You said that creating content is hard and that Paragon levels exist pretty much because they’re easy to make. I believe you’re entirely right.
However, there is hope that there is more on the way. Blizzard already said that they do know that the endgame is lacking and that anything they might do in 1.0.4 or even in 1.1 (the PVP patch) would not address the fundamental problem with the endgame. Whatever they do to fix that, they say we’re looking at something beyond 1.1 because it’s just not easy enough that they can pull it off by the end of this year.
Here’s the quote from Bashiok’s mouth (emphasis mine): http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/6019511928#17
“We recognize that the item hunt is just not enough for a long-term sustainable end-game. There are still tons of people playing every day and week, and playing a lot, but eventually they’re going to run out of stuff to do (if they haven’t already). Killing enemies and finding items is a lot of fun, and we think we have a lot of the systems surrounding that right, or at least on the right path with a few corrections and tweaks. But honestly Diablo III is not World of Warcraft. We aren’t going to be able to pump out tons of new systems and content every couple months. There needs to be something else that keeps people engaged, and we know it’s not there right now.
We’re working toward 1.0.4, which we’re really trying to pack with as many fixes and changes we can to help you guys out (and we’ll have a bunch of articles posted with all the details as we get closer), and we’re of course working on 1.1 with PvP arenas. I think both those patches will do a lot to give people things to do, and get them excited about playing, but they’re not going to be a real end-game solution, at least not what we would expect out of a proper end-game. We have some ideas for progression systems, but honestly it’s a huge feature if we want to try to do it right, and not something we could envision being possible until well after 1.1 which it itself still a ways out.”
So there you have it. Paragon levels might not be the bee’s knees, but they were meant to keep people busy until Blizzard can not only find but fully develop and implement a proper solution to D3′s endgame woes. Will it be Randomization Plus as you suggest? We don’t know, and Blizzard probably doesn’t know yet either.
In the meantime, D3 will get some more playtime from me because patch 1.0.4 is still a step in the right direction. There’s only one thing I’m really not eager to see: the Melee Wizard buff. Twisters were pretty much the only straight skill nerf in the entire patch, and now their proc rate has been halved. Other skills (namely witch doctor skills I think) were simultaneously nerfed and buff, and everything else was either left as is or buffed. Only us melee wizards were given the short end of the stick :(. I find it weird because it wasn’t such an overpowered build for a wizard to have in the first place. You need decent gear, good reflexes and a bit of luck once you reach inferno because the line between life and death for a melee wiz is VERY fine. Frost novas last half a second, and diamond skin can only absorb so much damage. Also, I haven’t seen THAT many melee wizards out there, at least not on the EU servers. I really don’t see the point of nerfing it.
In Blizzard’s situation, let’s imagine a tree that has gameplay fruit. The low hanging fruit is the stuff easiest and fasted to implement (such as the Paragon Levels) while the high hanging fruit is hardest to implement (entirely new Acts, stuff saved for the expansions). It’s clear we’re only going to get the low hanging fruit.
No one, outside Blizzard, knows what obstacles are with the Diablo 3 system. Something like dying legendaries seems straightforward to us, but Blizzard says the system has problems with it. It is difficult to give out constructive criticism without knowing what is easy or hard to manipulate within the system. Adding new items (the new legendaries) and levels (Paragon levels) must be very easy which is why we’re getting it first.
Let me tell the reader a story. What really occurred was that the dev team put out a question, I did put out an answer, and the change was made. Whether or not it had anything to do with my answer, I have no idea. But in my imagination:
A final question arose at the end of Age of Empire’s development. It concerned multiplayer games and what limit should there be on the total number of units. One side argued that the total number of units (allowed by the houses, the “farms”) should be small to allow greater tactical gameplay with fewer units. The other side argued that the total possible number of units should be massive to allow EPIC WARFARE. But the first side did not like this because it denied the possibility of a more tactical war with fewer units. And the second side didn’t like the idea of every game to be more about smaller units. What to do?
I hopped up to the podium and said, “How are you, gentlemen! The solution is most simple. Allow the game creator to define the unit limit when hosting the game. This way people can get their low units with tactical warfare in and people can have epic battles. Everyone wins.” As I said that, a ray of light shined on me from the heavens. Bruce Shelly wiped a tear from his eye in response to my soaring oratory. And Greg Street (Ghost Crawler) munched on his sandwiches-that-have-the-crust-cut-off (as he lives on a boat) and says, “My, my, what a most interesting gamer is he!” The feature is implemented and Age of Empires multiplayer is awesome because it varies on who hosts the game.
The moral of the story is that it is good for the gamer to play how he wants. From my (vastly) limited knowledge of Diablo 3 systems, I think the randomization is confined due to the modern 3d graphics of the map layout but also due to balance reasons. Would it be fair for one randomized Act 1 to have small areas with little elites while another randomized Act 1 to have large areas with many elites?
It is important for gamers to have different experiences from each other. When Diablo 3 came out, people would tell their adventures to the other gamers. “Did you know I got this evil elite with the affixes of fire chains, molten, vortex, and invulnerable minions? It was awful.” Playing Diablo 3 becomes uninteresting when everyone has the same exact experience. Think of the randomization in Minecraft and how that *alone* causes people to share stories with each other. But Diablo 3′s randomization is “lame” according to one Diablo 2 fan I know.
Blizzard seems to like the idea of people wanting to differentiate themselves. This is why they want skills to fit someone’s playstyle or why they offer dyes in the game. But randomization is very important in this. Randomization allows players to have different adventures from each other and from when they play repeatedly (breaking the monotony).
I don’t understand the Diablo 3 systems so it is impossible to give specific constructive feedback. I think a Randomization Plus would be great as a choice. If people don’t like it, they can keep doing what is already present in the game. And since Randomization Plus cannot be a slam dunk at the beginning, I think Diablo 3 players would love to assist Blizzard in testing it and improving it. How else to test out a randomizer than to utilize millions of people? Perhaps the randomization plus could start small (like allowing something like the Lyceum to become all crazy and sprawl out) and slowly add more areas from there. Maybe mix up the monsters?
(And this is why I’m not a game developer because I am too ambitious…) My ultimate dream would be for the Randomization Plus to allow the player to even specify certain settings on it. Think of when you start a new world in a Civilization game where you have a choice in the landsize, the ferocity of barbarians, and all that. Perhaps the settings for Diablo 3 could be something like determining how crazy you want the mini-dungeons (None= how it is now, Crazy = Jail branches out, Really Crazy = Jail makes loop-de-loops and makes people think, “Why would anyone make a jail look like this?). Another setting could be monster composition. (None = How it is now. Some = Act 1 monsters can appear anywhere in Act 1. Ton = Any type of monster in the game can appear in Act 1 [but the monster is retuned for Act 1 damage, hitpoints, and loot drops]).
Maybe I am a dreamer, but I think I would probably be playing Diablo 3 non-stop with such a randomizer.