"You can't fight crime if you ain't cute" is a gem from the show Reno 911 that I live my life by, don't judge, and in Diablo 4, I can keep that montage going strong in the gaming-verse. For the first time in the franchise's history, players will be able to completely customize their toon the way they want, making the world of Diablo more immersive than ever before. Recreate yourself, make an atrocity - dealer's choice!
John Mueller, the art director for the game, took to the Blizzard blog to go into more detail about the character art in the upcoming game. Beyond just the characters, he also confirmed that they took tailoring the experience to the next level by adding in character customization options beyond the transmog for gear seen previously. In the post, Mueller opened up about why they've taken a slightly different approach this time around with the art style of the game, including how characters look and interact with one another.
Realism in Diablo 4
"When I think back to the beginning, I think at the highest level, our goal was to make the characters in Diablo 4 look as artistic and as hand-crafted as possible using the latest tools and techniques," he said. "Over time, our ambitions around what we thought we could achieve evolved and really solidified into what you see today. We wanted to use the latest tools and techniques, but we did have a concern about leaning into ‘realism’ in a way that wouldn’t have that hand-crafted feeling we felt was fundamental to a Blizzard game. We didn’t want the characters to feel procedural or generic because of these processes. We also embraced realism in terms of materials and character appearance."
He added, "I think the touchpoint being the amazing pre-rendered look from the Diablo III cinematics. We loved those and it felt like a strong foundation to build upon in regards to the characters and achieving that warm quality that came through in the cinematics but in a real-time game environment. We thought it was ambitious but possible. This of course is a simplified summary of the thousands of conversations it took to achieve the results we have today, but what's meaningful is that during the journey nobody was arguing for our limitations. Nobody ever said we shouldn't, we couldn't, or we can't...everyone said yes, even when it meant starting over or throwing out work, everyone really pushed and brought their best to this work. I think this is one of the truly unique aspects of Blizzard...we all said 'Yes, and...' instead of 'No, because...' it's a wonderful aspect of working here."
Creating your character
Part of that realistic goal is to make "massive improvements" to the level of detail seen in this world. From different material textures to skin types, hair changes, and metals worn - even "rivulets of perspiration;" it all pairs together to paint a prettier picture. "We built a robust character customization system that is entirely new to Diablo and it was a daunting amount of technical character work," said Mueller. "These solutions had to work not just for a single character, but for hundreds of componentized armor sets, different body types, dozens of unique personas, and completely unique art for five distinct classes (to start). This was an entirely new challenge for our team to tackle."
While the pivot was not the easiest of changes to implement into Diablo, according to the art director, he did say that it was all very much worth it when looking at the progress made. He added that he hopes that players can "feel the love and care" they've put into the details and overhaul of the game's artistry ahead of its arrival sometime in 2022. To learn more, check out our Diablo 4 game hub here for previews, first-looks, and the latest news.