Blizzard Entertainment surprised everyone when, in February 2013, the studio announced that Diablo III would be heading to console. Since then, the original game has arrived on both PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, introducing console owners to a new form of dungeon crawling mayhem. As of yesterday, next-generation owners can also get in on the action, with Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition launching on all four PlayStation and Xbox systems. The new box also includes the Reaper of Souls expansion, extending the campaign and bringing in the new Crusader class.
I’ve been a big fan of Diablo III’s couch-based co-op, and the different feel it has to the solo-focused PC variant. With that in mind, I caught up with game director Josh Mosqueira at Gamescom to talk about all things console. He shared the journey with me, from the early days of convincing a skeptical audience, through to future goals of shortening the gap between PC and console variants.
MMORPG.com: Where did your involvement with Diablo III begin?
Josh Mosqueira: I started in May of 2011. I was hired as lead designer of the console version. I’d previously worked with Jay Wilson up at Relic, and he called me one very snowy day in Montreal, because I was working at Ubisoft. And he was like ‘Hey, we’re thinking of doing this crazy thing of bringing Diablo to the console, and would you be crazy enough to leave your family and friends in Montreal, and come down?’ And I looked out the window, and it was freezing cold, and Blizzard’s calling me, asking me to do something impossible but also really awesome at the same time. So two months later I was actually down at Blizzard.
MMORPG.com: And that had nothing to do with the weather at all?
Mosqueira: No, it definitely had a lot to do with it! [laughs] But, even if Blizzard was in the North Pole, I still would have made the transition.
MMORPG.com: Are you happy with how it’s turned out?
Mosqueira: It’s been such a fun ride. Very much from the beginning, our mandate for the console version was to just make an awesome game. Don’t worry about expectations – make whatever changes you guys need to make so that it feels like it’s a hand-built experience for the console. So that was very liberating, in equal parts terrifying as well, but it really allowed us to take a look at the game from a different perspective - direct control, rethink some of the skills.
Loot was a big change. The whole loot 2.0 really started on console, when I said ‘Item management’s going to be a nightmare, so we need to drop less items. But if we drop less items, they need to be better. So if they’re better, why don’t we just make them epic at the same time?’ That’s been the evolution.
But I think what’s been most rewarding is that people were skeptical at the beginning – how do you take such a beloved PC classic and put it on the console, on one of these? [holds up a PS4 controller] It’s like sacrilege. Even on the team, everybody was really supportive, but you could always tell there was something nagging at them. Which is why, the moment it was playable, we just tried to get it into people’s hands. Because when you actually sit down and play with the controller, you realize that the magic of playing a Diablo game has nothing to do with having a mouse and keyboard, and everything to do with being an epic hero, fighting monsters in a dark gothic setting and getting loot. How you do that is almost not important.
That really helped when we started working on Reaper of Souls, with the type of decisions we made, with Adventure Mode, even the Crusader and how we wanted the mix of melle and ranged combat. That evolution has just been a really fun ride to be on.
MMORPG.com: Was there anything you learned from the first iteration particularly, as you delivered Reaper of Souls?
Mosqueira: I think one of the really good examples was… I think one of the things the PC version did so well was the concept of per-player loot. There’s no more people stealing other people’s loot, there’s no arguments, it’s fine. And again, for console when you’re playing online, we have the same system. But when we were working on the same-screen couch pull-up version, which is one of the awesome things on console, it just never occurred to us to apply that system at the same time. There are some technical complications why it was not possible, and then we decided not to do it.
We didn’t really forget about it, but we learned to live with the Barbarians getting all the loot, because they’re all up front killing everything. And then the game went live, and we started playing it at home with our friends, and we realized our friends are very selfish people. But also the community as well, they were like ‘We love the game, but the ninja looting is getting out of hand,’ so then we started looking at how we can bring per-player loot to same-screen co-op. When we started thinking about the smart drop system as well, that was one of the things that allowed per-player loot to work on console as well. The PC development and the console development have gone hand-in-hand, and certainly influenced each other in this really cool dynamic.