Diablo 4 game director about the skip story button: ‘First playthrough is most exciting’

Diablo 4 game director Joe Shely shared that the team wants seasonal content to blend better with the story. He also noted that, in story-based experiences, the first playthrough is the most thrilling.

At BlizzCon 2023, Lucky Luciano chatted with Diablo 4 game director Joe Shely focusing on the game’s Story mode. Lucky praised the Campaign but noted that many players skip it due to slower leveling. He asked if the team had thought about adding incentives for players to go through the campaign.

Shely: “One of the reasons the skip campaign button exists is that story content is most exciting the first time you do it. Anytime you’re listening to a story, part of it is the surprise, anticipation, and sort of wondering what’s going to happen with characters. I like to say that for any given type of content or experience, there’s a correct frequency at which it’s fun to do, depending on the kind of experience and how we’re payable as that frequency is different.”

The game director mentioned Diablo 3’s bounty system, highlighting its replayability. However, he acknowledged the challenge of balancing enjoyable activity frequency with story boss rates:

“One of the things we were talking about in Diablo 3 earlier is that we had bounties targeting bosses. The bounty system is one that you’re replaying, and the whisper system evolved from it, is one you’re playing… it has very high replayability. Killing a boss can have, if you’re grinding to get a targeted drop or something, it can serve that purpose as well. But a story boss usually has a lower threshold in terms of what the optimal rate is to fight that.”

Malthael Diablo

Shely cited an issue with cut scenes disrupting a targeted boss encounter. He cautioned against incentives affecting the balance between fun and efficiency: “One of the things we saw actually with the Malthael is that the bounty would target it, and it wasn’t really like… it had a bunch of cut scenes in it, it was like ‘why do we need to wait for Malthael to drop all the things?’.

There’s a mismatch in terms of the frequency that this activity is fun to do and the frequency that this particular boss is designed to be. So, we do want to look at it, we want to be sort of cautious about incentives there because we don’t want to create a situation where the player has to make a choice like: ‘I’m this kind of player, and I want to have a lot of fun, and I want to give up a lot of efficiency.’”

Diablo 4

Luciano suggested a cool idea: when you finish the Story mode, the player gets an automatic level 50 boost. Shely actually liked the idea and suggested it could offset time investment. He also expressed a desire for smoother integration of seasonal content with the story in the future. “I think your point is really interesting about playing through the campaign; then maybe you get something that sort of makes up for that time in terms of your efficiency. I think we would like to have the seasonal content live together with the story content even more seamlessly than it does today.”

Make sure to check out the full interview with Joe Shely and Lucky Luciano