Bashiok, On the Drawing Board: Weapon Switching?

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 some On the Drawing Board style 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.)

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  1. Diablo 2’s random dungeons in general just don’t have the variety of the D1 ones. The D1 Church, Caves and Hell could always generate very different yet very specifically styled levels that could be significantly different from game to game (well, Hell levels were always mirror images). The Caves levels were often quite bland, due to the large amounts of lava and open spaces, but a few times I did get some cave levels that were 70-80% small cave rooms and wooden fenced areas, with only small lava portions.

    This makes sense though – in Diablo 2 they tried to give each type of tileset it’s own style of layout, eg compare Act 1 Jail vs Catacombs vs Act 2 Tombs vs Act 3 Flayer Dungeon vs Act 5 Nihlathak’s Temple. So instead of putting say ‘100 units’ of work into Church, Cats, Caves and Hell like D1, they put ‘60 units’ of work into the various tilesets in D2. Because there are many many more tilesets altogether, it ends up being a lot more work overall, although any particular individual tileset may not be as interesting as the levels from D1 were. I think probably the best dungeon tileset from D2 in terms of randomization and personality would be the Tomb tilesets from Act 2. The Act 2 sewer tileset isn’t too bad either, and the catacombs from Act 1 are passable. But apart from those, most of the dungeons don’t generate particularly interesting or varied layouts from game to game.

    Also I’m glad they aren’t going to bother with randomizing the overworld areas – I mean face it, the various overworld sections of Act 1 by and large are pretty uniform (except for Dark Forest or whatever). The Act 2 ones are a little more varied, but not much (Lost City is good, though), and the less said about Act 3, the better. Act 4 levels are mostly the same, although there is a somewhat noticeable progression from the Outer Steppes, Plains of Despair and City of the Damned in terms of the doodads that appear. Act 5 of course has 4 overworld levels, 2 of which are static. These ones actually show a bit of variety, but they seem more “cluttered” to me than actually being interesting.

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