Diablo III Patch 2.1.0 Philosophy

Development thoughts on the goals of the upcoming Diablo III PC patch

Greater Rifts in Diablo III
Diablo III PC Patch 2.1 is nearing release, and the developers have provided an extended design philosophy for the patch. It provides a big picture look at what players can expect to see (and not see) changed in the patch. There are major new features such as the introduction of Greater Rifts and Legendary Gems in the patch. The developers may iterate further on class skills as needed, in upcoming smaller patches.

Patch 2.1.0 Design Philosophy
Patch 2.1.0 has been on the Public Test Realm longer than any other Diablo III patch. The developers let the public see the patch much sooner than in previous patches. This often made the PTR builds seem like a roller-coaster, with patches shifting the design dramatically. As detailed in this overview of the design for the patch, patch 2.1.0 is only the start of this process.
Hey all!

With the release of patch 2.1.0 drawing near, we wanted to take some time to share the balance goals of this patch. There were two major goals:

  • Reduce the number of extreme outliers in class balance in order to set us up for ongoing improvements
  • Provide ourselves a new metric (Greater Rifts) by which we can more easily identify future outliers

The changes we've made so far to our six classes exemplify these goals. For example, the retuning of Exploding Palm, The Furnace, and Rimeheart weren't specifically made to nerf Monks—it was to remove a clear, standalone issue from interfering with other changes aimed at giving Monks the tools they need to survive and compete in Greater Rifts.

The implementation of Greater Rifts allows us to rate classes much more quantitatively. Ideally, each class should be within a couple Greater Rift tiers of one another. Our latest internal testing, where we often copy actual characters from players in the PTR and run them through Greater Rifts, shows that we're pretty close. Inevitably, there will always be room for improvement, and now we have clear, tangible data for us to check in on what's going on and re-evaluate.

Here's what we're not aiming to do (at least, not yet):
  • Expand class diversity
    • This is a design goal for us, and we've touched a little on it (see below). However, we want each class performing similarly and with fewer outliers before we introduce new play styles.

  • Buff every class through the roof
    • While power creep is somewhat inevitable with new content (Legendary Gems, I'm looking at you!), you need to sand down the rough edges before you primer them! We want to reign some things in, buff some things up, and ensure each class has comparable (if different) tools available to them.

The overarching philosophies for this patch are as follows and apply to most, if not all, the classes:

  • Provide elemental diversity among a class' available skills
    • This is an ongoing process, and while we've partially addressed elemental diversity for most classes, there's still more to go (such as addressing Poison and Cold for Demon Hunters and Crusaders respectively).

  • Buff significantly underused skills by increasing numbers or redesigning runes with more interesting or useful mechanics.
    • Channeling spells for Wizards or Furious Charge for Barbarians are great examples of these changes. There's still some skills out there that need work, we just may not get to them for 2.1.

  • Buff Healing
    • This can apply to every class. We want players to use healing on their gear, especially in higher level Greater Rifts, and it should feel much more reliable and on-demand (depending on which type of healing you prefer to stack).

  • Ensure that the elemental types and skill mechanics fulfill the fantasy of the class
    • We talk about class fantasy a lot, and making sure your class feels the way it should. The addition of the Crusader set, Roland’s Legacy, is a prime example of this. Crusaders should feel like they have options in melee, and we feel this set helps satisfy that need.

Phases of the PTR can be a little trying, because what you end up seeing from the outside looking in is what our iterative process looks like — except with none of the context. It's like trying to tell what the entire picture is from a few unmatched puzzle pieces, because some bits of our larger, overarching goals just can’t (for one reason or another) be crammed into a build before it goes out.

What can be frustrating is that our iterative process on a subject can be much longer term than the cycle of a single patch. Class balance is a perfect example of this, particularly because it’s an aspect of the game that’s never really "done." It's fairly inevitable that there will always be work to do on this front, especially as we add new content in the future (and even more so where Legendaries and Sets are concerned). Class balance is the sum of several wholes, including Skills, Set Items, and Legendaries that have been added or adjusted. That's a ton of stuff to look at, and sometimes there's simply not enough time to fit everything into a single patch (even if it's in our plans).

This is an ongoing process for us. There's a lot of new toys and quality of life changes in this patch, but that doesn't mean it launching closes the doors on additional tweaks or changes for the future. If a class falls behind, we might put out a 2.1.1 or 2.1.2 to address the clear outliers.

Some of our plans have immediate implementation goals while others stretch on for 6 months or even a year. There's a lot of spinning wheels and fiddly bits in this Infernal Machine, and a quick glance won't ever be sufficient to explain it all. Some plans are harder to explain than others, but we hope this lends at least a bit of transparency to the bigger picture.

Greater Rifts Trials
Greater Rifts are a big new feature of the game in patch 2.1.0. The Greater Rift Trials at the start determine the difficulty of the Greater Rift that you start at. There are areas of that system that are still being tweaked, and may be changed further in the future.
Thanks for the great discussion here, folks.

Posted by: Malentros

What doesn't make sense to me, is why don't the greater rift trials follow the same level gain philosophy as greater rifts themselves: the faster you clear a wave, the more difficult the next wave. Instead of tracking progress as # of waves completed, its wave difficulty completed.

We’re looking at allowing you to advance through the Trials more quickly. We're also keeping an eye on Greater Rift Keystone advancement, and will make adjustments as needed. Our goal is for players to be able to skip forward aggressively, but not so fast that you worry about “overshooting” and ending up in a rift that's too high for you.

As with all Blizzard games, there will continue to be iteration on these systems even after the patch is released. Keep up to date with all the latest news about Diablo III: follow Diablo Somepage on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ for updates.
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