Sometimes, porting a game from PC to console is like adapting a novel to a screenplay: You've got to make changes to play to the new medium's strength. That's exactly what the developers at Blizzard have done with the upcoming console port of Diablo 3.
We spent some hands-on time with the PlayStation 3 version of the game at E3 2013 and spoke to those in charge of the transition about the game, the changes and how you balance a game with more loot than you can shake a dwarf's axe at.
The console version of Diablo 3 looks and feels like Diablo 3, but using a controller changes everything. The game maps each character's various moves to all available buttons, and the moves equipped appear in a labeled UI section that runs horizontally across the bottom of the screen. A new dash move, mapped to the right analog stick, changes the possibilities of moment-to-moment battle by offering players a reliable mechanism for escape.
Diablo 3's console version will also include drop-in multiplayer, which is how we joined the demo in progress. We hopped in with a button press, selected our class and the game kept up with the axe-wielding of two Barbarians effortlessly.
The developers also tweaked the loot drop system. The console version will not include the PC version's Auction House, real money or otherwise. To compensate, there's a higher probability that you'll find relevant loot for your class.
"For loot, because we don't want you looting through your bags like crazy," said Jason Bender, lead designer on console, "we reduced the amount of loot that drops by quantity, so a lot of it converts to gold. But we target it so that it is more likely to be for you. The amount of upgrades you get are about the same as you get on PC, but you're sorting through, in some cases, like 70 percent less loot."
The user interface is another significant area of focus for the developers, and it's seen many iterations.
"It's kind of a running gag," Bender said. "We kind of lost count of how many iterations we built of this UI. It's been done, redone and redone many, many times."
The developers at Blizzard settled on a radial menu that allows players to make changes to their characters with very little effort. During the game, there's also a quick load system for items called "Fast Equip." Tapping up and down on the D-pad cycles through a list of recently acquired items, and you can equip or toss them with the additional press of a button.
Diablo 3 will be released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 Sept. 3. When asked about next-gen consoles, they were bullish. It's clear from the interview that Blizzard is invigorated by console development, and the developer plants to continue its support. Blizzard has a PS4 development kit, and has already started the process of bring the game to next-gen consoles, which the developer plans to support.
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