The Diablo community deserves an even better game from Blizzard and we are committed to improving it. We have a talented team in place and have no intention of stopping work on Diablo III until it is the best game in the franchise.
If you love Diablo as much as we do, then please continue to let us know how you feel we can improve the game. [...] I was ultimately responsible for the game we released and take full responsibility for the quality of the result.
Rob (or whoever reads this from Blizzard),
I write you as a sincere and dedicated fan. I grew up with Blizzard games and they are still my favorite game company that exists. I played Warcraft as a kid. I played Warcraft 2 in middle school with friends and teachers. Starcraft, Warcraft 3, also excellent and long lasting. Diablo turned out to be my true love, however.
I started playing Diablo soon after it came out, and played it literally until the day Diablo 2 hit store shelves. Then I played Diablo 2 for 11 years. 11 years! Add the original, and I've been enjoying the Diablo games for about half of my life (age 25) - and the latter half that matters more to me, at that. LAN parties. Battle.net. Hardcore deaths due to lag, pets, a thunderstorm. Name it, I experienced it in the Diablo world. And I loved every minute.
In college I picked up World of Warcraft finally, and played that for a few years on and off (vanilla through cataclysm) - but Diablo 2 has always been there to deliver a great experience, and a fun community.
Fast forward, and I built a brand new computer just for Diablo 3, and bought the Collectors Edition for the first time.
One of the things that really became apparent to me when I played WoW was how much Blizzard encouraged a good community. Blizzard has a long and wonderful history of openness and communication with its fans, more so than any other game company I can think of. Another thing I learned with Diablo 2, and definitely saw a lot of in WoW, is that Blizzard really cares about its products, and delivering a great experience to its customers. To that end, they really do listen to their customers. Countless NPC's, quests, items, and other bits in WoW are named after loyal fans, great PTR testers, and so forth, and anyone who follows beta expansions and PTR sees just how much Blizzard does value our feedback as gamers. I distinctly remember posting once about Paladins, and later reading a blue post basically copy+paste what I wrote as part of justification of changes to Paladins. (Thanks, guys!)
All that said, I want to say to Rob, I really appreciate, respect, and embrace your comments. I think it is clear that Diablo 3 simply has not lived up to anyone's expectations - the fan's, or Blizzard's (which I believe in part means living up to fans!). I have been around long enough and watched and played enough to know that Blizzard really does honor its commitments. I know that if something isn't good enough, you guys will fix it. Many people don't remember what sort of game the original Diablo 2 was, and how dramatically things changed going to LoD, and then again with patch 1.10. (Heck, I remember reading the manual for Diablo 2, and learning that mana would automatically regen over time - blew my mind, coming from Diablo.)
WoW was great in part because it learned a lot of hard lessons from Diablo 2. Lessons about a game economy and how to keep the currency worth something, about hacks, and other things. These lessons learned were very evident in WoW and part of what made it great.
However, these were abstract big picture items that helped with the scope of the game. Not finer design points. And as time passed in the WoW world, I watched more and more bits of Diablo 2 get stripped out and injected. For example, warriors got signature barbarian abilities, like whirlwind (bladestorm) and dual-wielding two handed weapons. Mages got sorceress spells like frozen orb (flame orb). And now I see DotA abilities being borrowed. Warriors have storm bolt from sven. Mages have warp time from weaver. Priests have void shift from terrorblade. I could go on, but the specifics are not important, and we all know they're there.
My point is it seems like at some point a few years ago the creative talent dried up or was moved on to something else, and WoW started borrowing abilities from other games and characters. For an aged game that may not be a big deal, and in that style of fantasy world, even if you come up with what you think is a fresh idea, you may later find that someone else has basically already done it. I get that. But there's too much for coincidence.
Where this really becomes a problem is when you put a new product out. Now, many fans clamored for Diablo 3 to be simply Diablo 2 with a graphics update. I'll admit I would have been pretty satisfied with that myself, but I was looking forward to so much more. But it just wasn't there. Stat points were taken away because they were deemed not an interesting choice, or next to no choice at all. But instead of putting in something better, they were simply removed from the game. Skill points, similar story. Everyone now gets the same stats and the same skills at the same time. And the worst thing of all? The skills themselves.
Talking paper, when you make a copy of a copy of a copy, the quality degrades pretty fast. The awful thing about Diablo 3 is, for a new product, it felt like it had very little innovation in terms of the character abilities. Of course there should be staples like the blizzard spell, and throwbacks like whirlwind. But the awful part was that many of these abilities felt more like a copy of the WoW copy of the original ability! A skill ported from one genre to another and then yet another, altered slightly each time, until it just felt, well, lame. And beyond that, the WoW style of combat, with abilities tweaked in power and then given varying cooldowns. This was never the Diablo way. Certain Diablo 2 abilities were given a tiny cooldown just so (among other reasons) players with a certain gear setup couldn't do things like line an entire screen with fire walls - certainly an unfair proposition for anyone attempting to leave town for a duel. By putting abilities like critical mass on a character, and then adding multi second cooldowns to many of the powerful and popular spells, you pigeonhole a class like the wizard into certain builds. Having a skill as powerful as archon just makes the entire rest of the class superfluous.
I know constantly comparing to WoW is discouraged, but the takeaways are undeniable. I was hoping Blizzard would learn from some of the mistakes and successes of WoW and apply them to Diablo 3, as they did from Diablo 2 to WoW. Instead, we got the same systems, and a lot of the same abilities and other game aspects. For a new product to not really feel like it had anything original or interesting is disheartening. Beyond that, the complete lack of player choice in building a character makes the game hollow and removes most of its replay value. Once you had a 60 of every class with good gear, what is the point? You can't say, "Oh, now I want to try a meteor wizard". You just open your skill tab and rearrange it, maybe change 1 piece of gear, and go. Easy, yes. Fun, no.
What makes a choice interesting is that you pick something at the expense of something else. If you can just have everything where is the challenge? The strategy? I felt that the removal of stat points and real skill points was a horrible decision. Claiming that there was no real choice on stats assumes everyone wants to play the exact same way. This is simply not true! Even at a high level of play, where it was essential to have no "wasted" points, it was a huge decision and stat investment to go for a shield and max block versus vit and other defenses - and that's just one example. Maybe your build really needs that 232 str armor piece - how do you get there? Gear for more str everywhere else, or actually put some points down and try to rearrange other pieces? There really were lots of interesting choices to make with stat points, even though the mantra of "just enough for your gear, rest dump vit" was basically true. And I'd be doing one of my favorite builds ever a disservice to never mention the ES sorc, where if you put a single point into vit it is wasted!
Outside of pvp you could still have fun with stat points - want that high str armor without having other expensive gear to support it? Go for it. Want to build a titan sorc, with all points in str? Sure. Singer barb? Do it. Glass cannon all-dex-all-the-time bowazon? God yes, hand me a windfury. The list really does go on, and on, and on...
Skill points were on the same level. Every point you placed meant a missed opportunity to put it somewhere else - and that's okay. That's what makes it valuable. The idea that players were punished for putting points in the wrong places is naive. You only got 5 stats and 1 skill per level, so even if you do mess up, it's not game breaking or worthy of character suicide (unless you saved up 100 stats like a mad man and shift clicked the wrong one).
I'm getting a little carried away here, but my point remains - player choice was almost completely removed in terms of how to build your character and how to play the game - and in a game like Diablo, there's not much more going on... What really hurt was that the few choices left felt like cheap echos of things we'd seen and played before, or quirky ways players found to skew the design intent of abilities (proc coefficients were wildly changed over and over). The attempt at offering more choice by allowing everyone to respec for free, all the time, really just killed it altogether by making no choice mean anything at all - you could simply redo it, or undo it, over and over, with no consequence.
I know that when Blizzard says they'll make it better, they will. I'm not sure how, but you guys still have my trust, and my money for future games (but if you pull a bioware ME3 ending type of stunt, I'ma cry a lil').
Thank you for being frank with us. Thank you for admitting fault, and that the game isn't where it should be after so much time. It's a beautiful game, very polished, and despite the initial launch, fairly bug free. But the heart and soul of it feels like it doesn't belong. If you're going to borrow from other games, please borrow from Diablo 1 and 2, and nowhere else. Build on their success, do not diverge from it as this game has. I'll be here, as I'm sure many others will, playing Diablo 2, checking the forums, and logging in every patch to see how things are doing. I just hope it doesn't fall into a WoW-style pattern of content patch, play for a few months, drop off again.
Thanks for the apology. Respect. I still love you. I trust you when you say you'll fix it.
My suggestions: look into a ladder system. What made Diablo lasting is just the opposite - nothing lasted. Having a fresh start and equal playing field periodically is awesome. Also, reconsider the way you have designed stats and skills. This is not outside the scope of possibility. 1.10 completely changed skills and skill point allocation in Diablo 2! Lastly, improve in-game community functions, like chat channels and game creation/join. The AH removes the need for players to ever talk to each other, and punishing people for attempting multiplayer removes the incentive to play together. A solo grind-and-make-gold game is not very fun. That's called real life.
[edited to add, if you could please update Diablo 2 with a higher resolution until Diablo 3 is improved, that would be great!]