Diablo Immortal, the mobile platform’s first foray into Activision Blizzard’s action RPG, will release globally later this week. Given that this new form of Diablo is going to be hot, we were invited to a panel interview to discuss some of the most anticipated features and funniest aspects of the game.
We were there to ask Chief Game Designer Joe Grubb and Franchise General Manager Rod Fergusson some pressing questions about microtransactions, porting Diablo to mobile, and more more delicious topic.
How the end game will include microtransactions or paid elements
Grub: I think the first highlight is that all major game systems in Diablo are free. This includes the main storyline, dungeons, hellish raids, in-game conflict loops. You can do everything in Diablo Immortal absolutely free.
Part of this comes from our philosophy of never circumventing the core gameplay, optional purchases are always a bonus. Speaking of some of them, they range from the general value bonuses you’d expect from a battle pass, to the AAA-quality cosmetics you’d expect from Blizzard. You also have the Legendary Crest to enhance the Ancient Rift.
Another core part that we think is important is that these optional purchases should never be a way to gain gear or experience. We will never sell gear. We will never sell experience in Diablo Immortal. That means you have to play Diablo to add value. You must have skills in your class. If you want to master necromancer, you must master necromancer. You have to get legendary items by killing demons and raising your paragon level, and you need to actually go out and find the specific skill-built legendary items you’re looking for.
Platinum is currently earned in-game through the game, but can also be purchased for real money. Are there any caps on earning and buying platinum?
Grub: Game skills and progression through the free system are your way of increasing your power, regardless of how much players interact with our optional in-game purchases. Part of this is due to your progression in Diablo Immortal, we don’t want items to just be capped and have you just hone your Paragon level. Items continue to expand as you grow, which means there are always new items to find as you continue to overcome content hurdles.
In a blog post from December 2020, you mentioned that items that are used directly in the gameplay – crests and item reforges – can be purchased for real money. Do you have a price point for either item?
(They referred us to our regional PR contact for EU/UK regional pricing after the interview, but that information wasn’t available. The PR rep told us “I’m afraid we don’t have any information on regional pricing that we can share, but when the game Everything with a price in the store will go live when it launches this week on June 2.”)
Regarding the battle pass, is it planned to have a traditional style pass with seasons, or is there something like Halo Infinite where you can go back and go through it at your own pace?
Grub: We’re very happy with the pass’s performance in beta, and it’s season-based. We’re excited about how it offers content for free players as well as optional extras for paying players, and how it guides players through content during the month.
Can you share with us a roadmap for future content? What can we expect?
Grub: The main storyline is set to expand. We’re excited to release the story we’ve crafted for launch, but we’ll definitely push it further after launch with new areas, new dungeons, new characters to meet and interact with, new demon slaying, and the helix system as well. There are new Battle Passes every month, and new classes in the future.
Create Diablo Immortal for Mobile Devices
What was the biggest challenge in adapting Diablo to mobile platforms? What aspects of the collection did you have to cut or significantly change to make it fit?
Grub: Bringing Diablo Immortal to mobile is exciting. From the way you interact with the characters, it’s a platforming opportunity. If you think of Diablo as a franchise and all of its PC iterations, it’s this kind of diet that you click from above and instruct your characters where to go. With movement and Immortal touch, you have direct control.
Your left thumb is turning your character, running forward and backward and controlling movement, while your thumb is performing the skill. It doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but the way classes are designed and expressed is very different. So you can run left and throw skills right, which provides a new perspective on the moment Diablo knows and loves the game.
This partly influenced our decision on which courses to include – we have six signature courses in Immortal. You still have the barbarian, you still have the whirlwind, you can still jump in and smash the demo, but it will be through this new shot of the touch interface.
Ferguson: If you personally think my history is mostly on consoles, and when you design a console experience, you just want to create an engaging experience, you want people to sit and play nonstop on weekends. One of the interesting challenges that designers have to deal with is session length. Now on mobile, I might spend three minutes playing a game – how can I instantly improve in three minutes?
I might have 10 minutes of free time, 30 minutes of free time, or an hour of free time! So when you look at experiences like executing rifts or bounties or dungeons and raids, all of those things have to be curated based on the knowledge we need to give to people with all kinds of time available.
The PC version of Diablo Immortal is certainly good news for those eager to play it on their preferred platform, but once Diablo 4 is released, how do you keep the PC player base enthusiastic?
Ferguson: This is one of the great things about the Diablo franchise – you can have very hardcore stuff, but each game has its own unique experience and appeal. If you think about the Diablo series, each game revolves around the eternal conflict between heaven and the well, but the experience can be quite different and suit different needs.
Honestly, I think I want the players to all play. This is the idea we used to talk about, it’s “Diablo Life”! Joe likes to talk about doing bounties in bed (L), I don’t know about doing that, but you can play PC games at your desk during work. I don’t know who will play Diablo at work, not me! I won’t do that! But the idea is that you can have a different experience from a fundamentally different game. If you think about what Diablo Immortality is – this Diablo experience is in your hands – we’re not worried about cannibalism.
Grub: A lot goes back to the intended scope of Diablo Immortal. When we talk about Diablo Immortal and the design choices within it, we want Immortal to be as accessible as possible and accessible to any type of player, no matter how they want to engage. Some of them are pretty clear, like how I wake up in the morning and complete my bounty before I wake up, which is awesome! I got a quick 10 minute experience. But that translates into the way we think about the time we spend.There are traditional mobile games
What’s the secret to the perfect cocktail? (See how Rod posts colorful alcoholic beverages to their Twitter account)
rod: Actually Connor, if you’re talking about the non-stop pictures of drinks with flowers or umbrellas, I like drinks that taste good! I used to be teased for loving drinks that were pink, or pretty in color, or had to be made in a blender. So I ended up taking it back. I started calling them mantini instead of martinis. Internationalization is a mantini for me. So it became a thing, I had a coffee table book on my phone with all the colorful drinks I’ve had in my career.
But to really answer Connor’s question about the perfect mantini — not martinis — is that whenever I go to a restaurant or bar, if any drink has elderflower in it, that’s what I’m drinking drinks. I always start with an elderflower drink. For me, that’s the secret to the perfect mantini: elderflower.