Evolution of Reaper of Souls - BlizzCon 2014
A panel about evolving development philosophies, and new items on the way
BlizzCon 2014 is called 'Evolution of Reaper of Souls'. The development team talks about the changes in their game design philosophies over the course of the expansion, with new items and other details for the future. Our live blog covers it all!The second Diablo III panel at
That's a wrap of the panel! There will be more info coming from other interviews, and the developer chats at BlizzCon.
- Josh Mosqueira is out, and talking about how this panel will be different than all their other panels.
- Julian Love, the lead technical artist is going through the Legendary design that will be gone through today in the panel. That new Legendary will be in an upcoming patch! The process will be the same as what they use in the office. It's called: Gather, Refine, Reflect. "Gather" is a brainstorm to get all the ideas they can get. "Refine" narrows the list down to a small focused designs. Finally in the "Reflect" phase, some ideas are not used, but they're all put into the graveyard, and sometimes are resurrected later.
- Up on stage are the volunteers who are going to be helping out with the Legendary design. They're going to go off and do some brainstorming in the background, while Josh will be talking for the panel, right now.
The new philosophy is being reviewed by Josh. The new philosophy is "less is more", that players get less items but at higher quality. The next idea is that "Items define builds", where players try out different builds based on the Legendary items they find. Finally, "Rarity = Power" where Legendary items are the most powerful.
- Looking back at Diablo III at launch - the linear difficulty up through Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno. Also there was an "Elite Timer", where all the elites would berserk after a period of time. And a look at the Alkaizer run back in Act III, being run over and over. Josh said with his live character, it took him over 100 hours to get his first Legendary, and that was broken.
Kevin Martens goes over "Where did we go wrong?" The problems they talked about came up pretty fast. The original launch philosophy had a Loooooong Item Reward Tail, literally years long. The idea that you would be searching for items for years, that were the items in launch.
The "Quality Tier Overlap Fallacy" was an idea that just because you got a Yellow sword, you might still find some Blue ones that were still good. Finally, there was a time where randomness was the goal of the game; it took over in the levels, in the items especially. Now randomness is a tool for replayability. Items such as Quivers with Strength on them are complete garbage, but the idea was that those would be "close enough" to encourage players to keep looking. Smart Loot prevents those sort of issues. Now there is at least Enchanting to change a specific stat, as well.
- How was this solved? They went back to "why we play". This pointed out that there was a fantasy versus efficiency problem - the fantasy of the characters was at odds with the players looking for efficiency of farming.
- That brought up the issue of "Where we play". Players shopped at the Auction House to get great items, instead of playing for them. They would then take those items and often used that for "flip farming", farming a tiny area of the game over and over. For individual flip farming like Manglemaw, you could spend more time in the menu flipping games, than actually playing the game and killing him.
Travis Day is up now, talking about the patches that went into the game. One of those involved monster difficulty, which brought about the monster power difficulty system. They added Paragon Levels, the real reason was that sometimes the random number generator was not kind with drops, and they wanted players to still always make progress. Ubers and the Hellfire Ring were added for the high end players to have replayable content.
Josh is back, talking about how during all those patches, he was on the console team to make the most awesome console game possible. So console was a safe place to challenge assumptions that had been part of the base Diablo III game. The biggest change there was how to think about loot. In many ways, the road from Diablo III to Reaper of Souls came from when Josh was first playing the game to get a feel for it, and was comparing two items. He was having a hard time comparing two weapons, and realized that so many players would have the same issues with the item game. So he proposed adding the item comparison tooltips. This was very controversial at the time, with a lot of heated discussions about whether the game should be "telling" the player what stats they should be looking at.
- It turned out that the item comparison tooltips showed the many underlying issues with the loot game. The console was really "Loot 1.5", showing the changes that needed to be made.
- That brought up the question of: What do they do with the Auction House? The idea with the AH was to protect players from the grey market sites that dominated in Diablo II. But what happened is players ended up playing the AH instead of the game. Because of the stinginess of the drops, and the difficulty of Inferno - and in the process they were not having the actual drops in game. With the discussion shortly after console shipped, they realized that both the Real Money Auction House and the Gold Auction House needed to go - so they decided to make that shift.
- Julian Love is back to talk about the Legendary design ideas that have been worked one.
And Kevin Martens is talking about the ideas that lead into Reaper of Souls. One big idea was to make the drops encourage the fantasy. Another was to shut down the Auction House at the same time as many new powerful items were added. And with Adventure Mode, variety is efficient instead of just flip farming being the most efficient. All of those came together with ideas like Smart Drops, adding in Affix Groups where Primary stats are more powerful and separate from Secondary affixes. The many Legendary affixes mean that Legendary items continue to get new build-changing Legendary affixes. Finally the comparison tooltip provides at a glance whether an item deserves special attention or not. The game is still evolving, in patch 2.1.0 that brought Seasons and Greater Rifts.
The most important idea is that rewards encourage gameplay variety, to do different types of gameplay. They also want to "focus on the fantasy", where they "balance to awesome"; buffing up other ideas instead of just nerfing whatever may be overpowered. Now they will show off a bunch of new items, that are coming!
Travis Day is talking about the iteration of items. When Reaper of Souls first shipped in patch 2.0, a lot of people gave feedback about how Witch Doctors just "sucked". Then shortly later, even without any changes in the game, people started saying that Jade Harvester was too powerful and was too good. The more the developers thought about it, they decided that they wanted everybody else to be as awesome as Witch Doctors were with the Jade Harvester set.
- One of the sets that got attention was the Marauder's Set, where sentries are very strong. But that brought gameplay where Demon Hunters were just running around and placing turrets, not actually killing things themselves. So there is a new rule: "No power without gameplay." That will be applied to future set designs.
- In future patches, some of the Legacy sets will get new 6-piece set bonuses. The Raiment of Storm's set for Monks was redesigned multiple times, and it will be redesigned yet again! The new take is this:
- 2-piece Set: The damage of your Spirit Generators is increased by 100%.
- 4-piece Set: The third hit from your Spirit Generators grants a charge of Dashing Strike and the amount of charges Dashing Strike can store is increased by 5.
- 6-piece Set: After using Dashing Strike, your Dashing Strike shocks all nearby enemies for 3000% weapon damage as Lightning.
- Looking at rings, some are much more powerful than others. They want to add new rings that feel as powerful as some of the seemingly "mandatory" rings.
- The new Skull Grasp increases the damage of Whirlwind a lot.
- The new Gungdo Gear bracers provides "Exploding Palm's on-death explosion applies Exploding Palm." We heard you liked Exploding Palm...
- Omryn's Chain waist provides "Drop Caltrops when using Vault." - Demon Hunters can funnel monsters towards them and Vault away, trapping them there with the Caltrops.
- Belt of the Trove has "Every  seconds, call down Bombardment on a random nearby enemy."
- A new Wizard hat is Crown of the Primus, with the affect "Slow Time gains the benefit of every rune." That goes with the new Wizard set, with multiple bonuses that boost Slow Time.
The new Wizard set bonuses are:
- 2-piece Set: Casting Arcane Orb, Energy Twister, Magic Missile or Shock Pulse reduces the cooldown of Slow Time by 1 second.
- 4-piece Set: Enemies affected by your Slow Time take 1250% weapon damage every second.
- 6-piece Set: Enemies affected by your Slow Time take 500% more damage from your Arcane Orb, Energy Twister, Magic Missile and Shock Pulse abilities.
- Now looking at the new Demon Hunter set, that is based around Multishot and interacting with Discipline. This is all a work in progress, as with the others.
The new Demon Hunter set bonuses are:
- 2-piece Set: Your generators also generate 2 Discipline.
- 4-piece Set: Gain 40% damage reduction for 4 seconds if an enemy is within 40 yards of you.
- Your generators and Multishot deal 10% increased damage for every point of Discipline you have.
- The new Barbarian set is based around Whirlwind, boosting both Rend and Whirlwind.
The new Barbarian set bonuses are:
- 2-piece Set: Rend lasts three times as long.
- 4-piece Set: Rend deals triple damage.
- 6-piece Set: Whirlwind deals triple damage to enemies affected by your Rend.
Now back to Julian Love for the item Legendary workshop. First up, a few ideas that didn't make it, and why not. One idea was a belt you could wear, that would grant random skills from another class. They didn't go with that, because of the design idea of "concentrated coolness". It is really important that classes don't steal abilities from each other.
- Another idea was offensive potions - but they don't want players using potions before they need them, pre-emptively before combat.
- John Yang talks about the idea of a Wizard Source that rotates damage types - Fire, Cold, Lightning, Arcane. So when the bonus is up for a specific element, it would do 200-300% more damage for that particular element. They really liked that idea, especially playing up the "Elementalist" idea for Wizards.
- Josh is back to wrap up. These ideas are just the beginning, there are more on the way with future patches. Now for Q&A.
- What about the Diablo II public games, where you could select specific Paragon level people for matchmaking? - The developers haven't figured out how to solve this yet. They worry that by having Paragon bands of only people in specific Paragon Level range grouped up, the good times would go away, when higher and lower Paragon players group up just fine. If it becomes a major problem, they will definitely consider it further.
- Someone with an old pre-2.0 Witching Hour - how to get something better? - Travis Day says they're looking forward to making more uber Legendary items that are considered better, even if the exact stats aren't as high.
- Why do you need two Unity rings for solo in Greater Rifts? - Travis Day says a lot of people say "I have to have this specific item to get to a specific difficulty." They want that feeling of powerful Legendary items, but although it's really great there aren't a lot of options to get that powerful. They want items like that, across all the slots, to give more ways to get to that sort of power level without one specific item you have to find.
- Anything better for Mighty Weapons? - Travis Days "you're right, they really aren't that awesome, my bad". They really want to do better with that in the future.