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BlizzCon interview with Jesse McCree and John Hight

Raylan13 November 14, 2013 User blog:Raylan13

Hello, Diablo fans! We were lucky enough to snag an interview with Jesse McCree (Senior Level Designer) and John Hight (Production Director) at this year's BlizzCon. We sat down and talked with them about the upcoming expansion, Reaper of Souls.




Miguel (M): Seems the biggest thing in Reaper of Souls (RoS) is the adventure mode so far. Can you speak to what you were trying to solve with the adventure mode?

Jesse McCree (JM): We look at what the players are doing and how they're playing the game. We like to be efficient and get the rewards in the quickest way possible. The current way to do that is to find a spot you think is good and play it over and over again. That's not necessarily the most fun thing to do. How do I break myself out of that cycle? How do I make a fun game that others will want to play? How do we set it up to get players to go to areas they don't normally go to?
With adventure mode we unlocked all of the waypoints and made it so you can port anywhere from Act I to Act V. Then we gave you bounties. Those are quests that are randomized. We took all the uniques, all the events, all the bosses, and we give you an incentive: why don't you kill this guy right now and we'll give you something extra. You'll do five and then you'll get an extra reward, and then you can go to another act and do the same thing; or you can restart the game and it will re-randomize the objectives and you can do it again. If we reward that properly, you don't go to one spot and do it over and over again.
If you want a little bit of randomized gameplay, what we've done is added Nephalim Rifts: I just want to go in and kill a lot of monsters right now. We're giving you access to a dungeon that re-randomizes every time you go in. It randomizes the tileset, lights, and monsters and gives you a boss at the end.
John Hight (JH): Each level of the dungeon can draw from a different tileset.
JM: They're one to ten levels deep. Previously we've only gone two levels deep. But it's still hand-crafted.
JH: Consistent in the theme.

M: You mentioned players found these hotspots that were the best paths to garner the best loot – are there any tilesets or environments that you regret that players would skip out on?

JM: I regret whenever they skip anywhere. We make all the places for players to experience. We want to give you a reason to go to them. If we could, I would add a whole bunch of stuff to all the nooks and crannies. Diablo's an interesting game because it's very fast-paced, so you're kind of burning through areas, and it's kind of up to you to set your difficulty; if you set it to easy, you can just cruise through places and never go off into the sides.
JH: I think it's always rewarding when people click on that blue door just to explore a new space. You can be in an area and discover something you've never seen before. With patch 1.08 we did make a complete pass through all the areas to look at monster distribution because we found that some of the guys were min-maxing, playing one area because they found they could get more loot with less amount of effort. There really isn't a "perfect place" to go to anymore.
JM: We're re-tuning a lot of content, adding new skills to the classes, we're upping the level to 70; so we're looking at what the second-to-second gameplay feels like. We're adjusting everything to the type of combat we want you to have, so players might find that some places are lower population in general, and where you find higher population is in that randomness. So if you go into a Nephalim Rift, you can get a ridiculous amount of monsters occasionally. We don't want you to be overwhelmed; we want you combat to be visceral, we want you to understand what you're doing, we want you to get that experience of "I'm hitting things" and not that you're going crazy and can't tell what's happening.

M: Nephalim Rifts are a reward that you garner after completing a certain amount of bounties, right?

JM: Reward's an interesting way to put it. There's a tuning point we're trying to figure out with how generous we're going to be with access to those. Right now we're pretty generous. As we play and go into the beta we'll figure out where the reward rate for those is, like how tough and how rewarding the bosses are. We'll adjust that availability. My current thought is that they should be pretty easy to get because they're really fun to do.

M: With the existence of Adventure Mode, does that influence how you design areas like Westmarch?

JM: When we designed Acts I-IV, we knew that players were going to have to replay it in order to unlock difficulty levels, and we wanted them to play a decent amount of time. For gameplay reasons we make the zones bigger and add a lot of side stuff, and that means you have to come up with story reasons to make the space fit the story. Since we have a replayable area in the game now that doesn't have story – in the campaign mode we don't need to say "you have to do this story a bunch of times". We can focus it down and look at the core concepts we want to hit, make sure the player understands what they're doing, who the bad guy is, why they're defeating him.

M: It seems like you guys are doing a little different philosophy with enemy AI.

JH: I think we're trying to make it feel a little bit more engaging. You probably notice with the archers that, in the past, they would stand stationary and you could walk right up to them and wail on them, and they'd continue to attack you back, but now they react to you. If you move close to them, they know they're more effective at range, so they'll step back away from you. It makes the environment feel more realistic.

M: If it isn't like that, don't you think it's easier to think "here's a bunch of things I have to destroy…"?

JH: Sure. You actually want to start feeling like that's you in the city of Westmarch, fighting your way through it. The more reactive things are, that's just a touch of quality.

M: Are there examples of other things that you guys think really sell the world?

JH: There's a lot of stuff in there, like when you go into the Blood Marsh, there's these obnoxious little things called Boggits. It's bad enough that these things are hopping around and nipping at you and causing problems, but they actually will go up inside a tower, throwing traps down on you. If you tear down the tower, the traps actually close up on the Boggits themselves; it's pretty satisfying to see that happen. We could have just as easily had the traps "mysteriously disappear", but we went the extra nine yards to show the Boggits essentially foiled in their own trap.

M: Loot 2.0 is coming. What's your philosophy behind items?

JH: We learned a lot on the console side by making legendaries easier to get; we got rid of a lot of the white items, we gave people gold. It reaffirmed to us the decision to get rid of the Auction House and take it back to the people earning the items themselves, but let's be generous with those items. Loot 2.0 brings targeted loot, so you're going to find drops that are actually for your class as opposed to completely random. You're going to see legendaries more frequently, and they'll be better than the yellow items.
JM: There's definitely a progression. We want it to go from white to yellow to legendary to set items, and those will be the best items in the game. We have a philosophy of "rarity equals power", so while we're being generous, we want those really good items to be the rarest.
We've also added a new feature to the game: the Mystic. What you can do is go to her and give her an item and change a stat on that item. For a gold cost you can take something that you don't want and she'll give you a randomized choice of three things. If you don't like that, you can do it again. We've also added Transmogrify, where you can take an upgrade you find, and if you liked the way your old item looked, take it to her and say "hey, make it look like this".
JH: I think you train now for that. You don't actually have to find that. That's a real recent thing – we were worried that, we didn't want you to have to go and find that item to unlock a look. Now you'll train her like you do the crafters.

M: The Mystic and Transmogrify – is that a way to justify the existence of gold?

JH: These are certainly going to be some good gold sinks, especially as you get into the higher levels. If I want to re-enchant a legendary item, there's fairly costly material it's going to take plus a lot of gold to do it.
JM: We want to make sure those things aren't too harsh for new players, so we're definitely trying to find that balance.

M: What could the future of multiplayer in Diablo look like?

JM: We're adding a couple new features for multiplayer. We're adding Clans and Groups. Clans are kind of configurations of people that want to play together, and Groups are chat channels that you can get into for common interests. We really want you to feel like you have a community when you're playing – tying into battlenet and seeing your friends and being able to talk to them.
JH: One of the things we're doing on the PS4 game is Avenger Kills. Say Jesse and I are playing. So we can be friends and not be in the game at the same time. He runs into a zombie or whatever but he gets killed in the game. So the zombie is going to be elevated into an Elite and named "Jesse's Bane" and enter into my game. If I kill it successfully, Jesse's going to receive some in-game mail with some loot indicating that I killed his bane.

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