At BlizzCon 2011, we sat down with Senior World Designer on Diablo III, Leonard Boyarsky, and asked him a whole bunch of stuff. Check out the full interview after the link.
I used to be an artist! No idea why the schedule is wrong…
How’d you go from being an artist to Senior World Designer?
It was a strange set of circumstances. I was on a project where the designers were kinda dropping the ball a little bit, and I ended up doing more and more design, and then I was head of my own company for a while, doing art and design. And then I kinda like just, made this move over into doing just design.
Do you miss it?
Doing art? Sometimes. It’s tough though, because I love what I’m doing now.
What is your main area of involvement with Diablo III?
I do writing, a lot of dialogue writing, a lot of story stuff, a lot of quest writing…
Are you involved in the Lore tidbits that come up when you kill a creature for the first time?
I didn’t write those, Valeri Botrus is one of our writers, wrote a lot of our Bestiary stuff as we call them. I did some other lore entries, but none of the Bestiary stuff. But I think she did an awesome job on em.
Were you involved in Diablo II?
No I was not, I started with Blizzard on Diablo III.
Are you surprised at how much writing has gone into Diablo III?
I used to work on like, single-player RPGs with full-on dialogue trees, and stuff like that. So I came on to Diablo thinking “okay, we’ll just throw some story in there and it’ll be y’know, we’ll get some more in-depth story going and it’ll be great”. And uh, it’s been, it’s really challenging. It’s deceptively difficult to add like a, good in-depth story to a Diablo game because the pace is so quick. The action comes as you so quickly, that you don’t want to stop the player and make them stop and get story. You want to have the story integrated into the gameplay as much as possible. And uh, it’s easier said than done, I can tell you that.
You don’t want to wrench the camera away from the player and go “Look! Look at our beautiful narrative!”
(laughs) Exactly. We want to not do that as much as possible, and choosing every word carefully.
Were you a big fan of the Diablo series?
I played them, I wasn’t the hugest fan, but after I started on the project I really got a lot more into them. Um, cuz I used to do a lot more single-player roleplaying game stuff, and I was looking for different things from role-playing games than I thought Diablo was giving. When I started getting into what Diablo is all about, when I started to see all the facets of it, all the interesting angles of it, I gained a real deep appreciation for it.
What facet of Diablo III would you consider your favorite part?
Um, personally my favorite part? Well that’s tough because I’m really proud of what we’ve done on the story side… I think that from just a general overview of the whole game, I think what I’m most proud of, is that it feels like Diablo. Even though we’ve gone 3D. It feels like a next-generation game, it doesn’t feel old. But it still feels like Diablo. Which I think, y’know, it was quite a task to pull off.
We just finished our hands-on in the demo room, and can confirm it feels 100% “right”.
When approaching the writing for Diablo III, do you find you have to reference events from the past games a lot?
We didn’t have to, but we wanted to. We really wanted to bring the story forward, and wanted to talk about what happened to some of the people in Diablo I and II, and think we wanted to bring the story from Diablo I a little bit further. We found ourselves digging into Diablo I a lot more than the events II, in terms of y’know, like, you go back to Tristram, you go back into the Cathedral, stuff like that. Um, we really liked – there’s nothing wrong with Diablo II – but we really liked the gothic horror vibe that was a little bit more prevelant in Diablo I. Um, and we feel like, y’know, we wanted to kinda combine the best of Diablo I and II, and really get all the meat back in there.
Did you look at any fan-speculation of how things tie together, or reasons for things happening?
Interestingly enough, one of the things you saw in the cinematic that we showed, where they talk about the Demon Invasion – and um, one of the things we’ve gone back and fourth on is “was there or wasn’t there a Demon Invasion”, and for a while we were like okay, there was a Demon Invasion and mankind is recovered from it. Now it’s just like the story is, there hasn’t been a Demon Invasion. The question is, is why. And that was one of the things that we really, um, we really hadn’t adequitely focused on when we were first telling our story, and I was looking on the forums and saw, people really wanna know. Y’know, because this was a thing that was put out there and people had questions about. So that was an instance where I totally see where they’re coming from, we really have to kind of hit this, it’s something we missed. It’s really cool, it’s great to have such passionate fans that you can like, y’know, get their feedback and their opinions on things. Kinda guage things. Obviously you don’t slavishly go where they want you to go, cuz then there won’t be any surprises. Then there’s nothing exciting about what you’re doing. But at the same time, it really gives you a feel for what’s expected and what people want to see.
What was the trickiest part to tackle thus far?
It was the story telling. Which is what I do. (laughs). Getting it concise enough but at the same time carrying enough weight to get the emotional resonance that we wanted for it. Um, it was, one of the things that happened was we would put in a lot of story, then trim it back, then trim it back too far and put more back in, and um, it was really a balancing act. I think where we really kinda broke through is we got really, we’re getting really close to the really good balance. And then we did an internal alpha where we had the company play it, and we got some really great feedback from people in the company. And that really helped us, really fine tune it that last little bit. From the beta we’ve gotten just really great feedback on the story-telling.
Anything our readers should keep an eye out for when they finally get to play Diablo III?
Don’t skip the dialogues! (laughs) Don’t just mash the space bar! Just enjoy it, just have a great time. Slow down, take it in. There’s players… and one of the things we’ve really done is so that, we want the game to be, we realize that there are players who couldn’t really care less about the stuff we’ve written, um, but we want the story to even make sense to them. So if you skip all the dialogue, and y’know, even just looking at your objectives that you have on your quests… Even that should kinda give you a hint of where the story’s going. That’s another one of the challenging things – writing in layers. We have the layer where people who dig up every piece of lore you can find in the game, get a much more complete story. But we also want the people who just can’t be bothered with it, we still want to convey the story to them as well.
I’m glad that people are enjoying the beta, and I’m hoping people will be excited about the game when it comes out .