss was a lot more satisfying.
      Q: If you could go back in time and tell the developers of the original Diablo anything, what would it be?
      Julian Love: I really like those games for what they are, and it's difficult for me to be critical of anything they've done because that led us to what we have today. A lot of the time, “flaws” are the quirks that make you love a game even more. So, if I had to pick something, it would be a small annoyance; I’d tell them, "don't make gold take inventory space! Put it in its own counter instead" or something. Diablo II is even harder for me, as sometimes I hold it up as the perfect game, but I think if I had to pick something there, I'd say "if you want people to care about resistances, build up to that. Don't let players spend the entire first Act without encountering any poison damage, and then have Andariel wreck them because they had no idea they needed 75% poison resists."
      At the same time, these flaws give us stories to tell. The reason we can look back and laugh is because we all got killed by Andariel’s poison damage at one point or another.
      Q: Is it possible to kill Diablo for good?
      Julian Love: For good? I'm going to give you the smart guy, out-of-the-game-lore answer: you don't want to kill him for good. If we were ever going to make another game and put the Diablo name on it—and I think everyone wants that—we kind of want the Lord of Terror around so you can kill him in it, right? It's OK for an expansion to not have Diablo in it, but every new entry in the series is going to need our titular villain.
      Joe Shely, Senior Game Designer
      Q: How long have you been a Diablo fan?
      Joe Shely, Senior Game Designer: I've been a fan since the original Diablo. I played it back in high school and my mom yelled at me for not turning the computer off at bedtime—that spellbook wasn’t going to find itself. I also played tons of Diablo II in college; all those sleepless nights worked out for me, though, because now I get to work on Diablo! 
      Q: What is it about the Diablo series that appeals to you?
      Joe Shely: The original Diablo was all about getting to the bottom of the dungeon and fighting Diablo. It was a challenge just to make it down there alive and find out what's going on. You have to remember, back then you didn’t have the story that's been developed today, it was just "what is happening under this creepy church?" It was very mysterious and I found it compelling.
      In Diablo II, I had a Frost Sorceress and I would Frozen Orb everything; I wanted to get to level 99 and I wanted to beat Diablo on Hell difficulty. I liked putting my points into skills and overcharging skills with +skills on items, playing the item game to maximize my skills, and getting Uniques. I felt like I could always keep progressing my character, and I think that's a strength of Diablo—your character can always get stronger and take on new, harder challenges.
      Q: Do you remember the first thing you worked on when you joined the Diablo team?
      Joe Shely: I don't know if I can remember the exact thing, but I probably tuned something that frustrated me as a player. At one point, we had an issue with seeking projectiles that tracked the player being biased towards one direction. It was very good at tracking you in one direction, and very bad at tracking you in the other direction; I realized this playing on my Wizard, so I came in to work the next day and fixed it.
      Q: How did you get started on the team and in your current role?
      Joe Shely: I began working on Diablo III directly shortly after the original release. I came on to help with Reaper of Souls and got to do a bunch of work on monsters, bosses, systems, Adventure Mode, Greater Rift tuning, and more.
      Q: What is your favorite Diablo item?
      Joe Shely: I definitely like Cam's Rebuttal. It's not the strongest item—I think the strongest item I have on any character is probably an Ancient Yang's Recurve with really good rolls. In terms of pure power, it's a fantastic item, and I was super excited I got it. But when I look at some of the items that do really interesting things, I really like playing the Crusader and having a window of time where I've got another charge of Falling Sword I don't want to waste. There are conditions under which I won't use it, like if there's only one guy left. Sometimes I try to wait as long as possible before using that second charge to maximize the damage from the Firestarter Rune and Consecration.
      Q: What classes are you playing currently? Do you play Hardcore or Softcore?
      Joe Shely: Let’s see . . . I’ve got a Hardcore Wizard in Season 8 and a Demon Hunter non-Seasonal. I also have a Hardcore Crusader I haven’t played in a while, but he’s pretty fun too. I think I play Hardcore for the same reason as many of our players—the stakes are increased, your decisions matter in the combat sense. It’s certainly something I do when I want to sit and only play Diablo III, and really focus on that. I won’t try to do anything else while I’m playing my Hardcore character.
      Q: What’s it like working on the Diablo team? What do you do for fun?
      Joe Shely: The Diablo team is a great group to work for in many ways; it has its own culture, and it’s a culture that evolved around wanting the best for the game and trying to use our resources and the talent of the team to deliver awesome content for our players. At Blizzard, we have this very strong philosophy of supporting our games for years after their release, so that’s very much our focus on the team, looking at the game week-to-week, month-to-month to figure out what the game needs now, and what’s the best thing to deliver to our fans. I’m very proud of our team-wide brainstorms, where we get everyone in a room and we say “here’s the next piece of content we’re going to do,” like a new zone, and we discuss possibilities. “There are new monsters in this zone; what should they be?”
      We get a good sense of what we should do in brainstorms; for example, we’ll start with a rough overview of a new zone, like a cold, shrouded moor; there’s going to be some rocky terrain, and it’s misty . . . so what kind of monsters live there? We look at all those and figure out what can we do, and which ideas resonate most strongly with the team. The advantage of team brainstorming is, when it comes time to make the content, whether it’s modeling a creature, animating it, or adding powers, the people who are doing it know they had input into that feature, which makes everyone more passionate.
      Q: What do you think is the historical legacy of Diablo? What will people be reading about the series 10–20 years from now?
      Joe Shely: I would hope they would read about it and then go play some Diablo, in whatever form that may be, because I think the Diablo legacy is very much still being written. There’s this chase of slaying monsters and getting epic loot and being heroic, and that thread has tied the franchise together. I would expect to see more of that in the future.
      Q: What‘s the one thing that would cause Diablo to no longer be Diablo if we removed it from the game?
      Joe Shely: I think loot is the answer. Slaying monsters, getting epic loot, and using your epic loot to slay more monsters is the core loop of Diablo. You can see this all the way from Diablo I to Diablo III. Look at what spellbooks were in Diablo I; they were a form of epic loot that changed your gameplay. When you consider how legendaries have evolved in Diablo III, you can see how the items in Diablo III very much affect your gameplay in some of those same ways—they can make significant changes to your skills, how they're used, the visual effects of your skills, and gameplay mechanics in quite a similar way to how a spellbook would give you a completely new spell.
      Q: Can you give us an example of something you’re really excited to have worked on?
      Joe Shely: I’m excited about the changes coming to Greater Rifts in 2.4.3. We've reworked the way we spawn monsters in Greater Rifts, and the most obvious effect is that you're going to see a more consistent and, for some tiles, higher density of monsters—but it's really much more. We want the Greater Rift experience to be as varied as possible, and to have plenty of possibilities to be great. When you go down a floor, you should expect great monsters, surprising tiles, cool pylons, etc. The changes we've done in 2.4.3 are aimed at improving that experience. I think it's going to be a good change for our players.
      Q: Can you tell us a little about the Darkening of Tristram (Patch 2.4.3) and how the patch came to be?
      Joe Shely: I think one of the things we tried to capture with the anniversary event is this direct connection to the Soulstone and the evil of the Soulstone that ties the franchise together. I think the story of Malthael is a very interesting one; you get to meet the Angiris Council and learn about what's going on with these angels, but it's also nice to have an anchor or touchstone in the Red Soulstone, and that's why we wanted to bring it back for the anniversary event. That's also why we put the additional effort to get the D1 cinematic in there, and make a legendary gem you can put in your helm and really capture what I think was probably one of the most memorable events of Diablo 1—you end up impaling yourself.
      Q: What are some of the series’ most difficult and memorable bosses? Any tips?
      Joe Shely: The Baal fight in Diablo II: Lord of Destruction is pretty hard if you’re a ranged character. He slows you, and you have to deal with the tight constraints of the room. You’re being thrust directly into the fight. Looking at Diablo III, I think Malthael is a pretty tough boss: he’s got multiple phases, a lot of different mechanics, and there’s some stuff that can kill you if you’re not watching. His clouds can be quite dangerous; the adds he summons are some of the most dangerous monsters you’ll face out in the world, and then his ultimate lightning hands attack does extreme damage, so you really have to be on your toes.
      Q: If you could go back in time and tell the developers of the original Diablo anything, what would it be?
      Joe Shely: I think there would be a lot of back slapping. I’ve always wanted something to happen with the cow when you click on it, the one outside the entrance to the catacombs. Anything, really. I mean you click him, he moos at you, you think something’s gonna happen. I’d like to think we’ve corrected that in the later games, though.
      Editor’s note: We’re not sure what Joe is on about here. 
      Q: Is it possible to kill Diablo for good?
      Joe Shely: All I can say is, he hasn’t died yet, right? He’s not been permanently vanquished at this point. We’ll have to wait and see