21 May, 2012, KaVir wrote in the 1st comment:
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I've been playing Diablo III over the last few days, and have been thinking about some of the decisions they've made, as well as reading reviews from other players. The most common complaint I've read is the need to be constantly online, even when you're playing solo, and I can sort of understand the reaction (I've been disconnected from games several times, the servers have been down for hours at a time, and when I am on there's often quite a lot of lag). There have also been complaints about the graphics, storyline, the auction house, etc…

However I'm more interested in looking at their gameplay design decisions. In particular, they've gone for a very streamlined approach compared to Diablo II, for example:

* You no longer hold shift to run for a short period, you always run.
* You don't need to manually compare different items, the game does it for you.
* The horadric cube has been turned into a simple gold-fuelled crafting system.
* Cash and stash is now tied to your account and shared between characters.
* Item identification has been practically eliminated, it's now nearly automatic.
* You no longer need scrolls to recall to town, it's an innate ability.
* You don't manually spend stat points, it's now handled automatically.

But the biggest change in my eyes is the skill system. In Diablo II each class had three skill trees, each containing several skills, and each skill had a rank between 0 and 20. You earned one point every level and could spend it as you saw fit, as long as you met the requirements. This allowed for a lot of customisation, with each class having a wide range of different builds.

In Diablo III there are no longer skill ranks, and you no longer spend points. Instead you automatically unlock skills and runes as you level, and can have 1-6 skills active at any one time (depending on level), with one rune for each skill (these customise the skill in some way). You can also have up to 3 additional runes on yourself, granting you certain abilities (eg +20% damage but +30% mana cost for all spells, or +20% health for your pets, etc). These abilities can all be changed and rearranged on the fly.

This certainly overcomes one of the biggest complaints with the Diablo II skill system - you can no longer permanently screw up your character by making a mistake. And while it does theoretically result in fewer available options, it's also fair to say that most characters in Diablo II only used a few skills at a time anyway.

From a design perspective I can appreciate the changes, it seems more polished, more transparent, more accessable. But I can't help feeling it's gone a bit too far, and lost something. I think it's the lack of customisation that doesn't sit so well with me - there just don't seem to be any meaningful decisions. The characters feel…generic, impersonal. In many ways it feels like they've tried to make the game more like Diablo I.

I'm a strong proponent of respecing, I don't think players should be permanently penalised for making poor decisions. I'm also a big fan of transparency and accessability. But I think that character customisation and personalisation are also extremely important, particularly for games with an online presence, and if you streamline too much you start to sacrifice that element of the game.

Anyone else played it? What are your thoughts?
21 May, 2012, quixadhal wrote in the 2nd comment:
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I just finished normal difficulty with a barbarian, and for the most part, I like the new changes. While I didn't see a LOT of flexibility in the rune choices for normal mode, I suspect they will be more useful in nightmare and above. One thing to remember is that the lowest difficulty mode is very much you (the hero) wading through mobs of mostly-safe fodder and some simple boss fights that you can just button-mash through. If D3 follows Diablo 2's formula, the higher difficulties will require much more careful gear/skill selection and usage, as you'll start finding resistances and immunities to damage types, and even the "trash" mobs will start getting special abilities.

The constant online issue is a mixed blessing. I've been spoiled by Steam in this respect, as many newer Steam-enabled games work like Diablo 3 in that they save your game data to your Steam account, meaning if you want/need to reinstall your OS, or you decide to install and play on another machine, you don't have to scramble around for a backup of your saved game files. Unlike Steam, Blizzard doesn't offer an offline mode, and while that is annoying… I understand it.

Diablo 1 suffered horribly from player save hacks, and it rendered the online game almost unplayable because of PvP against hacked characters. Diablo 2 had its share of cheats too, but the big thing Blizzard hated was the private server networks and hacked clients that bypassed the need to actually buy it (for those who accept piracy). By making D3 online-only, and tying it directly to the newer style battle.net accounts (and thus to your WoW/Starcraft/etc games AND your credit card), they've made it a notch harder to steal.

The only real problem is that, as usual, they've underestimated the demands placed on their network. Thus we have high latency, disconnects, and errors, because they somehow didn't think to stress test at the levels needed before launch.

Oh, one other note. Folks have wondered why they bother making you right-click to identify items? I don't know this for sure, but I suspect it's because items don't have their attributes fully set until identified. In D2, people used to pay/trade more for unidentified items because when you wore full magic-find gear and id'd something, it would get higher numbers than if id'd by someone with regular combat gear. Perhaps that is also true here.
21 May, 2012, Runter wrote in the 3rd comment:
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I'm almost through nightmare on wizard.

I only have one thing to say. Clones seem useless in normal, and are my most useful ability in nightmare. I think the difficulty clearly drivers the choices in utility that must be used.
22 May, 2012, quixadhal wrote in the 4th comment:
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I'm almost done with Act I in nightmare, and I find myself selecting runes that tend to heal me for damage done, or let me gain rage or health on kills, because the pure damage output isn't good enough anymore. Many of the blue/yellow challenge mobs are now lightning enhanced, so they fan out elemental damage when hit, and so you have to rebalance your gear to start adding resistences in, which were pretty much useless in normal mode.

Remembering Diablo 2 in hell mode, eventually mobs started doing attacks that would one-shot you if you didn't dodge around so it would hit an obstacle or minion instead of yourself. I have no reason to doubt D3 will do the same, and teamwork will start to be critical when NPC's start gaining full immunties to damage types. If something is immune to physical damage, and you're trying to solo a fighter-type… good luck!
22 May, 2012, plamzi wrote in the 5th comment:
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I've been playing it, too. At first, out of nostalgia. Then, like KaVir, with some interest in their game design choices. In fact, some of their choices aimed at a rollercoaster hack'n'slash experience emboldened me to make some pretty drastic steps in simplifying my own game, steps that I'd heretofore been hesitant to make.

What I find the most interesting is that it seems like you have to play about 20-30 hrs. just to get to the point where the game becomes even remotely challenging. Everyone can finish "normal" difficulty and can say they've killed Diablo–there really is no way to screw up, period. But there are also carefully placed signals throughout that if you keep playing and unlocking difficulty levels, you will be rewarded.

The content is designed with replayability in mind, with a few new elements cropping up here and there as you revisit the same places. And it's just the right size for you to be totally bored with it by the time you see it 3-4 times, and begin yearning for an expansion pack.

At the core of this game has always been the hoarding (and endlessly abusing of bosses as artifact vending machines) and in that sense the game is very close to my MUD. I will no doubt be lifting some ideas from it, I think mostly in terms of a democratic "dumbing it down" for beginners.
23 May, 2012, Runter wrote in the 6th comment:
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Im still waiting to see my first epic item. :p
23 May, 2012, Kline wrote in the 7th comment:
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I'm a few rooms from the Butcher on Hell with my Monk so far (lv 53 I think) before I left for work tonight. Normal is definitely button mash and enjoy the story; I can't complain. I did enjoy it, and took time to sniff the roses and clean hordes of demons out of people's basements. 100% AoE damage machine without stopping; I rarely moved any skills about due to how well massive passive AoE slaughtered everything. Dual-wielding 45% dodge machine of death! Potions? Those are vendor trash for cash.

Nightmare initially face rolled me until I added some vit and a little healing. I had to drop most of my damage dealing in favor of survivability / healing, but I still did decent damage. Pretty hard to take me down, but going along became a bit slower. There were still a few bosses (Siegebreaker comes to mind) that I simply couldn't / chose not to do as melee. For as often as Siegebreaker wanted to grab and throw me or smash me for 60% of my life, ended up letting my follower kill him for me while I ran in circles. Slow but effective… Still stuck with dual-wielding here. Potions are were handy if I made a mistake / stood in the fire too long, but not necessary. I also lucked out and picked up my first (and only) Legendary hat here :)

Hell mode is a different beast. I feel like I'm respeccing every rare pack to see if I can find a more effective skill combination. I've also moved from dual wielding to a 2H daibo and consistently using my summonable charmie (who was ignored 100% in normal and used sparingly at the end of nightmare). The D3 forums seem to suggest sword and board is required here, but I think I've got it figured out so far with 2H. We'll see when I hit the Butcher; nothing else has been a big issue. Rare/elite packs decimated me until about two or three quests in; and there are still some combinations I can't handle and I just re-roll a new game (Arcane, vortex, mortar, vampiric – I seem to get that ugly combination a lot). The 2H playstyle is spirit skills over doding with dual-wield bonuses, but I feel like I can survive a bit. I can also still AoE the crap out of most monsters with a little timing. Serenity bubble, run in, build spirit up, Wave of Light (Explosive Light) will decimate most things and push them back, pop Breath of Heaven (Blazing Wrath) and mop up anything else with the bonus damage. Potions are mandatory; until I managed to buy one or two new pieces of gear I was going through multiple potions per fight and still kiting things. I haven't run a group / public game yet, but my Templar can survive anything (if only he could hold more aggro!) and between him and the Earth Charmie I can manage to run in/out smacking enemies and then retreating to lose aggro.

Also in Hell, I want to say most of the elite packs I ran into immediately outside of New Tristram all ended up getting kited back to town for the guards to help me with…Yep, it was that ugly. I haven't been able to find many upgrades outside of a weapon every few levels either from drops or on the AH. I suspect my abysmal resists aren't helping things (about 15% dmg reduction). I certainly feel like a glass cannon with some clinch heals at this point. A substantial portion of any rare/elite mob fight usually ends up with me running in circles waiting on a cooldown.
23 May, 2012, hollis wrote in the 8th comment:
Votes: 0
KaVir said:
I'm a strong proponent of respecing, I don't think players should be permanently penalised for making poor decisions. I'm also a big fan of transparency and accessability. But I think that character customisation and personalisation are also extremely important, particularly for games with an online presence, and if you streamline too much you start to sacrifice that element of the game.

What do you mean by customization and personalization, specifically? So far, I've played a Monk (with 3 other friends) to Nightmare act 4 and a Demon Hunter (solo) to Hell act 3. In both cases, the game has been *so easy* that all of the skill decisions seem aesthetic, and purely a matter of what I like the "look and feel" of. Maybe we're defining these terms differently, but it seems to me that skill choices are purely a matter of personalization.

Here are the demon hunter builds I've tried and tested (in order of aesthetic preference); all are completely viable as far as I've progressed (Hell act 3; I frequently swap between them so I can compare how well they handle the different acts).

Trapper Build: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/de...
Arrow Breathweapon: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/de...
Hammerdin Clone: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/calculator/de...

Although I have a monk midway through nightmare, I haven't experimented with builds all that much; some friends and I sat down on Saturday and played all day, without much of a break to experiment.

I cannot say anything about this difficulty at inferno, but I hear it is a pretty huge difference, which may reduce the viability of numerous builds. We'll see, I guess. But from my perspective (primarily demon hunter, a little bit of monk), almost all of the skill choices seem aesthetic – of course, some skills fit better with others, but there is a large room for creativity on what you can do.

I like much of the streamlining that D3 has done, in contrast to D2. I am more-or-less positive about the skill system. I feel like it falls a bit short on depth of complexity, but I do feel like there is a great amount of aesthetic freedom for how you play your character (so far – inferno may be different). However, I really feel as if the game is "too easy", which makes most of my decisions feel completely arbitrary. That part, I really do not like. I am optimistic that the game will get much better over the next year or so – designing a good combat system takes alot of trying and alot of failing to get something interesting.
23 May, 2012, ATT_Turan wrote in the 9th comment:
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I bought the game on opening day and haven't played it since. I got a Wizard up to level 13 and never came close to dying, which makes me feel the game is way too easy. I dislike the many seemingly-WoW-inspired choices, including the graphics style, the more lighthearted dialogue, the heavier orientation on quests and the automatic stat gains.

I dislike the automatic stat gains (and the fact that equipment has only level requirements now) because I used to enjoy twisting classes to fill different roles in Diablo 2. I'd make an Amazon, buff up her Strength and her innate dodging skills and equip her with a sword and shield. I can't do that with Diablo 3's Demon Hunter because the game chooses for me what my character is good at.

The number of skills you end up using (and how frequently you get new ones) is roughly analogous to Diablo 2, but I miss the skill point allocations, as in Diablo 2 those 4-6 skills I used could vary greatly in effectiveness and even behavior depending on what linked skills I put points into. In Diablo 3, my Magic Missile with the Charging rune (or whatever the right name is) will function exactly like yours.

It is worth noting that the current version of Diablo 2, which you have to have if you play online, allows you to respec your stat and skill points. I feel Diablo 3 went too far in its streamlining, dumbing down and trying to appeal to their WoW playerbase, and don't see myself playing it instead of 2.
23 May, 2012, KaVir wrote in the 10th comment:
Votes: 0
hollis said:
What do you mean by customization and personalization, specifically?

I mean customising the character in a way that makes it feel uniquely mine, rather than a generic character. It's difficult to put my feelings into words, but let me try and explain:

You automatically unlock new skills and runes at preset levels, so every member of a class has exactly the same options at each level, and because the skills can be freely switched around on the fly, it doesn't feel like I'm creating a build - it feels like I've got all the Witch Doctor powers, but can only activate six skills (plus three rune "buffs") at a time.

In Diablo II there was an unofficial tool that allowed you to respec, and I used it a few times, but it obviously couldn't be done during play. My choices could be changed, but I had to design a specific build before the session, and stick with it throughout (at least) that session. It allowed me to undo mistakes, but I still had to design a specific build in advance.

Equipment is transient, it's upgraded and replaced whenever you find something better. However in Diablo II (and particularly LoD) there were various items that boosted certain skills and tied in very heavily with specific builds. Even with the unofficial respecing, you still needed to find appropriate gear, and I spent a lot of time hunting and trading for items that boosted my prefered build, or certain builds I hoped to try out. Sometimes I'd even find a particular item that inspired me to try out a new build.

I admit I've only reached level 30 in Diablo III, but so far the only real choices I've made in terms of gear is how best to balance damage, armour, health and mana. Mostly I just pick the stuff with the highest damage, particularly when it comes to weapons. But the same gear seems to work fine no matter which powers I'm currently using, it doesn't commit me to a certain build - the only thing I might do is pump up my mana if I wanted to focus more on the big offensive spells.

Perhaps such items are unlocked later on, but so far I don't feel I've had to make any meaningful choices at all. The only thing I could really customise was my banner.
23 May, 2012, plamzi wrote in the 11th comment:
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KaVir said:
The only thing I could really customise was my banner.

Yep. I'm sure they put the banner feature there for people who realize there is otherwise 0 uniqueness about their character. The bottom line is, any fool's wizard will be just as good as your wizard. Rewarding people based on better gameplay skill or knowledge of the game is officially dead and buried with Diablo III. Maybe it has been dead for quite a while but since I hadn't played recent RPG offerings, I didn't notice it.

As for re-speccing, it's a sliding scale and each notch appeals to different individuals. I like making choices that matter, as long as the game provides me with enough clues about what constitutes a good choice. Even if it doesn't, I'd rather be locked into a wrong choice and recreate a character later, correcting my mistakes–this makes me a better player and makes me enjoy the moments where I've figured something out. If there's no pain and punishment, there's no delight. If you can't go wrong, what pleasure is there in getting it right?
23 May, 2012, Gicker wrote in the 12th comment:
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I've played it and like it. It's not the deepest game, and Plamzi is right, the old style RPGs just don't exist anymore. But I still find it fun to play, a good way to unwind from the work (or mud coding) day and just let your brain cells take a break for a bit. I kind of work that way anyway… when I read a book or watch a movie, I basically let the storyteller take me on the journey. I don't analyze what I'm watching unless it's a serious plot hole or something, and even then I just kind of gloss it over in favour of enjoying what I'm watching/doing.

Diablo III isn't the deepest game from a RPG perspective… but then again few things are these days outside of MUDs themselves, which cater to a different type of gamer than what has become the masses of popular rpg culture. As in rpgs have become pretty mainstream now with WoW and whatnot. It used to be that all RPGs catered to guys like us, and that's why they were deeper. But now, with the world accepting and enjoying RPGs as mainstream entertainment, they cater to the majority, who have different tastes than us.

So It will probably continue to be MUDs and Indie games that have any chance of appealing to guys like us. But as long as money is involved, the largest population is what some rpg enthusiasts term the lowest common denominator, which is the masses of guys and girls who aren't looking for a gourmet meal, they want fast food, quick, easy and cheap in terms of effort to learn and excel.

I'm not exactly knocking that though, and this is just how I see it. I enjoy the easy carefree style of gaming sometimes too. But I also enjoy the deep, complex systems as well some of the time.

All in all though, Diablo III is true to what Diablo I and II were. Quick hack and slash fun with some multiplayer goodness. If anything, it seems to me like number III has more story and depth than the other II.
23 May, 2012, Runter wrote in the 13th comment:
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Thoughtful break down of the differences between diablo 3 and diablo 2.


Long but worth the read.
24 May, 2012, ATT_Turan wrote in the 14th comment:
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Gicker said:
I've played it and like it. It's not the deepest game…the old style RPGs just don't exist anymore.

It used to be that all RPGs catered to guys like us, and that's why they were deeper. But now, with the world accepting and enjoying RPGs as mainstream entertainment, they cater to the majority, who have different tastes than us.

I find this an interesting opinion. I enjoy many of the old "RPG's" (Final Fantasy 5 and 6 and Phantasy Star IV continue to rank on my all-time best game list), but I can't say I feel like I'm playing a role any more than in Mario. I didn't play a video game I really considered to be an RPG until Knights of the Old Republic, where I got to make choices that affected the storyline and the characters around me (I didn't start playing MUD's until after that).

Are there games you played that I'm not thinking of that were actually deep? And how so?
24 May, 2012, Runter wrote in the 15th comment:
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Maybe you didn't go back far enough, then ;). I think star ocean, tales of phantasia, chrono trigger and final fantasy 2 US are classic examples of great RPGs, just to name a few.
25 May, 2012, quixadhal wrote in the 16th comment:
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Wrong side of the computerverse, I skipped consoles entirely. I went from the Atari 2600 to the C64, and didn't touch a console again until the Playstation 2… so for me, RPG's were titles like The Bard's Tale, Ultima 3/4, the old "gold box" AD&D games, Wizardry, and so forth.
25 May, 2012, KaVir wrote in the 17th comment:
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I had the chance to play again last night, and completed normal difficulty (which isn't much of an achievement, but it does give me a better overview of the game, and particularly of the storyline).

A lot of people have complained about the story, but I rather liked it. I actually reckon it would be pretty cool to add something like that to a mud - there'd be nothing stopping you from wandering off and doing your own thing, but it would give you a very clear path to follow. I'm not talking about railroading, just giving players direction if they want it.

The main difficulty would be keeping the challenge level in line with the character. I guess you could have the monsters scale in strength though (probably using instanced areas) - normally I dislike the idea, because it discourages exploration (why hunt for a new area if you can just keep earning exp in your current one?) but in this case it could be tied to your progress, with completed areas becoming less worthwhile.
25 May, 2012, arholly wrote in the 18th comment:
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I cannot believe quiz left out games like Phantasie 1/2/3 (especially 3), Wizard's Crown/Eternal Dagger, and Ultima V.
25 May, 2012, quixadhal wrote in the 19th comment:
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I vaguely remember Phantasie 3… loved Wizard's Crown, and never got to play Ultima V because the Amiga version was a buggy PC port where they tried to busy-wait poll the keyboard (like you did in DOS back then), which didn't work so well with the event-driven multi-tasking AmigaOS. I could also mention Telengard. :)

One thing I like from Guild Wars 2 is that content scales by the area you're in, not by the particular mob or quest. So, if a high level character goes back to the newbie zone, they are scaled down to fit the zone's level, which also works for your personal story quests, since they are private instances.
25 May, 2012, arholly wrote in the 20th comment:
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I did forget Telengard. Oldie but goodie. I loved the magic cube.