Last year, we learned that Blizzard was working on a new Diablo game set in Sanctuary. The company has been very tight-lipped about what the next Diablo will be like, but it’s been confirmed from multiple sources now that the game is still planned for release in March of 2022. We have also heard some rumors about this fourth installment being quite different than previous games – having more art direction and world design changes than any other D4 so far?
The “diablo 4 release date” is a game that was released in the year 2013. The game has been updated multiple times since then, and will be getting an update on March 2022.
We have artists here today to discuss about their work and all that goes into creating the Sanctuary universe.
Hello, and welcome to the first Quarterly Update of 2022 for Diablo IV. Last quarter’s update on systems, itemization, and visual effects was a big hit, so we hope you liked it. If you missed out on that blog or our earlier updates, you can find them here.
I’m struck by how much the game has progressed since we started blogging. It’s tough to convey all of the work our engineers, designers, artists, QA team, and producers have done in these updates—how do you display a problem that no longer exists, or explain how burn-down chart planning resulted in a feature making it into the game instead of being cut? While you won’t be able to view those things, you will be able to observe how systems like itemization and skill trees have grown over time, taking into account your comments and internal testing. You may also see how close we’re coming to our dark, low-fantasy gothic horror visual and thematic goals. Also, bear in mind that the graphics you’ll see today are still in the works!
To create Diablo IV with the top-tier visual quality we can be proud of, as well as the promise of an immersive environment you can travel around and enjoy getting lost in, many artists will need to collaborate. From lighting to settings to objects and interactives, the seamless game you’re playing is made up of several layers of art and imagery. Today, we’ve invited artists from several of these levels to speak about their work and all that goes into creating the Sanctuary universe.
We hope you appreciate this update and we look forward to hearing your feedback. This year, we have a lot of interesting things to share with you, and we’re thrilled to have you along for the ride.
Thank you for taking the time to play the games we create, and now, artists!
Diablo IV Game Director Joe Shely
Diablo IV Environments Art Director Chris Ryder The crew has been hard at work, and we’re eager to show you how we created Diablo IV’s surroundings behind the scenes. Brian Fletcher, Associate Art Director, Environments; Ben Hutchings, Associate Lighting Director; Matt McDaid, Lead Exterior Environment Artist; and Chaz Head, Lead Props and Interactives Artist will all speak. They’ll talk about how they approach each of their different regions, which eventually come together to make Diablo IV’s environment art. While many of the locales we’ll be showing off are still in the works, this is a wonderful chance to show off the incredible work our teams are doing for Diablo III.
Diablo IV’s landscapes span a large amount of ground and visual real estate, with five unique zones and hundreds of dungeons to explore. It is here that all of the monster-slaying, looting, and exploring takes place. Of course, none of this would be possible without our great designers, worldbuilders, engineers, environment artists, lighting artists, and technical artists working together.
In comparison to previous versions, we took a darker and more realistic approach to crafting Diablo IV’s landscapes. Believability, not realism, is the goal. Our use of materials and the purposeful building of structures and objects you’ll come across as you play through dungeons and the open world add to the sense of realism. Furthermore, in a medieval world like Sanctuary, regional weather conditions, diverse local biomes, and a feeling of history form the basis of how an item or location should seem aesthetically. After all, Sanctuary is steeped in history, strife, and war, providing us with several opportunity to show a rich world filled with intriguing locales in a gloomy gothic-medieval backdrop. Even the richest parts of Sanctuary are difficult to live in. Leaning into these features contributes to the world’s richness. It offers us a starting point for visualizing the space and giving it a feeling of identity that we can expand on. Weather and lighting play a larger aesthetic part in Diablo IV, making the mood practically real in certain locations. Surfaces get wet, puddles develop in ruts and hoof prints, the ground becomes muddy, and the atmosphere becomes heavy and humid when it rains. Make your way inside a foggy, fire-lit bar that immediately contrasts with the climate outside, providing a rare haven of shelter and warmth. We aim to take you on a trip by hinting to previous or current happenings in an area. The most rewarding aspect of our job is creating and jamming on a location’s own visual tale, pushing and tugging the imagery until it becomes an iconic background for fight, until exploration shouts Diablo.
You are greeted by the hazy warmth of a bar.
The color palette plays into warm, oxidized colors to create an iconic area in The Sanctuary Universe. A town placed in an arid environment feels visibly dry, dust blowing, and the color pallet plays into warm, oxidized hues to create an iconic region in The Sanctuary Universe.
Diablo IV’s art is created using cutting-edge technology and employs physically based lighting. We are aware of our approach to support combat, navigation, narrative meaning, and artistic direction as we construct sites throughout the Eastern Continent. To do so, we use the pillars of “ancient masters” and “a return to darkness” to select ideas, places, and ultimate implementation. The use of these pillars has been crucial in keeping us on track and in sync with Diablo IV’s aesthetic tone. The “old masters” pillar provides a lens through which we may see our work, taking into account the methods utilized by traditional painters such as Rembrandt, who made regulated use of detail, tonal range, and excellent color palettes. The “return to darkness” pillar runs throughout the game, from dungeons to lighting, and represents Sanctuary’s scary and gloomy medieval gothic setting. In addition, we use the famous Diablo game viewpoint, adding and removing information as appropriate to improve the legibility of the gaming environment or enhance visual appeal. It’s a delicate balancing effort that yields a handmade aesthetic with a unique visual style that builds on Diablo’s legacy.
Treasures and secrets await exploration deep inside a time-worn ruin.
The everyday improvement and hard work that the environment art teams are putting in is exciting and inspirational. Let’s go more detailed and hear from Brian, Ben, Matt, and Chaz about six areas that they believe best demonstrate our approach and the themes we keep in mind while creating Diablo IV locales.
The Sanctuary Universe
“I’m delighted to speak about Diablo IV’s Open World!” says Matt McDaid. There are five fascinating zones to discover. Each area is plagued by its own set of threats. There are many paths to go and secret places to discover. It is entirely up to you how you navigate this huge universe. The Art and Design teams have created a seamless universe that allows you to go from coast to coast or deep into the glacier ridges. Each created area should be unique and immersive, according to the Environment Art team. The Environment Art, Interactives, and Lighting teams aim to capture the tone that complements the’return to darkness’ pillar in Diablo IV, as Chris referred to before.
Coast of Scotsglen
Matt McDaid: For the Coast of Scotsglen the Environment Art team set out to tell the story of untamed, wild shorelines and headlands.As you transition toward the shores from inland, the coastal biome is first evidenced by the longer, more directional grasses that react to the driving offshore winds. The beaches are bleak and littered with seaweed, kelp and rotting carcasses. Rugged clifftops ascend high whilst promontories are carved by the continual pounding of waves below. Through the process of creating our biomes, the Environment Art team has set out to communicate that this coastline is rife with peril.
It is crucial to us that the principal communities along the coast seem deeply knit into the fabric of the shoreline. The clifftops are surrounded by homes with deep-rooted foundations. These constructions are made of whatever materials the locals could get their hands on in a vain effort to endure the harsh environment, and they are in varying states of ruin. For the roofs, there are stone walls, salvaged wood, and thatch. A haven for the courageous fisherman that bravely trawl these perilous waters.
Fishing plays an important role in the day-to-day lives of these tired locals, so we’ve capitalized on that by emphasizing the importance of fishing in these communities. It definitely helps set the scene for the Interactives team to come in and build on their cultural kit around the region by adding supporting components like rudimentary docks and slipways.
Chaz Head: There are a lot of dramatic props here. The fishmongers’ nets hung to dry in the marketplace while the ships swayed in the ocean waves. Our major goal is to bring the amazing architectural and landscape work to life. Our props and culture kits contribute to the Diablo universe’s tangible real-world scale.
Everything in the Drowned culture kit can be interacted with or broken. We push ourselves in terms of destruction when we put up these props. To connect certain components, we employ a constraint system. This enables us to create a variety of realistic and changeable destruction scenarios.
We are doing all we can to relay the tale of what has occurred here. As they invade over the beaches of Sanctuary, the drowned bring with them treasures from under the water, littering their conquest with artifacts of long-lost nations.
Ben Hutchings: As you explore Diablo 4’s open world you’ll experience a lot of variation in the lighting and weather – here in the Coast of Scotsglen you can see the foggy, frigid atmosphere taking cues from highlands and moors. Across the game we’re striving for a grounded and natural palette,allowing us to create visual space for gameplay that also achieves a gritty tone suiting The Sanctuary Universe.
Orbei Monastery is a monastery in Orbei, China.
Matt McDaid: The Orbei Monastery is a monastery in Orbei, China. is an isolated and secretive feature in the rural Dry Steppes. While the Zakarum’s presence has diminished, the Orbei Monastery is a monastery in Orbei, China. carries evidence that places of worship for the Zakarum can still quietly function. Since the location here is in the desiccated planes of the Dry Steppes, we aim to push the notion of dusty grasslands with sparse vegetation. We’ve made the conscious decision to add dark rocks that complement the pale blonde and rusty grasses. Poplar and Saxaul trees cling to the ground which really helps provide parallax movement on screen. This contributes to greater depth as elements in the foreground move quicker than those further back in the scene.
The Environment Art team built a Salt flats biome to assist provide aesthetic appeal to the location. Having blue alkaline lakes bordered by salt-encrusted tufas and vibrant geothermal pools adds brightness to the Dry Steppes and helps to create intriguing natural monuments.
Against the efforts of the Zakarum worshipers, and like many of the buildings in Sanctuary, the Orbei Monastery is a monastery in Orbei, China. is in a state of dilapidation. It is a goal of ours to visually communicate that whilst this place is in the early stages of ruin, it was once a prominent base of learning for the Zakarum monks. Compared to the native architecture in the Dry Steppes, the Zakarum architecture is more distinct and refined. These structures are adorned with ornate details, and often accompanied by elaborate statuary. Chaz will elaborate more on the interesting relics that can be found on the Zakarum estates.
Chaz Head: Many followers of Zakarum come to pilgrimage in Orbei Monastery is a monastery in Orbei, China.. Caravans along the road reinforce this idea; making these wagons explode is always a fun time!
As you can see, it has had a difficult time. Much of the Zakarum’s store and mementos have been destroyed. Perhaps there are still riches to be found among the rubble of the abandoned monastery?
Many natural residents to cope with when you walk beyond the monastery into the geothermal zone. Their homes may be found amid the cliffs if you look attentively.
Matt McDaid (MCDaid): Our objective with Kyovoshad is to fully emphasize how gloomy, chilly, and terrible this medieval village seems. However, we still need to emphasize that this is a safe haven for people who live inside its confines. Because this is a military town, it’s critical that we provide it a well-defended presence right away. When approaching the settlement, we feel it is appropriate to offer a progressive development of minor defensive installations. This gives you the impression that something bigger is on the way. When you arrive at the gates, you’ll be welcomed by high stone surrounding walls and a deep gaping moat to keep any unwanted intruders at bay.
When you first arrive in town, you’ll see the characteristic architecture of Fractured Peaks. Natural pine boards and birch shingles are used to coat buildings in this area, which take use of the various woods in the area. These structures, like the majority of Sanctuary’s residences, prioritize utility above form.
A huge chunk of the southern end of Kyovoshad is shown in the film, which has the most basic of shelters. Some people cling to the town walls, staring down on the glacier flow below. When you come across this region, we want you to make comparisons to slum-like encampments with closely packed dwelling quarters. With their cultural pass, the interactives team has done a tremendous job of really hammering home that message.
Chaz Head: Kyovoshod is divided into many districts, each with its own cultural kit. We overlay details of torn fabric, damaged shelters, and overall sadness to establish the image of slums where the underprivileged seek refuge from the terrible weather. Can you think this is an example of Sanctuary’s high-end living?
Ben Hutchings: We can notice the use of fog, soft shadows, and bounce lighting to provide a softness to the lighting in this evening view of Kyovoshad. Diablo 4’s lighting approach relies heavily on softness to provide a realistic and grounded frame.
We want Kyovoshad to have a deep, lived-in feel with warm and earthy tones, as a contrast to Fractured Peaks’ chilly, icy palette.
Brian Fletcher: Dungeons are still that randomized content that you know and love from previous Diablo titles. However, we added new and exciting features that allow us to make even more dungeons across The Sanctuary Universe than ever before. In order to support over 150+ dungeons, we’ve had to shift the way we make environment art so that it’s flexible enough to be used in multiple locations and not just in a single dungeon. We break it all down into what we call tile-sets. We would like to share with you a handful of our tile-sets, and a few ways we can mix and match them with props, interactives, and lighting to create dungeons that are varied, handcrafted and yet procedurally created. It takes a lot of hard work from many teams to make a Dungeon, and we are proud to show you what we have been working on.
World’s Forgotten Locations
Fletcher, Brian: This tile set is a good illustration of how we’ve ‘gone dark.’ We’d like to take you deep beneath to Sanctuary’s deepest reaches, where a strange (and heinous) corruption has taken root. This old temple is an excellent location for generating primordial terror sensations. One of our most useful tools is the fixed camera, which enables us to position things in the front without obstructing the playing area. We can dial in and tweak the layouts, views, and foreground components to ensure a beautiful composition since we always know where you’re looking. The spider legs are strategically positioned in order to create unsettling shadows in the backdrop. Our dungeon designers provide us with some fantastic plans to work with, allowing us to increase the depth of each scene. We want you to think the dungeon continues on forever and that you’re just viewing a little portion of a vast subterranean maze.
Chaz Head: The props and interactives team is working hard to keep the mystery and scary atmosphere that Brian mentioned. The goal of this culture kit is to make you feel uncomfortable while rewarding you for taking risks. Nothing here should seem like it was made by the people who live on the surface in Sanctuary. We were able to concentrate on two distinct shapes: monolithic and twisted. This isn’t a location you’d want to visit on your alone!
Ben Hutchings: You can see our embracing of Diablo 4’s primary pillar of a return to darkness’ right here. Our goal is to guide you through the dungeon in a subtle manner while exposing delightfully hideous creatures. We put a lot of effort into silhouetting the player area and giving the scene a feeling of size and depth in dungeons like this; this aids navigation and visibility while also demonstrating the grandeur of the landscape.
Caves of Despair
Fletcher, Brian: Diablo IV’s universe is enormous, with multiple diverse tile sets covering all of the different zones, biomes, and civilizations. We devised innovative methods to reuse our tile sets and add enough diversity to cover 150+ dungeons in order to provide that much high-quality material. All the while, each time you visit, you’ll have a new experience. One method to achieve this is to decorate tile sets with different themes. The next dungeon is a demon-infested druidic resting place. As you explore the dungeon, you’ll see that it’s littered with druidic cultural artifacts like talismans and charms. Many of these things are placed on a layer that may be switched on or off depending on the dungeon’s theme. It’s a druid burial place in one dungeon and an uninhabited dark cave in the other. These kinds of details are a terrific way to add a lot of visual appeal and visual narrative to your work. This is a terrific example of several groups getting together to contribute to a final setting since these assets were created by various teams.
In this dungeon, we were able to build on the Druid cultural kit. The druid is a thrilling return to the Diablo game in many ways, particularly for Props and Interactives, who have expanded on this unusual class by giving a comprehensive kit for its reclusive folk. It would be simple to design wonderful druid props, but we’ve pushed ourselves to think of creative methods to maintain the cultural kit grounded while not making the druids into something they aren’t. I hope that when you play Diablo IV, you get a feeling of their magic without compromising the druids’ grim and brutal environment.
Depths that have been flooded
Fletcher, Brian: New dungeon features like smooth floor transitions and traversals are great, but my personal favorite is the tile-set transition sequences. These are scenarios that enable us to link two separate tile sets in the same dungeon. Imagine rushing through a crypt only to discover a hole in the wall leading you further into a massive subterranean cave network. All while maintaining the randomized dungeon layouts that vary with each run. In this last video, a tile-set transition sequence joins two tile-sets together. The first floor of this ruined fortress is dry and quite undamaged, but as you go further into the dungeon, you’ll see that the lower floors have rotted due to the never-ending floods. The drowned may settle in and entrench themselves down below in this marshy ruin. To go further into the flooded wrecked tile-set, you’ll have to battle your way past their defenses and get over the rope.
Head of Chaz: I like this dungeon; it was one of the first in Diablo IV where we perfected the aesthetic for objects and interactives. On the surface, we have the classic gothic medieval look that enthusiasts like. Iron chandeliers, pikes, and armored suits I hope this collection serves as a reminder of what Diablo means to so many of us. Part of that image is the feeling of risk that comes with investigation; things grow grittier as you delve deeper. As you descend, you will come across obstacles that seem to be out of place. The drowned have wreaked havoc on this historic house, dragging their disgusting possessions over the floorboards. This allows us to combine kits, and I’m sure you’ll agree that the mold-encrusted assets are disgusting. Things should seem familiar, but have been defiled by the drowned hordes’ sodden hands.
Ben Hutchings: Being able to combine two unique visual approaches is fascinating. The keep’s gloomy, ominous corridors descend down into the putrid turquoise tones of its depths, as seen here.
In both we can see the same approach to lighting these dungeons, with different executions. The keep has an oppressively dark, very selective lighting scheme – hinting at paths through the corridors subtly with soft lighting. By contrast, the Depths that have been flooded use putrid green and yellow tones to really give the dungeon a feeling of a damp, heavy atmosphere.
That was a brief rundown of how we approach Diablo IV’s environment art. We like setting the scene for all of the action while maintaining the subtle aesthetic cues that have made Diablo games so popular. Finally, we don’t get to share and thank our coworkers’ outstanding effort and the development of Diablo IV too frequently. We’re delighted you came by to have a peek, and we hope you like what you see.
Thank you for joining us, and stay tuned for our next quarter’s blog post!
-The Diablo IV Development Team
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