Diablo III Developer Thoughts From Travis Day

A lengthy discussion of all things related to Diablo III, and a promise of more to come next week

Diablo III Development
The Diablo III developers have been sharing a lot of thoughts lately, but a new post by developer Travis Day goes beyond anything seen to date. In a reply to a lengthy critique of the game, he lays out points about many different aspects of the game. He also mentions an Item Developer Blog that is scheduled to arrive next week.

Read on for a very long overview of what the Diablo III developers are thinking about, plus a few other Blizzard Blues posts.


The State of Diablo III
Travis Day covers almost every topic about Diablo III in this post. The upcoming Items Blog promises to provide even more info about some changes in the pipeline.
Thanks for taking the time to put your thoughts on paper for us. There are a lot of topics here that deserve attention and I want to share our views on them with all of you. Stay a while and listen.

Challenge

Challenge is certainly something that has value; players can’t feel a sense of accomplishment if everything in the game can be face rolled. I think many people would agree that, at launch, the game was too challenging. It was very difficult to progress through Inferno depending on your class or items and the challenge was a large part of the reason players felt like they were driven to the AH in the first place. When you present players with difficult content they will find a way to overcome it which usually means using only the most powerful items and abilities. The unfortunate side effect is it also drives players away from the play styles they feel are “just fun”. We have taken steps to improve this problem a number of ways; reducing the overall difficulty of Inferno, improving the potency of underused skills to allow players more diversity in their gameplay, and introducing Monster Power to allow players to set the game to a level which they feel is enjoyable. I think the right way to introduce challenge is to make it optional, for example having difficult content for the players that enjoy it without penalizing the players who prefer a more relaxed gameplay experience.

Items and AH

Items are a topic with a tremendous amount of depth and also a very sensitive subject, so I’ll do my best to provide some of our insights into the matter. Removing “bad” affixes is certainly a suggestion that surfaces from time to time, another suggestion is to group all the good affixes into a shared category so that they can’t all roll on the same item. I think on the surface those sound good but the reality of what they would do to the itemization isn’t what we want. I addressed the topic of the “bad” affixes in a prior post about items so I won’t go into too much more detail here, but I think it’s well within our ability to make those affixes compelling for some people, Pickup Radius and Witch Doctors are a good example of this. Specifically as it relates to Thorns, no one will disagree that in its current state is pretty lackluster, but it supports a play style that I’m sure we can capture with enough alterations to both the core mechanic and some supporting class abilities and passives.

As it relates to bucketing affixes so Crit Chance, Crit Damage, and Attack Speed are mutually exclusive, yeah that would add more choice to item selection, but it would be artificial. I think this issue has some underlying causes that we should look at before going to the extreme of preventing them from existing on the same item. One of the first reasons trifecta items are an issue isn’t that they are so good; it’s that they are the only thing that is good. Of course you want the only three stats that increase your character damage in a meaningful way on the same item, because there are ONLY three stats that increase your character damage in a meaningful way other than your primary stat. I don’t want to derail this by getting into why primary stats were introduced or debate whether they are good or bad. I do want to say that Diablo 3 has been through much iteration during which a vast number of approaches to stats and items were tested and in the end we felt primary stats were the right thing for Diablo 3. I think a better approach to this issue is to introduce more affixes that players are interested in, so there is a sense of tension over what the six affixes are on your “ideal gear”. When a perfect pair of gloves is “Core Stat, Vit, Res All, Crit Chance, Crit Dmg, Attack Speed” and you can’t even imagine another stat you would want instead of one of those, we have a bigger problem. Introducing more choice instead of less and giving players more ways to feel like they are customizing their character is what we want to see. If gloves also had the ability to roll +% School Damage, +Life on Hit, Skill specific affixes, plus a couple more things you want, than players may find themselves in a situation where trifecta isn’t as clearly defined anymore.

The “problem” with trifecta items can’t be discussed without also pointing out that it is only a problem because the AH makes obtaining these items so easy. On a basic level, I have no problem with items existing that players highly desire, but when it is a forgone conclusion that you will have those items then we have problems. If the auction house never existed, players wouldn’t be upset that trifecta exists, they would be upset that they haven’t been lucky enough to find their own trifecta items. To summarize, I think the right solution to this problem isn’t cutting trifecta items from the game, but rather it’s about getting to a point where you want more things than you can fit on an item.
I think your affix ideas are cool, and we have spent a lot of time lately talking about what kind of awesome effects we could put on items that we don’t currently have. I’d even say that as cool as some of these ideas are, we can go even further. We are putting a lot of effort into coming up with really awesome item ideas for future content. I’ll give one quick example of my personal favorite so far before moving on and also to give context to the direction we are moving in. Imagine a pair of Legendary boots that read “Makes you ethereal, allowing you to freely move through enemies”. Whether or not that idea makes the final cut is hard to say, but we want to really push the boundaries as much as we can, so legendary items become things that players can get really excited about.

Character Customization

Your system idea for Nephalem Power Stat is basically a roundabout way of suggesting we re-implement the Diablo 2 skill system. The old skill system was fun, back in the day, but I think it’s honestly dated in today’s landscape. People fondly remember making tons of characters and trying out different builds, and while I have a lot of those same fond memories, I also remember that usually the end result of my time investment in my “cool new character” was complete and utter disappointment.
Today the availability of web sites or posts about character builds would mostly overshadow any of that old character rerolling. You would read a post saying someone else tried the build that you had imagined would be amazing, only to find out it was awful, or you would find out it was great and build it also. The skill system today allows people the flexibility to try out things they enjoy without penalizing players who want to experiment with new ideas. The only difference is if their idea doesn’t pan out, you didn’t waste hours leveling a bad character.
Character customization is fun. People want more ways to feel different from their neighbor, and we want to help provide players with more options in this regard as well. There are lots of things that we have discussed and some ideas we have for long term system additions to the game to help in this regard. One of them which I mentioned in another post is the plan to eventually introduce a system to allow players to customize their character appearance more. Another system we haven’t talked about before is the long term plan to change the way the Paragon system works to allow it to offer more character customization in the form of actual power. The details of that system are still being worked out and players probably won’t get their hands on it for quite a while. We do agree that customization is important and we want more ways for players to both express themselves and differentiate themselves from their friends and other members of the community.

Too many items

I cover this topic in some depth in the upcoming Item Blog that community is in the process of getting ready for release next week. I will briefly say that we agree that too many items drop and we have plans to eventually reduce the rate that players see items, while also taking measures to improve the general quality of items you do see. The end result should be fewer items that are better instead of tons of items you don’t want.

Legendary and Set items

This is a topic I’ve touched on some in this thread and it is also a talking point of the upcoming Item Blog, so I’ll just say that we agree and we want Legendary items to feel game changing.

Finding your own gear

Whenever we talk about what the fantasy of Diablo is and what we want the core gameplay to be, never do we say “we want players to farm gold and go buy items off the auction house”. The AH definitely has made an impact on Diablo 3 and we talk about it constantly, but our conversations are usually in the context of “how can we get players to find their own loot instead of just buying it”. The new crafting recipes and Demonic Essences were added to provide a little bit of this gameplay but we have a lot of ideas for the long term about how we want to go about addressing this. At the end of the day, it is our intention that players are able to find their own items, because we feel the game is just more fun that way. There are several reason why it might not feel that way right now. One is the inherent randomness of our loot system. Another is the fact that the AH completely removes all friction between player trades. And another is when players DO find items they should be excited about, they are often disappointed because this items are not very good. All of these are very important and we hope to address them over time.

Skill Diversity

This is something we constantly strive to improve. Yes, there are a lot of runes and abilities that are lacking, but as you can see with our patches, we try over time to improve the balance of them regularly. In some cases runes are designed just to be fun or cool. In other cases, we try to make a large spectrum of runes competitive, but the math ends up favoring one over the others. In some cases, certain abilities or ability combinations are so potent that they overshadow almost every other option available. WW/Sprint/Battle Rage is a good example of this. There are some cool ideas here, but I don’t want to turn this post into a discussion about specifics of design. This is a problem that we can’t fix overnight, but we are confident that over time we can constantly improve the situation and hopefully the community can see that we are making efforts on this front with every patch we release.
Crafting
What crafting was meant to be and what it ended up being aren’t necessarily the same. Again there are a long list of reasons why it turned out to be a bit underwhelming for some people. Not the least of which is the existence of the AH. Why make random things when you can buy exactly what you are looking for? We are constantly exploring new ideas for how to make crafting more relevant and trying to carve out a more defined role for it within the scope of Diablo 3 itemization. We have discussed ideas such as letting players have some control over what stats will appear on the item they are crafting, using the crafting system to allow players to reroll the values of affixes an item already has, etc. This is a system that, with time, should be able to find a better place in the overall gameplay experience of Diablo.

Social Features

This is an area that has a lot of room for improvement. I personally used to talk about the fact that when I would play with my brother and two of my good friends, I constantly felt like they were a detriment to my ability to farm, which is at the core of my enjoyment of the Diablo series. Since then, we have made changes to improve the coop experience like reducing the health multiplier of additional players and removing the damage scaling when more players join the game. However, we need to do more to improve both the in and out of game experience. We want it to be easier for players to find other like-minded people to play with and this is a topic we are actively trying to improve in the near future.

Conclusion

Ok I’ve reread this thing enough times that my brain is starting to melt. The Diablo team is incredibly passionate and constantly striving to make the game we love even better. I hope this post helps clear the air about where we stand on a lot of these topics and I also hope I never find myself never feeling the need to write a post this long again lol.

TLDR – Travis has crit Gosu with Wall of Text for 1 Billlllllllion damage.


Console Diablo III Development
Community Manager Lylirra again refuted the idea that Diablo III was designed first for consoles, instead of the PC.
Posted by: Xaragoth

Even the UI and entire conrol setup lends itself very much to a controller layout, as do the amount of abilities.


Except that both the UI and control scheme are being redeveloped for PlayStation. (Not to mention that console games can support more than 6 input buttons, if that's what a particular design calls for.)

Let's focus the criticisms here, though. It seems your primary concern is that Diablo III was designed and/or has evolved in a way you don't entirely agree with. You're attributing that to the fact we're porting the PC game to the PlayStation. Because a lot of features and systems in Diablo III seem to sync well with console play, you feel this is evidence that the PC game was purposely handicapped for the PlayStation, and is one of the main reasons why we chose not to implement certain design features from Diablo II (i.e. the type of gameplay you prefer).

It's not unreasonable to think that the order of operations for bringing Diablo III to console was a) decide to release Diablo III on console and then b) develop the PC game around that philosophy -- especially if thinking that helps validate your own concerns. In reality, though, the order was a) develop a great game for PC and then b) see if it makes sense to release that game on console.

We've always thought that, out of all our games, the Diablo franchise would translate best to the console platform (heck, even the first Diablo was ported to PlayStation). The gameplay and controls are very straightforward, which lends itself better to consoles than other titles we've released. This is something we've said for many years now.

Play.tm: This game is PC and Mac only at present. Do you have console plans for the future?[/b]

Jay: We don't have any console plans right now. I would say that of all our games... well, Blizzard doesn't view itself as just a PC developer, we think we're a games developer. So if we thought a game was more appropriate for consoles we'd make it, its just that most of the games we've made so far feel better on the PC. However, Diablo is maybe the one exception. I think the control scheme would translate really well to a console, erm, there are many elements that would be easy to pull over... that could work well with direct control. There's not a lot of buttons, so you could fit them on a controller pretty easily. There are some targeting issues that could be troublesome, but nothing that couldn't be overcome. But, we're also used to developing for the PC, so right now we're completely focused on that.

(source)


Though Diablo 3 is currently only confirmed for the PC, Blizzard president Mike Morhaime has once again suggested that the long-awaited action-RPG may end up on consoles as well.

"Every game we have the discussion about which platforms make the most sense," Morhaime stated in an interview at BlizzCon. "As Diablo 3 takes shape, I think we'll do an evaluation."

"I think there is a pretty good argument to be made that that type of game might work very well on consoles," he added. "There might be some technical limitations though that we might need to get past."

Diablo 3 director Jay Wilson also chimed in on the oft-speculated topic, noting that the game's control scheme would work rather well on consoles.

"If we did it, we would want to do a really high quality version--we wouldn't just want to do a port," Wilson said. "We would never make that decision if we thought we had to compromise the overall quality...we could probably do it at any time, we could release the game and then decide we wanted to do a 360 version or a PS3 version."

"We haven't really decided to take the [console] plunge," he continued "We've really come to the conclusion that it's probably the best fit because the control scheme is actually not that incompatible. So if we were to make that decision, Diablo would be the natural choice."

(source)


VG 24/7:I sat in on a recent press conference where Jay Wilson and J Allen Brack were asked why Blizzard games aren't on consoles. The gist of their argument? If Blizzard created a game that was a good fit for consoles, it’d be there in a heartbeat. Obviously, many gamers have responded to this with vehement cries of "Diablo!" Are they right? Or are Diablo’s demons invulnerable to all but the mighty mouse and keyboard?

JB: I think it is suited to consoles. We’re definitely working, obviously, on the PC version. This is something that’s been brought up a lot about Diablo. It’s sort of an ongoing question. And I’m sure we would all love to play it on console, but right now, we’re just focused on what we’ve got in front of us. Who knows what the future holds? It’s hard to say.

CL: We have said in the past that Diablo’s one of the games that really would translate [to consoles] well.

(source)


Ultimately, Diablo III was a game designed for the PC. It has since been released for PC, and we've made several improvements to the PC game since launch. We plan to continue that support (see here and here as examples). From there, we've been working to port the game to the PlayStation, because we feel it would play really well on that platform.

The part I think a lot of players are getting caught up on is that there's a big difference between believing that a PC game can work well on console after some adjustments, and designing a PC game specifically for console. Diablo III is an example of the former. This means that your concerns are with our approach towards designing a PC game in general, and not the fact that the game makes a good candidate for a console port.

Posted by: Moogle

Very disheartening to hear this franchise get boiled down to semantics. These games are so much more than hack-and-slash.


I agree. I never said Diablo, Diablo II, or Diablo III were limited to the hack-and-slash genre. I just clarified that they were, in fact, hack-and-slash games.

Posted by: whoopadeedoo

Lylirra, will you have a beer with me at Blizzcon? Seriously.


Deal, but you're buying. :)


Auction House Max Bids
Wyatt Cheng detailed a change made in a hotfix, to how the bidding process works on the Auction House. It is now set up so that there is no way of another player learning the maximum bid amount that you have placed on an item.
Posted by: Rapap

The AH was hotfixed a few weeks ago to do this. Instead of raising the current bid 5% over your attempted bid it just brings it up to yours. Blizzard changed it to help prevent other players from finding out your max bid.


This is correct. Preserving your max bid as a secret is important in allowing players to bid according to their true valuations as well as mitigating shill bids. (Bids with ill intent to artificially inflate the price)

Others in this thread have said it better than I but in essence if your desire is that you simply want to know what it is that you need to beat (so you can bid a bit higher) flip your thinking over and let the system work in your favor instead. Suppose the current winner is Bob with a visible (public) bid of 50,000 gold. Bob's true max bid (which is hidden from you), is 75,000 gold.

In this case one of the following will apply:

Scenario 1: You are willing to bid between 52,500 and 75,000 gold. In this case, you're not willing to pay as much as Bob, so Bob will win. The system will automatically increase Bob's bid to your max bid. Since he entered his bid first (and is also willing to pay more), the system considers Bob the winner.

Scenario 2: You are willing to bid 75,001 or more gold. In this case, you are willing to spend more than Bob, so the system makes you the winner. Suppose you enter a value of 150,000 gold. Well now the hidden bid is working to your advantage. The public bid is 75,000, the maximum amount Bob was willing to pay. But now you're the one who is willing to pay more, and entered a higher number, so the system considers you to be the winner instead. Even though you entered 150,000 - if the auction were to end right now you only pay 75,000, the maximum of the second place bidder (Bob). Of course somebody else may come along and bid that up, but the system will automatically increment your bid upwards for you to the maximum (150,000) you had specified.

For the academically interested, you can read more about this auction approach on wikipedia, it's called a Vickrey auction or "Second Price Auction". One very nice property is it gives bidders incentive to bid their true value. a.k.a "Truthful bidding". For the Diablo Auction House it enables players to make a truthful bid, leave the game, come back 24 hours later and see if they won. No need to babysit a bid and make sure you don't get "sniped". As long as you bid the maximum amount you were willing to pay you either win and get a refund for the difference between you and second place, or you lose the auction to somebody who was willing to pay more.
INFO like this should be in the game guide!


Good suggestion, I'll pass this along to the Game Guide gurus to have it added.
That's how it used to work, but it made shill bidding (the practice of having friends bid your item up higher and higher to search for the bidder's max bid, then stop when it is found without ever taking a risk of exceeding it) an issue. Your bid was not truly hidden when the auctions worked that way.


This is correct.


Auction House Errors
Lastly, the AH errors 31048 and 0 have been very problematic lately, but they have finally been nailed down. Unfortunately, it will take a client patch before they can be fully fixed.
[UPDATE 2/28] Thanks for everyone’s patience while we continue to investigate the issues regarding errors 0 and 31048. We believe we have found what has been causing these errors and we are working on a resolution. Due to the nature of the issue, such a resolution will need to be implemented with a client update which we hope to add to an upcoming patch. We are very sorry for the inconveniences these errors have caused and once more thank you for your continued patience and understanding.
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