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Interview - (2002-11-20) Jarulf
Title Interview - (2002-11-20) Jarulf
Description Phrozen Heart of the Phrozen Keep interviews Jarulf on mod making in general.
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PHROZEN
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
JARULF
Well, were to start? My name is Pedro Faria, I have now reached the age of 33 and live in Sweden. I have always been somewhat addicted to games, both on computers and normal board games, especially strategy oriented ones. As such, Diablo suited me very well as a game and later the follow up Diablo II. I grew up when the home computer era started and as such I am also a sort of home learned computer fan with quite a bit of hobby programming in the lugage. I think that sums up "me" as far as Diablo and computers are related.
PHROZEN
When did you make the transition across from Diablo 1 to the sequel?
JARULF
Well, I played Diablo and was quite active in forums and such until the summer of 99 (I think it was 99) when I took a complete break away from Diablo. After a few months I was lured back some and started to read the forums again and soon posted some too, but much less than before. I never really got back to play except a few times every now and then with some friends.

When Diablo II was geting close to being finished (which it probably was for like a year or so) I was asked by Blizzard (by a very nice guy who eventually ended up working on the 1.10 patch) if it was OK for them to add a hireling called Jarulf. I didn't object. Soon the beta was to start and I was asked if I wanted to participate. Although I only got into a few weeks late due to various issues, I got to play it for quite a while and immediately made a fool of myself submitting a few "bugs" that was actually just me not understanding the game, like full repair was possible with just 1 gold (I never noticed it took gold from the stash if you had nothing on you) and a few other such things. I do think I filed a few real bugs and suggestions though.

From there it went on, got the open beta (again a bit late but Max eventually sent me a cd-key for it). I got to talk briefly with him in the bnet chat, something I will never forget, not due to it being him, but due to what he said. I still have a cap of the chat screen (it was a nice thing but I will keep it a secret ). When the game finally came out I bought it quite quickly and played it almost until the add-on was released, when I sort of had had enough of Diablo again (and partly of Blizzard too, there were a few bad things going on there). I never bought the add-on but after a while I was actually sent a copy by Geoff. So I just HAD to play it for a while. I don't think I have played any Diablo II for over a year now though.

PHROZEN
Do you still prefer the original of the two games and is Diablo 2 a marked improvement in your opinion?
JARULF
That is a hard question to answer. The games are in much quite similar and hence the first game was more "new" and the second more "more of the same". Thus, Diablo will probably remain as a game I enjoyed more. Diablo II is in many ways an improvement though. Many things were "fixed" and made better or more evolved. Many of the shortcommings of the first was removed.

But some things were also changed so that the game was in part different. Diablo II is more action oriented in my opinion, faster paced. The removal of the tile system, the faster movement of players and monsters, the more spell (skill) oriented action with more area of effect skills, the open outside playing areas and such, all contribute to that. It is much easier to get swamped with monsters. Monsters also stack or can be packed much tighter as well which also change the over all feel of the game. So from that aspect, the game plays quite differently and I must admit that I liked the old way better.

So not only did the game improve, but it also changed which is the main reason why I probably pick the first game as my favorite.

PHROZEN
Some of the Diablo 2 modders and players that visit the Keep may not be aware of past accomplishments. Your guide to the internal mechanics Diablo 1 and Hellfire is considering by many to be the definative resource on the subject. Did you ever consider creating something similar for Diablo 2?
JARULF
Well, yes, I must admit I have considered it, but not seriously and always with the answer of "no way". I have spent quite some time looking at Diablo II though and try to share what I find on various forums but the step from there to a complete guide is quite big. Much bigger than most probably realise.

What I actually thought about for a while, was to create an item guide. That is a guide that covered items and how they are created. But I never got around to that either.

The main reason for not doing any guide is thus the lack of time and energy. In addition, I would always compare it to the one for Diablo and Hellfire and never really be satisified anyway.

PHROZEN
According to them you had a major influence on the growth of Varaya and Khan's original Middle Earth mod for Diablo 1. Have you had much or in fact any involvement in the Diablo 2 conversion?
JARULF
No, none what so ever really. To be honest, just as I decided to not get myself into a guide on D2, I also decided to stay out of the modding of the game. So I have not participated in any such activity although I believe I did a little thing for them back in one of the earlierst version. One reason was the frustration over the constantly changing code with each new patch. Some (quite a few really) parts of the game have been completely rewritten several times (and many will be again when 1.10 comes), which sort of tends to be a bit frustrating, at least to me. I can't imagine how it is for the poor mod makers.

Still, every now and then I have spent quite some time here on the Phrozen Keep trying to share what I know about the game, usually never by giving direct mod help as in actual code sugestions. I leave that to others. I do explain the existing game and how it works though, and let others based on that to their own changes.

The reason is that I am mostly interesting in how the game works, not nessecarilly how one can change it. I often doesn't bother with rewritten parts unless it changes the functionallity of the game a lot and hence might not get back to those section. I can't then help people with direct code sugestions since I have not looked at the new code. Hmm, did that make any sense.

PHROZEN
As you point out, patch updates have often been the bane of mod making for quite a while. Do you feel that these major changes are slowly killing mods for Diablo 2 or do people just see them as a new challenge?
JARULF
Hard to say (since I don't mod), but since it sort of is a hassle to me, I can imagine what it is for mod making. I think the game is finally stabilizing though. The 1.10 will be the last major update I would say. After that, it should be much less of a problem.
PHROZEN
What makes you think this will be the last major update? Do you think that Blizzard is slowly giving up on the game in favor of newer projects?
JARULF
Well, They have with this patch gone over most major areas of the game I would say. Although everyone can probably give countless examples of areas of the game that need adjustment and balancing I think for the most part it will be hard to make it much better. It is impossible to make it completely balanced and nothing better than anything else and so on.

As for giving up, any game will for obvious reasons get less and less attention as time passes by and other games take over. As such, Diablo II has been out there for quite a while. No doubt Blizzard wil continue to work to fix new issues regarding hacks, cheats and other problems that they can do something about, but I don't see more major patches comming out for the reasons given above.

PHROZEN
In your personal opinion, which aspects of Diablo 2 do you feel still need balancing?
JARULF
Considering I have played almost nothing since before the expansion came out (although I played some with it) and nothing at all with 1.09, I might not be the best person to answer that but I have a feeling that skills need to be looked over in general. That is actually one of the main areas the 1.10 patch was about to target. For the 1.09 there wasn't enough time to look over the skills much.

Personally I would also have fooled arround with item creation and item dropings in general as that is one of my "favorite" areas of the game. So much fun and interesting things could have been done there.

However, I am not really a fanatic when it comes to balancing. It is next to impossible to acomplish it in games like Diablo. People will always eventually figure out some "best" tactics, skills that work better than most others, item set ups that are a killer and areas where one get the most exp and/or items and so on. Thus balanicing is a real problem if not impossible. It is much easier in games like Starcraft where you start over from scratch in each game (well more or less).

PHROZEN
Your preference towards the item creation system is quite obvious in your extensive guide to the Treasure Class system we have posted at the site which many mod makers consider to be invaluable. How did you go about researching the mechanics of such a complicated system?
JARULF
Well, I really got to the item creation late. I started out with the experience (which is just a small function) and and soon after that, theTohit and damage calc (including resistance and such) right the month after the game was released. It was quite interesting and held many surprises. The game did at that time have many inconsistances between what the character screen (and skill screens) said and what the game actually used. In addition, there were no real info on things like how the game calculated ToHit, damage and other things. One such thing I found was for example that all AR for monsters were in fact 4 times as high as listed in official guides (and soon on Blizzards web pages) and what you found in various txt files (like monstats.txt). I think it is still there, isn't it? Have not checked for a long time.

Anyway, from there I went on looking at things like the skill system and how the skills actually worked (natural when you wanted to see how various skills actually calculated damage and such). I also made smaller peeks into things like potions, missiles, monster set up and many other things. I also looked quite a bit at the more core sections of the game engine, like how it handle handle multiple games, set up the game itself and keep track of everything. Since the client that runs on everyones computer in open games is the exactly same one as runs on realms, it is easy to look at all such things. The client will on non realms of course never run more than one game, but everything is there to look at for how it works.

Back to the original question, I also went into item creation. At first to figure out how the game picked item qualities (such as unqiue, set and such), but also how gamble and imbue worked. At that time unique creation and how the game picked which unique to drop was a hot topic. When an item had multiple uniques (like rings did) it turned out that the game droped them in sequence and a unique in a game (weather droped or brought in by a player) made the game pick the next one. I don't remember who made the tests in games, but it was at about the same time I looked at it in the code. This of course lead to the reveleation that to get a SoJ, you simply should have the two other unique rings in the game. This lead to the fact that the almost impossible to get SoJ, got quite easy to get, especially through gambling. And from there on, we knows the story, the SoJ became common enough to act as a currency while still mostly rare enough to have a value. To a big extent heavy duping later trew that away though.

As I mentioned before, I once considered making an item guide, so it felt natural to look at the item creation more and especially the Treasure Class system, which at that time was commpletely different. I pretty much looked it all over then. In part because I was toying around with a few self written programs that could calculate what could drop which item and at what probability and such things. One purpose was to see if the game had any built in flaws like Diablo 1, that made some items undropable (or at astronomical rare chance). I don't really remember the results though, but as we know, the whole item drop code was heavilly redesigned with the expansion.

From there it was also natural to look at the cube code. The cube code was at that time completely hard coded but still trivial to figure out. Hence I wanted to check if there were any unknown recipies. I think the only one not generally known was the spiked shieled (or whatever it is). Then came a patch and I was curious to see if they had added anything. They had of course. Two new recipies in fact, one of which was the famous 6 perfect skulls and a rare (that is it right?) which I teased people a bit with before revealing it (at least in the forums and such I "hanged out" at, no idea of others looked for it on their own as well). I think there were one or two other reciepies added as well. No idea if Blizzard got upset about them becomming known to fast, but for the next patch, they decided that all recipies should be added on realms only and perhaps later to open games. To bad it never worked out since they never really revealed any, nor really added any over time as they had promised. They also rewrote the cube code completely and then again once more with the expansion (intruducing the much more mod friendly txt file.

Hmm, I am drifting away from the item creation part, am I not? In any case, I have always considered item creation as one of the more facination aspects of the game (both for Diablo and Diablo II), hence why I tend to look at it in such detail and so often. It is actually a lot more to it than one might at first think. It is not really THAT complicated though, just a whole bunch of different things to keep track of. It is really a rather straight forward step by step procedure. Still, since the game is much about collecting items and geting good item set ups, people eventually want to know about where to get specific items and what fators that affect items created, as such, I also find it a good place to look at and get to know to be able to help out people with that information. No dount I will probably spend the little time I have now for Diablo II, on how it has changed with the 1.10 patch. Even though many things have changed over the many versions of the game, the fundamental logic and layout of the code is pretty much the same, hence it is not that hard to go over it with every new version.

PHROZEN
Do you think that based upon the strength of the first too games that Blizzard is likely to make the series into a trilogy? And if so do you think you would disect it as much as the other two?
JARULF
No doubt will Blizzard North make another Diablo game sooner or later, although I think they would also like to work on something different for a change. It would seem obvious that the idea of using the WoW engine and make a World of Diablo would have crossed someones mind (it has crossed mine at least). I really don't like that type of games though, prefer ones were one can play alone too and it is also my opinion that to really appreciate those massive multiplayer games, one needs to invest far too much time.

As for looking at the game, it would obviously be tempting, the main issue would be if I have time or not. It doesn't take that much time to get started and check out a few things (although each new game always has a starting phase when one has to get familiar with the general layout of data, code and style of programming and such) but it is easy to get consumed by it and wanting to look at more all the time. No doubt will the chance for some guide like thing get smaller with each new game.

If they do get back to Diablo though, it is my hope that they will also go back a bit to the feel of the first game, that is a bit slower paced and more "tileish" feel. As I explained, I liked that much more.

PHROZEN
As you mentioned that you haven't really played the most recent versions of Diablo 2, what other games (if any) have you moved on to?
JARULF
Well, I have had less time in general, and hence less time for games but I have played through the Baldurs Gate games. Still not completely finished the last one. I have also played some Roller Coaster Tycoon and finally also squeezed in some playing of one of my all time best games, Panzer General. I think I have checked out some other games but not found any I really liked. But the above is more than enough for me for a year or two of gaming. Since I liked the Baldurs Gate games, I have thought of getting Planetscape Torment next, it is getting into the "bargin" price range and slightly old, which is when I usually buy a game. I have heared it is a great game but I need to find time to finish Baldurs Gate first.
PHROZEN
You mentioned being a fellow Baldur's Gate fan. How do you think that Diablo 1 and 2 measure up against Baldur's Gate or in fact any of the Infinity Engine games?
JARULF
I think they are very different games and thus it is hard to compare. They are both excellent games but different. I see Diablo as a more action oriented combat game and Baldur's Gate as a quest solving game (yeah, I know you fight a lot too but not as in Diablo). I have never been a huge fan of the D&D spell system though but despite that, it is a fun game.
PHROZEN
As far as the Infinity Engines go, would you considering forking out the money to try the newly released Icewind Dale 2?
JARULF
My understanding is that Icewind Dale is a much more combat oriented game than Baldurs Gate, weaker in the plot and quests. Thus it loses much of the good from Baldur's Gate and I will most likely not play it. On the other hand, I am looking for Planetscape Torment at the moment

I don't think the game engine is what makes me like Baldur's Gate (or Diablo) but what one do with it, that is the reason why I won't simply go out and by a game because it is based on the Infinity Engine. An engine can break a game though if it is bad, especially from a user interface point of view (although that might not be really engine related) so it is good to have a good engine, but it doesn't automatically make the game good.

PHROZEN
And finally, getting back to Diablo 2 a little, with v1.10 likely to be the last major patch, would you re-consider the idea of creating an item guide of some description or even maybe a mod if the code isn't likely to change much again in the future?
JARULF
No. The more time that passes, the less likely it is really. I'll leave it to someone else, all information (well, much of it) is already out there, someone just needs to compile it and add in stuff like more precise info about various object drops (like urns and such and their liking to drop from a chest TC 20% of the time only for example). It is quite a lot of work though, especially if one want to describe the actual items and properties too. And one need to list monsters and the relevant information about them and so on. But good luck to anyone that wants to do it.
PHROZEN
Well thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions and we wish you well in all of your future endeavours!

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