We had the pleasure of sitting down with Diablo IV’s Expansion Director Tiffany Wat and Associate Game Director Joe Piepiora to chat about Blade, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a little bit of Diablo IV, including the recently announced Vessel of Hatred expansion.
Diablo IV’s first expansion is called ‘Vessel of Hatred‘. Can you tell us a bit about the meaning of this title?
Tiffany Wat: As you know, Mephisto is the Lord of Hatred, and at the very end of the main campaign of Diablo IV, Neyrelle [one of the characters from the main game] is leaving, sailing away with the Soulstone and Mephisto is trapped inside. In the teaser that we showed during the opening ceremony, that creepy voice you heard belongs to Mephisto. So, she’s carrying him inadvertently trapped in that Soulstone and he is constantly battling to get out of it and is influencing Neyrelle every step of the way. So, the Soulstone is the Vessel of Hatred. That’s where he is trapped.
We’re very excited to see what happens with him. If you’re a fan of Diablo II, you’ll recall that in Act III of the game, you actually fight Mephisto, so it’s exciting to pull from that nostalgia. I call them the Pesky Prime Evils, they like to come back – just when you think you’ve defeated them, they come back. Mephisto is my favourite Prime Evil – no offence to the others, but his story is fascinating. He’s the father of Lillith, which is really cool because, obviously, she was a main character in the campaign, so it’s just exciting to see what’s next.
Vessel of Hatred’s setting is quite unlike anything we’ve seen in Diablo for a while. Can you tell us more about it?
TW: Yeah, it’s very cool to be able to bring new flora, new fauna and a new colour palette to Diablo IV. In the preview, you saw those lush jungles – in the main game, we have lots of awesome gothic architecture, even though we have areas like desert regions that bring the world to life with different colour palettes. I’m just so excited to see that green and to dive into these lush green forests and see some of the new denizens, new demons and other creepy stuff that we’re going to fight.
Did the community’s love for Diablo II and now Diablo II: Resurrected impact deciding where to set Vessel of Hatred?
TW: One of the core pillars of Diablo IV is to embrace the legacy of the Diablo franchise, and Diablo II: Resurrected was a way to bring that world back – because, as you said, it’s a very beloved game. So, a lot of things really came together for us as we wanted to continue building out the continent, and Torajan is the next region that we’ll explore. Torajan – which we now know as Nahantu – is originally where Mephisto was imprisoned in Diablo II, so it was the perfect tie-in because of Lillith, with Mephisto being her father. I think for us, being able to honour the legacy of the third Prime Evil, who hasn’t really had his own game. It was just the perfect combination to bring it all together. Being able to tell a new story and embrace that legacy was the perfect marriage.
How long has the expansion been in production, and when did you know exactly which direction you wanted to take it in?
Joe Piepiora: When we started out in the world of Diablo IV, as Tif said, we wanted to embrace the legacy. We want to make this massive, continuous world of Sanctuary. In the land mass, we have hit so much of the Eastern Continent already – to Tif’s point earlier – so much of that is sort of like Eastern European, Gothic architecture.
One of the cool things now is that when you see points of the map when looking at manuals from the older games, you’re able to go to those places in Diablo IV, and we’re able to fill in the corners that you haven’t really had the chance to touch in-game previously. Being able to go to Nahantu and really go through it is really exciting, so when we’re thinking about the game early on, we were imagining, ‘where else are we going to want to go eventually?‘ – and we’re not the first Diablo team to think about where we want to go in the world, but that’s the whole idea, it’s fun to embrace the legacy, dive back into spaces and start filling the map.
I don’t know if we’re going to go to every single corner of Sanctuary ever but we need to hit these places that are so important to the story, especially those important to Diablo II and Mephisto.
Are there any locations within Nahantu that you’re particularly excited for fans to experience?
TW: So, in Diablo II, Act III you arrive at the Kurast Docks, and that’s actually a location that we get to revisit, which is really exciting. Seventy-two years have passed since the events of Diablo II, so to see what has happened to the denizens of Sanctuary in that town in that time is super exciting for us. Also, the ziggurat that was shown in the teaser is another place that we get to explore and see what’s going on down there. Where is Mephisto, and what is he up to? We also get to return to Travincal, which is the original prison of Mephisto when the Horadrim imprisoned him in Diablo II – that’s where you go down, and he breaks free, and you get to fight him.
We know there’s a new class coming to Vessel of Hatred. You’re not able to share the details yet, but can you tell us about how the team selects a new class to introduce?
JP: We’re always excited to explore new and old ideas from previous games and think about what’s really resonating with us. When we’re thinking about new classes in Diablo IV, we start with thinking about ‘what are the iconic fantasies that players want to be able to re-experience?‘ these experiences that they’re familiar with because, again, we want to really embrace the legacy and ‘What are the really cool classes that we want to bring back that have strong fantasies?‘
We’re not done with existing classes. There are things that we can add to these classes over time, which means that if we’re going to add a new class to the game, we want it to feel like it has a different fantasy and like it has a place to grow – not just the fantasy but the mechanics of it. ‘We ask, what does it do that makes it different from a necromancer or a druid or this or that?’ We want to feel like it has a niche for players who want to go and experience a different class in a different way. Whether it’s making a new class or an old class returning, wherever we end up going we are fuelled by how we see players interacting, what they’re asking for and how they’re playing the game.
What classes are you currently playing?
JP: This season, I’m playing a firewall sorceress, and I’m having a blast. That wasn’t a pun, but I guess it kind of works; they have fireball.
TW: I’m playing a hardcore necromancer because I haven’t played a hardcore character yet in Diablo IV, so I figured now is the time. I also have a normal rogue because I have so much fun with rogues, even though in Diablo II, I was definitely a sorceress.
JP: In Season 2, it’s so much easier to progress and level up, so I’m excited to get my second character online. I played a rogue all through last season, and now, this season, I’m going to finish off my sorceress soon and probably dive into an army necromancer, load it up with vampire powers and get through all of the seasonal activities. This is such an interesting question because we both play what feels like an endless number of characters, so now I’m thinking, what kind of player am I? I used to be a barbarian player before anything else.
TW: That’s the magic of Diablo and the seasonal system because you have the opportunity to try something new all the time, and with the increased player experience buffs, you get to play multiple characters in one season, and it really inspires me to experiment with both new classes and new character builds all the time.
Speaking of the Season of Blood – how do you go about coming up with a theme for each season?
JP: Every new season we think about a theme that is interesting, feels universal and is evocative for the player, and it’s exciting. Season of Malignant, there’s this inky, dark, malignant disease that is corrupting Sanctuary. It’s ripping out hearts, it’s corrupting things completely, it’s out of control, and these are bloodthirsty monsters. It was a pretty fun theme.
When we went into Season 2 we wanted the player to feel like they were getting power in a different way, and we wanted to feel like they were becoming dark, like they were embracing something dark about themselves. That’s cool, and what else is cool? Blade. You’re the daywalker. You’re going to take vampire powers and use them against vampires. Now that I’m sitting here talking about it, it sounds so stupid to say, but in some ways, it really is that simple. We look at how that can work – we can have corrupted other heroes who become Bloodseekers who are now serving Lord Zir, but then why are they corrupted but not you? Well, you have Lillith’s blood in you, so your adventure is different; you have different powers. It’s a cool dark theme for a cool dark season.
JP: Sarah Michelle Gellar happened to be available, so we had Buffy the Vampire Slayer do some stuff for us. Diablo is incredible.
Diablo IV is in its second season, Season of Blood, which you can play on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC via Battle.net or Steam.
You can check out our full review of Diablo IV here, where we scored it a massive 9/10 by saying, “Diablo IV is an unquestionable win for Blizzard and one of their foundational franchises when it needed it most. An unrelenting commitment to vision, redefined Sanctuary, never-ending player progression, and excellent boss fights are just a few of the reasons Diablo IV isn’t held back by uneven pacing and recycled content.”