Diablo 4 is still coming in the nebulous Blizzard future, but in the meantime the studio is keeping us posted on its progress with promised quarterly updates. The latest development update gives fresh insights on how the dungeon-crawler will handle elements like storytelling, open-world elements, and seamless multiplayer without compromising the feel of Diablo.
Diablo 4 Storytelling
Blizzard started by addressing how it is changing its storytelling mechanisms. Whereas Diablo 3 used character portraits to deliver dialogue, the studio is experimenting with bringing the camera in closer to characters so you can see the conversations firsthand. Some conversations will rely on a general library of animations, while more complex conversations will have handcrafted animations.
For the most important story moments, Blizzard is planning to use real-time cutscenes. That allows the angles to be more cinematic, but you’ll still be shown as your own character with any visual elements like your currently equipped armor.
Setting Up Camps
Blizzard also said it has been satisfied during playtesting with the addition of Camps. These are distinct locations that have been taken over by demonic hordes, but once you cleanse them they’ll become friendly outposts with NPCs and a waypoint. The studio says the storytelling in the Camps is mostly visual, but you can put together pieces of what happened in those locations by looking at the surroundings. For example, one camp was a town that had been afflicted by a curse turning villagers into piles of salt. Another was a crypt haunted by a skeleton-jumping spirit.
Camps help you get a foothold in an area outside of Sanctuary, and are meant to encourage exploration in the open world. Blizzard noted that during its playtests, those who focused only on the story quests finished in less than half the average time than others who meandered with side-content.
Multiplayer (But Not Massively)
Multiplayer in Diablo 4 looks to more seamlessly integrate other players into your game, but to a limited degree. For example, after completing the story your towns will turn into social hubs, but you’ll only have a few other players in your town at any given time. You also might run into an odd player here or there while wandering the road. The largest collection of players will be in a big world event, like trying to defend a point or attacking a big boss. If you find yourself wandering into a party you can just complete the event, collect the rewards, and go about your day.
Blizzard said it was important to not to make the multiplayer counts too big, because it doesn’t want the game to resemble a MMO. It said this is a “philosophy rather than a tech limitation,” simply because the game stops “feeling like Diablo” if you see other players too often.
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