Our cover story this month focuses on three of Blizzard’s big upcoming projects. Arguably, the most exciting of the bunch is Diablo IV, and during our visit to the studio we got to play the game and talk to the team about the history of its development. Now we’re passing that knowledge on to you. Take a look at these rare pieces of concept art – some of which have never been seen before. Trust me, I kept my eyes closed when I posted this.
On the darker tone: “I was really excited about the opportunity to do a really medieval-feeling world and setting. We started with going back to the source of what makes medieval fantasy cool. When you think about demons and angels and mankind in the middle of this conflict, it’s rooted in our own history, so we went back and looked at a lot of medieval art and armor and weapons … We wanted to craft like a medieval masterpiece. We wanted it to feel like something that came from this time. It’s kind of like European folklore.” – art director John Mueller
On comparisons to previous games: “You look at the class lineup in Diablo II, and that thing is amazing. Every Diablo game could have that class lineup and be good forever. You look at the combat that is in Diablo III, and even though there are newer games out there, the second I play a new season in Diablo III I’m back in. Diablo I, for as old as it is and as long ago that I played it, there are moments that are just burned into the back of my mind. I couldn’t tell you how any RPG from that time ended, but I can tell you how Diablo I ended.” – game director Luis Barriga
On mounted travel: “This is a big world RPG. We looked at all of our favorite open-world games and they all have a mount or a mount equivalent. We were thinking how would mounts work in Diablo. One of our mantras is that it has to be gothic, medieval, and dark, and you can’t get much more medieval than a horse. To me, it’s such a slam dunk. In Diablo you customize through items, so that’s the route we’re taking. You have mount armor, barding, tabbards, horseshoes, and trophies. One of the trophies we have is super cool – It’s the head of a demon.” – game director Luis Barriga
On the villain, Lilith: “I think there was one drawing of [Lilith] that existed in a book that we’d done, the Book of Cain. Because she’s so heavily featured in this game, we reimagine a lot of times. We want to use that as an inspiration point, but we don’t feel contained. We wanted to bring in a sense of groundedness and believability to this demon character so when you see her she’s just not a demon with red eyes. She’s the mother of Sanctuary and she’s returning, and it’s something we wanted people to have questions about.” – art director John Mueller
On the new open world: “The overworld is handcrafted, and it’s intended to create a sense of place to make the world of Sanctuary alive and believable. We realized that it’s deep in Diablo’s DNA to have randomized maps, so the way we think about the map is that it’s a container for everything. The way I posed it to the team is that whenever you go through the instanced portal, it’s whatever your DM cooked up for the night – that’s the very core Diablo experience, but the container that holds it all together is this world, Sanctuary. Activities that previously would have been driven by UI and menus are now held by your map, so now you see there’s a boss over there or there’s a dungeon that I discovered or there’s an enemy camp or a town.” – game director Luis Barriga
On monster classes: “Now we have monster families that live on the coast, and we can actually have that now. The Drowned, they crawl out of the oceans and exist in that biome. And we can have Khazra come up out of the mountains and the caves and it’s like a real sense of location. I don’t know if we’ve had that sense of space in a previous Diablo game.” – art director John Mueller
On designing the world: “We put out a continental map of Sanctuary in the previous game, but the level of fidelity is so much deeper now. It’s almost like the Google Maps version. Every space now has topology and it’s defined, so the depth that we’re adding is really exciting.” – art director John Mueller
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For more on Diablo IV, be sure to check out our online coverage hub, which includes deeper dives into the Sorceress, Barbarian, and Druid classes. As well as rare gameplay footage.