Diablo IV - A Return To Darkness

Pretty much what @TheWombat said – if the Premium Battle Pass is progression gated, any builds that are massively better will need to get toned down, otherwise players will feel like they “have to go” that build to get the cosmetics as efficiently as possible.

Incentives are a hell of a drug, in other words.

Ah, makes sense. I guess I didn’t think through how battle pass progression might work, just what rewards it would contain.

With a well-constructed system, there is plenty of time to get everything if playing regularly. However, there are a) people that want everything now and will pay to get it and b) people with limited time that still want all the shinies. The first group in particular (IMO) is likely to gravitate toward a power build, especially if something is obviously op.

There are also people who power build because we are bad at gaming and need all the help we can get!

While that may be, I was speaking to why the existence of a season pass could potentially impact balance philosophy.

In teaching our students who are in game development majors, I try to get them to think about game design broadly. Not just in terms of crunchy systems or neat hooks (which are important, of course) but also in how the overall context of the game as a product as well as a creative object might shape what they do. Monetization strategies have to be considered from the very beginning of the design process I think. You can definitely build games that are both player-friendly and highly monetizable (and one hopes profitable without being exploitive), but it takes intentionality and a keen understanding of how game mechanics and structure interacts with the stuff you are selling.

Hard disagree. I prefer the “if I build it, they will come” passionate artist approach every single time. Building games from the business perspective…no thanks!

When I was a teen and made my own levels in 90s PC games I didn’t care about money. I just wanted it to be good. Wish I still had that spirit.

I am not saying “don’t make games without building in monetization gimmicks.” I’m saying, if you are building games that will have to have monetization strategies built in for their lifetime, you have to do that from the ground up. Retrofitting them to a design that never considered them is a recipe for disaster.

No matter what you build, though, unless it’s a hobby, you have to think about how it will sell. You can bank on the creativity or passion or quality selling copies, and it might work. Or you can hedge your bets and make something in a genre/market niche with a high probability of success, even if it isn’t what you really love. Or you can go full-on gacha, up to you. I’m just saying that in most cases beyond passion projects where you don’t need to sell anything, you are going to have to consider your commercial context at the beginning or you will be trying to shoehorn in stuff with bad results.

I guess a good sign for me is after 3 days since the demo I sat down at my computer last night and nothing appealed to me, I wanted to play D4.

Yeah, that’s always a great sign!

I totally get it. I really do want to play more D4; fortunately, I have games like Old World eating up my time and they are a decent enough distraction to calm my craving for the most part. I do have lots of time now to debate whether I should take time off during the early launch for Ultimate pre-orders or go in like any other game launch so I don’t burn through it too quickly.

I can’t wait to hear what the Diablo team took away from these two weekends (outside the stress-testing) to see if they’ll make any minor last-minute adjustments to what we’ve seen in game for launch or a ‘day 1 patch’. I wish they would have had an in-game bug reporting mechanism to make it easy to communicate, but maybe that’d have been too much stress on the game.

You aren’t really describing an ARPG here, IMO. You are describing a TCG where everyone owns all the cards automatically or maybe something more like LoL but PvE only. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the game the way you want, but it isn’t what most people come to these games for. They are here for progression: finding that new, slightly better, piece of loot, getting to unlock or level up a skill, improve attributes, look cooler. Finding something rare and sought-after. Sure, they want to kill monsters efficiently and take on fun challenges, but it’s in pursuit of that constant progression of their character, not in some scientific endeavor to find the platonic ideal of a frost sorc.

That’s why frictionless respecs were problematic for a lot of players. If they spend a long time progressing THEIR character and then I can just copy what they’ve done for little effort (or by making a few trades), then it doesn’t feel like they’ve done anything of value. The character doesn’t feel real and that makes the progression less compelling.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but to me it would make sense to have a level floor for each class: once you’ve played a Sorc to level 20, you can make new level 20 Sorcs (or something like that, maybe level 30, maybe level 15) and just immediately get to spend all the points. It means that re-leveling is more exciting because you immediately get to create a different fantasy of who your character is. It drops you right into the complex portion of the game, where your build isn’t rinky-dink damage, slow cool downs and too little of your resource, but has already begun to click. It also means that farming for alts is more interesting because you don’t have to wait to access all the item slots. So then if you had a hard time respeccing after that or even some hard limits on it, it wouldn’t be as bad to reroll instead. Also better for seasons and hardcore, potentially.

Dark Age of Camelot allowed you to create level 20 characters once you got a character to the cap (50). I’m sure other games have done similar things as well.

In D3, in a season, levelling was trivial even before the Altar of Sacrifice thing this season. With a modicum of effort on your first character for a season, you could set yourself up to blitz through 1-70 in a few hours at most.

I’m of two minds about friction and respecs, but overall I tend towards your POV, in that it makes it easier for me think of my character as a character and not a fungible commodity.

Right and I think this made it feel more like a chore than an experience. Sure, it might only take 4 hours, but then why should it take any? In contrast, in a game with a skill tree where you spend points that aren’t super-easy to respec, being able to just immediately make a bunch of choices feels like “rolling up a new character” in the classic sense. The reason that mechanic was removed by ARPGs in the first place was to make it so that people weren’t making critical decisions before they understood the game.

But the point is that once you’ve gotten that character rolled up, you don’t have to play through any filler content. You are now playing for real against content tough for your level with a build that is interesting to play. In D3 you didn’t really get to build-defining stages until you were well past max level because it required seasonal sets or difficult to find items. In D4, you can be making build-defining decisions at like level 30 because you are committing to a stack of skills with corresponding legendaries and +skill items (and hopefully +mechanic items like boosting overpower or crit or w/e) and shifting all of those to a new build will be expensive and slow.

I mean, they could even make a game of extending your floor: beat certain static content available at different levels to push your floor up by 5 levels. Maybe they will experiment with something similar in a future season.

I like the floor expanding idea. And yeah, D3, as much as I like it, doesn’t even start until 70, and you don’t get any good drops really until well into the Torment levels. Those pretty much require builds tuned to sets (or a few quirky ones that require no set pieces).

So lots of people are complaining about the dungeon mechanics and I’ve been trying to figure out why they feel annoying compared to past mechanics.

In Diablo 2, you had

  • Pindleskin (and some others like the council): drop in and run right at him
  • Mephisto/Baal/Andy: drop into the closest WP and find your way through semi-random maps to the boss spot
  • Izual: wander around a big map looking for him
  • Duriel: Clear dungeon after dungeon looking for the right one
  • Summoner: clear branch after branch looking for the right one
  • Diablo: drop into the closest WP, then fight your way to 3 different seals to unlock the boss

All of these were acceptable, though the more complex ones got a bit less likely to be run over and over. Still, I tended to spend a lot of time hunting Duriel or the Summoner before moving on to running the council and Mephisto, which I did for a while before moving on to Izual/Diablo, and so on. That is, I did my leveling by re-running these monster-packed areas even though the mechanic was tedious.

But now, the point of these runs isn’t leveling, it’s loot drops. When you were super high level in D2, you wanted to run Pindle because you could get that high-level drop quickly. Why tackle the Summoner when you were high enough level to go for Pindle or Baal?

So I think in D4, there are a few things people are missing about the dungeons:

  • Once you know the maps, you won’t have to backtrack as much (there are a couple exceptions where you might have to use the same corridor to bring rock #1 then go back for rock #2 if you are soloing)
  • Killing the monsters and elite packs in these dungeons will be as important as killing the bosses if you are doing them in order to level, so the repetitiveness will primarily occur when you are purely loot farming at endgame
  • Once you are loot farming at endgame, you will have access to all the dungeons, nightmare sigils that change things up, and probably the option of choosing a region with the layouts you like best. Sure, you’ll sometimes run into a map that makes you backtrack a bit, just like you sometimes took a wrong turn on the way to Baal.

So I think the easiest way to fix a lot of this would be to:

  • Remove the channeling timer for picking up / putting down keys/rocks
  • Trigger an elite pack spawn every time you pick up a key/rock or use it

That way, the actual act of completing each of these steps reveals a bit more of the dungeon experience, rather than just feeling like a chore.

Thank you emails went out to all those beta participants, each having that confirmation that reaching level 20 would get you the beta wolf pack and bonus title:

Hopefully people remember that they need to use the same account that this email went to in order to claim their little bonuses.

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I got the mail but didn’t get that message about getting the beta wolf pack or bonus title at all. That’s annoying. Must I have hit 20 in the open and not the closed beta? That would be terrible.

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Scroll down.

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I did scroll down, and it doesn’t say I earned the bonuses. That sucks.