Design a Legendary, Part 1: Choose Your Weapon Results

Posted by Anuiran on October 31st, 2013 at 1:25 pm
Blizzard Quote [source]

Over 30,000 Diablo III players around the world participated in last week's "Choose Your Weapon" poll, and today we're excited to share the results. Taking an impressive 33% of our global vote, the Legendary weapon we'll be crafting alongside our community is: a one-handed sword!

*cue fancy trumpet flare*

A big thanks to everyone who voted, posted, shared, and tweeted. This is only the beginning, though. We'll be kicking off another community vote next week, so be sure to keep an eye on for Design a Legendary: Part 2!

Introducing: Design a Legendary

Posted by Anuiran on October 30th, 2013 at 8:20 pm
Blizzard Quote [source]

Have you ever wondered what kind of sweat, tears, and ritual sacrifice goes into designing a Legendary item in Diablo III? Or perhaps even entertained the idea of creating a Legendary of your own?

Well, hang on to your hauberks, Sanctuary, and ready your anvils. It’s time to get crafty.

The "Design a Legendary" Project

Inspired by the many passionate discussions we've seen about itemization (particularly Legendary itemization) in Diablo III, we wanted to take some time to expand on our evolving design philosophies and practices, as well as reiterate our goals for Legendaries in Reaper of Souls.

As we started to put our pens to the proverbial paper, though, we had an epiphany: "Hey, instead of just telling players about item design, why not actually show them?"

And so the Design a Legendary project was born.   

So, How's it Work?

Over the next few months, we'll take you through the all the different design stages behind bringing a single Legendary item to life, from concept to creation to iteration, all the way through animation and implementation. We'll chat with each developer involved and share progress updates along the way, giving you a unique behind-the-scenes look at what goes into making a Legendary item that looks epic, feels epic, and fits within the larger network of hero skills, monster tuning, and overall game balance.

Pretty sweet, huh?

But wait -- that’s only one part of this project! (Oh snap.)

Tell us more, Lylirra!

We'll also be involving you, our awesome community, in various parts of the design process. Leading up to release of Reaper of Souls, you'll have the opportunity to not only weigh in, but actually help guide development on a Legendary item that will be implemented and playable. We'll be holding global community votes, hosting podcasts, soliciting ideas, and even running a contest or two to ensure that this is truly a worldwide, player-driven initiative.

The result? We hope this activity will help give players a better understanding of everything that goes into item design, as well as wind up being something that's both fun and uniquely interactive. Also, once everything is said and done, there will be a Legendary item in the game that you had a hand in making. How cool is that?!

We'll be kicking off the first stage of this project next week, so stay tuned to and get ready to Design a Legendary!

BlizzCon Lore and Story Panel - What Would You Ask?

Posted by Anuiran on October 30th, 2013 at 8:20 pm
Blizzard Quote [source]

In just over a week, BlizzCon 2013 will be unleashed upon the mortal realm of Anaheim, California. Whether you're joining us in person at the convention, turning in with a Virtual Ticket, or following along online, it's certainly to be a weekend to remember!

Source: Book of Tyrael

Over the course of the two-day convention, we'll be hosting several panels about Diablo III and its upcoming expansion, including an open Q&A focused completely on the game's story and lore on Friday, November 8th. 

We know there are a lot of players who enjoy exploring the history of Sanctuary to finest depths and we would love to hear more about what kind lore or story-related topics interest you. So, for our latest community question, we want to know:

If you had the opportunity, what single lore or story question would you ask our Diablo III developers about Reaper of Souls?

Are you curious about Malthael's modivations? What may have transpired within the Angiris Council after the Lord of Terror was defeated? Perhaps you'd like to learn more about the Crusader's background, or what lies ahead for your followers Lyndon, Kormac, and Eirena?

Leave a comment below to let us know!

Reaper of Souls First Look: Westmarch Level Design

Posted by Anuiran on October 30th, 2013 at 1:21 pm
Blizzard Quote [source]

"Of all the world's myriad nations, it is Westmarch that has always fascinated me most." - Deckard Cain, Book of Tyrael

There was a time when Westmarch was a lively, vibrant city. Now, an unnatural chill hangs over the sprawling mass of Gothic architecture, and the unmistakable stench of decay chokes its few remaining survivors.

Take a trip with us through Reaper of Souls's first zone and peer behind the scenes at our design team's process in putting together the gloom and eeriness of a city under Death's siege.

Westmarch, Interrupted

When discussing Westmarch, we've often referred to it as the site of a "haunted apocalypse." What was once a bustling metropolis and the military capital of the west has now been reduced to something of a wasteland, its previous grandeur (and population) gutted by Malthael's vile, soul-pillaging minions. The elegant Western European and Gothic themes, upon which this city draws heavily, are now juxtaposed by the stomach-knotting dread that only the Angel of Death and his agents can bring.

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Don't expect Westmarch to be a simple palette of browns, blacks, and grays, though. More than a swatch of colors was considered when crafting this locale. Creating a truly dark and foreboding city requires evoking an emotional atmosphere, and you'll feel the burden of that weight as you brave the dangers wrought by Maltheal's reapers.

The Lay of the Land

Picture the fog-laden cobblestone streets of London in the 1800's, in the midst of England's Gothic revival. The rows upon rows of buildings tightly packed together, occasionally punctuated with small, dilapidated shops and sprawling passageways. The rotting clotheslines hung precariously between shingled rooftops and grimy windows, heavy with freshly-washed laundry. Or the pools of fetid water flooded with animal waste and discarded trash stagnating in neglected gutters and potholes, ideal breeding grounds for unspeakable plague.

That foreboding feeling, a setting where Jack the Ripper or Mr. Hyde might seem perfectly at home, is what you can expect as you navigate the winding, narrow alleyways and broad town squares of Westmarch. Our artists and designers worked to further this sense of dread and doom by leaving visual breadcrumbs of Malthael's presense, covering the city in a blue-green haze and littering its byways with freshly-reaped corpses. To give Westmarch a more worn-torn, apocalyptic feel, they also peppered the landscape with tattered remnants of failed defenses (smashed bulwarks, supply carts, and spiked blockades, for example) and emptied the city of its living denizens, replacing them with animated constructs—all macabre reminders of the slaughter that has occurred.

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A Welcomed Reprieve:

The inspiration of this Gothic age does not stop there, however. The Survivor's Enclave, the artisan and quest hub for Act V located in the heart of Westmarch, was designed to be a place where the remaining citizens could feel safe as they seek refuge from Malthael's army, and also a location where the nephalem can rest and regroup.

Settled atop a hill overlooking the city, this cathedral square has been modeled after a real world locale in Toledo, Spain. As a densely packed city originally built in the 13th century, its large cloister safeguarded by soaring towers seemed to fit the safe haven tone just right.

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Event Planning:

Littered throughout the zone, you'll also find multitudes of randomized sequences we affectionately refer to as "cellars," named after the one-room events scattered throughout Old Tristram in Act I.

This concept of one-room events has been taken to a new level in Reaper of Souls, to the point where you might consider these less like events and more like mini dungeons. One of our artists, Johannes Thé, came up with a new idea on how to chain together multiple types of rooms, which has allowed our designers to create some truly immersive experiences!

Imagine starting in a small house that opens up into a courtyard, where a path guides you through an alleyway to a new house. Not only is this a great way to introduce larger, more interesting story elements, but it's an opportunity to experience Westmarch as though you were actually traveling through it.

Overall, there are about 30 different cellars, more than in any other zone, scattered throughout Westmarch, each providing more juicy insight to the city’s history and people (and, of course, luscious loot).

Per Ardua ad Astra: Adversity in Design

Designing Westmarch did not come without its difficulties, however. The camera system used in Diablo III quickly proved an interesting obstacle when creating an urban feel. Our lead level designer Dave Adams offered some insight on this challenge.

"When we think of cities, even old ones, they are typically filled with tall buildings packed together. We wanted that vibe, but we did not want to have all those buildings fade out in front of the player. It can become very distracting after a while and take away from the gameplay experience."

What then, was the best solution to this issue? The fading of buildings has been reduced by positioning the buildings of Westmarch on opposite sides of the street to the regular camera angle. Roofs, similarly, have been angled away to minimize foreground distractions. 


This effect results in the feeling that you are really making your way through a realistic cityscape. 

The Journey Begins

Westmarch has been a challenging delight to explore, design, and implement. With this particular zone, we didn’t just want to set the stage for Reaper of Souls. We wanted to take you to a place of which you have heard only the faintest of whispers, to bring forth from your imagination a legendary location and make it breathe. Through the greatest depths of our artists' and designers' passion, it has been brought to life. . .only to be crushed beneath Malthael’s advancing legions.  

Are you ready to face the horrors that loom around each cobblestoned turn? Prepare yourselves, nephalem: Death awaits you.

Reaper of Souls First Look: Historical Westmarch

Posted by Anuiran on October 28th, 2013 at 12:44 pm
Blizzard Quote [source]

"But one must remember that the Westmarch of modern times is vastly different from what it was at the moment of its creation." - Deckard Cain, Book of Tyrael

What first comes to mind when one thinks of Westmarch, the first zone players will encounter in Diablo III's upcoming expansion, Reaper of Souls? From the home base of an eponymous order of knights to an architectural wonder built of monuments to King Rakkis's conquests, it is a city steeped in tales both heroic and bloody.

But what of its founding? Or the secrets that drove King Rakkis to be buried in a fetid swamp rather than his shining capital? It is said that the best preparation for the future is to study the past, so let's take a closer look at these legends as we steel ourselves for the impending destruction and chaos of Malthael, the Angel of Death.

Product of Conquest

Nearly two and a half centuries past, at a time when the Zakarum faith was quickly gaining momentum, the empire of Kehjistan was beset by a myriad of troubles. From famine and disease to rioting amongst the citizenry, the stage was set for a new faith to rise and stoke the fires of hope in the hearts of the desperate. While many politicians and nobles saw this evangelical traction as a threat, Emperor Tassara, fresh to his rule, realized the teachings of Akarat could be used as a tool to solidify his reputation. By embracing the burgeoning religion, Tassara would hasten the rapid acceptance of the Zakarum doctrines, allowing him to ensure the people would stay devoted to his cause.

The Rise of Rakkis:

Soon after his ascension, competitors for Tassara's throne banded together in an attempt to overthrow the emperor before his position was fully secured. Anticipating this insurrection, Tassara enlisted the help of one of the most zealous Zakarum converts and a skilled military general: Rakkis. The exploits of Rakkis echo through the annals of history, but it is important to note that his undeniable strength and his series of victories to protect the crown were an inspiration to the common folk.


Rakkis's popularity proved a double-edged sword, however, as Tassara began to consider the general a potential threat to his own rule. Thus, he ordered Rakkis to venture west and spread the Zakarum faith through conquest.

As this crusade tore across the land, Rakkis's army faced steep resistance, especially from the nation of Ivgorod and the barbarians of Mount Arreat. Despite these setbacks, Rakkis eventually banded together nine warring clans of the subcontinent under his banner, slowly integrating the Zakarum faith into their culture. This new force allowed him to crush the remaining resistant natives of the south.

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Rakkis' army marches forth after a victorious battle.

Soon, it came time for the general to claim proof of his deeds. To this end, he declared the land he seized Westmarch, in honor of the task to which Tassara had assigned him. Its capital, which would share the same name, was settled as a river port, and its convenient proximity to the sea allowed the city to quickly flourish into the mighty martial and mercantile power it is today.

The City Under Siege

Westmarch enjoyed many decades of peace and prosperity, as few would dare the wrath of its intimidating military. Those who did, such as Khanduras’s ill-fated invasion during the Darkening of Tristram, were slaughtered, with few survivors left to tell of their decimation. In the two hundred plus years since Westmarch’s founding, no outside force would visit harm upon those within the city’s formidable walls, until the arrival of Malthael, intent on slaughtering the entire population of the capital for an as yet undetermined purpose.

This begs the question: Why Westmarch? What secrets does the city hold that would lure the Angel of Death to its doorstep?

A Secret History

Generally speaking, if one were to carve a vast nation from the wilderness, the least appealing location to build one's new home would be next to a sprawl of fetid marshes. Yet, that is precisely what Rakkis did when he chose the location for his nation’s capital. Was there an ulterior motive? Surely there must have been, as the site would later draw forth the interest of not one, but two independent members of the Angiris Council.

Near Westmarch lay a treasure far more valuable than anything Rakkis had procured during his campaign. After his coronation, the king spent many years of his reign wandering the cyclopean ruins that lay forgotten beneath the adjacent marsh. At his behest, King Rakkis was laid to rest within it after his death. It was whispered by some that the ruins were not those of just any civilization, but rather, a lost city of the Nephalem.

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Left: A curious adventurer explores the Nephalem ruins. Right: The Angiris Council discuss the fate of the Black Soulstone.

This location holds undeniable power, and few have managed to pry secrets from its ancient corridors. The greatest quality the lost city is said to possess, however, is remarkable warding against the trespass of both angels and demons. Mentions of this warding were well hidden, but the new mortal Aspect of Wisdom, Tyrael, learned of the ancient protection in a time of great need. Seeking a place of refuge on Sanctuary for the Black Soulstone, he planned on using these ruins to hide the terrible artifact, shielding it from both demonic and angelic intervention alike. With power of the Prime Evil stored within the stone’s murky facets, not even the High Heavens could be trusted with its safekeeping.

Unfortunately, no one, not even Tyrael himself, could have foreseen the adversary who would pluck the Black Soulstone from its refuge. . .

Like Tyrael, Malthael had undergone a transformation, and his new incarnation as Death allowed him to cross the threshold of the ruined city unhindered.

The Future of Westmarch

Now, dangers beyond imagining threaten to lay waste to Westmarch, and only you, brave Nephalem, can save the historic city from ruin. Its residents are being culled and raised as an undead army bent on serving Maltheal’s every whim. How will you help cleanse Westmarch of the evil that’s befallen it? What unknown horrors do you imagine wait to stop you?

Let us know in the comments below, and remember: Be careful what you wish for!

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