Another Bliz Defense of D3’s Non-Customizable Characters

A new but already familiar issue came up again in another character variety/customization thread. Into which Bashiok against pitched his carefully-crafted arguments.

But Bash, it doesn’t address the drawback…no more character customization. Surely you guys recognize that RPG’s are about building a unique DiabloWikicharacter? If everyone has access to the same skills, at the same power level, aren’t we all now inter-changable? (besides our gear?)
Bashiok: Leveling to 60, finding gear, finding DiabloWikirunes, all go toward making a viable build with 6 skills and 3 passives.

Diablo III is a more complex game, DiabloWikicombat-wise, you can’t max out a single attack skill and DiabloWikiWhirlwind to victory. We have around eight different types of skills (attack, cc, escape, etc.), each class has around twenty four, and with only six slots that’s some hard decisions on how you can build your character. Limits mean variety if we do our job right.

Yes you’ll be able to see some guy with his skills and passives set a certain way and copy him, but that’s always been the case. What’s important is experimenting and finding unique builds, and finding the items to support it.

There’s far more build potential in Diablo III, especially with the recent changes.

Did you guys ever explore the idea that perhaps you could freely be able to add subtract and move skill points freely? That would address the issues you experienced while testing and allow for people to keep unique builds based of skill distribution. That can’t be too bad of an alternative?
Bashiok: Yeah, I mean that’s essentially what respecs are, just a bit more wholesale.

The base problem with skill points is that we found they simply put too much incentive toward pumping up one or two DiabloWikiskills. If we wanted to balance the game it means we’d have to let someone be able to essentially beat the game with that build since it’s the most obvious. You’re not going to put a few points here, a few there, you’re going to go the D2 route, horde points, and dump them all into a core skill or two. It really limited builds since points always went toward specific types of attacks that scaled well with additional points, and we’re not going to keep systems that are stifling (viable) build potential and (meaningful) character customization.

I think when they test and work through things they try and eliminate the cookie cutter builds from the game so everybody isn’t doing the exact same thing to be “good”. While it does take away customization changing it they way they did it makes all builds viable regardless of which skill you choose (= which if you think about it is really cool, cause you can still be unique through runes, especially with how they changed the runes. I kinda have sad feelings over not being able to make a oddball build like I could in D2 even if it did suck but I much would rather make a oddball build thats viable rather than a oddball build that can’t progress in the game if you know what i mean.
Bashiok: There’s definitely still “wrong” builds, and thus plenty of non-optimal builds to tinker with. You have a big set of skills, but it’s important to note that not all of those skills serve the same purpose. If you pick a bunch of CC/escape/buff type skills, you’re going to be hurting. But if you build your character in a way where you’re sopping up DiabloWikiresources, using damage reduction and control skills, and one giant damage output, it could work. Change any one of those skills though and the whole build could break.

Fun though it is, all this pre-game debate is fairly pointless, since Bliz is not going to give any weight to any outsider’s opinion, no matter how logical it seems to the Diablo community. They’re not closed to input, it’s just that we don’t know what we’re talking about yet, except in a superficial, theoretical sense.

Jay Wilson has said that they’ll be open to big changes and tweaks in patches, depending on how players do in the early weeks/months of D3. That’ll be an interesting time; as we see just how accurate the D3 Team’s predictions about play styles and character variety really are.

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Skills


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  1. I am ok with the skills all being available, and leveling up automatically, but reducing traits to next to nothing, that bothers me a lot.  I loved the idea of having 30 trait points to spend, with new traits being available all the way up to level 59.  This just kills builds.  The only customization now is from things that can be bought with real money.  Instant gratification is not going to keep people playing for 10 years.

    • Why people’re are so dumb? You got your last skill in D2 at level 30 and level cap is 99. Doesn’t that kill the customization?
      And again bs about real money. GO DAMN KILL DIABLO AND TAKE IT FOR FREE. Is it so hard to understand these “real-money” items would be all looted in game?
      Zealot-Pal build from Wiki:
      Zeal – 20
      Fanaticism – 20
      Holy Shield – 20
      Sacrifice – 20
      Defiance – 20
      5 maxed out skills. Now you got six. Just checked all builds are based on maxing 5 skills (cause it’s kinda obvious to divide 100 by 20). Max skill count on some builds – 7.

      • People think the design of D3 was better before various recent changes. What D2, a very different game, did or didn’t do with skill variety is not real relevant.

        • If I got a basket full of white eggs and a basket full of colored eggs I don’t tell “there’s no way to compare the amount of variants in each basket”.

  2. I thought RPGs were about playing roles, but whatever. I believe building a unique character games would be called BUCGs.

    • Pretty poor troll… or just some downright shabby logic.

      • Funny, when did telling truth become trolling? I believe calling someone troll for no reason is a better form of trolling.

    • well, no matter what anyone else on this site says, diablo is not a true RPG
      you don’t  “play the role of a barbarian”, you just go around smashing things with a big melee weapon,
      people don’t play D2 for the aRpg, they play it for the Arpg
      maybe D3 will be different

  3. I’m wondering, how alfa testers didnt notice dissapointment after new level gaining in the deadzone (30-60) with just flat autostats :/
    Can’t imagine a happy picture of grinding through 30 levels without spendable rewards for DINGs.

    • Tactics, decisions, customiztion. Blah-blah-blah, it’s all about clicking “+” icon.

    • This is my biggest concern as well. I understand their reasoning behind the changes, and it’s surprisingly sound. The biggest problem I have with it is that there is now *no* interactive reward when you level up, devaluing those level ups a lot. It was just plain fun to have a direct hand in strengthening your abilities, to have a reason when you level to stop and open your character sheet. Even to hold on to a few points and make the game harder, then enjoy the extra power when you finally spend them.

      When everything is automatic the game becomes way too much like a console game (which maybe is the point). Like in Final Fantasy – yes, you level up and get stronger, but it’s pretty much irrelevant to the gameplay. You are always as strong as you should be for each area. The characters never really become your own.

      I’d like them at the very least to lock down skill choices in Nightmare and Hell, to keep the concept of “build” alive and provide incentive to start new characters. And for them to implement some kind of interactive level-up reward. If it’s not skill points or attribute point, I’m sure they can come up with something good, with all the smart creative people they have on the team.

  4. When did I compare this to Diablo 2?  I didn’t.  So you countering anything I said about Diablo 3 by saying how much better it is doesn’t fly. Fact is, outside of equipment, which again, can all be purchased by anyone with extra cash, the only thing that keeps characters unique is 3 passive skills.  That’s it. I’ve never been fond of skill points, as Bashiok is right, all you do is max a few skills, and use a few one point wonders.  Same with stat points, by the time you figure out what your doing, you realize that there is usually only one right answer. That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of other ways someone could build a unique character, but no, they decided to stream line everything that they couldn’t make extra money off of, and we end up with 3 passive skills, nothing more. If they choose to keep it this way, I feel like they really missed a great opportunity to make a game that would really allow people to make unique and interesting characters, without following builds.  Now, all you have to do to follow any build is pick 3 passives and get out your credit card.

    • 1. You can switch those passive skills same way as the active skills any time you want.So there’s no ‘difference’ as you say between any characters.

      They’re unique at the moment you set up your skills+gear and while you use this set up. Same way your character in any game is unique till you roll a new one. There’s no game and there couldn’t be a game where you can create a unique character. In D3 you just don’t need to spend time farming and doing same quests over and over again for each new ‘unique’ character.

      2. If anyone is so stupid to spend real money to buy virtual gear I feel sorry for him. This game is all about loot. If you buy game and then buy loot you just throw money away – better not start playing at all. If someone thinks he owned someone else if he has better loot in video game – that’s his problem.

      3. All you have to do in every game is just get out your time pool. Same way with every human activity. Kinda better to spend time on real decision making instead of throwing it away to level new character, huh?

  5. Even though we don’t want to admit it, because we feel like we are losing something here, Blizzard is right about the fact that in DII people would just pump 1 or 2 skills and that’s all they would ever use.  I’m interested to see if they are right about this making more diverse characters.

    So let’s take a moment to examine Bashiok’s explanation:

    24 skills per class, broken down into 8 types, therefore on average, 3 of each type of skill (attack, escape, cc, etc.).  Also, let’s not forget that each skill can have any of 5 rune types put into it, which will change the way the skill works.  This is all theory, but just looking at averages again, this gives us 144 skill/rune permutations per class.  Now breaking those down, assuming an even distribution based on averages again, we should have 18 of each of the 8 types (attack, escapes, cc, etc.).   This in and of itself could lead to quite a few different build types, since only 6 of the 144 can be used at once.  This doesn’t even take into account the passive skills.

    Now think about this for a second and we can probably understand what happened during internal alpha testing at Blizzard.  Not only were the players faced with choosing 6 of 144 skills as a build, but at the same time they had to apply a limited number of points to these 6 skills, plus deal with ever changing ranks of runes in their chosen skills.  This probably presented an overwhelming amount of customization to the user and it was to much for the average player to try and understand, not to mention get right to create a balanced character.  So instead of changing the brilliant rune system, they opted to remove the skill point portion of this equation, which if this is right, makes total sense.  In doing this they have killed two birds with one stone; first they have eliminated the added complexity and baffling calculations the player would want to do in order to maximize their build, and second they removed the opportunity for the skill system to just become another min/max game like Diablo II. 

    Since I am not a Blizzard employee, I certainly have no idea if anything I said above is right, but it’s a reasonable narrative in light of Bashiok’s statements.  I also believe that even with the current configuration, Diablo 3 is going to offer a stunning amount of character customization, and no matter how you slice it this game is going to offer a lot more than DII did.  It seems to me that even though we aren’t picking stats or placing skill points like DII, we are going to be making so many more choices based on skill combinations and rune placement, that we will not likely miss the former system.

  6. Fun though it is, all this pre-game debate is fairly pointless, since BLIZZARD EMPLOYEES ARE THE ONLY ONES WHO HAVE PLAYED THE GAME completely through with the current skill system and with the current skills

    face it, they have a huge QA team,

    they probably have more janitors than most game companies have employees
    so could invite the janitors, bookkeepers, and secretaries to get feedback from “normal people” 
    and they could invite WOW artists and Star Craft level designers to get feedback from more “experienced people”
    they aren’t making these changes in the dark

    they’re getting tons of feedback from people who HAVE ACTUALLY PLAYED THE GAME

    so this will work out, it will be fun gameplay and it will be more customizable than – get a amazon and pump points in lightning fury and freezing arrow – get a sorc and pump points into frozen orb, fireball and meteor
    there really is very little customization in D2

    • I think it’s a bit of a straw man to argue that it will be better than D2. That game had a rubbish skill system but that doesnt mean its not possible to design a system that offers more choice than what currently exists in D3 while at the same time not being as prone to skillpoint dumping.

  7. I cant really decide whether the change into no skill points is good or bad, we will need real hands on to know it.
    But just thinking, this change doesnt really stop ppl from sticking to 2-3 skills if they want to does it? Even when there is no skill points to scale the skills, there are bound to be some that works better than others, and ppl will all choose to use that (mostly?).
    Either way, like i said, till we really play it, we cant say if we ourselves like it or not. Is not that far away, so jus sit tight and wait.

  8. @mp you should just give it up because this site is filled with trolls.  I largely agree with the fact that most of my builds in D2 had NOTHING to do with customization and more to do with building the same char as everyone else.  Even down to the ideal gear sets and charms that I carried around.  Trying to convince people that just want D3 to be a D2 clone will just give you a migraine.  They will never understand the rune and 6 slot dynamic, EVER – yet I firmly believe that these people will buy and play D3 which makes them the hypocrites.  Live well my friend, it will be the best revenge.

  9. Redtiger made an excellent point here.  And while I agree with the masses that I am slightly saddened by the removal of skill points, etc. this game is going to be about so much more than the monotony D2 provided.  In the early stages of D2 people were min/maxing skills, attempting to find the perfect build.  In a reasonable amount of time, the numbers were crunched and everyone knew what builds worked and what builds were just stupid to try.  So under the assumption that your current character didn’t fit that mold, you re-rolled.  A friend would power level you thru the game and you’d sit on your 50 skill points waiting to apply them all to Frozen Orb, or Lightning Fury, or WW, or whatever.  There was no “fun” in clicking things, it was an exercise in monotony.  I knew how many points I needed for max block with each shield on each character and you better believe I wasn’t going to spend more than that.  Vitality, unnecessary with build A, it’s all going into dexterity because with my IAS, life leach, and socketed WF, I’ll never take damage.  It turned into a vanilla aspect of the game.  And that was kinda /fail.
    Personally, I look forward to the changes b/c I have not played it yet.  And b***hing about them is futile.  They’re not changing back and I trust [albeit cautious optimism] in that they are for the better.  JamesL is right about the variety of people who have currently touched the game and provided input, etc.  I’ll reserve judgment until I play it.  B/c until I’m in their shoes, I have no ground to stand on.
    Off topic of the thread… As far as the RMT goes.  I’m not a fan.  Doubt I’ll be partaking cuz that’s not what Diablo is about.  But I agree with the logic from a business standpoint.  I just hope the Asian gold farmers can’t flood the North American servers with their crap and have sweat shops of gold farmers running 24/7 and then listing all their items where I play.  Keep it on the Asian servers please!  But I doubt Blizz has a safeguard in place to disallow that.  And that portion makes me sad.

  10. The devs are smart guys. If they see that this system is stifling customisation post-release I am confident they will change it. The great thing about the RMAH is that it will give Blizz a constant revenue stream from D3. As corporately disgusting as that sounds it will give the devs an incentive to keep updating the game not just through box expansions(of which I’m sure we’ll have at least 2) but also through pretty significant content patches.

  11. Ok, I agree there is a lot of customization in D3. But we only have the right to make 10 characters with our battlenet account (5 classes in softcore and 5 in hardcore). What if we want to keep our high level characters to do PvP and we want to reroll a Barbarian with different skills, runes, passives, gear? What if we want to play with friends from the beginning? 10 characters are definitely not enough, I’d need at least 50 characters!

    • i had at least over 14 chars above level 85 in the ladders where i was active. 10 seems really low! i mean how i am supposed to play a level 10 pvp battle ( if this is actually possible)…
      I would have all my charslots used and it would piss me off!

      • That’s a really good argument for having an ample amount of character slots. People will definately want to pvp with their level 10 Barb as well as their lvl 60 Barb .etc I wonder if this has been put to the devs though.

    • Yeah Tom, we are on the same page with the 10 character limit.  We were told that the number of characters would be really hard to hit, since the game is tied to a locked bnet account, and we can all agree that 10 characters will not be hard to hit.  So Blizzard needs to rethink that number and give us something much higher.  In another post on that specific topic, I also said 50 characters was a realistic number, or at least give us some opportunity to buy additional slots and do not limit the number.

  12. After getting to know that we won’t be able to spend skill points I just thought holy sh***. Right now I’m getting familiar with it, but we need restrictions in switching skills. We always talk about builds and that there are now way more possibilities. Do we still have builds if we can change our skills whenever we want to? We simply need one character to make any of the billions of builds. I liked playing Diablo again and again with new skill combinations. IF Blizzard is putting in more restrictions to swap skills so I have to think about beginning a new character or respecing my skills I would be happy.

    What do you guys think?

  13. if something in the early game really sucks, i think they will hear us in the beta. its the betas purpose besides the server testing. I cant decide yet, if i like this skillsystem or not ..

  14. In D3 every wizard is identical to every wizard. They just wear different stuff. Bah!!! They’ve killed the franchise.

    • right, because every enchantress in D2 was different to every other enchantress 
      and every meteor orb sorc was different from every other  

      this is no different from D2, except they’ve made respec easier

  15. I think that, in practice, we’re going to see much less skill-swapping than you might expect. Once people get familiar with a few skills (and build them up with runes) they’re less likely to change them unless their build is a total disaster – and by the time they get comfortable with skills in a build, the build has probably proven itself not to be a total disaster. Sure, you’ll be able to switch your skills around if you need to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you will.

    • Plus, you’ll have the grumpy old fuckers like ourselves that are so set in our way that we’d rather die than consider respeccing a character.

  16. i disagree with the statement “there will be far more build potential”
    being able to customize passive skills pales in comparison to being able to customize actual skills. if this is what they plan to do, they’d better pump up the intensity of those passive skills.

    “oh dang look at that barb, he must have the more health globes passive skill. man time to restart”

  17. Bashiok is again pretending there are no other solutions except to remove skill points and put 99.9% of the eggs in the item basket. If you stop giving players infinite respec power, add highly resistant enemies and have some situations better handled by certain skills, players will not be able to dump everything into the highest damage skill. One point wonder skills can have a tree/tab/tiers of their own where you choose 3-4 of them each with a 1 point cap. They are choosing “solutions” that persuade the most players possible to use the RMAH.

    • Um, what? Or maybe they’re simply putting more emphasis on the loot grind that everyone loved in Diablo II anyway? I mean, I don’t know why you played DII but I’m pretty sure items had a lot to do with it. You’re assuming that you will HAVE to use the RMAH to “win” the game, which is silly. You have to find the best items to win, just as it’s always been.

  18. Didn’t read all comments but MPs very first comment makes the most sense. Especially the skills after 30.


  20. I don’t like the idea seeing other players around me with identical skills to use and identical runes. By eliminating the skill points they are killing the diversification and the specialization in the characters. When we all try all skills, someone will find the perfecto combination and everyone will start to use it constantly because they have access to everything and its maxed by default. Let people decide if they want to conserve skill point for an yet unlocked skills, or want to spend those point immediately. I’ve never looked internet for wow or diablo build, because I think Im smart enough to know which combination of abilities will make me stronger. With system planned in this form, all Demon Hunters will be equal and the only different will be their items and runes and I want more diversification, I want the trait points and the skill points.

    • “I don’t like the idea seeing other players around me with identical skills to use and identical runes. ”

      so you must have hated D2

  21. Cant believe people are still bitching about skill points, they didn’t bring any customization in d2 honestly, everyone still did the same exact builds, how many hammerdins were there with the exact same skill point set up, this system brings more variety not less.

  22. If they aren’t going to penalize those who wish to constantly swap out skills, why not offer some bonus those who DO commit to skills for a character? (ie:you lock one skill to one hotkey forever and irrevocably for a character and you get some mastery damage bonus because you are now married to the skill.)  I know this doesn’t solve the issue of cookie-cutter builds at all, but at least it would provide some reward to people who want to play the game in the more traditional way.  They could tie it into a story element somehow, maybe only offer it once per difficulty level, so you have at max three \mastered\ skills you can’t swap out, and three which are swappable, and it is entirely optional to skip this element if you want.

    • Nice idea….is there any forum post? There has to be a penalty for swapping skills or an advantage for not doing it.

  23. If it takes a wall of text to defend it, it just might be a mistake.

  24. Here is an article link from IGN’s interview with Jay Wilson on this subject.  It’s basically what I described in my original post on this very thread.

    One of the paragraphs says most players are not willing to get involved with the math it takes to really understand the system with skill points being controlled by the players, so they would just say “I don’t know” and put the points in whatever they were already using.  This is true and it’s the reason that many of us started using builds from web sites in DII, because they were optimized through play testing.  With the new system, you can feel free to use any of the skills you want, without worrying about how many points are in it, as it will always be at its peak effectiveness when you use it.

  25. I think it bothers me a little bit that Jay is pushing through the idea of customization thru randomization. He is clearly saying that we CAN custumize and differentiate our character from each other, we just can’t do it manually. We have to invest a lot of time and muster a lot of luck to mold our characters to the path we want.

    Basically, we have to farm for gears until we have that specific stat bonus that we wanted or farm for the runes until we have that specific type that we need. We cannot do things from the get-go. I think the game is designed that as we go deeper into the game, only then we can start to benefit from the mechanics of it.

  26. I love how he keeps saying “like it was in D2” like that was a bad thing; like it wasn’t a super popular game.

    Does he really f’ing believe that just because there are 24 skills available or whatever that 90% of the people aren’t going to choose the build of the day just like they do in EVERY OTHER GAME. I mean, take Guild Wars, there are somewhere close to 100 skills per class but cookie cutter builds make up 50% of the population maybe with 1 or 2 skills out of 8 swapped out. That is, until there are nerfs. That’s just like Diablo 2.

    Hell, we all remember when you could make a charged boltress that would get you through Nightmare no problem or the Nova Sorcs, sorry for focusing on sorcs, I really only played them and Zons extensively. It was changes Blizzard made to the classes and structure of the game that pushed us into certain skill configurations. Having said that I still completed Hell with a hardcore Spearazon in 1.10.  Blizzard changed the game to make certain skills less viable than others and that’s why we went to certain builds. I think he doesn’t get that.

    Within a couple months of release there will be common builds used by over 70% of the population. If he thinks they can avoid that, he’s grossly mistaken, no other game with even more variance has been able to combat that without making all the skills totally generic.

    So I don’t decry the loss of skill points quite as much as some, but I don’t think they will achieve the result they hope for. I think in the end it will reduce the amount of time people play and are interested in the game thus reducing revenue from micro transactions and the like. At the beginning of every ladder, slightly depending on gear I found, I leveled a hybrid zon, a bowazon, a javazon, spearazon, chantress, shouter, cold sorc, lightning sorc, frenzy or whirly barb, vengeance pally, smite pally, zealer, summoner nec, caster nec, 2 melee sins, a trapper, a werewolf, and a bear. All of those in Hardcore, so the odd do-over.

    Now, I will have to level only 5 characters, and to a lower level. Guess how long that’s going to take a dedicated, educated player? No time at all, so then, what? Burnout. Not all of us hunted gear endlessly.

  27. All rpgs have items. Picking up a new sword or staff simply can’t be called customization by any stretch of the imagination.  And I DOUBT the items will add anything different than +X attack, +X precision, +X vitality or +X defense.  I predict a short life for D3 unless they put character customization back in the game.

  28. In Diablo 1 all the spells were accessible to all the classes so hypothetically, it should even have less customization than Diablo 3.  Sure spellbooks were akin to skill points but there were no caps to the amount of spellbooks you could find.

    I don’t recall anyone having problems with longevity in Diablo 1.  I know I made at least 25 rogues, 10-15 mages and ~5 warriors over the years.  And I’d say I leveled at least 50% of those to 41-45.

  29. Diablo III is simply not an RPG, which is disappointing.  But putting that aside it looks to be a pretty awesome game, just one in a different genera than its predecessors.

  30. Why didn’t they just get smart and have “traits” and “skills” on the same “page” and make it where eveyrhting costed one point and just expand the traits to like, forty and have 24 skills, with traits being the thing you put multiple points into and skills just needing one point with some skills scaling?
    I mean, wouldn’t that solve the “D2” style of point alocation?
    Yknow what I mean?

  31. As much as I love the general direction of D3, the dev team suffers from the same classic misconception as the Stalinist central planner: “In my isolation, I’ve convinced myself that I can better anticipate the wants and needs of the great unwashed hordes down to the individual, for they do not truly understand this existence, nor what is good for them.”

  32. Up until this point I have understood Blizzard’s changes and accepted most of them. However, such big changes this close to beta?! Not just any changes, but fundamental changes to the skill and trait systems too. That just annoys me alot.
    I reserve my opinion on the changes themselves until I know more.

    EDIT: I will say one thing though. I don’t like the idea of core customisation being random. Randomness has its place in optimising characters, making core customisation dependent on luck takes it too far.

  33. I don’t know why people care so much about stats being passively increased for you when you level.

    Doesn’t that happen in wow? (Not directly comparing these games, just the RPG Genre in general.)
    Doesn’t that happen in Final Fantasy?

    Or are people really going to miss —> Putting enough items into STR to equip an item, and spam clicking vitality till you are 99.

    And skill points….. That aspect of D2 was a snooze fest, there was no real customization in D2. Save all your points, dump it into the best ability for a character and dump it into anything other skill that gave passive bonuses to it. Not right click….. You win From what I see in the changes in Diablo 3, we are looking at alot more customization in this game even with passive traits. I’m looking forward to it.

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