During BlizzCon 2023, Blizzard Entertainment revealed what many Diablo players knew was coming — a new expansion for Diablo 4. Vessel of Hatred will expand upon the events that took place through the campaign and introduce a new class to the roster that has never been seen before in the Diablo universe. Polygon spoke with members of the core development team for Diablo 4 to ask about the various production cycles the now-live service game has gone through, and how the team plans to deliver content and make adjustments through planned updates.
“Because we are developing along a lot of different lanes of development — the live game, the seasons, the expansion — all of these things happen at once. It’s about making sure we have the right people, and the right number of people supporting each of those efforts and that we’re able to deliver the game and changes we want to make in a sustainable way,” said Diablo 4 lead producer Kayleigh Calder when asked about the production schedules for the slew of Diablo 4 content that is expected to arrive before and after the Vessel of Hatred expansion. “So even though we have teams on Seasons, teams on Live, and teams on the expansion, we’re still one big team. But everyone is focusing in different groups on the areas that they need to.”
Diablo 4’s Season of the Malignant was panned by players due to how the Sorcerer, among other classes, got rebalanced. Rewards were also seen as lackluster, with the endgame not as engaging as players had hoped from the otherwise acclaimed entry in the series. Players also had complaints about the numerous quality-of-life features still missing from the game, such as gems not having their own storage tab to free up space so players could pick up loot without needing to teleport back to town as frequently. The development team seems dedicated to pushing out changes with subsequent updates, as illustrated by the Diablo 4 section of BlizzCon’s opening ceremony, where a large chunk of time was spent detailing just how much the team has listened to feedback.
“We’re constantly listening to feedback,” said Associate Game Director on Diablo 4 Brent Gibson. “So there are impacts if the community has certain things that they do or that they’re wanting to see. If they’re terribly complicated, we may spend more time to get it right.”
Gibson spoke about the potential timeline for these adjustments, stating that some may come out within a season or with an expansion depending on the complexity. But he stressed that the team is always evaluating what feedback from the community takes priority and that community feedback will impact things all the way through the release of Vessel of Hatred.
Calder mentioned that Season of the Malignant was in development as Blizzard Entertainment was finishing the game, and the team was working in isolation. However, once everything went live, the team immediately began working on adjustments and changes. “We’re already evolving,” Calder said. “We were immediately able to get all of that player feedback, see what players were struggling with, what they were enjoying, what they wanted less of, and then make plans to adapt to that [...] We said from the beginning of launch that this was just the beginning, and we have plans to support Diablo 4 for years to come.”
When it came to discussion of the Vessel of Hatred expansion, Gibson shared that while not all ideas make it into the base game, some of these concepts can make it into additional content. “We have a lot of story, and a lot of places we want to go. And so when we get to do an expansion, that’s really a big opportunity for us to pick up some of those pieces and explore them to the fullest.”
Diablo 4 more or less ended on a cliffhanger, with Nyrelle and the newly free Mephisto embarking on a journey that players will get to experience once Vessel of Hatred is released in 2024. Those who have engaged with Diablo 2, either through its original incarnation or through the Resurrected edition, probably have a good idea of where they’ll be headed, as a dilapidated ziggurat was one of the key focal points of the announcement trailer. And during the Diablo 4 campfire chat, the development team confirmed that players will be making their way back to the verdant jungles of Kurast.
Gibson was part of the development team for Diablo 2 Resurrected and shared that the team for Diablo 4 is passionate about the history of the franchise, and that they’re excited to have the opportunity to spin their own take on this classic location. Calder elaborated more on this, stating, “It’s going to have a different vibe. The art team is really going all-out with trying to capture a different mood to all of the other regions that we’ve made already. They’ve got those splashes of familiar, but in the Diablo 4 style and keeping true to that.”
In relation to the new class that will be appearing in the expansion, both developers shared that the choice concerning the new class was made as a sort of responsibility to deliver something new to players. “We feel responsible to add new ways to play,” said Gibson. “So we’re excited to deliver something new to the franchise, and we feel that it’s about time to bring something new to the Diablo universe that’s never been seen before.”