Diablo 3 on the PlayStation 3 isn’t just functional, it’s far better than its PC brother
“Not a lot of people know this, but Blizzard started off as a console developer,” Joshua Mosqueira, the lead designer of Diablo 3 on the PlayStation 3, told the Report. We were joined by Julia Humphreys, the senior producer of Blizzard's Diablo 3 team, and, Mathew Berger, senior level designer. We talked about the console version of the game while playing it on a television in front of the group.
“We wanted to make sure the game really felt like it was hand-built for the console,” Mosqueira continued. The changes they made to the game not drove home the point that this was a good console port, but the updates were almost all improvements over the PC version of the game in general.
I’m looking forward to leaving the PC version behind and moving to the PS3 version as soon as I can.
Offline play, no buying items
We’ve already discussed the ability to play the game with up to three friends, and the removal of the Real Money Auction House. The game may also be coming to non-Sony platforms, and in fact the press kit given to reporters at PAX East has screenshots listed as “Xbox_D3.” The rest of the changes to the game are just as welcome.
The biggest and most obvious change is the ability to control your character directly with the controller, versus using a mouse to indirectly guide where you’d like them to go.
“I think one of the big changes is to make all the powers feel awesome. We really needed to go in and hand-tweak all the powers,” Mosqueira said. “Sometimes speeding them up, sometimes adding a shuffle animation between attacks, because it’s really important for us to hit that visceral experience. Direct control fundamentally changes how players play the game.”
The right analog stick is now used to evade, so it’s always easy to jump out of the way quickly. The face buttons are linked to your attacks, so you’ll need to remember which button does what, and pay attention to the cooldown timer for your powers.
The game has been balanced for these changes, and I was curious about whether using a controller had made things easier or harder for the player.
“In some ways it was a little more challenging for players. It kind of balanced out. We really wanted to make sure the combat rhythm of the game took advantage of the fact you’re using your left stick to control your character, and also the way your fingers want to dance across the d-pad, and use the X and triangle button,” Mosqueira said.
They haven’t reduced the amount of monsters, but they did change the rhythm of how the mobs attack. The monsters now come in waves, and this does highlight a more rhythm-based way to attack using the face buttons of the controller. Combat isn’t the only place the game has been improved, however.
Inventory and loot
“Because we want to minimize inventory management, we have this philosophy where we want to drop fewer, but better, items,” Mosqueira said, pointing to the fact that in the past few minutes we haven’t seen any items drop from the fallen monsters. Diablo 3 on the PC has a tendency to make you pick through a large number of mostly useless weapons and items, and it can get tedious. You’ll be dealing with fewer drops in the console version of the game, but each one will be more likely to improve your build.
They’ve also changed how you’ll manage that inventory. “Without a mouse and keyboard, and the fact you’re sitting 15 feet away from the screen, it’s important that your character is nice and big on screen. At a glance you can see if an item is better or worse,” he explained.
It’s a great system. The most recent items can be cycled through and viewed in the main screen while you’re playing the game, and you’ll simply see green arrows pointing up or red arrows pointing down for each stat. You can tell instantly if a piece of equipment is better or worse than what you have equipped, and then equip it with the touch of a button. It's an easy way to make sure you're always carrying the best gear without lengthy inventory management, and it keeps the game moving at a fast pace.
You can, of course, open the new controller-driven inventory if you’d like things to be a bit more granular, but this on-screen system allows you to quickly and easily manage your weapons and armor on the battlefield without pausing the action and making the other players wait. It's a brilliant way to handle inventory management during battle, and the re-balanced system with fewer drops and the quick-inventory system would both be great additions to the PC version.
I asked about such things, and was more or less told not to hold my breath.
The console version of Diablo 3 isn't just competent, it's a remixed version of the original game, complete with rebalanced enemies, an improved economy, four player multiplayer on the same screen, no always-on connection requried, no game-killing real money auction house, and an inventory system that allows you to stay in the action while also swapping out your equipment for upgrades you find on the battlefield. Directly controlling your character also changes what was a click-fest into a more measured and intense action title.
The game has been improved in almost all areas, and I can't wait to jump back in to play. In fact, I may spend more time on the console version than the PC original. They refused to talk about the PS4 version of the game, and I was also told that they wouldn't speculate on a Vita port.
That's not to say more versions of the game weren't coming. “One of the great things about Blizzard is that we’re masters of our own domain,” Mosqueira said. “If we’re excited and the team is excited, then anything is possible.”