Blizzard's Bill Roper interviewed (part two)
by Mark Asher
Quarter to Three had a chance to talk to Blizzardís Bill Roper.
Here's part two of our interview in which Bill talks about the Diablo
2 expansion, shares his thoughts on massively multiplayer games,
and plugs the new Warcraft novel.
Quarter to Three: How's the Diablo 2 expansion coming along?
Bill Roper: Really well. Itís on schedule even. We have
weekly, worldwide teleconference calls to update others on our progress
with our projects. We just had one and we said, "Were in this weird
place right now. We're on schedule." It got a good laugh.
As to the expansion, itís neat. At Blizzard we all have played
Diablo 2 so much so it would be understandable if people werenít
that enthused about playing it, but the expansion has people excited
again. People are out in the hallways going, "Come look at this
cool unique item I just got!" Just this past Monday we opened the
expansion up for everyone at Blizzard to play for the first time.
We ordered pizza and people played all evening. We even converted
veteran Battle.net characters so people could play with their familiar
characters. Weíve gotten some great feedback.
Qt3: Whatís one of the most notable things about the expansion?
Roper: Act 5 has the best quest we've ever done. Hands down.
Itís really cool.
Qt3: Was Diablo 2 cut short? The last Act was so much shorter
than the others.
Roper: It really wasn't. When we got to Act 4 from a storytelling
perspective it seemed like there wasn't a lot that had to happen
here. So it was "Letís destroy the Soulstone and get on to
Big Red himself." Act 3 was the biggest act and I think we
really hit that feel we wanted, one of wandering through huge jungles.
So after that lengthy Act in Act 4 we wanted to get to the big payoff.
We didnít want the player to have to fight through the Seven Circles
Qt3: Did the skills system make it harder to balance the game?
Roper: It definitely was very challenging. There were some
skills that we didn't get right. Even with all the thousands of
hours you put into the game testing it, you don't see some of these
problems until you get hundreds of thousands of hours of people
playing it after itís released.
Qt3: So will the expansion address any game balance issues?
Roper: We will go back and do some tweaking on some of the older
skills with the expansion, but mainly on the ones that don't get
used. a lot of times. For some of these they didnít get used because
of buggy behavior, but for many players decided that another skill
accomplished the same thing and was better, so they ignored some
skills. It was like we were saying, "Look at how you can use
this skill. In some situations, it's greít!" And players were
saying, "Yeah, but we like this skill better." There are
a lot of "min maxers" who play Diablo 2, and they will
always take the path to sure success. So what weíre trying to do
is make some of these seldom-used skills more attractive.
Qt3: Blizzard has strong support in the fan community. What
do you think about the troubles that websites are having now?
Roper: So many have been able to support themselves through
advertising, but now the model isn't working Advertisers are now
saying, "We don't know about this. We donít know if we get
value from these ads." Like everyone else, we donít know where
all this will end up.
As for Battle.net being affected, we view it as being so closely
tied to the product that we don't break it out as a separate product.
It does require a capital investment though.
Qt3: Will future Blizzard games be free to play on Battle.net?
Roper: Yeah, thatís our model. We have no plans on changing
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