Another BlizzCon has come and gone, and I'm still trying to recover from it, personally, not only from the blisters on my feet, but from the information overload from Diablo III. With that in mind, here's one last infodump from the last Diablo III panel of the con, the art and lore panel. If you're a lore nerd like me, you'll want to read up on it, and even if you aren't, there's a few little tidbits of gameplay information that are worth checking out.
Gallery: BlizzCon 2008: Diablo III Lore Panel
On Lore and Gameplay
Panel members were designer Leonard Boyarsky and exterior artist Chris Donaldson. Leonard spoke first, about the Lore of Diablo. Diablo, said Boyarsky, is a unique fantasy world. There are no elves, no dwarves, but instead humans alone, living in a world created by and fought over by Angels and Demons. It's a world where Human life is nasty, violent, brutish, and short. Unfortunately, it is also a world that has not been fleshed out as well as, say, Azeroth.
Thus, the dev team of Diablo III is hoping to flesh out the lore of Sanctuary, the world of Diablo, in a big way, filling in the history, politics, and culture of every civilization. As an example, he introduced Caldeum, the new capital of the nation of Kurast. In past history, it was a bustling center of trade. However, in the 20 years since the fall of the temple of Zakarum in Diablo II, most of Kurast's nobles and government has moved to Caldeum, and, says Boyarsky, we'll be finding out exactly how that has affected the city.
Skovos, another locale Boyarsky highlighted, won't even be in the game, but is being fleshed out just the same. Unlike Caldeum's setting of intrigue and politics, Skovos is based in legend and mythology. Local lore claims it was founded by an Angel and a Human, and Rogues and Amazons both come from there.
Overall, says Boyarsky, the goal for the lore of Diablo III is for it to have a richer history and deeper characters than previous Diablo Games, and to create a story that invests people in the game. Of course, Diablo has always been fast paced, and the ultimate aim of the story will not be to slow them down, but to guide them through the game and make them eager to see what comes next.
Boyarsky showed off the dialogue trees next, as a way to showcase both the writing of the game and the lore of some of the characters. NPC interaction depends on two different basic ideas: How an NPC reacts to a PC, which will differ based on class, and how the PC themselves handle it.
First, he showed the Barbarian speaking to a Town guard. The 8 footed muscle woman caught the by surprise, and he sounded afraid, begging her not to attack him or steal from him. Next, he showed the hunched over, wildly clothed Witch Doctor. This time the guard was dismissive, calling the Witch Doctor an insane adventurer who would probably die at the Tristram Cathedral down the road. It was, of course, a small exchange, but a lot of them could certainly set the mood for the character and his or her place in the world.
The next idea he is discussed was that of peppering the world with bite sized pieces of lore and background to see and digest. For example, if you pass by a man burning bodies, you can choose to talk to him and find out why he is burning them, or you can pass him by. Either way, though, you see a part of the story, and it's up to you how deep you invest yourself in it.
He then showed a video that illustrated another example: In a dungeon, you might pass over a bridge and see some cultists losing control of a demon summoning and being slaughtered below. Later, you might come to another area and walk right into the middle of a summoning ritual. If you were watching previously, you may understand what's happening and disrupt the ritual so that the demon will turn on the cultists. So not only do you get story, but hints at what's coming.
The Story Thus Far
From there, Boyarsky went into the story of Diablo III. It's been 20 years since Tyrael broke the Worldstone at the end of Diablo II's expansion pack. Despite many people's worst fears, hell didn't invade. In fact, it's been relatively peaceful, at least for Sanctuary. Deckard Cain, however, is still wracked with guilt, believing that had he acted quicker, the world could have been spared the horrors of the Three (Boyarsky says that Cain is probably mistaken there). Because of this, he's been scouring the world looking for knowledge and artifacts that will help humanity defeat the demons when they return, as he believes they inevitably will.
Otherwise, life in Sanctuary has gone as normal. Unfortunately, "normal" for Sanctuary is still pretty bad. While the demons aren't around in force, there are still dark creatures who prey on humanity, and people die young very often, making 20 years practically a generation. Those who remember the events of Diablo II are few and far between. Most of them went insane at the time, or have since died. Most people these days believe that the stories of Demons and Angels are just that, stories and myths. Very few believe in Heaven or Hell anymore.
Another mystery is the whereabouts of Tyrael. He hasn't been seen by any mortal since the destruction of the Worldstone. He's technically a sinner and outcast among the Angels, having broken the rules of heaven by helping mortals out more than once. The game will deal with what happened to him.
Unfortunately, we'll have to wait to find out exactly what happens to him, to Deckard Cain, and the rest.