While Diablo 4 may not be releasing in 2021, we still learned more about the game at BlizzCon 2021.
The Diablo 4 developers hosted a press conference on Friday. Among other things, they revealed extensive details about how the Diablo 4 player-versus-player (PVP) system will work. The new system emphasizes organic combat experiences over a sense of pure fairness, a point that the developers made very clear at the press conference.
How Diablo 4's open-world PVP will work
All of Diablo’s open-world PVP opportunities exist inside fields of hatred. Fields of hatred are areas of the overworld that have been cursed by Lillith. In these areas, you can kill enemies and open chests that will drop unpurified shards of hatred. You can purify those shards of hatred at purification areas that are also located inside the fields of hatred.
“Diablo 4 being our first open-world diablo game, we are trying to really embrace what that can mean,” explained Diablo 4’s Systems Designer Joe Piepiora. “For PVP and Sanctuary, we have these areas that are called fields of hatred, which are open-world PVP areas. But they are filled with monsters, events, chests to find, rare elites to kill, and all the regular trappings you expect to find throughout the overworld of Diablo 4.”
When inside the fields of hatred, players can choose to mark themselves as hostile. When hostile, you can attack other players, but you will also be marked as dangerous to all the players you come across. There is no way for players to force other players to become hostile by mistake, so becoming hostile will always be a decision that players make.
“If I become hostile when I am going around the fields of hatred, every other hero will see me as an enemy,” Piopiora stated. “They can all gang up and attack me. I am taking a risk, it’s the kind of high-risk high reward gameplay that we are looking for as a part of overworld PVP.”
Using your shards of hatred in Diablo 4
Once purified, you can use shards of hatred to buy special PVP items at vendors in the game. While the items will not improve player stats in any way, they will operate as a form of bragging rights and prestige. To maintain their significance the items also can’t be traded, so if someone has a PVP-specific item, they earned it.
However, purification of the shards isn’t an easy task, since many players will be hunting for targets to kill.
“While you are [purifying your shards of hatred] other players can come across you, creating that anxiety when you are in overworld PVP, where you don’t know if another player will help you or hurt you,” Piopiora said. “You could easily work alongside the players you meet in the fields of hatred, or they could turn hostile and come and attack you. If they are able to kill you, all the unpurified shards of hatred that you were carrying will be dropped, and they will be able to take those from you and move along on their merry way.”
A PVP system not designed for fairness
The developers were excited to share that this PVP system is not designed with fairness in mind. Instead, the goal of the Diablo overworld PVP system is to introduce a sense of risk and an extra layer of challenge onto the game for players who want it.
“One of the early emphases of the PVP in Diablo 4 was trying to erase the idea that PVP needs to be fair,” Piopiora explained. “I know that can be a scary thing to say to people. When you think about open-world PVP, you don’t always arrive in front of an enemy in an ideal circumstance with your cooldowns all available to you, and you are at full health, with your potions and everything. Sometimes you may even be in combat with another creature. We think the ebb and flow of that kind of PVP combat actually feels great in Diablo 4 right now.”
The environment will also impact PVP situations. Based on your class, build, and type of terrain, players will experience a dynamic form of combat where no two situations are exactly the same. Or at least, that is the developer's goal with the new system.
“We are not trying to suggest every class should be exactly parallel when starting at a fixed position from each other,” said Piopiora. “It is never clear who is going to win in a combat encounter. We want to make sure there are a lot of circumstances in the environment, that allows players to feel that they can succeed in some situations and fail in others, and always feel like there is an opportunity the next time they come back to play.”
With more emphasis on the world itself, your class ends up playing a significant role in determining your odds to win a given PVP fight.
“Another big difference between Diablo 4 and previous titles is the verticality that we have added,” said Careena Kingdom, lead animator for Diablo IV. “A barbarian can actually leap off a cliff as opposed to someone else who has to climb down the side of the cliff. It makes for a very interesting variety of methods that you can hunt in those PVP areas.”
While the developers revealed a significant amount of information about their asymmetric PVP system, there is still much to learn about the complete details. We can expect more information about Diablo 4's PVP system in the near future.
Aaron is an esports reporter with a background in media, technology, and communication education.