I sat down this weekend with Blizzard art director Christian Lichtner and senior designer Jason Bender to discuss the new Demon Hunter class in Diablo III. How did we end up discussing Vampire Hunter D?
"'Come on, double crossbows!' was a valid argument," said Jason Bender of the decision process that went into creating Diablo III's fifth and final class. I opened the interview with the pair by mentioning the thrill of shooting the twin crossbows during my brief hands-on with the game an hour earlier.
"A lot of people guessed that we were going to do a ranged class, and we needed one, so it's been pretty well received," continued Bender.
Christian Lichtner, who appeared the day before in the Demon Hunter panel to discuss the evolution of the character, explained that a ranged class was always the plan.
"We knew from the get go that we wanted to do a ranged class," Lichtner said. "Through coincidence we kept having to put it off. We'd introduce a new class, get excited by that, and we'd have to put it off. But when we got to the fifth class, we knew it was going to be ranged.
Lichtner told me that the class was designed to serve as a counter to the holy Monk. "We really wanted to create a class that contrasted the Monk. We're looking at the line-up and we went, 'Look, if you want to play a darker class, a little bit more mysterious, a little bit more on the scarier side, which one would you want to play?' There's the Witch Doctor, which is amazing, but we wanted to give you a little more choice with the Demon Hunter."
Bender concurred. "She's pretty brutal; pretty angsty. We wanted to go double-dark with this character, to be really gnarly with it."
The decision to go dark gave Blizzard plenty of inspiration, and the Demon Hunter features some of the darkest, most painful-looking attacks, especially the traps. "The spike trap seems pretty cool," said Bender, "And then you see it, and it's just awful. You don't want to get near it."
As we talked the Demon Hunters and Witch Doctors begin to meld together. We kept saying Witch Hunter, which lead to off-hand comments about Demon Doctors. This was not helped when the conversation strayed to Vampire Hunter D.
Vampire Hunter D is an anime featuring a half-vampire hunter named D and his sidekick, his possessed hand, complete with talking mouth.
During the design panel, Lichtner revealed that the Demon Hunter started off as a demon herself, transforming into a human with a demon hand before becoming completely human.
"The whole demon idea was an amazing idea, but it brought up all sorts of gameplay issues," said Lichtner. Problems like how would villagers react to a partial demon? That, and players seeing a character with a massive demon arm want to hit things with it, and that didn't work for a melee class.
"It worked for Vampire Hunter D," I said.
"That would be like a whole 'nother class," quipped Bender. "We still haven't announced our Demon Hand chat system."