beta, back on February 14 near the end of the beta testing. For over an hour he played through the expansion content, and chatted about many topics in the game. Here is the video and transcribed interview of that discussion.
included Mr. Cheng, talking to streamers Archon the Wizard and Moldran, along with Diablo III MVP Jaetch.
Here are the topics discussed in the interview; select a topic to jump directly to that part of the transcript:
Tutorials in Games
I just got the Bounty tutorial. [laughter] I'll port to you as soon as I can.
Q: Yeah, you can't skip it, right?
No. Fortunately it's a one-time thing. It's funny, I was talking to Eric over on Hearthstone about tutorials. We were debating the value of these unskippable tutorials, that people only have to see once. It's a really weird artifact of betas, in particular, that people ask for things like: I want to be able to skip the tutorial. And we're like, well, if this wasn't a beta no one would ask for that.
So we have to kind of figure out the value of a new player accidentally skipping versus the beta player having to watch it again. It's tough, because we're all having to watch it over and over again, and it's not the most fun thing for us, either. But you can't always do it. There was another funny request that Eric mentioned, which made me laugh. He said, we got this feature request: please help me to open 200 packs of cards at once. And we're like, what, why do you need that?! He's said, "well, because after the beta wipe we gave you credit, and people need to do this. And he's like: "That is purely something that happens in a beta environment, and it's an artifact of that, so we're not adding that feature."
Q: Hearthstone seems like the same position as the Diablo team right now; you're both trying to get the game out.
Yeah, we're trying to think about: even if you do 1% damage to the new player experience, that's not worth it to hurt that audience, just because of a beta artifact. Even though I fully acknowledge it can be annoying.
Q: I haven't had much luck with Energy Twister, I'm trying it out now, but it still feels weak. You guys have done a few rounds of buffing with that skill, haven't you?
Yeah, it's funny because Energy Twister
is one of those skills where the very small handful of people who like it, and our data shows that it's pretty small, very specifically like it for the exact
same reasons other people hate it. We have one tech artist who says, "Well I love when I can feel like I'm really smart, because I got monsters into a tight area and I froze them, and was able to get more of them hit by Energy Twister than would be normal." So, how do we make the skill more appealing without making it unappealing to the people who currently like it? Right now I think we're just playing with the numbers a little bit, since we're so close to shipping. We have to keep the magnitude of the changes as small as possible.
Bounties vs. Rifts
Q: It's all about polishing the game right now.
It is, it is. You guys probably saw an area of polish that we're still doing, is the rate of reward for Bounties versus Rifts. For a long
time, Rifts were unrewarding. When I jumped in now and go, "what are we going to do?" And it's like "hey, let's do some Bounties and some Rifts." And yay, I'm glad that that's the suggestion! I mean, you could have just as easily have said, "oh why don't we run Crazy Climber over and over?" It's like, mmmm. [laughs]
Q: It's definitely gotten a lot better. Killing the final boss in a Nephalem Rift feels a lot more rewarding than it did a few months ago.
Yeah, and that's something we'll keep an eye on. I mean, I think it's a pretty fun pattern to do a set of Bounties, then do a Rift, and go back. I wouldn't ever want repeatedly running one Bounty to ever more rewarding than that. And if it is, then we'll take steps to shift the rewards some more. It feels like we're in a pretty good place right now, though.
Do you guys remember early on in D3, when it was actually worse to play with other people?
Q: Yeah, solo was the way! When other players joined, the monsters did more damage.
Yeah, and of course your character had exactly enough Life on Hit to be stable or slightly negative in solo, and then someone joins the game and you're net negative and you're like, "oh no, this is bad!"
Q: I do miss a little bit, how horribly challenging Inferno was at first, but I have to concede overall that this is a lot better.
Q: Pacing is a lot better.
You know that's the area that has gotten just a ton of tuning over the last 2-3 months. For a while we actually had daily play tests internally, where Andrew and John, Don, Travis, Kevin Martens and our game fearless director Josh Mosqueira -- we'd all sit down and play 2 co-op 4-player games together. We would do it with a variety of character loadouts at various difficulties, and then we would talk about it. And we did that every single day, for like weeks. And I think a lot of how the pacing feels now, is thanks to those iterations.
Q: I was surprised that you were able to get it to a place where it feels better with more people...
Pools of Reflection
Oh a Pool of Reflection over here! By the way, that icon is still not showing that it's depleted; it's on the list of things to fix, in case you were wondering. It bugs all of us. And I think we're also talking about how the range right now is the range of a Healing Well, and we're going to try to increase that to be the same as a shrine. It was funny because I was talking to Kevin Hasset, one of our programmers, and I was like, "Hey what do you think about us changing this?" And he's like, "Yes! That was bothering me last night, I would love to change that!" So yay, everyone agrees.
Q: Yeah, I thought the pool idea was really cool. You kind of added a death penalty, but you still make it feel like more of a reward than a penalty.
Yeah, that idea came in pretty hot, obviously it was a recent addition during the beta. I'm pretty happy with how it worked out, there was a lot of call for a survival bonus. This felt like the right way to do it.
Q: I have to say thank you for extending the buff durations, because I was the person who never had my buffs on, because I was forgetting to cast them.
Oh, on the Wizard buffs?
Q: Yeah, going up to 10 minutes was great.
Primary Skill Autocasts
Q: I'm out of Arcane Power.
Q: Speaking of being out of Arcane Power... I think I told Wyatt I was going to ask him this. So, right when Reaper of Souls came [in alpha] it was a feature where when you ran out of Arcane Power, your primary skill would cast by default. And then we thought it was just bugged, but recently you came out and said you decided to get rid of it. So what happened?
This falls squarely in the camp of what I would I would call a very designery reason. I know that's a little bit of an ambiguous term. But we felt like the pacing, the rhythm on the keyboard wasn't right. There were a bunch of things that are more subtle or aesthetic about the game.
Without the auto-casting, you have to go back and forth between your left and right mouse buttons. With the auto-casting, when you're out of a resource it automatically switches to your generator, and you just kind of held down one key. I think the rhythm, though it was easier, was kind of a little more brainless; we felt like the rhythm was important between the two. It was a tough call to make, it was debated for a pretty long time internally. I wish I could give you a more complex or logical reason.
Q: Yeah, that makes sense. I miss it, I guess I like to focus on things other than my resource bar.
Yeah, and it's tough because I think that there was some benefit, like even before when there was the auto-casting, you could argue that, "Yeah, but a really
good player is going to pool up their resource, and burst it down all at once." It's just with certain classes and a lot of builds, we just found that that just wasn't the case. You were 99% as effective, or possibly even more effective because you didn't have to worry about timing issues, to just hold down the button.
Playing While Talking
I don't know how you guys play and talk at the same time, I'm not used to it!
Q: Yeah, you just get used to it.
So the way I play when I'm at home, I actually either turn on a stream, or I listen to some podcasts. I'm just totally silent, I listen and I take it all in, and I tend to be very introspective. I like to mentally zone out a little bit, which is kind of nice, a nice relaxing vibe.
Q: We have a question about the ladder system, if you have anything to say about it right now.
So, ladders. I think you've probably heard this before, I'll say it again: it's something that we would love to do. I know that's like the company line, but it's true. It's 100% true, that there's a lot of really good things about ladders. I actually prefer calling them seasons
more than ladders
, because I think it really depends on why people want the feature. Some people when they hear "ladder", they think of a competitive climb to see who can be #1. But for me, in Diablo II a lot of what made a ladder appealing had nothing to do with the race, for me. It had to do with the economy reset. It had to do with: my friends and I all love Diablo II, but we're all playing other games right now, and it was an excuse and a reason for us to all fire it up again at the same time, and re-enjoy the same content together. There are all sorts of other reasons to have it.
Q: Yeah in Diablo II it was always a good reason to come back to the game. Whether it's a new patch or a new ladder season, you would like ask your friends to get together and play the game, start from scratch and just play it again.
Yes, and I think the fresh economy helps with that. So that's why I think when you say "seasons", you're kind of touching more on those sides of things. Or you could call them "server resets", except that we don't have server resets in that context, but that's kind of the mentality there.
Anyway, so I love those aspects of it. I think we want to look at: how many people would be interested in something like that? It's all development effort, right? Would people like to see seasons more than, another uber Diablo event, for example? There are 100 things on our wishlist, and we have to pick: what should we do next? I think seasons are up there. But if you look at the data for participation rates in ladder in Diablo II, it certainly wasn't adopted by 100% of players, I don't think it was adopted by even 50%. For a lot of people, it's really really hard to walk away from your investment; they're like, "My investment in my super powerful character is my whole reason for playing, I'm never
going to take part in a reset economy." So we're trying to gauge, how can we deliver the most value to the most number of our players?
Q: What about the suggestion where at the end of each season, you get to move your loot that you acquired during the season to your non-ladder character?
Definitely So actually that's interesting, the question: what do I get for participating in the season? Is it nothing? I think a valid option is: nothing -- you don't get anything, you do it if you think it'll be fun. I think though, some people would like an achievement, some people would like a cosmetic reward. When I look at Diablo II, they had runewords that were specific to the ladder, and that was really popular. It was like, "Oh cool, yeah, I would love to check out these ladder-exclusive runewords." I think it's nice if we can provide just
enough of a carrot to get people to say, "You know I wasn't going to reroll a new character in the ladder season, but because this is just
compelling enough to do it." And then after they've done it, they're like "Hey, guess what, I had a really good time."
Q: Well, I can say that from the data that we've seen from our viewers, is that most people would be pretty crazy excited about ladders.
Q: I think it would add a lot of depth long-term to the game, because a lot of people can just keep repeating it over and over again. Instead of they do X Y Z, and that's it, they get to the "end-game" and kind of just stop.
Well, let me ask you guys. I mentioned that some people like the race to the top, some people like the excuse to have them and their friends all start new characters at the same time or come back to Diablo. What are the most important reasons to you guys, for having the feature?
Q: I really like playing games like this competitively, but don't always have the time to do that. So it's nice when I can just spend a couple weeks, or the first month of a ladder reset really grinding it out, and be one of the top players, have some of the best gear. And then when I get busy again, I don't have to worry about falling so far behind that I can't catch back up again.
Q: I think of it as something that players can always do, regardless of the content that's out there. Just like there's hardcore and there's softcore, there would also be seasons, ladders. So more gameplay options, I would say.
Q: It always seems like it allows you to let items drop a little bit faster, if you know there's going to be a reset.
Right. Unless, of course, it rolls back into the main economy.
Q: But then it's account-bound, right?
True, true. And maybe that's your reward for participating in the season.
Drops in the Stream
Q: Oh, Cindercoat!
Q: I'm getting hooked up on the legendaries. You just have to play with the devs, that's how you get good legendaries.
[laughs] I had a legendary drop for me right now, and my bags were full, so I started emptying it. And as soon as I emptied my bags, picked up the legendary, I thought to myself: wait a minute, this isn't my live account! I just have all these habits, like I have
to pick up the legendary. I can't leave it behind, even though I think this character is being deleted after today.
Q: So they just hooked you up with this overpowered character.
Yeah, just for today... I was just looking at my gear.
Q: I died for the same reason; I was trying to show my viewers Wyatt's gear, because it's crazy.
Patch 2.0.1 Release
Q: Before Reaper of Souls releases, you plan to put patch 2.0.1 on the live servers. Do you have any estimate of when that will be?
No, I wish I could, but I think right now it really depends on exactly what goes into it. We've been talking and planning and thinking about what that should be. We have lots of ideas, but I think we usually like to try to figure out: what is the best content or features or whatever, or are we just reactively balancing potentially? We figure that out first, then maybe figure out a timeline. If the timeline is too far out, then maybe we split it up into two small patches or whatever, but we definitely look at the feature list first.
Q: Yeah, a lot of people told me they want to play this patch first, before they decide if they want to purchase Reaper of Souls.
Right. Well, I mean the answer is obvious: everyone should get the expansion! [laughs]
Q: I saw that people who get the expansion are getting more stash space.
Yes! I unfortunately don't know a lot of the details about that, I wasn't involved in that particular part of the conversation. Which I'm totally fine with; I've been busy working on classes and other stuff. But yeah, there's just a lot of stuff to hold now. You've got all your legendary items that you want to hold on to; you've got your twink gear, there's just a lot of things to hold, compared to before.
Q: One set for every elemental type...
[laughs] Granted, I think you could probably argue that before, you had to have a place for all your Auction House items, and you probably don't need space for that any more. But I think the number of more things that people will want to hold on to, is greater than the number that you were holding on to before.
Q: But we got a new stash tab, so it's fine.
Yeah. As a player, I always want more and more and more stash space. As a designer, I'm wary because if you just add stash space infinitely, all of the sudden there is just a point of too much, where I have to sort through my inventory. So there's this small incremental cost that you end up paying, even though every step of the way you thought to yourself, "Yeah I'd love one more row, or one more tab."
Q: Yeah, sometimes when I have too much space it's just a curse, because I get too disorganized.
Yeah, totally. Yep, that's the dilemma. But sometimes we say, hey if players have so many items that they just love, well that's a good problem to have, compared to not having any items that you love! [laughs]
PVP and Content Ideas
Q: Have you guys had any recent thoughts on PVP, or maybe something that would take the place of PVP?
I personally have not, I mean I've had a few loose thoughts. I think the biggest realization for me -- I was a huge internal cheerleader for PVP, for a long time. We had our internal prototypes, and we had the BlizzCon 2010 stuff that we showed. I've said this before, but I'll say it again, especially for some people who might not have heard it; I'm sure you guys have heard it before, I was talking about this at BlizzCon 2013. The amount of power and style of gameplay and the legendary items that we try to make for PVE, I worry are incompatible with PVP. You have design goals -- design is about tradeoffs. I worry that direct PVP, if we tried to support it, would cost us. I used the Witch Doctor passive as an example, the one that makes your Locust Swarm and Haunt last forever. We can't have that in PVP, you can't have these really potent DoTs last forever. And then you look at all the legendary items that we create; we don't want to put boundaries on the legendary items that we can make, that make you feel awesome and are very exciting to use in PVE.
But I do know people have talked a lot about integrating PVE components. I do think that that's a wiser direction: really embrace the fact that PVE is always going to be a priority. If PVE will always take the front seat, and PVP has to ride as a passenger, then what does that look like? What does it look like if your skills are potentially unbalanced? What does it look like if players can teleport around so fast that it's disorienting for the other player to try to get a lock on them? And so these PVEVP ideas certainly seem like one direction to look at.
Q: You still have some of the same problems if you have direct player versus player there, right? I'm sorry... so in PVEVP, would that be like a MOBA type came, or would that be like competitive PVE?
You know what, I don't know. I think that's really the question, and the reason why we constantly say we'd like to do something, it's because we haven't figured out exactly what that means. I think something... I don't know how to say it. Like the PVE race, right? We have had prototypes where it's like: you're in one tower, I'm in another tower, let's see who can clear it faster.
Q: That sounds awesome! I wasn't going to even ask about prototypes, I didn't think you would tell us, but that sounds really cool.
Q: People kind of did that with the Bounties when they were split farming; they would see who can clear the Bounties faster on the same map.
Right, yeah. I think that's the kind of thing we should be thinking about, and looking more at. We had some of our events, I can't think of any examples off the top of my head. We definitely prototyped some events internally like, where you have 60 seconds to kill as many monsters as you can, and they're just going to spawn and the more you kill the more will spawn, and we see how many you can kill. And that's pretty fun. So I think a lot of it is looking at, what is the best
way to deliver that experience? Like, do I actually need two literal towers that two teams run down at the same time? Or is it better to have -- ok, I'm going to throw this out there, and I'm kind of reluctant to put this out there. I preface this by saying, please keep in mind that sometimes we talk about ideas, only because we're brainstorming; don't at all
assume that this is happening any time in the next 10 years.
But it is the kind of thing we talk about. What if there was a dungeon, almost like a Rift, and we stored the layout of that Rift, and the randomness of that Rift is all fixed for one week. And then there's a leaderboard, and we see who can clear the Rift the fastest. There's a predictable layout, and you can kind of spend the whole week optimizing your build and your party composition, to try to beat it, knowing exactly what that Rift layout is going to be. And then you can say, "Oh this team did it in 12 minutes and 48 seconds, grats to them."
Q: That would be really cool.
Q: Kind of similar to the Challenge mode in World of Warcraft. I have to say that's really awesome, because with Reaper of Souls right now is really awesome, killing monsters is one of the best experiences ever; everything is fast and fluid, everything is great to play. I think with Reaper of Souls as the base for all those additional things, like you described right now, to see how the game could evolve in the future.
Yeah, I have to reiterate: we're not doing anything like that right now! That is not a feature announcement, that is one of many many
ideas that we talk about. Again, like I said, we have 100 ideas on the wall, and we have to sit here and say: are we going to do what I just described, or are we going to do seasons? Or are we going to explore some completely different kind of PVP? Or are we going to make more legendary items? Maybe that's what people actually want. So it's a balancing act.
Q: How do you plan to get that sort of information? Do you plan to do polls about these things, or handle it internally, to get the feedback from the community? That's something where I think us streamers could really help, because we have some reach. Also like reddit, where the community could really get those ideas out, to find out what does the playerbase really want?
Yeah. So right now, the focus is on getting Reaper out the door. Because I think that, if there's one that I've learned, it's that sometimes your best-laid plans can go awry. So we need to ship the game, and then see how people actually play and experience it. The exact way that, for example, with the original launch of Diablo III we added Paragon Levels in a patch. That was because, looking at the way people played and experienced the game and enjoyed the game, it was obvious that we needed something like Paragons added. We added the four Archon recipes and Demonic Essences, which I think was a really big deal. And we added the uber Diablo event and the Hellfire Ring. So I think it's kind of a mix of looking at how the game actually plays out, versus what you thought was going to happen. We have our guesses and predictions, but I'd say you never really know for sure, and you don't want to commit to much. So we'll see. We'll definitely be playing ourselves, and reading forums and talking with the community, such as yourselves, to figure out what needs to be worked on next.
Q: The prototype idea was exciting, not because we think it's going to be happening, but just that you're thinking about that type of thing. I think there are a lot of people who are worried that what we're seeing are all the ideas you guys have.
I could talk for hours on things that we would like
to do. We would like to make the socketing game more interesting. We would like to have more legendary items. We would like to...
Q: Any crazy ideas out there that get thrown around? Like really big changes?
So, I talk a lot about combat pacing, as you guys know. That's one of my pet topics; I love to talk about healing, and damage rates, and efficiency farming. You know there's that issue where like: I can survive Torment 6 but it's not efficient for me to do so, so I should actually play on Torment 2 because that's more xp or loot per hour. So, what does Torment 2 feel like; are you actually being threatened? If Torment 6 were the most profitable for your character, does that mean that you're playing a highly defensive build? I think those problems are interesting, and I feel like there's more to explore there. Can the game be more than just: what Torment level is the most efficient for me? Can we design a system that it's more about pushing yourself and the challenge? If that makes sense...
Q: Yeah, where the focus is challenge, instead of efficiency.
Q: I think that's one of the reasons why the recent changes to Torment is nice; now you're not just trying to run around and outlast the content, but actually kill it.
Yeah. So tuning gets us pretty far. But I feel like there is more we could do there. I feel like... I'll throw out a random idea again, which just like the previous idea, caveats all over this; this is not a promise of a feature to come, this just another idea that we discuss. What if there was a bonus objective on a Rift, that if you completed it in 15 minutes, you got something? But if we do that, what keeps someone from just dropping the Torment down one level, and getting the bonus objective? Are we just making the problem worse, where now I want to play it super safe?
Q: You could tie the bonus to the difficulty level you're in, when completed.
Right. And I think I was talking to Archon almost a year ago, and we were talking about the design problems that we came across when we were exploring infinite dungeon ideas. What happens when you explore infinite dungeons, is that the game gets harder and harder, and you push people into finding really degenerate exploity things, or super defensive degenerate builds. There were definitely problems there. And it's like, "Yeah, but the fantasy is really cool!" And I know the fantasy is really cool -- we all have that fantasy, but then when you actually drop people in the game, they find the most efficient route, and sometimes that doesn't match the fantasy that people wanted. So I know that's a lot of abstract statements. But imagine Diablo 3 at launch, where people were in Act 3 [Inferno], but then they would make these builds that they would say, they wouldn't necessarily having fun but this is how they're successful in Act 3.
Q: That's how I played my Barb. 8k DPS, but full defense, just to be able to survive. I had to rely on Tyrael to do all the damage.
Exactly, and you're like, this isn't my fantasy of a Barbarian, but it's effective.
Q: Standing in a doorway and killing them one by one... call it a "clever use of game mechanics".
Q: Speaking of game mechanics: gear swapping. What do you think about that, and snap-shotting the effects on specific skills?
I'm a little bit torn, because on the one hand I think it's really cool when players can do everything they can to squeak out a bonus, and feel like they are being very clever. I think there's this sentiment of, "I outsmarted the designer", which can be really cool in appropriate amounts. That's almost a contradictory statement, though, or oxymoronic. But I think it is cool, and there have been tons of times when we've been genuinely surprised by something the community comes up with. And we go, "You know what: that's not what we thought, it's more powerful than we thought, but kudos; we're not going to nerf it, we're just going to leave it, and it'll be fine."
Q: Yeah, like the Alkaizer run.
Yeah! That's a good example. And our response to that was, ok, we're going to try to make a lot of other areas more profitable. Although I think we did nerf scorpions, because I think that was just an egregious outlier, and most people tended to agree that it was just an egregious outlier.
But then on the topic of gear-swapping: on it's own it doesn't bother me... but, and this is a big but! If you as a player feel compelled
to do it, and it's way more efficient, and you actually hate doing it, and you're like, "Man I really hate that I have to play with my UI up." As soon as we start to get requests to, say, "make the inventory window resizeable, so I can play with it open." I'm half kidding, but as soon as those requests start coming in, then maybe the root of the problem is that people are actively doing this kind of annoying task, that isn't very fun and they recognize is not fun, but they feel compelled to do it anyway.
Q: That's how I felt, with the Magic Find swapping.
Yes, that's a great example. I think that it's fun to Magic Find swap, in the sense that you feel like you're breaking the game. And I think that breaking the game is inherently just this really satisfying thing, but then it's not something you want to do for 200 hours. It's fun for like the first... 10.
Q: We were talking a little bit about game modes. I'll throw an idea out here, so you can maybe find some of the holes in my idea. What about a challenge mode where you went through a dungeon that got increasingly difficult, but the difficulty was capped at a certain point, and the goal was to see how far you could get in 15 minutes?
I think that's very reasonable. I think that maybe you'd want to think about: is it just bragging rights, or is there a concrete reward for going farther?
Q: I feel like the real draw for me would be the bragging rights, so maybe the reward wouldn't have to be that big.
Cool, so maybe there's a little spot on your profile inspection, or on your Armory page, that says the farthest you got, or something?
Q: Yeah, and then when you're looking for people for your clan, or looking at people to group up with, instead of just going by their gear to determine how good they are, you can kinda use that as a guideline.
Yeah, I like that. I think that should totally be on the list, in fact I think it is! But like I said, it's a prioritization issue. So we'll take that and we'll move it up the priority list, because Archon said so. [laughs]
Updates After the Expansion
Q: After the Reaper of Souls launch, like for the rest of the year, do you plan to add other updates to Diablo? Or just fix bugs? What is the future for Diablo after the release of the expansion?
I believe... so I'm not the ultimate authority on this, that sort of strategic level decision regarding the franchise would be up to probably Josh and Kevin. But my impression, is that it's the same as for any Blizzard game, that we want to support it. I mean, I can't think of a Blizzard game, that Blizzard hasn't stood behind and continued to work on for at least...
Q: A long time, Diablo II was getting patches many years after release.
Totally. We want to stand behind the game. So there will definitely be something. Let me rephrase the answer a little bit: there will definitely be more than just bug fixes. The only question is, what does this "more than bug fixes" look like?
Q: So content patches, and with content patches what is on your todo or priority list?
Yeah. I think you could probably look at the live support that we gave to the original game. Like I mentioned, obviously we did class updates, we did the uber Diablo event, we did Paragon. So I would expect something along those lines. Maybe more, maybe less, it's hard to put a number on "amount of support", I don't know how to quantify it. I play the game as a player, right? And as a player, I love
patch day! That's an exciting day, so I would like to see that.
Q: Even as a dev, you should love patch day, because I assume a lot of people come back every time there's a patch. So the active player numbers probably go up every time there's a patch.
Yeah. I mean, I get the most satisfaction from knowing that lots of people are enjoying playing a game that I worked on. That is very satisfying.
Q: I guess how much you're able to patch in might depend on... when or if you're working on the next expansion?
Uhh, I have no idea. [laughs]
Q: One question that people are asking about, I don't know if you can talk about, are Imperious Wings. Apparently people datamined something about Imperious Wings... do you know anything about that?
I don't know anything about that. Sorry, I would totally say something if I knew something about it, but I realistically don't. My last week has been spent on the classes. There was a round of class changes, and so my last week has been on that. Is this a recent thing?
Q: Yeah, one or two days ago.
Yeah, sorry, I'd tell you if I knew more, but I don't.
Witch Doctor Mana Regen
Speaking of those class changes, I know that people were surprised at some of the Witch Doctor changes. We kind of nerfed mana regen passives a little bit. People are saying, "oh that was the only thing that made Witch Doctor mana regen usable." And I understand that point of view. When we were looking at the data, we found that a lot of Witch Doctors were just forgoing any of their Signature spells at all. We were kind of looking at that, and I think what happens is... let's say that someone were to make the statement, "Witch Doctor mana is broken." I think that it really depends on your definition of what "broken" and "correct" behavior is supposed to look like. I think for a lot of people, "correct behavior" means that I can spam Zombie Charger - Zombie Bears
until the monster is dead without running out of mana. And if that's your definition of working correctly, then yeah, I think we have different definitions of that. No other class really necessarily gets to do that. The Wizard to a lesser or greater extent, it depends on your particular builds.
Zombie Bears is one of the most mana-intensive spamming skills on the Witch Doctor; you can't really compare it to Elemental Arrow, it would be kind of like a Demon Hunter saying, "Yeah, I can't spam Cluster Arrow until the monster is dead, and it's totally broken because the monster is not dead yet and I'm out of Hatred." That's not reasonable. Now I'm hyperboling a little bit... Where I think the sentiment comes from is that on live patch 1.0.8, you can
spam Zombie Bears until the monster is dead. So from that point of view, it is broken, and I recognize that, and I play a Witch Doctor a lot, I love playing my Witch Doctor. That's the way I play my Witch Doctor on live. But again, we're trying to get away from these single-skill-spamming builds, and we really want the highest effectiveness to come from somebody who is well leveraging 6 skills. So if you choose to spam Zombie Bears, we kind of want you to run out of mana, and people weren't. It's different than live, and I recognize that. So what I'd like to do, is if we find that it's too much of a nerf after Reaper goes live, we probably won't buff mana regen back.
If it goes live and we find that the mana nerf was too much, and now Witch Doctors can't kill anything: I don't think we'd put mana regen back to where it was. What we'd be more likely to do is to maybe buff Signature spells more, or looking at buffing Locust Swarm and Haunt more... basically embracing the idea that we don't want you back in a place where you just spam one skill and that kills everything. We'd instead look at, how do we diversify and make this breadth of skills work together in a really powerful way, that completely matches the power level of the other classes. And that's if they don't; the Witch Doctor might actually still be perfectly competitive with other classes. Our internal math and models and data totally show that they should be, so we'll see.
Q: Yeah, I can say I really enjoy playing a Witch Doctor while I'm leveling, because usually I'm using a lot of different skills. But getting to max level, I just feel obligated to spam Zombie Bears, and it gets boring for me pretty quickly.
Yeah, and I think there are a lot of opportunities to add interest. Like I mentioned, buffing the Signatures and I mentioned Haunt and Locust Swarm. I think we could look more at Big Bad Voodoo, look more at Fetish Army and Gargantuan. We could look more at Spirit Barrage, which has a lot of room to grow if we needed it to.
It reminds me a lot of something; I don't know if you guys know David Kim, who is a senior designer on StarCraft. And he was talking about balance for their live game, and he was saying, "You know, if this unit is the problem, we don't like the gameplay that results from just buffing that unit." I think he was talking about Terran versus Protoss. And he said, "We're more likely to buff some of Protoss' early aggression options. And it's like this area that no-one was really thinking of, but it's because we think they don't have enough in that area." I think the philosophy is kind of similar. We don't want to just kind of tweak the numbers on the things that people are already using. I'd rather push new playstyles and skills that broaden out the usefulness of all the skills on your bar.
Q: Is there going to be a gifting option from player to player, like is being added for console on the PlayStation 4 version?
You know, I don't know... maybe? I really like a lot of things that console has done. To put it in context, one of the values for Reaper of Souls
and the Diablo team in general, is this notion of "Make Online Matter". That is a core value, if you come and visit our dev area, it's on the walls: Make Online Matter
. The gifting option on console came about because they were said, the PC Diablo III now has Clans and Communities. They felt like they couldn't do Clans and Communities the way PC does, because we have, you know, a keyboard! So they were like, well how can we make online matter for us? That's where the gifting feature came from. That doesn't mean that we can't
do it, but I think the root of it is: Make Online Matter. So I think we would be looking at what are the best features for us, to support this notion that your online experience is an awesome one.
Q: The idea of making elemental synergies between the runes and the gear is really cool, probably my favorite feature so far. It seems like you really put a lot into that synergy system. Were there any other synergy systems that you had tried, or had been thinking about?
You know where that one came from, to back up a little bit. They were originally targeted for legendaries. Obviously we've pushed legendary items very far, and I think we could even go farther. It's really fun, I'll say that, to work on legendary items and brainstorm about new effects, and figure out which ones seem overpowered but aren't, or the ones that peak curiosity or are intriguing. What happened during our development cycle is that we were looking at yellow items, and we said "Wow we made legendaries really cool, but they're also really rare. Which means that for the whole level-up process, I'm not engaged in this super interesting legendary item game; I'm just dealing with yellow items, and these aren't interesting enough." So that's where the +elemental affixes came from, and that's also where the plus to the individual skills kind of took more prevalence. Like the bonus damage to Justice, and stuff like that. That was basically saying: there's blue items, and yellow items, and legendary items -- what can we do to make yellows a little more interesting, while you're getting ready to transition into legendaries?
I think if we had a lot more ideas like that, like your question was one on synergies, I think we'd probably look at legendaries first. Legendary items have first pick at these types of things. If they're not quite legendary-worthy, then maybe they do go on yellows. But a lot of ideas along those veins usually end up as legendaries, instead, or set bonuses. I think some things that traditionally would have been skill synergies in Diablo II are possibly set bonuses for us. Not even skill synergies, but just cool other effects that interact with my skills.
As for broadening out the elemental types, that was totally a decision to make the skills and items interact a little bit more, get people to try different runes. I know that our tech art department was really excited to be able to do elemental variance of various skills. I love the way it's turned out, where I look at a skill and there's an ice, fire, or lightning variant. I get excited by that.
Q: One last question. People want to hear your opinion on Bind-on-Account, and why did you choose to go that way instead of allowing trading? Some people think trading is really important to the Diablo experience.
One last question... wow. [laughs] I'll go out there and just say, I'm really happy with Bind on Account legendaries. I know that it is not a clear black and white issue. I know that there are tradeoffs. I know that it means that I can't... I think there are really fond, fond memories, of getting an item and saving it for a friend. Or not being able to get the 4th item in a set, and the only way I have any hope of getting it, other than endlessly farming and crossing my fingers, is to trade for it. So there's definite downsides. Like I said earlier, design is about tradeoffs.
On the flip side, we just really want the personal experience of playing Diablo to feel rewarding. We can all kind of look at the Auction House and I think a lot of people recognize -- I think there were people who were saying this before, but now everyone has experienced it, that the better your gear, the harder your next upgrade is to get. If you just buy from the Auction House a whole bunch of really amazing gear, you had a spike of excitement, but you just made it 100 times harder to get an upgrade for yourself. When I think about a friend giving another friend a legendary item, I think there's this a spike of excitement, there's a great social bond. I love my friend for it, but if they gave me an amazing helm, guess what? I'm probably not getting another helm upgrade for the next 50 game hours. So it's hard to have one without the other. I do miss trading, you know? It is too bad, that legendary trading doesn't exist the way that it did in D2. But at the end of the day, I think that the personal journey is more powerful now, and I happily trade one for the other other.
Q: As someone who has been playing Reaper of Souls for some time, it is great to know that I can still find upgrades every time I play. Especially with the new legendary system, no long spikes of days without a legendary.
Right! And someone could say, "I wish we could have that experience that Moldran just described of getting all these legendaries, and having a good time -- oh, but can we have trading too?" [laughs] And well, you can't have both. So no, you can't have trading too; you have to choose which one do you want.
Q: A lot of people had asked about limited trading, like Clan trading, or stuff like that.
Yeah, and so again, it's a matter of degree. I think that it's not an immediate obviously good choice. It's a spectrum of trading: free trading all the way on one side, full account bound of everything all the way on the other side. And if you allow Friend trading or Clan trading, or rules like, "you can trade with friends who have been on your friends list for 30 days", or whatever. It doesn't just make the problem magically solved, it just puts you at a different point along that spectrum. Even if you had limited trading among only trusted people, you're still taking away a little bit from my personal upgrade path, in exchange for something else.
Q: It was a dream come true for me when you guys announced BoA, and I think most people who have played Reaper of Souls have probably are starting to come around to the idea.
Awesome. Thanks for your time, guys, this was really fun.