Which of the new classes would you say changed the most from its inception?
JL: The Demon Hunter, for sure. During the percolation process at the beginning we wanted to do a Ranger class, and we produced a lot of artwork and ideas based around it, but it just never really caught fire. So we didn't jump on it and worked on other classes instead. By the time we'd doubled-back to the class in question, it was really obvious to us that it had started to feel really flat. We wanted to do something that would really blow it up and that's when the idea for the Demon Hunter came in.
The Demon Hunter has a really large creation arch; we took this more traditional sort of forest-y, desert-y Ranger class and added lots of flavour and fire. It really plays back into the story a lot better than the character would have done if we'd just left it as a Ranger.
LB: From a system design standpoint I'm not sure if the most change happened to the Demon Hunter or the Monk, but I do know that in terms of the Monk specifically, there was a lot of working and re-working abilities. The Monk's combat system is very different from the other classes. It's almost a kind of fighting game influence there. From a lore standpoint, we were lucky that we were pretty much able to run with our initial concepts for much of the project, once they were decided upon.
What was the brief when you first started crafting the world of Diablo III? Or did you pretty much have free reign to do what you wanted?
LB: We were pretty much given free reign. Obviously, the primer we had to work with was lore that was set up by the previous game. But we really wanted to delve more into themes contained in the previous game. We felt that like Diablo II didn't really expand all that much on the themes that the first Diablo and we really wanted to incorporate them all into the feeling of a trilogy and make what happened in the previous games resonate a bit more.
But apart from stuff is creative and gets peoples' juices going, we weren't really given a hell of a lot of perimeters. We worked very closely with Chris Metzen and he had a lot of great ideas and helped us cover the ground to make the game what we wanted it to be.
Did you ever feel like you were sandwiched between the game's lore and the expectation of the Blizzard fanbase?
LB: Not really. At one point we kept going back and forth on whether demons had already invaded Sanctuary or not. We were really at the point where we didn't really need to talk about it much and we were going forward. But I was going on the forums a lot and I found that whether hell had invaded the world in Diablo was one of the biggest questions fans had. We decided from that that we really needed to address that issue. Then it kind of went from there - why had hell invaded?
It's interesting, though, you have pre-existing lore to work with. In a way, it could constrain creativity. But I've found that if you have to work within certain perimeters it actually helps you stretch out more. If you don't have any barriers or sides to your box, it can get a bit daunting. For us, it was great to have a set of rules and lore and feed off from the start.
Does it feel weird to have left your stamp on such a massive IP?
LB: Ah, (laughs) I try not to think about it in those terms. I try to focus on the game I'm working on. If you start considering how big the project is and how many people are going to play it, it can get a bit daunting. You just have to focus on your work and do the best job you can.
It was rumoured that Blizzard are working on a console version of Diablo III. Is there any truth to this and if so, how far along are you?
LB: Well we haven't announced anything yet, in terms of console releases, but we're continuing to explore the possibilities.
How's that exploration going?
LB: (Laughs) Good one!