Blizzard chose Demon Hunter because it filled an archetype for conventional ranged weaponry that wasn't filled by the other classes they’ve already developed. They favored the idea of a character like a bounty hunter – not necessarily somebody with a noble, honorable soul. This led them to bring in various gadgets and traps in addition to ranged weapons, as well as shadow magic. She’s more knowledgeable about demons than anyone else, and she’s got a decidedly unheroic attitude.
Their early concepts for the class involved a woodland ranger design, but they weren’t satisfied with a typical swift and deadly stalker. As they tried to twist the concept to fit the Diablo world, they found it turning into a character like the assassin from Diablo 2, which they didn’t really want. After the Monk was announced last year, they picked some key traits for the ranged class that they wanted to stick with: Dark, Mysterious, Medieval. They toyed with the idea of making the Demon Hunter an actual demon, but decided that didn’t fit with the Diablo story. They also had trouble making demonic art concepts fit the sleek and agile archetype. They settled on a dark-armored human with dual crossbows.
Lead World Designer Leonard Boyarsky said the Demon Hunter is “the most diverse class.” They are recruited from all walks of life, bound together by their hatred for demons and an obsessive, overriding desire to keep fighting and killing demons until they’re all gone. “She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.” She doesn’t just want to kill them, “she wants them to know the terror of being stalked,” and Demon Hunters know better than any other classes the true stakes of the conflict in Sanctuary.
The first skill they demonstrated for the new class was Bola Shot. The Demon Hunter throws a bola, which wraps itself around the target's neck — and then explodes. Next came Vault, a shadowy leap forward that will take the character through enemies. Spike Trap is a gadget the Demon Hunter throws to the ground, which then explodes in fire and shrapnel when a monster walks over it. Along those same lines, the class can throw grenades, which will bounce and ricochet off walls, giving players some interesting new tactics that weren't possible in Diablo 2.
Diablo 3’s skill system has seen a lot of work over the past year. The skill tree concepts reminiscent of World of Warcraft was felt to be unwieldy. The UI is now list-based, using two separate windows, which makes picking new skills and deciding between upgrades easier. Skills have also been supplemented by a new system called Traits. Traits are passive aspects of your character that improve one aspect of it.
For example, Barbarians get a Trait called Inner Rage, which reduces the amount of fury (their resource for using skills) lost and increases the amount gained from attacks. Wizards have one called Prismatic Cloak, which makes all of her armor spells stronger. Blizzard added Traits to give the classes another level of customization, and to separate the fun choices (skills) from the math choices. You can pick a particular theme for your character and select traits that fit the theme. Each class has about 30 traits, and you’ll be able to spend multiple points to make a trait stronger. “I want to spend points in Whirlwind, I don’t want to spend points in ‘more armor.’” The design for Traits isn’t finished yet – Jay Wilson said we’ll likely see more changes to its UI, the rate of accumulating trait points, and how many you get total.
They showed off some new skills for various classes – Barbarians get a spear attack that grabs an enemy at range and pulls them close. Meteor is coming back for the Wizard. Witch Doctors get a skill called Spirit Walk, which phases him out so he can walk around without detection for a brief time.
Another new feature they announced is Talisman. It’s a dedicated inventory for Charms that grows as you level up. No longer will you sit with half a backpack worth of charms, wondering if some minor bonus is worth not being able to pick up an extra piece of loot while you’re slaying monsters. Charms themselves are also becoming more focused on particular attributes.
Skill Runes didn’t get much play last year, since Blizzard was in the process of overhauling the system. The idea is that you use runes to modify how your skills work, similar to the way gems modify what your armor does. It’s essentially another way to customize your character. This arose out of the tendency for Diablo 2 players to divide class builds into things like “Spearazons” or “Zealadins.” The skill runes, affecting only active skills, now provide 97 billion different permutations. Per class.
There are five types of runes. Crimson, Indigo, Obsidian, Golden, and Alabaster. Each rune type loosely follows a particular theme, and each color has seven ranks. To demonstrate the rank system, they showed the Wizard skill Magic Missile. With a first rank Indigo rune, it shoots two missiles instead of one. With the seventh rank rune, it shoots seven extra missiles. Another example showed how the Barbarian can use the various runes to modify a skill that throws his weapon. Different runes make him throw different weapons, with different effects – more damage, stuns, confuses, etc. The Wizard’s Hydra can swap to different elements, or can shoot fire walls instead of bolts. The Witch Doctor has an ability that summons frogs to attack monsters. A Crimson rune makes them flaming frogs. Another rune turns the spell into a rain of toads, and another will turn the little frogs into one giant toad which eats and digests monsters.
Finally, they went into some details about Battle Arenas. Since dueling and PvP was so popular in Diablo 2, they wanted to support it much more in Diablo 3. It’s focused on team-based play. Since there are so many permutations for individual builds (and some are supposed to be better than others), they’re less worried about 1v1 balance than team balance — a philosophy similar to that for World of Warcraft arenas. Some player skills are designed specifically for PvP. Since the PvE game has a lot of skill focusing on monster control, and they didn't want PvP to be about taking away your ability to do things, they're designing class abilities to counter crowd control.
The arena matches will be played out with multiple rounds – best 3 out of 5 or best 2 out of 3. They’re also working on custom games, and making 1v1 dueling easy to do. There will be a skill-based ranking system, with titles, vanity rewards, achievements, and so forth for people who want to show off their PvP abilities.