04/30/2013 05:58 PMI'm curious to see what other players think and have them weigh in on two points: 1) whether or not they agree with your premises and b) how they'd personally like to see the game evolve to improve on those areas.
Posted by Lylirra
First of all, thanks for the post. I always find it helpful when you're specific on what sort of things you're looking for feedback on. I always find it especially encouraging in terms of how to focus my analysis of my experiences. I hope the quality of this post exceeds it's length.Response to the PremiseGeneral Premise:
I think coodav's "fun concepts" are valuable mechanics. I wouldn't call them "the purpose of an ARPG" because games from many genres can benefit from those elements. They're solid, dependable, game and level design staples. But Diablo 3's semi-random content makes it difficult to create a consistent, tight difficulty curve for these.
Also, part what has made RPGs what they are is leveling up and becoming impossibly strong so that things that would be impossible before become trivial by comparison. In my opinion, the fact that Diablo 3 has attempted to combine the appeal of RPGs with some of the basic challenge elements of positioning and pattern recognition in a more dynamic way than in the past (with things like waller, molten, and arcane sentries) is what makes this game new and unique.Specific Challenges Stated by coodav:1) Popular builds annihilate the challenges set up by the game, and there is no environment hazard
Since the use of clever position mechanics are something unique that stands out about Diablo 3, the fact that they are frequently trivialized by more popular builds has always baffled me. Because of it's RPG roots, its hard to argue that beating the system in that way doesn't have a place in this game, but the immunity is chosen rather than earned, and the value of that immunity is unrivaled by other options.
Things like trade and the auction house also influence these choices. I think that on some level, players face a conflict between playing the game for an intrinsically fun challenge, and playing the game for maximum extrinsic rewards.
Environment hazards exist, but have several issues. For example, compare the keep depths fire grates to the fire grates in the Butcher fight. In the Butcher fight, the hazard can pop up anywhere. But in the field there are safe zones and danger zones, and monsters can follow you anywhere on the map, so you're more likely to move the fight to a safer location than confront the environment hazard. So, either you make everywhere dangerous, and the game becomes exceedingly stressful, or you simply encourage players to move encounters to safer zones.2)Key builds do not consider placement and do massive AoE damage centered on the player.
This is actually one of the biggest issues I have with the game. AoE abilities are always the definitive answer. You might squeeze a small margin of damage on a boss by focusing on single target attacks, but bosses in the endgame are optional and their predictable patterns mean that bosses are not much more dangerous for living a little longer.
While many AoE abilities attempt to be balanced by resource costs, the benefit of constant AoE is greater than alternating attacks. Right now, it is always better to choose abilities that help fuel your one best attack rather than keep around skills that don't combine. A lot of skills are effectively balanced, but become overpowered through synergy.
In the case of Strafe, WW, and Tempest Rush, the ability to cut through enemies without collision adds a huge benefit. In fact, I found Tempest Rush irreplaceable simply as a means of escape, before I realized that it did damage at all. I don't think those abilities are balanced.3)Complexity and speed do not change from Normal to Inferno. Difficulty through Scaling values is boring.
I disagree strongly with the first half of this premise. Complexity very clearly changes in elite monsters from Normal to Inferno, through more affixes, as well as new affixes introduced in later difficulties. Normal monsters don't get this luxury, but having some variance in the moment to moment difficulty helps keep the game interesting instead of agonizing. To my understanding, developers have stated in the past that the AI, while using the same actions, makes decisions more quickly in higher difficulties. Monster Power difficulties, however, match your criticism perfectly.
Scaling damage and health is a necessary compliment to support the increasing complexity and rising numbers of the game. An Extra Health affix on an Arcane enchanted monster means you will probably see more sentries during the encounter. Kill something before it strikes, and it doesn't matter what powers it might have had. Simple monsters only become larger damage sponges, but again, this isn't necessarily bad in itself because it allows a varied pace that keeps the whole game engaging.4) "Net Effect" of this game being about cheap shots and avoiding them.
This statement only accounts for one experience with specific player gear and skill choices. Popular builds have decided to rely on damage-dealing and CC-avoidance rather than mitigation. High-mitigation builds on an appropriate difficulty don't have this same experience. But the builds who risk instant death are proving the most efficiently when it comes to extrinsic rewards like gold, XP, and gear. These "cheap" deaths explose the flaws in a build. Since these builds already exceed at reward, asking for the risk to be taken away would be the final annihilation of build diversity.5) Augmenting the Premise
I believe one main issue is that things that are intrinsically and extrinsically rewarding do not align. Players have discovered that how to get more gold and items for their time from things that are easier. While I respect the philosophy that Blizzard has taken - that players should be able to choose what they want to do - as long as a method exists where a player can get more reward for less effort, they will choose that path, even if it's "less fun".
While things like Monster Power and Paragon Levels effectively and directly addressed some of the game's problems, the rules created by these systems have opened up clever ways to get more for doing less, causing problems of their own. Monster Power exists so that players can keep the game challenging and rewarding for highly-geared players. Instead, players found the most extrinsic rewards from levels which are less difficult and less engaging. Paragon Levels existed so that Magic Find could gradually be phased out, and so that players had a tangible benefit for killing monsters at the maximum level, so even if you didn't find new gear, it didn't feel like you wasted your time. The effect, however, is that Magic Find's value, the thing the system was supposed to eliminate, made leveling in paragon much more worthwhile than playing the game in search of gear normally. Players's started to see Paragon Levels as required, rather than what it represented when it was added: a nice bonus for continued play.Response to coodav's solutions1) Give the community an editor
Recall as I said above, that making it easier to get extrinsic rewards rather than challenging is the path many players follow? I'm not sure what your assumption was on how the editor would work, and what content it would create, with what restraints, but I see that the result would likely be trying to make areas where you can very easily be rewarded. While I love editor tools for games, I don't think it makes sense for this one.2) Alter "cheap" affixes
I agree that this is a good suggestion. Just don't be surprised if it doesn't pan out the way you think it should. I think what happened with Reflect Damage was ultimately handled very well. Some of the other affixes, though, I struggle to see how they might be altered to be more engaging, rather than merely being trivialized. Moving Vortex to only appear on the lead Rare monster might be a bit more fair, though that reduces Champion diversity.3) Remove the ability to path through monsters
You're right that the abilities that allow this currently are out of balance with other abilities. However, I'm not sure about removing the capacity altogether. It's a very different strategic option, but I'd rather it be balanced with other options rather than removed altogether and demanding every one must play the same way.4) Increase Game Speed
Increases in game speed don't help strategic complexity nor depth. Making a game faster just makes it harder to execute a complex strategy, which means an increased benefit for builds that rely largely on one skill.5) Improve AI Complexity
What does this mean? "Increase complexity" doesn't give any impression of how or why it might help. Do you mean give monsters more abilities? That's the only way I can see meaningful complexity added to behaviors. I'd like to see it happen, but new abilities mean new mechanics, which are features best tooled into an expansion.How I'd like to see the game evolve to improve these areas
(Headers indicate big-picture goals, and are followed by possible suggestions for how to achieve them)1) Improve the degree to which activities which are both difficult and intrinsically rewarding are linked to extrinsic rewards.
The incoming reduction of scorpion XP helps, along with phasing out "find" stats. These both give you more control to make more difficult monsters consistently more rewarding. It may also help to diversify kinds of rewards. All actions draw from the same pool of rewards. Events and Demonic Essence demonstrate this. The Infernal Machine is a much better example, since it involves a combination of steps and kinds of activities.
Using more complex objectives for the best rewards is something I would like to see more of as a whole. As it stands, all activities draw from the same pool of rewards, but players can pick and choose the easiest ones. What if progress or a special reward had a special combination of requirements, such as exploring certain points, defeating a certain number of particularly difficult enemies, killing with the environment only, completing objectives within a certain time-frame, or avoiding death throughout the ordeal?2) Improve the level to which build and gear decisions create overt trade-offs.
You've expressed a desire to improve this in gear, but the same applies to skills inconsistently. Glass Cannon, for example, has a very steep trade-off cost, while Weapons Master's restrictions never feel like a penalty. The inherent value of critical hits means that at high levels, skills that benefit or benefit from critical hits stop feeling like a trade-off. Some of what makes this difficult is how everything is weighed in "deal damage" "mitigate damage" "avoid CC".
One thing I do like about Weapons Master in itself is that it offers different benefits under different conditions. It is like four mutually exclusive skills in one. It might be worth examining what ways skills that are too broadly powerful might be broken up into more exclusive effects, accomplishing a stronger trade-off effect.3) Bring the degree of synergy between skills into a better balance.
This is probably helped largely by improving trade-offs, but it is still an important element to consider. More multi-faceted passives like Weapons Master could allow for almost any set of skills to have at least some small level of synergy. I believe part of what restricts build diversity is the demand for skill synergy, devaluing skills that don't synergize. Perhaps everything should synergize to some degree, or there should be far more options that support diversity with exclusive synergy.4) Link difficulty to greater mechanical complexity rather than just damage and health scaling
A number of people have recommended giving normal monsters random affixes to increase difficulty. I think the fact that some monsters already have a natural ability that resembles an affix is a good thing. In fact, I hope that more normal monsters will have distinct "affix-like" attributes in the future. The best thing about this is that affixes consistently linked to the same monster enables an immediately recognizable visual link between an effect and a monster, allowing the player to react and plan quickly and meaningfully.
Something I have noticed as a result of seeing increased monster density in the latest PTR is that while there are more monsters, the homogenization of the type of monster represented in a pack becomes more evident. Lumping a variety of monsters together is a small step to take advantage of existing mechanics and making them more interesting and difficult through combination.