How Diablo 4 Is Being Built For A Modern Audience

It has been over a decade since the release of Diablo III, and despite the game’s enduring success and release on nearly every modern system, Blizzard knew that Diablo IV had to feel like a modern game–one that is still quintessential Diablo, but with updates to make it appeal both to longtime fans and to first-time players.

More players in more places

Speaking to GameSpot prior to the announcement of the upcoming Server Slam beta test, director Joe Shely emphasized one of the biggest launch-day differences between Diablo IV and its predecessors: It’s shipping on consoles and PC at the same time. It’s a decision that, in the day of cross-play across devices and even generations, brought it in line with many other current online games.

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“When we released the console version of [Diablo III], we saw lots of people who had never played Diablo before who got to play Diablo for the first time,” Shely said. “And so when we thought about how to bring Diablo IV to people, we knew that we had a bunch of audiences–from people who had played Diablo at all kinds of different items in their lives… played different Diablo games, and that all of those people were people who would want to have a great time in Diablo IV.”

Not all of those people play on PC these days. With Diablo III having been on consoles in one form or another since 2013, it’s easy to find diehard Diablo players who have never touched it on PC. Cross-play and cross-progression mean not only will they be able to still play it on their platform of choice, but also (if they are willing to buy it again) try Diablo IV on PC, too. It’s actually something associate director Joseph Piepiora said he did way back during the first Diablo game’s heyday–he had his game on PC, but also another on the original PlayStation that he sunk hours into with a friend.

It is… alive

The main story is just the beginning.
The main story is just the beginning.

One of the biggest additions in Diablo IV compared to Diablo III is endgame content at launch. It arrived in the previous game eventually, but those who had finished the relatively short story were left with fewer reasons to keep digging into it.

“But an endgame is so important to an action-RPG that when we sat down to build Diablo IV, we knew that we wanted to build it in such a way that we could include the endgame at ship,” Shely added. “And of course, because it’s a live service, we play to add to it over time. But it felt like something that was important to be in the shipping title.”

Seasonal updates are coming every few months after Diablo IV’s launch. They won’t be continuing the main story–that will conclude in the game itself–but they’re going to make Sanctuary feel less like a place where a story happened and then ended, and more like an actual world. New characters will appear and there will be new side stories, giving players a reason to hop back into Sanctuary with their friends long after they’ve rolled credits.

DPS, not GPS

Looking more at this and less at the map.
Looking more at this and less at the map.

When making a detailed, dynamic world, designers would surely hope players are taking it in fully. It’s a major reason Blizzard chose not to implement a map overlay–a feature seen in past Diablo games–in favor of a minimap paired with a full map in the menu. That doesn’t mean things can’t change in the future, but it wasn’t an arbitrary decision.

“…we want to be listening to what players care about and [make] sure that players’ needs are being met,” Shely stressed. “And so when players are saying, ‘Hey, we’re having trouble navigating through the world,’ we need to address that concern. We believe with the minimap and the map–and the pinging system–that we’ve gone a long way to addressing those concerns. We think that there’s more that we need to do and we want to make improvements to those systems.”

But there is a tendency when using a map overlay to focus almost exclusively on that, rather than looking at what’s actually around you. That is what Blizzard wanted to eliminate.

“And so the map overlay can help facilitate [easier navigation], but it has the downside of ending up being on all the time because it’s easier than toggling it on and off. And so we’re trying to build Diablo IV in a way where those things can be distinct and have that still be a good experience for players.”

Diablo IV releases on June 6 for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC, with Deluxe and Ultimate Edition players getting it on June 2. A Server Slam is running from May 12-14, offering a chance to play the prologue and Act 1 for free.

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