The new quarterly update for Diablo 4 is here and this time around the teams at Blizzard provide an in-depth look at how they’re creating the stunning environments of Tamriel.
You can find the full rundown from Blizzard via their blog here, and we’ve also included all of the environmental videos below!
Chris Ryder, Art Director, Environments Diablo IV:
The team has been hard at work, and we’re excited to take you behind the scenes on how we’ve developed the environments of Diablo IV. You will hear from our Associate Art Director, Environments, Brian Fletcher; Associate Lighting Director, Ben Hutchings; Lead Exterior Environment Artist, Matt McDaid; and Lead Props and Interactives Artist, Chaz Head. They will be sharing how they approach each of their distinct areas that ultimately come together to form the environment art of Diablo IV. While many of the locations we will be sharing are in various states of progress, this is an excellent opportunity to showcase the amazing work our teams are creating for the next installment of Diablo.
The environments of Diablo IV cover a lot of territory and visual real estate of the game: five distinct regions and hundreds of dungeons that you will experience. It is where all the monster-slaying, loot gathering, and exploration happens. Of course, none of this would be possible without the collective efforts of our talented designers, worldbuilders, engineers, environment artists, lighting artists, and technical artists.
We approach creating the environments of Diablo IV through a darker and more grounded interpretation than earlier installments. The aim is for believability, not realism. Believability comes through our use of materials and deliberate construction of architecture and artifacts you will come across as you play through dungeons and the open world. In addition, regional weather conditions, varied local biomes, and a sense of history set the foundation of how an object or place should look visually in a medieval world like Sanctuary. After all, Sanctuary is full of history, struggle, and conflict, giving us many opportunities to depict a diverse world full of compelling locations in a dark gothic-medieval setting. Even the wealthiest areas in Sanctuary are challenging to exist in. Leaning into these characteristics adds to the richness of the world. It gives us a springboard to elaborate on the space visually, giving it a sense of identity we can lock onto and build around. The atmosphere is almost tangible in places, with weather and lighting play a more prominent visual role in Diablo IV. When it rains, surfaces get wet, puddles form in ruts and hoof prints, the ground feels muddy, the atmosphere is heavy and damp. Contrast that by making your way into a hazy fire-lit tavern that instantly contrasts with the atmosphere outside, a rare place of refuge and warmth. We want to take you on a journey, hinting at a location’s past or recent events. The satisfying part of our work is developing and jamming on a location’s unique visual story, pushing and pulling the art until it becomes an iconic backdrop for combat, exploration finally screams Diablo.
Diablo IV’s art is built with modern techniques and utilizes physically-based lighting. As we handcraft locations across the Eastern Continent, we are mindful of our approach to support combat, navigation, narrative intent, and stylistic direction. To accomplish this, we filter concepts, locations, and final implementation through the dual pillars of “old masters” and “a return to darkness.” Using these pillars has been instrumental in keeping us consistent and aligned with the visual tone of Diablo IV. The “old masters” pillar gives us a lens to filter our art through, considering the techniques classical painters like Rembrandt used, with their controlled use of detail, tonal range, and expert use of color palettes. The “return to darkness” pillar is a through-line in everything from dungeons to lighting and embodies the idea that Sanctuary is a dangerous and dark medieval gothic world. Additionally, we play to the iconic Diablo game camera, choosing where to add or remove detail to help the readability of the gameplay space or accentuate visual interest as needed. It is a balancing act that results in a handcrafted look with a distinct visual style that expands on the lineage of Diablo.
It is exciting and inspiring to see the daily progress and hard work the environment art teams are creating. Let’s jump into more specifics and hear from Brian, Ben, Matt, and Chaz on six locations we feel illustrate our approach and the concepts we keep top of mind when building the environments of Diablo IV.
Dungeons of Sanctuary
Brian Fletcher: Dungeons are still that randomized content that you know and love from previous Diablo titles. However, we added new and exciting features that allow us to make even more dungeons across the world of Sanctuary than ever before. In order to support over 150+ dungeons, we’ve had to shift the way we make environment art so that it’s flexible enough to be used in multiple locations and not just in a single dungeon. We break it all down into what we call tile-sets. We would like to share with you a handful of our tile-sets, and a few ways we can mix and match them with props, interactives, and lighting to create dungeons that are varied, handcrafted and yet procedurally created. It takes a lot of hard work from many teams to make a Dungeon, and we are proud to show you what we have been working on.
Collectively, Diablo 4 is one of our outlet’s most anticipated games in all of the gaming industry. A Diablo game launch is a special event and we simply cannot wait to get our hands on the next title in the franchise that will be played for generations. We will be covering Diablo 4 extensively on the lead up to launch (whenever that may occur!) so keep it tuned to SG!