Bashiok hopped onto the forums to defend the latest game changes to skills and respecs. Taking on a fan who makes strong arguments against the loss of character customization that no-skill-points seems to portend, Bashiok made some good counter points.

    So you figured out it’s better to pump all your points into one or two skills. What a smart gamer you are.

    How long do you think it would have taken even bad players to look up on a website that it’s the best way to play a game where skills have to scale with more points?

    We’ve been playing the game, we know what skill points were causing, and it was not interesting and unique builds. It was not meaningful customization. It was maxing out a couple skills, and that’s it. It was Diablo II. What we have now actually forces people to make interesting choices, to craft interesting builds based on very strict limitations.

    One common mistake people are making is thinking all the class skills are straight damaging attack skills, and they pick six of those, and they’re on their way. There’s no variety because you just pick the most powerful six, and you’re done. You can do that, but you’re either going to straight up die, run out of resources and waste time dying or running away, or you’re going to have to figure out some godly resource regen stacking gear setup. One of those sounds fun, and challenging, which makes even crazy builds like using six straight damage skills potentially viable if you can game it right.

    The current iteration of the skill system will work just fine. My only concern is the limiteless ability to change skills (either out in the field, or in town) with no cost. I know you said you are taking a “wait and see” approach.

    What I am wondering is if you, personally, can say how you feel while out in the world being able to change skills on the fly. Do you come upon a particularly nasty group that this other skill would just be perfect for, so you hang back, grab that skill, then destroy the group?

    Maybe my concern with this is unfounded, but I just like the idea of a character build having more permanence.. so a “Whirlwind/Ancient Spear Barbarian” actually means something, instead of what you feel like playing that day. I understand the need to experiment early.. but can’t there be a comprimise in that late game build changing could be more restrictive?

    Bashiok: I think that someone choosing to hang back and switch up their build for a specific pack is totally possible, but experience shows that it’s not something most players want to spend the time to do. And that’s more about build identity than min/maxing.

    It’s far more lucrative and time effective to create a viable build that can deal with a variety of situations, and we also find that players want to create and stick with an identity even if there’s the ability to freely swap. It’s generally a matter of finding the way you want to play, and fine tuning. And really we’re not talking about skills so specific in function that it’s going to be that enticing. You’re pretty much either killing enemies, or protecting yourself. There’s a ton of variety within offense and defense, but I don’t think it’s so ideal as to make someone stop and switch out their entire build.

    Like I said players inherently want to stick with a specific character identity. You’re far more likely to see a player sticking with a build and working to become better at it than constantly swapping around. That’s not a rule, it’s player psychology so there’s going to be a wide range of variables, but it’s what we have found to be true not only for Diablo III, but a lot of the games out there with similar free-swapping of builds.

    Bashiok doesn’t quite make the argument here, but like I said on podcast part two (coming soon) skill balance was probably a big contributor to the removal of skill points. The D3 devs have often said that they don’t want one-point-wonders, like DiabloWikiTeleport or a lot of the DiabloWikiCurses and DiabloWikiAuras were in D2. They want all the skills in D3 to need lots of points, and for each point to make a real difference. Perhaps that just wasn’t possible, and nothing they did could make DiabloWikiVault or DiabloWikiTeleport or DiabloWikiGrasp of the Dead or other such skills improve with each point, or *need* 15 points, in the same way an attack skill does.

    And like Bashiok says in the top post, if everyone just maxed out the same skills, then having points isn’t adding any variety. It’s basically the same argument they’ve made against custom attributes. In D2 most many builds had the same Dex for blocking, Str for eq reqs, and all the rest into Vit. Thus manual attributes didn’t really do anything to differentiate between characters.

    The instant, free, anytime skill swapping I’m less sanguine about. It just seems cheesy, and I like chars to have some kind of identity, and for builds to have strengths and weaknesses. If any character can switch almost instantly between builds, why have limits on the number of skills at all? Just let everyone enable all 20~ skills at once, and make the only slow down the time required to change hotkeys. Or better yet, make the game smart enough to switch your skills situationally, and auto-change your LMB and RMB options from Lightning, to Fire, to Arcane, etc, depending on what monster you’re shooting at? Why shouldn’t players have every skill at all times without any effort? Don’t we want to make this game casual-friendly?

    Sarcasm aside, Bashiok doesn’t mention it, but hopefully Runestones will have an effect, there. High level chars will have gear designed to complement their skills, socketed by Runestones that provide appropriate bonuses to each skill. The rune that gives the best bonus to your DiabloWikiArcane Torrent is probably not the one that you’ll want in DiabloWikiHydra, or DiabloWikiBlizzard, or DiabloWikiDisintegrate. (So chars will just carry a few spare runes to click in when they respec between encounters/before big DiabloWikiboss fights?)

    On that note, I do hope the devs are putting enough variety into the DiabloWikiAct Boss encounters to make them tough against all sorts of attacks. It’ll suck if we find that Skill X or Skill Y is by far the most effective against Diablo, or whoever. Since then everyone would always respec to that skill before the big fight, and turn it into tediously-easy, repetitious piƱata bash.

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