Diablo 4 was present at BlizzConline in a big way with the gory reveal of the Rogue class, the fourth of five classes that'll be present in the game at launch. Shortly after the reveal, I had the chance to take part in a group interview with Joseph Piepiora and Careena Kingdom, Lead Systems Designer and Lead Animator on Diablo 4, respectively, who shared more about the Rogue, how player vs player (PvP) combat works and more.
To start things off, Piepiora is quite clear that PvP is "high risk, high reward" as the team wants to "erase the idea that PvP needs to be fair." While it sounds harsh, the explanation is reasonable: PvP isn't taking place in an arena but rather in the many open-world Fields of Hatred, where players gather Shards of Hatred, a PvP reward item. When players go to purify these items for the rewards, PvP is opened up. This means that it isn't necessarily happening under ideal conditions, as players might not have all their skills ready, or could find themselves outnumbered.
The team wants to "erase the idea that PvP needs to be fair."
Still, there'll be options for survival and escaping back to the safe zones of towns where PvP is disabled. Making Diablo 4's open world bigger than anything the series has seen prior means changing how traversal works. In addition to mounts, Kingdom says that the classes can scale terrain differently. While the Barbarian or Druid might be able to leap down off a cliff, a Rogue or Sorceress will have to find a different way down. Setting ambushes and using the terrain to the best of your ability will be key in finding success, while the animations of your abilities aren't just meant to inform you but also your foes.
It's also worth noting that PvP won't be necessary for any form of skill progression. Purified Shards of Hadred will earn players unique cosmetics and other "trophy" style bragging rights rewards but these are never meant to grant any gameplay bonuses. It's also not going to be possible to force another player to fight — you have to choose to partake in PvP by trying to purify the Shards of Hatred and if you're looking to grab PvP rewards without ever fighting, you'll need to get the timing right. The developers are clear that the ears seen in the Rogue's trailer aren't just for show, as they'll also play into PvP rewards, though Blizzard is still figuring out the balance right now.
As for why the Rogue specifically is being added? Kingdom explains that the Rogue is a melee and ranged hybrid character, able to swap between weapons depending on the abilities and skills the player has invested in so far. She's a fluid character, with little wasted movement as even her evade takes the form of a spin. She's meant to always be on the move, with Piepora chiming in that the Rogue is best summed up as a professional, an "Olympic gymnast with a pair of bloody knives." While physically fragile, the Rogue has crowd control abilities with a hail of arrows and the ability to throw down caltrops, as well as using the Imbue system to give her weapons different effects like ice or poison.
Diablo 4 is still technically only confirmed for PC, Xbox One and PS4, with both developers being evasive when asked about the newest consoles — the Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PS5. When I asked if cross-progression and cross-play were being looked at, Piepiora is quick to say "emphatically yes," and adds that ensuring players are enjoying themselves on the platform of their choosing and taking their progress with them is incredibly important to Blizzard.
With this focus on allowing the verticality of terrain and how classes move changing up the flow of combat, I was curious whether it extended to environmental situations, such as shock attacks doing more damage to enemies standing in water. The answer is mostly no, with Piepiora explaining they didn't want to create situations where players feel more capable or limited in different biomes based on elemental conditions. With that said, the day and night cycle will have intriguing effects, with Blizzard looking to make sure the game feels different depending on the time of day players roam the open world.
The day and night cycle will have intriguing effects
It's in that roaming that the world is meant to really open up, as players will from time to time stumble upon enemy camps that can be destroyed, from Goatmen to Cannibals and worse. After foes have been cleared out, humans will reclaim these camps, opening up new villages with quests, dungeon entrances and other nice benefits. It's also going to be possible to see players outside of PvP for trading or casual interaction but Blizzard doesn't want this to be a common occurrence, with these features only opening up once the main quest path of an area has been cleared to reinforce the sense of loneliness and 'feeling of isolation" in Sanctuary.
You also may not be able to trade everything. For example, an epic mount obtained solely through PvP? You can't just give that way. Many items (including powerful magic gear and weapons that might not fit your particular character) can be traded though, and Blizzard is exploring how to make this system as natural as possible. Piepiora sums it up by saying Diablo 4 is a party game that you can also play solo, and it's also a single-player RPG you can play with friends. Both approaches are meant to be equally valid.
We'll see how things continue to evolve over the next year, as Piepiora confirms that the quarterly updates will continue starting next quarter. Even so, Diablo 4 isn't coming soon, not even "Blizzard soon." That's according to Blizzard Entertainment over a year ago at BlizzCon 2019. While an eventual release date is no doubt closer now, the global pandemic and scale of Blizzard's titles mean we still might have a ways to go, with Activision Blizzard explicitly saying earlier this year that Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 won't release in 2021.
While Diablo 4 is still a ways off, players will get to play a different Diablo game on consoles and PC later this year, as Diablo 2: Resurrected is bringing a remaster of the classic title to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC, PS5, PS4 and Nintendo Switch later in Nintendo Switch. From what Blizzard tells me, this game will be completely faithful with the only changes consisting of quality of life, graphics, audio, and framerate improvements. Maybe skateboards.