Several blue posts today, but only two with real game significance. The first relates to the Monk and the game controls. Let me explain…

    a replyOne of the big selling points for the Monk’s DiabloWikicombos when the class was first revealed at Blizzcon 2009, was that a quick-fingered player could switch between them, rather than just doing all three hits from the same combo every time. For example, DiabloWikiWay of the Hundred Fists for the first dashing punch, DiabloWikiCrippling Wave for a debuff with the second hit, then DiabloWikiExploding Palm for explosive damage on the third hit. Or vice versa. Options abound.

    No one’s doing this in the beta since there’s no real reason for it; only the lower level combos are available, there’s no PvP, and the PvM is too easy to require precision skill switching for optimal damage. Moreover, the cumbersome Diablo 3 UI doesn’t really support it, since you can’t simply click hotkeys to instantly change the skills on your left and right mouse click, as you could in D2.

    Combo-switching is possible in D3, of course. A Monk could put two combos skills on the LMB and RMB, and in the final game I’m sure players will get used to alternating mouse clicks with the 1234 keys to vary their combos just as expert Paladins used the hotkeys to “flash” different auras in D2. It’ll take some practice and a lot of manual dexterity though, since the simplified and more visual UI in D3 is slower to use and less convenient. That reality prompted a fan to suggest an improvement to the controls, and earned him much the same answers as given above from CM Zarhym.

    There should be a little tool for monk with 3 slots for left click for instance where you can insert what generator you want to hit at what specific time in the chain to cut down on swapping skills every 3 hits. That way all you have to do is left click 3 times and it will automatically do the generator that you want with each click.

    Does this make sense to anybody?
    Zarhym: We definitely want there to be some sort of conscious decisions on the part of the player regarding what Spirit generator skills are used at any given time. Earlier on in the game, you’ll likely just be using one of these skills so you save room in your limited active skill slots for those that cost DiabloWikiSpirit. And you can always manually swap out your Spirit generators to try different ones in various encounters. It provides you with some interesting choices to make when deciding what kind of attacks or effects you’re using with the Spirit generating skill you go with (i.e. maybe you want one with an AoE component, one that dazes targets, one that has further reach, one that applies DoT effects, etc.).

    We don’t want all Spirit generating attacks to be accessible with the repeated push of one button. Not only would that make monks play very differently from the other classes, it’s not really how Diablo skill gameplay works fundamentally.

    That’s kind of an odd reply. Isn’t he saying that the controls are intentionally gimped to use in order to make advanced playing techniques harder to use? That’s been my impression of the D3 DiabloWikiinterface, anyway. It’s visual and accessible and all that, but slower in function compared to D2’s mouse-clicking system. I guess this is the same logic that led them to ban player UI mods, to remove the DiabloWikiweapon switch hotkey, and to limit active skills to six at a time. Customizable controls would give an advantage to players who really knew what they were doing, and Blizzard wants a dumbed-down noob-friendly playing field?

    The other noteworthy blue post is longer, and also relates to the UI, so click through to read it.

    This series of posts covers numerous UI improvement issues, with Bash made a post over here.

    #1 – Nonskill bar spots
    Potions, scrolls?, and regular attack take up space on the ever-coveted action bar/mouse. Now, it’s known that the game is meant to be played with 6 active skills and overall we are supplied with 7 spots to place things (5 being on the bar, and 2 for the mouse). That only leaves 1 spot that is unused by active skills by has competition from the multiple actions described above.

    What’s the deal? Are we going to have to make a choice between auto attack (which the demon hunter and wizard seem to be encouraged to use in their passives) and a healing potion? Obviously the healing potion is a valuable asset to have available in dire situations. And does that just leave scrolls out in the dust? Are there any behind-the-scenes plans to address this issue?
    Daxxarri: What you place into your various skill slots will vary from player to player and build to build. Depending on your skills you can have both left and right mouse button bound to skills (and pressing ‘x’ will swap your right-mouse with yet another skill button for a total of 3 mouse binds) and if you don’t have the resources to use the skill, then you’ll normal attack instead until you have the necessary resources to use the skill again. There should be space for, at least, a potion. Diablo III isn’t designed with potion spamming in mind anyway, so really, you should have plenty of space on your bars for the elements that will be important to your hero’s success.

    #2 – Respeccing skills on the fly
    The current system of being allowed to change your active (and passive?) skills at absolutely any time without any restrictions or limitations is generally deemed by the community as not the greatest of ideas. If we are free to respec whatever, whenever, then in theory we are granted access to all skills and the 6 cap just becomes an illusion. It also severely encourages the use of 3rd party macros for fast-swapping on the run.

    Daxxarri: We’re currently testing a few different solutions, but I don’t have anything specific to report on that front just yet. We’re okay with players changing their builds while they’re out adventuring, but we’re not comfortable with players running around with their skill pane open swapping skills during combat. We’d also rather not have a system which forces players to return to town. We’ve tried it, and it feels really bad. Of course, worse comes to worse and if our attempts to curb use in combat fail, it could very well be what we have to resort to.

    Simple solution – Add a cast time
    Daxxarri: That’s one of the options on the table currently.

    That still only leaves you with 8 slots.
    Daxxarri: There’s not much call for hot-keying scrolls anyway.

    7 skill slots + 1 mouse swap = …?
    Daxxarri: 6 skill slots, left and right mouse, +x to swap right click.

    I see 5 keyboard slots, and your post says we can have 3 skills bound to the mouse. That’s 8 unless I failed second grade…?
    Daxxarri: No, that was me. 8 is the correct total. Still, that’s good for skills 1-6, autoattack and a potion key. Or, since builds won’t necessarily need access to autoattack, a scroll if you really, really want to hotkey it.

    Daxxarri, so is it okay with players changing their skills before every combat to minimize the obvious risk rather than experiment, especially in Hardcore where death means game over ?
    Daxxarri: It’s not something that we’re necessarily opposed to. Bash made a post over here on the subject:

    Bash said in there that the feature would most likely be a dual spec sort of thing. I’m not totally opposed to this since there are so many different scenarios you would have to spec efficiently for, that having access to only 2 wouldn’t be terrible. Not ideal, but not terrible.
    Daxxarri: Actually, he said that it probably wouldn’t be implemented, but if it was, then it would likely take a form similar to dual spec. I just don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up, unnecessarily.

    I don’t want to just repeat my comment from above, but this sounds like more of the same. D3’s controls are adequate and easy to learn/see, but they’re not customizable or designed for really expert, dexterous play. And this is by design, almost as a form of game balancing. If players were able to switch weapons, hotkey elixirs, swap instantly between numerous active skills, etc…. that would be bad. Apparently. In the eyes of the developers. I’m fine with them banning UI mods and other macros or automations, but I don’t see removing hotkeys as a great approach.

    So now players who know what they’re doing will regularly open their inventory to drink elixirs while less-expert players won’t. And this is a better solution than putting in some hotkeys to drink elixirs, where at least new players would have some hint that they were missing out on something…? (Coming soon: Removed or nerfed elixirs since noobs don’t use them.)

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