Since the big announcement at Blizzard’s World Wide Invitational, not a lot of information has been released about Diablo 3. For all that, Jay Wilson, lead designer, has been giving interviews about the game. What he’s been saying makes me feel uneasy.

The team – unofficially, “Blizzard South” – is taking the series in a new direction. For one thing, they are emphasizing the story more than in the past. Consider this quote from a Eurogamer interview:

“We want people to be able to ignore the story if they want, but we still want there to be a denser story, we want there to be a lot of scripted events that support the story, we want the story to be better formed and more interesting. Plus we want there to be some elements that allow players to feel like they’re in a role-playing game.”

Sure sounds like they’ve been bitten by the “story bug”. But is a lot of story really necessary? Do people play Diablo for the story? Maybe the first time through. After that, it’s all about kills and “getting the drops”.

Combat – which, after all, is the heart of the game – is being changed, as well. D3 seems to be moving away from the simpler “click and kill” method, to what may be a more complicated tactical approach. Here’s another quote:

“We’ve tried to get away from damage as the big scary thing; we’ve tried to get towards restricted movement, and having a health system that actually plays into placement, where where you’re standing makes a difference. That really opens things up.”

In case you hadn’t heard, in this new system, enemies will drop “health globes” that heal you when you take them. Potions are still around, but apparently work much more slowly than before. The idea is to keep players engaged in combat, rather than breaking off for a trip to town and more supplies.

The big word for “Blizzard South” is “challenge”. Jay sees this as being different from “difficulty”, which in Diablo 2 is the ability of enemies (or certain enemies, like Duriel) to deal out a lot of punishment in no time at all. This is from an interview on 4players.de (a German site, but this is in English):

“For me there is a big difference between difficulty and challenge. Challenge is compelling, like challenge is basically the illusion of difficulty. When you feel a game is really challenging, then the game is exciting. Difficulty is where the game is hard and frustrating. So difficulty we try to avoid and challenge we totally want to embrace. And one of the problems I think Diablo 2 had, it would feel difficult and easy but almost never challenging. You had almost infinite resources and health. So as a designer our only option in this case to actually challenge you is to crush you with damage. Anything less then just crushing you (like one-shotting you) with damage is not gonna challenge or scare you, cause you could instantly recover your health. So what we are trying to do is, essentially create a game, where it is a challenge to just surviving and in which we don’t have to make the monsters crush you again.”

So what’s developing here? It certainly isn’t the traditional Diablo format we’re familiar with. Story? Tactical Combat? Role-playing? It would appear that the series is inching its way towards the more traditional RPG and away from its action/RPG roots.

I also wonder how this is going to work for the single-player game. They say there will be SP, but what’s come out so far shows that they really have multi-player in mind. So yeah, I’m feeling uneasy about Diablo 3.

UPDATE: I just caught this today (8/23) on Kotaku: Jay says that the only class returning in D3 will be the Barbarian. Wonderful. That was my least favorite character.

According to the post, Blizzard thought the Necromancer was “perfect” and couldn’t be improved, so they dropped that one for the Witch Doctor. No remarks on the other classes, aside from being dropped.

Of course, it could be they’ll spiff up the other three (Paladin, Sorceress, Amazon) and put them in under different titles. That would be necessary for at least the last two, as they were female, and in D3 your character can be male or female in any class. I hope that’s the case; the Rogue/Amazon were my faves in the first two games.

Jay Wilson interview on Eurogamer

Jay Wilson interview on 4players.de

Only Barbarian in D3 on kotaku