Automatic Stat Allocation in D3?
Wilson confirmed that the system in the Blizzcon demo build of D3 that automatically upgraded player statistics when they leveled up - as opposed to the D2 method of having players spend them manually - was a final design decision, and was here to stay. They had found, he said, that players who were new to Diablo 2 often bungled spending their stat points, resulting in a character that, by the standards of the multiplayer community, was seen as weak, or even useless. Furthermore, once a player became more experienced with the game and its community, there became really "only one right answer" to spend stat points with any given character. Blizzard's aim, said Wilson, was to take that headache away - but to compensate by providing greater customization in terms of the abilities and upgrades players have available.
WoW "A Good Game, Not a Great One"
One question addressed to Brack asked him how the developers intended to keep WoW fresh as the ridiculously popular MMO entered its fifth year. With a laugh, Brack joked that they would just "hang up [Wrath of the] Lich King posters everywhere." More seriously, he said that the issue of keeping the game fresh was one of the most pressing concerns on Blizzard's agenda, but that there was absolutely "no shortage of visions" amongst the team. According to Brack, the common sentiment amongst his staff is that "WoW is a good game, but not a great one" - that they all had places in mind for the game to go, or ideas to improve it that had not yet been implemented.
The Tides of WAR?
Another member of the press drew chuckles from everybody in the room when he asked Brack a very open-ended question: "One word, say whatever comes to mind: Warhammer." The WoW director said that he had a copy of Mythic's recent MMO, which had launched in late September with the sort of fanfare not seen in the Massive genre since ... well, World of Warcraft. However, with the impending launch of the second WoW expansion, he hadn't had time to play it - though he intended to sink his teeth into the game over Thanksgiving.
Brack dismissed the notion that Blizzard actively sought to "crush" new MMOs, pointing out that nearly all of the staff were not just game developers, but passionate, lifelong gamers as well. Many of them had good relationships with developers at other studios, and at the end of the day, if a game flopped, it meant that jobs could be in jeopardy. "There's nothing we like more than competition," Brack said, noting that it encouraged Blizzard to step up its own game, and was healthy for the industry as a whole - and good for gamers as well. So even though WoW and WAR might technically be competitors, he wished Mythic luck, and was sincerely hoping for the game to succeed, as he had in the past with titles like Age of Conan.
What Have You Learned From Other Games?
A follow-up question asked the developer what they had learned from other games, seeing what worked and what did not. Brack agreed with the sentiment that a developer should never be afraid to implement something in their game that would make it better just because someone else had thought of it, that there was no shame in saying, "Hey, those guys had a good idea, it'll make our game better ... let's use it!" In particular, he pointed to the upcoming Achievement system, saying that Blizzard had seen how popular similar features had been with services like Xbox Live or Steam.
New Secondary Profession?
While new primary professions had accompanied each of the game's two expansions - Jewelcrafting for Crusade, and Inscription for the upcoming Wrath - the game had maintained the same three secondary professions for four years now, and Brack said that they would really like to add more in the future.
Will Diablo 3 Have Shrines?
Jay Wilson wouldn't rule out the possibility that shrines would make a return in Diablo 3, though said that it wasn't very high on their priority list - that in Diablo 2, there had only been a few shrines that players actually found useful: "Oh hey, I have extra Cold resistance ... and nothing around here uses Cold damage." If they were able to figure out a way to properly implement them that made them desirable, it was certainly an option, but hardcore fans of D2's shrines probably shouldn't get their hopes up.
What You're Looking Forward To, In Five Words Or Less?
The final question of the conference was addressed to both developers with a tounge-in-cheek tone, asking them to say what they were most pleased with in their upcoming games - in five words or less. After a moment's thought, Brack counted off, "I really like Death Knights," eliciting laughter from the attendees. Continuing past the five-word limit, he elaborated, saying that he enjoyed the feel and the playstyle of the class. There was more than just Death Knights that he was excited about in WotLK, though - the Achievement system had actually been his own pet project, and he was extremely happy with how it had turned out. Brack also praised the new system introduced in Patch 3.02 where mounts and non-combat "vanity" pets would no longer take up bag space.
Like Brack, Wilson was also a huge fan of Diablo 3's Wizard, admitting that it was probably "[his] favorite class." He revealed that the Wizard had actually been designed before the Witch Doctor class, but that Blizzard had elected to show off the Witch Doctor first at the game's unveiling in WWI.
WarCry would like to heartily thank both J. Allen Brack and Jay Wilson for putting up with all of our questions and answering honestly! Stay tuned for the final Blizzcon wrap-up!