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Notes from the Diablo III class panel

Hello from Anaheim! The first of the Diablo III panels for the day, the class panel, just let out. There's a lot of juicy details to report, including on the newest class, the Wizard. So let's get to it.

The panel featured Jay Wilson, the lead designer on Diablo III, Wyatt Cheng, the Technical Game Designer, and Julian Love, the lead Technical Artist. Strangely enough, the panel opened with Jay taking a picture of the crowd. I suppose we're all a little bit shutter happy here. There's almost nothing here you wouldn't want to take a picture of it's so cool, so no surprise the devs are getting into it too.

On Wizards

The first presenter was Wyatt Cheng, who walked through the concept and implementation of the Wizard class. The Wizard is meant to be the blaster class. As Cheng said, there's always going to be the people who want to play the glass cannon, and the Wizard is for them. It is most definitely the heir to the Sorceress from Diablo 2. However, they still wanted to give it it's own individual flair.

For inspiration, they actually went to Pen and Paper roleplaying, and the idea of high magic. As Cheng describes it, this is magic that manipulates the very laws of the universe, warping time and space and physics. Because of this, they shied away from creating spells for the Wizard that imply druid or life magic, or even necromancy.

As far as the backstory and personality of the Wizard (or at the female version they showed), this is an ambitious woman, smart and powerful. She's the type who throws off the curve in college, aces tests without studying, and eventually drops out to make millions on an Internet startup.

With the background out of the way, Cheng went on to describe some of the skills that the Wizard will wield.

In keeping with the old school PnP tone of the class, their basic spell will be Magic Missile. While they considered using a good old fashioned firebolt, they decided that they didn't want to pigeonhole the Wizard into an elementalist role.Later upgrades to this missile may include multiple missiles fired at once, or a spread of missiles, or even homing missiles.

The next spell showcased, Electrocute, is part of the Weather Control tree. Many old Sorceress skills will make a comeback in the Wizard class, and Electrocute is one of them, being a new version of the old classic Chain Lightning. However, the designers did want to kick the spell up a notch. So expect it to act a bit different. From the demo video, it looked a bit flashier for sure, at the least.

The next showcased skill, Slow Time, is part of the reality control tree. While Books and Movies often showcase time manipulation, it's not something that shows up in games much, which is why the team decided to use it. At first, they planned to make it a gamewide time slowdown, but decided it would be too frustrating in multiplayer mode. Thus, Wizards will get a dome of slowed time around themselves. In the demo videos, we saw this bubble used to catch and return a barrage of spells fired by the enemy.

The next spell, Disintegrate, was described as the ultimate face melting skill, and introduces a new mechanic. When you use Disintegrate, you will begin to emit a jet of searing red heat for as long as you hold down the mouse button. By sweeping the mouse around, you'll change the direction of the beam. The longer the beam holds on a specific enemy, the more damage it will do to that enemy.

The idea actually originated with the Barbarian class, where the idea was that the player would hold down their mouse key to charge up a massive swing. However, they ran into some trouble, since the charge required standing in one place. This made it useless against ranged attackers, and meant the Barbarian might be left behind by his teammates, or find that they'd killed his target while he was charging it up.

By changing it to a continuous damage ranged attack on a Wizard, they found that it would remove most of the cons of the Barbarian version of the idea, while keeping the fun and uniqueness of the core idea itself.

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