Joe Piepiora, associate game director for Diablo 4, has explained why the series’ skill trees have been changed in the upcoming game.
Speaking to NME, Piepiora explained that when creating Diablo 4, developer Blizzard Entertainment wanted to make the series’ in-depth skill system more accessible to players who have never played an action RPG game before. However, Piepiora says that needed to be done without losing “the depth and complexity” of systems that veteran Diablo players play the series for.
“We wanted to ensure that new players coming to Diablo 4 would be exposed to clear decisions they can make as they’re progressing through, and make sure they had the context necessary to feel they understood the decisions they were making,” Piepiora explained, “as opposed to just clicking buttons in an effort to get out of the scary screen.”
To that end, Piepiora says Diablo 4‘s skill tree offers “pretty targeted” options rather than a more open-ended approach.
“What is the first skill that you want your sorcerer to use? Do you want to have frost bolt, or fire bolt? You know – which of these several things do you want,” outlines Piepiora. “Then from there, you’ve made a clear decision – maybe ‘I’m using fire bolt so maybe I’m a little bit more fire-focused for my sorceress’ – then for your next skill, you have an ability to augment that fire bolt to make it more damage while burning targets, and it gives you more options as you go.”
“We wanted these things to reveal themselves over time, so players are introduced to this completity. It’s very easy to understand the effect of choosing one skill versus another,” he added.
Piepiora says that by the time players reach level 50, they will have made “a lot of those big decisions earlier on” and subsequently will better grasp Diablo 4‘s more nuanced skill choices.
“Here, the player is introduced to a vast web of interconnected options which they can choose to truly customise and personalise their character,” says Piepiora. “Had we started here, we worried the players wouldn’t have had the context to understand what these decisions meant – so we wanted to make sure we onboard them properly, then brought them into this deeper experience towards the end.”
Elsewhere in the interview, Piepiora talked about how Diablo 4 will offer a “darker, more isolated world” compared to prior entries in the series.