1: Challenge. I'll take a look at the other parts later.
Belial was a great encounter because it forced you to pay attention and take very precise click-focused actions in order to succeed. This kind of challenge is almost completely non-existent in the game at this point.
So what is the solution? Unfortunately it isn’t a quick fix and I don’t think it will help any to go into a long list of ideas. To put it simply, the game needs more moments of challenge that aren’t simply based on how much HP a monster has or how much damage it does. Use environmental hazards that deal a percentage of non-mitigatable damage to your health pool, give monsters abilities that are VERY obvious but will take you down to 1hp or outright kill you if you’re being neglegent, have monsters that use timers in interesting ways (how about a demon that summons pulsating orbs that explode into zig-zagging rays of instant death that must be avoided if you don’t kill the orb before it goes off).
These are the kind of challenges that can’t simply be negated with gear. They don’t need to be overly difficult, but they could certainly serve to force players to think and act instead of overcoming the obstacle with gold/money. Gear should ALWAYS make things easier, but I definitely don’t believe that it should allow you to avoid every single challenge the game throws at you.
As it stands now, the majority of monster abilities in D3 are nearly impossible to avoid with any consistency. This style of damage dealing forces players into figuring out ways to permanently avoid the challenge instead of overcoming it in a fun way. Mortars, molten, electric, plagued…most people just stand in all this stuff because it’s either too difficult or too time consuming/inefficient to avoid. Also, a truly challenging obstacle needs to grant players with rewards that reflect said difficulty. These challenges aren’t any fun if they present themselves in the game without rest. Spread them out and make them different, interesting and varied, while rewarding players accordingly.
As a side note, certain challenges introduced into the game need to be made easier/more fun when playing with a group of players, this is the kind of thing that helps to incentivize group play. It’s fun to overcome challenges with friends, the current game does not facilitate this outside of Uber Bosses.
Give us repeatable quests that require large amounts of demonic essences and other resources to activate. These quests could involve challenges that are almost impossible by yourself but get significantly easier with more players. They could involve things like multiple spawn points where something needs to be protected. You can try covering them all by yourself and it’s certainly possible, but how much more fun would it be to get a team for that kind of thing? YOU COVER TOP SPAWN, I GOT BOTTOM, JERRY CATCHES THE LEAKS, OH NO, JERRY’S DOWN, LAY SOME TRAPS AND GO REZ HIS A**! Have the reward be a guaranteed legendary/set piece and a pile higher tier’d gems. Now ask yourself, is a challenge like that incentive to play? More on this specific topic near the end of this post.
When you present players with difficult content they will find a way to overcome it which usually means using only the most powerful items and abilities. The unfortunate side effect is it also drives players away from the play styles they feel are “just fun”. We have taken steps to improve this problem a number of ways; reducing the overall difficulty of Inferno, improving the potency of underused skills to allow players more diversity in their gameplay, and introducing Monster Power to allow players to set the game to a level which they feel is enjoyable. I think the right way to introduce challenge is to make it optional, for example having difficult content for the players that enjoy it without penalizing the players who prefer a more relaxed gameplay experience.
First quote is talking about challenge when it comes to certain moves, events, perhaps challenge dungeons and special attacks which can't be overcome by using gold and getting the best possible gear to negate everything. Challenge that isn't just health and initial damage.
Second post.... is talking about the complete opposite: health and initial damage aka overall difficulty. I'll give Travis Day a thumbs up for adding "optional" to the statement which I completely agree with.
Instead of changing everything in the game that already exists I would suggest adding challenge dungeons or completely different areas which are DESIGNED with challenge in mind. Add unique purple mini bosses with different special attacks like: continuous Frozen in which the ice bombs always come up but more slowly. Desecrator in which 3 are spawned at the same time. Continous mortar but slower overall speeds. Arcane Sentries which spawn 3 at a time but are designed to be spaced out and won't overlap each other. Teleport/illusionist in which after illusionist is done they will all teleport. Avenger in which every 1/4 of health taken away enrages the monster more. Of course new special attacks would be awesome as well but obviously would take more time to implement.
To access these dungeons/areas players would have to acquire specific items (keys, maps, portals, etc...). These items would drop from every enemy in the game with appropriate drops rates (trash mobs being smaller chance, higher health mobs slightly higher, elites and mini bosses more so and then bosses finished with ubers. Of course Monster Power would also effect drop chances equally.
It would also be neat to take pre existing models of bosses and mini bosses and scale them appropriately and add them as special mob types (like take Jondar and create Necromancers, Izual scaled down for Ice Demons, Belial stage 2 as Plague Bringers, Skeleton King slightly scaled down as a Undead Commanders *surrounded by assorted skeletal enemies*, and so on).
Special Events: Take an item to an already existing area in the game (like take a demon's skull to the middle of the Forsaken Cemetery (in that little enclosure that is covered). Right clicking the item would spawn several waves of enemies appropriate to the area (so undead/skeletons) with elites packs scattered among the waves followed by a Mini boss (or a pair of mini bosses "Ooooh!!!") which would have their own special attacks, elite affixes and escorted by normal trash mobs and perhaps an elite pack for extra awesomeness.
These items will be drop like the challenge dungeons/areas items in which they can be dropped by all enemies in the pre existing game.
Just a few ideas on what I'd see as a "challenge".
Oh and another idea: challenge dungeons that ignore MP in which it would tell you the difficulty and danger level on the name of the dungeon. Just a thought.