The team continuously asked themselves if Diablo 4 was an MMO or an action RPG and where to draw the line during its development.
"The answer is that Diablo 4 is an action RPG first," associate game director Joe Piepiora said in a group interview with PC Gamer. "It is a dungeon crawling, monster slashing, monster killing, loot collecting game."
The open world and the way other players can appear alongside you to help with world events and world bosses are to make Sanctuary feel bigger, not to make it feel like group activities in an MMO.
"In Diablo, everybody's sort of a damage dealer," he said. "The fantasy of playing a Diablo game, in many cases, is making really overpowered builds and just blowing up screens full of monsters at some point and having that kind of experience. We want to make sure that those elements are preserved where we don't have to worry about trying to create a curated set of balances between multiple players in a party that have to work in a very particular way together."
After you've completed Diablo 4's story, you'll be presented with a ton of reasons to return to old dungeons and parts of the map for better gear. There are nightmare dungeons with unique challenges, bounties to complete, and PvP zones in the open world.
As you work your way to the game's level 100 cap, you'll earn paragon points and spend them on various stat increases on a giant board. Compared to Diablo 3's nearly endless paragon point system, Diablo 4 will have a limit on how many you can earn.
All of this sounds a lot like an MMO, and it doesn't seem like Blizzard would argue it isn't borrowing from the genre, but Diablo 4 pulls back from being an endless grind.
"One thing I do want to make sure it's really clear is we're not trying to create a situation where players feel that they must play forever," Piepiora said. "We want players who play Diablo 4 to play and enjoy the experience while they're playing the game."
"We want you to get to a certain point, once you've reached level 100, where you've got 220 of these paragon points you're playing with, you have all of your skill points that you've already assigned to your character, and you've got your legendary and unique items, and now it's about configuring the board exactly the way that you want," Piepiora said.
You can rotate the paragon board around, choose nodes that fit your build, and add glyphs—which you can find in the open world—to power up nodes around them. The idea is that you will move your points around as you take on harder and harder challenges, and, presumably, as the meta changes.
Diablo 4 will have seasons like the previous game, which means you'll start a new seasonal character and level them from 1 to 100 each time. Participating in the activities laid out in the endgame video and working through objectives in the "seasonal journey" will earn you progress on the battle pass through "favor." The battle pass will have a free track with things like XP boosts for all players, and a premium track with strictly cosmetic rewards.
"Right now, the battle pass, when you're figuring in completing the season journey alongside doing other content in the game, you're looking at roughly 80 hours worth of time invested to complete the entirety of the battle pass. To level a character to level 100 could take a little longer than that based on how you play," Piepiora said.
He said it's likely that you'll finish the battle pass before you reach the max level each season, which follows a broader philosophy of letting players get what they want out of the game and move on if they'd like.
Story-focused players who aren't interested in the endgame can skip it and come back when a story update happens or something else interests them, Piepiora said. "But we're not trying to say the only way to play Diablo 4 is to engage with the endgame and go all the way to level 100 with every character you ever make."
Diablo 4 will launch on June 6. But if you're impatient, you can start planning out your build now using this tool based on the game's recent beta.