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The new head of the Diablo franchise, Rod Ferguson, recently got to work and managed to check out the goods on D4 for a few days before the Corona isolation kicked in, and teased several things through his twitter. The biggest detail shared was that he's seen the art and image archive and it's "nightmare fuel":
We also got a look at a lot of the concept art back during BlizzCon so you can check that out if you missed/forgot some of it.
Then he went on to tease/provoke all of us that didn't manage to attend BlizzCon last year and try the demo out, as well as showed off his new D4 swag:
We also have a small coincidence in that the art director for D4 is actually pretty deeply connected to the very first Gears of War, the franchise Ferguson has been with before Diablo:
Speaking of Mueller, you should check out his Artstation account for a feel for his style (even though we've already seen a lot of the D4 concept art and it's pretty amazing), and here's a few choice images:
And finally we have some Blizzard work-related tweets:
Not quite a whole lot of new information, but for the small amount of time Ferguson's had access to the studio it's nice that he's sharing as much as he is. Hopefully when things get back to normal we'll hear even more on the development of Diablo 4 from the boss directly, and meanwhile we can remind ourselves of everything that's coming with the updated version of everything we know about D4 so far!
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A Diablo 4 Features Hate/Excitement Ratio from the Reddit Community Will Diablo 4 Have Local aka Couch Co-Op on PC? Updated Version of Everything We Know About Diablo 4 So Far Diablo 4 Quarterly Update: February 2020 Diablo 4 Beta Signup Clarifications New Head of the Diablo Franchise Is Rod Ferguson of Gears of War Diablo 4 GamesRadar Hands On - Death Kits, Difficulty and More Diablo 4 Vs. 3 Vs. 2 Graphics and Art Style Comparisons Quarterly Updates on Diablo IV in 2020 System Design, Part 2 (Official) Lilith's Summoner Is Rathma Confirmed Diablo 4 Will Be "Like the First Chapter of a Book", Diablo May Not Even Show Up System Design in Diablo 4, Part 1 (Official) A Letter from the Diablo 4 Game Director Leaks Before the Diablo 4 Announcement: Amazon, Paladin and Release Date? New Gameplay Videos Without Commentary Diablo 4 Will Feature Cosmetic Microtransactions Cross-Play Is a Goal for Diablo 4, Blizzard "Very Excited" About It Visible Open World Players, Skill Cap at 15 and More from Venture Beat Diablo 4 Interview All the Item Affixes from the Diablo 4 BlizzCon Demo All Barbarian, Sorceress and Druid Skills and Talents
We have a community overview to check out, as redditor kasperja has taken some time to analyze user reaction after the first Diablo 4 2020 quarterly update. We have a hate vs. excitement scale (typo notwithstanding) based on a few polls from the r/diablo community. Now this obviously doesn't represent everyone, but it's still a nice visual and definitely not that far off from the general consensus, with the most excitement going towards the art style and combat, and most hated being the itemization and talents.
This is pretty good news as the majority of the hated features are still very much in development and definitely aren't even close to final, so this is helpful feedback for Blizzard.
The February 2020 update for Diablo 4 covered a lot of ground, mainly focusing on players' interaction with the game itself, from the way we control it to the way we get to see our skills etc, aka the UI. One big question has come out of it, however, as the update talks about both the (long awaited/asked for) addition of controller support for PC and specifics for the local co-op UI layout - but completely fails to mention whether the latter is also referring to the PC or if it's console only.
The actual title of the co-op section of the update is "Couch Co-Op UI". Now, nowhere in the update does it actually state that local/single machine co-op won't be coming to PC, but as the couch co-op term is associated specifically with consoles only, there's been some debate on this in the community.
Co-op in and of itself is obviously not a console only thing, as PC games (and Blizzard games specifically) have had a co-op focus for a long time now, especially with Diablo and WoW, with Diablo 3 even seemingly favoring the multiplayer aspect, based on drop chances, ease of farming etc (we actually even got comments from the devs on this for Diablo 4 already, as the intention is for solo play to be as rewarding in group play). So let's take a look at the arguments for and against "couch" co-op coming to PC.
Why wouldn't we get local co-op on PC?
First and foremost, local co-op isn't really a PC thing. Not many games actually support it, as the multiplayer aspect is much more online-focused, with co-operative experiences being crafted based on each player having their own screen. With RPGs in particular, the added complexity of inventory screens, skill trees and a whole lot of stats to be read complicates matters, as screen real estate becomes problematic and hard to come by. The other big issue presented by additional players playing on the same PC is the fact that Blizzard would probably insist on them having their own accounts, with the argument being "so they can play their own characters and retain their progress", but in reality not wanting to lose sales (which is a valid concern). This would mean having to log in two separate accounts on the same PC, which is something online games REALLY don't like, due to account sharing issues, and we know Blizzard have a firm stance against that.
So they'd either have to significantly change the way players log in to the game or allow "guests" to create characters on others' accounts. Or they could just allow PC players the same courtesy as console players, basically just letting anyone play any character on the same account on the same PC. This would mean that you couldn't play local co-op at a friend's house with your own characters from your account, but would rather have to level one up from scratch and keep it there. This adds another problem, as the game being online-only means that we'll almost certainly have a limit to the number of characters we can create, which would mean whoever has a lot of friends coming over would have their character count severely limited.
Now all of the above options (and the many more I didn't cover) and the problems they bring with them can be solved if there's a willingness to add the feature, and while local co-op is pretty rare on PC, there are exceptions. Most notably these are turn based games with their "hot seat" options (the Divinity: Original Sin series, as well as the upcoming Baldur's Gate 3 - although those are a mix of turn based and real time - and many, many turn based strategy games). Fully real time local co-op games are less frequent on PC, with most of them being indie-type platformers or, and the biggest one in recent memory being a console port/console franchise that already had built in local co-op for their console versions - aka Gears (of War) 5. Now if that particular franchise rings a bell with you in relation to Diablo for some reason...
Why we should and might get local co-op on PC
Since the rallying cry behind Diablo 4 so far has been feedback, feedback and more feedback, those of us that really want the game to get local co-op on PC need to speak up. Personally I've been searching for local co-op PC games all my life and played basically all of them (despite owning several consoles throughout the years) and playing Diablo 3 on Xbox with 3 friends in the same room is some of the most fun I've had with the entire franchise. There really isn't anything better than couch co-op, in the rare times you can manage it (especially if you're a little older) and action RPGs and Diablo in particular are some of the best examples of it out there, so not having it available to the biggest section of the Diablo player base would be a bit sad.
As the tech is already there for the console versions of D4 (minus the issues mentioned in the previous section), we can only hope that it also arrives for PC, but we also have to be vocal about it, letting Blizzard known it's a feature PC players want. There's also an overall push to integrate the various platforms Diablo 4 will be coming to, as we've already heard that cross-play is a goal of the game and Blizzard are excited about it, so that's a positive indicator.
As hinted to in the previous section, one of the big things in favor of local PC co-op is the recent addition of Rod Ferguson as the head of the Diablo franchise - as he was a crucial part of the Gears of War series from its inception, and Gears is famous for its co-op support. We even have one of the biggest examples for PC local co-op in the franchise's latest installment, as Gears 5 features a 2-player split screen and even options for the local players to be joined by a third one online.
In closing, this might be a very small feature compared to the other huge things going on in Diablo 4, but it's a pretty big deal for those of us that care about it. With the console versions getting some pretty nice upgrades in the local co-op department already, and the PC getting controller support, this would be the perfect time to introduce it to the PC side of the franchise. There's also the possibility that this is a done deal and we're getting it already, but Blizzard either haven't announced it yet or simply assumed it was clear from the February update that it was indeed coming to PC. So let's hope the latter is the case, but also clearly and loudly say: Blizzard, please add local co-op for PC!
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The first quarterly update on Diablo IV has arrived with an introduction by Game Director Luis Barriga, Lead UI Designer Angela Del Priore guides us through updates based on post-BlizzCon feedback, controller support on PC, and more. The update is closed by Senior Encounter Designer Candace Thomas who shares a first look at a new set of enemies, the tribes of the Dry Steppes.
UI Design, Controller Support, and Co-Op
The devs are not planning to bring back different-sized items. With item icons, they initially pursued a painterly style, but right now, they decided to go with a different approach based off the 3D models to give them natural texture and realism. The brightness and saturation of icon backgrounds have been toned down. Inventory layout has been reorganized and now has a more balanced composition. Based on feedback, the default position of the action bar will be moved to the bottom center for PC players. Diablo IV is for the first time being developed for PC and consoles at the same time. The PC version of the game will support controllers. The focus for Diablo IV is improving the favored 2 player couch co-op experience and come up with core progression UI screens. Monster Family & Design: Cannibals
Monsters in Diablo IV are classified into "families". Legends say that Cannibals are a former tribe of barbarians, banished from Arreat years ago. The Cannibal family has four members, each type has their own unique weapon and a different silhouette or stance to help them discern from one another. Cannibals have two melee combatants; one's wielding a Two-Handed greatsword cleaver, the other one's using a halberd which allows Cannibals to leap at players from great distances. Bruisers use spiked clubs to deliver intense blows. Dual-axe-wielding swarmers unleash a flurry of quick frontal attacks. The Cannibal family will have no ranged units, but they will have supernatural swiftness to make combat feel frenetic. Check out the official blog post below for more information.
Table of Contents
Introduction to Quarterly Updates
Luis Barriga, Game Director
UI Design, Controller Support, and Co-Op
Angela Del Priore, Lead UI Designer
Monster Family & Design Highlight: Cannibal Tribes
Candace Thomas, Senior Encounter Designer
Hello, and welcome to the new blog section of the Diablo IV website!
The Diablo IV development team has been hard at work since BlizzCon and we are all still incredibly energized by the response to our announcement and follow-up blog posts. We can tell you are all excited to see more info coming from the team and about how the game is coming together.
Well, we have some great news for you today. We are stoked to deliver the first of our quarterly blog updates with you, and this one happens to be a doubleheader.
First, we have a word from our Lead UI Designer, Angela Del Priore, with some super cool updates on post-BlizzCon feedback, controller support on PC, and a deep dive into couch co-op. If you’d like to jump to her update right now, click here.
Our second update is by our Senior Encounter Designer, Candace Thomas. She shares a first look at a new set of enemies: the cannibal tribes of the Dry Steppes. You’ll see some amazing new art by Igor Sidorenko, read some of our in-world lore, and even watch video of these flesh-eaters in action. To check out Candace’s update, click here.
We hope you enjoy both of these updates. We’re looking forward to your thoughts and comments on them, and please also let us know the sorts of things you’d like to hear about next. We realize many of you are curious about different aspects of the development process—some of you love reading and re-reading lore, while others of you may geek out over item tooltips or want to hear some early music tracks. So be sure to tell us what excites you most! Our goal for these updates is to cover a wide variety of subjects and, over the course of development, share something exciting for everyone.
Once again, we want to thank you all for sharing in this journey with us.
See you in Hell.
Game Director, Diablo IV Team
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UI DESIGN, CONTROLLER SUPPORT, AND CO-OP
Angela Del Priore, Lead UI Designer
For anyone who isn’t familiar with user interface (UI) design, our team is responsible for communicating game systems to the player and providing players with the inputs they need to engage with those systems. So while we are focused on helping the player achieve what they want to do, we also need to balance that goal against the vision for the game while maintaining the clarity of what our interface is trying to communicate.
As you might imagine, this means that we iterate on our UI regularly. As systems change, the UI changes with it, which can in turn cause player goals to change. The UI then needs to adapt while keeping our visual language consistent across the entire game. Visual polish is one of the last things we focus on for this reason. Please keep that in mind as we talk through and show some of our in-progress work, but feel free to let us know your thoughts!
BlizzCon Demo Feedback
It’s been a few months since BlizzCon, but we still wanted to take a moment to address some of the UI-specific feedback we received from the demo and announcement videos.
We saw a lot of feedback around the inventory, either regarding its coloring, the style/size of the item icons, or overall aesthetic. To avoid interrupting gameplay with pockets of inventory management, we’re not planning on bringing back different-sized items. However, we’ve been tackling the other points from a variety of directions.
With item icons, we’d initially pursued a painterly style to stay in line with the overall art direction of the game, and we’re finding that it doesn’t come across as well when we’re talking about small elements in the UI. We’re now exploring another approach more directly based off the 3D models to give them natural texture and realism.
We’ve also toned down the brightness and saturation of the icon backgrounds, as well as added secondary visual cues for indicating rarity via the border decoration. This way, we’ve made rarity indicators visually more subtle but hopefully with a wider range in accessibility.
We received some non-specific feedback about the inventory, but we had guesses as to what people were reacting to based on our own observations. We’ve reorganized the layout of the inventory to what is hopefully a more balanced composition, and across the board we’re looking at the color spread and contrast levels of individual UI pieces.
We hope to both home in on our goal of a gritty, realistic UI, while balancing ease of use. As the inventory screen is something our players will probably interact with the most, we really appreciate your feedback in this area.
A surprising number of players asked for the option to rebind their primary skill to anything but the left mouse button so that they could separate moving from attacking. Adding more flexibility to our binding options had already been on our radar for a while, and the demo feedback helped confirm that this was a customization feature that players really wanted.
In addition to giving players the freedom to assign any skill to any slot from the get-go, all skill slots can now have their keys rebound. We’re committed to supporting skill rebinding for controllers as well.
The Left-Corner Action Bar
We went through a lot of iteration on this piece of UI. The left-corner configuration came about because we wanted to try clearing the central combat area and freeing up the bottom of the screen where the isometric camera already sees less. However, based on usability test results, the team’s feedback, and the feedback we received from the demo, we’re going to move the default position of the action bar back to the bottom center for PC players.
That’s not all, though! The preferred position changes to the left-corner when people play further away from the screen. This doesn’t come as a surprise given the shift in viewing angle (illustrative diagram below not to scale), but it does mean that the center configuration isn’t a majority winner on PC since we’re supporting controller input. So, while we will only stick to the corner configuration on consoles, we will offer both left and center positions as options on PC.
Supporting controllers on PC
This is the first time a Diablo game is being developed simultaneously for both PC and consoles, but the decision to support controller input on PC is what caused the greater paradigm shift for us. We wanted to give players the ability to switch between the two options freely, so our UI needed to be unified enough that swapping hardware inputs on the fly wouldn’t throw people completely off kilter. A unified UI means our layouts are more grid-based for ease of navigation, but it doesn’t necessarily mean an identical interaction flow.
We try to maintain this sort of approach, of keeping established keyboard and mouse conventions while creating controller-friendly shortcuts or alternate flows, throughout the game. Controller support shouldn’t be a limiter on how complex our game can be; it just means we have more paths that we need to consider. It’s not a simple undertaking, but we’re really striving for a native feel for both types of inputs.
Couch Co-Op UI
We know many players enjoyed couch co-op in Reaper of Souls, and that the biggest complaint was the inability to do anything while one local player had a UI screen open. When the topic of couch co-op came up early on in development, we looked at the number of people who utilized this feature in Diablo III and found that the 2-player setup accounted for an overwhelming majority. For Diablo IV, we decided to focus on improving the favored 2-player co-op experience and set up our core progression UI screens such that they can be opened independently or at the same time.
We iterate on this interface regularly and ease of interaction comes before visual polish, but we still welcome impressions at any stage. Everyone approaches the game with a different set of experiences and, consequently, different expectations for how things should look or work and it’s always interesting to hear these perspectives.
Thanks for reading!
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MONSTER FAMILY & DESIGN HIGHLIGHT: CANNIBALS
Candace Thomas, Senior Encounter Designer
If you had the chance to watch our World and Lore Panel during BlizzCon, you learned that monsters in Diablo IV are classified into “families.” In our various panels we covered different monster families such as the Fallen, who are returning to once again terrorize Sanctuary, and the Drowned, who are a brand new threat plaguing the shores of this world. We touched on their story, combat abilities, the regions they inhabit, and how they interact with one another in a meaningful way. Now, we would like to give you a look into another new family: The Cannibals.
What is a Monster Family and Why Does it Matter?
Cultist Family—Diablo IV
Before we dive into the specific mechanics of the Cannibal family, let’s take a moment to talk about our design philosophy when it comes to monsters.
In the bestiary of Diablo III, we classified monsters into broad categories like demon, unholy, undead, humanoid, or wildlife. These monsters served as an anchor to the story by adding to the overall setting and tone, which made the whole game feel complete.
In Diablo IV, the vast and seamless world we created necessitates a slightly different approach to worldbuilding and storytelling. It requires building Sanctuary as a living, breathing character—especially through its creatures. Since we have everything from serene ocean cliffsides to the gaping maw of Hell itself, what does that mean for the bestiary? Well, to fill those areas and make them feel real, we definitely needed to have more non-aggressive wildlife than in Diablo III. But never fear, we still have plenty of monsters to fight.
Every monster has been reimagined, but in a darker, more gritty art style. We have lovingly handcrafted every creature you’ll encounter from the ground up: that includes demons, NPCs, Act Bosses, and even the skittering critters you can crush underfoot. Though we still pay tribute to some hallmark gameplay—such as Fallen Shamans resurrecting other Fallen—we have completely reimagined things in other places.
To have these creatures feel more sophisticated and robust, we designed them in what we call “monster families” and archetypes. Each family has a different combat style and feel. For example, the Drowned family has five members in various archetypes: bruiser, ranged combat, melee combat, swarmer, and dungeon boss.
Drowned Family Lineup in Diablo IV
Each archetype plays a different role in combat. Swarmers strike in groups, making AoE attacks feel satisfying. Bruisers are larger monsters with high health values, which will make damage over time abilities feel good. Melee combat units act as shields by standing in the way of projectiles for their ranged counterparts. Situations like this provide the player with interesting positional dilemmas if they want to focus fire on ranged units. When adding all of this together, each encounter with the Drowned will be slightly different with regards to player positioning and choice of attack. These rich and varied combat experiences are the power of a monster family.
Who Are the Cannibals?
Cannibal Family Lineup in Diablo IV
A Battle for Survival
Now that we’ve introduced some new lore about this family, we can dive into how we try to use them to give a cohesive experience narratively, while also providing the peaks-and-valleys of combat expected in a hack-n-slash ARPG. So what does this mean for Cannibal combat design? How do we convey their story through combat? We took a couple of approaches:
The Cannibal family has four members. They each have their own unique weapon and a significantly different silhouette or stance to help differentiate them from one another. There are two standard melee combatants: one wielding a two-handed greatsword cleaver, which delivers a slow, sweeping frontal attack; and the other using a lightweight halberd which allows them to leap at players from a great distance and crash down with a devastating attack.
The bruiser uses a spiked club in each hand to deliver intense blows that will stun players if they aren’t paying attention. By contrast, the dual-axe-wielding swarmers can unleash a flurry of frontal attacks that will quickly kill if left unchecked. However, this is a less binary pass/fail than the bruiser’s stun attack. If the player finds themselves surrounded by flurrying swarmers, getting hit by the bruiser’s dazing blow would remove all possibility of escape. It’s combinations of attacks like these that make this family so deadly.
Earlier, we explained how different monster archetypes play different roles in an encounter. For example, players who want to efficiently kill ranged monsters will need to learn how to reposition their accompanying melee attackers so that a cleverly dropped area of effect ability will target both clusters of enemies. This makes for interesting on-the-fly decision-making, and skilled players will be able to spot the optimal positions for these attacks very quickly.
By design, the Cannibal family has no ranged units. Instead, they spring at the player with supernatural swiftness. Some may close the gap by leaping over obstacles and would-be competitors, while others will swiftly and deftly maneuver through other monsters to get first blood. This provides a very different experience and gives the player less time to make thoughtful positioning decisions, thus making combat with these flesh-eaters feel frenetic.
That’s it for today. Thanks for staying a while and listening!
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Have a question, comment, or feedback about the information we shared today? Join the conversation here on our General Forum. We can’t wait to hear from you!
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We have some new info on the big Diablo 4 quarterly update blog that's coming soon, shared by Nevalistis over on reddit. We found out that the post is still scheduled to arrive in February and that it's very close to done, with localization and other technical details to be finished. It may not be much, but any D4 news is good news at this point, particularly the "assets" comment which might mean we get a new video to go with the update (or at least new screenshots)!
Is it March yet? Last I checked still February.
Came here to say this. ?
It's coming. Going through the extensive process that it takes to get these things approved. The team has really poured a ton of hard work into this, and they're very passionate about even their Work In Progress stuff being polished and presentable.
We've got assets to polish and localization to do, but it's in the works and still on track for February.
We also recently got some clarifications on the beta signup mixup, but it's pretty unlikely we get any further news about a beta (or alpha for that matter) in the February post.
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