Staying true to their habit, Californian gaming giant #Blizzard Entertainment are as secretive as ever about what goes on behind closed doors in their Irvine offices. Want to know more about their tentatively titled MMO project #Titan, the next #Starcraft II or #World of Warcraft expansion pack? Too bad. Blizzard’s standard line is namely something like: "We’re not saying.” What they are speaking about though, is the long awaited Diablo III. We made a phone call to company man Leonard Boyarsky for a short chat about the new companions, the ever so elusive release date and everything in between. Here’s how it went. I listened in on Lead Designer Jay Wilson’s Diablo III presentation at the GamesCom trade show in Germany last year. In particular, he talked about these companions and merchants that evolve with the player. What has happened with them since that presentation?

Boyarsky: I'm not sure what Jay Wilson talked about there, so I cannot comment on what has changed about them since ... when was GamesCom?

Blizzard PR: In August last year. It was a while ago.

A Demon Hunter accompanied by a Templar.

Boyarsky: Right. So I cannot really speak about what has changed since last August. But I like talking about companions. So the great thing about them is that they provide all of these options for the player. They all have different abilities that you can choose from; they can wear different kinds of weapons, rings and amulets. In addition, they also have different personalities and we have placed great emphasis on their background stories – they all have full voice-over and we have done lots of work to make them come to life. There’s the Scoundrel, the Templar and the Enchantress, and they all have their distinct personalities. So what are they like on a more personal level?

Boyarsky: The Scoundrel is from Kingsport. He’s kind of disgraced and has been kicked out of the thieves’ guild. He’s a real thief in both mind and heart. His name is Lyndon and he acts kind of like the classical DPS character, he’s a guy that does damage from a distance. The Templar is called Kormac and he’s a bit like the game's Navy SEAL guy. He’s a member of the Templar order and they’re on this quest – they’re looking for some holy scrolls that were stolen by Archbishop Lazarus in #Diablo I. He is good at absorbing damage, so he’s the kind of guy you’d wanna put up front. Then we have the Enchantress - Eirena – whose past is shrouded in mystery. She follows a mysterious figure called The Prophet and is good at controlling groups of enemies. The player will learn more about her dark past as they progress through the main story. How exactly will we be able to explore these companion stories?

Boyarsky: The first thing that happens when you meet them is that you can play through a short sequence that sort of explains their roles in the world. Then it's up to you whether you want to dig deeper into their stories by completing side missions and such. They’ll also make small talk while you run around in the world and you get to know them that way, too. The so-called hirelings filled a somewhat similar role in #Diablo II. There doesn’t seem to be that much of a difference between how you handled things a decade ago and now, really?

Boyarsky: I think it’s a twofold thing. First, I think they [the followers] are much more distinct characters now than they ever were before. As I’ve already pointed out we’ve put much effort into developing your companion's personalities. We want the players to use them as much for their personalities as for their abilities. So there's that aspect of it all – something that didn’t exist in Diablo II – but there is also an entirely different dimension of you being able to choose how to play them – something which wasn’t there in Diablo II either.

Lyndon, Kormac och Eirena – three faithful followers. So, from one thing to another. Speaking to The New York Times, Jay Wilson recently said that you’re pretty much in the final stages of development now. Do you agree with him on that sentiment?

Boyarsky: Everything’s going really well. Our standard line is that we’ll ship the game when it's ready to go out the door. I’m sensing that you’re somewhat tired of the release date questions, huh?

Boyarsky: [Laughter] Thank you for your time, Leonard!

Boyarsky: Thanks!