Up on the Blizzard blog for the Diablo IV Quarterly Update is a rundown of Diablo IV’s new artistic direction that includes a bunch of visuals and even a few clips to gawk at. There’s also information about item detailing, more dramatic cutscenes and how the art team has brought to life two new monsters: The Blood Bishop and The Skeleton Lord.
The Blizzard art team has also given us a sneak peek of the new Character Customisation System, including details of what's possible with body preferences and wearables to deck out your character with. The update includes two new slow-motion character videos, that show off the enhanced level of detail and light balance in characters, and a few other videos that reveal the rendering of a few of Diablo IV's grotesque monsters.
All in all, it looks and sounds fantastic, and they’ve got us very excited; but then again, game artists have a way of doing that with their beautifully rendered work. The real test will of course be gameplay, but we've never been disappointed by a Blizzard game yet. Read on for a more in-depth look at some of the reveals.
More detailed characters, monsters and items
Blizzard confirmed again that their artistic plan for Diablo IV is to conjure the same sense of realism that they managed to capture in Diablo III. That means making characters and monsters look as “artistic and hand-crafted as possible” and to avoid a more “procedural and generic appearance.” To do this, but also to improve on Diablo III, the art team has had to completely rebuild their rendering engine and authoring tools, also broadening their art team to include animators, lighting, and technical artists.
Lead art director, John Muller said a prime objective for the art team has been rendering more detail in the surfaces of skin, cloth, hair, fur, metal and even the highlights of characters’ eyes and rivulets of perspiration – no easy feat considering the addition of an extensive Character Customisation System. “These solutions had to work not just for a single character, but for hundreds of componentised armour sets, different body types, dozens of unique personas, and completely unique art for five distinct classes,” he said.
New cutscenes with your character
While story cutscenes in Diablo III were all pre-rendered, in Diablo IV they will be rendered in the game’s engine using character models. This means that rather than a standard male or female character appearing in cutscenes, in Diablo IV you will see your own character up close and personal in cutscenes - like before you face off against a boss denizen from hell.
We’ve got to admit, some of the cutscenes we witnessed in Diablo III were incredibly captivating and we think the idea of seeing our character in similarly amazing cinematics will just add to the dramatic effect. We applaud this move by Blizzard.
Character Customisation System
In this quarterly update, the art team explained how thorough the Character Customisation System is. To summarise, it sounds fantastic! Blizzard’s artists confirmed you’ll not only be able to choose the face and hairstyle of your character, you’ll also be able to add jewellery like nose piercings and earrings, makeup and add body paint or tattoos. The colour of your character’s skin, eyes, hair and other body markings will also be customisable. Some of these traits will be class specific, but some will be common across classes, allowing you to mix and match, Blizzard revealed.
Camera angles and detail-mapping
To enable sharper images in the game’s isometric perspective, as well as other perspectives that your character will appear in, the developers have added detail-mapping. This includes character close-ups that will hopefully convey a deeper level of realism for players.
Monster visuals revealed
The process behind the creation of monsters looks very promising, with the art team describing how major visual decisions were closely aligned with decisions about gameplay, to create the best possible experience for gamers. If you have a few minutes up your sleeves, we recommend reading the blog entry about this process which packs in a few extra details about the new monsters.
The Blood Bishop
According to Nick Chilano, associate art director of characters at Blizzard, the vision for the Blood Bishop was to make a high-level boss based on blood and magic. Talking about how the Blizzard art team delivered this Chilano said: “An exposed beating heart was the natural visual choice. So, the organic pulsing we see, the flowing arteries and blood-based VFX all combined to reach an aligned goal the team could get behind.”
The Skeleton Lord
Bringing to life the visuals of the undead Skeleton Lord, a creature made from fused skeleton, body parts and other grotesque items, helped the Blizzard team decide how this monster should fight. “The design team was able to create a unique fight based on bone visuals, summoning skeletons, bone walls to restrict pathing and leveraging the giant staff – one attack has the Skeleton Lord smashing the staff into the ground and creating a shower of exploding bone shards,” said Chilano.
Read Blizzard's full Quarterly Update here.