Bashiok on Build Diversity

The most popular topic of late came up again today, with a fan detailing why the WoW-style of character design was inappropriate for Diablo III, where every build doesn’t have to be equivalent in value/power/ability to fit into the required roles in a raid. It’s the sort of thing we’ve heard before, but for once a complaining fan made some good points, as did Bashy in his reply.

The thread got off to a funny start when the fan made a short and sort of taunting complaint post, and Bashiok no doubt thought he’d shut him down with a quick “____ or GTFO!” response. To everyone’s surprise, he stood and delivered.

Please explain how your statement is accurate. I’ll be right over here.

Your developers are very skilled and have learned a lot from WoW. All abilities are tuned based on level. All abilities are tuned against each other. Assuming a consistent skill level, there is no difference in DPS output as long as you pick generators and spenders. Obviously there are a billion bad builds consisting of all spenders and all generators. I think it’s fair to say we can dismiss those, but there is no possibility to create higher powered characters just by rearranging the generators and spenders. All abilities and runes are functionally equivalent from a purely mathematical standpoint.

On the off-chance there is even a hint of someone doing higher DPS or taking less damage than Blizzard would like, it will get nerfed back into the baseline expectation. The goal is for everyone to be the same. This is why everything potentially random is controlled to the maximum degree. Skills and given out on a schedule, points are assigned in a specific manner. Loot is given out tuned for your current level. This is so you could automate test Diablo in a way to ensure that there are almost no possibilities for statistical outliers. You have very smart people on your staff with statistics degrees who’s job is to ensure this.

This was not as big of a concern back when Diablo 2 was made, and there was no financial motivation to keep players from feeling bad about making a mistake and potentially losing out on RMAH customers.

Thank you for listening to your fans.
Wow I didn’t actually expect you to reply with anything of substance, so plus one for you! Of course you kind of 180’d on your original comment, but that’s ok I actually believe you were intentionally only commenting on the ‘obvious non-optimal builds’ in your critique.

So, a couple things, Diablo for a lot of people is about non-optimal builds. It’s about finding some [email protected]# build that no one thinks should logically work, and using your knowledge and skill of the game to defy logic and make it successful. So just switching skills between direct parities is probably not going to be a monumental discovery that will win you an award in character building. But, that’s not where the real fun and challenge of character builds generally come in. It might be fun for you though because one skill is purple and one is yellow and you really love purple, and if that makes the game awesome, awesome. As you said there are plenty of bad choices to make, which means there are plenty of non-optimal – but still potentially viable – builds to attempt.

The issue that you’re taking though is actually one of customization. What you’re saying is that by having these close parities between skills there’s less choice, and in fact the exact opposite is true. If there are sharp distinctions (as you argue is superior) then there are sharp separations, and sharp separations means that very clear correct choices emerge. By having more parity it allows for more customization as it allows players greater freedom in choosing the skills they want to use, and not the skills they have to use because the math makes it so. Again though I’d argue that there’s plenty of gray area in character builds, and that’s where the true excitement and discovery comes from.

Does that make sense?

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49 thoughts on “Bashiok on Build Diversity

  1. The Fan made a good point , but it only works if nobody publishes that spec , because as soon as an OP spec goes public , it will be the only good choice , if you wanted to succeed , then you have to take that spec otherwise you will be gimping yourself and just like Bashiok said that removes choice.
    Keeping it this way is better. You will always discover a new fun spec and rediscover your class once again and have fun as if its the first time you are playing it.

    • :EDIT: I guess I read your post wrong. Still, I’ll keep what I wrote:
      Think about this: if you have items that enhance your crit chance, you’ll want to use skills that take advantage of critical hits. If you have items that increase your speed, you’ll want to use skills that take advantage of that speed. If you have a weapon that’s very slow but very powerful, you’ll want to use skills that don’t take weapon speed into consideration. If you have loads of life points, you’ll probably be able to skip a couple of defensive skills…
      Can’t people realize that? It’s way WAY more complex than that. I’ve already started doing some maths, but without the final game it’s impossible. With just the info from the bet, though, I guess we’ll be looking to strike a balance between four different aspects (their importance WILL vary with playstyle AND combat situations):
      – single target damage output (pure DPS)
      – AOE capabilities
      – defensive capabilities (mobility, debuffs, resistances, etc…)
      – resource management
      On top of that, you have a whole load of options and choices, like if you favor loot finding skills, or if you favor healing skills or whatnot. So a perfect build will deal the most damage possible to the enemies at hand (if they are slow and widespread, you want a certain kind of skill, if they are fast and thick, another, if their a single target, you want another, and so on and so forth) AND will keep you from running out of health AND mana for as long as possible. There is no one way to reach those goals.

      • Playstyle is often neglected as well. The way we interact with skills, and the way they interact with the game environment, etc, play a huge role in how people will treat skills. Therefore, if they are mathematically equivalent in terms of DPS (barring playstyle), then playstyle will have an enormous impact on which skills are most fun, most powerful, and thus which are chosen by individuals. Just because a person can do more DPS with X build than you do with your Y build, doesn’t mean you’ll suddenly be better with X build, even with the same gear. It might be worse for you than Y build was!

        • People seem to forget that WoW was mostly a static game. You stood still and dealt and received damage. The faster you dealt damage the better you were. In Diablo3 you can avoid damage in many different ways as the game is less static.

        • I agree starrise, a player who got very rapid reflexes, can get away with a highly offensive build with minimal defensive skills. Someone else with slower reflexes will struggle with the same build due to not being able to avoid damage as well, and is better off with a few more defensive skills in his build etc.
          Or maybe player 2 just dont like moving around like a mad man.

    • Bashiok answered the only way it could answered…
      There should always be a combination of skills, stats and items that will “break” Blizzard’s perfect balancing. It shouldn’t be easy, and not break it totally, of course. But the possibilities should be there, to stand out from the crowd. 

      • ^ Yep there should always be a build or a handful of builds that are above the rest and a few that a weaker then the rest. The big thing is what the size of the difference between the most power and the lest powerful, as long as this gap isn’t to big the differences becomes less relevant in real terms.

    • I agree, the intent is to normalize the skill output so people can choose whatever they please and newbies won’t be left out picking inefficient stuff so they cover the casual base here and prevent them from making mistakes which will make them hate the game (remember the first few hours is what hooks people). The “optimization” of the build will come out of player skill and items. You can have 2 people using the exact same combination of skills, but the gear and how they play with the skills will be what differentiates both in terms of effective killing speed. This also leaves open the part where if you find a new item that greatly enhances skill X which wasn’t in your active skills, it lets you re-org your skills around this new power without having to start over a la D2 (because you suddenly found that super +6 blizzard wand for example but was using frozen orb all the time)

  2. You also need to take into consideration that there are other factors than pure maths. Bashiok mentioned that if you prefer a skill because of its color, then good for you if that makes the game awesome. I’d add to that the fact that not all skills are used the same way. Sure, they can usually be classified as “single target” or “aoe” but when you are actually using them they all feel very different, especially when you add runes. Also, for that same reason, some skill combinations will be better or feel better in different situations, so at the end of the day I don’t think everybody will use the same skill set.

    • This.

      If things are balanced properly, the choice won’t be about finding the skill combo that’s ridiculously OP and clears elites super fast, it will be about finding the skill combo that works with your playing style. I hope it works out. 

  3. I wish everyone wouldn’t end each post with ‘because you don’t want to lose $$$ from the RMAH! Aha!’ as if it somehow makes their point more valid – its getting really boring :/

    • Not everyone does that and the ones that do and make a compelling argument like the one above lay bare, in my opinion, some of the motivations behind the systems that shape the game.

      Like the gentleman pointed out, a lot of what’s going on in D3 is by very intentional design and you can bet your ass if not for the RMAH a lot of design choices will be different.  (Different doesn’t not imply better or worse)

      Either way its a most wonderful premise.  If we pare down the details, its a system that no matter what happens only 75% of the funds can be taken out.  And people wonder why the AH came under scrutiny….

  4. I think people are mostly confusing tactics and strategy. In Diablo 2, your skills were strategic choices because that’s all you could really use until you deleted or died (in HC). In Diablo 3, however, skill choice will be tactical and you could benefit from changing if you face a tough challenge with a tactically sub-optimal skill set up. It actually gives you an incentive to clear content rather than ignoring it. Imagine you are a static field/frozen orb sorceress from 1.07 or 8, you pretty much avoid anything that’s cold immune. In fact, I remember beta testers finding Frozenstein impossible to defeat. That will never be the case in Diablo 3; you just have to readjust and fire again. I think that’s more fun.

    •  I’d rather just not have any immunes at all…
       If i want to try and take out that boss with 90% cold resistance with frozen orb i should be allowed to…
       Anyway, immunities where an attempt at stopping overspecialised builds that didn’t turn out that well imo…

  5. Also I love how the illusion of choice is champion as though its really a choice.  Hey I can choose to die by torture, by injection, or by stoning!  I can’t choose not to die, but hey I can choose how! YAY!
    Seriously anyone trying to accept parity as choice isn’t quite getting it.  But hey what do I know, people out there think if they can get the same thing in red, blue, or green that they are having a choice.

    • But it’s not the same thing. Every choice is mechanically different from every other choice. Sure some of the rune effects make certain skills overlap, but everything is significantly different from everything else… As for your death comparison, that is fallacy. That is like saying Diablo 3 should let people choose to not have any skills (which you can if you want) or that you should let people choose not to play (which obviously you can also choose). You can also choose to not have any movement skills or to not have any resource management skills or even to not have any damaging skills if you really want to… By the way, that choice is an illusion in and of itself as the vast majority of people would choose the least painful way (injection) every time so that’s basically going back to the Diablo 2 way of either choosing from a tiny set of viable skill/stat setups or slogging on with your character gimped… In other words, a non-choice (unless you are a masochist I guess).
      If you want to make the Mass Effect ending argument (which is what I assume you are alluding to there with the colors, even though that is an odd analogy either way as people consider color options to be a very important cosmetic choice for many things they buy such as cars and clothes) I suppose, in the end, the goal is always the same (kill the monsters that have the loot), so, by your logic, we shouldn’t have skill choices at all since they all go towards the same end anyway. Might as well just give people a set of skills that is the same for every character (after all, why have different classes when they’re just parities of the same function) that adequately equips you to finish the whole game and that’s it… Might as well force people to only use a certain set of items as well as they are all just parities of eachother. Choosing between one with crit, attack speed, and flat damage is just a meaningless illusion of choice as they all go towards killing monsters more efficiently just like choosing one with dodge, armor, or resistances are all going towards surviving monster attacks better (which also leads to killing the monsters more effeciently)…
      Is that really the sort of game you want to play? Yeah… I didn’t think so…

      • Nope haven’t played Mass Effect or know about its ending.

        As usual that’s the problem with most analogies, they aren’t perfect and often people mistake your focus for something else.  I won’t comment on D2 either, that’s not why I’m criticizing Bashiok (or D3).  I don’t know how better at the moment to demonstrate that parity isn’t choice.

        The best I can come up with is you come up to a fork in a road and can choose whether to go left or right.  But here’s what you don’t know, either way the road ends up at the same place.  You’ve made a choice but it is completely inconsequential.  But then again maybe its all about the journey 😛

        To be honest with you I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the game at the moment.  I’m not taking issue with D3.  I’m taking issue with the philosophical underpinnings of Bashiok’s argument.  In my experience his argument is that which is offered by people who really intend to control.  If that’s the discussion you want to carry on, please  indulge.  I personally believe the poster got Bashiok right where he wanted him to be.

        And this isn’t directed at you but a casual glance, in my opinion, indicates most people aren’t ready to engage in that discussion and for that matter aren’t aware of it.

  6. Does that make sense?
    Yes, yes it does- more options, each with less real meaning.

    • Um… how’s that? You would rather have your choices made obvious which is essentially the same as them being made for you? That is what kills the meaning… Having lots of equivalently powerful, but much differently functioning skills actually makes choice a real choice as you are not being compelled/influenced by outside factors in your skill/rune choices.

  7. GAWD I hate this argument…mostly because Bashiok is WRONG in a subtle way each and every time.  His last paragraph claims that individual skills are close in parity, and therefore there is more choice.  This is only true when individual skills are considered in a vacuum

    Since there are six possible skills usable at a time, it is the combination of skills that is important.  Skills combine in interesting ways so that even 2-3 subprime skills combined with a good skill actually perform better than expected.  This is what made Diablo2 so much fun, taking sucky individual skills with one or two good skills and coming up with a better build.  The combination of skills being the operator in that equation. 

    Now, with all skills being “average” the combinations are average.  No matter what, each individual skill alone isn’t going to suck, and it certainly isn’t going to suck less when combined with another skill.  

    Bashiok can sound convincing — but he is never quite logically sound.

    I have spoken, so mote it be.   


    • “No matter what, each individual skill alone isn’t going to suck, and it certainly isn’t going to suck less when combined with another skill.”
      Hm? Why would you conclude that? Seems to me more than likely that with so many skills, there are going to be skill interactions where the whole equals much more than the sum of the parts. A particular type of snare with a particular attack, for instance. It would be really difficult to PREVENT that from happening, even if that were the intention.

    • Individual skills won’t suck, but they also won’t be overpowered. What’s the point in putting in skills that suck or skills that are markedly better than the rest? This balancing of skills means there will be less pigeonholing in terms of builds. I see this as a good thing because there should be many more viable build choices, and none of them should be so much better than the others that you’re not doing it right if you don’t have X build. This leaves you free to make a viable build that fits your play style.
      Obviously there are going to be builds that excel in certain parts of the game. A Barbarian with Cleave and Leap will probably better suited to deal with a large pack than one with Bash and Ancient Spear, but not so much so that the Bash/Ancient Spear Barbarian will be at such a loss he has to change his build. I think this skill system is going to allow people to play the way they want to play, and ultimately one of the main factors that will differentiate the pros from the noobs will be skill.

    •  Yeah, synergies where bogus because most of the time you weren’t using the lower skill because it was great with the synergy, you where using it because you had 20+ in it anyway so why not, while you where still using one skill predominately… 
       As for not sucking less with another skill now… yeah, i’m sure a ADoT won’t work better with a skill that slows down monsters at all…

  8. Im glad we can post on here without registering, but I dont like how this forum works. It does not work all that well even on my desktop pc.
    Bashiok is the man.   He hit the nail on the head on what most debate has been all about, a revelation of sorts which was behind many of the tough design choices made for D3.   Let’s start with builds.   If so many builds are viable, you can now base your choices on what suits your playing style, preferences (I love ice damage, for example), and situation, rather than being forced to pass over 80% of the possibilities because none of them are the mathematically-correct ones! Not only that, but the choice of skills becomes more engaging (what Really suits you based on where you’re at with that character, and your gear, etc?) because you can’t just look up one ideal build online and the end up stuck with it for the entire 60 levels of play. Notice that I alluded to being \stuck\ with a build – that’s what used to happen – you couldn’t even change your mind later, it was more or less \too late\. That leads another benefit people should see – you can completely rediscover the same character many times over as you play them more and find new builds to use with them. Sorry, but that’s Amazing, if it works. Rather than creating 10 monks and going through Normal 10 times to try every good build, you can rediscover the same character as you continuously make him/her better, without repeating the same skill level over and over.    I’m still struggling with this new approach to builds. When I saw the announcement for the hero builder (and previously the skill \calculator\), well I just don’t get it .. the builds you see there are not the end of the story .. and to an extent I think some people using these calculators don’t get it either. I believe that now with D3, in addition to the planning ahead calculator approach, the in-game performance will Really tell you if a build works for you. Examples: Maybe you have the mental capacity to choreograph a series of very quick and disorienting wizard teleports – and you enjoy doing that. Maybe instead you have really good coordination and you enjoy zapping targets with disintegrate because you never miss. Maybe you know how to cast \Slow Time\ at the best possible moment where it can be capitalized on the most. THESE are examples of what will make your build great – and calculators can’t show you that. You don’t just win because you stack frozen globe. If Blizzard succeeds here then they have truly made history (yet again), because people will play this game Forever.   Another example where I believe they are trying to provide real, engaging, player choice is something I was struggling with yesterday, and I think Bash cleared it up for me now. This part is about Items. If there are constant item drops, crafting, and not one but Two types of auction house .. well when I’m at level 32 and could really use a good upgrade to my sword, how do I know what route to go? How on earth can I know if I should wait for a good drop, craft something with rare materials (rather than using them elsewhere or selling them), simply go to one of the auction houses and buy one, or simply just keep waiting because my current sword is good enough? The answer is, I don’t really know. Therefore, it will likely be a pretty engaging choice to make! The whole thing is tradeoffs, and we will need to weigh these options constantly. The only part that concerns me is that you can get a sweet drop 5 minutes after you waste valuable materials crafting something (or valuable gold buying something) – I’m not sure how that will play out.   Anyways, in both of the above scenarios, I think the point is for these choices to be engaging, tricky, and fun, because you have several options to choose from but most important: they are all viable (useful) choices – there is not just one good option and 4 crappy ones. I think this is what they are aiming for and I really hope it works out.                

  9. It is not always the case where u need generator and spender tho. I dont personally find any of demon hunter’s generator impressive, so i intend to try make do with no generator, at least at end game. And i am sure i saw a passive for monk that gives bonus when u use more than 1 type of generator…….

    IT is always these kind of “non-optimal” builds that keeps the game interesting for me.

    • That sounds like a very slow and/or gear dependent build… I would love to see it in action. I can definitely see the barb working without a primary skill (as he has other ways of generating fury) and the wd has always been able to do that (if you use a secondary or decay skill as your main attack) and the wizard may also be able to pull it off with the right runes, passives, and gear so maybe the dh can too (although their hatred attacks can be pretty draining and their discipline is always slow to come back even with gear). Sadly I don’t think the monk would be able to get away with that though. Maybe if you get tons of passive spirit generation gear, runes, and passives…

      • i had something in mind, but since bliz made some major change to dh’s other skills in one of the patch, the chance looks slim now. All i can hope for is the regen of hatred on items will be better later on. The thing bout them generator of dh is lacking good AOE with range. I know theres spike traps, but cant say much bout a skill i havent tried. Never liked grenades as they dont have good range. I really like spamming rapid fire and seems like multiple shot will be awesome too, but both are not generator. Guess the more challanging it is to find a way, the more rewarding it is. 🙂

  10. I also hope this is true.

    I’m the guy who tried every patch to make an Inferno Sorc, because I just find the spell incredibly fun and satisfying. In the end though, what I really wanted was an “Inferno Sorc That Can Actually Kill Monsters”, because killing monsters is fun and satisfying too.

    (OMG, the counter says “10 days”)

    • hah
      Me too, I still don’t know why Blizz couldn’t just fix inferno damage. Screen and a half long flame thrower was so much fun 

  11. People are giving way too much credit to so called “playstyle”. Don’t forget diablo 3 is very simple game when it comes to character controls. It doesn’t really make that much difference in terms of char controling, or managing skill timers, between even entirely different characters. It would be sure cool if it would, but the game is just very simple.
    People will copy best combo of skills/items per class and use it for farming. Even if it is just slightly better then all rest of popular builds (unlike d2 where best combos were much better than all the rest). There won’t be that much diversity as some people expect, just because it is so easy to copy “build” and instantly respec to it. People who actually play really funky builds are in minority, and it is really a tiny fraction of entire population.
    I am also not saying that game is bad because any of that, it just will not be what some people expect it to be. To have real build diversity, skills would need to be really well balanced, and most importantly being balanced constantly (a weekly balance patch that even follows the trends of what is popular (not necessarily imbalanced)). They would have to monitor what kind of skill combos are most popular on servers and constaly tweak them to keep wide range of different builds being used at the time. Potentially even automatic skill balance system, that will weaken skills if they are used by too many players, and boost most unused skills. I really don’t think blizzard will push it that far, they will only patch some most imbalanced combos when they think something is gamebreaking.
    I’m basing some of my judgement on multiplayer d2 mods I played in the past. There are mods with very wide range of builds and skill combos, that are nearly equal in terms of power or farming speed. But even then, people quickly stick to these best ones (even 5-10% faster than the rest), and they dominate the server. Most doesn’t care about playstyle, they stick to what is most optimal, you can easily adjust your playstyle. Same when it comes to “character style”, very few people picks a tad weaker char that looks cool at cost of its efficiency. 

    • Simple doesn’t mean braindead. Game is simple to pick up and simple to get into, but when you’re facing several different packs with several different enhancements, playstyle will very much define if your character will live to tell about it or not.      
      Most of your post is based on what you think will happen, but you’re not taking into consideration that you could be horribly wrong.
      I have fallen in love with Bash, as it sends monsters flying all over the place. Cleave may be the better skill in certain situations, but why should I drop the skill I like to use? The balance that isn’t there, according to you, allows me to keep using Bash, if that is what I want to do. When dealing with massive packs, a single target skill may be underwhelming, but if it suits my playstyle, I can make it work.

      None of us are in a position to gauge how the game will be played by the masses; personally, I only really care about how I will play it.   

    •  Yeah, even if the majority of the player base are min-maxers (which i doubt, if everyone was farming like crazy there’d be no chinese gold farming) at least those of us that like playing themed characters or enjoy one skill just because it we like how it looks/acts won’t be gimped any more… and that’s a good thing.

  12. I am glad, because Blizzard will not change The Game I love in this stage, because some Q_Q people yelling, screaming, spamming over every forum, for something that is not suit to theirs taste. Jezzzz #%$*( already !

  13. Again, Bashiok conveniently leaving out the word “meaningful” inbetween the words “more” and “choice”, invalidating his entire counter. There’s no point having more choice when it doesn’t matter or hardly makes a difference, and this is what the OP argued. Bashiok assumes everyone to be unbelievably superficial in that he thinks people will be fooled stuff acually changed because of a different hue. I also have “more choice” in how my characters will look due to dye’s, yet i’m not going to each call them different builds.

  14. Every time I see ‘meaningful choice’ arguments, I just replace ‘meaningful’ with ‘overpowered’ and the real argument comes to the surface.  People who actually want choice want the skills to be mathematically similar, so if they want to be a pure-ice build, or pure arcane, or whatever, they can have a working set of skills.  People who want ‘meaningful choice’ want to find some lesser used skill, or combination of skills, that look poor at face value, but turn out to actually be overpowered. Sadly for this last group, Blizzard has active desire to avoid that situation.  They try to provide good skill information (if you enable advanced tooltips) and have tried to have the skills balanced out so that there is no outstandingly superior skill within a set of similar options. ‘Meaningful choice’ tends to devolve to ‘choose one of 1-3 published useful builds’ and never choose anything else, or be laughed at.  In that environment, they might as well split the class 1-3 times, and just grant the skills at the appropriate level.  The other skills in the class that aren’t part of the published agreed-upon useful builds might as well not exist, and are thus non-choices… leaving you with less choice, not more.

  15. People just aren’t capable of critical thinking, and think they have a better understanding of game mechanics than the blizzard development team. It’s sad.

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