DiabloWikiBashiok has entered one of the longest back-and forth debates on customization that I’ve seen in a long time. In fact, rarely has a thread racked up 13 responses before. We’ve recently reported on Bashiok’s response on a similar thread, but he elaborates his points in a fashion that has not been witnessed in quite some time. While he maintains the familiar line on customization and the ideals of the beta and its designed hand-holding, there are some insights (albeit few) to be gained from both the OP and subsequent responses.

    The growing total of similar threads have been increasing in our general forums at an unprecedented rate as well. Since the total of people that have experienced the beta has now grown probably 100-fold, if not more, many of these arguments are beginning to crop up once again. One of the funny things in this debate, though, is that Bashiok’s first response was aimed at “not getting into the debate.” Apparently he failed to keep his distance. The read is extremely long, and not everything is pertinent, but the full transcript can be read below:

    I’ve tried to reply to a couple threads, and it seems like there’s just a desire to argue about it. I don’t get a lot of sense that people want to really understand why, just that they played up to level 13, saw that the game is not Diablo II, and are upset about that. I’m not really sure how to have a conversation about it when there’s just bad feelings and no one asking questions or wanting to learn more.

    I can say “Wait until you have the entire game and its systems before passing judgment on the first few guided levels.” but that doesn’t go very far. People have seen skill trees before, they know what they are, and a diversion away from them is jarring. People like clicking a + button to spend attribute points, any systems attempting to make that more interesting or engaging is met with skepticism. I get it. It’s tough to really understand how this is all going to play out together. I just constantly wish people took an approach of wanting to understand something before deeming it bad or wrong. Not to get preachy, but it’s a nature that certainly extends beyond video games.

    One thing I’m sure of, and why I don’t find much interest in entering the argument, is that it’ll all change after the game is released and people can see the full game and its design for what it is. It makes me sad seeing someone put off the game entirely because they want that + button, and anything but that is wrong, but … ashamedly I also am at a loss of how to counter that way of thinking.

    Click through to read the whole transcript.

    This was a bad experience. The demo was not well put together. It was insulting, mundane, and demonstrated so very little that people couldn’t walk away with anything more than aspirations that the full game will be better, and that’s what you’re saying. “We know what we are doing, have faith.”

    Experience tells a story that you are trying to fight against. The demo did not reflect 100% positively on a game that I’m sure will be amazing.

    Well, first off I’ll personally disagree with you, and the thousands of thank yous and excited voices I’ve received and throughout the internet after having played this weekend would disagree with you.

    That aside, I think that’s decent feedback and I agree that being able to offer more of the game would certainly help people get a better feel for the game and its systems. Unfortunately right after the SK fight some pretty major plot development happens, and we simply aren’t willing to compromise the enjoyment and discovery people will have on launch day by extending the ‘barrier’ of the beta.

    So I guess it’s a trade off of not showing enough of the game, or showing too much, and we went with the prior. We think it’s ultimately the better decision.

    bashiok…come on…I know you’re trying to defend your game, but I think a lot of people would be satisfied if you just admitted that you are dumbing things down for the masses. It’s a completely reasonable thing to do; you guys are doing it in WoW, it’s obviously the direction you guys have decided to go with things, but nobody at Blizzard will just admit it. just come out and say that at some time WoW was not casual-friendly and that everything was becoming too complex both for Blizzard and for players, and that you guys have decided to simplify things for everyone. I think a lot of people don’t like that there is no real, difficult decision making, because you can’t really ever make a mistake. You can make all your soft-core characters the very first day and never have to make another toon again even if you play the game for 20 years. That’s good for some people, but obviously a lot of seasoned gamers wont like that.

    Yeah, I guess that’s the mentality I just can’t understand. WoW players should be especially aware that skill tress provided them no choice. You had your build, and then you’d have a few ‘left over points’ that you could spend anywhere, and you could spend them anywhere because they didn’t matter. What mattered was the way you spent down the tree, and there was really one one or two right ways to do that per spec. I can’t understand how anyone could logically look at that situation and say “I have a lot of choices!” unless the answer is they have no idea how to play the game and actually are making a bunch of choices, which are the wrong ones, and building horrible characters.

    Diablo II was the exact same way. If you’re not spending into synergies and boosting up a skill or two to max, you’re probably doing it wrong.

    How, in the wide wide world of sports, is having potentially hundreds of viable skills and the ability to only choose 6 of them, which means billions of possible build combinations, worse than a skill tree where you have one or two correct decisions?

    There’s only one logical answer to this, and that is people want to be locked into their decisions for better or worse because they feel that gives value to their choices. They are smart for picking the right answer and building a better or more interesting character. That is absolutely a noble concept, but we fundamentally just don’t agree that people need to be locked into something for their choices to be smart or meaningful. How does a 15g respec make your choices instantly more palatable? You’re suddenly a character building genius because the guy next to you has to pay 15g to copy you? Come on.

    With billions of possible builds you will absolutely be doing something different than the guy next to you, and you making the skills you want to use work for you and be viable is a great achievement, because out of billions of possible builds how many do you think will actually work?

    It’s interesting to me that someone would value the permanence of their choices over being able to actually make choices at all.

    Although I agree with you, I am curious about something: How has build diversity “performed” in internal testing? Do people tend to gravitate towards certain skills/builds, or is there actually a large amount of diversity in play?

    There’s a large amount of diversity, and some of that is afforded by overlap in skills. With ~150 skills per class they of course aren’t all going to unique in their function, which allows for overlap and customization in build choice. In addition, we find that gear as well as just play experience will influence someone’s build as they go. Someone might pick up an item with a +skill mod, and decide to swap around their build to benefit from the item. If they enjoy it they’ll start building out a set that really feeds that new build. In addition to the Nephalem Valor buff which penalizes changing builds mid-game, there’s a large amount of item and skill investment in perfecting a build that lends itself to sticking with it. I know people have a concept that players are just going to be swapping around their builds all the time, and that’s certainly true as things are unlocking, but at high levels there’s enough investment in a build that it just doesn’t really happen.

    I’ve said this elsewhere recently, but the designers knew they were on the right track for diversity and balance when people would come up to them and say “This skill is absolutely overpowered and required to play this class” and right behind them would be another person saying the exact same thing about another skill. There are absolutely skills that are very tempting, but different skills appeal to different people, and our intent (and what we believe we’ve achieved) is the ability for someone to choose a build that appeals to them and to make it work. A lot of personal taste, play style, experience, and even just aesthetics play more into build choices than people usually expect. And that’s insanely exciting from both a design and player perspective.

    It would be a lot more exciting for more players if they knew about elective mode.
    Seriously, why is elective mode hidden? It’s causing a lot of unnecessary frustration, confusion and complaints.

    Well I wouldn’t say it’s hidden, and we have a loading screen tip that calls it out. We honestly didn’t want to continue adding things to the skill UI, and as a more advanced option it felt right for it to be found or learned about through ‘tribal knowledge’, as it were. We intend for the game to be played at first with the current set up, and if someone wants to try a more advanced option they can turn on Elective.

    You put out a system that moves you along and does not give you a SINGLE choice in the matter

    Hrm. Oh, you mean until level 13? Well we specifically unlock very few abilities to start, but pretty quickly we have to be dumping handfuls on you every level. With as many skills and passives as there are it very quickly ramps up where every level you’re getting four or five new things to try out, in addition to everything before it. There’s no shortage of choice. I agree the choices are unlocked in a pre-determined way, but so are skill trees.

    Why are you confused? They have to have some sort of stopping point in a beta. The SK boss happened to be a perfect stopping point. Bashiok stated that following the SK, there were events in the plot that they didn’t want to reveal.

    No, Grug thinks the beginning of the game is boring. I don’t really have anything to say about it except that we disagree. I guess I’d add that many people tend to think other people know what they know, or have been following the game, or understand all of the game mechanics, etc.

    For someone that’s been following the game closely, and furthermore is in the beta, yeah I bet up to the SK is old news by now. That’s not the case for everyone that will pick up the game, obviously.

    By whose standards is it “Bad” , Yours? , well guess what, YOUR opinion on how I build my character have exactly 0 impact on my enjoyment of a game, and by taking away my freedom to make a mistake you basically sit us down and tell us “no no no, we don’t have faith that you can enjoy this GAME without us holding your hand”

    It’s wrong, and it is insulting.
    Woah, let’s step back because that’s not what I meant. You have total freedom of choice in Diablo III, and that includes making mistakes. You’ll have a great time playing the game how you want to play it, and having the ability to make a bad choice, figure out what the problem is, and work to correct it. You’re going to have a blast with it.

    My point was directed at those saying skill trees are a superior system, and in the case of both Diablo II and World of Warcraft they’ve been proven to be very fundamentally flawed in a few significant ways. If you never looked up a guide to see how to build the best character, that’s awesome, but many people who really want ‘the best’ character don’t play through trial and error (unless they’re the frontline theorycrafters actually doing the math).

    I think Diablo III will be the perfect game for you. You’ll be able to experiment, you’ll have billions of possible skill combinations to try out, and as you make bad decisions it’s not going to be automatically clear what the problem is. There’s plenty of critical thinking to try to find a viable build, but it doesn’t come at the punishment of making you level a new character.

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