Blizzard on UI Buff Display Issues

We’re going to post articles on several of the most contentious issues in the game today, analyzing what the Devs said about them during this week’s live chat. First up is a topic that’s been bubbling for months (years?), the limits on displaying buff icons in Diablo 3.

I remember way back in the D3v days when only 5 buff and 5 debuff icons would show at the same time. Players often asked for more to show, and there was special annoyance at the game reserving space for 5 each, since players often had 4-8 buffs and almost never had more 2 or 3 debuffs, which made it seem like there was room for more buffs to show, but it was wasted, reserved as space for debuffs that would never come. Later patches upped the buff display to 8, but that’s still far too few for many builds, especially in multiplayer games and double-especially with DiabloWikiKanai’s Cube now adding 2 or 3 more to most players toolbars.

Wyatt Cheng addressed this issue in depth during the live chat, and I’m curious what you guys think of his argument. Here’s a short excerpt:

The inability to see important buffs that affect your moment-to-moment gameplay is something we want to address.

Path of Exile=Visual buff spam?

Path of Exile = Visual buff spam?

We have been avoiding simply adding more buffs because having a large number of buffs on the screen is not only visually unappealing, but it can be just as frustrating to locate the buff that you care about in a sea of buffs.

I laughed reading that, since some time ago I worked on but never completed/posted an article about this “show all the buffs” issue, and one of the main points of debate was the sort of thing you see in the image to the right. That’s from Path of Exile, and those 23 (!) icons along the top of the screen are all the buffs currently in effect for that player. Case in point of Wyatt’s comment, in which he was too polite to say something like, “too many buffs showing at once are visual pollution.”

Possibly since there’s another well-known Blizzard RPG that can be modded to make PoE look positively minimalist.

Click through for Wyatt’s full quote from the chat, and share your opinions in comments. Would you rather have an instant patch to show 12 or 16 or an unlimited number of buffs at once, clutter be damned? Or are you happy to wait for the ideal solution Wyatt discusses? (Why not both?)

Blizzard on UI Buff Display Issues:

Certain builds require keeping an eye on your buffs to maximize your damage (for example Tal’Rasha, Taeguk, Convention of Elements). However, when playing in a party, these buffs can disappear once you get more than 8 buffs. Is it possible to allow players to choose which buffs they always want to see, so these buffs are easier to track?
WyattCheng: The inability to see important buffs that affect your moment-to-moment gameplay is something we want to address.

We have been avoiding simply adding more buffs because having a large number of buffs on the screen is not only visually unappealing, but it can be just as frustrating to locate the buff that you care about in a sea of buffs.

WoW.  No,seriously. Wow!

WoW. No,seriously. Wow!

I view buffs broadly in 3 categories:

  • Category 1: “Always On” buffs. Really obvious ones are the Multiplayer buff, or when there is a Community event in place. These buffs are great to know, but they take up one of your precious buff slots. Monk Mantras are a slightly less “always” version of this. If I’m in a party with a monk wearing Inna’s, suddenly all players in the party have half of their buff slots tied up.
  • Category 2: “Reassuring buffs”. These are buffs that you want to know they are on you, but they don’t affect your moment to moment gameplay. A good example of this would be Storm armor on the Wizard, or Frenzy stacks on a Barbarian. Many times you want to know the skill is working correctly, but you aren’t checking on the buff in the heat of combat

  • Category 3: “Moment-to-moment buffs”. These are the buffs that actually affect you moment-to-moment and are usually the source of complaints. Focus and Restraint are a great example here.
  • Overall our goal is to find alternate ways to communicate Category 1 and Category 2 buffs so that Category 3 buffs can take center stage on the buff bar.

    We don’t have anything to share at this time, but I assure you that with the introduction of all the extra powers players have from Kanai’s Cube, combined with new legendary items that make you powerful but require some degree of buff tracking (vyr’s / chantodo’s comes to mind) the desire to address this is greater than ever.

    why arent you able to see all your buffs ?
    KevinMartens: So Wyatt just answered re: how we categorize buffs and some possible work on how we display them. I think it is interesting to note, from a behind the scenes development POV, that sometimes issues like this rise in priority as unintended consequences for otherwise highly desire features. In this case, the too many buffs to display issue has been a little more class or situation specific (monk auras, anyone?) but now that Kanai’s Cube is out, people can almost at will choose a wider variety of items with buffs on them which meant addressing the display problem rose higher on the priority list vs. new feature development.

    Diablo development works very much in concert with player feedback, as we have said before, but the priorities are often heavily influenced by our piling on of ever-more legendary powers and all of the ripples of work that come from that. Hope this is interesting for you to know!

    What do you think of Wyatt’s comments? The theory seems like a good one, but this might become another area where “the perfect is the enemy of the good” takes over, and we spend years enduring the inadequate, “only show the oldest 8 buffs” system while Bliz endlessly tinkers with the UI to enable the perfect ideal system, completing it just in time for D3X3 and Patch 7.1…

    Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Interface


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    1. Totally agree with Wyatt’s comments. But I also agree with Flux, why not both?

      How about make it again easy for the beginning players and useful for the rest of us? Make an option in the menus that we can tick, “show all the buffs”, much like elective mode.

    2. Yeah, that WoW screenshot was borked. Something wiped their settings mid-raid (likely a crash) and re-enabled everything at defaults, so they took a joke screenshot before fixing it all. Yes, I used most or all of these mods at the time the shot was taken (5 years ago or more), just not at the same time on the same character. And I'd love if Diablo would allow UI mods the same way.The default action bar takes up too much space, there's no need for menu buttons, I don't need to know when I have other class buffs I can't control (Inna's auraspam), and trying to teleport or vault towards the camera is pointlessly frustrating. But Blizzard thinks everyone should be forced to deal with the same crap to be "evenly matched" or whatever, so we all suffer.

    3. I wouldn't mind using the entire space above the actionbar, with paragon or level popups above that. Or even tacked around the health/resource globes. SOMETHING!

    4. I agree with Wyatt, too many buffs is visually unappealing and confusing.

      HOWEVER, with all the brilliant minds at Blizzard, and the clear need for some builds to be able to see certain buffs, why have none of them thought of something that resolves the issue while keeping the buffs to a minimum, and the solution is something I dare say they already use every single day.

      Look down below this window… your task bar…. Currently… probably has 5-8 different programs that you’ve decided should be there, you probably don’t have Microsoft Paint on there, even though you know you can open up the start button to view all your programs.

      Why could this not be the same for Diablo 3?

      You’re able to select which 8 buffs take priority, (typically we really only want 5 that we NEED to see). If 5 of your need to see buffs are active, 3 others will show (if you have 3 others).
      IF you decide you need to see ALL your buffs… hold a button, BAM! here they are, nicely shown in a row, just above the current buffs, all 18 of’em.

      You will rarely need to see all your buffs (visual clutter) and now you can see the ones that matter most.

      Why the heck hasn’t this been done? It’s windows 3.1 stuff man!

    5. The proper fix to the ineffective buff bar is a proper hud, ala WoW.

      Other basic ui options should be to toggle visibility of ui components during combat. That the ui has seen minimal improvement in 3+ years is sad.

    6. We had a guy back in the day in wow that was a big time joke a stats wiz and a healing shaman who had a ui that showed like 1/10th of the screen clear of any ui element and the rest was healthbars and buffs. I wish I still had a screen cap he posted.

      • When I played my priest, my screen was pretty full of bars too. All I really needed for my character was enough to see I wasnt standing in the fire.

        When I was on my rogue on the other hand, pretty much all I needed was my hud and everything else was gone.

    7. On a side note they know those priority buffs you need to see why not act on it and force those to be first in the list, put stuff like mantras in the spirit pool ui or something and gold/exp/leg buffs in a seperate area say something around the health globe or something away from the 8 buff limit or whatever it is.

    8. "Diablo development works very much in concert with player feedback, as we have said before, but the priorities are often heavily influenced by our piling on of ever-more legendary powers and all of the ripples of work that come from that. Hope this is interesting for you to know!" It is, but you're making the game slowly crumble under its own weight. What good is all this "stuff" if the game can't reliably communicate what's happening to the players? I'm wondering how the community would welcome a huge no-content, bug and UI fixes, QoL improvements patch.

    9. They are their own worst enemy when it comes to the buff problem to be honest.  I played a barb for the first time last season and was shocked to learn that there is a buff to tell me I have my ancients summoned.  That is in addition to the ancient health bar at the top of the screen where it indicates exactly how many of them you have left.  Like seriously what the hell is the point of that buff icon?  I am certain there are similar buffs across other classes as well that are a complete waste of space.

      • I forgot to say that thanks to this "ancients are active" buff I was unable to see either my gogok stacks or CoE cycle a large proportion of the time.

    10. I know it's a taboo topic around here (for some weird reasons I cannot comprehend), but I hope the devs take a cue from turbohud. E.g., the category 3 buffs can be displayed right on your toon. It is the smartest solution I've seen so far, and I know it's used in other games. The example I'll give is Rain of Vengeance with nats. It is very difficult to get a reliable 2:1 or 3:1 little dance going, because obviously you need to react to what's around you first and foremost, and it's not a given that you're always hitting enemies to trigger the nats, etc. The RoV timer right on your character means you see when the cooldown is up. So, yeah.

    11. WoW is nearly impossible w/o some UI mods. Hell, personally, WoW was impossible w/o mouseover targeting, which you had to write macros for yourself, b/c the game was too stupid to set that up as a default. Anyway, the point is that addons were one of the best, most important innovations in WoW and MMO history. And now Blizz is trying to handcuff themselves and their players by trying to micromanage everything, when the players know what the want more often than the developers think they know what the players want. Let the players handle their UI, and things just go better.

      • That's really the problem here, and it's a holdover from the bad old days. "I want my grandma to be able to play Diablo" can suck it, players know what they want and need to see and there's no reason at all to keep us from doing so.

    12. This is literally again a case of Blizzard not wanting to do something but them eventually caving in and doing it. It's just INFURIATING they are saying the same things for years. This has been a complaint since the game was released with only a small fix go raise the cap of visible buffs which even back then was still overwhelmed if I recall correctly. People have put out so many easy solutions to solve this and they don't do a damn thing. Simply having an option to enable all buffs to be visible, prioritizing the order of the buffs that are visible, god anything. They say they want people to play together. I don't want to play with anyone at the moment because half the time my archon info is MIA. Sigh. Frustrating.

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