Soon after we released Diablo III, many of you commented on Legendary items. Most of those comments were fairly harsh, but they were also dead-on accurate. In many ways the Legendary items that we released with the game were just Rares with flavor text. You called us on it, and we’ve listened.
Since then I've been working hard with the team to give Legendary items some of the flavor and feeling that they deserve. With patch 1.0.4 just around the corner, and the new Legendary items coming in that patch, I wanted to share some of the changes with you here today.
Let's talk about the biggest complaints we heard from you all, along with some we had from our team, and look at what we've managed to do to address them.
They Should Feel Unique
Many of you commented, rightly, that the Legendary items in the game didn’t feel unique enough. Something that Diablo II did really well was to create some very memorable items, and they were called “Uniques.” While we call them Legendaries now, the word “unique” was something we tried to keep in mind when making these changes. The rarity of Legendary items combined with their color means that when they drop you should feel like you’re getting something special, something that isn’t just another sword. A truly legendary item should have history behind it, something that you can imagine a powerful wizard imbuing with special magics from within the depths of his musty library.
Part of that feeling comes when you equip the item, and you see that it has special, custom artwork that sets it apart from every other item in the game. The artists already nailed this part of it, but with 1.0.4 they’ve gone the extra mile to ensure these items show off, visually, how truly epic they are. But we’ll cover that in a bit.
On my end, the design end, to get the uniqueness into Legendary items, we've added custom effects to over 50 of them. Here are just a few.
We're letting players exact some revenge on rare and Champion and Rare packs by giving players monster affixes through Legendary items. This is just one example.
Reminiscent of the Enchantress ability, this lets you turn enemies against each other.
Aside from looking really cool as it leaves a trail of fire behind you, this lets you create some interesting traps.
There's some just-for-fun stuff too. Everyone wants to be just like Ghom! These pants make you “stinky”, complete with debuff and gas cloud effect -- you can even spread this effect to friendly players.
A giant column of light shoots down, summoning an Angel to fight by your side. 'Nuff said.
This sword has a chance to summon a demon to fight with you -- with a twist. This demon has the Fire Chains affix, and the other end is attached to your character. Mwahaha!
Promote Build Diversity
Because Legendary items are unique, we can do some fun stuff with them that we can't really do with other types of items. One of the main goals of Diablo III and the skill/rune system is providing a huge amount of character customization. With Legendary items we can help support those goals.
In 1.0.4 we've added a number of items that really fit into a niche skill kit. This can help people to branch out into less common builds by seeing this item and thinking, heck, why not give it a try? They may not have the highest DPS stats in the game, but they can help you play your class in new and interesting ways.
Some people want to try out a ranged barb. We think that's awesome. Here you go.
The melee wizard concept is pretty popular, and we think this wand will be too.
Certainly not an uncommon build, but this is a great item for any pet-focused witch doctors, and with the pet buffs also coming in 1.0.4 we think it’s going to be very desirable.
Provide Interesting Choices
With great power comes great responsibility. Some affixes in the game seem like they'd be too unbalanced if we let them stack too high. So how do we make sure we can go higher?
Goldskin is a good example. 100% gold find on it, plus monsters have a chance to drop gold when you hit them. Not too bad, right? But the tradeoff is it can’t roll core stats. We instead follow the flavor of the item, and being a skin of gold (!), provide you with some additional resistances and mitigation. It’s going to create some interesting choices on how you can make this item work for you. You have to find other ways to get the stats that you really need if you really want all that sweet, sweet gold. Balancing your items out like this can provide some fun and interesting challenges.
Honoring Our Ancestors
We brought a lot of items back from the Diablo franchise for Diablo III, but in many cases all we really did was bring back their name. I don't think we did a great job initially of bringing back the way that they helped you play the game. We've done a pass on all the "ancestor" Legendaries to make sure they remain as true to their name as we could make them, and in some cases we've made them even better.
New Frosties feel a lot more like old Frosties, with big bonuses to Cold Damage and Cold skills.
Honoring the original by giving all projectile attacks a chance to pierce through the target's defenses.
They Feel Powerful
We used to reduce the value of certain affixes on Legendary items because we were concerned that having fixed affixes would make them unbalanced. What it actually did was make those items kind of crappy. For example, if the item's level (ilvl) was 50, the first affix would always roll at 50, then the next would roll at 47, and the next would roll at 43. This was done to offset the power of fixed affixes in a random world, but we've learned it's not necessary, and Legendary items being powerful is OK. So lesson learned, we no longer reduce the value of any of the fixed affixes on Legendary items. For example, if an ilvl 50 Legendary item had Strength as one of its fixed affixes, previously it may have rolled a range that you would have seen on a level 45 item, making it seem really underpowered, but now it will always roll within the range of a level 50 affix.
In addition, Legendary items used to cap out at ilvl 62, making it near impossible to find a weapon that had strong DPS. No more. We’ve promoted a LOT of the new Legendaries so that they will roll at ilvl 63, giving them access to the highest possible affix rolls that are in the game.
We're also working on some changes for 1.0.4 to make two-handers better in general, and this will affect two-handed Legendary items as well.
Here’s a good example of all-of-the-above.
That probably about covers it for the major points we're hitting with Legendary items in 1.0.4, but there's a few extra details on how they’re going to work once the patch hits we want to make sure everyone is prepared for.
Going Forward - As a reminder, these changes will only affect Legendary items that drop after the release of patch 1.0.4. This includes items that haven’t been identified yet (as items are rolled when they drop). With the extensive changes being made we can’t exactly translate old Legendary items to new. What might have been a decent item could become worse if we re-roll it, and vice-versa.
Not Everything is Changing! - Sometimes a Legendary just being really powerful is enough, and some Legendary items are already really good. Helm of Command, for example, won’t be changing in 1.0.4.
What About Sets? - It’s worth clarifying that green Set items are Legendary items (just with a set bonus) and so the above philosophy applies to them as well. Some set bonuses are changing, they’re becoming more powerful, and a lot of them are having their base ilvl increased to 63.
New Set Names - As set bonuses won’t interact between pre-1.0.4 and post-1.0.4 sets, the new Sets will have new names, as well as new individual pieces, to prevent confusion.
Crafted Legendaries - If you currently have a crafting plan for a Legendary item, and if we change the item that you’re able to craft in any way, you will NOT have to get a new crafting plan for that item. If you craft something right after 1.0.4 comes out you’ll get the new item.
We thank you for your continued feedback, and look forward to seeing how the new Legendaries treat you in 1.0.4 and beyond. Look out for additional 1.0.4 info blogs as we near the patch release.
One More Thing…
I’m really proud of how the entire team came together to make these changes -- and it truly was a team-wide effort. When we were first discussing buffing Legendaries and making them cooler, a bunch of the artists got really excited and went out of their way to make them a whole lot sexier. Here's a sneak peek at just a few of the changes they're making to the items, as well as some of their proc powers.
Andrew Chambers is Senior Game Designer on Diablo III, and spent six months running a live action Vampire the Masquerade game for over 100 people, and it mostly wasn’t to meet girls… mostly.