Diablo® III

Insane Stat ramp - D3 itemization challenge

TL;DR
The excessively fast ramping of player and monster stats accelerates the need to replace gear which leaves the player feeling behind the difficulty curve and shortens the time to items' obsolescence.

This is a topic I've wanted to address since a few days after release when it really jumped out at me as a concern. I want to discuss the ramping of player (and by extension monster) stats when progressing through the game. I am referring to how from level 1 to level 10 character health jumps by nearly an order of magnitude in gearing up and it does so again at least two more times through the game with inferno health pools in the tens of thousands. A similar thing occurs for DPS to an even greater extent where the numbers can enter the hundreds of thousands. In progressing through a few acts on my Witch Doctor I recall the surprise at seeing my DPS jump from just 1,500 to nearly 10,000 in just over two acts.

To reach these numbers the stats must scale up strongly, quickly. These numbers are required in part because the monster stats scale even more quickly leading to the slower encounters in the later difficulties. The result is a loot hunt equivalent to chasing down a speeding train where loot upgrades are required at every turn just to keep up (survive). It isn't until the train reaches the end of its tracks (inferno) that the player has any chance to catch up but by then they've fallen so far behind that the gap never really closes. This has led to the slower paced and far more lethal end game in D3 compared to the experiences of D2.

I think this design contributes to the less enjoyable experience that many players have expressed regarding the loot hunting end game or the itemization in general. To me, an upgrade that feels required just to survive does not carry the same appreciation as an item that makes you a powerful force to be feared on the battlefield. Getting the 100 extra strength needed to kill the monsters fast enough without dying isn't as satisfying as getting that ax that shoots out poison novas on kill just for the heck of it. Items that make you feel powerful is at the heart of the Diablo experience.

Satisfaction is the issue for many. Finding too many items with awful stats has cut some players' experiences short because the game isn't satisfying. The stat scaling ramp results in a large variation in item quality in a smaller content range. This manifests in the loot in that an item at item level X has vastly inferior stats than one with item level X+10. See all the posts complaining about items less than item level 60 dropping in inferno. The difference in the stats is so large that it is simply impossible (okay, extremely improbable) for such items to be viable yet the player is bombarded with them; the effect is simply demoralizing.

The implications for this effect on game balance are harsh. It requires that the player regularly replace his gear and optimize stat selection to continue to progress. This further pressures the player in finding gear which makes it all the more painful when no decent drops are found. This leads to the feeling that the AH is compulsory rather than an optional feature. A bad string of luck for just an act or two is enough to leave the player stranded unable to continue into the next act without repeating content. My witch doctor for example felt this sting upon arriving at hell where I discovered the strong need for resist gear to survive particularly when using pets even though it wasn't realistic to obtain that gear yet.

I originally wanted to compare some items from Diablo 2 to compare some of the affixes found on gear. Items like Twitchtroe and Templar's Might have comparable attribute boosts and equal amounts of faster hit recovery yet the difference in equip level is 58 levels. Similar comparisons can be made between other unique items and attributes such as the String of Ears has the same potential damage reduction as Verdungo's Hearty Cord. After really looking through all the items again I remembered how diverse the itemization really was and how difficult it is to compare items side by side.

There are very few items that can be compared numerically as there is such a wide array of affixes that can appear or the items and the value of the item is dependent on the class and build of the player contemplating its use. The point is that even items that are 30 levels below your character could be more useful because the affix selection was more important than the raw numbers. A String of Ears may be desired instead of Verdungo's because of the life steal affix. The stat ramp of D3 enforces a lifetime for Legendaries or any item in general even if it comes with the perfect combination of affixes. This isn't the only problem admittedly. Affix variety and relative values of affixes are a significant contributing factor as well. (A lower level item with main stat + vitality is often times better than a higher level item that only has one of the two).

For anyone who cares a few more examples include: War Traveller and Sandstorm Trek have comparable strength and vitality and the War Traveller even has more move speed. The Vampire Gaze actually has more damage reduction than the Crown of Ages at one half the level requirement. The Ward unique gothic shield can have the same or better resist all than the elite unique equivalent. Finding one of these lucky low level unique items can come as a big surprise and will be useful to the character for a long time if the affixes are useful to the class/build.

Further complicating matters with D3 stats is the vitality scaling. Vitality initially provides 10 HP per point yet for some reason the devs decided to increase the scale later in the game where it increases to a maximum of 25 HP per point. I don't understand the need to do this in the first place. Perhaps the intent is to actually counter the effect of stat ramping by limiting the need to increase affixes to give 500 or more vitality per item by why do this instead of adjusting monster damage? Is it a shallow attempt at making the player feel more powerful? Maybe it's just me but seeing a bigger number on my health globe doesn't make me feel more powerful. The increased HP per point of vitality has the subtle effect of increasing the value of vitality with respect to other affixes. Again, why do this instead of adjusting other affixes?

A concern that I have with the ramp is its impact on PvP balance. Many are awaiting the 1.1 patch to introduce PvP with the expectation that it will revitalize the game. I expect a pretty rocky start. Players with 20k DPS and 10k HP won't stand much of a chance against players with 200k DPS and 70k HP. Player stats can vary so widely that I can't imagine there will be many players who can be evenly matched with others for fair play. The difference in skill will be drastically overshadowed by the difference in stats.

I often wonder why this decision was made. What about this ramp in stats is desirable? The most obvious idea was mentioned earlier in that the goal was to use the raw numbers to add to the sense of power and progression of the character. Personally, if that was the intention then I think they've failed miserably. Numbers are all relative; a big number on my character sheet doesn't make me feel stronger. I feel stronger when I can cut through a horde of minions faster and do so with less damage taken than a did before which does not happen in D3 because of the faster growth in monster HP and damage.

Another possibility is that the stat ramping is merely an arbitrary progression wall intended to slow players down as is often done in MMOs. The large ramping helps to prevent rushing through the content by simply overpowering the player with numbers. The devs' predictions for inferno and the expected means of progression reflect this design intention. Why an MMO approach would be used for an ARPG is beyond my understanding however.

Finally, if I were to put on my tinfoil hat I'd say that it was entirely to promote RMAH trading by giving big number items for players to continually chase.

Overall, I feel that the ramping stats actually does more harm to the game than it helps compared to Diablo 2. I'm curious to hear others' thoughts on why this approach was chosen or if they have some benefits to the system that I have missed.
Edited by steveman0#1968 on 7/21/2012 9:43 PM PDT
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07/20/2012 10:53 AMPosted by steveman0
Finally, if I were to put on my tinfoil hat I'd say that it was entirely to promote RMAH trading by giving big number items for players to continually chase.


bah
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07/20/2012 11:26 AMPosted by Kezmaefele
Finally, if I were to put on my tinfoil hat I'd say that it was entirely to promote RMAH trading by giving big number items for players to continually chase.


bah

Well you have to admit that it would appear to accomplish that goal.
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Surely there are still people around who'd like to address key points that could possibly change the game for the better even if not until the expansion.
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In summary: Make the game like D2, kk.
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07/21/2012 08:58 PMPosted by Zaino
In summary: Make the game like D2, kk.

Um, sure since it worked out better. That wasn't my point at all though.
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I think the bigger problem is that champions are way overpowered, while every other monster is a wimp. In D2, champions were only 50% stronger, and that worked much better.
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TLDR
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Bravo! this was a very good read, and one of the best posts I've read here.

You make a very interesting point about the way D3 has turned out and what fundamental issues are at play.

The ramping of stats has left legendaries behind. The only ones worth much at all would be the String of Ears, and the Justice Lantern, both of which are not good enough stat wise to compete with regular 63 blues or yellows.

But most importantly, and as I believe you have argued, this isn't just about legendaries, its about our general progress in game and how that shapes our gameplay experience.

Thanks for the support. I was actually just discussing legendaries again recently and the point came up that no matter the way legendaries are designed they'll be locked into whatever narrow level range as determined by the ilevel of the gear. This is perhaps why they chose to make all the legendaries close to 60 since they knew there was no way to make them viable for the end game otherwise. It seems to have pigeonholed their applications in the game and may be why they've receive very little attention. It's a difficult problem to fix.

07/21/2012 09:24 PMPosted by Krogoth
I think the bigger problem is that champions are way overpowered, while every other monster is a wimp. In D2, champions were only 50% stronger, and that worked much better.


Yes, I think elites are a bit overtuned at least in terms of the amount of health they can have. Their damage might make for a fairer challenge if they could be blown up with minimal kiting as was often the practice in D2. Even a nasty MSLE could be survived by blowing him up quickly from a distance.
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Posts: 356
I agree with the OP. The exponential stat scaling in D3 makes gear and levels feel too irrelevant too quickly. D2 had a more linear stat scale, which feels a lot better and allows for a more meaningful comparisons between lower level and higher level items. This is why it feels so crappy to find items below ilvl60. If the scale were linear like D2, an ilvl40 item could drop and it would still have the chance to roll decent mods.
Edited by TheHoc#1647 on 7/21/2012 9:40 PM PDT
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07/21/2012 09:28 PMPosted by InSta
TLDR

The excessively fast ramping of player and monster stats accelerates the need to replace gear which leaves the player feeling behind the difficulty curve and shortens the time to gear's obsolescence.
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Posts: 356
07/21/2012 09:35 PMPosted by steveman0
TLDR

The excessively fast ramping of player and monster stats accelerates the need to replace gear which leaves the player feeling behind the difficulty curve and shortens the time to gear's obsolescence.

Sigh... I hate when people say TLDR. Learn to skim guys. Seriously, it's not hard!
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Now I wonder what can be done about it. Is this nothing more than wise words for the future or can this be rectified for Diablo 3. I suppose it could surely be resolved in an expansion but it seems out of the questions for a patch since it would seem to require a complete rebalancing of stats and affixes. Either that or all attributes would need to be treated like ratings and apply some sort of diminishing returns.

07/21/2012 09:41 PMPosted by TheHoc

The excessively fast ramping of player and monster stats accelerates the need to replace gear which leaves the player feeling behind the difficulty curve and shortens the time to gear's obsolescence.

Sigh... I hate when people say TLDR. Learn to skim guys. Seriously, it's not hard!

I completely understand and think it's fair. There is a lot to think about and it would be nice to know if it worth the investment of time before jumping in so I've added it to the OP.
Edited by steveman0#1968 on 7/21/2012 9:42 PM PDT
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