Bashiok gave a surprising (to me) reply to a question about D3’s weapon switch feature, one that opens up a lot of juicy game design discussion issues. Here’s the question and his answer, with somestyle discussion below.
Will there be a quick weapon switch (‘W’ in D2) implemented in Diablo 3?
Just like Diablo II we’re saving secondary weapon/shield slot and hot key for the expansion.
Kidding! … probably. We don’t have it now, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be one. I don’t think it’s an irrelevant question, maybe just not the most pressing one.
I don’t think it NEEDS to be there. It’s not really an iconic part of the game. The gameplay dictates its necessity, and if there’s no reason to hot swap weapons mid-fight, then having it there just clutters the UI.
Personally I just used it in Diablo II for extra item storage.
I have to strongly disagree on this one. I consider having at least one weapon switch an absolutely essential inventory feature. I missed them while playing D3 at Blizzcon last year, when I wanted to quickly alternate between different weapons on my little level 7 and 8 characters, and thought it odd that the designers hadn’t yet incorporated such a fundamental feature. In D2X, I have I never built a character who didn’t use the weapon switch for some significant purpose. At the minimum switching to some MF item for last shot boss kills, Echoing swords for bigger BO, Ali Babas for Horking, etc. Moreover, weapon switching makes numerous builds, like hybrid Amazons, possible, when having to manually switch around the items (as we had to do in RPGs made in like, 1996) would greatly reduce their viability/fun.
All that said, whether or not to include a weapon switch is a strategic issue. If you can’t easily switch weapons, then it puts more importance on the weapon you do choose to use, and makes the choice about whether or not to equip that +exp or +MF item a much bigger decision. Also, the fact that so many items and runewords had skill charges and oskills on them in D2X made weapon switching overpowered. The ability to instantly cast curses or warcries from your weapon switch made some items extremely powerful. If you had to awkwardly move them around by hand, and save space in your bags to store, them, would such bonuses would be somewhat balanced by the inconvenience? (This is all hypothetical, since we have no idea if such item bonuses will be found in D3.)