The build of Diablo 3
being shown at BlizzCon 2011
last week did have a few polish updates, but generally it was the same content previously available in the beta, which we've covered thoroughly so far
. Diablo 3
's Technical Director Wyatt Chang agreed while chatting with me last week that the game is basically content complete, but the polish phase is far from over. "Content complete for us usually means things like voice recording, art, assets are in place, but it doesn't mean that things like the tuning, balance, and game systems are in place."
The team is still working hard on some of the core concepts, however -- one issue that's come up lately is whether players can switch skills on the fly or not. In the beta, says Cheng, "you can play with your skill window open, and you can switch skills in the middle of the fight, which has some upsides and it's very cool in one regard, but on the whole, I think it's sort of a more negative experience, and a lot of people in the community have agreed." Just recently, the team was dealing with things like "how many Pages of Training you can have in one stack," so they are starting to dive into the nitty gritty of how the game will work.
The Rune system hasn't been seen in the beta at all, but Cheng says that "they're being tested extensively internally." Runes just didn't appear in the early part of the game where the beta is set, but Cheng promises that they "are still as crazy and diverse as ever." The real-money market isn't going through testing, but the team is working on a few design tweaks for it, including going "through lots of efforts to ensure that gold will actually be a real and valuable commodity, which is really required in order for the auction house to function."
Blizzard continues to hedge its bets on a possible Diablo 3
release date, unfortunately -- there wasn't one mentioned at the conference at all. But it sounds like development on the game, while still very busy, is at least starting to nail down a few of the finer points.