Blizzard has explained why it took the decision not to extend the Diablo 4 campaign story with its post-launch seasons.
Speaking to Eurogamer in a recent interview, associate game director Joe Piepiora outlined how story will work as part of Diablo 4’s quarterly seasonal releases, which are separate from the planned release of traditional Diablo expansions.
Unlike Diablo 3, Diablo 4 seasons include self-contained storylines that expand the world of Sanctuary, rather than continue the main campaign. The continuation of the story is reserved for expansions.
“We have two different kinds of releases after the game launches,” Piepiora said. “We have our quarterly seasonal releases, then we’ll have our expansion packs. While we’re not talking about our expansions today, it’s important to realise they’re a part of the ecosystem of what we support the game with moving forward.
“Now seasons, though, when we think about the story, we know that we want to continue to build upon the world of Diablo 4 and the world of Sanctuary, but we do not want to extend the campaign into seasons and then make seasons required reading for the expansions, for that to make sense.”
Piepiora insisted this approach is “good for a number of reasons”, the most important of which is it frees up the developers to create compelling seasons in isolation, “as opposed to saying, well, this is the season where we’re building towards something else. No, it’s like, this season is rad for this reason.”
Each Diablo 4 season embraces a certain theme, Piepiora explained, which affects the seasonal story-driven quest line.
“Each of the seasons has a quest line that is about that theme, that explores that theme,” he said.
“It might introduce new characters, it might bring back old characters, but it is a self-contained canonical story set in Sanctuary that is going to persist for the duration of the season, and will also introduce new gameplay mechanics and other things that will be available during that three month period at the same time, only for it to be replaced in the following season, where we will now introduce a new seasonal questline, a new seasonal theme, new seasonal gameplay, rewards to chase, monsters to fight, new boss encounters, things like that.”
This approach was informed by the success of Diablo 3’s seasonal model, Piepiora added.
Diablo 4 art director John Mueller said players should think of the open world of Sanctuary as a “canvas” upon which these seasonal stories play out.
“Once it’s established we can now use that for all kinds of things, all the little side stories and the things that are going on that aren’t the Eternal Conflict, that are still really interesting and dark and macabre and have that Diablo feeling we want to come across. It’s already really fun to be working on that type of content.”
On the question of whether Blizzard will use seasons to extend the Sanctuary map for players, or whether it will reserve that for expansions, Mueller said: “We don’t have a hard line there.”
“Speaking frankly, being able to build more of Sanctuary for our seasons is a thing we would like to do,” Piepiora added. “There are technical considerations and these things take time. But these are the sorts of things we aspire to as part of our seasonal content. We don’t want to leave it off the table.
“Expansions, obviously we will be able to explore a lot more of Sanctuary. But seasons, I like the idea of delving deeper into some areas and revealing new space.”
Diablo 4 launches early June. Blizzard has said it’s feeling “really confident” Diablo 4 will enjoy a smooth launch following a series of server stress tests. Blizzard has also recently explained how Diablo 4 level scaling works.
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