In their latest quarterly developer update, Blizzard breaks down the Diablo 4 open world, its environments, and all the places you’ll get to visit in Sanctuary. Check out a rundown of these places below, as well as videos showing off these new locations for Diablo 4.
- Related Reading: Diablo 4 Dev Update Breaks Down Itemization, Visuals, & More
In this new dev update, Chris Ryder, the game’s art director, as well as the environments team, discuss the open world of Diablo 4 – from the many places you’ll find yourself in Sanctuary, to some of the dungeons that players will delve in.
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.
For the Scosglen coast the Environment Art team set out to tell the story of untamed, wild shorelines and headlands.As you transition toward the shores from inland, the coastal biome is first evidenced by the longer, more directional grasses that react to the driving offshore winds. The beaches are bleak and littered with seaweed, kelp and rotting carcasses. Rugged clifftops ascend high whilst promontories are carved by the continual pounding of waves below. Through the process of creating our biomes, the Environment Art team has set out to communicate that this coastline is rife with peril.
For the main settlements along the coast, it is important to us that they feel woven deep into the fabric of the coastline. Dwellings with deep-rooted foundations skirt the clifftops. In a futile attempt to withstand the harsh elements, these structures are comprised of whatever materials the locals could lay their hands on and are in various forms of disrepair. Stone walls, salvaged wood, and thatch for the roofs. A place of consolation for the brave fishermen that trawl these treacherous seas.
The Orbei Monastery is an isolated and secretive feature in the rural Dry Steppes. While the Zakarum’s presence has diminished, the Orbei Monastery carries evidence that places of worship for the Zakarum can still quietly function. Since the location here is in the desiccated plains of the Dry Steppes, we aim to push the notion of dusty grasslands with sparse vegetation. We’ve made the conscious decision to add dark rocks that complement the pale blonde and rusty grasses. Poplar and Saxaul trees cling to the ground which really helps provide parallax movement on screen. This contributes to greater depth as elements in the foreground move quicker than those further back in the scene.
To help provide extra visual interest in the region, the Environment Art team created a Salt flats biome. Being able to have blue alkaline lakes skirted with salt-encrusted tufas, and vivid geothermal pools really helps add pockets of vibrancy to the Dry Steppes and create compelling natural landmarks.
Our goal with Kyovashad is to really drive home the idea that this medieval settlement feels oppressive, frigid, and harsh. However, we still need to convey that this is a place of refuge afforded to those who reside within its boundaries. This is a militaristic settlement, so it is important that we give it a heavily defended presence straight off the bat. We believe it appropriate to provide a gradual buildup of smaller defense structures upon approach to the settlement. Doing this hints to you that something greater lies ahead. Upon reaching the gates you are confronted with steep stone, perimeter walls and a deep cavernous moat that wards off any unwelcoming visitors.
Upon entering the town, you see the architecture typical throughout Fractured Peaks. Making use of the wood from the many forests in the region, structures here are clad with natural pine boards and birch shingles. As with most dwellings in Sanctuary these buildings are very much function over form.
Forgotten Places in the world
This tile-set is an example of how we have ‘returned to darkness.’ We want to take you deep underground to the darkest recesses of Sanctuary, where a mysterious (and gross) corruption has taken root. This ancient temple is a great place to push some primal horror vibes. The fixed camera is one of our best tools since it allows us to place assets in the foreground without blocking the playable space. Because we always know where you are looking, we can dial in and customize the layouts, vistas, and foreground elements to make sure there’s a good composition. The spider legs are placed in specific locations for their unnerving silhouettes twitching in the background. Our dungeon design counterparts give us some great layouts to play with, which allow us to push the depth of each scene. We want you to have the impression that the dungeon goes on forever, and you’re only seeing a small part of a large underground labyrinth.
The world of Diablo IV is incredibly large, utilizing numerous unique tile-sets to cover all the various zones, biomes, and cultures. In order to create so much high-quality content, we found clever ways to reuse our tile-sets and add enough variety to cover 150+ dungeons. All while providing fresh experiences each time. One way we can do that is by dressing up tile-sets with various themes. This next dungeon is a hidden druid resting site overrun with demons. As you travel through the dungeon, you’ll see that it is covered with many druidic cultural items, such as talismans and charms. We place a lot of these items on a layer that can be turned on or off, depending on what the theme of the dungeon is. In one dungeon it’s a druid burial site, in another, it’s an uninhabited dark cave. Adding these sorts of details is a great way to add a lot of visual interest as well as visual storytelling. These assets were made by several teams, so this is a great example of many groups coming together to contribute to a final environment.
New dungeon features such as seamless floor transitions or traversals are exciting, but my favorite new feature is what we call tile-set transition scenes. These are scenes that allow us to connect two different tile-sets together in the same dungeon. Imagine running through a crypt, only to find a hole in the wall that seamlessly leads you deeper into a vast underground cave network. All while keeping the randomized layouts that change with each dungeon run. In this final video we show two tile-sets joined together by a tile-set transition scene. The first floor of this ruined keep remains dry and fairly intact, but as you journey deeper into the dungeon, you’ll discover that the lower levels have decayed from the endless floodwaters pouring in. This swampy ruin is perfect for the drowned to move in and fortify themselves deep below. You’ll have to fight your way through their defenses and climb across the rope to transition deeper into the flooded ruined tile-set.
Finally, as an additional bonus, Blizzard also showed off some more environmental art, and you can check it out in a video below.
You can read the full quarterly update via the official blog post on Blizzard’s site. With the game still in heavy development, it will be interesting to see when Blizzard will finally release Diablo 4 into the world, as it looks to be their most ambitious Diablo title to date.