Developer 'Tavern Talk' Discusses Patch 2.1 and Beyond

Three Diablo III developers chat about Seasons, Legendary Gems, Legendary and Set items, and much more!

Diablo III Tavern Talk 1
The first Diablo III Tavern Talk ran today, providing information about the upcoming Diablo III patch 2.1 and future patches. Community representative Brandy "Nevalistis" Camel chatted with Diablo III developers Wyatt Cheng, John Yang, and Don Vu for over an hour about the future of the game. They touched on the new features in patch 2.1 such as Seasons, Legendary Gems, and Greater Rifts. There was also discussion about changes and additions that might come in the patches beyond 2.1. Here are the highlights of all the important topics discussed, along with the full video.

Keep in mind that Diablo III Patch 2.1 is already feature complete. Any ideas for the future that are mentioned by the developers will be part of a later patch. After patch 2.1.0 lands, small tweaks like class balance issues or rewards from the Greater Rifts may be adjusted with a minor update like patch 2.1.2. Major additions such as new items are generally part of major content patches, so perhaps will be added in patch 2.2.

At the end was an announcement about a temporary Gold Find bonus this weekend for all Diablo III PC characters. In preparation for the release of patch 2.1.0, a 50% multiplicative bonus in Gold Find will run until maintenance on Tuesday.

Here is the full 90 minutes video of the developers chatting, followed by highlights of their discussion.

Class Balance, Skills and Items
  • Q: Is the Barbarian class in a comfortable place? It's not exclusive to just Barbarians. The concerns often are: not enough resources, generators don't do enough damage, resource spenders don't do enough damage -- these are kind of all the same issue, feeling like you don't do enough damage for the effort/resource. The game has shifted to multiplicative damage, as seen with the big numbers on set bonuses. So that's where the game is at now for characters who have that gear, and the base skills are often weak compared to those big damage set bonuses.

    For Barbarians specifically, many of the Barbarian damage skills don't fit well with a specific Barbarian armor set. They can't fix it just by deciding to triple the damage on the skills; that would make it imbalanced for players who just hit 70 (whether in standard mode or soon in Seasons). The real solution is not to buff the skill damage, but introduce items that causes a skill to do more damage and work better overall. That's the solution moving forward, to add a ton of Legendary items that give big options for using different skills and playstyles. Legendary items + your skills makes the character.
  • Q: Will there be elements other than Physical runes for Sacrifice anytime soon? In patch 2.1 Sacrifice is getting a lot of love, and the mechanics are changing. Before it was in an awkward position; you pushed the button for Sacrifice, and it blew up all your dogs to do damage. So you looked for ways to get more dogs, but it didn't feel great overall. In patch 2.1 Sacrifice is redesigned - when you push the button, 1 dog runs over to your mouse location and blows up. It is more controllable that way, and has much better interaction with Legendary items. It's not a cooldown, you can store up these "charges" so you can cast them in a row. With the passives you can get up to 6 dogs, so you can cast Sacrifice 6 times in a row. It also has great synergy with Homunculus. There are always ideas for a lot of elemental variation; Wyatt Cheng thinks it's a great idea to look at other elements for those runes.
  • In patch 2.1 most of the classes have been brought down to so players choose between only 4-5 elements. Reducing the overall number of possible elements for a class provides more choice, because there can now be multiple runes of a specific element; so for some skills, you might be able to choose from multiple Lightning element skills, for example.

    For the Demon Hunter the developers had to decide between getting rid of Cold or Poison element skills and runes. When they looked at all the runes and with Elemental Arrow - Frost Arrow there was no choice; they can't kill Frost Arrow! So Poison is being removed from Demon Hunter skills, especially since it's not as interesting gameplay compared to the snares and slows that Cold skills can provide.
  • They are never done with class balance. For patch 2.1 the focus was on getting rid of outliers, and bringing up all the classes to around the same level. They have ideas already for future patches.
  • One place they want to look at in the future is the Monk Raiment Set (with items like Fists of Thunder). There are no specifics right now, but are looking at possibly making another Legendary item to synergize with that set. They don't want to just reinforce the Dashing Strike gameplay of the set, as it can be an annoying playstyle. In general, beyond keeping the power level of the sets close to each other, they want the gameplay with Sets and Legendaries to be engaging. Some of the gameplay questions they think about are: Are you paying attention to where you aim your skills; do you have more than 1 button on your bar that you use? The worst sort of problem is if the "best" set for a class makes players just hit 1 button as fast as you can, to do omni-directional damage; those are the sort of things they go in and have to fix.
  • Q: Will there be a second life ability for Barbarians (like Spirit Vessel for Witch Doctors)? John Yang says that would be great, and it could perhaps replace a passive like Nerves of Steel or Relentless. Wyatt Cheng says "Absolutely not"... they'll be discussing it!
  • Q: Demon Hunters are only using the Marauder Set. The real problem is that there aren't viable other options. The developers have talked about maybe adding or buffing 6-piece bonuses for all vanilla sets that aren't top tier (like Immortal King's Call for Barbarians, Natalya's Vengeance for Demon Hunters, etc.) They could add a 6th piece to these sets in a future patch, and a 6-piece set bonus. The Natalya's 6-piece bonus might be something like: Every time you cast a generator or spender, the cooldown of Rain of Vengeance is reduced by a certain amount. They aren't looking to change the Marauder set, as it pretty much sets the bar for Demon Hunters; they have a bar now with Greater Rifts to compare the classes, and need to bring all the classes in line by adding more items.
  • Q: What about Legendary powers for all the Legendary Staves, Daibos, etc.? The overarching goal is to have Legendary powers on all Legendary items. In patch 2.1, the damage for all 2-handed weapons are being buffed, as their DPS was too low. They tested different approaches first, such as putting buffs on passives for two-handers for each class, like Heavenly Strength. It's not great that Crusaders have to use a passive just to do their thing, so they didn't want to add that for every class. They didn't want to, but had to nerf Heavenly Strength to balance the boost to 2-hander damage. They made sure that the damage increase from 2-handers off-sets if not increases the damage for Crusaders, even with the passive nerf.
  • Q: Witch Doctor pets die immediately past Greater Rift 30; why was the Legendary gem changed to no longer provide pet invulnerability? Pet viability is an overall problem in the game, not a problem that should be solved through a single gem. The real solution is to do something to improve viability for all the pets in the game. In Greater Rifts pets are going to die more and more, so the developers will do something on the pet side for all classes. They don't want to be in a world where pets are paper thin and constantly dying, but they shouldn't be invulnerable to where a player doesn't have to think about his pets at all. If the action gets really intense and stuff is all over the screen, pets should have a chance of dying, so they didn't want to make them invulnerable. They are looking at making changes in the future; perhaps something like the pet's health scales based on the monster's damage, so they would do well even at higher Greater Rifts.
  • Q: Any plans to allow a player to target farming a specific Legendary item? They agree that players need a way to target that; Kadala is there for that reason, to help complete sets. There's a spectrum of how easy it is to get a specific item, and they don't want players to just be picking from a drop-down, getting a specific guaranteed Legendary.
  • Q: Smart Drops for gear for the current Follower? According to Travis Day, it already works that way; there is a small chance of a drop that is essentially Smart Loot for your current Follower.
  • Q: So many Wizard active skills are essentially passives. The developers agree; skills like Magic Weapon, Armor skills and Familiar are all on the radar. The long-term goal is to make those skills more like Mantras or Mystic Ally - they would provide a base bonus, but would also include an active ability.
  • Q: What about other Wizard skills, perhaps more could be done with Archon? Class balance is never done, the developers are always looking at that. They might do changes like buff Meteor even more. Arcane Orb could be better; it was very popular right after patch 2.0 released but it hasn't been as popular lately. Class balance does not just mean adjusting the base skill damage, as that's not going to compete with the Legendary/Set damage that is dramatically higher; as always, they are looking forward to making more Legendary items to boost specific skills.
  • Q: Will there be Wall of Zombies changes, and improvements for the Witch Doctor Helltooth Harness set? The developers want to be happy with the base skill before updating set bonuses that rely on them. Wall of Zombies doesn't do its job at blocking monsters. Maybe they will change Wall of Zombies to be something like a ring that traps monsters, like it is in Heroes of the Storm.

Item Properties
Q: What is changing with Dexterity and Dodge?
  • Dexterity no longer provides Dodge, but in patch 2.1 it instead gives 1 point of Armor per Dexterity. The classes should feel different and they liked having the defensive stats work differently. However, it caused balance problems between the classes, for the Demon Hunters and Monks who rely on Dexterity.
  • The developers wanted to put all classes on the same playing field for defensive abilities, especially going into Greater Rifts with patch 2.1. They tried different options first. One idea was that the amount of Dodge a character has reduces the damage you take from non-Dodge attacks, but that seemed weird to provide damage reduction for non-Dodgeable attacks like standing in a ground effect, from Dodge. They tried half a point of Armor per point of Dexterity, and half a point of All Resist. Eventually they decided to go with the flat 1 Armor per Dexterity.
Q: Any changes to Block on shields?
  • They have thought about changing Block to be a percentage based instead of a fixed amount. Right now Block works well against small weak monsters, but doesn't do as well against the elites and big guys where you really want it. They still want to get that done in some fashion.
  • There is always a hesitation when it comes to changing existing gear; the benefit of the change has to be significant to do retroactive changes. If there's a better way of doing it that helps with Block at higher Greater Rifts without changing existing gear, they might do that. They're looking at new mechanics for the future like perhaps a new passive, or new Legendaries. Only if those fail will they look at retroactively changing existing gear with Block.
Q: What about Critical Hit Damage (CHD) and Critical Hit Change (CHC) being so overwhelmingly powerful?
  • This issue comes up all the time, they discuss it maybe once a week. Wyatt Cheng said the main issue with with Crit Hit Chance and Crit Hit Damage is their interaction with each other. The more you get of one, the more valuable the other one becomes. If either one is just on their own, then it's fine; if Critical Hit Chance was set at a fixed 5%, then CHD would be fine, and vice-versa.
  • The other issue is that it takes up two item affixes on your gear, unlike a stat like Cooldown Reduction. So there are multiple issues with those item affixes, but they don't have any immediate changes in mind.
  • The addition of Legendary Gems is a deliberate attempt to give a little bit of tension on your rings and amulets, so that players will have to choose to give up an affix to get the socket there.
  • Big changes like that are easier to make with an expansion. Before Reaper of Souls the devcelopers went through every slot where Crit Damage occurs to see if they could take it off. It turned out they could only do it on weapons, because players will always use a maximum level weapon. They tried internally to remove CHD and CHC from level 61+ Rings and Amulets, but then nobody would upgrade to the higher level versions; they just kept using level 60 gear.
  • They might remove Critical Hit Damage entirely from gear in a future Season, but not for Season 1. The worry is that it's the first Season, and they wanted people to have a familiar game. So maybe in a future Season they'll try something like adding a new affix like "+30% to all your attacks", but there won't be any Critical Hit Damage item affix.

Game Content
  • Q: Anything more for the Infernal Machine event? The Infernal Machine in patch 2.1 is also used for Hellfire Amulets, along with the Hellfire Ring. While they considered tweaking and adjusting existing events like the Infernal Machine, it's staying the way it is; they'd rather spend their time adding new content to the game. In patch 2.1 that means new areas like the Greed realm going in, or the Cesspools area. Before 2.1 the Infernal Machine was the hardest content in the game, but now there are Greater Rifts. So they don't need to increase the difficulty of Ubers for the high end players, because Greater Rifts takes that spot of the hardest content in the game.
  • Q: Any improvements for Bounties down the line? No details at this point, but they want to get in new content where they can, and add more Bounties to existing Acts to freshen things up. There is work being done on Bounties, and other stuff... secret stuff! But they're looking at Bounties, especially in places like Act IV. The monsters in that area are a little too rough overall, and it's small for supporting a full Bounty set in the free-form Adventure Mode. So they've talked about how to make the content there comparable to the other Acts in terms of monster slaying, to make it more appealing.

Rifts, Seasons and Legendary Gems
  • New in patch 2.1, each rift key fragment opens a regular rift, only 1 per player. It only requires 4 keys total, everybody pays their share. This makes playing co-op less about social negotiation.
  • Legendary Gems are found in Greater Rifts; they're pretty common so you should find what you want quickly of the 14 different ones. They start at rank 0, and at rank 25 it unlocks the second synergistic power. They should be more than powerful enough when ranked up properly, to equip in gear.
  • Q: Is Adventure Mode automatically unlocked in Seasons? If you have it unlocked in non-Season hardcore or non-Season normal version, it will automatically be unlocked in the respective Seasonal game mode.
  • Q: Why isn't there a ladder for Paragon Levels? They didn't want to encourage the gameplay of grinding over and over for more Paragon Levels, for the leaderboards.
  • Q: Are great Rifts and Legendary gems only viable for people already steamrolling Torment 6? No; if you can do Torment 1 or higher, you can do Greater Rifts. The Key of Trials is designed to get you to a good starting Greater Rift. The Legendary Gems drop to anyone who can clear the Greater Rift, even if you can't complete it in the 15 minutes. The bottom few tiers of Greater Rifts are like Normal or Hard difficulty. There are more and higher chance of getting Legendary items and gems the higher Greater Rift you complete.
  • Q: Why can't we swap items in Greater Rifts? It was not because of The Furnace or Rimeheart - Greater Rifts should be cleared by the gear and spec that you choose. The developers had planned on locking gear from the beginning. It's a competitive system with leaderboards. If players can shave 5 seconds off their time by swapping to a +elite damage weapon at just the right moment, that's what they will do. They didn't want players to deal with that sort of gameplay.
  • Q: Will all seasons have new Legendaries? For the foreseeable future, every Season will have new Legendaries. They have also talked about Seasons including new Legendary Gems, specific Legendaries, and new Legendary Sets. A crazy idea they talked about months ago was that Greater Rifts would have their own class sets; each piece would be awarded from a specific level (like boots at Greater Rift 5, chest at Greater Rift 10, etc.) If they did that, they would probably introduce that in a specific Season, for that season's Greater Rifts.
  • Q: There has been a lot of iteration on the Legendary Gem structure; why not use experience for Legendary Gems? It was suggested and considered. The main two concerns: they don't want a system where you can overly predict the full reward of where you're going to be - "based on current progression, I have to play 17 1/2 hours to max out this gem". Paragon Levels already provide a constant reward; Legendary Gems should feel a little more unpredictable. The bigger reason is that players should be rewarded for reaching one higher Greater Rift than is comfortable. There isn't that big an incentive to go higher if it's just based on experience. They looked at exponential xp growth, but the numbers get ludicrous. In the current system, you can level a Legendary Gem comfortably up until you're close to your breaking point. But if you then try and succeed at the next higher Greater Rift, the chance of upgrading that gem is doubled, so there's a lot of incentive to do so.
  • For the future of Greater Rifts, Alkaizer might be right in his complaints about the rewards. The developers really want to reward going farther. If the rewards overall are off, they can fix that; they can double the amount of Legendaries Greater Rifts give, or increase the experience provided, whatever is necessary. It's hard to math it out completely, because the community is so good at min-maxing everything. They will keep an eye on it, and if the rewards aren't good enough, they'll buff it. Infinite gem scaling wasn't a huge problem, if the increase is very small. The bigger issue before was giving players a reason to push one Rift higher, so that's why they moved to the system in place now.

  • Q: Are Seasons coming to the PS4? Seasons won't be in the Ultimate Evil Edition, but patch 2.1 will come to the next-gen consoles at a future date. Patch 2.1 won't be released in tandem for the PC and UEE next-console versions of Diablo III, but eventually they want to do that. Greater Rifts, Legendary Gems, the Treasure Goblin realm, and everything else in patch 2.1 will be ported over. Seasons in consoles couldn't be done because of characters who could be off-line, so the developers couldn't make sure that people couldn't cheat.
  • Q: Why are the console patches only listed for next-gen consoles? The architecture of old-gen systems makes it really difficult for us to bring large patches over to console. Thankfully, both Sony and Microsoft rocked it with the PS4 and Xbox One, so now it's much easier (and much more viable) for us to bring PC patches to those platforms.

Other Topics
  • A common misconception is that every developer only works on one class. The classes always have someone "on point" for each class to make sure nothing falls through the cracks, but that person changes over time. The bulk of design for Crusader was done by Andrew Chambers, then Wyatt Cheng took it over for a month, Travis Day for like 2 weeks, and now Don Vu has been working on it for a while. All balance and mechanic changes are talked about with all the designers, it isn't just one guy deciding to go in and tweak a number on his own. Everyone works on new Legendary items, from across the entire Diablo team.
  • It is kind of crazy whirlwind developing both patch 2.1 and the Ultimate Evil Edition at the same time. Fortunately, those three designers are focused on PC patches, but they get to talk a lot to the console team. Right now, they're all sitting within 20 feet of each other, so it makes it easy to bounce ideas off of each other.
  • Q: Do any developers play hardcore as regular play mode? Don plays Hardcore a lot; Wyatt has before, and will be rolling a new hardcore Monk in Season 1 - he's probably 25% normal mode, 75% hardcore.
  • Q: Any improvements coming to community interactions? They definitely want to improve the social community features, but there's nothing to reveal yet. Prior to patch 2.0 people weren't in co-op games that much, so they're happy to see that players are regularly playing co-op now. Now it's about adding more community features.

Keep informed about the changes in patch 2.1.0 and future Diablo III patches. Follow Diablo Somepage on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ for the latest updates.
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