Blizzard’s Philosophy on Retroactive Item Changes

In addition to adding new Legendary Items (mostly Seasonal) and adding new Legendary Affixes to existing Legendary Items (mostly non-Seasonal), they’ve been tweaking Item Set bonuses. The biggest difference between those changes is that the new legendary properties on orange items require players to find that new item, but the changes to Sets (greens) are retroactive.

Some players appreciate this, since the changes to sets can be used right away, but others don’t like their existing gear/builds being affected retroactively, so there’s been debate over the issue. Today a Blue leapt in to offer an official verdict. Here’s Blizzard’s Philosophy on Retroactive Item Changes:

We’re very careful about retroactive changes. We try our utmost to avoid them, especially because we know some folks get attached to their build. However, in cases where the gameplay can be genuinely improved, there are exceptions we’re willing to make.

Her "pre-coffee form."

Neva’s “pre-coffee form.”

Set items are one of those exceptions, particularly because of their “sticking power.” Once you get a full set, you’re very reluctant to move away from it, because it did take time to acquire and put together. On the flip side of that is putting in a new version of the set, which then requires players to reacquire it all over again. It also doesn’t solve issues that are created by sets with unhealthy gameplay. When defining unhealthy gameplay as something that’s either unengaging or legitimately painful (emotionally or physically) to play, it’s something we need to address.

Both the Sunwuko and Marauder’s changes fall under that category of unhealthiness, though for different reasons. We want gameplay to be engaging (which Marauder’s wasn’t accomplishing) and enjoyable to play (which Sunwuko’s offered, but in a way that was physically painful to execute).

These changes are both quality of life fixes, though it may be hard to discern that at a glance. Marauder’s still revolves around Sentries, but now in how they make you better and more powerful. Sunwuko’s is still the set where you generate clones, but now they make your spenders more powerful. The path on how we accomplish those goals has changed, but the intent is to make sure that the level of power is the same (or better), even if the journey there is a little different.

The OP in that thread goes on about how Marauder’s is ruined… and then updates after he tried it on the PTR to admit that it’s actually much improved. But still…!

The Blue alludes to it, but along with discouraging hoarding, I think there’s a pretty obvious issue with logistics that ties into the way they’re making new single item Legendaries require finding, vs. Item Sets getting retroactively changed. When it’s just one item, it’s not hard to find the new one, and in (almost) every case the legendary items getting a new Legendary Affix didn’t have one before. So it’s not like someone was using Gungdo Gear bracers for their old affix, and will be put out by the new buff to Exploding Palm on them. Those bracers were just a stat stick before.

That’s very different with Item Sets. They all had existing bonuses (some of them admittedly not very special), so while the changes thus far are all buffs, they’re also changes that require lots of items to unlock. It would suck for players to have to re-find all 4 or 5 or 6 pieces of a set to get the new bonus, and it would be confusing with two different versions of the same set floating around. How would players tell them apart? Different names? Would sets provide both bonuses at once, if you had 3 of the old and 3 of the new, plus a DiabloWikiRoRG?

So what do you guys think of the way Blizzard is implementing the legendary item changes/improvements? I’m all for retroactive changes on Sets, since all the changes so far have been tweaks and improvements. If Blizzard ever totally changed how a set worked and it was a mandatory benefit via retroactive, that would obviously be much more open to debate/complaint. Agree or disagree?


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  1. Makes sense and I have no problems with the set changes.

    Re-guarding Legendary item changes:

    The Sash of Knives change was still an epic fail though. The legacy version is far and away better for any character using FOK, and since the game is all about damage, that extra 40-50% damage boost on the legacy item was huge. The new affix is totally outclassed by the Legendary Gems and therefore useless. There are belts for Barbs and Witchdoctors with bonuses to specific skills for those classes so what do they do? they take a belt that was DH centric and they ruin it……

    Epic Fail.

  2. The first DH change was a buff. The second (that I don't think they did yet) is a massive nerf. The Barb thing? Massive nerf. No idea about Monks.

    So I'm divided between wanting more frequent changes and dreading what we do get.

  3. I don't particularly dislike that they don't retro old-item, since I'm usually just pleased to see legendaries get an actual legendary property (which they all should have BY NOW, btw). But tbh it does seem like a poor design philosophy.

    It's like 1) they say they don't want people hoarding. Why? Isn't that my damn choice? And basically that's them admitting that most of the items are sh!t since the ONLY reason you'd 'hold' on to an item is because it's clearly currently bad (otherwise you'd be using it) and you're hoping that some time in the near future it will actually be useful (which is not an unreasonable hope to have about a game, I might add). Which is just a mindbogglingly poor game design philosophy: Here Are Some Items That We Know Are Useless. Why are they even there??!

    2) and it can only cause more problems than it can solve, since it often leaves Legacy items, which just creates hoarding 'issues', the very thing they're trying to avoid.

    All-in-all the annoying part is that there's seems to be very little reason to NOT retro, apart from creating artificial longevity by forcing people to farm more, and because of their oft quoted and pretty bizarre philosophy of "we don't want players to feel weaker when they log back on." Who. Cares. ?! That's what you DO as a Game Designer; you adjust the game to make it better, for god's sake (and in fact they actually do this, which makes the philosophy even more bizarre) Sometimes I can't even…

    p.s. I wish you guys had formatting for these posts, because I really wanted that Italics button for this one.

    • Yeah really.

      "We don't want people logging in weaker."

      "Let's nerf every classes One True Set, which every character in existence uses."

      I imagine there is no actual Diablo 3 team and someone is in there writing fanfiction and making it a reality. That's the only explanation for this level of incoherence.

  4. What about fixing legs? e.g. Rimeheart?

  5. Funny the "painful" part. How playing a game can be painful…
    What I find the most painful is the have to launch a spell every 2 seconds to ensure to keep the Taeguk buff up but they said they want active gameplay (the result is the change of M6).

  6. Taeguk is for channeling spells like tempest rush, strafe, rapid fire, disintegrate, ray of frost, whirlwind, bats, …

    • I use it with wave of light or lashing tail kick and keep it up with sweeping wind so it does not work only with channelling skills.

  7. And if you want to keep it up between packs/next level rift you have to correctly spam spells.

    Taeguk has tons of stacks. One group will give you 10 stacks out of what ? 50 +?
    Its impossible to get that up high with just channeling once.

    It should be increased by at least 1 second or the amount of stacks halved but doubled in power.

  8. "On the flip side of that is putting in a new version of the set, which then requires players to reacquire it all over again."

    No , what they are saying is "we do not want anyone holding on to the old Marauder set "

  9. Considering how Blizzard has pulled a 180° turn on most decisions that marked a difference from D2 so far, I'd be very reluctant to speak of design "philosophies". "Exception-ridden general tendencies" or "vague guidelines for until something better pops up", "retroactive excuses for quirky design mishaps because nobody cared" – all better ways to describe D3's game direction and communication thereof, I'm afraid.

  10. french canadian so sorry if i makes grammar error lol

    There is one thing i dont like about not going retroactive on some item…I have a fist of aszaturasq (something like that) that i used as a old school zpds monk (you know , with % to skill not weapon damage)

    They needed to change it …100% agreed with that… But when they changed it , they didnt rolled it back to the original state it was… I have reduce cool down on it , and i dont even remember what i removed for it..since i was zpds i might have removed 10% weapon damage… now its 100% useless!! If you changed a weapon/item because of a buildm the least you can do is to roll back the item to original state(keep the mats i will farm more thats it..) but right now the item is garbage ….

  11. I am on the fence with retro upgrading sets.

    Nice to see fixes and upgrades on items if you are a non-seasonal player.

    Does seem to take from the allure of playing seasons though if you can just fill up your stash and wait till the item is good.

    Legacy items were a terrible idea. Free upgrades on so many items at a time just seems like a handout. No need to item hunt with new content, just do it now and wait.

    I think item/set fixes should be done more as hot fixes over time when needed, not as major patch all at once dumps that come wrapped up with a bow like its new content.

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