It has been over a decade since the release of Diablo II, and while we learned of a Diablo III in the works a few years ago, there hasn't been much talk in the way of specific new game changes -- until now.
Blizzard's Diablo is a series of dark fantasy-themed action role-playing games. Diablo was first released in 1996, and Diablo II was released in 2000. Diablo III was announced on June 28, 2008.
Blizzard has a lot of changes in the works, but one of the most notable features is the requirement to play online. New Battle.net and Auction House features have made it so that players cannot play Diablo III offline according to 1UP, and the main reason for this is of course authentication (which really means more money and less piracy). In addition to this reason, Blizzard is offering a slew of new game features that the company feels everyone needs to experience in order to enjoy the game to its full extent.
According to Rob Pardo, executive vice president of game design at Blizzard, Diablo II's multiplayer Battle.net platform had some issues that needed to be resolved. For instance, there was a lack of persistence in online characters, which expire if not played on a regular basis. Also, single player characters had divided access to multiplayer mode, and the system for finding and making friends online was inefficient. Player-killing and cheating were also huge problems that needed to be addressed.
Now, Blizzard is fixing all of the above with a revamped Battle.net system that keeps Diablo III players connected at all times. Some of the new features include a persistent friends list, persistent characters that are stored server-side, persistent party system, cross-game chat via the RealID system (allowing Diablo III players to chat with friends on other Blizzard games like World of Warcraft and StarCraft II), dynamic drop-in/out for co-op, player-versus-player/public game matchmaking, a larger item stash that can be shared with up to 10 of your characters, and the Banner system, which allows players to display their skills in the way of Achievements earned, PVP victories, and other stats tracked.
In addition to the above-mentioned changes, the Auction House has received a few updates of its own. The Auction House's features include an interface that can be pulled up anywhere, auto-bidding/instant buyout price (of course), smart-search mode to automatically loot appropriate items for your characters, listing fees/sale fees (and a number of free listings), optional currency-based Auction House, and nearly everything from gold to items (and even characters, later on) can be sold. In addition, Blizzard itself will not post items for sale in the Auction House (it's for player trading only), characters in the hardcore difficulty mode cannot use the currency-based Auction House (only in-game gold), and if an item is altered in a patch later on, Blizzard will not provide a refund.
While the online-only requirement may anger customers who don't have an Internet connection, or those who like to play the game offline on airplanes, Pardo noted that the list of new game features will outweigh the negatives.
"I want to play Diablo III on my laptop in a plane, but, well, there are other games to play for times like that," said Pardo.
One new Auction House game feature that is sure to lure in new and old Diablo gamers alike is the ability to sell Diablo III loot for real money reports Kotaku. The Auction House will allow Diablo III players to buy and sell loot for real cash instead of virtual gold, if they choose to do so.
Diablo III players can partake in anonymous transactions, buying gems, armor, weapons, runestones, etc. with the option to auto-bid or instant buy any of these items. If a seller chooses cash instead of virtual gold, Blizzard will charge sellers a listing fee and a nominal fixed transaction fee if the item has a buyer. The cash proceeds are then either applied to an e-balance, allowing players to buy other Blizzard products, or a third-party payment provider (who is unannounced for now) that will let players cash out their money.
Blizzard said that incorporating real-world money to the game will add depth to the long term game, and will also help monetize the game.
While there is no set release date for Diablo III quite yet, the new sequel seems like it will not disappoint. Michael McWhertor, senior editor at Kotaku, attended a hands-on session with the Diablo III beta at Blizzard's headquarters in Irvine, California, and noted that the new features and levels leading to the Skeleton King are entertaining and true to Diablo form. A few changes to enhance gameplay, however, are the elimination of talent trees and the addition of new character classes. Instead of talent trees, characters can achieve active and passive skills every level or so, utilizing a set number of skills at once. As for character classes, the new set consists of the Barbarian, Witch Doctor, Wizard, Monk and the Demon Hunter.
Blizzard hasn't announced when the game's beta will begin or end, but it will be available for PC and Mac.