'Ask me anything' with Wyatt Cheng and Caleb Arseneaux

For the 21st of December the Diablo Community Management Team organized an 'Ask Me Anything' (AMA) with Diablo Immortal's Lead Designer Wyatt Cheng and Lead Producer Caleb Arseneaux. Here you can find the full transcription of the session.

sVr: Will there be seasonal buffs or events?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): So we are definitely looking to have a variety of cool events. There's actually one event in the game right now which is the Challenge Rift Event. You can see this on the left side of the main menu. The backend that drives that event can and will be used to run new events in the future. Maybe we'll make Halloween a special thing?

sVr: Will PvP have a reward system?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): We have more plans for PVP that we can't talk about just yet. But I hope you guys have been able to check out the Bilefen Zone Trial. One thing I can say now is that none of our PVP plans are going to move the game towards an eSport. What we want is a fun place that players of all types can gather and have a good time killing each other.

sVr: We have runes, however, they are just materials currently. What about Runewords and what made you "not include" them?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): No current plans for Runewords. Runewords are super cool, but their functionality overlaps a bit with Legendary items. We wanted to include runes as a consistent thematic element so using them as a reagent in the crafting recipe seemed cool.

Leviathan: Can you speak towards Hardcore and if it will be in? If not, philosophies on why?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Hey Levi. Not only does Diablo Immortal extend character progression, but it is also an inherently social experience, in that we want to encourage players to join guilds and build in-game friendships. Having your buddy permanently disappear from your guild because their character died in an unfortunate and gruesome way could be a fun idea for some, but it's not the experience we're looking for, so we do not currently have plans for Hardcore mode.

MuggleMama: Is there a reason some legendary gear needs to be identified but some does not?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): Sometimes we identify the gear when you get it from somewhere like the free track on the Battle Pass, but the legendary drops from the rest of the game should be unidentified. Right now there's actually a bug in the game that makes this inconsistent, and we'll be fixing that in the future.

Leviathan: Some of the people on my stream notice (and love) that many of the sounds are from old Diablo games. Are they placeholders or there to stay? Great nostalgia.
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): All the sounds you hear are intended to stay unless we have a reason to change it. Personally I love the nostalgic sound of gold falling on the ground. <insert bad joke about the sound being the same because Immortal takes place between D2 and D3 so the sound of gold dropping on the ground is correct for the timeline>

Leviathan: Will there be a transmog system or ways to customize characters so that people can differentiate themselves from one another?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): We are not currently looking at a transmog system but we do have a couple things which are similar. The first is that we are looking at a way for your to manage your legendary powers more easily. No details to share about this right now but stay tuned. The second is that we are planning to have full body cosmetic outfits. These will be available as a real money purchases in addition to being on the paid track of the Battle Pass.

sVr: What are your plans to "circumvent"/"restrict" the continuous powercreep inherent to ARPGs (with each major content patch)?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Hey sVr. I'll answer in two parts. We plan to cap Paragon progression and gradually raise that cap with each new content update. Legendary powers are designed to scale and will carry forward to higher level versions after content updates as well. Gems and Legendary Gems can also be unsocketed and carried into a new sweet item in the future. The second part would be with regards to the numerical tuning. Without diving too deep into the math right now, one of the reasons we have both "Attack" and "Offense Rating" as well as "Life" as well as "Defense Rating" is so that these attributes can scale linearly over time, while still making you feel more powerful. Normally you need exponential numerical growth to really feel the power difference, but the dual-attribute system should allow us to avoid crazy large damage numbers over time.

Leviathan: Will the Bestiary have statistical details on enemies (like if they have Armor and such - could help with gearing/more info) or be more flavorful/lore based?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): The Bestiary entries are going to show more about the lore of the creatures than gameplay related details. We want to reveal more of the world every time you get a new page.

Leviathan: How is the Power stat on items calculated? What does it take into consideration?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Power is calculated from all the stats on your item. The attributes on your item (strength, int, fort, spirit, willpower) are all 15 points each. Your particular build might value one attribute over another, but we didn't want to try and guess which ones you are looking for so they are all weighted equally. Then there are extra points added for magic and legendary properties. Again, we try not to make judgement calls on which property you might want for your character, the points added varies with the level of the item but not with the property itself. Finally, sockets are given a base score (I believe it's 48? Don't quote me on that) to make the socket appealing. Ultimately the "Power" of an item is supposed to give a rough gauge of which item might be better for somebody who doesn't want to do a lot of math but the actual best item might differ for somebody who wants to do a lot of min/maxing.

Dredscythe: Reforge seems to be unlocked at 45 (current level cap). Is that the plan when 60 is the new level cap, or can we get access at lower level 30, 45, etc.?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): Reforging is available when you get a Legendary item to Rank 6, not when you reach a certain level. It might not be common to get to that point before max level due to the amount of crafting materials needed to rank up your items.

Dredscythe: The XP to level ramps up after 30 quite a bit, what’s the plan going forward looking at 60. Aimed for play time in hours range?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): I can't give any specific time amounts because we'll be analyzing data and feedback from the Tech alpha to possibly go back and make adjustments to the 1-45 experience as well. However, a few high level goals:

  1. The amount of XP and time required to level post 45 continues to increase in the same way that things increased after 30.
  2. We like the way level 1-20 feels in that it's very fast which is great for getting people into the game.
  3. As a singular data point the last level from 59 to 60 should be about 2.5 hours for most players.

Neinball: Is it possible to use the phasing tech when interacting with quest givers/story points so that we don’t get swarmed with mobs while unable to control our characters?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): In Technical Alpha we have an issue where sometimes you are attacked by mobs while you are in a dialog sequence with an NPC. We definitely will be fixing this in the future.

echohack: Upgrading individual items and gems is a major shift for Diablo Immortal from previous games. We currently know about several upgrade systems: Gems, Legendary Gems, Charms, Reforging, and Salvage. What limits are being put into place to prevent Pay2Win from dominating these upgrade systems? Are there some upgrade systems that will be driven by gameplay only, and never influenced by monetization (such as the current Blacksmith / Salvage system)?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Echohack, great question! When we set out to make Diablo Immortal one of the first "tentpoles" we laid down is that the gear should be earned strictly through gameplay. I think the question understates just how important gear is (and by extension salvage/rank up) and how it affects gameplay... it's the majority of your power. I think it's worth noting that I don't think the "hunt" part of the item hunt feels strong enough yet and we hope to tune it more after the Tech Alpha. sVr alluded a bit to this in feedback he gave relating to the stats on items (still waiting for you to send over your details sVr!!!) The "magic" attributes that roll on items such as "+3% damage for your primary attack" don't feel impactful enough yet, and the attributes that initially appear on an item might be a bit light compared to the attributes gained from rank-up. Beyond items, Paragon is another example of a system you use to upgrade your character solely by playing the game. We don't have XP boosts and that was a conscious decision. At its core everything you do in Immortal is tied to gameplay: how you progress, acquire gear, earn various items, etc. all have to be done by actually playing the game, there's no way to bypass that.

echohack: Will bluetooth controllers, or other mobile phone controllers such as the PS4 / PS5 / Xbox / Nintendo Switch Pro / Razer Kishi be supported?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): We get this question a lot! During Technical Alpha we're focused on making the best mobile experience for our players. However, because it's been such a common request from the community we hope that we can test controller support in the future.

Lord Fluffy: It seems pretty clear that a lot of assets were reused from Diablo III? I assume work wasn’t done to actually recreate these assets exactly as they were in D3. So, assuming you’re somehow importing them... why not import everything to give us a a way bigger pool of Elder Rift maps?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): We are still in active development on the game, so the assets in Technical Alpha now will not necessarily be the versions we ship with. I'll talk about environments for a second because you brought up Elder Rift maps. The game engine for Immortal is in many ways capable of higher quality in art than we were able to achieve in Diablo 3. On top of that, we have a large talented art team that have their own creative ideas on how Sanctuary should look in Immortal. So between the tech and the team we have invested a lot in making new zones that have never been seen before, but also recreating zones you have seen so they are fresh and reflect our commitment to quality.

echohack: Can you talk in more detail about rewarding players for exploration? Specifically, can you talk in more detail about Lairs and "Legendary Monsters" (name?) -- these seem very interesting!
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): The Lairs are intended as fun side dungeons that are rewarding to explore when you come across them but not quite common enough to explicitly farm. Ideally when you're out in the world for other reasons, like main questline, a Zone Trial, or doing bounties you see a Lair and think "ooooh! Shiny!" and jump in, but we don't necessarily want you to wander the world aimlessly looking for them as your top priority. With regard to Legendary Monsters, they're a bit similar to Lairs in this regard, but with the possibility that you may or may not ask some guild mates to come and join you if they're online. I'd love to know if you all think we're close on these goals.

echohack: Is the current hub-and-spoke model for towns similar to what we will see at release? (ie: Westmarch the main hub with minor towns in other zones)
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Yes - the way the minor towns are set up with Westmarch as the capital city is the plan for release.

Lord_Fluffy: Would Blizzard ever consider a pay to play server of Diablo Immortal where you couldn’t pay to win?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Hey Fluffy! We really want to introduce Diablo to as many players as we can around the world, and we believe the best way to do that is with a free to play game. It's also important for us to make one shared experience and not split up the community. I was watching your stream when you were pushing Challenge Rifts and I know some concern was brought up that this wouldn't be as enjoyable for you when the Crests are ultimately purchasable in the future. In that regard, I think an important note is that Challenge Rifts are not going to be the ultimate end game that Greater Rifts are in D3. I don't want to spoil anything right now, but I will say it includes both PvE content and activities for larger groups of players. Grats on getting #1. BTW, in Australia there's a Barbarian who cleared 40. 😉

sVr: For the remaining 15 levels to 60, is each class going to see new skills? (or are the current skills stretched over to 60)?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): The tech alpha does not include all the skills characters will be able to learn when the final version of the game is released. There are 2 additional skills per class and we are hoping to add more skills to each class post-launch as free expansion content.

Mugglemama: Will phasing be used to reduce the number of people you see in places like Westmarch? Or will it become overloaded with players?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): There are a few things we're doing to help combat having too many players on screen. First, when many players are in the same zone at once we do spin up a second copy of that zone and divide the players between the different areas. Secondly when a large number of players are on the screen at once we do some dynamic culling of players who may be farther away from you to help performance. Even right now we are hanging out in Westmarch and you can see how characters fade in and out depending on their proximity to you. We will continue to tweak and improve this system so that points of interest in Westmarch are not overcrowded.

ECHO Gaming: How will the battle pass work across multiple character accounts. If you purchase the pass will it only work for one character per account or across all characters on that account.
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Hey Echo. The current plan is that you purchase the Battle Pass once and it unlocks the benefits and paid reward track on all of your characters. Pretty sweet right? While we're on the subject I want to clarify that we are currently thinking of a monthly Battle Pass that starts at the beginning of each month and ends at the end of the month. During tech alpha the duration is set to 2 months only because we didn't want the Battle Pass to reset partway through the tech alpha in the event it goes past Dec 31 (duration of tech alpha still TBD. We are getting lots of good data and fixing bugs on the backend as it relates to server stability and other behind-the-scenes stuff).

Orelus: Will there be additional zones with upcoming patches once released or any plans for another classes joining the roster?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): Yes! We are planning for more of everything. New Zones, new Dungeons, more legendary items, quest lines and bounties. We will even be working on new Classes to add. All of this will become a part of the game for everyone to enjoy for free without purchase.

Raxxanterax: How will the sharing of resources (if at all) be implemented into the released version of immortal? Currently our paragon levels seem to carry over to other characters, will anything else? Shared stash? Any other shared resources?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Hey Raxx, I lurked in your stream on Saturday, it was nice to see you enjoying the game. Right now most of the progression is done on a per-character basis. Before I dive in I want to caveat that this is definitely an area of design that might change (or might not). We would love for more things to be shared between characters but the problem we ran into is that we also have bonuses (such as bounties, first kill of the day, Battle Pass) that reward you for activities on a daily/one-time basis. We don't want the best way of progressing your main to be rolling up a stable of alts and then funneling all the resources into your main.

Neinball: So after starting up a new character: is it meant to be a whole new experience (no shared currency, completely reset battle pass, etc) per character or a limitation of the alpha? And do paragon levels on those new character only unlock at max level?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): Paragon is shared across characters but only unlocked when those characters reach max level. We did this to have a more meaningful leveling experience similar to World of Warcraft when your main character is the primary focus. We wanted to to make sure that a level 33 Demon Hunter and a level 34 Wizard had reasons to group and tackle hard challenges and create a social environment that is beneficial to the game. If that level 33 Demon Hunter had 300 paragon points to spent they would not need to engage in leveling the same way.

Leviathan: Has there been anything from the reports, videos, streams, that has surprised you in the alpha whether pleasantly or unpleasantly? What do you think of the alpha thus far, community reaction, etc.
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): I'm really overwhelmed by the positive reception. It's definitely been a busy two years and it's very rewarding to be able to "show don't tell". I think one moment that gave me a chuckle on Sunday was opening two streams at once (I think it was Gregg and Raxx?). The two of them were partied up. I was on my anonymous-smurf account and joined them in the party. But then Gregg booted me from the party! LOL. Fortunately I could hear Gregg talk in stream about how I think he was poking around the UI.

Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): We've been saying that "playing is believing" mantra for a long time. It's great to finally see you all play the game and hear their reaction. I've been watching multiple streams constantly for days and it's only made me more excited about making this game! Also I really thought I was good at CR pushing until a few days ago :frowning:

Lord Fluffy: Will there be end-game currency conversion? hitting that arcane dust blocker on the alpha right now and the progression slow down feels pretty bad. Just playing for rare drops and having thousands of reusable parts.
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Tuning the materials is one of the areas we're looking at for technical alpha. Things are constantly in flux during development, and the ratios of crafting materials is an area we wanted to learn more from this test. I don't know if running out of Arcane Dust feels any better than running out of Scrap Materials (you're always going to be blocked by /something/). One solution is to provide a conversion mechanism, but another solution is to provide different activities for different resource types. Maybe activity X is good for parts, activity Y is good for gold, and Z is good for Arcane Dust. All that said, it's awesome to see people getting to this part of the game, and this will definitely help inform decisions for the next phase of development.

Raxxanterax: How important are clans going to be? In Diablo 3 they're mostly just another looking for group channel. Are clans in Diablo Immortal going to have more importance?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): Guilds in Diablo Immortal are a great way to group up with like-minded players and we have achievements to help guide some of the activities. But I have to say that we have larger plans for social groups beyond what Guilds are in Technical Alpha. Can't say more than that today but we are excited to share more in the future.

Megax: What information do you intend to add to the bestiary? I couldn't find a way to decipher what power each rare and elite monster brings with it. The icons help but it is still not the complete information.
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): The Bestiary will contain lore information on the many enemies to defeat in Immortal, but will not contain gameplay details. The Elite monster powers are dynamic every time they are spawned in the world. I think it's a good point of feedback that we should make sure that these powers are easily understood by our players.

Wudijo: Do they plan on trying to do a low config version for like 2-3 years old phones?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): During Technical Alpha we intentionally have a pretty narrow list of supported devices that help us test compatibility, performance and stability. At ship our game will support as many devices as possible. And even after installing the game, you can customize the graphics quality to suite your preferences.

Wudijo: Items being the root of Diablo, will they add primal kinds of items in D:I?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): There are no current plans to have Primals (or Ancients) in the game. That said, we do want to add more content after launch and Primals and Ancients are certainly on the table. However, I think systems like that are more interesting when they are also tied to new content (new ways to interact with the game).

Wudijo: At BlizzCon they said a fully fledged mobile game with no PC version, is it still the case or will this change?
Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): We are focused on creating the best mobile Diablo experience. We are excited to bring the epic action rpg elements to Diablo veterans and newcomers alike on their mobile devices.

Wudijo: If there are no primals, what would be the other version, like uniques kinda replacing legendaries in D4, but for DI?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): For launch I feel the item system we have with game-changing legendaries and the rank up system is fairly robust. We do need to examine and tune the numerical values on attributes but no major changes planned right now. (but this is tech alpha, so things are always subject to change)

Wudijo: Considerations for another skill slot for movement or utility skill only?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): We have explored that but no current plans. We're pretty happy with the control scheme right now and want to avoid adding too much more complexity.

NotPatrick: What is the design intent, pacing and soft limits for your gameplay and paid systems? For example, gear upgrading and the amount of crafting material, paragon, and how to engage with the market?
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): The short answer is we want the game experience to be enjoyable for both players who want to remain free and those who choose to spend money. How all of these systems interact with the player experience is something we're paying close attention to, and tuning them will be important to get the balance right.

Caleb Arseneaux (Lead Producer): Hey everyone I'm going to sign off for now. It was great hanging out and getting to answer all of your questions. I just want to say that this Technical Alpha is just a part of the game we are making and have much more to reveal in the future.

Final Words
Wyatt Cheng (Lead Designer): Thanks for all the great questions. A few extra tidbits of information that I picked up from watching videos and streams over the past few days.

Auto-navigation is unlocked for a zone when you complete the main questline for that zone. That's why it's not obvious at first, but then available later (most often when a bounty sends you back to a previous zone). We could do a better job communicating this.

I don't know how many of your found Guild Achievements, but I've already made a note that we need to iterate on the UI here. If you open up your guild page and hit the arrow to expand to full screen, there's a UI for guild achievements.

Thanks again for all the great questions and I'll see you around!