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There has been a lot of talk within the community regarding multiplayer enhancements in Diablo II. Most of the discussions have revolved around the player killing controversy, and although the "discussion" has gone on for some time now, nothing has been decided. Blizzard has definitely been thinking about the topic, and the community of dedicated followers who want something to be done, and there is some talk of a dueling arena where people can take out their dueling pleasures without annoying those who do not which to take part in it. But still, there are many people out there who have different opinions on the topic of Player Killing. Some like it. Some hate it. Some think it's out of control - others think it's very much in control. We've asked Blizzard about the player killing issue several times, and the following is a quote from the webmaster / Blizzard chat hat took place in November of 1998:


ScottC: Will there be PKing in Diablo II?
Diablo_II_Team: Yes, but we will empower the game creator to regulate aspects of multiplayer

That answer had been very confusing for some time, as those "aspects" were left undefined. The community was in arms with what aspects Blizzard was intending on regulating. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to ask Bill Roper to clarify that statement. The following was his response, which should make their future plans very clear:


We know that PKing is a hot topic of discussion within the community, and you can be assured that it remains on our "hot list" as well. What the developers were trying to get across was that there will be different templates available to players creating games. Some of these templates could be more focused on PKing (i.e. Arena) while others focus more on co-operation (i.e. Quest). It is impossible at this time to be specific as to what these different aspects are since play-balance is so integral to all of our decisions, but as we get closer to the product's release we will be able to tell you what the game creator will be able to regulate.

Some 5 months after Bill spoke those words, it seems rather clear what Blizzards player killer plans will be. To start with, blizzard has incorporated a new player status system into the game. Every player has a relationship to another player in the game. He can be neutral; a state which should feel familiar to anybody similar with Diablo, with one exception: it will be impossible to target another player with a spell while one is neutral. Instead, when a player targets another player with a projectile spell, the spell will instead, target a near by monster. In order for a player to successfully attack another player, he must change his status to hostile. Hostile players can attack and destroy whatever they wish, which means that a spell which targets another player, will hit and harm that other player so long as the caster remains hostile towards the recipient. Whenever one player turns hostile, all the other players automatically turn hostile towards him. Blizzard hopes that this change will help warn players ahead of time what a players true goals are, and hopefully help relieve the player killing dilemma.

There is a third state of diplomacy which players can chose, and that is player friendly. Friendly players are treated as a party system would treat them. They split experience points between themselves, and can see each others world maps. This system is used to try and help encourage players to be more friendly and cooperative towards each other, as parties will inevitably be more efficient and productive when they work together.

Perhaps the biggest improvement in multiplayer games, will be the elimination cheating. Blizzard has gotten nothing but bad criticism for their faults in security as far as Diablo goes. Any Diablo veteran knows the streets of were absolutely littered with cheats and hacks that made for too many dupe loving players, which ruined the entire experience for many players. Since then, Blizzard has done their best to stop the cheating, but has done so in vein. The problem is that Diablo was never designed with security in mind from the very beginning, an although they can release patch after patch until they can't patch it any more, it can never be solved completely. Blizzard has since vowed to solve the cheating problem for the sequel, and has now designed Diablo II from the ground up to stop cheaters from ruining the experience for others. For security reasons, Blizzard will not release any information as to how they plan on stopping the problem, however, we can tell you that it will definitely be based upon a client / server model (meaning that all traffic between players is monitored on Battle.nets servers to ensure authenticity). Blizzard is also implementing server side character storage, which lets them make sure that save game data cannot be altered by a connecting user. Players can store characters on their hard drives for play over Lan's and modems, but these characters will be saved in a different format than characters (meaning that they are not interchangeable). While this is a good feature considering some people won't want to play over, one must remember that a players data cannot be monitored off of servers. In other words, it is possible that external trainers and hacks will be used to cheat over Lans and modem play.

As technology has gotten better in the past several years, Diablo II will now allow for up to eight players on Blizzard stated that there was no practical reasoning for not allowing so many players in the first game, and so doubling the amount of players in the sequel shouldn't be a big issue. Skeptics are worried that eight players will be too much for the system to handle, since four was considerably plagued with lag issues. However, for LAN games, or for players with fast ISP's, eight shouldn't be much of a problem. Blizzard says the number will depend on "Whats fun", rather than what they can physically accomplish. Bill Roper has told us several times that there was no practical reason why they didn't allow more players in the first game, but that they didn't because gamers often split into separate parties instead of staying together when things got that large. But Diablo II will be much larger than the first, and so the assumption and prediction is that more players will make for a better over all experience.

Some other improvements will allow for an easy item trading system, so that bartering will be much easier than before. Players can now trade items without actually going into a game, right over the interface. There will also be some type of built in clan support, to enforce the community aspect that Blizzard wants to endorse. Players can spend money to buy a guild hall: a virtual house on that serves as a center for all guild activities. Players can leave items there for their fellow teammates, and maybe even gold. Guilds will become much more integrated with the society of on line play, something which many community members are looking forward to seeing. The person who purchases the guild house from the NPC will be designated as the guild master and will have control over the guild house. This includes the power to to set hall passwords, compile lists of guild members, and access funds donated to the guild. The simplest way to put it, is that guild masters will be just that - the master of the guild, and the supreme leader and decision maker for the rest of the clan. Guild halls can also be used to store items and act as a permanent game where one can interact with their clannies. Blizzard will also support guilds by allowing them to chose a unique color scheme when registering and also automatically adding the guild acronym to the names of its registered members. Of course, guild halls will not be cheap. Several players will have to pool their money together before they can by themselves a guild hall - a feature which should help reduce the number of guild halls the internet will have to deal with.

There will also be a dueling arena designed specifically for you player killers out there, which will be a great place to test your abilities of fighting real live human players. There is no word yet on how the gameplay of this arena will be done, but speculation says it will include plenty of team play options. World wide player rankings are a possibility, but not confirmed at this point. As always, check the news page for more information as it arrives.

Perhaps one of the key features that will be added to Diablo 2 that its predecessor sorely lacked is a multiplayer save game feature. This allows for someone to play more linearly through the storyline as well as save a game with vital information (such as their corpse) so that they can come back to it later and hopefully salvage themself with the help of some friends. Though there may be some methods of abusing this. I trust Blizzard to create a quality product that will ensure game integrity such as serverside save games. Nonetheless, this is still a very important new feature in Diablo 2.

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