Monster Density Changes in the new Patch

Some good discussion about the latest changes to build density in Reaper of Souls and D3 on the PTR. Let’s start with the patch notes, which mentioned the issue thusly:

  • Monster Density has been revisited across Acts I-IV

  • Players should now encounter smaller packs of monsters less frequently
  • Act I has received density retuning to be more challenging at higher levels
  • Nevalistis fleshed out those bullet points with some explanation in a forum post, and stirred quite the controversy:

    The intent is that smaller packs are less likely to chain together. They still exist, but are less frequent. It’s an improvement to pacing, and you should run into “empty” areas less frequently now.

    Here’s an idea. How about we just go back to 1.08 levels, when it felt right? Why mess with something that wasn’t broken?
    Nevalistis: 1.0.8’s density change was an interesting beast that ended up solving some problems, and then creating a few more in its wake.

    The benefit of increasing density in 1.0.8 was that the world felt less empty and, based on feedback we received, combat became super action-packed. There was plenty to kill, and it kept you moving. There were *assumes Buzz Lightyear pose* monsters, monsters everywhere. In terms of raw gameplay and personal fun factor, we loved the result and definitely enjoyed the increased density when playing ourselves.

    The downside to increasing 1.0.8 density, however, was two-fold. First, it landed an unfortunate blow to build diversity, encouraging a very specific style of play (AoE or bust). Based on all the data we pulled, build variety narrowed quite quickly – even now, you can see the effects with Archon, WW, Zero Dogs, and other similar builds trumping almost everything. Overall, increased density led to much less interesting game play (for the game as a whole), even if it may have been super fun on the surface. Second, by adding a boatload of more monsters, server performance took a hit, which some of you may or may not have experienced.

    This is why we originally lowered density. We realize we may have turned the density dial down too low, though, and that’s what these recent changes are about – and really what PTR is all about too. We want pacing in the game to feel good, but without the additional technical or build diversity issues. We want to open up a greater variety of ways to play the game, and this is one of many steps we’ve taken to achieve that. Density is one of these things we can continue to evaluate and tweak, and we have every intention of doing that. We won’t, however, be returning 1.0.8 levels, but there’s likely a sweet spot somewhere in between.

    The real issue, I think, is rewards. In the live game the areas with higher density are the most rewarding, since many builds can demolish infinite numbers of trash mobs in a blink. This leads (forces?) everyone to play builds focused mostly on AoE. But if the game’s reward structure changes along with the density, then more types of play are viable. Players are complaining about less density, but they’re really worried about a (perceived?) loss in rewards.

    How do you want to play Diablo 3?

    What kind of monster density do you want in Diablo 3?

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    Click through for a lot more, with additional blue posts and related discussion about changes to density and play incentives.

    In discussion over the last year, the way I’ve come to think about the game’s changes is that v1.08 was basically “density 1.5.” Something the devs put in to improve the play experience, but as a short term fix while their main development efforts went into the big Diablo 2.0 changes, which we’re now seeing on the PTR and in the RoS beta. The analogy is to the Diablo 3 console’s loot system, which we initially thought of as Loot 2.0, but soon realized was just Loot 1.5, with the main fixes and improvements coming in terms of moremoreMOAR, without any real added depth or features. (Those came in Loot 2.0 on the PTR and in RoS beta.)

    On the issue of Monster Density and how it incentivized player behavior, here’s what Wyatt Cheng said when I interviewed him and Josh Mosqueira last year on the DiabloWikiDiablo 3 Podcast.

    Flux: So it seems like there’s nothing you guys can do with a single target skill that’s ever going to make it viable in a game where there are 100 enemies on the screen at once?

    Wyatt Cheng: I think that an unfortunately side effect of the monster density increase is that it devalues single target skills. What are we doing to do about that? Well, something we’ve talked about, and I stress that we mean a lot when we say “talked about.” But what we’ve talked about is that in a given level there are portions that are dense and portions where single target matters more. We like higher monster density, but maybe we don’t need the player to be surrounded by 100 monsters all the time.

    You mentioned it could be used for Ubers. Well, maybe we can create a gameplay experience that has a lot of variety to it, so in a single ten minute play session, you’d have need for single target skills as well as AoE skills. So we’re looking into that.

    That’s basically the message the Blue CMs are giving us now, and here’s Nevalistis this morning:

    Holy misinterpretation, Batman! I think I might need to clarify a sentence in my original post, because it’s been misquoted quite a lot. Apologies for potentially giving some of you the wrong impression. Hopefully I can make amends. 🙂

    First up, monster density was not lowered or nerfed in the latest Beta/PTR patch. In fact, it was more or less buffed compared to where it was at when Closed Beta launched. With this last Beta/PTR patch, pacing has been improved and, although there are fewer mobs spawning now compared to 1.0.8, individual monster rewards have been adjusted and monster kill experience has been greatly increased. We definitely heard player feedback from the PTR and Beta about density levels and have made changes which should help address some of the concerns we were seeing. Our goal is to still have monster slaughter be rewarding and engaging (contrary to popular belief, we actually do want you to have fun!) while also avoiding many of the technical and mechanical issues introduced in 1.0.8. There are many parts of the whole experience to consider aside from a simple monster count and our goal is find a good balance.

    As always, if you have feedback regarding these changes, I encourage you to try out the current PTR build and leave us feedback in the applicable forum.

    Monster density in the new patch is definitely better than what it was before. Still not ideal in my mind, but better for sure. There is not as much downtime between combat encounters. However, there are some areas that could use some additional tweaking like Festering Woods. Hopefully you folks will continue making adjustments until it’s just right as it’s not quite there yet.
    Lylirra: Glad to hear it! If you’ve got additional specific areas in mind (i.e. Festering Woods), let us know. Knowing what areas in particular feel like an outlier to you is actually super helpful in this regard.

    As I said earlier, I think the issue isn’t mob density so much as the rewards given. Huge hordes of enemies are very fun, but I think more fun when they are a special treat that only appears occasionally, rather than a constant state of affairs. (As in the live game today, where it feels like only the few most-dense areas are worth playing.) The bigger issue then, is rewards gained from playing. Players love the thickest packs of monsters, especially in v1.08+ Diablo 3, since that’s where you get the most EXP and items. Hence everyone adjusts their play style to be most effective against giant groups of enemies, and lots of builds and skills and procs feed into that play style.

    But what if the devs tweaked the game so that the biggest hordes weren’t always the most profitable? So that you were incentivized to play more areas (via Bounties) and that areas with fewer enemies were more rewarding? This would mean cutting the rewards from huge hordes of trash mobs, but let’s be honest… those are actually the easiest places to play, for most builds. With constant targets all your buffs stay active, everything’s proc’ing like mad, there are tons of health orbs dropping, etc.

    For the sort of changes that we’re getting in the game today, consider Act Four. That act has most of the hardest types of monsters in the game, but much less overall density. So for the past year+ many fans have been saying, “why not make those big guys that much more rewarding, to create an approximately equal value to easy trash mob areas?” After all, in the live game today it’s much tougher to battle through a level full of off-screen charging angels, meteor dropping Morlus, disappearing Terror summoners, etc, vs. effortlessly snowplowing through the endless helpless trash zombies you find in the Decaying Crypt. So why should that Act One punchingbag dungeon style of play be 5x more valuable than something that’s actually challenging?

    And now, in D3v2 and RoS… it’s not.


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    1. You mean Act 4 is still in the game???

      • It’s popular for bounties in RoS, actually. Unless you get Diablo, all the other bounties there are pretty quick. The levels are fairly large, but 1) they can be moved through quickly since they are never mazes, and 2) there are no “clear whole level” bounties that require you to run down through multiple levels.

        I’ll have to do some surveying of other players for their favorite acts for bounties, but right now I’d probably rank them, from best to worst, Act 1, 4, 3, 2, 5.

        Rankings go almost entirely by speed to complete, and Act 5 is the worst since it’s got such huge areas. The values may change some as people get used to the awesome new patch, with bounties worth different amounts depending on their type.

      • It is and now it’s actually somewhat worth it to do the side areas, since they usually spawn a Resplendent Chest along with one Elite group.

    2. “How do you want to play Diablo 3?”


      1. Lower monster hit points.
      2. Increase monster damage across all levels but not too drastically.
      3. Reduce screen spam /annoying affixes and elemental damage, allowing us to avoid stuff.
      4. Cap CC/CHD (those with good gear would still be maxed and could re-roll for other things they need)
      5. Allow enchanting on legacy legendaries (totally fair considering #4)
      6. Bring back trading, at the very least among clans or a handful on friends on friends list.
      7. Buff higher level items across the board including set bonuses and crafting.
      8. Re-introduce a smaller item system like Jewels, Runes or Charms. Items that drop from monsters and allow stat customization.
      9. Re-work Paragon to feel rewarding for those who like XP grinding.
      10. PVP.
      11. Ladders.
      12. Restore attack speed. Having builds that use AS effectively is important to character customization.
      13. Bring back better run speed.

    3. I think it’s obvious that #2 would be the best for the game. Low density areas should have the best rewards per enemies, while higher density areas should have comparatively lower drop rates. This way over time drops should be equal everywhere and we would have another incentive to switch up our build once in a while.

      • Agreed 100%, but killing a Prime Evil and seeing trash feels very wrong, imo.

        They should pair #2 with increased drops for single targets. In theory, it would be equivalent to the reward/density ratio (single target at the screen)… I would love to make a route, kill a boss and expect a real reward for it (other than generic stuff like shards and pieces). They already buffed goblins, so why not?

        I’m not suggesting a shift into “boss runs mode”, since that can be boring for some people, but I would like to see an increase on drop rates.

        • Yeah bosses could drop a lot better, totally agree.

          Ideally we get to a point where different player types have “things to do” and a whole host of different rewards as the payoff.

          – XP grinding (Seems like its getting there from this last patch)
          – PvP
          – Looking for legendaries
          – Specific crafting mats
          – Runes, Jewels, or Charms from specific mini-bosses (Like runes with the Countess)

          Seems like they are slowly getting there.

      • I always liked finding good items from corpses/weapon racks/chests/barrels, etc.

        Getting items from interacting with your environment is a cool part of the game, would like to see it happen a bit more perhaps. Maybe they are tweaking this?

    4. “Overall, increased density led to much less interesting game play (for the game as a whole), even if it may have been super fun on the surface.”

      WE tell you what is fun!

      • Yes, quote their conclusion out of context, without their reasoning.

        • yeah, give it to them HardRock, those ungrateful bastards…!

          Always stand like a hard rock behind Blizzard, man.
          Never falter, never give up.

          • Never gonna let them down….

          • Be ungrateful as much as you want, but don’t misrepresent someones point by ignoring it completely, that’s just dishonest. They very clearly said that the reduced build diversity, that was a direct result of the initial density increase, hurt the game in their opinion. I happen to agree (which I can’t say about all their decisions by the way), but if you think more diversity is less fun then address the point they made with a well-reasoned post about your stance.

            • Let me rephrase that last part:

              If you think more diversity by reduced enemy density, but increased rewards is less fun then address the point they made with a well-reasoned post about your stance.

          • HardRock is my absolute favorite. They could rename the expansion to “Diablo 3: Buttplug Simulator” and he would still be defending it. At first I thought he was just trolling hard, but he’s putting way too much effort into posting.

            • dude, i think you put our idea into words in the most beautiful way possible. thank you.

              huh, it is after all possible to agree with someone on the internets…
              it just requires a hard rock now and then.
              you learn something new everyday…

            • So still no argument from you guys. Good discussion.

              ” They could rename the expansion to “Diablo 3: Buttplug Simulator” and he would still be defending it.”

              Have you tried a Tyrael buttplug plug yet? They are heavenly. (I miss you RisingRed)

            • Way better than those old Duriel buttplugs.

            • When in doubt, ad hominem.

            • If you would really read HardRock’s posts then you would know that he was complaining on too high density. So it’s no brainer that he likes density nerfs.

            • You don’t understand Mortalo. I shouldn’t like the changes, not even when I disagree with the devs and then things get better. Why? Because that would make too much sense for some people around here.

            • So, if someone posts something that you disagree with & instead of trying to clarify your point of view you make a personal attack, who’s the troll?

    5. I’m mostly happy about reduced density, although Ill have to try it more for myself.

      But 1.0.8 monster density skewed the game too much toward AoE, and crushed any hope of getting challenged against single enemies.

    6. The rewards point about the Crypt vs Spire is bang on, as is the point of AoE or bust. If the density is balanced, it should be much better as long as large groups still appear from time to time. Then, when you open up that room filled with a random swarm, it feels like more of a bonus.

      I’ll miss those frequent 40+ HoTA or WoL kills exploding in blood everywhere, but hopefully it does open more viable build options for kill/reward efficiency.

    7. Not that this game is perfect or anything and there isn’t still room for improvement, but… wasnt the reason monster density was changed was because people were running the same spots over and over again, the spots that had monsters to kill. So they wanted players to play more of the game than the same areas. Now they are gonna go back to where players find the few places worth running over and over again and let the rest of the game be ignored?

    8. QUOTE

      Not that this game is perfect or anything and there isn't still room for improvement, but... wasnt the reason monster density was changed was because people were running the same spots over and over again, the spots that had monsters to kill. So they wanted players to play more of the game than the same areas. Now they are gonna go back to where players find the few places worth running over and over again and let the rest of the game be ignored?

      Well, if they do this right, then many places will have similar reward/time. Just with all places having lower density.
      Except Rifts, they will and should be random. But since you cant control the randomness (and thus not only run the ones with high density) that is fine.

    9. It’s both, people aren’t just doing it for the more xp/loot (though the fact a 20 minute long T6 fight gives an insulting 3 mil xp doesn’t help).

    10. On the density issue, I tested about 3 hours today on the new patch, doing bounties in all 5 acts and several rifts, and if not for mentions in the patch notes and these blue threads I would not have been certain that ANYTHING had been changed in density.

      I did not see considerably more or less monsters anywhere, and the only things that stood out were a few huge horde spawns, where I’d just get virtually an entire screen full of enemies. That happened very rarely, like 3 or 4x total, but it was very noticeable when it did.

      • “if not for mentions in the patch notes and these blue threads I would not have been certain that ANYTHING had been changed in density.”

        I did a complete Act 1 clear yesterday. The Road to Old Tristram got much less enemies now. In the previous patch you could barely walk between the zombies, it was a little crazy. Now things are more reasonable.

        The Fields of Misery got a noticeable buff, although it’s nowhere near its live version.

        That’s about all I noticed. Well that, and that Treasure Goblins drop 2 or 3 times the loot, which is awesome. I wish Resplendent and Cursed Chests would be buffed to similar levels as well. Random events should be more rewarding than they are now in my opinion.

        • Yeah, gobbies are very noticeably buffed. The first new leg I found was from one, and I got 3 or 4 leg/set plans from them. The drop rates of those is clearly much turned up.

    11. In all seriousness though build diversity will be null as long as the following are true:

      Enemy HP practically requires scientific notation (still true, even after the nerf).
      It’s all about dat deeps, nothing else (still true, will probably always be true).
      In the event there actually is a choice, such as a class having two builds, at least one of those builds will be deleted (hi Blizzard).

      It doesn’t matter if the goats are having a mosh pit, or you have a zombie apocalypse sans zombies.

      And as you’re gonna have no options regardless, you might as well let the players have some sort of fun (I know, alien concept right, games being fun).

      “But what about server performance!”

      What about AI scripts? They’re too simple to be that taxing, and act 3 (untouched by mob density boosts) is STILL far more straining than act 1 and its hordes of enemies. Why? Because most of the strain comes from the environment players are ignoring and blasting through, and not the enemies in their way.

    12. I thought of something else that might lead to build diversity. If they want to see more builds with a focus on single target attacks, maybe make a viable PVP.

    13. I take pride in making the servers burn.
      When I prepare crypt or pull fields and it don’t have at least 30seconds of lag, I didn’t pull enough mobs.

    14. QUOTE

      If you would really read HardRock's posts then you would know that he was complaining on too high density. So it's no brainer that he likes density nerfs.

      There’s about 5 people that advocate nerfing fun (and might or might not be Blizzard employees). And then there’s like 50 against it. Everyone else left already.

      • “There’s about 5 people that advocate nerfing fun”

        Isn’t it possibly that we actually prefer balanced skill viability over screen full of enemies? By the way, I think the latter is fun as well, but not as much as the former.

        “might or might not be Blizzard employees”

        Damn it Steven, not you too. Fight the darkness! 🙂

    15. I always thought that they should just keep the full blown density, but then add ways to make small AoE/single target skills bigger AoE skills. Kind of a push/pull system; skills w/ naturally high AoE have lower damage, but you can raise the damage w/ specific skill affixes on gear. Skills w/ low AoE are naturally higher damage, and there are a lot of specific skill affixes which raise the area. I thought the splash damage affix could do this, but w/ its current state, it’s garbage.

    16. Or, gasp, they could make AoE skills deal less damage.

    17. The solution is getting rid of whoever is leading the design on RoS.

      Travis Day or whoever that new chump is both don’t know their heads from the asses.

    18. If that were true, you wouldn’t keep defending Blizzard, who tends to delete options from the game. High enemy HP nukes variety more than the worst caricatures of density (especially since a viable area damage stat, or viable non crowded areas = build variety not affected by lots of enemies).

      And the darkness has cookies. Mmmm, cookies.

    19. QUOTE

      The cookie is a lie. :)

      That’s cake you noob.

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