Wyatt Cheng Talks Patch 2.2 and Season 3

An interview with ZiggyD deals with the Mortick's Brace removal

Wyatt Cheng and ZiggyD Interview
Diablo III developer Wyatt Cheng took time last week for an interview with Australian streamer ZiggyD. They discussed the last minute removal of Mortick's Brace from Patch 2.2, what metrics the developers are watching in Season 3, tidbits about patch 2.3, and other interesting topics. Watch the 20 minute video of the interview, or read on for the Q&A transcript.

Patch Size: Patch 2.2 adds a huge amount to the game. Is this a trend you'd like to continue for future major patches?
The team has put a ton of work into the patch. Some of it is based on feedback we've received. A good example is the Focus and Restraint set. There's still more to do. People still look at things like Legendary weapons. In much the same way that we got feedback on a lot of rings that weren't doing much, we really prioritized making awesome rings this time around. I think you can expect to see us revamping weapons, too. I can't really comment on the scope of the change, except to say that we still have a lot on our todo list. Patch 2.2 introduced three new sets, for the Barbarian, Monk, and Wizard. We have plans to introduce sets next patch for Crusader, Monk and Witch Doctor - three now, three later. All the classes also had some revisions to their existing sets in patch 2.2.

Patch 2.3: So patch 2.3 is potentially going to be the release for those next three sets?
2.3 is a ways off. We have already started work on it. The way our development cycle works is, we start working on something in parellel, so work on 2.3 started even before the last BlizzCon. Some things take a while, some things are quicker. Particularly if it requires new art, that we have to plan further ahead. Again, to use Focus and Restraint or the rework on some of the rings as an example, those ones don't require new art to add a new power, but it does involve some design and some testing. So we're able to get those in with 2.2.

Mortick's Brace: There was some frustration over how the Barbarian Mortick's Brace was removed with the patch 2.2 release. What went into the decision to remove it right at the last moment?
I don't think we handled that very well, to be honest. Some background on that: we made the decision to not have those bracers in 2.2 just over a week ago. We had them disabled for our internal builds and did some testing with the bracers off, and we ran some numbers and some calculations. We said these bracers aren't ready, as many in the community had pointed out, they were very overpowered. So we removed them, but there were a number of other issues such as they didn't get removed from the patch notes in time. They also weren't removed from the console version. We go through a submission process with Sony and Microsoft to get the console patch submitted. It gets signed off by them and then it goes up, so there's a process involved.

We feel the game is at a really good place now. It's always been our goal that each of the classes has not just one, but multiple competitive build. That's one of the things I'm excited about Season 3 in patch 2.2. Every class has at least one, if not two, and in some cases three different builds that are all capable of Greater Rift 50 or higher, which is unprecedented. With the bracers removed, I think you'll see all the classes within a couple of Greater Rifts of each other at the top end. So we feel like the game is at a pretty good place. Again, we didn't handle it very well, our communication was not great on the issue, and we will try to better on that.
Is there any plan to bring Mortick's Brace back in the near future?
There's a lot of options on the table. Some of the questions right now are: is bracers the right slot for it; what is the right effect - should it just be one rune? I've seen that suggestion as well, some people want Wrath of the Berserker - Striding Giant or other ability options. Fortunately we have a good development cycle where we can look at what the right answer is.

Power creep and Gameplay Variety: Players progress to a point where the relevent content is limited to high level Greater Rifts, so that reduces what they can do in game. Are there any plans to curb power creep or add additional Torment difficulties, or add additional variety of content at the top of gameplay?
There is a little bit of power creep. Usually that's because as we add new items, there's a certain expectation that these items are going to make you more powerful, so to a certain degree that'd inevitable. On the flip side, players often ask for build diversity. Honestly it's hard to have both constant power creep and diversity. Usually as you things get better, one of them tends to stick out from the crowd a little bit. If we moved Torment IV to be the equivalent difficulty and rewards to Greater Rift 50, but as a Torment setting, all of the sudden a lot of builds wouldn't be viable for Torment IV. It's not black or white; maybe we do need a few more settings that are higher. But we don't want the Torment settings to push your character to the limit - that is what Greater Rifts are for. We kind of like that Torment IV is farming mode, where a lot of builds are reasonable, and On-Kill effects have a good place. There's a lot of builds that work for Torment IV farming that don't work at the very high end of Greater Rifts, and vice-versa. We like that that difference exists, but as power creep continues, the gap between the two is probably worth examining. For 2.2 we're pretty excited that we have more build diversity for the upcoming Season than ever before. So let's see how that pans out and then go from there.

Stash Space: Are the limitations of stash space a gameplay design decision, or is it a technical/financial limitation of the game?
It's a complex issue. The reality is that we can't give people infinite stash space. Especially when you're dealing with the million of players we have, and some of our infrastructure and such. It's no secret that we're releasing in China pretty soon, and there is a different business model in China: you only start with one stash tab, but there's the option to purchase more. I think we want to see how that goes, does it have a Pay to Win fear - that's something that comes up. Blizzard really believes in fair play for everyone, and we really want to avoid things that feel like they would be pay to win. I know some people feel that stash space wouldn't be pay to win, but at the same time for a game like Diablo, holding on to your items is valuable, so it might be perceived that way.
So is it possible that if this goes well in China, the potential of expanding stashes as MTX would be possible?
That's really not something I can comment on. All I can say is that it'd be the elephant in the room if I didn't acknowledge that it's there. We need to see how it feels, we're very protective of not being pay to win. I sort of approach things cautiously. Again, we have these constraints where we can't just give you infinite tabs. If we went in and said, "everybody gets 1 more tab", then everyone would just want more. I think that is true, so we have to try to figure out how do we reconcile all of these factors.

Season Length: Four months feels too long for a Diablo season, and the recent announcement was that Season 3 will be at least 4 months long. How do you feel about Season length?
Our first Season was about five and one-half months long, and we received feedback that it felt too long. This last Season was two months long, and some people said it's just right, a lot of people said it was too short. I think what it comes down to is that different people have different playstyles. Some people even say "we want one week Seasons!" When you're talking about one week Seasons, you're talking about a totally different audience - it's about racing as fast as they can, they're not really interested in for example, getting a full set of Ancient items in every slot using their perfect Set. It's a completely different mentality. We'll never be able to make both groups happy. The selection of the four months is that we're currently looking at the journey of the people who want a fresh start, but still want a sense of investment in their character. For the people who are only interested in the race, this will seem long.
So you think four months is a good amount of time to get the entire scope of the Diablo III story, and develop your character?
I think three months would have been fine as well. I think that we sort of use three to four as being a good range. This time we're trying at least four. It's really a matter that not everyone is going to be happy, but we want to try these different lengths and say, "what percentage of our players were able to complete their 6-piece set after three months?"
So it's up for review depending on how it goes with this Season.
Yeah. And what percentage of players are able to get the new portrait frame and pennant. Both of these are cool, because it's the three year anniversary of Diablo III, so they're kitted around looking like that. We'll be tracking: what percentage of people have unlocked this after one month, two months, three months, four months? So this will give us a sense of: how do these different styles of players interact with the Season? And we want to make sure that people get a lot of out of it, for when we are looking and calibrating our rewards for future Seasons. The pennant is supposed to be that everyone who loves Diablo III should be able to get this, and the portrait frame is more that the dedicated players should be able to get this. So we'll look at that and track it, so we can calibrate our rewards accordingly.

Do you plan on making solo play more rewarding?
We're pretty happy with where solo play is. There is some concern over Legendary gems. No immediate plans, but maybe long-term.

Will the Nemesis system from the console Ultimate Evil Edition come to the PC version?
The top two requested features from console are side-kicking, and Nemesis. We have looked at both of them at one time or another. It kind of goes both ways, that there are some features on console that they would like from PC as well.

Any possibility of shared followers between characters?
There's the possibility. As you can probably tell, there's a lot of things on our todo list. We started looking at it, and immediately the questions came up: what happens in hardcore; what happens when I'm leveling a new character; if I level a new character and I unlock a follower, what happens to that gear when I hit 70? There's basically a bunch of UI work that would be involved in that. It's not an unsolvable problem, it's just how does this prioritize against all the other things that players would also like?

Any Diablo related news at E3?
I can't comment on future news schedule releases.

Patch 2.2 had some updated 2-piece sets. Will other 2-piece Sets be reworked in the next patch?
Yeah, some of them. I think I've got my eye on The Traveler's Pledge and The Compass Rose set. The Barbarian 2-piece weapon set was done because we had the new Whirlwind set in patch 2.2, and Focus and Restraint is because had a huge ring focus in the patch.
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