A fan posted the by-now familiar lament: no custom char stats + respecs = no long term variety/replayability. Bashiok offered a retort:
Except that all of the “customization” options in Diablo 3 boil down to playing the game less and actually take away incentive you once had to replay.
Well that’s just not true. Where and when possible itemization and playing the game more to get drops and find items play into the various types of customization. Diablo is an item game, our customization systems play into that as much as possible. Runes for example. Another being every item you wear, as items and their stats play a big role in how your character is defined.
Those require playing the game more to find items to customize your character.
Anyway, so yeah let’s say that character customization is out of the picture entirely as far as reasons to continue playing the game.
Well, we have some ideas, and we’re not going to tell you what they are.
If I might, let me interject 2 additional points.
1) The OP’s worst case scenario for D3 sounds exactly like D2 on the realms today. The vast majority of characters are cookie cutter versions of the same build, same eq, and virtually the same stats. People just have 2 or 3 versions of each char, instead of 1 that respecs. And yet fans still seem to find fun, even though D2 has far less skill or item variety than Blizzard is planning for D3.
1.5) Do you really think respecs will make people have just one of each char? Imagine there were respecs in D2 now. Would you want to switch a Hammerdin to a Smiter or a Zealot? Given that you’d have to change virtually every piece of eq and charms, along with the skills? Much easier to just have 1 char of each build. Which is what people will do in D3.
2) Not to get all fanboy, but the guys making D3 are industry professionals who have studied what makes an RPG work. I think they’ve probably spent a few minutes pondering the issue of what will keep players playing past level 80. We just don’t know enough about the game (and not enough of the game is finished) to fairly evaluate it.