This will be in two parts. The first part will recount, from my point of view, what occurred with Diablo 3. The second part will be my opinion on Patch 1.04.
From what I saw with my own eyes, Diablo 3 was extremely popular and well polished… at first. The game was really fun to go through the early difficulties. People I knew would stop sleeping just to play longer. There was the online outages which reminded me of when World of Warcraft launched. Diablo 3 moved more units than Blizzard even optimistically prepared for. However, most people still hadn’t got to Inferno or hadn’t spent much time in Inferno when patch 1.03 came out.
Patch 1.03 radically changed the sentiments of the player base concerning the game (from my perspective). What did 1.03 do? Some say it ‘nerfed Inferno’ but it actually did the opposite. Enrage timers were added to the bosses forcing a DPS check. Repair costs went up. Elites would regain their health if you died. While some of the white mobs got nerfed, Inferno became much more of a grind especially with the repair costs. It was after 1.03 that I began to see the start of the Blizzard ‘hate train’ in action. My first time seeing it was a Diablo 3 person posting his Collector’s Edition and all its content in one photo and in the following photo, showing it all ripped and slashed to pieces.
I’ve leveled all classes to 60 and finished Inferno. Do I have any desire to keep playing? No. The only point is to farm so you can get better gear so you can farm more efficiently. Diablo 3 feels like a chore. I noticed playing the game was making me crankier in real life.
One theory at the time was that Diablo 3 did the ‘feeling overpowered’ upside down. At level 1, you feel overpowered. But the further you go in the game, the weaker you feel. Once in Inferno, you really feel weak and crappy. Since RPGs are about ‘feelings of growth’, I decided to revisit Link to the Past. I put up a post about all the times in that game I felt OVERPOWERED as if Link was imbalanced to the rest of the game. I felt POWERFUL getting the Master Sword and upgrading it to level 3 and 4. I felt POWERFUL getting the new items in the dungeons.
Another big reason why so many people were flocking to Diablo 3 was because they are sick of treadmills. I encountered this in WoW when raiders said they were unsubscribing to WoW for good and just play Diablo 3. Why? They said they were tired of the constant treadmills in WoW (reputation treadmills, gear treadmills, etc.). Blizzard was clearly worried about Diablo 3 eating into WoW’s population as they gave Diablo 3 away free if you remained subscribed for an entire year.
The Paragon levels, the new Legendary weapons, and the upgrades on the skills… what to make of this? Blizzard should be commended on their approach to the skills. Instead of nerfing the abilities everyone is using, they are BUFFING the ones people aren’t using. I remember way back to the early RTS days (before I did closed beta testing on RTS games) how players responded to games like Red Alert. They said, “Tank rushing is bad! Therefore, in my mod, tanks are NERFED.” And their mods ended up sucking because no one wants to play the dinky yaks or worthless units. The better approach was to leave the tanks alone and to buff the other units. I am very pleased Blizzard is taking the approach of buffing the less used skills.
Concerning Paragon levels, we probably have to thank Kripparian for it. He did suggest it. Let’s look at his 1.04 video:
My sentiment is the same as Kripparian. WHERE ARE THE POTATOES? In game development, one must make trade-offs. There is not enough time in the world to everything and game development is much, much, much harder than people think. The reason why we’re getting Paragon levels, new legendaries, and skill updates in Patch 1.04 is because… they are easy and fast to implement. However, adding in new Acts is not easy or fast to implement.
Kripparian did say my magic word: content. I’m realizing that game development is made differently than how gamers consume the game. What was the first thing the gamer did when he saw Warcraft 2? He said, “This looks interesting. Orcs versus Humans.” That is a content element. He buys the game and the first thing he does is look at the manual and reads the lore. All of that is content. It is the LAST part of the game made. Yet, it is the FIRST part the gamer sees. And because it is first, it becomes ‘very important’. The gamer gets more and more intrigued. He starts up the game and is greatly amused by clicking on the peasant and hearing funny sound effects. This has nothing to do with gameplay and everything to do with content. The music and storyline encourage him to learn how to play the game. What I find so ironic is that the first steps used to make a game, such as the programming and general design, are the LAST THINGS the gamer sees. The gamer only discovers the programming and general design of the game after years of playing Warcraft 2 when he tries to mod it. In other words, the programming of Warcraft 3 was invisible to gamers until they began to make ambitious custom maps like DOTA. Yet, the programming is the first thing the game developer must do.
My take on the Paragon levels, legendaries, etc. is both pro and con. It is pro because it will make the gamer feel POWERFUL. And Diablo 3 Inferno desperately needs gamers to feel POWERFUL. This is why people are excited about things like the Paragon levels. They love the idea of becoming more powerful. The con is that this yet another treadmill. Many people are playing Diablo 3 to escape treadmills. So all the negative reactions to this will be rooted in that player’s distaste for treadmills. (Imagine if they added another treadmill called ‘Reputation’ where you grind in an area in a particular act for a faction. As you gain higher reputation, you get access to powerful vendors. This is an example of throwing in another treadmill.)
Kripparian is right that it all comes down to content. Everything comes down to content. None of the paragon levels and legendaries are changing the fact that farming Act III or another act over and over again is boring. But the game developers don’t have the time and money to just throw in additional Acts within a month. So what to do?
I believe Blizzard should prioritize on the randomization. A common complaint I am hearing about Diablo 3 is the lack of randomization. One way to do this is to have an option unlock once a player gets to level 60 called something like ‘Randomization Plus’ or whatever. With this selected, it makes the levels generated a very different sort than what is normally done. This would allow first time consumers to play the game as it already is and not be affected by any changes. But it would change for the people who have played through the game multiple times and are desperate for a difference.
Randomization Plus would not be perfect. Blizzard could even say, “This is not perfect, but we are trying. If you do not like it, please go back to the old way.” Randomization Plus would remove many of the story elements as we have heard them countless times already. At Blizzcon 2011, someone asked the Blizzard team that randomization in Diablo 2 was so crazy that a jail would be going off in all these directions, spidering everywhere, that he asked, “Who would build a jail this way? Is this how the randomization going to be?” Blizzard devs responded, “Will our level design suck? Is that the question? No.” I actually think people want that crazy randomization. It can be done with the current game if Blizzard allows it to be separated from another mode. Normal through Hell uses the current randomization. But at 60, Randomization Plus becomes available where Blizzard can experiment with wilder and wilder randomization. Gamers would happily suffer the bugs for this (since they could always turn it off and go back to the normal way).
The Randomization Plus may not just be in the layout but also to increase of events and maybe variety of monsters. It gets boring farming the same exact monsters over and over and over again. Blizzard introducing new monsters wouldn’t be too much work and would GREATLY grease the skids on people wanting to farm. This wouldn’t take too much development time as say a new ACT or area would do.
This game needs more spontaneity. Adding in PvP would be good, but greater randomization is badly needed. The Diablo brand is about randomization anyway.