Fotds: April 1999

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The information presented in these archived FotDs is now outdated, but that's often the most interesting thing about them, seeing how much the game has changed from then to now.

The original FotDs are indented and italicized. Explanatory comments below them were written by Flux at the time the FotDs were archived, usually a couple/few months after the original FotDs had been presented.

April 1, 1999[edit]

Diablo II will feature numerous bonus levels and treasure rooms, all of which will be controlled from a first person perspective, using the revolutionary new Omega engine Blizzard developed for their upcoming FPS game that they have not yet announced a title for.

The first chance we had at an April Fool's FotD, and yes, many people were fooled. This one is actually sort of subtle, since if you didn't follow Blizzard games that closely you wouldn't know or care that they've never announced a FPS or an "Omega" engine. The 2000 and 2001 April 1st FotD's are much funnier.

April 2, 1999[edit]

Fireball, surely a familiar icon for anyone who has ever played Diablo, returns in Diablo II. Your Sorceress must first learn Firebolt to attain the more powerful Fireball, and the spell has a impressive new animation, seeming to impact on the target and send a splash of flame past them.

Interesting screenshot, with the mysterious function of Fireball back in the old days examined.

April 3, 1999[edit]

Ambient life is a great new addition to the realism of Diablo II. Chickens move around in the Rogues' Encampment, rats are in the sewers, bats flap in the dungeons, and the NPC's move around town.

There was no ambient life in Diablo, so these seemed like very cool additions to the game. And they are, as anyone who has ever spent some time squashing rats or spiders in D2 can attest.

The screenie linked to should be seen, it's amazingly old, with a belt interface lifted directly from Diablo.

April 4, 1999[edit]

Diablo II features numerous combat engine enhancements. Monsters flash different colors to indicate their remaining hit points, several characters are projected to have charging or counter attacks, and some skills, like Strafe, target multiple monsters at once.

The projected character "counter attacks" was an early concept, that some skills would be only for defensive purposes, and if you had them activated when you were hit they'd strike back. The only thing that works like this in the final game are the Sorceress cold armor skills, and Thorns, if you want to be generous with the definition. More were planned, but didn't make it through play testing.

April 5, 1999[edit]

Kick, along with Throw and Attack, are the three abilities that all characters can use. Kick has yet to be seen in action, but the description mentions knocking monsters back several paces, which would seem to be of the most use to weaker characters, and those wielding ranged attack weapons.

Kick didn't make the final game, or even the beta. It was designed to be a sort of no-damage Bash, but that any character could use. Early concepts for D2 had bows being ineffective at melee range, so kick was going to be a way to force monsters back enough that they could be shot. It proved too much trouble in testing though.

As the sheer number of abandoned features in these old FotDs show, Blizzard is never afraid to make major changes in their initial ideas, if they prove less than fun in practice.

Kick was never shown in a screenshot, but was in a few of the early gameplay movies, so we know what it looked like. The animation is still in the game, used when your character destroys barrels, crates, urns, etc.

April 5, 1999[edit]

Diablo II features improved random level generation. Surface wilderness and dungeons can contain large 'special' areas, such as a cemetery or a pond or a dark altar with pews, that will fit into the random levels smoothly and give a better sense of place than the familiar walls and clearings of Diablo.

Yes, there are two April 5th's. That's the dates they had in our old archives, probably one was elsewhere in April and mis-labeled. Also, we used to be so bursting with info that we'd put up more than one FotD a day at times, one up every 18 hours, for example.

The cemetery link goes to a very old Act 1 screenie, with the Amazon wielding an axe you won't often see on an Amazon in the final game. The Dark Altar goes to one of the earliest jigsaws, from inside the Cathedral, before we knew where it was set.

April 6, 1999[edit]

Ice Arrow, the second of the Amazon's three cold arrow skills, works much like an arrow-mounted stone curse. It hits the monster, turning them blue and sending up a blue snow cloud. They are then held motionless for a time likely determined by the skill level.

Stone Curse was a very popular and useful skill in Diablo, much more powerful than anything of the type in D2. Imagine a freezing attack that worked on everything, could be cast over walls where you had no line of sight, and lasted around a dozen seconds. That's an eternity in Diablo II, but killing some things took longer than that in D1. Freezing arrows have one advantage over Stone Curse, in that they can hit an already frozen target. Stone Curse you had to wait until monsters un-stoned to stone them again, so players developed a good internal clock and would be ready to stone monsters again just as they came back to life.

April 7, 1999[edit]

With the innovation of Skill Trees, the function of books in Diablo II is greatly altered. Books will now function as sort of scroll depositories, where you can drop, say, a Town Portal scroll into your 5-charge Town Portal book, and the book will go up to six charges. There may also be books available as quest items, though info is still sketchy.

Town Portal was a learnable skill in Diablo, but you could only find Identify scrolls and charges on staves. All learnable (that could be cast just for mana, not using a scroll or staff charge) spells/skills were found on books. You would find a Fireball book, and read it and gain a level to Fireball. Skills maxed out at Slvl 15, and you got nothing in terms of skills or spells for leveling up, just the five stat points.

The concept of skill points for a level up (the ones for quests were not dreamt of for a long time) and multiple TP charges in a book was very odd early on.

April 8, 1999[edit]

The Inventory system in Diablo II is much improved. In addition to several new spots for items, (gloves and boots) potions and scrolls (in books) are now stackable, and items are of many different sizes. Also, to quote Bill Roper from yesterday's chat, " is much more "smart" about how items are automatically placed within it."

The screenshot of the early inventory has to be seen to be believed.

April 9, 1999[edit]

Lightning Javelin is an Amazon skill that adds a bit of lightning damage to your regular jabbing javelin attack. It is thought to be a lower level skill, probably one that is required to enable higher level lightning or other hand-to-hand javelin skills. You can see it in action here.

The names of the Amazon spear skills changed a lot right up until the release, so likely Power Strike was once called Lightning Javelin. Or possibly we just had the wrong skill name here, from whatever preview or interview we got it. The screenie is interesting.

April 11, 1999[edit]

Sanctuary, a Paladin skill, creates a barrier against the undead, as its description in the game reads. You can see this spell demonstrated in the Paladin.avi, and also in an older screenshot. It was thought from this shot that it worked like a sort of Holy Nova, but as we saw in the gameplay movie, the holy clouds expand to a set distance and remain there. The spell wasn't especially effective in the movie, as several zombies walked through it, on their 2nd or 3rd try.

Sanctuary was very odd initially, it made a sort of smoke ring around the Paladin at about the radius of a Nova. Undead that ran into it would bounce off, and only come through after hitting it several times. It was a stationary skill, the ring didn't travel with the Paladin, but apparently only stayed where it was for as long as he stood still there, and vanished when he moved.

Bliz eventually turned it into an aura that looks cool but that no one ever uses. If this is an improvement is to be debated.

April 13, 1999[edit]

Diablo II, though clever programming, will have almost no level loading times. This works for levels down into dungeons, like in Diablo, and also for the enormous suface areas, which are made up of several different levels joined together seamlessly. Picture of a level border in test mode here.

The screenshot was just of an Amazon moving from one area to another of Act One, "You are Entering the Cold Plains" on display. We thought that would only be shown in testing mode way back then, rather than every time in the actual game.

No level loading times was a miraculous concept after the 30+ second load times most had for every level in Diablo and Hellfire (largely thanks to computers of the day being so much slower). We take it for granted in Diablo II, but it was once an amazing improvement.

April 14, 1999[edit]

Fire Wall returns in Diablo II, as a Sorceress spell, but has much improved graphics. Rather than rising up along the entire length at once, it springs up from the spot you target and grows out to each side, with the flames growing higher as they burn. You can see this spell here or here or here.

One skill that looks just the same now as it did in the early screenshots. None of the three linked to here originally were really worth a look now.

April 15, 1999[edit]

The Paladin has a full skill tree of Auras. Protective fields that he persist around him until they have absorbed or dealt all of the damage that they are able to. Their powers increase with the level of the skill, and known auras include Fire Resistance, Lightning (seen here on the left), Cold Resistance, and Thorn (seen on the right.) Both pics from the Paladin.avi.

You see how auras used to look here, full body ringing things, in various colors and shapes. There were very few screenies released showing this, so most of the evidence is in the old Paladin AVI, which you can still download from Blizzard, if you are so inclined. The left one is Holy Shock, apparently, rather than Lightning Resistance. Not that it really matters at this point.

There was just one aura tree initially, along with a Combat skills tree and a Healing Tree. Obviously the healing tree went away, and most of the stuff in it became auras, like Prayer, Cleansing, etc, though most were combined from multiple old skill concepts. There was a cure poison skill, and also a remove curses skill, and they were combined and modified into Cleansing.

April 17, 1999[edit]

Diablo II will feature normal, magical, and unique items much like they were in Diablo, but will also add a larger variety of weapon types, including crossbows, pikes, spears, and numerous throwing weapons as well. Additionally, there will be various class-specific items, and also extremely rare items that might only be spawned once every 80,000 games.

Blizzard didn't quite have all their ideas about Rares and Exceptional and Elite Uniques and Sets worked out that long ago, but the did know they wanted to have some really good stuff be harder to find. There were early ideas about literally unique items, as in one per realm, but obviously nothing is that uncommon in the final game.

April 19, 1999[edit]

Charged Bolt is also returning from Diablo, appearing in the Sorceress' Lightning Spells Skill Tree. We've seen it in several screenshots, such as this one, but also it appears to be here, though the "bolts" look a bit different. Possibly a higher level of it, or just a new animation. Speculation is permitted.

Neither screenshot link was live, so don't know which shots these were coming from. Likely the difference in appearance was between builds, rather than higher Slvl making any difference.

April 20, 1999[edit]

There are a great many things in Diablo II that are much larger and much smaller than your character. Walls stretch up several stories, there are tiny rats and bats, and many of the monsters are substantially larger than you. A good example is the Blunderbore, seen here in mid-smite as he looms over the Sorceress.

Just having monsters be different sizes was a departure from Diablo, where everything was from Fallen to Balrog size. Even Diablo wasn't that much taller than your character. People hoped for really large monsters in D2, like building-sized, though this didn't come to pass.

This thumbnail is from another old screenshot that's worth a click, just to see how much things changed during game development.

April 21, 1999[edit]

Blaze is a new Sorceress spell. It works like a trailing Firewall, consuming mana as the Sorceress runs and blazing up behind her. It looks like more of a fun spell than something of enormous strategic use, but if monsters are hesitant to cross the flames, it could be useful to put up a barrier to halt them, and then kill them with other spells. See Blaze here.

Blaze initially worked sort of like Inferno; you would select it on the right click, and as long as you ran with the right click, you'd lay down a trail. So you could do it for two steps or fifty steps, depending on how much mana you could afford. At some point it was changed to the set amount of time by Slvl we see in the final game.

Obviously monsters have no AI to not walk into flames, as we speculated here. Bliz talked about monster AI being much smarter back in the early days, but very little of that made it into the final game, much to the delight of firewall Sasas. It was thought that Guardian (Hydra), if there were a skill like that, would be more useful due to the targeting nature of it, since monsters wouldn't be stupid enough to just stand in flame.

April 22, 1999[edit]

Fallen will return in Diablo II, and they are larger, more numerous and more active this time around, though still cowardly when some other monster dies. We know of at least five colors of them so far, Red, Orange, Blue, Gray, and Silver, and they have camps and standards and seem to use the Disfigured as watch dogs.

Several early shots (such as this one)showed Disfigured in Fallen camps, so speculation was that they spawned there with the Fallen. They might have back then, though they don't in the final game.

April 23, 1999[edit]

As part of the many new enhancements for Diablo II, there will be special "Arena" games, which are solely for dueling, either one on one or in larger groups. There will be custom arena tile sets, and player rankings from duels will be recorded and used to form the worldwide character ranking system. Wagers, starting positions, losing equipment upon defeat and many other possibly features have not been announced yet.

Arena games went the way of Guild Halls. Neither made it into the final game, falling away pre-beta due to Blizzard not having time to get them all "bulletproof" and working properly. They said they'd try to get them into D2X, but other features proved more time-consuming and important then also.

Arena Games were ruled out long ago. You can see the most collected info about them on our old page right here.

April 26, 1999[edit]

Strafing Arrow is a powerful new Amazon skill that allows you to fire multiple arrows in very rapid succession, each one automatically targeting a different monster. It works something like Chain Lightning, and you can see it used in our report on the Amazon AVI Blizzard recently released.

The report mentioned is long gone. We did extensive analysis of every gameplay movie released pre-d2, since those were the best source of info we had at the time.

We meant "works like Chain Lightning" in terms of the D1 Chain Lightning, which sent a bolt out from your character towards every monster in range. Basically like the bolts from a Lightning Fury impact, rather than the target hopping Chain Lightning we see in D2.

April 27, 1999[edit]

There will be "closed" or characters for Diablo II, that have the highest level of anti-cheat assurance. These characters will be stored on the Bnet servers, and will only be playable over Bnet, with other "closed" characters. There are also "open" characters, that can be played over Bnet, or Kali, or a LAN or modem, and they will be not much more cheat free than Diablo chars are now.

Closed characters worked out more or less as initially planned. Blizzard's early concept for Realm play would be that there might be multiple secure realms, with Kali or or other servers storing them, as well as Blizzard, and just how secure they would be could vary from host to host. By the time Diablo II was out though, Blizzard was doing all the secure characters, with the TCP/IP option in for playing non-secure characters.

April 28, 1999[edit]

Holy Bolt returns as well, though it has a whole new graphic, as you can see in this animation. It is a Paladin spell, appropriately enough, he being Mr. Anti-Undead, and as far as is known it works much like it did in Diablo. You can also see it in a screenshot.

The screenshot link is gone since it's just like holy bolt looks now, on some Zombies in Act One. The animation I can't even find, but it wouldn't be of interest now, since you can just fire up D2 if you want to see what casting Holy Bolt looks like. We used to make animations from screenshots showing the same thing, or extracted from game play movies. These were not real high visual quality, but people liked them to see how the game would look in moving pictures.

April 29, 1999[edit]

Diablo II will feature very different areas in each of its four sections. Act One is set in an area near and much like Tristram in Diablo. Act Two is set in a desert, and Act Three is set in a jungle/tropical rainforest, with large Mayan-style temples and pyramids, the insides of which will look something like this. The setting for "The Finale" (Act Four) has not yet been revealed.

All three screenies have been resurrected here, since they all show things very different from how those acts look now. Also this is the first Act 3 shot ever released, a shot that was the cause of huge controversy and debate at the time, which you'll see some of in the caption.

That Act Four was Hell was a very closely-guarded secret for the entire pre-game time. Rumors of it being Hell (as well as many other things, often inside a volcano, or in an icy land) were around, but there were never any screenshots or confirmations of that from Blizzard. We saw it during our Blizzard North visit in December 2000, but couldn't say anything about it at the time.

April 30, 1999[edit]

Inferno returns in Diablo II, but it is much improved. It now works like a flame thrower, burning in the direction you target, (and burning mana all the while) and doing actual damage, or so Blizzard promises us. You can see it at work in this new screenshot.

See the screenie for a look at the original Inferno graphics. They are sort of orange puffs of fire, much different than the steady stream we see in the game. Also the belt interface in this one is very odd.

Inferno was just useless in D1, very low damage, hence the comment on that in this FotD.