If you’ve had to chance to check out Issue #199 of Game Informer (that’s the one with the hot Epic Mickey cover that’s on newsstands now), you may have chanced upon my preview for Diablo III, wherein I laid out details on the game’s recently revealed Monk class. While there’s a lot to be excited about from the game’s fourth announced class, there’s plenty of other interesting changes that Diablo III is bringing to the franchise.

I had the chance to speak with Diablo III game director Jay Wilson about some of the biggest changes and how Blizzard’s fans have reacted. How did a Halo-style health regeneration system almost end up in Diablo III? How is this new hack-and-slash RPG inspired by Zelda and fighting games? And who is (or is not) the fifth playable class? Read on to find out!

Game Informer: The big news for Diablo III at BlizzCon was the new Monk class. Has there been any other big news or interesting updates on the game since BlizzCon?

Jay Wilson: No, I don’t know that we’ve announced anything big since then. We usually save up for BlizzCon. That was our last big new information push.

GI: Of course there’s one more class left to be revealed at some point in the future. Will eager Diablo III fans will have to wait until BlizzCon next year before we see that class?

JW: We haven’t decided on the release schedule and when we’re going to announce that class. It will depend heavily on when the class is ready to be shown. If it’s ready to show at the next BlizzCon, then yeah, maybe then. Or if it’s ready sooner, then we might do it at some other event.

GI: Let’s focus on the Monk for a little bit then. The idea of a Monk in Diablo III is interesting because you aren’t just doing a melee fighter, like a lot of people may think of because of monks from other RPGs. Diablo III’s Monk has strong magical abilities as well. I’m curious where that idea came from.

JW: When you’re dealing with a melee character in a game like this, they’re actually some of the more challenging characters to make. When we were thinking up the idea of what character we would want to do, we knew we wanted to make a faster, more fragile, high DPS (damage per second) melee character who was a nice contrast from the Barbarian. We pegged that as one of the things we really wanted to do. We wanted a magical character, again, because it was a great contrast from the Barbarian. It also opens doors for us to do different kinds of abilities that you wouldn’t normally get to do on a melee character.

That was one of the reasons we liked the Monk. It wasn’t the only reason, but it was definitely one of them. It felt to us that the more priest-oriented holy abilities hadn’t been explored on that type of a character in depth, and we thought that would be really fun to add in and would be a nice twist on the class.

GI: Speaking of the Monk’s abilities, I think it’s really interesting that each Monk ability has three separate moves that can be mixed and matched with the other abilities. That makes for a much more engaging melee character. I would have to imagine it also means that from the animation standpoint it’s pretty complicated to work on the character. Did you have any films or other sources that you were using as inspiration to help flesh out some of those moves?

JW: The biggest inspiration was fighting games. Especially on our animation team, but across the whole game, we have a big fighting game culture, bigger than any team I’ve ever been on. We like us some fighting games. (Laughs)

When we decided to make a character like this, we really wanted to make a fighting game character. We looked at Street Fighter and God of War and games like that, more melee brawler-type games. We knew walking in that it was a more expensive character animation-wise. This character’s going to have more animations than any of our other characters, maybe more than two or three characters put together. But every class has a different cost associated with it. The Barbarian takes longer to iterate his skills and get it right, so we tend to have to do more versions of his skills before they really shine. The Wizard is really effects-heavy. The Witch Doctor has whole creatures that we have to build for him. Every class has their cost, so we thought it was acceptable for the Monk to have more animation, and at least it was a very different cost than any of the other characters.

GI: Are there any specific fighting games that are particularly popular around the office?

JW: Right now, Street Fighter IV.

GI: Are you guys psyched about the Super Street Fighter IV announcement?

JW: There’s debate. [Laughs] There’s back and forth. Everyone’s pretty excited about it. Of course, we’re all debating about who they chose to put back in. But yeah, we’re pretty excited about it. A lot of the guys are playing UFC right now, but I haven’t had a chance to try it yet. I hear it’s pretty good. We’ve got a big arcade machine in here that has like 200 games on it, so we’ve got all kinds of games. My classic favorite is Samurai Shodown. I particularly like the fourth one.