But then kind of like what you’re saying, I don’t know if it’s specifically NM and Hell that’s the issue. More that you really want to get to Inferno and you’ve got a long road ahead of you and it’s very predictable and very much the same. Another question for us to ask ourselves is, what makes the destination so much more interesting than the journey? Can we make the journey appealing as well? If not, then maybe we should just move the destination closer.
I'm going to address this by stating why I feel NM/Hell (and often even Normal) don't feel "relevant" vs. the "endgame"."More that you really want to get to Inferno and you've got a long road ahead of you and it's very predictable."
Normal, Nightmare, and Hell are mainly differentiated by the type and number of affixes that monsters can have on them in addition to their HP totals. In some ways it is predictable, such as HP increases, damage increases, and the number of affixes Elites can have. In some ways it is less predictable - you might find more types and combinations of affixes on the Elites, and in an ideal environment monster AI and patterns would change to make things a bit more difficult right out of the box. Currently AI has no bearing on difficulty, and that is why Monster Power has been widely considered to be an "artificial" difficulty incrementer.
An example of changing AI would be Elites that spawn with the Arcane Enchanted affix. On Normal they would just randomly place them willy nilly without a care in the world. Players would see them, learn how they work, but not necessarily be choked to death by them first thing off. As one progresses through Nightmare and Hell placement of the beams becomes more focused and/or tighter (but never directly underneath a player's position since that is akin to a one shot gimmick and highly unavoidable). Players would have to focus more attention on the beams in each successive difficulty, especially in tight quarters in order to survive.
Plagued could be less damage and radius in lower difficulties and higher damage, radius, and/or duration in higher difficulties. Frozen bombs in Normal might be sparse and not as tightly packed, and by the time you get to Inferno you get what you see now with how powerful and dangerous they can be. Desecrator can be changed from the ho-hum mega damage to a modest damage mechanism that also slows down resource regeneration, or in Inferno has the potential to drain
resource regeneration (mitigated by resource enhancers and/or Resist All).
Vortex could be changed such that instead of sucking you into the bad and killing you, thus depriving you of any opportunity to use skill to avoid the damage, it forms a swirling distortion beneath your location in an increasing radius per difficulty that slows you down (again by more with higher difficulties), thus still giving you the opportunity
to get away from the bad/enemy while being faced with ever increasing danger as difficulty level increases.
Electrified could on Normal fire four bolts in the Cardinal directions. On Nightmare it would fire six bolts (four Cardinal, two Ordinal). On Hell it woudl fire eight bolts (four Cardinal, four Ordinal). On Inferno it would fire sixteen bolts (four Cardinal x2, four Ordinal x2).
Knockback would remain as-is except it would lose the slow attached to it. Almost all knockbacks in this game have a slow attached to them and it really kills a lot of enjoyment in the heat of combat, especially with monsters that can repeatedly knock back.
Waller would act like the current version for Rare monsters
. On Normal the walls would be further apart and Inferno would close them to their current locations. Gone would be the multiple spammable walls on different timers that often end up on top of players preventing them from taking any actions due to trapping them via bugged placement locations.
Jailer would be gone as it entails no skill at all other than to trap you in the bad, making much of the affixes it gets paired with nothing more than frustrating gimmicks.
Nightmarish would be gone also since loss of character control = death a lot of the time. Take a cue from the players in World of Warcraft - we hate losing control of our characters
. It's the number one complaint with regard to Diablo 3's combat.
Reflects Damage is an Iron Maiden for Diablo 3. There was a reason it was removed from Diablo 2. Punishing the players for improving themselves goes against the grain of every RPG/ARPG out there. Coupling this with the Enrage Timer also has the direct effect of narrowing down viable builds for such affix combinations to a scant few and does nothing to enhance player enjoyment of the combat they partake in.
Now, while the above is moderately predictable on paper, in practice each successive difficulty level makes the mechanic require more attention per affix. And if monster AI also changes to be more aggressive or coordinated in successive difficulty levels, combat suddenly becomes much more frenetic and energizing without being the total RNG-fest that it feels like today."Another question for us to ask ourselves is, what makes the destination so much more interesting than the journey? Can we make the journey appealing as well? If not, then maybe we should just move the destination closer."
There are a few factors in this equation, but the biggest one by far is the lack of viability of most of the items that you actually find yourself vs. the content in which it drops.
In Diablo 2, you could find some nifty set items that would get you through Normal, and even sometimes Nightmare fairly well. You wouldn't always find them, but more often than not at least something
interesting would drop. Not so in Diablo 3. Set items are from plans that are few and far between and those plans never
drop. I've seen one
plan my entire time playing, and that was the Quick Draw Belt
plan, not even a set plan.
But beyond the scarcity of the set and legendaries themselves is a deeper, more ingrained issue: No items scale in this game. At all. Every last piece of armor or weapon that drops has fixed stats. That is, a sword at LV 15 might have a fixed range of 25-60 of a given stat (let's say STR for this example). That sword also has a fixed DPS. This means that the sword will be very quickly outdated since it gains no power increment as you level up. And to add to that problem, anything past Normal Act 1 often drops well past the point that it would even be relevant, often to the tune of being ten levels
behind the curve. We've got stuff that drops in the first Act of Hell
that would barely suffice for dealing with Act 1 or 2 in Nightmare
. That's really, really
bad for making the journey a fun experience.
So what is this scaling you ask? It's things like +0.5 mana per character level
or +2 STR per character level
. Remember that sword from the last example? It would look something like this in the current iteration of Diablo 3:
1.00 Attacks per second
+2% Magic Find
Requires LV 15
Now, without a socket, that sword loses its value extremely
quickly as you level up, meaning you need to find something better that much sooner. Problem is, with the current loot model that's next to impossible, especially given the disparity between Nephalem Valor enabled characters and characters that have no access to Nephalem Valor.
But what if the sword looked like this:
1.00 Attacks per second
+2 STR per character level
+1% Magic Find per character level
Requires LV 15
Suddenly instead of being utterly useless after just a couple of levels, it could sustain you since it grows in power at a modest rate as you do and would hopefully last you until you could find something on your own. This would lessen depressing effect of hardly ever finding worthwhile upgrades while leveling.
In order for this scaling to have worth though (and for sockets not to matter as much), a couple things would need to happen.
First off, Critical Hit Damage (CHD) needs to go away as a stat. Diablo 2 did this very well by using the Enhanced Damage (ED)
affix. This controls the overall maximum damage of the weapon, and since critidal hits will always be a set amount, tuning is much more easily accomplished. ED is similar to CHD in that it would be the primary "above normal" scaling factor for weapon damage, but it affects all damage done by the weapon, not just critical hits. That allows the developers to keep the number lower than the total CHD we get now, but still have more of an impact on a weapon's damage range. It would then allow weapons to make better use of +min/+max damage without having to resort to wildly differing ranges like we have now.
Second, to keep upgrades a possibility, items would have to have the ability to roll either
fixed or scaling stat affixes. The fixed stat range could then be made moderately higher than it currently is while the scaling stat would eventually overtake it. The former would be of more use "right now", but the latter would have more lasting power. And a combination of the two (within reason and with mutual exclusivity such that you cannot have +X per level and
the same affix as a fixed stat except on specifically designed items such as legendaries/sets) you would have a weapon with slgithly more power "now", but with enough lasting power to hopefully work until you land another item.
Next we'd need to change how our primary stat scales. Right now it's 1% per point, and since we can stack thousands it quickly becomes...ridiculous. It's part of why damage scaling is out of control. Curb the scaling factor here and you can turn monsters more more finely and not have absurd scaling like we see in Monster Power levels. More refined tuning = more granular transitions in combat between difficulties.
And finally, there needs to be a way to increment an item's base type (and thus its stats). Scaling stats would not be affected by this, but the fixed stat ranges would, as well as damage ranges for weapons. This is basically a rebirth of Diablo 2's Unique item upgrade capability where players could farm for materials to upgrade say, a Buriza Do-Kyanon from its base item type of Balilsta to the next item tier, the Colossus Bow. As the item's base type is upgrades, so too is its base damage and fixed stat ranges (scaling stats would remain unaffected by the upgrade both because it would be overpowered if they could also increase, but also to keep the possibility of upgrading to a better item later on). Recipes for upgrading the item types would vary between rare and Legendary items, and each upgrade would increase the base level required to equip the item as well.
So suddenly you go from fixed stat uselessness after two or three level items to items that could potentially be upgraded from in short order or serve the player much more favorably until they found something to replace it with (or were able to upgrade it). That certainly makes it not feel so bad when you have the craptacular drop rates and loot aqcuisition rates outside of the auction house now, doesn't it?
Diablo 2 had many sets and uniques (Legendaries for Diablo 3) that could be found by players as they were leveling up. With enough of these items, players could start creating some more fun builds instead of just the one or two "FOTL" (Flavor of the Level) abilities they stick with now, since items would have better scaling, and hopefully more varied and useful affixes to complement different skills and abilities. Diablo 3 lacks this, and if it were to be given this treatment would become a much more rewarding game during the "journey" portion than it is now.
Something to consider with MF (not necessarily GF though): Currently until you hit the 200% MF mark you really don't feel much of an effect. That said, low level items having 1-5% per slot really stinks. Level should not be the dictating factor in whether or not you can find items. Lackluster scaling of this stat really hurts more than you might think, especially at the low end of the scale. And finding nothing but white items throughout most of your journey because MF is so pitifully low and
because the game is centered around nothing but the "endgame" of Inferno and NV/Paragon Levels really dampens players spirits when it comes to believing that the next item is "just around the corner".
The reason NV and Paragon Levels are nothing more than crutches is precisely because of both lack of drops (NV props that up) and scaling (Paragon Level props that up). If you fix the underlying issues at the core of the loot distribution/finding model, NV and PL suddenly become unnecessary and you can explore other ways to further improve/customize your characters at max level.
Another thing that really hampers the feel of the game from the beginning all the way to the end is the absurdly slow run speed we have and the pathetic cap we're stuck with. Both need to be increased in order for us to feel more enjoyment out of getting around in the world. Out of the gate we reel like we're running in slow motion, and even once we have reached the cap we're not really "fast" outside of the Monk who can reach +85% runspeed via Fleet Footed + Tempest Rush: Tailwind. But that's only one build for that class. The rest have to settle for "meh" and it's like that across the board. A partial fix to this would be to take the limitations to where the movement speed affix can spawn out of the equation. There was no cap in Diablo 2 either, and it was a choice that the player had to make: more speed, or more of other stats? Make both changes and let it balance itself out. It wasn't a problem then and it wouldn't be now, especially if itemization is brought up to snuff and lots of choices are brought into the fold.
These are the things that make the journey feel good. Normal, Nightmare, and Hell are meant to provide a means for the player to ramp up their skills and reflexes to meet the challenges that will face them down the road. Taking them out would be like taking somebody from the Looking for Raid (LFR) level in World of Warcraft and sticking them directly into a Heroic Raid. The results would be disastrous and cause more friction than benefits in solo play, let alone group play where coordination is key.
Right now, the road that lines the journey to the endgame is flat and devoid of feeling or reward, and full of potholes. Fix the road and make it so we can feel its presence beneath our feet as we run toward our destination and suddenly it goes from being a seemingly endless march and climbing out of holes after we've fallen down to a solid and well built path to glory.
You can make it happen if you try.
Diablo III and World of Warcraft Technical Support MVP
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