Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Diablo 3's Post Launch Problems

Happy Halloween!

Diablo 3 has been a game fans have wanted for over a decade. The final product was far from perfect and received harsh criticisms from fans. I've played over 350 hours of Diablo 3 since the launch of the game exclusively on my Barbarian. The game has gone through a few patches with each patch creating a significantly better game. I want to focus this post on how Blizzard can help improve the game even further through some minor changes.

Random Number Generation (RNG) is a player’s worst nightmare. The obvious reason why people despise RNG is that they have no control over it. My marketing professor once told my class that negative word of mouth is about 7 times more powerful then positive word of mouth based on human behavior. This means that players notice the negative aspects of RNG much more than a good RNG effect unless that good RNG is on the extreme of good. So how does RNG work its way into Diablo 3? Well first, rare quality items that drop can have anywhere between four to six magical properties (stats). There are hundreds of different properties that can be chosen from but only a handful is useful to a player. After these magic properties are chosen, they can roll a range of numbers depending on the item level or monster level. The last patch allows for more items to drop with the highest possible range of stats but I believe Blizzard can do more.

The last patch updated one of the magical properties to actually provide some benefit to the player. Bonus to Health globes would originally increase the amount of health orbs that drop from monsters by a small amount. While on paper this sound nice, in actual gameplay it was useless. In order to see a benefit the player would need to stack the stat or rely on healing through health globes which only dropped at set intervals based on champion monster’s health. This type of healing is something that players can’t really control and thus found other ways to recover health such as finding items with life on hit which returns health based on how often the player hits an enemy. The last patch made the Bonus to Health globe property include an increase to health potions. Blizzard was able to kill two birds with one stone because players were complaining about potion’s not healing enough and health globe bonus was a useless property. While the health globe property is not a stat players will automatically look for when searching for upgrades, it now provides a nice bonus.

Thorns Damage is a magical property that deals damage to the enemy whenever the player is struck. However the amount of damage is minimal compared to the amount of damage a player can dish out even if that player had stacked the thorns damage property on all their gear. Blizzard can easily buff this property by having it scale to a degree from the player’s primary stat. I do not expect it to be the main damage source but it should deal enough damage that it is viable for a tank build to try to stack it on their equipment.

Increase Pickup Yards affects how far you can be away from gold and health globes to pick them up. With 0 increase pickup yards, the player has to manually walk over every gold stack and health globe which becomes a pain (this is something I learned very recently when I upgraded my boots which was my only source of this property). My solution to this is to increase the base pickup radius to about 6 or 7 yards and change the property to Pickup Tiers. There would be 3 tiers and each property would add a plus one pickup tier. Having no pickup tiers will only pickup gold and health globes within 6 or 7 yards.  A plus one Tier would allow for auto pick of up health potions, gems, and tomes of secrets. Another plus one tier (Tier 2) would allow pickup all magic quality (blue) items within the base radius. The final Tier will allow for auto pickup all rare items. Now the problem with this approach is that some people do not pickup magic items or do not pickup potions. Any easy way to rectify this is to have an option on the character sheet which allows the player to check off the items they wish to auto pickup such as only gold or item level 63 rare quality items, potions and gold. It would take some work to program this into the game but I believe it would be a feature appreciated by the fans.

After playing World of Warcraft (Blizzard’s cash cow) for many years, I expected Diablo 3 to contain some of the same interface options. There should have been an interface option that allows the player to select builds from a list that players has assigned so switching specs would become a much more fluid experience. I can see this becoming a requested feature when PVP becomes available because the builds will change so much since PVP will be a whole different game. An equipment manager would also be necessary with PVP since I am expecting Blizzard to have a new set of gear that is specific to PVP. Also having another set of gear means we will need more stash space. I’m surprised Blizzard hasn’t already implemented a feature where we can pay real life money for more tabs in our stash. I’m sure many people would be outraged at the idea of having to pay for more space but realistically creating more space means more data for the servers to maintain which does cost Blizzard money.

There are few other minor changes that Blizzard should make towards Diablo 3. The first is releasing more transparent information in game with regards to life on hit and life steal. From what I’ve noticed there doesn’t seem to be anywhere in game to let the user know that life steal has a penalty on it while playing the higher difficulties. It would be nice to show the actual life steal amount on the character sheet and an explanation when hovering over the stat. Also proc coefficients should be explained somewhere so that the user can begin to understand how various abilities and life on hit actually work. The argument Blizzard would make is that, many users would become confused by the technical math behind the game but realistically I believe having some of that information readily available could help users make better decisions. Another stat that needs to have light shed on it is average damage. It makes a huge increase in your damage when compared to other stats such as your primary stat or even critical hit chance yet there is no explanation to as how average damage helps to increase your damage.

The final few minor changes I would like to see are in regards to the leveling system. I think followers should be shared across all characters on an account. Players should be awarded for leveling another character after maxing out their first character and using a high level follower could provide some incentive. The Paragon leveling system could also use a few tweaks to make it worthwhile. I honestly do not think that gaining 3% magic find and gold find makes hitting Paragon level 100 worth it. Instead it should be something unique such as allowing the user to have an extra passive ability or maybe even allowing an ability to use two runes. Paragon leveling system is counter intuitive for anyone who wants to have multiple characters since the Paragon level is specific to each character. Blizzard could alter the system so that your magic find and gold find carries over to other characters but not your primary stat or any other bonuses such as the extra passive so you can still farm efficiently for items on any character.

Diablo 3 had a rocky start but Blizzard has shown the fans that they are willing to put in more effort through patches to make the game that fans have been waiting for since Diablo 2. Every game has its flaws and Diablo 3 is no different but thanks to Blizzard’s dedication post launch they will be able to minimize those flaws. My goal was to address some minor issues that are overshadowed by the major issues of PVP combat and lack of end game content and hopefully will be addressed in a future patch.

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