There are two simple reactions to the fact that many features have been iterated, re-iterated, and de-iterated back to their starting point during Diablo III’s development. The first is that it demonstrates the importance of debating the pros and cons of various features, since the devs are clearly open to changing their plans through testing. The second is that there’s no point in paying any real attention to whatever they say right now, since they’ll probably say the opposite next month/week/year.

    We’ve seen numerous examples of this over the past few years of D3, as things like attributes, the town portal, character customization options, etc changed repeatedly. Most recently we got Bashiok explaining why public chat channels were not in D3 and would be a terrible feature, two days before he confirmed that they were in D3 and would be a good thing for communication and community building.

    Basically, it’s the job of Blizzard’s CMs to defend whatever is (currently) in the game. Which is fine, but when you know they will (and often have) argued just as passionately for the converse, it can be hard to take their words seriously. That said, here are several recent CM-penned defenses of the lack of character customization/permanence in D3. They’re all long, so here’s the start of a recent Bashiok thread. Click through for the rest of it and two MOAR on similar topics.

    Good read CloudAtlas. I don’t know if I agree with all of it, and I think it’s probably just too complicated to try to label these things, but some fun theories. You also of course left out the teeming masses of players who don’t fall into the groups you described.

    What I wanted to address was one of the responses though, because I see this point still being made a lot:

    D3 has been stripped of all character development choices. Thus any pride you take in developing your character (either min/max or non-) is gone.
    It has exactly the same character development choices it’s always had, so that clearly can’t be true.

    What’s changed? Well, let’s throw away ‘permanent choice’. I can argue against permanent choice and then you back down and say “No no, it doesn’t need to be permanent, just meaningful, like some price to respec”. So let’s focus on that…

    What about a cost to respec makes the character development choices more meaningful? I mean actually meaningful and not just restrictive? You can say that making it difficult to change them makes them more meaningful, but that’s a logical fallacy. If I could, with the wave of a magic car wand, have any car in the world that I wanted, would that reduce the importance of the one I choose? I may enjoy some cars more than others, I may like their physical appearances, I may prefer one over another for performance reasons, but does that make my choice less impactful? Furthermore does it feel good to realize “Actually I don’t like this car, can I choose a different one?” and being charged to do so (or told no in the case of permanence).

    Why is my ability to choose what I want, when I want, a devaluation of the personal decisions that I make? They’re my decisions. They’re personal. I can choose a build because I love one specific skill and my build is based to support that one skill. How does it devalue that, my choice, if I can then decide I don’t like it any more, and try something else? Why do I need to be punished to enjoy the game?

    This is, as always, discounting itemization as a meaningful form of character customization.

    While the immediate experience of saying ‘fack, I screwed up there’ is not pleasant, there is not necessarily anything wrong with something negative happening to the player in the game. Like anything, making mistakes with negative repercussions is what makes us learn, adapt and improve; because we don’t want that to happen again. Games are lacking that more and more these days, with everything amounting to having your hand-held and never hitting the wall of your errors and stopping to assess what you are doing wrong.

    Sure a player won’t like being ‘punished’, but having learned from that ‘punishment’, the next time out when they have increased their knowledge and improved – the feeling of satisfaction the player will get is more rewarding than just being on cruise control and being taken care of.
    This is all assuming that out of the billions of combinations available to your character you’ll pick your skills, die, say A ha! and know exactly how to fix it. With that many choices, which very much include itemization, is it believed you’ll just think “Well I think I need more mana regen because I’m running out.” replacing one of the only 6 skills you have available to you, and that actually working and now you have the perfect character? If so, you hit the jackpot and should go buy a lottery ticket. The tuning of character builds, experimentation, and sheer amount of options and super limited amount of choices you can make … It feels like people think they can just throw anything together, with any items, and be successful. Or worse yet, throw something together, fail, and believe they’ll know the absolute right answer to solve it.

    I realize some people want a time investment attached to that experimentation, but that’s just not something we agree with. There are ways we can still provide ‘street cred’ without impacting core game systems integral to the enjoyment to everyone that picks up the game.

    “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
    — Theodore Roosevelt

    Good old Teddy! Unfortunately what we’re talking about here is a video game, and not you actually improving yourself through your efforts in a form of entertainment.

    I’m sure he’d love playing Diablo III … after a hard day at work of effort, pain, and difficulty. I will too.

    Bashiok, I’m sorry, but if you don’t understand that every game (video or otherwise) is defined by its rules, its restrictions and the punishments you receive when you break them, then you don’t belong in the gaming industry.
    Well I’m not a designer let’s be clear, but I’ve many times stated that games are defined by their limitations, so we’re on the same page there.

    This discussion isn’t about the need of rules or not, it’s about placing them appropriately and using them wisely where they make sense. There are inherent rules that make the Diablo game what it is. It has a fixed camera, you have to click on enemies, they have randomized chances to drop items, through the various rules of skills and the limitations of how many you can have there are fun and interesting choices as to how you want to approach combat. The game is full of rules and limitations … it’s that punishment part we don’t really agree with nearly as much as some people.

    We have a gold cost for dying, which is actually fairly significant, but that’s about as far as we go for being punishing. What should happen is you should be tested and rewarded for your ability to kill enemies, get items, and not die. That makes sense to us, and for this game.

    A fan quoted Bashiok’s recent post about D3 vs. D2 features, took the “broken” part out of context, and started a thread in which Daxxarri did all he could to defend D3’s lack of character customization/permanence.

    Bashiok are you honestly saying most changes were made with the team agreeing that the mechanics were broken?
    Are you really taking a single sentence out of the entire post out of context, and basing a large response post with an erroneous premise of your own on it?

    We all subscribed to the idea that in an RPG you build a character, there’s an investment in those choices, and that makes the game fun. We do not believe that to be true for these two games any longer, it may make total sense for another game, but for ours it does not.
    Sure, what that statement applies to specifically is that stat allocation in past games wasn’t really customization. It boiled down to a decision between a ‘right choice’ and a ‘wrong choice’. It was only (arguably) fun for those who made the right choice. Realistically, most players who made the ‘right’ choice only really knew it was the right choice because they were copying something they read elsewhere. Players who made the ‘wrong’ choice had a character that was less effective. So, playing ‘correctly’ wasn’t really rewarded, and playing ‘incorrectly’ was punished, severely and without much recourse.

    In the end, it wasn’t really customization, it was the illusion of customization that amounted to a narrow pathway with a sheer drop off on either side.

    But how is it true for skill choices? There weren’t just a right and wrong answer for skill choices in D2, but in D3 any sense of building your character through the choices of skills seems to have gone out of the window.
    I dislike real world analogies, but try this one on for size:

    “That’s like saying because you can change clothing, that assembling an outfit goes out the window.”

    When you’re choosing skills, runes (and yes, there are choices as you unlock more and more of them), and gear, you’re assembling them toward a cohesive whole. While you’ll be free to change, that doesn’t mean that you’ll want to. The customization is there, but the sense of a whole ‘thing’ is there too. Much as you would change, for example, the jacket you’re wearing with an outfit, you might swap a single skill, or change some runes around, but you can still arrive at something that works.

    All we want is some slight punishment to make you stick with decisions a little more.
    Hrm. Why?

    Why is the permanence of those decisions important to you?

    Because permanence makes those decisions meaningful ways to define your character.
    Why isn’t the way you play your character, in itself, and including the flexibility of selecting the right tools for the job, more meaningful than arbitrarily permanent choices? Because everyone would play the same way?

    Would they? Would they not ‘spec’ the same way, if that way is truly optimal? What’s the conclusion here?

    Finally, Bashiok leapt into a thread where a fan was lamenting the loss of early experimentation with variant builds. These are no longer possible since skill runes were removed as item types. Now you can only try out the various rune effects once they become available at Clvl 34, or 45, or 52, or whenever, rather than as soon as you find the runes and the base skills are available. So yeah, most of the varied builds will still be supported, but not until much higher levels, where the difficulty will be (obviously) a lot steeper.

    Farewell Ice Wizard, You Shall Be Missed!

    And Rocket Demon Hunter. And other themed builds.

    I’m one of those players who loves leveling ‘themed’ classes, and the two I had set my little birdy heart on were a rocket themed DH using the ‘Bombardment’ rune among others, and an ice themed Wizard using, among others, an ice runed Meteor and Hydra.

    So finally checked the skill tool with the updated requirements.
    ‘Comet’ (Ice Meteor) requires Level 50.
    ‘Frost Hydra’ requires Level 50+
    ‘Bombardment’ requires level 50+.

    This means that I won’t even so much as be able to try my theme builds until mid->late Hell, in which case they are unlikely to work due to min/maxing. Leveling them was the part I was most looking forward to.

    Am I the only one sad about not being able to level as a theme build?

    Bashiok: Personally I rather like it. It’s a restriction that feels rewarding when you get there, but doesn’t require anything but continued progression. Plus there’s going to be so many options unlocking while leveling I think it’ll make me probably try some things I otherwise wouldn’t have. Now that we have all the new systems in I’m going to start from the beginning as soon as I get home, and hope to share more about how systems work for me personally beyond level 13.

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