Blizzard’s 180 on Death Penalties

A fan used the Death page in to locate a 2010 Bashiok quote about death penalties in Diablo III, which runs in opposition to the higher repair costs added in v1.0.3. The old quote:

Taking gold away from people, or taking a full level of experience away, yeah, that’s a wake up call. It’s also the quickest way to get someone to uninstall the game. A very select few people will put up with something like that. It’s fine in Diablo II because gold has almost no use, but imagine if it did. You’d be encouraged through the mechanic to grind in easier areas where you’re sure you couldn’t die just so you could earn gold safely. That sounds terrible. Without a gold penalty you can play the content you want to play and meanwhile you’re finding items and amounts of gold that are relevant. That sounds like fun.

Here’s what the fan said about that, and Bashiok’s reply:

Quote taken from October 2010… What changed? Why are you guys such hypocrites? Honestly… Repair costs are through the roof. I just finally killed azmodan inferno last night and I am right back at farming act 1 because the repair bill in act 3/4 is IMPOSSIBLE to keep up with as a melee class. I’m a 60 monk that can solo the entire game… but I can’t even make enough gold just PLAYING to pay for my repair costs? I don’t even usually die, and if I do it’s only like 1-2 times per HOUR.

Bashiok is the community manager, and basically our only direct link to the design team. It is safe to say that at one point, they held the view that when you die you shouldn’t be penalized (financially) for it. As of 1.03 dying can cost you anywhere from around 4-8k depending on your gear’s iLVL….

So I beg the question… Why the 180 degree turn in philosophy?
Bashiok: I remember writing that! That was on the old forums? Yeah at the time we wanted to avoid any and all costs to death, expect maybe the time to run back. At the time we thought there could be some other solution, or the game just may play better, by not having any ‘cost’ penalties to death.

Obviously after a lot of play testing that didn’t happen, and we added a durability loss (ie gold cost) to death sometime pre-beta. The cost we chose at the time ended up being far less impactful than we anticipated, so it was increased in 1.0.3. As we added a cost to death (durability loss) in between when I wrote that (2010) and the release of the game, I think calling it a change of direction is a bit late. We definitely made a huge increase to the death penalty we shipped with, though.

In any case, we’re going to see how the repair cost reductions in the 1.0.3a patch tomorrow work out, and keep an eye on it. Give it a shot and let us know what you think after tomorrow.

You increased the repair cost to hedge inflation in the gold market because you failed to roll out commodity trading on the RMAH at the same time as gear trading. As such gold is now worthless and equivalent gear on the GAH compared to the RMAH is now 10x+ the gold cost it was originally.
Bashiok: Nah, good/careful players won’t be spending that much more. At least not enough to suddenly make for an inflation-less economy. There are people still able to rack up tons of gold. I personally haven’t noticed any big shifts in the GAH prices since 1.0.3, which if its goal was to balance the market it seems like it’d make some impact.

Three thoughts:

  1. I thought their old theory of zero DiabloWikideath penalties even in softcore was a dumb idea, so I’m not unhappy with the change in philosophy.
  2. I’m not upset about the higher repair costs now, since they don’t really begin to matter until Inferno, which is, after all, supposed to be hard (though not impossible).
  3. Nor do I mind the general principle of Blizzard changing their minds on a game design feature, after testing it out and seeing that it wasn’t working as hoped. In fact, there are quite a few other game design theories I hope they experience similar 180s on. Or at least like, 90s.

So, I guess I’m totally on board with Bashiok here. I am such a sell out. Bobby-lover! Any of you guys disagree with points 1-3? Or do you agree in priciple, but differ on the execution of the repair costs change? (Pending v1.0.3a modifications, obviously.)

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Economy, End Game, Items


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  1. Bashiok could say the sky is green one minute and then say it is purple one minute afterwards and defend both vigorously. (Of course fanbois would agree with him both times.) It is his job to uphold whatever Blizzard’s decision of the moment is.

    ” ‘Equipped items will now take “wear-and-tear” durability damage at half the previous rate.’ ” This about face by Blizzard is in direct response to the folks who will stand up to Blizzard and tell them an aspect of the game is bad. Left up to the fanbois (rather than true game fans) things would have been left unchanged.

    • Nah.

      Wear and tear was a little out of hand because even if you played perfectly, simply smashing barrels would incur significant costs.

      The death repair costs is the focal point of current whining, and this is yet unchanged (thought i think it will be eased slightly soon enough).

      180 =/= 360

  2. Obviously a significant gold sink was necessary to slow down inflation. You’re missing the funnier part of Bashiok’s post, though:

    “You’d be encouraged through the mechanic to grind in easier areas where you’re sure you couldn’t die just so you could earn gold safely. That sounds terrible.”

    Yes. Terrible.

  3. To be fair, this kind of change of direction is practically unavoidable during a long development period. You make your best guess at how it should be, develop the software, and then try it out.

    Some things work perfectly according to plan. Others … do not. So would you prefer the development team stick with a bad idea in order to be ‘consistent’ or try to iterate & improve?

    With respect to this particular issue (death penalty), I don’t have a strong opinion on the ‘right’ way to do it. Certainly there should be some penalty or inconvenience in dying. I think the D3 dev team was pretty peeved that their ‘unbelievably hard’ Inferno level was defeated so quickly in softcore with artless zerg tactics.

    I found recovering my character’s body in DII to be an OK penalty most of the time. If you happened to be rushing a bit and not killing all the mosters, though, it could get very hairy. You’d have to sneak back a potentially long way from the nearest waypoint to your body with no good armor or weapon – likely leading to another death. Which wouldn’t have mattered much except you were losing experience points each time which was maddening.

    I liked how Torchlight handled it.

  4. You earn less gold in less dangerous areas, obviously. There’s two reasons for this repair cost anti-fix:

    Because people were doing what you’d call graveyard zerging, and they have zero gold sinks in the game.

    This is not the place to put in a gold sink. Not when you’re just trying to progress through the game. They went way overboard on the repair cost inflation. I agreed that it needed to be raised (and was flamed nonsensically on the forums for suggesting it) but this is just ridiculous.

    • Well I agree with everything you just said. I mean 3k – 4k was nothing but having to repair 20k+ in inferno is just plain BS. I think they needa lower it a lot but not to much where we are back to where we started.

    • Not even close. I’d be fine if they raised the gold cost of dying 2 to 3 times more. What is “ridiculous” is casual noobs moaning that a more hardcore PC game discourages the player suiciding on mobs. But i guess that’s what happens when Blizzard first tries to adhere to said casual noobs via idiotic gamedesign like meaningless death penalties.

      • I want to play a video game, not feel like I have a second job. I am what you call a “casual noob,” though I have been gaming since Atari. I have maybe 6-10 hours a week to play this game and that’s pushing it. I liked being able to get someplace in D2 after a month of playing. That is not possible in this game unless you use the RMAH or get exceptionally lucky. I don’t have the time it would take to farm the millions of gold for upgrades let alone frequent inferno repair costs. I am stuck in act 2, inferno and am completely broke. I refuse to pay real money for items, and I find gold farming about as fun as banging two rocks together.

        • Well thats exactly the attitude we have today in our society.
          Everyone wants everything, but don’t want to put any effort in it.

          I am sorry … imo … if you don’t have to time, the will or the skill to finish or play the game … don’t.
          No everyone has to accomplish everything and that’s actually a good thing!

          There has to be a difference between someone who spends the whole day playing the game and yourself!!
          There just has to be … otherwise playing the whole day is worthless!

          (For the record … i am in the same position as you are … i have grown up, have job/wife which limits the time a can play … but i don’t complain because i choose my priorities MYSELF)

          • Playing the whole day SHOULD be worthless. Encouraging teens to play D3 (or anything else for that matter) for 16 hours straight isn’t a very healthy way to run a society.

          • Thanks Dad! Actually, playing a video game the whole day IS worthless. A wortless waste of time, because in a year or less an expansion or patch will come out making all of the time spent farming gear worthless. The only thing you will accomplish is making Blizzard richer by supporting this POS game. And “for the record” if you make a video game a priority over your wife and kids you’re either a bad father or you’re lying about actually having a wife and kids.

          • I never said I have kids, nor did I say I have time to play the whole day, nor did I encourage anyone to play the whole day.
            What I did say is, that there has to be a difference between “casual” and “hardcore” players!

            You would never complain to miss a few episodes of a running series if you didn’t take to time to whatch all of them!
            But you do complain that you want to experience all the content of a video-game and feel like a hero without the time and efford that is needed to do that —> it’s just not possible / or shouldn’t be possible.

      • Yadda yadda yadda, you’re so awesome, blah blah blah.
        These types of posts are getting really tiring.

        • “wah, i think it’s a huge waste of time playing games yet for some reason i’m a complete hypocrit and i stumbled to end of this more hardcore game anyways but i’m completely casual and i love farmville and angry birds so i feel completely entitled to this game but i’m a total noob and i have no idea how or why to play but that’s ok even though i die a lot and i have the mentality of a 5 year old child so i must whine about it that the game doesn’t completely give people that fail at games and life a free ticket to all of the content, waaaaaah”

          That’s what’s tiring.

          Also i never said i think i’m awesome because i’m not a casual noob, stop being so butthurt by the truth you big baby.

  5. this quote was taken from the days when new bliz was bashing old bliz as much as possible. i remember back then every quote seemed to put down D2 in some way or another. never fully understood why they felt the need to bash D2 as much as they did and with all the hate out there for D3 right now i bet the old dev team is laughing it up big time

  6. Trivial problems at best for those who really know this game.

    You make money @ 150 – 200k per day by playing it casual as early as Hell Act 4.

    • Indeed, and if repeating this style of gold grinding for hours over several days/weeks/months just to pay your repair bills aligns with your definition of fun, then apparently D3 is your game. There are other notions of that term floating around though, one keeps hearing.

  7. For me, the problem is that in a separate post recently, they said they’re OK with monsters being so hard that you can’t possibly kill them and either die or restart the game. I don’t really agree with that, but if that’s their stance, then you can’t also make an extreme death penalty at the same time.

    • Since when is dying 10 times at a cost of 40k “extreem” when you still have 100k+ net?

      Certainly in a game where players can play hardcore and loose it all ???

    • TBH that bit about restarting your game because it decided to put in mega monster X in your way being fine is stupid.

      As for death penalties well there’s always a sweet spot for these things that needs to be worked out (Softcore only).

  8. It’s funny how in their quest to eliminate any chances of character progression failure for the player (through accessability features like auto-attributes, no skill-lockdowns, hidden elective mode, hardcore mode not for your first character, etc.) they forgot – or even manifested – the possibility of failure through bankruptcy. When all your gear is deep red/useless and you’re out of money, there’s a choice to make: Either punch your way back to 30k gold for a repair or give up.

    In fact, there are, of course, some other ways – alts if you have them, partial repairs if you know how OR buying replacement gear/gold from …”alternative currencies”… but neither of those are as apparent/convinient as other fail safe mechanics present in the game.

    Yet, it’s the closest thing to failure you have in softcore. Blizz tinkering with that may indicate a paradigm shift to some degree. Not the very first one we see during D3’s developement, for sure.

    • Well it is possible if you keep dying without farming any where else, but it will be unlikely to happen due to most people giving up in disgust before then.

    • Here’s an idea. ANTICIPATE!!!
      How fucking hard is it to notice your gear isn’t in top notch condition and the gold in your bank is getting dangerously low. Jezus fucking christ, people that manage to bankrupt in this game without seeing a simple way back into the game should quit playing games and possibly life, there’s just no hope for them left.

  9. Repair costs are fine, but the durability loss from normal play is too high. I doubt that cutting it in half is sufficient: it should just me removed. All the constant wear-and-tear does is make you pay a fee for wearing good items. It cuts into your gold farming for no good reason.

    The game would honestly be fine even if they removed durability altogether. There already is a gold sink in the game: crafting. If the price of items continues to rise due to inflation, they would eventually level out as people weigh cost of buying an item vs the cost of crafting one. The problem is the need for crafting materials as well.

    If they did want to do something about gold, I’d like to see them simply increase the gold fee on the auction house. Of course, this could lead to chat trading to circumvent the fee, but it’s easy enough to implement a tax on trading as well.

  10. sounds like I agree with Flux here

    you need death penalties, and IMHO they should be pretty harsh, otherwise what’s the point?

    D3 is too item-centric drop gear on death like back in the day (even D2 only dropped gear in HC)

    but I approve of both XP and gold cost penalties (D3 however is not designed to support xp penalties tho)

    I do think the dev’s and CM’s could be more transparent and honest however, sure they might change their opinions and ideas along the way, but stop defending them like the bible every step of the way then if you know that you could change yer mind at any point

  11. Dear Diablo 3 Losers! I mean Players.

    STFU and keep farming gold and using RMAH.

    RMAH – Inferno dreams come true!

  12. I think death penalty should be doubled for dying (not for fighting though, so they would need halve durability loss again), not reduced. Softcore is massively forgiving after patch even with higher costs. I have no idea how anyone has issues, considering how much they nerfed the game (40-75% damage reduction depending on mob/affix). If your dying a lot, just go back 1 act, or fix your playstyle/gear. And yes, changing out 1-2 skills can make all the difference. I used to think some of my builds were good, then I picked up 1 new skill and I got twice as strong. I promise you anyone dying a lot isn’t running a good build/is totally glass cannon/playing very stupidly. If you run a hardcore inferno build, and play like hardcore you will never die as long as your not getting 1 shot. And you can still take risks, because hey it’s SC and paying 6k for a death is nothing as long as your not chain dying.

    I literally quit softcore completely after patch because the whole game became faceroll on my Monk and DH. You CANT DIE anymore if you have gear, even in a DPS spec as a melee class. And I helped a monk friend gear out. He spent less then 2 million gold, and got to the point where he facerolled Act 2, and could do Act 3. I can’t see how people can complain about the game being harder after the patch. It basically got 2x easier for everyone but 100% glass cannon ranged.

  13. I don’t know why people are crying about repair costs. Even with the wear-and-tear incurring a cost of 5k an hour, or 10k whatever. Monsters are dropping crazy amounts of gold just with NV and nothing else. I’m talking piles of 1000, 1200, even 1400 gold in a single drop in inferno act 1, and that was not a rare occurrence. I was picking up literally 10k gold per zone when I was farming through A3 hell, and that doesn’t factor the huge amount of rares that we get now with the 1.0.3 style of NV. which can be vendored at like 500-1000g each.

  14. The OP is clearly a moron, and didn’t even deserve a reply from Blizzard.
    Who calls someone a hypocrite, and then goes on to contradict themselves?

    First post:
    “Why are you guys such hypocrites? Honestly… Repair costs are through the roof”.
    Second post:
    “As such gold is now worthless”.

    AW OKAY.
    Too much repair cost!
    My gawlds is so useless! I don’t know what to do with it, so I just leave it sitting in the stash! Can’t afford top end iLvl63 items!

    • There are other possible gold sinks then repair costs, I think players would be far more willing to accept a positive rather then negative gold sink. Rather then paying to avoid something bad(a negative gold sink) do you then pay to get something good, like for example very expensive potions who temporary increase movement speed, expensive enchanting that gives properties not otherwise available or paying a few millions to get a socket in an item that normally can’t have one.

  15. I has a suggestion.
    Death counter.
    Just like Nephalem Valour, have a stacking debuff every time you die with a 45 second cooldown for it to reset.
    First death = olden-style 2k repairs.
    Second stack = typical 4k repairs.
    Third stack = 8k repair
    Fourth stack = 16k repair.
    For a total of 30k repairs if you die four times in a short duration.
    (Or something similar to the above effect).

    So if you are death zerging an elite mob, then you’re gonna get hit in the wallet; but essentially it’s still doable.

    But if you chill out and take a minute to contemplate what you can do differently to beat the bad guy, then it’s only gonna be 2k every time you give it a go.

    • Sounds a plan, im with you!

    • And what would you do differently? You start pressing the mouse to hit the monster? If they want to make the economy (and I’m by no means an expert) how about making some of the useless stuff like pages of this or that and tomes of this or that worth something? And why does everyone think gold is worthless? I guess I don’t understand inflation. do you have 50M gold taking up space or something? Help a brother out over here. I’ll put that stuff to real good use.

      I honestly think Blizz and its fanbase are in a real sick, co-dependent relationship. Its not looking good. Why the heck would they charge us thousands for death (and that article is not the only source of their hypocrisy, there was the article how they weren’t going to have experience point penalties too- pointing to not having death hurt us that much) when they make a level that they know we die in…a lot. How about items are unrepairable and eventually you just have to get/craft new equipment? Now there’s an idea.

  16. My only problems with the change lie in two facets: Avoidable Death and Risk vs. Reward.

    On Death Penalties, for them to encourage good gameplay, death has to feel “avoidable” and a player’s ability to avoid death has to be in their hands. I normally farm in A2 at least and often A3. The problem is that damage is so high, and Demon Hunters are so squishy, and enemies take so long to kill, death is literally inevitable on 50% of the packs at least. My gear is pretty great, but the idea of being “fodder” because of ridiculous enemy mods (Hi Fast, Reflects Damage, Horde Demonic Tremors!) or because I simply can’t put out enough damage to kill the extra health / Shielding mobs before running out of discipline / prep cd’s feels like the difficulty is out of my hands and up to some RNG, which makes death feel cheap and unsatisfying.

    On the risk vs. reward, I spend much of my time Farming A3 (when I do play, which is very little now) and the problem there is that A3 doesn’t drop more gold than A1 or A2. The enemies have like twice as many hps, but the gold income is about the same, or maybe even less. So you have a harder area, with harder mobs that take longer to kill and have a higher chance of killing you, and yet they don’t drop any more gold?

    One thing about Bashiok’s old comment rings true. The feeling of having to go back to farm easy content you outgear just to get gold to repair or recoup losses sustained from farming “progression” content is absolutely not fun in any way shape or form.

    D3 needs gold sinks, but in the current state of the game this isn’t a very satisfying one. If they wanted gold to leave the economy, the preferred method should have been the crafters. But those were lacklustre when death wasn’t so punitive. Now, I don’t see why anyone would make anything other than 6 mod gloves…

  17. It is nice to see Blizzard changing their opinion when they were so fundamentally wrong to begin with.

    Higher repair costs are great. Should just have been there at release.

  18. Flux, let’s not forget your 180 turn close to D3’s release. However in reality, I don’t even think you beat A1 in inferno with any character. You probably play the game for a couple hours a week at most.

    Compare your first month play time with D2 days. Then you can continue praising D3 for whatever reason 😉

    • You assume a lot.

      But Diablo started at a time when EVERYONE was excited just to be able to SEE someone on the internet playing the same game …

      D1 and D2 were pre MMO kind of games that would not stand 1 week playing time IF released right now to NEW players.

      D3 is a post MMO kind of game and it is odd that old nostalgic D lovers don’t see it.

      • The matter is not seeing or not seeing, but preference.

        I’m a huge Diablo I and II nut, and I’ve already mostly stopped playing DIII. I’m bored out of my skull. It’s not interesting or fun enough to keep me going. I don’t feel any progression. There’s no end goal. There’s no feeling of accomplishment. Old time Diablo fans aren’t all stupid and nostalgic – we’re simply sad that a great single player experience with optional multiplayer has changed into an MMO-light.

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