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With Diablo 4’s release date fast approaching, we catch up with associate game director, Joe Piepora, and art director, John Mueller, to talk about how the game came together, and what players can expect post-launch. Diablo 4 is intended to welcome brand new players into the series, but the team recognizes the importance of pulling in everything that made each of the previous games special.

“The way that we thought about Diablo 4 boils down to we wanted to make the very best Diablo game we can, regardless of your entry point into the series,” Piepiora explains. “In doing that, we looked at the previous Diablo games and thought deeply about them. We tried to take the best parts.

“In Diablo, it’s atmosphere. The player is alone going into this dungeon beneath this church with these tight and compact areas, with these moments of surprise. In Diablo 2, it came down to the progression system. It’s so interesting and intricate to build a character that you want. In Diablo 3, man, it felt so good to kill monsters – smashing demons feels great.

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“In Diablo 4 we try to marry these different elements together, to try and create a robust customization system, a dark gothic environment that is oozing atmosphere, and then, of course, making sure that killing monsters feels really fucking good.”

Mueller also expressed the importance of the steps forward Diablo 4 takes from a narrative perspective.

“We look at the past as like, embracing the legacy of the previous games,” Mueller says, “but at the same time, making our mark with a lot of new features like character customization and putting your character into the story – it’s the first time we’ve done that.

“The character you create is now in the in-game cutscenes, and that was something that was really important and it ties into the level of detail we’re putting on the character art and the world. We pull the camera in really close and we tell this intimate story about the creation of Sanctuary, Lilith, Inarius, and how you’re experiencing that whole narrative is very different than previous games.”

Diablo 4 classes

Diablo 4 is taking the series down the live service route, with seasonal content planned alongside future expansions. With such a big shift from previous Diablo games, the team thought a lot about making all the game’s content easily accessible to players no matter when they pick up the game for the first time.

“Once the game has gone live and we’re in a post-launch environment, our first season is going to drop about mid to late July,” Piepiora says. “So six-plus weeks after launch because we want to give players the chance to play the campaign and really explore Sanctuary with their first character.

“Inside of seasons, rather than having all this required reading to be able to enjoy the next expansion pack – which will be coming sometime in the future – we want seasons to tell their own self-contained story. So when you come in you can tackle the campaign before playing all the seasonal content, or, if you want, once you’ve completed the campaign one time, you can choose to skip the campaign when you make a new character, and you can start the new seasonal content right way – you’ll start in the first major city you come across in the story.”

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The team is also well-prepared to support the game for a long time, potentially even past the end of the current console generation, as they have with Diablo 3.

“We want to support Diablo 4 for years to come,” Piepiora says. “We have a really compelling story that we want to tell, there’s so much happening in terms of seasonal teams and expansion teams with all the stuff they’re working on – there’s a lot to look forward to. We’re not committing to a timeline necessarily, but when you look back on how we supported 3 – we’re about to enter season 29 right now – we’re committed to supporting these games in the long term and have assembled a team to do so.”

Diablo 4 will also be the first mainline Diablo game to launch on consoles at the same time as PC, and a lot of development time has gone into making playing on a console feel just as good as on a PC.

“We’ve had some experience, we ported Diablo 3 on the Switch, and that was well-received and we learned a lot of lessons from doing that,” Piepiora says. “So we knew from the get-go that we wanted to get Diablo 4 into as many players’ hands as we possibly could – not just PC players, not just console players.

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“So with every feature we added to the game we had to keep a couple of things in mind. One, how does it feel to play on a controller and a mouse and keyboard at the same time? So working on the skill-tree, how does it feel to navigate the skill tree on a controller? If it feels great on a mouse and keyboard but garbage on a controller, or vice versa, then that’s not a viable path. We want it to feel good on both.

“Then the second thing is couch co-op. There aren’t really a lot of games that introduce themselves in the couch co-op mode. When Diablo came out, I played it on my own on PC, but later on, in college, I played it with my girlfriend on PS1 in couch co-op – which was a miracle at that time – and now we’re thinking of this history we have, we’ve got to bring this back. There are a lot of considerations you have to make to allow players to play, you have to ensure that two players can both have their UI menus up.”

Couch co-op had a big emphasis in Diablo 4, with the team wanting it to be a viable way to play the game from start to finish.

“It’s not just parroting, it’s also improving,” Mueller says. “We spent a lot of effort to improve the experience of couch co-op this time around. So many of the stories we hear are people playing with their significant other or their family and those are really warm stories. We heard a story of a guy who’s playing with his son and the son’s playing barbarian while he plays the rogue, so the son’s just running in, smashing buttons and killing stuff while the dad’s slaying stuff with a bow – those are just heartwarming stories that make me glad we made that.”

Prepare yourself for some heartwarming monster murder when Diablo 4 launches on June 6, 2023, for PC, PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.