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Diablo IV Quarterly Update: February 2020: UI Design, Controller Support, Cannibal Monster Family

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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.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

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.

-Luis Barriga-
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.

Inventory

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.

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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.

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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.

Rebinding Left-Click

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

HKZ6MDKVQ9TC1582662145938.jpgCannibal Family Lineup in Diablo IV

“Corpses riddled with bite marks. Splintered bones scraped clean of marrow. Tongues sawed off and eyes gouged out of their skulls. These are the bloody fingerprints the Cannibals leave behind—if they leave behind anything at all. No one is certain where they come from, but some legends claim they are a former tribe of barbarians, banished from Arreat years ago. Whether their cannibalism led to their exile or developed out of desperation afterward is unknown. The outcasts brought their endless hunger to the Dry Steppes, and from there spread to the far corners of the world to prey on lonesome caravans and unsuspecting villages.

The few who have survived encounters with these butchers share the same stories. They tell of the mad fire that burns in the eyes of all Cannibals, of how eating the flesh of their victims in battle only fuels their hunger for more. They whisper of the unlucky souls spared in the attacks, hauled off like livestock for the raiders to pick clean until their next hunt. And then, they say no more. The silence speaks for them: sometimes it is better to die than to live and remember.”

—Liya Khal’tib

A Battle for Survival

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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:

Weaponry 

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.

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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.

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Archetype

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.

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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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NoteComments on all Diablo blog entries have been disabled. This is part of our website migration for GDPR compliance. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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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Related Diablo 4 Articles:

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3 hours ago, Stan said:

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.

I like this approach a lot more than what other companies do. They make games focused on consoles and then rushed bugged PC ports with lubberly character controls. Smooth gameplay like D3, WoW, Overwatch have, feels a lot better.

Edited by Kaelos

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nice, i really like quarterly updates. Seeing progress and more parts of the game, and the developers can see some feedback early ?

I remember, back in the day, i was so crazy focused on diablo 3 after its announcement, i hyped it up so much for myself, over the years till its release, that it was pretty unhealthy. Those updates will keep my mind at ease.

Plus: Diablo looks great ?

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I dont get why people would want a nasty stupid crappy demon HUNTARD over an amazon anyways xD    so far the way they are going with the genre with d4  itd make 100 times more sense to have a amazon and a paladin introduced with the other 3 classes before they bring in a stupid demon huntard. take that class back to wow please ?

 

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      Here is a video clip in slow motion of the Rogues, which we recorded in our real-time engine. You can really enjoy the details and see how the light reacts with the materials. You will also be able to see some of our customization elements that I talked about earlier. Please note, the environment is a test scene that modelers use to look at their characters and many of these armors are works in progress and subject to change and polish.
      Here is another slow motion video of the Barbarians. Please note that all these armors are a work in progress and are subject to some adjustment.
      This is just scratching the surface of what’s to come in Diablo IV in terms of character customization. The team is dedicated to delivering the best quality possible, and we hope that players will enjoy all the options we have available for customizing their characters in Diablo IV.
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      Nick Chilano,
      Associate Art Director, Characters
      Hello everyone,
      I'm excited to share with you our vision and our process for making monsters in Diablo IV.
      With monsters, success requires that many different things come together, but it starts with the player feeling satisfied in killing it. That means the monster needs to visually match its gameplay and have a gory/demonic twist to it. They should look like something you have not seen before as well as taking something visually familiar and brushing it with a Diablo paint brush. That Diablo brush applies a level of detail, an understanding of gameplay needs, a level of artistry, and the demonic Diablo theme to all our monsters.
      Visual Design and Gameplay Intent
      For me, everything starts with a goal. Typically, it's a goal from design on what this monster needs to do and what the player experience should be. Making games is a collaboration. Sometimes a visual concept helps drive an idea, while in others a paper design is enough.
      The Blood Bishop
      Our game design goal for the Blood Bishop was to make a caster who would cast direct damage and create AOE bombs for area of denial. As for the visual notes, we wanted a high-level boss based on vampiric blood and magic. We knew we wanted to double down on the notion of a heart shape for the function of the blood magic. That naturally led to the notion of arteries creating these blood clots that explode to cast the AOE effect design needs. An exposed beating heart was the natural visual choice. So, the organic pulsing we see, the flowing arteries, and the blood-based VFX all combined to reach an aligned goal the team could get behind. The success here is when the game design needs were met visually in a true Diablo way.
      The Skeleton Lord
      This process was similar, but this time we had a visual concept to work from.
      This undead Skeleton Lord is made of fused skeleton and body parts, with sinew and blood connecting it together—something we felt fit our game visually. That led to a Design Lead wanting to create a fight based on this character. The Design team was able to create a unique fight based on bone visuals, summoning skeletons, bone walls to restrict pathing, and leveraging the giant staff—one attack has the Skeleton Lord smashing the staff into the ground and creating a shower of exploding bone shards. Even though the art was created first, the Design team leveraged its look to help theme a fun and interesting fight we all enjoy.
      The Right Artistic Detail for the Game
      We also need to look at our assets from two main focal points. Our game camera and a closer full body size camera. This means we need to understand what is important and what is supporting these elements in terms of overall shape language and finer secondary and tertiary details.
      Level of artistic detail is always a challenge. Details need to be readable for the game, colors need to group well, silhouettes need to stand out, as well as being built for performance and movement. Understanding this is key to allowing our monsters to look great from our isometric camera while also delivering stunning details up close.
      This Spider feeding upon and birthing spider spawn from a bloated corpse has a great visual design.
      The spindly legs and back thorax instantly tell you what it is. That thin look of the legs as it moves down to a thicker body give it a nice balance to settle the shape language from top to bottom. The saturated red of the spider, on top of the cooler and more subdued body, help pop the spider visually so your eye catches it as soon as they show up on screen. When we look closer, you can see the spectacular highlights on the bloated body, the torn and pulled flesh, and the bulging pustules. So, up close gruesome details are visible from the game camera because of the clear shape and color grouping.
      This succubus is another great example of an interesting and clear visual read from gameplay, with finer details that don't get in the way of the game camera but really raise the visual bar.
      At the game camera we see a familiar silhouette. A winged demon hovering to seduce its prey and attack with magic from a distance. As you look closer, you see intricate details in the cloths, translucent skin on the wings, as well as materials like gold clasps, stitching, and embroidery on the outfit. We also see the wings are attached at the base of the head. A detail that needs a closer look to see but doesn’t complicate the look from different cameras.
      A Modern Pipeline
      In order to achieve this, we needed a process and technology to realize these amazing and, honestly, disturbing creations. To do that we have built a world class team creating monsters and demons at a level of quality that raises the bar for the Diablo series.
      PBR gives us the ability to create surfaces and materials that look realistic and accurately react to lighting in the world. Leather can look like leather, metals like metals, and organic surfaces can feel appropriately squishy and fleshy by comparison.
      This Knight is covered head to toe in metal and fabric that reacts differently based on lighting. You can see nice details and material breaks on the hard surfaces that your eye expects to see. This detail grounds us in a world we all visually know and understand. The difference from a scale pattern of finer metal to large, hammered iron next to gold trim is readily apparent.
      Organic surfaces also are represented accurately in our engine. Fur, bone, flesh, and blood are all visible and react to light correctly. This is a Diablo game, after all, and we know these materials will be important.
      So that is a brief rundown of some of the things we look at and value when it comes to monsters in Diablo IV. We really enjoy creating enemies, monsters, and demonic creatures that bring out an emotional response from our players, from fear or revulsion to the excitement of slaying them in true Diablo fashion.
      In closing, I'd like to say that there are moments as a developer where you are just making the game, day-in and day-out, and you don't always take time to appreciate the craft on display that you are privileged to see every day. I love that we are doing these blogs to give you all some insight into our progress and process. It's a great opportunity for us to reflect on the journey, share our art, and appreciate the craft of our teammates. We hope you like what you see, and please share your comments on your platform of choice. We love to hear community feedback—it's really been a labor of love and an honor to create for you, and we can't wait for you to play it!
      Thank you for joining us and keep an eye out for our upcoming blog update next quarter!
      -The Diablo IV Team
       
    • By Staff
      During an interview on all things Diablo, Rod Ferguson, Executive Producer for the franchise, mentioned the next Diablo 4 quarterly update (which should be coming by the end of this month) will be focusing on characters and character art. Diablo community manager PezRadar also confirmed that in a reddit thread:
      D4 Quarterly Update (Source)
      Edit: Upon closer inspection he said "Character Art". I blame the cheap headset mic for the error on my end ?
       
      Correct, Character Art. It will be asset heavy. The art team have put in a good amount of work on the blog.
    • By Staff
      We've covered all the BlizzConline news and changes to D4 as it happened, but now it's time to take a look at some of the direct gameplay footage as well! 
      We have two videos to take a look at, one focusing on pure Rogue class gameplay exclusively (with in-game sounds etc.) and the other just highlights/clips used in the various announcements and panels. The first video goes over basically all the bacground footage used and is also very Rogue-focused, but it's mostly the clips strung together into one longer video:
      The second is an actual gameplay session with in-game sounds, which gives us a much better idea of what the class will play like:
      And finally, the Rogue announce cinematic one more time!
    • By Staff
      We're getting a lot of additional information during this Diablo 4 panel, and we'll be summarizing it all here.
      We're starting with the Rogue, as we get another look at the video. Also, apparently ears will actually come into play in the game as well. Ears factor into the World PvP aspect An emphasis on the adaptability of the Rogue. Swords and daggers, bows and corssbows usable as weapons. A lot of character customization. Combo points, Shadow Realm and Exploit Weakness are the Rogues specializations. Class specific quests, depending on your specializations. You work with different Rogue factions. Weapon Imbues - you can add poison, ice, etc. to your weapons. Rogue seems to be the current PvP top choice. Mount customizations, hoof plates, trophies, armor. You can change the speed of the horse with horseshoes etc. Rogue rains down arrows as her dismount ability. Mount can't get damaged, but you will be dismounted if you get hit. Camps are strongholds of evil and are permanent - when you defeat the camp you get a new waypoint and it unlocks for everyone else in the world as well. New quests, vendors, dungeons etc. appear after you take over a camp. There's climbing, jumping across caverns etc, much more verticality. Mephisto's hatred is coming up into the world, creating fields for PvP! You can earn Shards of Hatred, not only from killing players, and then you can turn them into currency you can use around the Fields of Hatred. The purification spots will be PvP hotspots as others try to stop you and take your Shards. You can collect Shards in PvE, but when you cleanse them you are marked for PvP. Unique cosmetics, mounts etc from the PvP currency. As you collect the Shards you become a Vessel of Hatred, becoming marked on the map and players will come after you. If you survive, you get a big bonus. For now ears are just cool trophies, with character names of the players you killed. And here's the full panel:
       
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