How We’re Making Diablo® II: Resurrected™ More Accessible to Everyone
The journey to resurrecting Diablo® II as the modern incarnation releasing this September has been a challenging and rewarding endeavor. One of Blizzard’s priorities is to always look for ways to iterate and improve the entertainment experiences we create for our players. That can’t be better demonstrated than by our efforts on Diablo II: Resurrected. Visually, the remastered aesthetic brings the classic game into stunning high-resolution to take advantage of the latest hardware, but we also wanted to identify ways to provide a smoother and more accessible gameplay experience to as many people as possible. To illustrate the D2R team’s philosophy around making the Burning Hells a more welcoming destination for everyone, we invited design and UX accessibility lead Drew McCrory to share his insights.
So, when we first sat down with the intent of modernizing one of the most beloved ARPGs of all time, we knew there was work to do from all angles. The game is over 20 years old, and the longtime Diablo II community is ravenous and heavily entrenched in decades of eccentricities and quirks. Our team includes many D2 purists who have thousands upon thousands of hours in the game before working on it professionally, and our goal is not to break what isn't broken.
One thing we agree on is that it doesn't matter how pretty the grass is if you can't see the legendary staff on the ground; it ultimately sabotages the core gameplay experience. Accessibility is one major area of opportunity for this remaster to shine, and our intention to bring games to more players has evolved and is more refined now than ever before.
Quality of Life Opportunities
We had early wins with accessibility improvements like auto-gold pick-up, larger font sizes, UI scaling on Windows® PC, and options like gamma and contrast settings to enhance readability. But we knew that there were even more opportunities to improve accessibility to further enhance the gameplay of Diablo II for many of our current and potential future players.
Let’s take auto-gold pick-up as an example. Our initial inspiration for this feature’s implementation was for controller players to not need to click as much, but we were pleasantly surprised to see mouse and keyboard players with limited mobility in their hands really enjoy this feature during the Technical Alpha. If a player with a disability or hand injury was looting in Diablo II: Resurrected, this option could alleviate physical stress without compromising the core gameplay experience. While we implemented this option with one type of player in mind, we ended up benefiting countless other players by giving them a quality of life (QoL) option they can choose to enable when they configure their personal Diablo II experience. This exhibits the “Solve for One, Extend to Many” principle, leading to a greater impact throughout the player community.
One fascinating issue we diagnosed early was that players weren't getting the right level of feedback for when they were missing enemies in melee. When you dive into how Diablo II works, it's rolling dice on the back end as it’s a role-playing game first and foremost. You could be right on top of a monster, and your sword might animate through that target as though a strike landed. But in actuality, your stats rolled poorly, so that attack was a whiff. That's a sound system; the problem was the game wasn't telling players what happened loud enough. Do you know what that looks like in a modern game? A bug.
So, we added an option to enable miss text. It's a small thing. Purists don't need it, but what it does is provide a level of feedback to the players who don't know how all the inner systems are working and reinforces the RPG element of our game.
Another key piece of accessibility is key bindings. Allowing players to set their station fully is critical. Our control scheme for controllers allows for heavy amounts of modification, and we support a long list of bindable actions for the mouse and keyboard. We provide twelve bindable keys and allow all actions/skills to be assigned in any way the player desires. To support this, we’ve even created new bindable neutral skills like interact, allowing for complete customization.
Diablo II is primarily a game about picking up and holding items and persistently clicking. We know that prolonged holds and repetitive actions can be a significant barrier for some players, so we’ve added quality of life features to help mitigate the fatigue caused by many of these actions. For example, now players can toggle actions (such as viewing items on the ground) to be on click vs. on hold.
This improvement prevents the need to keep pressure on a button for a prolonged time. After the Technical Alpha, this change alone is a massive win to users who shared their testing feedback, and we’re happy we were able to hit it. We also allow many controller abilities to continuously trigger if the button is held down for players who can’t repeatedly tap buttons quickly.
Getting the most out of audio is also a critical second-channel piece of feedback for players in Diablo II. With the number of audio cues going on, we felt we should allow players to manually augment their sound channels, culling what they don't think is essential and enhancing what they prefer. In the Options menu, players can adjust the volume levels of a multitude of audio channels. These sliders allow you to adjust the audio levels of voices, UI cues, footsteps, monster hit impacts, weapon noises, ambient objects, combat gore, and so much more.
With the options we provide, we hope that players attune their audio to their playstyle, including situational accessibility needs. Perhaps if you’re streaming or your baby is asleep in the other room, you can now enable or disable audio to ensure you’re getting the proper feedback at the level you want.
We have more optional accessibility features beyond what I’ve highlighted above in the works for players to enhance their experience at their discretion. We’ll continue to remain focused on how to take a true classic and modernize its accessibility for all players. Our team has the most fun when everyone is having fun, and we’ll do our best to enable as many players as possible to play Diablo II: Resurrected.
Drew McCrory Design UX/Accessibility Lead
As Drew noted, we’ll continue to look for feedback that points to ways we can make our game more accessible. Our teams have previously sought feedback from a variety of players, including those with disabilities, to make Diablo II: Resurrected as accessible as possible. Between text-to-speech and screen reader support or adding controller configurations to allow players who play predominantly play with one hand to swap their analog stick controls interchangeably; as a community we’ll continue to evaluate areas to improve. We are grateful to these players for identifying challenges that would hinder their experience or make the game less enjoyable and several of the options highlighted above were inspired by and implemented because of their valuable insights.
Ultimately, Diablo II: Resurrected has been a labor of love, refitted by passionate fans who fondly remember the original who are eager to build more lifelong memories with a new generation. We want everyone, from experienced veterans to new players, and regardless of platform or ability, to enjoy the timeless experience that is Diablo II.
If you would like to participate in these playtests and studies, members of our community can sign up on the Blizzard Research site. We’re always seeking unique perspectives to help us improve players’ experiences in our games.
For more updates on Diablo II: Resurrected, be sure to stay dialed in on all our channels. Please share your impressions on the official Diablo II forums or r/Diablo subreddit. And, if you want to learn more about Diablo II: Resurrected, check out our website here, or for real-time updates, follow our official Twitter @Diablo!