Diablo 3 Controversy and News

So as I’m sure we’re all aware, a lot of the bigger gaming press sites were invited to a major event last week to view Diablo 3, and there’ve been a bunch of new information revealed. Some of it is hitting pretty controversially, with people overreacting and going to the ‘ZOMG I AM SO NOT PLAYING THIS IF THEY DO THAT’ line we all hear so often, but that people oddly seem to never follow through on.  So let’s just take the bullet list of changes – I’m getting it from Diablofans because they seem to have the most complete coverage: http://www.diablofans.com/. There’re a few things beyond the bullet list I’ll touch on that are causing controversy which I’ll go into my thoughts on separately afterwards.

1:D1 Warrior (the Dark Wanderer) was retconned, he is now King Leoric’s eldest son

Originally the ‘Dark Wanderer’ in Diablo 2 was the Warrior from the first Diablo. They are now saying that either the Warrior was Leoric’s son, or that the Dark Wanderer was Leoric’s eldest son. Either way, not a huge deal, it does allow them to tell a more interesting story by giving them a character with an actual history in stead of a nameless hero so I can live with that.

2: Fire reigns from the sky, dead arise from graves, bring heroes to Tristram.

This is just a lore bullet, not a change, so nothing to really say here. Basically it’s just explaining the tone of the start of the game.

3: Book of Cain fills the 20-year gap between LoD and D3.

The Book of Can is a book Blizzard is releasing that tells the story of what happened between Diablo 2’s expansion and Diablo 3 from Cain’s point of view.

4: Leah is Adria’s daughter and Cain’s adopted niece.

Cool little explanation of who Leah is. For those confused, Leah is a character they’ve referenced a half dozen times or so in previous discussions, but aside from saying she was adopted by Cain, they haven’t really said who she actually is. Adria was the witch from Diablo 1, and a rather interesting character in that game; so more insight into her is a nice thing to see.

5: 6 active skills instead of 7. Traits revamped into “passive skills,” only 3 active at a time.

For quite a while Blizzard said you’d have the ability to have up to 7 active skills that you could put points into, as well as a trait system that contained passive bonuses much like passive talents in World of Warcraft or skills like Warmth in the original Diablo. This is about a change to that.

I think 6 is a good number of actives to have, it allows you to chain combos and have some versatility without overwhelming. Passive skills in stead of Traits make sense, because it makes those passives feel that much more impacting, rather than just like the old passive talents in WoW(yay 1% crit)

6: Each class has ~20 skills and ~15 passives.

Good solid amount of choice here. With 6 active slots, 20 gives enough variety for uniqueness’s sake.

7: Cauldron of Jordan: Allows you to sell items from battle.

Awesome, reducing downtime and increasing time spent in action. Love it.

8: Nephalem Cube: Salvages items.

Same here, the ability to do something with ‘useless’ items is a really nice change.

9: Stone of Recall: D3’s version of a hearthstone.

I like having the ability to go to town when I need to, but I’m glad I won’t have to often.

10: Stash is huge! Larger than LoD’s and has 5 pages, that you can purchase for gold.

Absolutely essential. The fact that they’ve made items smaller on average and made the stash larger means that even a single tab will give a good amount of storage space. Not mentioned here: stash is also shared accross BNet acct, huge improvement. No more ‘hold my game while I transfer some items please?’ The only concern I have for that is that as an item hoarder, the inability to create mules or have character-specific stashes for items other characters would never need does make space at a bit of a premium.

11: DH has 2 separate resources, Hatred and Discipline, both regenerate at a certain rate.

I’m so glad to hear about the Demon Hunter’s resource system. Sounds like a very intricate system with Hatred being sort of twitchy and used for aggressive skills and Discipline being used for more planned things like traps. Really liking, can’t wait to get my hands on her.

12: Beta will only be a portion of Act 1 and will be relatively small.

Already suspected this, so can’t say I’m surprised. Both disappointed and glad about this. It helps to maintain the surprise so I’m glad, but I’m very eager to see more so I was hoping it’d be at least a bit more than that! ;)

13: Real money auction house as well as a gold auction house and direct trading.

And here we get to the first major controversy – to be brief here, I’m in favour of this, I’ll explain more later.

14: Banner system to represent each person individually.

The Banner is a customizable representation of you based off of feats, achievements, etc that sits in town when you’re in a game. People can see it and click on it to be teleported immediately to where you are. I think it’s a really cool system.

15: Character naming system is exactly like SC2’s. Name#XXX.

Assuming they mean that characters will have visible names but also a hidden friend code so that people can have the same name but still be able to add people to friends lists if they ask for the friend code, then I’ve got no problem with this. If they mean that I’ll have a number after my name when I log in, then I’ll be a bit disappointed with that.

16: Willpower is removed.

Willpower was a stat that I honestly can’t even remember the exact effect of. I’m interested to see how this one plays out, but it’s not possible to make a judgement call until we get to play it at high levels so will reserve judgement for then.

 

Now onto the controversies.

First and foremost, the auction house including a real money element. Upon reading that I was like ‘wtf man?’ but then I read their explanation. I’ll post it here, as quoted again by Diablofans.com: “Their reasoning behind doing this is simply because the players want it. If the players didn’t want it, they would not have been using shady third party sites, like d2jsp in the D2 era of the series. Essentially, all Blizzard did was make something that was previously unofficial and sketchy, official and supported.”

When it’s put that way, it really does make sense. They’re taking something that players(not me but many) have made eminently clear they want, and taking it out of the hands of shady third party sites with no accountability and building it into the game and the BNet service itself; allowing people to purchase with confidence if they choose to. The AH will also support gold transactions, so you don’t HAVE to use real money, but you have the option to. When put that way, all they’re really doing is protecting their customers from people who might try to take advantage of them. And I’m all for that!

 

The second major controversy is the removal of skill and trait points. Now, for those who didn’t hear, skills will scale with your level and stats, and will not require any points put into them. You’ll start with 2 skills and 2 skill slots, and over the course of leveling you’ll learn new skills – approximately 20 in all per class – and unlock new skill slots, to a maximum of 6. You can swap these skills as you want to, allowing you to play around with different skill compositions to find which specific skills you want to use. And the ‘traits’ that were mentioned before are gone as well, replaced by more significant ‘passive bonuses’. These passives will be themed, so you might have a ‘bloodthirsty’ one that increases everything related to blood(so more damage depending on kills and such, more lifesteal, and possibly more bleed damage) or things like that; and they’ll be significant bonuses that will modify your playstyle.

My initial thoughts on the skill change were very lukewarm. I’m sort of not liking the loss of a lot of what was Diablo 2’s skill system, but on the other hand – was Diablo 2’s skill system really what made Diablo 2 fun? I would argue no, that it was more of an impediment… something that just forced you to get power leveled because leveling on your own without spending skill points was quite a bit more frustrating but spending your skill points led to you having a subpar build. The new system will allow you the ability to experiment without penalizing yourself – which is awesome. It also, to my eyes, increases replayability by not forcing people to get powerleveled every time they want to try something new with their class. All they have to do is swap gear, runes, skills and passives, and then they’re instantly back into the fun of the game itself.

Blizzard’s explanation themself was as follows: “The reasoning behind this is to remove the Diablo 2 style of thinking, where we save all of our points and dump them into better skills, once we hit the end game. Jay said that they found employees (in the alpha) dumping all their points into say, Magic Missiles, until they unlocked Arcane Orb. They would then respec, and dump all their points into Arcane Orb, until they unlocked the next tier skill. This system didn’t really make much sense and allowing us to hot-swap skills/passives whenever we want gives us the ability to “test” the skills without worrying about wasting any points. With skill points gone, skills/traits will scale with your level/gear. For example, a skill like Bash will scale with your weapon damage, whereas something like Disintegrate will scale with level.”

Upon reading their explanation, and seeing that their reasoning aligned to close to my own initial assessment of the change really helped to reaffirm that this change is for the best.

 

The third major controversy is really just speculation. They talked about, in a few interviews, changing the rune system. The new rune system would have just ‘unattuned’ runes in stead of pre-set runes. When you socket the rune, it attunes itself to the skill you put it in and becomes, say, a ‘crimson rune of plague of toads’ with random affixes such as +attack or +defense or something like that.

Now, this is just something they’re going to be trying to see if it works. I agree with part of it, and I disagree with part of it. I absolutely agree that adding randomized attributes to runes would definitely improve the equipment metagame a lot by making it so that even among the best tier of runes there’s still room for improvement. That is an awesome concept that I really hope makes it in regardless. What I disagree with is making the rune’s EFFECT random and even moreso I don’t agree with making the runes lock themselves to one ability. I think that having the different types of runes generate random stats when you first equip them will be enough to ensure it has a level of progression to it. Making it so you have to just keep randomly socketing runes into each ability until you get the effect you want just feels boring. But if they made it so that you had, say, an ‘unattuned crimson rune’ and when you socket it it becomes a ‘crimson rune of damage’ which gives +4 damage… that would be cool.

 

The fourth major controversy I saw is the same one I see at least once a month nowadays. Diablo 3 is joining the ‘must be online’ category. Here’s the quote from their FAQ: “Yes, players must be online in order to play Diablo III. Diablo III was built from the ground up to take full advantage of the new version of Blizzard’s powerful Battle.net platform. Players will have access to several features through Battle.net, including an advanced achievement system as well as the Diablo III banner system; a powerful co-op and PvP matchmaking system; comprehensive stat-tracking; persistent characters that will not expire and are accessible from any computer that has Diablo III installed; a persistent Real ID friends list across multiple Blizzard games, along with cross-game chat; a shared stash accessible by all Diablo III characters on the Battle.net account; and the ability to have friends seamlessly jump in and join you at any time during your quest against the Burning Hells. Together with the security-related benefits that Battle.net provides, these Battle.net-based features are integral to the Diablo III game experience.”

For me, I’m not bothered by this. I think it’s really what is likely to be the future, and the number of people in areas that don’t have decent internet access is almost not worth noting – and really, I never enjoyed playing d2 offline anyways. I can understand why it pisses some people off; specifically those in areas with poor interent availability, but I don’t see it as a big deal overall. It’s just a minor frustration to have to pick a different game to play in the rare eventuality that your internet is unavailable. The only other thing I can understand is that if you want to just play your game and be anti-social for an hour or so, not having the ability to go ‘invisible’ when on bnet is a huge downside. Blizzard, if you read this, please implement an ‘appear offline’ or ‘invisible’ option to all aspects of bnet 2.0 so that if you don’t want to deal with people you can just turn that on and then even your realid friends won’t know you’re around.

I have to say that not having a complete offline version does seem like a bit of an odd decision in the long run, but if that’s what they feel is necessary to deliver the best experience then I’ll reserve judgement until we see whether it truly is the best experience. Hopefully it will be.

 

So there we have it, my take on all the news and controversy we have surrounding our August 1st Diablo news bombardment from press sites. Most of my info, as mentioned above, came from http://www.diablofans.com/ so props to them for their reporting!

 

Written by: Sean Engel

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