Diablo 3’s about to have a pretty big 2017 with the Diablo: Darkening of Tristram event going live in January, the Necromancer Character Pack later in 2017, and tons of new features being added as well. We caught up with Blizzard’s Wyatt Cheng and Rob Foote to discuss all the new stuff coming to D3 and the future of Diablo as a franchise.
I got the hard questions out of the way first, and while I did have a video recording of this interview ready for you guys, the footage got corrupted, so alas you’ll have to deal with my own recap! The first thing I asked Rob and Wyatt was simple:
MMORPG: We’ve seen the job postings on Blizzard, is this project (Darkening of Tristram) the project you’ve been hiring for?
Rob: For Blizzard, we’re always working on something new, and we make it a policy not to talk about hires, transfers in the company, but I would say though that we’re so excited to get this guy (points to Necromancer) out on the floor and all of the other announcements we’ve been keeping under wraps.
MMORPG: The second question would be, there was a time when Blizzard said there was at least two expansions possible for Diablo 3, but with this character pack not being a fully-fledged expansion, does that mean we’ll never see another full expansion for Diablo 3?
Rob: We don’t have any announcements to make now about anything beyond the Necromancer and the Anniversary patch. Really, our heads are down on 2017, because we’ve got so much we’re going to bring out in the next year, and that’s what we’ve been concentrating on.
MMORPG: And the Necromancer is coming out in 2017 then, early-ish?
Wyatt: It’ll be the second half of 2017.
Rob: Timing wise, the first thing that’s coming up is the Anniversary patch in early January. That will include the Diablo 1 re-envisioned in Diablo 3, 16 levels, four original bosses: Lazarus, the Skelton King, the Butcher, and Diablo himself.
MMORPG: The Butcher scared me to death. I was 12 when Diablo came out, and I remember being so surprised and terrified by that guy when I stumbled upon him first.
Rob: I was talking about that earlier. It was sort of the dawn of the Internet, so there weren’t videos, guides, and spoilers everywhere. He runs out, says “Fresh meat” and chops you down. It’s been fun to recreate that sort of experience in D3.
MMORPG: Let’s talk about the Necromancer and the idea of the Character Pack. He’ll be the first of these sorts of DLC for you guys.
Rob: Yeah, it’s the Rise of the Necromancer Pack. It’s not just the Necromancer class itself, but also two new stash tabs for all of the stuff that comes with adding a class, two character slots, cosmetic stuff, and portrait frames, and so on.
MMORPG: There’s also the Armory system, which is part of the Anniversary patch or is it coming later with the Necromancer?
Wyatt: It’s later than the Anniversary. We don’t have an exact date, but it should be before the Necromancer.
Rob: I know the Armory isn’t as glamorous as the Necromancer, but I think it’s the one that people are going to use the most. I mean, just being able to save and swap different item and rune sets with the press of a button will be a godsend.
Wyatt: And you can save five loadouts per character, making it super flexible.
MMORPG: And you removed the costs for de-socketing gems, too.
Wyatt: Yes, we did. You can now swap back and forth whenever you want, don’t worry about it. We mentioned in the panel – it’s coming to both PC and console. It’s a completely different UI for the console, but we need it there. Same with Seasons. Seasons will finally be on console, but just PS4 and XB1 editions.
MMORPG: Let’s talk a bit about the Necromancer himself, then, because IT’S THE NECROMANCER. How did you approach the Necromancer to make sure it wasn’t too similar to the Witch Doctor?
Wyatt: Yeah, there’s lots of ways that we could make the Necro and the Witch Doctor different. Thematically is a great starting point. Visuals and the theme and the tone are one such places – blood, bone, and the idea of being the commander of the dead. These are themes that don’t reside on the Witch Doctor.
Rob: The commander thing is important, because one of your core abilities is sending your army of the dead out towards whatever mobs you think need focused attention. When the boss pops, you send the skeletons, you know?
MMORPG: And what’s interesting to me after playing it is that the Necro doesn’t have to summon his army in D3. It’s just sort of always there with you.
Wyatt: With the Necromancer in D3, we wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just a port of the D2 Necromancer, but a reimagining of what that class would play like in D3. So while the show floor only has a handful of skills, there will be a full complement of runes, more skills to choose from, and so forth.
Rob: Yeah, it’s a big undertaking. Not to mention all the story-based stuff for acts 1-5, the armor, the weapons, and so forth. It’s not the same Necromancer from Diablo 2, both in terms of how it plays and who he or she is. It’s also not Xul from Heroes of the Storm. Both the male and the female Necromancers are characters unique to Diablo 3.
MMORPG: Right here is where my video footage got hosed, but fear not! I was taking notes!
Rob: The Darkening of Tristram Anniversary Event will be shipping in early January, and it’ll be on the PTR as early as next week for players to experience and help test it too. And then every year for the month of January it’ll make its return. And yes, I asked, but no there are no plans to “remake” Diablo 2 in Diablo 3 at this time. Hey, I had to ask right?
I then asked if there was anything else coming up in future updates that the team wanted to talk about and Rob and Wyatt explained Challenge Rifts. With these new Rifts, basically the Dev team picks a build from greater rifts being run by all the players across all the platforms, and then gives it to the players to have them try and run a challenge rift with that same build. No changing, tweaking allowed – it’s basically “can you do this with this?” It’s kind of like Diablo’s own version of “Brawls” for PVE’s sake.
That’s it for our interview. There’s loads more to come from Diablo in 2017, I’d wager, and we’re just beginning to see what Blizzard has in store for the two decades old franchise.