Diablo 2 Resurrected interview: A faithful remaster

In the world of video games, the words remake and remaster get bandied around a lot, and sometimes even the videogame companies get it wrong, calling something a remake that obviously is just a remaster. Things get complicated when the word remake or remaster isn’t even included in the title. Luckily, Diablo II Resurrected is a remaster through and through. Talking to two of the game’s developers this weekend, Andre Abrahamian (game designer) and Matthew Cederquist (game producer), the two speak often about staying faithful to the original as often as possible, with the only deviations being on the art side, where they even have special rules for how much they change.

What’s your philosophy for keeping purists happy versus adding new touches to the game and and modernizing it for people that might not have been around when diablo 2 came out the first time?

Andre: When Blizzard is making new games we have design philosophies like finding the fun, which is discovering what the core gameplay aspects are and when we were approaching d2 we realised that there are still so many interesting moments in the game and we knew right away that we didn’t want to stray from that. So that’s been one of our core pillars and embracing all those quirks. We know this is a game built in 2000/2001 and there’s a lot of mechanics that if we change too much it’s no longer Diablo 2. Because of that, we’re aligning with what the original game is which naturally does align a lot with what current players of Diablo 2 and even nostalgic players of Diablo 2 like. But we are understanding that there’s a new audience out there that hasn’t played Diablo 2 and that’s why we are still pushing aspects of a remaster with console support with cross-progression and reimagined UI while adding some quality of life with things like a shared stash or advanced stats panel and also building a little bit of the community too with putting it on modern battle net and having a more engaging experience with your friends lists and things like that.

Matthew Cederquist (game producer): It was really important for us to keep the magic of what Diablo 2 was like 20 years ago, everything from the story to the dungeon crawls to characters or even down to some of the quirks like inventory tetris,  just some of the 20-year-old stuff we wanted to keep that  authentic as possible for the players and just bring that really nice pretty coat of paint to it with the 2D to 3D and the 7.1 surround sound to all the new ambience and then also bring it to like battle net with updated security so it was kind of this line of ‘don’t stray too far from the original’ because that’s the game that people love and enjoy and that was the north star to the whole thing, so any time we did think of doing something from our passion you know like “I wonder if we could add something like this” it was like “Nah let’s get back on track here and bring that authentic experience” and that worked out quite well for us.

What’s the team general position on the game, is it a remaster or remake?

Andre: It’s always clear I mean it is a full remaster of Diablo 2. Going back to when we first started working on the game, we wanted to keep all of the gameplay aspects and the quirks, all these things that are involved with the game back in 2000/2001 but also a lot of the fun things that came out of Diablo 2 like the fun of discovering those 300 cube recipes or the deep itemisation system and the drop rates and things like that and all the storytelling. But when we approach things like the art we wanted to push it and modernize it as much as we could and that’s where we thought of our 70/30 art style rule where it’s 70 percent is the new art that is trying to maintain the original shape, size, silhouette and colours of the original game as much as possible and then the 30 is where we can push and add embellishments and some modernisation of things you can see more straps on how armours are connected or environments are more decorated with more storytelling with things around the rogue encampment you might have seen in some of our shots and media there’s more armours hanging around or barrels and boxes and things like that. One of my favourite things: for the druid, he has some necklace charms he wears and when he changes into his werewolf form or his werebear form he still keeps the necklace charms which I think is a really cool connection.

How did having a legacy toggle affect design decisions?

Andre: The legacy toggle feature is our greatest feature because it helped us through the development and it helps us see how far things have come along so we can see what the game used to look like and how much better it is now so we didn’t really get problems with what exists there and how that constrains us it’s more like it exists there and we want like how can we add to it like in the original game there might have been a stack of boxes but now we’re asking ourselves we’re not changing collision in the game right so it’s because it’s still the same game underneath so we’re not changing any of that pathing so now we’re asking ourselves “how can we add some extra storytelling here so you might see in one of the caves, maybe there’s some remnants of someone might have been here a human might have traversed here and there’s a weapon on the wall so they’re not interfering with the gameplay space in any way. That’s the kind of stuff on how we’re approaching the environments and then you can flip back and forth at any time to see that difference and it’s still maintained gameplay this the same gameplay is still there

Matthew: You know it really kept us true to our original goals which is to provide the authentic experience of Diablo 2 just in 2021 right with that new fresh paint and with our ability to just hit one button and see how far we went. From a player’s standpoint this is still the same engine underneath and that one button that allowed us to swap really kept us on our true side.

What are you doing with the old cinematics?

Andre: I am happy to say that the cinematics are a one-to-one shot-for-shot remake so the same 28 minutes roughly of cinematics that you saw in both the original Diablo 2 and the expansion are all the same shots where shots you see of like Marius and the cell are going to be the same shots you see now but with recreated with a lot more detail and higher fidelity very similar to kind of how we approach the game style to that same kind of 70 30 art rule so uh really exciting to see um they’re going to look amazingly cool.

If it has the letters RPG in it, I am there. Still battling with balancing trying to play every single game that grabs my interest, getting 100% in a JRPG, and devoting time to my second home in Azeroth.

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