Last August I wrote an article that it appeared that Blizzard had started development toward Diablo 4. In that article I had assumed they were already working on the second expansion for Diablo 3 and it would be announced at BlizzCon 2015. As we all know, Diablo was fairly absent at BlizzCon last year with no announcements – but instead just small developer talks that weren’t live streamed.
For those who have been visitors at Blizzard Campus and have gone on tours there, you’ll know that the Diablo development area has been locked down and set off limits to visitors since 2015 and is still in lock down. If you’ve been keeping a keen eye on the Blizzard’s career page you’ll also have seen more job openings pop up in the last year for the “Unannounced Project” on Team 3 (Diablo’s development team). They’ve hired their art director and several other positions. The ones currently up right now are for Senior Concept Artists, Senior Character Designer, and Senior VFX Artist. It’s still obvious that their next game is still in the early stages and at this point it would be ridiculous to assume that these positions are for expansion related material.
So are we going to see a second expansion for Diablo 3? The answer is very likely not. Not only has it not been announced yet, but yesterday we learned about several Diablo 3 developers leaving the team (although some might be temporarily). Leonard Boyarsky, the Lead World Designer for Diablo 3, has left Blizzard and is now working with Obsidian. John Yang and Don Vu have both been pulled from the Diablo team to go help with World of Warcraft: Legion for the time being. That is starting to leave quite the skeleton crew left for Diablo 3 and likely shows that Blizzard’s plan for the game moving forward will be to focus on patch material as opposed to releasing a new expansion for the game.
So what do we know about this unannounced project (which I am very much assuming is Diablo 4 at this point)? Not much, other than it’s in it’s early concept and design phases. With people like Yang and Vu leaving the team, it’s likely they are still in high concept stages and not getting down to the details yet. It’s also unlikely we hear any kind of news from Diablo this year and Diablo fans could be in for another year of disappointment at BlizzCon.
However, if you look a little bit deeper in the details of what they are hiring, something has caught my attention. For the artists they are wanting people who “Demonstrated proficiency with current surfacing techniques and PBR workflows”. What is PBR, you ask? It stands for Physically Based Rendering, which is a technology a lot of modern games are starting to use to create photo realistic objects in their game. It was a big deal when Star Citizen implemented PBR in their game to give you an example. This isn’t something that Diablo 3 is currently using, nor would it be something Diablo 3 would even need. It’s no secret that Diablo 3 is running on an engine that is nearly ten years old even though the game is only roughly four years old itself.
So to sum things up, I would say at this point, don’t expect a second expansion for Diablo 3; instead expect patches like they have been doing for the last year or so. Don’t expect any major announcements at events this year for Diablo. I know this is a tough pill to swallow for Diablo fans, but it sounds like you have something pretty cool in the works to look forward to for an announcement come 2017.