Aaron Cox and D3Up

Aaron Cox and D3Up

The brave men and women of Sanctuary are in a constant search for the next powerful piece of gear to add to their arsenal and many strive to push themselves to maximize their Nephelemic prowess. Thankfully, there are heroes among us that seek to make this task easier for their fellow comrades, and there are sites especially crafted to aid aspiring Nephalem.

This Player Spotlight showcases Aaron Cox and his experiences creating and maintaining one of these sites: D3Up!

At its core, D3Up is a Diablo III Damage Per Second (DPS) and Effective Health Pool (EHP) Calculator, but the site offers quite a lot more. It hosts web application specifically designed to help you optimize your Diablo III character builds by calculating your stats and simulating gear changes in real time so that you can tweak anything and everything to your heart's content and see how the changes might impact your hero.

In addition to guides, item tools, and more, with D3Up you can:

  • Create a Character Build that will calculate your EHP, DPS, Statistics and Individual Skill-Based DPS.
  • Import Your Character automatically into a character build from the D3 Armory.
  • Compare the items in your build to other items you've created.
  • Simulate changes to your gear that will update your stats in real-time.
  • Create Items to share with others, add to your build or to compare with your current gear.

As you can tell, there's a lot to see and do at D3Up, and we caught up with Aaron to find out more about his site as well as his personal experiences within Diablo III.

One view of a character's build.

Q. What inspired you to create your site, D3Up?

The main inspiration for the site was the Armory, going all the way back to the original World of Warcraft Armory when it launched. I loved being able to see my characters and gear outside of the game and share it with friends. Countless hours were spent on the forums "talking shop" about what items could be better and how to best improve our characters.

In World of Warcraft, it was easy to come up with a great gearset; all of the items were the same. Your "Helmet of Awesome" had the exact same stats as my "Helmet of Awesome". However, in Diablo 3, this wasn't the case. The randomized affixes and values of every item in the game created a new challenge for theorycrafters. No longer could they just tell you to find the "Helmet of Awesome", you had to actually care about every stat on every piece of gear.

So I set out to recreate the game mechanics in a website. A place where theorycrafters could go nuts tweaking every value on every item at the same time, to see what impact it would have on their characters.

Q. What are some of you favorite features on the site?

Currently I'd have to say the real-time simulations are my favorite feature. Being able to click "Simulate" on one of my items, and completely change the stats to another item, and see what impact it would have on my DPS or EHP. I can sit on the auction house and if I found an amulet I liked, hit Simulate on my amulet, pop in the numbers and it will tell me exactly (well, almost) what will happen if I buy it and put it on.

Before Simulation After Simulation

With the next version of the site, I think my favorite feature is going to be the "Versus Mode" between characters. You can load two characters up, side by side, and see how their items and stats stack up against each other. Pretty excited on how it's coming together!

Q. For players new to your site, where would you suggest they go first to get started?

I'd actually recommend people watch the video on the homepage. It's a 14 minute video, but I took the time to walk through setting up a build and how to use the tools. From creating your account, creating your first build and then using the tools to get the most benefit out of using the site.

For the impatient, you can just hover over the "Getting Started" portion of the navigation and create your first character build. You don't have to be logged in, but if you register/login first, you'll get a lot more control and features to tweak your character.

Q. How long have you been working on D3Up?

D3Up's a little over a year old now, I started it in June of 2012.

Q. How many hours a week do you spend working on D3Up? Is this your full-time job?

Nope, I wish! D3Up has been purely a hobby project of mine since it was created. I probably spend on average 10 hours a week working on the code or fixing bugs. That number varies wildly though, as some weeks I work 4 hours a night 5 days a week, and the next week I might only work a single night for 2. It's mainly wherever I find time.

Q. What has been your biggest challenge so far in creating and maintaining your site?

When I first launched the site, the challenge was figuring out how all the in-game mechanics work and how to get the numbers to match up with those you'd find in the game. Luckily, the Diablo community and even a few Developers (Hi Wyatt!) have been very helpful in assisting me when I just couldn't figure something out.

Since that's all been worked out, it's been a constant struggle to improve the site's efficiency and keep everything running smoothly. There's 900k+ character builds and 13m+ items in the database as of this writing. Balancing all of this while developing the brand new V2 of D3Up has been a constant juggling act.

A view of the details pertaining to skills you're using.

Q. What has been your best memory so far relating to your site?

It's been the community, by far.

I've gotten probably close to a thousand emails over the last year from avid Diablo players. They range from Bug Reports to Feature Enhancements and even people asking me to critique their builds. I've done my best to respond to all of them, and many of them have turned into conversations that span days or even weeks, all talking about Diablo.

You mean I get to talk about being a web nerd and about video games? Yep. Pretty awesome in my book.

Q. Which other D3 sites do you recommend for players looking to maximize the potential of their hero?

I have a tremendous amount of respect for all the other tool developers out there, and here's the other sites I use and why I use em:

  • d3bit.com - A utility that takes a screenshot of an item, and sends the data to D3Up to instantly compare it to what you're wearing. I worked with the developer on it's integration and it's turned out to be an amazing tool.
  • d3rawr.com - Another great build/gear calculator. The interface is nice and clean and offers up data a bit differently than I do on D3Up.
  • loothunter.net - Some great people building an Auction House for amazing items. If you've got a spare 10 billion gold laying around and want a new 1H weapon, they've probably got one listed.
  • reddit.com/r/diablo - The Reddit Diablo Community, I consider this my "home" and there's a great group of people here providing news and helping players.
  • diablo.somepage.com - Everyone needs to read about patch notes, upcoming changes and developer interviews right?

I try to visit all the sites out there, but these are probably the ones I use the most!

Q. Which character do you consider your "main," and what Paragon level are they?

Pre-paragon, my main was a Wizard and got about 500 hours into it. When paragon levels came out though, I switched to playing a Barbarian and have pushed him up to paragon level 63. If only there were about 10 more hours in the day... maybe then I'd have more play time :)

Q. Since your site is big on exploring builds through both guides and calculators, what are some of your favorite builds?

I'm a fan of big numbers. My favorite builds over the past year or so have been the Barbarian Hammer Build for 1m+ crits, the Meteor Spamming Wizard build and probably the Witch Doctor's Zombears. One of my buddies played Zombie Bears a lot and had a lot of fun running into the middle of everything with his waves of bears.

Q. What about the most creative or memorable Diablo III build you’ve seen?

Since D3Up doesn't care if you just "make up" items, I've always been interested to see what people consider the "Perfect Build". Build's where ever item has the maximum affix values allowed in-game, on every item, with all of the skills that boost their DPS.

It's fun to see what creative things people come up with using the tools. It'd be nearly impossible to actually make one of these characters in-game, but I love that you can do it.

Q. What is your favorite Legendary item or set piece you've found thus far in Sanctuary?

Puzzle Rings, hands down. I wish they were a higher level goblin, and the stats weren't bad, but it's awful fun to have a goblin randomly spawn and start running away. "Crap crap crap!" as you're juggling a few elite packs chasing a goblin!

The Legendary Puzzle Ring (Beware of Goblins)!

Q. What has been your favorite change to Diablo III since it launched?

The Legendary Item Revamp was probably my favorite, and also my least favorite! I had a lot of work to do on D3Up to get everything working, but the items were all significantly better (and more fun!) than what they used to be. I love proc effects on items, random crazy abilities, and just fun things in general. I can't wait to see what Loot 2.0 brings!

Q. What are you most looking forward to in Diablo III’s future?

Diablo's always been one of those games that you'll end up playing, then stopping, then playing again, and stopping again. I did this with Diablo and Diablo 2, and probably played D2 on and off for 6 years. Every time I'd come back, the game felt fresh and new from the randomness of everything. New features were introduced and challenges increased.

That's what I'm most excited about in Diablo III's future. I know this is going to be a game I play for years to come, because at it's core, it's an incredibly fun and polished game.

Q. Do you have any updates to D3Up you’re working on that you’d like to share?

As I hinted to in a few of the answers, I'm working on what I've been calling "V2" of D3Up. It's a complete rewrite of every system on the site from the ground up. It's been in development for about 6 months now and has a few more things I need to do before I push it out as a "beta". Life's been a bit crazy this summer, so I haven't had as much time to work on it as I would like, and it's taking a bit longer than expected.

The new site will have the "Versus Mode" for characters, more ways to view the item statistics, a streamlined interface, and a few other things I've been toying with to help share information.

I'm pretty excited about it and I've adopted the Blizzard mentality of "It'll be done when it's done". I want to release it when it's ready and when it'll be something I can be proud of!

A view comparing the items you're currently wearing to other items.

Q. What tips do you have for players looking to build their own Diablo III site?

It's a great learning experience, so I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in web development and video games!

As for tips...

  • Embrace the criticism. Not everyone's going to like it, and that's ok!

  • Listen to what the users have to say. As a developer knowing where everything is and how everything works, you tend to see things a bit differently. Listen to what they're saying and how best to address their feedback.

  • Work with other sites whenever possible and help others when you can. Good karma comes back to you eventually!

Q. Any closing thoughts?

I would like to give out a big "THANK YOU" to everyone that's used, reported bugs, submitted feedback and reached out to me over the past year. This project has been incredible, not because of the site itself, but because of the community that's surrounded it. I couldn't have asked for more.

I hope Diablo III has many more years of awesome gameplay in store for us. I'll be around, time permitting, building tools to help you stand in molten, find loot faster and be the best [insert class here] that you can be!

Want to find out more about D3Up? Head on over to D3Up's homepage, or follow D3Up's official sites on Facebook, Twitter, and /r/D3Up for even more ways to improve your character! Aaron's also keen to hear your thoughts on D3Up, so if you have feedback, you can submit it to him directly.

Have you used D3Up's site and did you find it helpful? What other Diablo III database sites or character optimization sites do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments below!

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