In this interview with Diablo 2: Resurrected developers Dustin King and Robert Gallerani we talk about bringing the world of Sanctuary to a new generation of players.
Disclaimer: Answers given by the devs have been edited for brevity and clarity. This group interview was originally conducted in English.
About the development of Diablo 2: Resurrected
What was your biggest fear going into Diablo 2 Resurrected?
Dustin King: Getting the feeling right from the beginning was important. There was no room for error there, both from the design side and art side.
How much did you have to tweak to turn Diablo 2 into a modern game?
Robert Gallerani: We didn’t touch anything that would mess with the regular flow of the game, meaning any changes to balance, drop rates on monsters, resistances,… were off limits. How you get into the game, however, is something we did focus more time on. The world has changed since and consoles were also something we had to keep in mind. So you’ll notice bigger characters and a way to easily hit play and invite friends. There’s also accessibility features we added like a color blindness mode, font scaling, control remapping,… And more languages have also been added. Overall, we wanted to remove barriers to playing the game.
Do you think Diablo 2: Resurrected has enough to offer to keep players engaged long term?
Robert Gallerani: We were amazed at how incredibly strong the community of people is who still play the original game 20 years later. With the way the system works in Diablo 2, almost any character can equip almost any kind of gear, meaning there is no one right answer on how to play and the game ends up being more about getting that one item or making that one build instead of just increasing the difficulty. In Diablo 3 things are different, but we’re not trying to ‘fix’ Diablo 2 or progress it. Adding new runewords, items, balance changes,… are not off the table after launch, but for now we wanted to create a snapshot of history.
Dustin King: What makes Diablo 2 so special is the addictive itemisation and loot pick-up. There’s something to it. Once you start playing you start chasing items and give into that loop and it’s really hard to take yourself out of it. It’s what has allowed this game to exist for 20 years.
How have the cinematics changed compared to the original?
Dustin King: We have uprezzed and redone all 27 minutes worth and made sure to convey the emotion of the original through them.
Have you found any materials from the original game that you could use during development?
Robert Gallerani: There were a couple little things. For example, we had access to some extra voice-over lines done by the original cast. The original game had about six sound files, but recorded twelve for most characters. We put them all in, but during the alpha people started wondering why their characters sounded different, since there were sounds they never heard before. That variety was simply too much, so we took them out.
Is there something you would like to have added to the game?
Robert Gallerani: The world of Sanctuary has a lot of stories to tell. We’ve got Immortal and Diablo 4 coming for example. We have a lot of ways to tell stories in this world, so for Diablo 2 Resurrected we just wanted to get the foundation right.
Have you added any new Easter eggs to the game?
Robert Gallerani: We can’t even confirm old Easter eggs (laughs). Some fun things we can call out have to do with the reusing of old art that you might not even notice. For example certain texture maps on toons are the same models as in the original game. Tyrael’s wings for example are his original. Also, the sewers in Act II are no longer dry and have water in them! On the first level you can also see light coming through the grates above you. Wirt’s Leg is also a bit more gory this time around.
Is there going to be a cow level?
Robert Gallerani: We can neither confirm or deny the existence of a cow level.
Will we be able to complete the Holy Grail on a single character?
Robert Gallerani: The shared stash does not have enough room for that right now. Our main goal for it was to make it easier to move items from one character to another. Of course players will use it for the extra space anyway and we had to decide on the right amount of slots.
Three tabs seemed okay for the average user. The ui also had to be made in HD and SD and adding multiple scroll wheels for example would become overly complicated. It’s not off the table, but we do need to look at how much space your character would take up on our servers and at this point we’re already far beyond our original goal for the shared stash.
At the same time, changing the way the inventory works, for example by allowing stacking of items, would change the fundamentals of Diablo 2 and it would no longer be the game you remember.
About PC vs consoles
Are there any plans to update the mouse and keyboard control scheme?
We had to design Diablo 2: Resurrected for two groups of people. What we didn’t expect, was that people would like the controller so much that they wanted the same functionality with keyboard and mouse. So we looked into that, but it changed the way the game felt and it simply went too far from the core experience and the original functionality.
Have you had any issues optimizing for Switch as the less powerful one of the consoles?
Robert Gallerani: With the Switch (and all consoles) we had to make the game special for that device. Each one has its own strengths. For Switch that’s portability, meaning you have a smaller screen and readability becomes important. There’s a lot going on. Fonts need to be big enough and things have to be laid out correctly, so we designed around that.
Are there any specific features available on PlayStation DualSense controllers?
We used a bit of haptic feedback for the controller, but it’s similar to inputs you have on other controllers. We also looked at doing something with the triggers because it’s a cool feature, but since we let players map their abilities to whichever button they want it just didn’t feel right for this game.