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Diablo 4 Quarterly Update: October 2021

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Blizzard just pushed a new quarterly update for Diablo 4 that deals with sound design.

The opening is handled by the new Game Director Joe Shely. Diablo 4's former Game Director Louis Barriga left Blizzard a while ago.

In the latest development update, we learn more about the sound design of Diablo 4, including hero fire skills, monster movement, monster voice, open world ambience, dungeon ambience, breakable interactives, and more.

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Table of Contents


Hello, and welcome once again to a new Diablo IV Quarterly Update.

I'm Joe Shely from the Diablo IV team. As a design lead who has been working on this dark, shared, open world action role-playing game from the beginning, I’m honored to continue the vision of Diablo IV as its new Game Director, and I’m humbled to represent the team pouring their hearts into this game.

Like many of you, our team has been reflecting upon recent events. A lot has happened since our last blog and the hard work of practicing the values we aspire to must continue. In parallel with that important work, development of Diablo IV continues too.

Over the past few years, we've assembled a strong team with incredible passion for Diablo IV. You, Diablo’s fans, are a critical part of this team. With the help of your valuable feedback, we've steadily refined and deepened the game experience. We have ways to go, and while much has changed, our commitment to the game is unwavering.

Sanctuary should always be items glittering in dark dungeons. Tales of powerful heroes standing against the onslaught of hell. Lands where trials, treasure, and terrible monsters lie around every corner, equal parts familiar and boundless in its possibilities. Doing this world justice is a solemn responsibility. Today, we're taking a deep dive into the sound design of Diablo IV. Sound is a sometimes underappreciated yet integral element of the game's design, serving as a channel for communicating everything from incoming damage, to confirmation that a button press was registered by the game, to the intensity of a combat sequence. Try turning off the sound in a Diablo game sometime; you'll find your eyes have to work a lot harder to follow the action.

Sound also conveys the subtext of the world through which you adventure. It supports the rising and falling action of the campaign and immerses you into the ambient life of a region, transporting you into the game world. While you're reading through the blog, I encourage you to listen to the ambient tracks and pay attention to their effect on your heartrate and emotions. Try closing your eyes while listening to get a better sense of how much is being communicated.

Crafting Diablo's sound requires science, art... and the occasional ball of fire. Sound Supervisor Kris Giampa and his team have fascinating insights to share in this behind-the-scenes look at how it all works.

We hope you enjoy this update and look forward to your thoughts and reactions. As promised, our next blog will cover endgame systems and visual effects. It's been a while since we looked at systems, and there's a lot we're excited to share. Let us know what topics you'd like to hear about in the future too!

We are grateful to have you with us on this journey. Thank you for playing the stuff we make.

-Joe Shely,
Game Director, Diablo IV

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The Sound Design of Diablo IV

Hello traveler, I’m Kris Giampa, Sound Supervisor for Diablo IV.

The sound team has been steadily cranking away on the soundscape for a while now, and while we aren’t ready to go in depth about the music side of Diablo IV quite yet, we wanted to start to give you some insight into some of the audio processes, content, and motivations behind the sound for the game.

Before we begin, we wanted to give you something to listen to while you are reading this quarterly update blog. Please enjoy the snowy, dark, and stormy ambience of Fractured Peaks below as you start on your journey.

Sound and music in games are the invisible glue that supports the storytelling and ties you to your character and their actions during gameplay. Creating sound for games is an exciting artistic endeavor that you can’t see— only hear. However, you can feel it literally, with the soundwaves against your body depending on what you are listening back on. It’s an amazing medium that can also affect how you feel emotionally while playing a game. A lot of the time it’s subtle, and other times it’s over the top, but always there to support the moment-to-moment gameplay. We hope you enjoy this dive into various aspects of the game’s soundscape, and you’ll have plenty more to look forward to and experience when you finally get to play it!

Naturally, we want anyone and everyone who might be hearing impaired to enjoy the experience of Diablo IV as well. So, we are taking measures to broaden the experience to be inclusive for people with hearing or visual disabilities. There are various accessibility features underway that we hope to talk about more in the future.

The Devil is in the details

For the Diablo IV soundscape we’ve continued the tradition of gratifying combat, expanded upon the ambience to support the epic open world, continued to embrace the darkness in tone and gore while also trying to deliver a cleaner-yet-punchy audio mix that’s adapting to the situations as you play.

One of the biggest goals we try to focus on as sound designers is to make the highest quality sounds to be triggered back in the game real-time and make them seem believable as well as grounded within the game world, tied to what you are experiencing. The randomness of audio playback is of the utmost importance when it comes to gameplay. If you think about real life, nothing is ever heard the exact same way twice due to your listening environment and the positioning of a sound source. Sounds never play back at the same exact sound pressure level along with the reflections within your environment and everything else happening around you at that moment in time. In essence, there are always subtle, real-life reasons as to why nothing ever sounds exactly the same. So, as sound designers for video games, we always strive to introduce subtle, randomized variation to not only the sound design itself, but also for when you hear it in the game. When we are doing our job correctly, it’s something you tend to not notice and supports your immersion into the game world by backing up the incredible visuals, story, and end-to-end experience.

Another huge goal we have when creating audio for Diablo IV is to fill in sounds for just about everything that’s occurring on your screen. Whether it’s the world ambience, monsters idling offscreen, the tiny chunks of wood that are colliding off a wall when you break an object... everything should make a sound. We pour countless hours of effort into covering almost everything you see and don’t see, while also keeping it subtle enough to not be distracting and just feel right. The devil certainly lurks within the details...

However, just because we are filling in as much sound as we can, it doesn’t mean you need to hear it every time. The playback engine within the game will not trigger too many instances of a sound if they are trying to play at the same time based on strict settings we create as basic rules. Because of the isometric camera view and being able to see so much on screen at once, we must limit how many instances of each sound will playback at any given moment. Once dialed in correctly, you tend not to notice that some instances were never triggered, and that helps with the clarity of the audio mix. It’s a fine line we straddle during big moments with a lot going on screen.

How about we get on to more of the creative side of sound design? Naturally, there is no Diablo game without the heroes who do your bidding to vanquish the various evils that lie in your path. Let’s talk about some of the fire-based Sorcerer skills that partly define the class...

Hero Fire Skills

The sound crew luckily gets to record all kinds of neat and unique sounds for the game so that we have plenty of sound source to edit from when it comes time to start sound designing. Sound Design is technically described as taking a recorded audio source, editing it, and processing it to be used in another medium. In the case of Sound Design for games, we’ll record raw audio, re-process them, and edit it for our gameplay needs in various ways to achieve something that sounds clean, usable, and replayable for gameplay. The sound could be exactly what it was originally meant for or end up sounding completely different and used for something else entirely.

Something we always tend to need for a game like Diablo is, of course, fire! When time permits, we plan for some time to record sounds out in the field. For Diablo IV, one of the first big recordings we did as a team was a desert fire session before the lockdown for COVID-19. We traveled far from Blizzard HQ to record various types of fire sounds in the deserts of California, armed with multiple recording rigs and microphones. Thankfully, since it was wintertime, it wasn’t too hot during the day and just a bit cold at night. While our main goal was to capture fire, we ended up capturing all kinds of other sounds we have used during production, like ambience, rocks impacts, foliage movements, wood impacts, door slams, wooden cabin creaks, metal impacts, and scrapes.

Sorcerer Skills

Firebolt and Inferno

Some of the fire recordings were then used specifically for the Sorcerer skills Firebolt and Inferno. For the skill Firebolt, we recorded sets of wispy and smoldering flame whooshes using a fire staff or a dried-out medium-sized log of wood and performed the sound in various ways around sets of microphones. Once we had a nice assortment of different types of fire sounds, we then edited and processed those fire whooshes into game-ready one-shot audio files for the casting and impact sounds, as well as longer loops for the projectile traveling through the air. It all comes together as one cohesive-sounding experience once we get it hooked up in the game to play back as the entire skill sound effect set for Firebolt.

For the Inferno Sorcerer skill, we then used other takes of the fire recordings and processed them to sound more aggressive and powerful for the larger skill. Just like Firebolt, there’s a set of casting one-shot sounds, a set of loops, and another set of one-shots for when the snake form constricts its body. One cool thing about the Inferno skill is that while it’s fire, it’s fire that has taken the form of a snake. Because of this form, we are able to take some liberties on pushing it away from just fire sound design. We added some light snake-rattling SFX paired with a darker-toned ethereal end to the skill sound to make it feel a bit more magical. When all these pieces re-trigger in-game, it will always sound like the same skill, but be slightly different each time—which increases the replayability sound-wise.

Monster Sound Design

Diablo games wouldn't be as fun if you didn't have monsters to slay. One of the most fun things about working on a Diablo game is the vast amount and variance of monsters that exist. This makes monsters ripe for both experimental and more traditional sound design, so let's dig into some monster sound design for foley and voice.

Monster Movements

The combination of expert animation and AI brings life and personality to the creatures as they undertake their nefarious activities. When we start the audio process for a brand-new monster, I always recommend that the sound designers start by adding footsteps and foley (clothing or skin) to their movement animations. The moment the creature has footsteps and foley, the creature's cadence and rhythm of their movement really comes to life. It’s at this point I consider that they are becoming grounded and attached to the world. This also dictates how vocal they might sound based on their patterns of movement.

Monster Voice

The next layer that finishes the birthing of the creature into existence is their voice exertions. These are the grunting or yelling sounds of them exerting at the player as they attack, or the screams of pain as you take them out one-by-one. Each monster family can be quite different from the next, so depending on the type of monster, we might have intense sound design layers of animalistic-type sounds or even everyday objects that we will manipulate to sound like a screech or scream to create a layer within that final voice. Other times it can be simpler, as we’ll hire creature voice actors to help create the core tone of the monster’s voice that we can then build around with other sounds.

In the case of the Wood Wraith, it's almost fully sound designed from wood creaks and strains processed to extreme lengths and choosing the right sounds to convey emotion. The Wood Wraith was a blast to sound design as it’s mostly freaky and creaky wood sounds, with a touch of very low-pitched human tone underneath it all.

Another monster we had the pleasure of working on is the disgustingly awesome Fly Host. This beast walks around birthing flies to attack the player. We ended up using some of our early gore session recordings where we ripped and smacked cabbages and melons, and stirred and squished mayonnaise, salsa and a delicious 7-layer dip into a not-so-great smelling slurry to make some great slimy and disgusting sounds to use in our sound design.

Open World Ambience

One of the audio pillars for Diablo IV is “Living Audio”. What this means is that the soundscape is ever evolving and never static. This pillar is built deep into the sound design variations we create for all types sounds, including when it plays back real-time in the game— especially the ambience. Because of the importance of the massive open world, we wanted to give the ambience as much detail as possible and think of it on the same level of Hero sound design. Having the audio and the systems changing subtly over time is key to this pillar. We always want the subtle changes in ambience (that might not be very noticeable) less repeatable and feel more natural and immersive overall.

The World Building team has done an amazing job giving us huge amounts of inspiration in filling out the regions visually so that we can follow it up with immersive ambient audio.

Since the player might be in the open world for a large amount of time, we wanted to support each exterior region with unique-sounding environments that also include subtle changes to the audio mix over time. To help achieve this, we use audio systems like real-time occlusion, high-quality reverbs, and environment reactive delay/echoes.

We’ve provided some long-form recordings of in-game footage with a static shot where you can hear the ambience changing over time. Not only does this show some cool ambient sound design, but we also wanted to provide these to you for your tabletop RPG sessions, or even just to sit back and get lost in while working. The clips were recorded around 5-6 minutes and looped to be almost one hour.

Dungeon Ambience

When it comes to the Diablo dungeon crawling-style ambience, we take a special delight in creating various and unique sounding experiences to heighten your immersion. Our approach to the dungeon ambiences is a bit less intense compared to the new open world, as we don’t want to distract you away from a key part of what makes a Diablo game fun— dungeon crawling. This is one area where we can take more liberties in diving deeply into the hellish and creepy soundscapes while having the monsters onscreen to accompany the audible experience. For Diablo IV we are taking a more realistic approach to “what you hear is what you get” when within a dungeon. With long reverberation and sound occlusion, we want you to pay close attention to what might be just around the corner, mentally preparing you for the next pack of enemies.

Breakable Interactives

Scattered around the dungeons are a plethora of gratifyingly great breakables. The Interactives team have been creating hundreds of amazingly detailed breakable objects in Diablo IV. For the amazing amount of detail they put into objects as they break, we in turn wanted to fill in every sliver and chunk of destruction you see with believable physics audio. Destroying objects in Diablo should sound just as gratifying and believable as taking down monsters. We put a lot of effort into making sure that all objects have an extremely gratifying break sound, while supporting the debris with tiny bits of audio to accompany the pieces that break apart and fly across a room. I’m still amazed at the level of detail we have for the breakables in Diablo IV. One of my favorite things to do when I see a room full of them is to have at em’!

Game Mix

Finally, I wanted to talk a little about the isometric camera. It provides some interesting challenges when it comes to bringing all the elements of the game mix together. Because you can see battlefield at a certain angle out to a certain range, we have to make sure that the monsters existing on the screen are covered with audio, but have the overall mix not feel too cluttered, nor too empty. There’s a lot of real-time juggling of sound playback based on priorities and importance to you, the player.

For Diablo IV we are able drive the real-time audio mix more than ever before. Because of the isometric camera view, we must trigger sounds on just about everything you see but focus your ears on the most important sounds you should be paying attention to. We've been carving away at audio mix states and an audio importance system that will allow certain important monster sounds to poke out when they are needed. Clarity of game audio mix is hard to achieve in a game where you can have multiple heroes as well as various amounts of monsters on screen, while having detailed ambiences means we need to craft different audible mix states depending on the situation.

We hope you have enjoyed this brief look into the sound design of Diablo IV. There’s so much more to talk about, but alas, we will have to save it for another time. We welcome any feedback you might have about anything you have heard in the videos or learned about in this quarter’s blog. Thank you for taking the time to learn more about the soundscape of Diablo IV!

Kris Giampa,
Sound Supervisor, Diablo IV

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“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” 🦇

20 minutes ago, Staff said:

The opening is handled by the new Game Director Joe Shely. Diablo 4's forger Game Director Louis Barriga left Blizzard a while ago.

Should be former Game Director. 😄

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26 minutes ago, Draketh said:

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” 🦇

Should be former Game Director. 😄

Thank you, Draketh. The post has been fixed.

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6 hours ago, Rhondis said:

I sure hope this game stays on track. Everything about it is promising. But still cautious as always

Don't worry, some political correctness adjustments will be done. They will add some new colorful flags to suport any kind of community to make sure every of the special snowflake in Blizzard is happy and not suing them for being disrespectful. 

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      The World of Sanctuary
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      Brian Fletcher: Dungeons are still that randomized content that you know and love from previous Diablo titles. However, we added new and exciting features that allow us to make even more dungeons across the world of Sanctuary than ever before. In order to support over 150+ dungeons, we’ve had to shift the way we make environment art so that it's flexible enough to be used in multiple locations and not just in a single dungeon. We break it all down into what we call tile-sets. We would like to share with you a handful of our tile-sets, and a few ways we can mix and match them with props, interactives, and lighting to create dungeons that are varied, handcrafted and yet procedurally created. It takes a lot of hard work from many teams to make a Dungeon, and we are proud to show you what we have been working on.
      Forgotten Places in the world
      Brian Fletcher: This tile-set is an example of how we have ‘returned to darkness.’ We want to take you deep underground to the darkest recesses of Sanctuary, where a mysterious (and gross) corruption has taken root. This ancient temple is a great place to push some primal horror vibes. The fixed camera is one of our best tools since it allows us to place assets in the foreground without blocking the playable space. Because we always know where you are looking, we can dial in and customize the layouts, vistas, and foreground elements to make sure there's a good composition. The spider legs are placed in specific locations for their unnerving silhouettes twitching in the background. Our dungeon design counterparts give us some great layouts to play with, which allow us to push the depth of each scene. We want you to have the impression that the dungeon goes on forever, and you’re only seeing a small part of a large underground labyrinth.
      Chaz Head: The props and interactives team seek to maintain the mystique and horror settings Brian described. Our hope for this culture kit is to make you feel uneasy whilst being rewarded for venturing forward. Nothing here should feel like it was crafted in Sanctuary by the people living on the surface. We were able to focus on different styles of shape language: monolithic and twisted. This is not a place you would want to explore alone!
      Ben Hutchings: Here we can really see our embrace of Diablo 4’s core pillar of a return to darkness’. Our aim is to subtly lead you through the dungeon whilst revealing fantastically grotesque forms. In dungeons like this we focus a lot on silhouetting the player space and giving the scene a sense of scale and depth; this helps navigation and visibility but also shows the vastness of the environment.
      Wretched Caves
      Brian Fletcher: The world of Diablo IV is incredibly large, utilizing numerous unique tile-sets to cover all the various zones, biomes, and cultures. In order to create so much high-quality content, we found clever ways to reuse our tile-sets and add enough variety to cover 150+ dungeons. All while providing fresh experiences each time. One way we can do that is by dressing up tile-sets with various themes. This next dungeon is a hidden druid resting site overrun with demons. As you travel through the dungeon, you'll see that it is covered with many druidic cultural items, such as talismans and charms. We place a lot of these items on a layer that can be turned on or off, depending on what the theme of the dungeon is. In one dungeon it's a druid burial site, in another, it's an uninhabited dark cave. Adding these sorts of details is a great way to add a lot of visual interest as well as visual storytelling. These assets were made by several teams, so this is a great example of many groups coming together to contribute to a final environment.
      Chaz Head: We were able to expand on the Druid culture kit in this dungeon. In many ways the druid is an exciting return to the Diablo franchise, no less for Props and Interactives, expanding on this unique class by providing a full kit for its reclusive people. It would be easy to make the druid props fantastic, but we’ve stretched ourselves to come up with fun ways to keep the culture kit grounded while not turning the druids into something they are not. I hope when you play Diablo IV, you get a sense of their magic while not betraying the dark and gritty world the druids reside in.
      Flooded Depths
      Brian Fletcher: New dungeon features such as seamless floor transitions or traversals are exciting, but my favorite new feature is what we call tile-set transition scenes. These are scenes that allow us to connect two different tile-sets together in the same dungeon. Imagine running through a crypt, only to find a hole in the wall that seamlessly leads you deeper into a vast underground cave network. All while keeping the randomized layouts that change with each dungeon run. In this final video we show two tile-sets joined together by a tile-set transition scene. The first floor of this ruined keep remains dry and fairly intact, but as you journey deeper into the dungeon, you'll discover that the lower levels have decayed from the endless floodwaters pouring in. This swampy ruin is perfect for the drowned to move in and fortify themselves deep below. You'll have to fight your way through their defenses and climb across the rope to transition deeper into the flooded ruined tile-set.
      Chaz Head: I love this dungeon; it was one our first where we dialed in the style for props and interactives in Diablo IV. On the surface we have that definitive gothic medieval style fans love. Pikes, suits of armor and iron chandeliers. I hope this set reminds you of what Diablo means to so many of us. Part of that vision is the sense of danger of exploration; as you dig deeper things get gritty. As you descend you will encounter obstacles seemingly out of place. The drowned have invaded this ancient manor and dragged their obscene valuables across the floors. This gives us the opportunity to mix kits, and I hope you agree the mold encrusted assets are gross. Things should feel familiar but tainted by the sodden hands of the drowned hordes.
      Ben Hutchings: It's exciting to be able to merge two distinct visual styles. Here we see the dark, foreboding hallways of the keep lead down into the putrid aqua tones of its depths.
      In both we can see the same approach to lighting these dungeons, with different executions. The keep has an oppressively dark, very selective lighting scheme - hinting at paths through the corridors subtly with soft lighting. ”By contrast, the flooded depths use putrid green and yellow tones to really give the dungeon a feeling of a damp, heavy atmosphere.
      That was a quick overview of how we approach the environment art of Diablo IV. We love creating the stage for all the action while still delivering subtle visual cues that make Diablo games so iconic. Lastly, it's not too often that we get to share and appreciate the incredible work of our teammates and the progress of Diablo IV. We're glad you stopped by for a look and hope you are excited by what you see.
      Thank you for joining us and keep an eye out for our upcoming blog update next quarter!
      -The Diablo IV Team
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    • By Staff
      Global Community Lead PezRadar confirmed on Twitter that a new Diablo 4 quarterly update blog is coming next week. The latest update dives into the environment art of the game.
      Placeholder for tweet 1506093708613066754
    • By Staff
      We have another massive quarterly update for Diablo 4 on our hands, this time with plenty of systems info! We get a lot of detail into itemization, with +skill affixes returning from D2, as well as legendary affixes being much more flexible since we'll be able to transfer them from one legendary to the other. There's also plenty of info on the new paragon point system, with slottable items called glyphs and a very Path of Exile-like layout. Finally there's a lot of info on the visuals of the game, from combat, lighting and more.
      Q4 2021 Update (Source)
      Table of Contents
      Introduction Itemization & Paragon Updates Visual Effects in Diablo IV Hello and welcome to the year-end Diablo IV Quarterly Update.
      We hope you enjoyed October's deep dive into sound design, the atmospheric ambient tracks, and peeking behind the scenes of how game sounds are made.
      Since our last blog, we've been hard at work adding new content and systems to the game. We’ve made big strides, with every build of the game containing a host of expanded content, new art, balance changes, and other iterations. In fact, the team is currently playtesting an internal release of the game that represents a significant milestone. We have much to share with you today as a result, so let's dive in.
      First, Lead Systems Designer Joe Piepiora will discuss updates to key elements of itemization. These include the return of +Skills on items, a new way to interact with legendary powers, and some early work on targeted drops. After that, grab a warm beverage and a comfortable chair as he walks us through Diablo IV's completely new end-game character growth system: the Paragon Board.
      Next, Lead Visual Effects Artist Daniel Briggs will describe the philosophy that allows our talented VFX team to create huge explosions and eye-popping skill effects while keeping the game clear and readable, even when there are many players and monsters on the screen at the same time. He'll also go into detail on how Diablo IV's new game engine has allowed us to make frame-by-frame combat more precise and nuanced, while leveling up our effects to take advantage of the new lighting system. Finally, feast your eyes upon a plethora of skills across all four announced classes that show off our skill-driven death system.
      We hope you enjoy this update and look forward to your thoughts and reactions. We'll be back in the new year and are ever grateful to have you with us on this journey.
      -Joe Shely,
      Game Director, Diablo IV
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      The Itemization of Diablo IV
      Greetings, Heroes of Sanctuary!
      We are thrilled to once again dole out a whole heap of info on the state of systems and endgame in Diablo IV. I’m Joe Piepiora, the Lead Systems Designer, and today I’m going to share some details on two major features of Diablo IV: itemization updates and our plans for Paragon.
      +Skill Rank Affixes
      In Diablo IV, the +Skill Rank affix returns. As players invest points in skills, they grow in potency, and finding items with +Skill Rank can speed that along. As a bonus, when the player equips an item with +Skill Rank for a skill they haven’t learned, they will have access to that new ability. It’s a great way to try out new skills before you’re able to invest in them. Getting a lucky drop that nets you a skill you’d like for your build ten levels before you would otherwise have access to it is a huge boost!

      Legendary and Unique Items
      As Joe Shely discussed back in our December 2020 update, Legendary and Unique Items remain a core part of the Diablo item chase experience. We’ve made a foundational change to Legendary items in Diablo 4 by allowing legendary powers to appear on multiple item slots. Now, if you’re searching for a legendary power, like Martial Arts—which enhances the Barbarian’s kick ability—you may find it on rings, chestplates, or helmets; there’s no need to hunt for a specific item type any longer.
      Now, the real question is what happens when you find a power on an axe when you really wanted it on a ring? Or you found a great legendary amulet, but can’t use the power? Well, that is when we get to introduce our new friend, the Occultist.

      The Occultist can extract a legendary power from a Legendary item, crystallizing it into Essence while destroying the item in the process. That Essence can then be implanted into another Legendary item, overriding the power that was present in the item at that time. Essence material can also be stored and used at a later time.
      Unique Items cannot be modified in this way, keeping their fantasies intact—and as their name implies—unique.


      Hunting for Items
      Sanctuary is a vast world, filled with forlorn trails through werewolf-infested forests, withered heaths crawling with cannibals, and fog-choked graveyards crawling with the restless dead. There are plenty of enemies and monsters for the hero to encounter. Each of these monsters seem to enjoy collecting certain types of items and will be somewhat more likely to drop those items than others. While bandits are fond of Maces, Crossbows, and Boots, if you’re hunting for a new pair of Pants, you'd do well to kill some of the Drowned instead.
      In past discussions, we’ve received feedback that it seems deflating for so much of a character’s power to be delivered through the gear that they have equipped. Customizing and planning a character feels less rewarding if it doesn’t play a big role in how the character performs in combat. We hear you loud and clear, and in Diablo IV, we have placed a stronger emphasis on character power that is earned by all the little decisions you make while leveling up and exploring the world of Sanctuary. While we aren’t talking about everything we have planned for character power today, I’m happy to talk about one feature in particular, the Paragon Board.
      The Paragon Board
      In Diablo IV, we have placed a heavy emphasis on build customization, ensuring that you can have plenty of control over how your hero grows. The Paragon Board unlocks for each class at level 50 and is a distillation of this focus. Your hero begins their journey through the Paragon system at the central starting tile of their class’s intro board, and from there, you make selections radiating outward. Once your hero reaches a gate tile, you’ll choose which new paragon board you would like to attach to at that location. The desired outcome is a personalized set of bonuses that will empower your hero and honor your dedication to their progression, that will remain fun to tweak and adjust over many playthroughs.
      There is a lot to take in with the image below, so I’ll walk through some aspects of what we’re looking at here.

      The Paragon Board is comprised of many fixed tiles. As the Barbarian earns experience, they will earn Paragon points, which are used to unlock a connected tile. There are a few varieties of tiles that I want to walk through.
      Normal Tiles
      These tiles are straightforward, providing a small but meaningful stat boost. Normal Tiles are connective tissues that can be found throughout the board and are quite common.
      Magic Tiles
      Magic Tiles are found in clusters throughout the board and provide a potent, more diverse set of benefits. As you might expect, they are less common than Normal Tiles, but are still plentiful.
      Rare Tiles
      Rare Tiles offer significant boosts in power. Upon entering the Paragon Board for the first time, these represent great goals for players to chase, particularly once you’ve narrowed builds down towards highly specific goals. Rare Tiles also have additional powers that unlock once the hero has raised an attribute to a sufficient level, requiring some choices to be made when plotting your path through the board.
      Legendary Tile
      After the first Paragon Board, each new board has a single Legendary Tile that can be found at its center. Legendary Tiles impart a new Legendary Power to the character that earns it.

      Glyphs and Sockets
      A Socket is a special tile that can contain a Glyph. Glyphs are items found throughout Sanctuary that, when embedded into a Paragon Board, confer various benefits based upon the number of active tiles within their radius.
      Glyphs can also be leveled up by delving into some particularly dangerous dungeons. Leveling up a Glyph extends the radius of their effect, allowing each one to draw power from or impart power to even more active tiles.

      Gate Tiles and Board Selection
      A single Gate Tile lies at each edge of the Paragon Board. As you progress through the Paragon Board, you will eventually reach a Gate Tile, which upon unlocking will allow you to select a new Paragon Board to attach to your existing Board. Each of these boards has unique Tile layouts, new Magic and Rare Tiles, and a new Legendary Tile at the center.
      The Paragon Board is extended from these Gate Tiles. Upon selecting from the Paragon Board list, you will be able to place the board down, connecting it to the newly unlocked Gate Tile. You may also optionally rotate that newly placed board.

      We’re hard at work on these and other features that we’ll be able to share more about in future updates. Though for now that’s all from the systems team. Thanks for reading and please share any feedback you have on social media, Reddit, or our forums! We’ll see you in Hell!
      Back to Top
      Visual Effects in Diablo IV
      Thanks for joining us! My name is Daniel Briggs, and I am the Lead Visual Effects Artist for Diablo IV. The VFX team gets to contribute to features across the entire game, but today we will focus on the work we do to support combat. VFX artists collaborate with designers and other art teams to create strong thematic identities for the hero classes and breathe life into monsters, in order to deliver the visceral, gruesome combat players have come to expect.
      VFX is an integral part of the combat experience for all Diablo games. With Diablo IV, we wanted to step up the fidelity of our effects using Physically Based Rendering (PBR), as well as better support the core pillars of gameplay: deep hero customization, itemization, and combat readability.
      Visual Effects - Philosophy
      Every effect plays a role in the final composition of our game. It is important to understand the context of an effect, and how it best serves your experience.
      One of our core values at Blizzard Entertainment is “Gameplay First,” and this drives a lot of the artistic decisions we make while developing visual effects for the game. Moment-to-moment gameplay is the focal point within the composition of Diablo IV: it should draw your attention. To achieve this, we must consider things like player skills, monster telegraphs, traps, damage areas, and character states. The visual effects for each of these components must be readable in all areas and lighting conditions, so you can quickly understand what is happening and use that information to make informed decisions.
      In the chaos of combat, you’ll need to be smart—seeing a Legendary item drop is exciting, but picking it up is not as important as reacting to a monster’s attack that can one-shot Hardcore characters! Our goal is to balance the primary, secondary, and tertiary reads to help you understand what is happening. To do this, we reserve visually loud FX for powerful skills, like ultimate abilities, while weaker skills meld into the background. Each class has abilities that range from low to high in costs, cooldowns, and power. In tandem, classes have a range of visual intensity that increases with skill power.
      Combat Improvements
      To enhance the feel of combat, we have made several improvements to the way damage is applied in our game. In previous iterations of Diablo, an area-of-effect (AOE) or melee skill would be a single area of damage that is applied on a single frame. Thanks to our gameplay engineers, we can now animate target areas (what we call payloads) over multiple frames, which allows us to line up the animated target areas with the animated VFX that play out.
      For example, Whirlwind in Diablo III is a cylinder shape surrounding your Barbarian, which applies damage every couple of frames at a rate based on your attack speed. In Diablo IV, Whirlwind is an animated pie shape that animates with your character. AOEs expand outward with time, and melee swings match the motion of your weapon. Animated target areas improve accuracy to the way we apply damage in Diablo IV; it makes combat feel more impactful, and monster ragdolls more visceral. Animated payloads also add a subtle timing aspect to a variety of skills.
      Additionally, we have revamped the way we apply hit effects to monsters, so impacts flow with the direction of a spell or melee attack. We use data defined in the animation and animated target area to find the most accurate place to hit a monster, and where to apply a directional physics force to the ragdoll. In so few words, if you hit a goat-man in the knee, the blood spray would come from his knee. The physics force applied to the goat-man’s knee would send it flying as if you kicked the legs out from under him.
      Visual Effects - Casting and Receiving Light
      In Diablo IV, we use a PBR (physically based rendering) lighting model, which means our materials look and react to light in a realistic way. This approach brings huge rendering improvements, but this can be counterintuitive to what a player might expect for class and monster abilities. As an example, think about what a campfire looks like in full daylight—pretty lackluster, right? Next, imagine what a dust cloud or smoke plume would look like in the dead of night—it'd be nearly impossible to see. To account for this, we’ve built an engine and shader library that lets us break PBR rulesets in artistic ways. This ensures important gameplay moments shine through as clearly as possible while keeping immersive elements full PBR so they can realistically react to lighting.
      Previous iterations of Diablo use primarily “unlit” particles, meaning they are not affected by the environment’s lighting. These particles give you amazing control over what the art will look like: what you paint is what you get. The downside to unlit particles is that art may look too bright in a dark dungeon, or VFX color schemes may not feel cohesive within every environment.
      In Diablo IV, we use lit VFX that meld into the environment’s lighting, creating a more immersive experience. Using Whirlwind as an example (seen in the video above)—in bright daylight, the blade reflects light from the sun. In a dark dungeon, it will reflect more subtle light sources, like torches. The dust kicked up by the skill is also lit by the environment, so it blends artfully into the world.
      If we rely solely on environment lighting and follow true PBR rules, then gameplay readability is muddied, particularly in dark environments where a weapon swing would naturally be hard to see. To counteract this, many VFX have emissivity to cast light onto the environment. Several ultimates in our game will even allow you to change the weather and lighting of the environment for a limited duration. We strive for a healthy balance of gameplay clarity and thematic immersion.
      Dynamic Player Skills
      At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the art looks like if the gameplay isn’t fun. One of the goals for creating player skills is to ensure that the System Design team has a variety of modifiers they can utilize to create meaningful skill trees, class mechanics, Legendary items, and Paragon Boards.
      Choices should affect more than your character’s stats. Once we have a class skill we are happy with, the VFX team adds the ability for developers to dynamically change the size, intensity, and duration of a skill. The visual intensity of a skill will increase as you stack upgrades and items that increase the power of that ability.
      In addition to these skill modifiers, we create variants of abilities that completely change the functionality of a skill or the damage type that it deals. These skill variants can be changed by the scale, intensity, and duration modifiers as well. This allows variants of skills to be affected by a wider range of legendary modifier groupings. Your skill tree/paragon decisions, along with the items you have equipped, will make your character look and play differently from other characters of the same class.
      Each of these ranges is handcrafted by an artist to ensure the art holds up at all supported sizes and intensities. We do not uniformly scale every piece of an effect when changing size and intensity; we modify things like spawn rate, velocity, emissivity, and color ranges to make certain the art still fits in the world of Diablo.
      We want your character to look incredible as well! Our items are built in a way that allows us to easily apply weapon buffs to any weapon in the game. Not only will your legendary items do awesome things, but they will make your character look amazing as well. Here is an example where we apply the same fire and poison buff to several weapons in our game.
      Skill Driven Deaths
      Sanctuary is a dark, gothic world filled with horrific monsters that do horrendous things. To survive in this bleak landscape, you must be merciless toward your enemies. We are bringing back a popular feature from Diablo III: skill-driven deaths. This system allows you to decapitate, bisect, freeze, shatter, eviscerate, and burn your enemies, to give a few examples.
      With our new PBR pipeline, we can make blood, viscera, and gore even more realistic by having it react properly to the lighting of an environment. Every monster is built with a skeletal and muscular structure used for killing them in brutal ways. If your character is in the thick of combat, they will be covered in the blood spatter of nearby monsters. Over time, your character’s armor will transition back to being spotless.
      The Sorceress studies the art of elemental magic. They slow enemies with cold before freezing them solid and shattering them to pieces. They strike their enemies with stunning bursts of lightning, causing bodies to pop and sizzle. Enemies collapse to the floor and char to the bone as the Sorceress engulfs foes in fire.
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      Some examples of death types that Sorceresses can trigger:
      Freeze/Shatter - Break frozen monsters into pieces Char - Singe the corpse of a monster with lightning Burn – Scorch the monster’s flesh, leaving the remains of a charred skeleton The Barbarian takes pride in their physical capabilities. Their arsenal of weaponry makes them deadly in close combat. With the power of their ancient bloodline, Barbarians crush foes into piles of gore or send them flying across the battlefield. Their brute strength is equally matched by their speed and ferocity as they unleash fury on the battlefield, dismembering limbs from all that stand in their way.
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      Some examples of death types that Barbarians can trigger:
      Crush – Flatten a monster under the weight of a heavy object Decapitate - Remove a monster’s head from its body Cut In Half - Sweet ? Break Lower Limbs- The monster’s lower body is shattered, splitting several of their joints The Rogue is dexterous; their attacks are methodical. Monsters are often oblivious to their presence until it is far too late. A precise stab from one of their daggers, or a well-placed arrow, is enough to bring most monsters to the floor. The Rogue finds the most opportune time to take on a fight, and they imbue weapons to gain an advantage. Shadow magic can make a superb distraction, but their shadow clones are as deadly as their blades.
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      Some examples of death types that Rogues can trigger:
      Eviscerate – Spill the insides of a monster Shadow – Shadow energy deteriorates the life from a monster's flesh. Freeze/Shatter - Break frozen monsters into pieces Poison – The monster’s skin melts off leaving a heap of muscle and bone Flay – Flay the skin from an enemy, leaving the muscle structure intact The Druid is one with nature magic. They conjure storms and call down lightning on their enemies. They control the battlefield with gusts of wind as their animal companions tear the flesh from monsters. Druids manipulate the earth with nature magic, molding it to their will and bludgeoning enemies from afar. As their enemies approach, they see the innate power of the Druid, shapeshifting fluidly between an agile werewolf and a hulking werebear.
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      Some examples of death types that Druids can trigger:
      Roadkill – The monster is crushed by a moving object, leaving a smear of blood on the ground Devoured– The monster's flesh is eaten away by a swarm of ferocious bites Lightning Gib – Lightning causes the monster’s body to pop, exploding into pieces Maul – The monster’s skin is completely mangled, covering them in blood That is everything we have to share with you today. It has been a dream to work on this franchise, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity to share some of our development process with the community.
      Thank you for reading our last quarterly update blog for 2021. I hope you found it exciting and interesting. We are actively listening to your feedback, and we strive to make Diablo IV the dark, gothic game we all want to play. Please continue to share your thoughts and provide feedback on social media, Reddit, and our forums!
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    • By Staff
      Blizzard confirmed the Diablo 4 quarterly update will drop by the end of December, but not this week.
      The December 2021 update will focus on FX and system updates, specifically related to Paragon. Blizzard also teased something else coming this week, but we have no clue what that could be.
      (Source)
      It won't be dropping this week. But it will be dropping before the end of the month!
      This one is a bit beefy. Expect some system updates and a really great deep dive on FX with some amazing videos from the team. It's nice and enlightening!
      We have some other stuff this week as well!
      Some endgame content too? ?
      Not too much as there were some new system updates they wanted to highlight and get in front of people first. But some of that actually does dabble into endgame... specifically paragon.
    • By Staff
      After Luis Barriga left the company in August, Joe Shelly, a longtime Blizzard veteran who worked as a designer on multiple WoW expansions, before becoming Senior Game Designer on Diablo 3, has become Diablo 4's new Game Director.
      Joe Shelly introduced himself in Diablo 4's latest quarterly update.
      (Source)
      Hello, and welcome once again to a new Diablo IV Quarterly Update.
      I'm Joe Shely from the Diablo IV team. As a design lead who has been working on this dark, shared, open world action role-playing game from the beginning, I’m honored to continue the vision of Diablo IV as its new Game Director, and I’m humbled to represent the team pouring their hearts into this game.
      Like many of you, our team has been reflecting upon recent events. A lot has happened since our last blog and the hard work of practicing the values we aspire to must continue. In parallel with that important work, development of Diablo IV continues too.
      Over the past few years, we've assembled a strong team with incredible passion for Diablo IV. You, Diablo’s fans, are a critical part of this team. With the help of your valuable feedback, we've steadily refined and deepened the game experience. We have ways to go, and while much has changed, our commitment to the game is unwavering.
      Sanctuary should always be items glittering in dark dungeons. Tales of powerful heroes standing against the onslaught of hell. Lands where trials, treasure, and terrible monsters lie around every corner, equal parts familiar and boundless in its possibilities. Doing this world justice is a solemn responsibility. Today, we're taking a deep dive into the sound design of Diablo IV. Sound is a sometimes underappreciated yet integral element of the game's design, serving as a channel for communicating everything from incoming damage, to confirmation that a button press was registered by the game, to the intensity of a combat sequence. Try turning off the sound in a Diablo game sometime; you'll find your eyes have to work a lot harder to follow the action.
      Sound also conveys the subtext of the world through which you adventure. It supports the rising and falling action of the campaign and immerses you into the ambient life of a region, transporting you into the game world. While you're reading through the blog, I encourage you to listen to the ambient tracks and pay attention to their effect on your heartrate and emotions. Try closing your eyes while listening to get a better sense of how much is being communicated.
      Crafting Diablo's sound requires science, art... and the occasional ball of fire. Sound Supervisor Kris Giampa and his team have fascinating insights to share in this behind-the-scenes look at how it all works.
      We hope you enjoy this update and look forward to your thoughts and reactions. As promised, our next blog will cover endgame systems and visual effects. It's been a while since we looked at systems, and there's a lot we're excited to share. Let us know what topics you'd like to hear about in the future too!
      We are grateful to have you with us on this journey. Thank you for playing the stuff we make.
      -Joe Shely,
      Game Director, Diablo IV
      Source: PC Gamer
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