Diablo 3 Build Diversity Issues

Diablo 3 Build Diversity and support for variants is a common issue of debate in the Diablo 3 community. Though recent patches have done quite a bit to buff up underused skills, most players would still like to see more variety and more “viable” styles of play.

Game punishes you for being different.

Sure not all the skills can be equal but if you don’t pick exactly the cookie cutter build of the moment you simply suffer in terms of performance. In what universe do you have a skill that does 1000% damage (Cloud of Bats) for 66 mana and not expect every single WD to jump on it?

I’m sick of trying to have a different kind of build, im sick of being punished for not wanting the same build as everyone else. Build diversity is joke in this game.
Grimiku: Thank you for your feedback! Build diversity is a big topic, and something we’re always interested in hearing about. I think there will always be a build that yields the highest performance, but the question is about the variance. Do you feel that there are no builds even close to the Cloud of Bats build(s)?

Before we address the larger issue, it’s instructive to consider those quaint things called um… facts. Through the beauty of stat sites such as our own Diablo3Ladders.com, you can quickly see exactly how popular each skill is. Thus do I learn that Firebats: Cloud of Bats is the 14th most popular WD skill, with a burn rate of 15.6% (Zombie Bears is #1, and 250% more popular.) That’s in softcore, though. For HC Witch Doctors, Cloud of Bats is only #22, with 5.7% usage. (Since it’s a short range attack, making it hazardous to deploy in HC.) In either event, it’s very far from “every single WD” as the OP’s hyperbole claimed, and WDs actually have about the most build diversity of any class. (Barbs have the least since the WW/Sprint/WotB build is so overpowered.)

That aside, the issue of viable build diversity and variety is a big one, and many of the questions you guys submitted last week touched on it. As I mentioned in Diablo 3 Fansite Summit article and spoke about at more length in the related podcast, I was able to bring this issue up during the conversation spurred by Josh Mosqueira’s one question.

There I voiced the the common complaint that there are only two viable Wizard builds in Diablo 3, and was surprised when one of the devs joked that they were happy there wasn’t just one. The conversation went from there, but in large part the Diablo 3 devs said that in this day and age, with fansites offering calculators and popular build rankings and such, there’s just no way that most fans won’t gravitate to the most efficient build, even if it’s boring.

Early Hydra Runestone effects.
Early Hydra Runestone effects.
The “always one best build” thing was true of Diablo 2 and every other ARPG as well, but it’s exacerbated today by the ease of research, quick respecs, and D3’s paragon system providing a huge incentive to gain higher levels. (There’s no law that states the only goal of Diablo 3 is to level up quickly, though many players act as though such legislation was indeed imposed upon them during the reign of Jay the Great and Terrible.)

Another big factor that I brought up at during the Town Hall is the lack of weirdly-varied Legendary items in Diablo 3. The devs agreed completely on that one, and reiterated that one of the main objectives of the ongoing Diablo 3 itemization changes is to introduce more legendaries that promote the use of individual skills or builds, such as a Wizard item that would enable double Hydra casting. That won’t cure everything of course, since that will either become THE best Wizard build, or else it will be 1% less efficient than another build and people like the above OP will still have the same complaint… but that’s the Diablo community for you.

The devs didn’t give any more/new examples of cool item bonuses for skill diversity during the Town Hall, but they’re eminently aware of the issue and are working to improve/address it. Alas, it’s just another cool future thing for which we can only wait.

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90 thoughts on “Diablo 3 Build Diversity Issues

  1. No amount of number changing will trump skills with superior mechanics. It was a poor design decision to have same skill variants with differing mechanics that may look fun but just don’t function compared to other variants of the skill. The idea was nice but they failed completely, and I don’t think legendary affixes are going to solve the problem.

    • Yep, some runes just need to change completely. I wouldn’t use the Pile On rune of Wall of Zombies even if it did 3000% weapon damage. The delay on its damage is too high and it’s short line area of effect is not very useful when I’m swarmed. This is just and example, but there are many more skills like Pile On, that has design flaws that won’t go away with the balancing of numbers.

      • “I wouldn’t use the Pile On rune of Wall of Zombies even if it did 3000% weapon damage.”

        Even if they remove the cooldown entirely?

        I’m a believer that almost any skill will work if you fidget with the numbers correctly. If you remove the cooldown for Pile On and have it do 2500% damage and it instantly becomes overpowered.

        • I feel that as things stand now that kinda damage is overkill in most cases and the narrow and short area of effect would still remain a hindrance, especially as you increase your damage. Basically, that way Pile On would be great for new WD’s for Elite kills, but around 100k+ DPS I would probably still switch it out for Zombie Bears.

          Still, you’re right, adjusting the numbers would help.

        • The basic issue here is monster density, which even before the density increase made you prioritize AoE skills (the larger area the better) above all else as your damage increased. I feel that now we reached a point where single-target skills and utility skills (stuns, debuffs) are pointless.

          The solution is complicated, because it could affect itemization, drops, monster behavior. However, despite that I greatly enjoy slaughtering hordes of zombies, I sometimes feel that rolling back the density change (relative density between areas should be kept the same) while buffing the stats of enemies and their drop chances could be a good band aid fix to this balance issue.

          • That’s one of the topics I had at the top of my notes during the Bliz visit. The fact that single target or no/small AoE attacks are just pointless in D3, especially since v1.08.

            D3 is all about hitting lots of things at once. You could give most classes a skill that was insta-death to any single target, with a 3 second cooldown, and it wouldn’t be widely-used, at least not until higher MP levels or Uber runs.

            Thus I don’t see how any skill tweaks could change that, since it derives from the monster numbers and general layout and style of the gameplay.

          • As I’ve mentioned many times before, all it takes is making enemies individually worthwhile. Act 4 is already ready made for this, the enemies there are already the most dangerous in game, and not very densely packed (usually). Make them worth killing, and that stuff matters again. Make bosses worth killing, single target DPS matters again.

          • Great point Steve, I think having a balance of monsters that are worth killing despite being very few in numbers versus huge clumps of zombies that have much lower value would balance the decision making between choosing AOE spells and single target spells which unanimously increases build variations. Of course, they would need to make it so the higher value monsters are not in close proximity of the larger density areas so players do not get their AoE benefits by just herding them all together. Perhaps dedicating an entire zone to single target type monsters and other zones dedicated to larger density monsters. Barbs for example have spells like whirl wind or frenzy to choose for each area. It would also help counter act the wizards issue with their CM builds that are actually highly reliant on large clusters of units where now wizards could experiment with builds focused on single target monsters due to those monsters having higher value for better drops.

          • Making bosses worthwhile to kill would definitely help with this issue.

            Stronger monsters already have better chance to drop loot and they also grant more XP, but this should be accentuated much more to make a difference, because right now a WW Barb won’t care if he leaves a few Grotesques or Wood Wraiths behind.

            However, it’s possible that with the current astronomical amount of player damage tanky enemies could still easily be killed by AoE with good gear. Since their stats can’t be raised to the High Heavens (that would hurt single-target skills as well), implementing an AoE resist stat for specific monsters may be warranted.

          • Well a lot of the aoe builds require lots of monsters for example CM wizards typically excel in higher density situations because their WW are hitting more monsters for more proc, their frost nova is getting the 15% crit bonus from hitting 5+ monsters, the thing is that wizard CAN still get their proc’s even off one large monster so blizzard should figure out how to change that the trick would be to increase the gap of effectiveness for aoe versus single target so that aoe relies more heavily on mobs and barely works at all on single monsters.

          • As is, the bigger enemies have near champion pack HP, and often the same or more damage. In particular, hulks, trees, gorgors, MALLET LORDS…

            Yet all they do is a trash mob double drop 100% of the time (MP = no effect).

            If they’re champs in trash mob clothing, they should drop more like it.

            As is though, some classes are pure AoE (hi Wizards) so that also warrants attention.

          • Some? Which builds aren’t? 🙂

            I think single-target skills are used only if they are resource generators and either have a really useful secondary effect (Fists of Lightning) or do an amazing job as generators (Bash – Instigation). They’re seldom used for their damage.

          • By Fists of Lightning I of course meant the Thunderclap rune of Fists of Thunder. 🙂

          • “Some? Which builds aren’t? 🙂

            I think single-target skills are used only if they are resource generators and either have a really useful secondary effect (Fists of Lightning) or do an amazing job as generators (Bash – Instigation). They’re seldom used for their damage.”

            Not build, class. As in just about every skill they have except a few very bad ones no one would use even on single targets is AoE.

            Also, the Bash rune that does two shockwaves is a better fury gen as each of the three hits is 8 fury and a chance at 15 more.

          • Sorry, my mistake.

            Thanks for the info about Bash, I didn’t know that. It just goes to show you how much I played the Barb. 🙂

      • And that is one big crying shame. Pile on, toad of hugeness etc are such cool looking skills with a lot of detail. What a waste of time creating all these wonderful animations but they just don’t work as well as the other skills in terms of efficiency.

        Sad looking at that image of early hydra runestones, wasted potential. Still have my fingers crossed the expansion brings a lot of that stuff back.

  2. Know why you see CoB a lot?

    Every build is a facetank build, so of course facetank skills get used. CoB has less range than some enemy melee attacks and is broken by knockback (which most areas have at least one enemy that can do). It doesn’t matter. Facetank AoE is all the game really supports so everyone is gonna do some variant of that. If there’s more than one dynamic, you can have more viable builds. If single targets/small groups were more relevant (by making boss runs relevant, for example) Rapid Fire would be a lot better.

  3. “such as a Wizard item that would enable double Hydra casting. That won’t cure everything of course, since that will either become THE best Wizard build, or else it will be 1% less efficient than another build”

    At that point, I won’t care too much if it’s a few percent less efficient. Hydras already do viable passive damage and an item like that could probably even make them a viable main damage skill. Even if that wouldn’t happen, it would still enable a more passive playstyle for the Wizard, where you could concentrate on movement and defense, while your Hydras would feast on your enemies. I would definitely have fun with that build, as I did back in D1, where the Guardian spell didn’t have a summon limit. It wasn’t ideal (not the least because of fire immune enemies), but it was fun.

    Also, I hope that the fact that even 4 months after the itemization blog post they keep mentioning this Wizard item means that it will indeed make it into the game.

    • Well you wouldn’t care, and I wouldn’t, but you know there would still be plenty of people in the forums saying the double hydra build sucks/rules, depending on which side that 1% effectiveness landed on.

      It ties into other game systems. If D3 didn’t reward and incentivize higher levels, then players wouldn’t feel “forced” to choose builds that were all about 1% faster exp gain. And of course D3 didn’t always do that; prior to Paragon levels there was no reason to worry about exp gain in the end game… but that was boring.

      Making video games is hard.

      • Last I checked Hydra wasn’t affected by crit chance and damage and I’m not sure it’s affected by ias. The game’s all about trifecta, the skill flat out cannot benefit from trifecta.

        You could remove the summon limit on hydra entirely and the only thing it’d damage is your graphics card. Think about it.

        CM Wizards 1: Hold everything perfectly still. 2: Have one free skill slot. Anyone who’s played in the early days knows Venom Hydra wrecks the face of anything that doesn’t move (relative to other skills). So why isn’t every single CM Wizard using Venom Hydra as their spare skill? That’s the reason. Why did everyone abandon Hydra (in any form) the instant they stopped being forced into a kite spec Wizard? Again, that’s the reason.

          • It also has a proc rate of 0%. But it’s a free skill slot. If you don’t need Slow Time there to hit a breakpoint, you don’t need that skill to keep CM going. If Hydras scaled properly with your damage they’d fit great here (and on other builds). But they don’t, so you could have 20 Hydras and they’d still suck. Same with Sentry.

    • As I’ve said before, I think they need to make an entire wizard set dedicated to a hydra build because just spawning an extra hydra isn’t going to be a big enough deal to compete with CM builds it would be about as mediocre as some of these other legendary we have now that had the potential but didn’t make the cut. You would need a whole set that gives other bonuses to the hydra build whether its increasing the hydra damage/speed/elemental effects or giving another 1 or 2 hydras at the full set completion. This would make completing a set like this much more desirable and give wizard players a goal to attained helping the item hunt.

  4. I am sick of preaching this but hell going to say it real quick and not elaborate this time.

    Flux, these guys need to play some Diablo 2! My god, how many builds are there for each class in D2? The numbers far exceed the numbers we are seeing today with Diablo 3. Why? Skill Tree’s and Player Choice Stat points allowed players freedom as well as sparked many different builds that all would get you to Hell Baal.

    Dev’s need to play some Diablo 2 I think, its a shame they just overlooked the old game and instead used the WoW model to build the next Diablo game. Then they wonder why its been such a failure and disappoint to fans like myself? It boggles my mind sometimes as to why they would ditch the true old time saying “If its not broken, don’t fix it”

    I really hope one day I can look back at this whole situation with Diablo 3 and laugh. Maybe they might change this game back to being a game for Diablo fans instead of WoW fans. Maybe i’ll see the return of some really cool old features from Diablo 2. Maybe.. Always.. Maybe..


    • “Skill Tree’s and Player Choice Stat points allowed players freedom as well as sparked many different builds that all would get you to Hell Baal.”

      So? Many different build can get you to the end of Inferno, I would actually bet that any build could, if you have the time. That’s not the issue here though, efficiency is. If you wanted to reach level 99 in D2, how many builds would you consider per class?

      • Hell A5 Baal is gotta be equivilent to Inferno A4 Mp10 Diablo, so yea.. OK. Show me some vids of non-known builds pounding Inferno MP10 *without RMAH gear too! Untwinked* and you might hold a candle to your previous statement. Also, what is your definition of a “Build”? I am sorry, but aren’t “Builds” players placing skills together to get the most “efficienticy” out of the class they’re playing? Wouldn’t all builds therefore be more efficent than non-builds? Your implying that placing skills randomly and running with them is a “Build” and can get the job done for either Diablo II or III. Maybe you haven’t played either of these games much or lately, because that will not work. I don’t agree with you at all here and mean no disrepect in saying so.

        There are more efficient Diablo II “Builds” than Diablo III, period. Do the research and see for yourself, just look around in these forums. Also, consider that many of us Time-Travel in Diablo II and use different builds for different patches as well, adding even more. Diablo III is under lockdown with player build creation. Its limited to basically 1-2 per class (CMWW and Archon for example) Skill trees and players choice stats are a huge way to solve this problem as well as Buffing non popular skills to make them more desireable to use.

        Thanks for showing interest in my post though buddy. Have a nice day!

        • This is pretty much blatantly false. Nearly every single skill in D3 is reasonably useable in Inferno, even if it’s not that great. This is unlike D2 where probably 75% of skills were completely un-useable in Hell – good luck killing anything with Teeth or Charged Bolt or Sacrifice in Hell difficulty!

          There are plainly, obviously far many more useable skills in D3 than there are in D2.

          • Seriously? That was true prior to 1.10 and synergies. After that, both Teeth and Charged Bolt killed just fine with the proper build and equipment. And playing a Dentist was a hell of a lot of fun.

        • We debated exactly this point in the new podcast, re: this issue.

          My memory of D2 is of many more viable builds, but memory wears rose-tinted glasses, and “viable” meant something very different in that game. In D2 there was much less incentive to grind for 99 (I did dozens of chars past 80 but only one to 99 since the gains per level at that point were negligible), you couldn’t instantly see every other build ranked by popularity, there wasn’t an AH to show you exactly just how good or bad your gear was, etc. And of course all those cool D2 uniques that worked with one skill/build.

          It’s hard to compare between eras and games.

        • “Hell A5 Baal is gotta be equivilent to Inferno A4 Mp10 Diablo”

          I equate Hell A5 Baal to Inferno A4 MP0 Diablo. My reason is that Monster Power levels were meant to replicate the experience you get in D2 with the /players command. I think beating Diablo on Inferno MP10 is about the same as killing the Übers in D2 with /players 8. At least, it requires about the same amount of dedication.

          “Show me some vids of non-known builds pounding Inferno MP10 *without RMAH gear too! Untwinked* and you might hold a candle to your previous statement.”

          I hope this counts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SfIplIT5_Bs

          “aren’t “Builds” players placing skills together to get the most “efficienticy” out of the class they’re playing?”

          I think that anything is a build that has a purpose. Anyway, the article was about builds which aims to be efficient. What I was trying to say is that if being efficient is your purpose, then I think that D2 and D3 is similar in that both has one or two viable builds for this purpose per class. I’m sorry if my point wasn’t clear.

          “I don’t agree with you at all here and mean no disrepect in saying so.”

          Don’t worry about it. If everyone would agree with me world would be a boring place. 🙂

          “Thanks for showing interest in my post though buddy. Have a nice day!”

          Same to you!

          • Slight correction, I wanted to say “beating the Infernal bosses on Inferno MP10” instead of “beating Diablo on Inferno MP10”. The point is, I equate MP10 in D3 to /players 8 in D2.

          • I think your “ubers @ /players 8” comparison is just about right. How many builds could effectively do that content? I’d be surprised if there were 10.

  5. My single biggest complain, a personal one I’m sure, is that damage applies the moment a monster decides to attack. I can’t count the number of times I’ve vaulted out of danger (often through a collected health globe) just to land and die because a monster attacked where I was before use an evasive skill. On all counts, the “attacking where they were” thing is just bad video game design, but the designers have made a somewhat valid argument for including it. But if I’m dedicating a skill slot, and using a source (one that I can only use 4 times in a short period of time) I should be able to avoid damage when something attacks a spot on the ground 30 game feet away. THAT’S not encouraging people to be different. There’s only one way to play defense, and that’s with raw stats, not skill or creativity.

    • I did some testing about this in the beta days. I don’t know whether things changed, but back then monsters couldn’t hit you if you moved out of range. Granted, their hit range was unrealistic to prevent players from easily dodging them just by running around (it wasn’t lag), but you could definitely evade their attacks.

      Still, I agree, movement skills like Vault should enable you to evade melee attacks more reliably.

      If you’re interested, here’s the video I recorded during the beta when I tested this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tcDeFN6i2PA

      Note, that about halfway through the video I got better at dodging and even managed to evade an attack without Vault. None of those were dodges from Dexterity, as the game didn’t display the “dodged” message like at the beginning of the video.

    • Definitely not a “personal” complaint. I was shocked and baffled way back in beta when Blizz said this was purposeful design. An absolutely TERRIBLE decision on their part.

      • Given the movement speed of high level characters, and the slowness of many monster attacks, would non-tanking characters *ever* get hit if you had to remain in the monster’s swing range from beginning to end of it’s attack?

        I think that logic is why Bliz made that feature change during development, since the alternative was WW/Sprint Barbs or Strafe DHs never being hit, or else giving monsters really fast jab attacks which would look cheesy?

        • Throne of Darkness (a Japanese-themed Diablo clone and not a bad one) had that exact “problem”. You could step out of the hit range of enemies between your own attacks, effectively kiting them even by melee characters. It required skill, but it made some parts of the game easier than intended.

        • Some attacks are faster than others, some are near instant.

          Not seeing the problem. Even if it were possible to dodge everything could you? No, unless only fighting 1-3 enemies at once. Even before 1.08, how often was this?

          In Dark Souls you can avoid every attack. Every. Last. One.

          Good luck doing it outside a 1v1, and even then it takes SKILL, which ARPGs sorely lack.

        • “would non-tanking characters *ever* get hit if you had to remain in the monster’s swing range from beginning to end of it’s attack?”

          Considering that this is how D2 worked, it’s pretty easy to say yes. Most monsters attack really fast anyway.

  6. THere aren’t really BUILDS at all!! We can’t say, “Hey I want to be a wizard that uses spectral blades as my main attack” and then pump it full of SKILL points to make it viable…we can’t MAKE a weak skill viable because we don’t have any control over how powerful it is, at all. THAT is why there is no “build diversity”..it’s all gear dependant.

      • Yea I agree here. Have you ever played DIablo 1 or 2? Lol Theyre both gear dependant. IF you want to go without gear, only class I know is as HardRock said, the Fishymancer in Diablo 2. You can run them naked. So if your looking for a game that doesn’t require gear dependency, try Skyrim for instance, that might work for you better.

      • I think you are misconstruing the point. Players don’t have any control over the strength of skills in any meaningful way. There are no skill points so a skill is only as powerful as Blizzard designs it compared to other skills. This is partly because there is also no way that you can gear for particular skills.

        Your damage is only defined by the skills and runes you choose. A bad skill/rune is proportional to the strength of you gear the same as a good skill. As a result a bad skill is always inferior to a good skill no matter what your gear level or selection. There is no way to turn the tables by saying investing more heavily in the skill with points and tailoring your gear selection to optimize for that skill.

        As a result the poor balancing on the part of Blizzard is magnified. The gap between a bad skill and a good skill only grows larger as your gear improves since the player has no way to counter-balance the numbers. In Diablo 2 the player had a lot of ways to turn the tables and make a particular spell comparable to others so the gap in effectiveness of skills was much smaller. Sure, it did involve use of specific gear but it did so in a way that gave the player a choice and defined his character choices as a true build.

        • You’re definitely right and I really hope that itemization 2.0 will solve this.

          • Items won’t solve everything. They really should get back to having a skill tree, skill points and attribute points. That, combined with much more interesting items would enhance Diablo 3 tremendously. They would also have to deal with that rune system of theirs…

          • I think its interesting to note that the decision to take out skill trees in D3 was the same time they were taken out in WoW. Now we know that the WoW strike team was called in that effected a lot of D3’s game design and the devs are realizing there is more to a diablo game than just main stat and the simple itemization since launch. The difference is that we have to recognize that there are differences in WoW and D3 in how the game is played. D2’s skill tree for example did not have a limit to the number of points you could assign to a skill where as in WoW you could say max a skill out with 5 points or even just 1 or 2 points so obviously there was really less choice needed in WoW to decide if you should max a skill out when it only required 5 points to max out or less sometimes. So I think they were using the WoW skill tree model to make a decision based on a skill tree model that was technically quite different.

        • Thank you for saying EXACTLY what I meant to say. Your gear buffs the skills, not you. Not your skill points. That’s the point I was trying to make that some missed.

        • Amen. Blizzard really had their heads up their you know what when they took all the RPG elements out of D3.

  7. For me it’s not about that every skill must be equally powerful but rather that the limitation in gear makes building a char around a less common used skill pretty bland. If different skills would benefit from different affixes I would actually find it fun to try to work towards a specific variant, collect the gear needed to make it work and then enjoy the fruits of it all when that strange build turns out to be viable (not to be confused with crazy powerful).

    A basic example would be a barb that would go for elemental/fire damage mods rather than strength to benifit WWs Volcanic Eruption rune and thus making the gear choices for that build vastly different from other barbs. And sure, I understand that it’s a bad example given D3’s use of main stat over all, but the basic idea should be clear.

    The thing is that in D3 pretty much every build for a class uses the same gear (aside from some few exceptions) and in the end (for me that is)that leads to less incentive to try something different. The reality that a throw barb uses mostly the same equipment as a WW barb except for maybe one gimmick item is in my mind utterly sad.

    And yes I know, throw barbs shared a lot of gear choices with standard barbs in D2 aswell but change that to singers and you might get an better idea of what I’m getting at.

    • Yes, they need to make the new itemization, that is if they’re not doing anything new for skills/points, improve the builds themselves, for example a whirl wind barb would want a pair of legendary boots that improve whirl wind movement speed by 50% or a pair of whirl wind gloves that increase the rotation speed of whirl wind only by 50%. These items improve upon the build its self. Those are examples where gear is less homogenized across the board for any and all builds. A pair of gloves that give frenzy barbs 5 extra stacks of frenzy or something the idea is that the items can improve builds or skills that aren’t used as much.

  8. Efficiency is only half the picture. The other part is mechanics. At higher MP levels, as a Wizard, you HAVE to play CM, or kite. Who in their right mind enjoys kiting?

    The problem with a lot of skills in Diablo 3 is not the skill itself, it is game mechanics, pure and simple. At the hardest content, there is literally no ranged class. EVERYONE fights in melee range. That’s the problem.

    • Actually, I enjoy kiting with a mage. That’s how they worked in D1/D2, after all, and I played tons of mages in those games, artillery and/or battle style. I don’t find the Wiz fun in D3 since it feels slow and tanky with defensive skills, and that’s not a build style I enjoy with a mage.

      The DH is the only D3 class that can play at all like a Mage in previous Diablo games.

    • While I enjoy kiting to an extent, it’s necessarily less time efficient than plowing forward and murdering everything in its place.

      Your overall point, though, I think is a good one. The player’s abilities and the monsters’ abilities have to support one another. I know that sounds crazy, but think of a skill like Incinerate. It’s not widely used because you have to stand still, and standing still is asking for punishment, what with all the enemies that can attack from or rapidly close medium to large distances while doing considerable damage.

      Most enemies in D2 were simple. The enemies in D3 aren’t as simple, and the player is largely more constrained than in D2, particularly with resource generation, and cooldowns on abilities, especially defensive ones.

      Lastly, with all the talk about people comparing builds online, that’s a solid-ish point, but even without that, people don’t want to be dead weight. I learned of Lightning Fury online in D2 as I learned about SNS in D3. That much really hasn’t changed. It’s the fact that builds like SNS are so much better than everything else because virtually everything that didn’t revolve around CM wasn’t sustainable to the level it would take to have even players with above average time and skill to find their own items or feel worthy in a group of other similarly skilled players with better builds.

      • Yeah, their online build sharing argument definitely has some merit, but the fact is that the most dedicated players (players who write on the forums and signed up to D3Ladders) will figure out the best builds even by themselves fairly quickly, they don’t need guides. I think the rest and probably the large majority of players don’t even care about balance like the most dedicated players do, they don’t care if they can’t farm MP10 with all builds. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that 90%+ players belong in this category. Ultimately, I feel that if the internet wouldn’t exist, things still wouldn’t change much (except that you couldn’t play D3…), because the problem is overall balance and monster design/density and not the sharing of builds.

  9. There are very little build diversities in D3 because as single targets, no monster in the game is worth farming. What can you do when loot system pushes you to “farm” as many as you can, as fast as you can?

    D3 is fundamentally flawed and the devs don’t communicate because they have a “What you don’t know can’t hurt you” attitude. They just stick their head in the sand and kiss each other’s ass all day long on FB.

    And no Jill, you cannot “like” this more than once.

  10. Ever since Firebats was buffed I feel I have to use it all the time. Either that or Zombie Bears. None of the other damage dealers compare when going up against a higher MP level. I have to drop the MP level when using say Spirit Barrage rather than Firebats. I like the Firebats buff, don’t get me wrong, but the damage output isn’t proportional to the other damage dealers (outside of Zombie Bears).

  11. D2 was NOT about diverse builds. If you expected to get past Nightmare, you had to have specialized gear. This was rarely available to anyone but serious players.

    Druid. Windy or Fury. You could play for a while as a “summoner” and then Hell came along and you had to have Faith in a non-Amazon bow, and a bunch of +skill items. The lack of damage and the synergies for the fire skills made them worthless.

    Amazon. Multi or Strafe (really, what’s the difference? A few +bow skills and you were fine) + Frozen Arrow or the lightning spear skill on switch. And you STILL had points for Valkyrie.

    Sorc. Meteor/Orb. Meteor/Bliz. Orb/Fire ball. Bliz/Fire ball. Or Infinity RW. Fire + Cold or near impossible RW + lightning. So many options.

    Necro. Summoner or… Well, CE was a one point wonder. So… A few random curses. Um. Bone skills? Poison? Ehhhh, not going to get you far.

    Paladin. A zealot or a hammerdin.

    Barb and Assassin. I actually didn’t really play these much. WW? Frenzy? Traps or… The fire/cold/lightning claws were what we see in D3, “diversity” that doesn’t mean much. Also, chaos RW. I feel like kickers were dependent on a couple items, too. But I shouldn’t say much on characters I didn’t play much.

    Most characters have a few options. Unless you were content to run Nightmare or had just great gear, you hit a wall in Hell Act 1. Especially when runewords came along and many earlier set and unique items became worthless. You had to spend SO MUCH TIME trying to find that random rune and the random 3/4 socket gear.

    And D2 also had worthless low level skills. I was always dissatisfied that developers had wasted time creating graphics and stats for skills no one used passed level 12 or 18.

    • Huh? I think I played D2 in a different way then you did. Every ladder reset I’d level a lightning sorc until end-game and then farm. After that phase I’d ask myself: what do I want to build now. I’d accumulate wealth and trade and make runwords and everything else, then level a new character with this new crazy specialized gear I accumulated. Sure these builds weren’t every effective, but they were fun and you’d run into a lot of people who’d be like ‘wtf melee sorc’ or ‘wtf zeal zon.’ And that’s just priceless.

      • Yes, same holds true for me. The only weak point of the game was, that you *needed* to make this sorc, or in general a magic find character at the beginning of every season (if you did not run a bot). That’s why I’ve been saying to get rid of magic find since I remember myself playing Diablo.

      • My comment was directed at something on page 1 but posted back here, so it seems out of context.

        But I played a lot of odd builds too (melee sorcs are fun, as are bow- druids, paladins, and assassins (i liked bow characters)). But it was only with really good gear that these builds were viable through Hell. You yourself admit to having to rely on a cookie cutter lightning sorc to even take a non-traditional character into the game.

        I think commenters on this site forget how much time it took to collect all that gear. Also, when people are complaining about the dearth of D3 builds that can cut it in Inferno, they forget it wasn’t so different in D2.

  12. About your numbers, count my WD out. I’m “using” ZB but, actually, I’m not, “using” my WD since… Don’t remember! (Last login was in may, when I took his emerald :p) I liked bats a lot and cleared act 3 inferno on 1.03-4 wearing that skill.

    Now I’m on the spin2win wagon, just leveling my barb pre-ner… pre-patch/pre-expansion to play self-found from then…

    Maybe the abbandoned characters are still counting for statistics?

    • That’s exactly why I don’t take those sorts of metrics seriously. There’s no time cutoff.

      Remember when every single DH on the server was Hungering Arrow/Nether Tentacles/Vault/Shadow Power/Smoke Screen/Preparation?

      Remember when that got nerfed? Yeah, most of those guys quit. Same goes for tank barbs and a massive number of other builds that were relevant at one point and not anymore. By Blizzard’s own words at least 93% of players have quit (14 million players > 1 million now).

      You can’t look at the playerbase as a whole as most of them abandoned their characters in old metas. If you look at recent players, what do you see?

      Mostly spin to win Barbs, some CM Wizards, some Firebats WDs, some FoT or Bells or TR Monks (congrats on having more than one build) and occasionally a suicide spec DH.

      Just look at random people’s profiles that are actively playing or have logged in within the last month (and not just for the AH).

  13. When Blizzard said there would be billions of builds, and people pointed out that would never happen, we were wrong…
    Now Blizzard happy if a class has 2+ builds.

    Hey, its great they start to align more with common sense among their users.
    But they ought to have just a tiny bit more ambition than that.

    1 billion useful builds? Not possible.
    10? Yeah, that should work out just fine. If they try just a little.

    Maybe it’s about time that aoe skills are nerfed. Or what about having some of the stronger/bigger enemies being outright resistant to AoE?
    To give incentives to carrying around a strong single target ability.

    And uh,in terms of giving reasons for multiple attacks, there is this thing in RPGs called resistances, which Blizzard might have heard about. It seems to work fairly well.
    Immunities suck, as they force your hand, resistances on the other side is just another tool in the box, for giving players incentive to consider different options in terms of building characters.

    Beside, the issue with most strong builds in D3 isn’t the strength of the attacks or the synergy between skills.
    No, commonly it’s 1) Movement speed and somewhat rarer 2) Avoiding game mechanics by giving immunity to a bunch of CC.
    Tbh, all skills that offers consistent movement speed improvements should probably be reigned in heavily. Barbarian WW spec is the obvious offender here, but to a lesser degree its the same for the other classes.
    Remove consistent speed increase from skills, and instead buff run speed for all classes to compensate.
    It just seems too hard to balance those skills/passives reasonably.

    • nice article, flux. the shot at jay and the barb hating was an especially nice touch.

      “When Blizzard said there would be billions of builds, and people pointed out that would never happen, we were wrong…Now Blizzard happy if a class has 2+ builds.”

      lulz..yep and this is why blizz has cornered the market on salt crystals. frankly, i can’t wait for expansion.

    • Nope. All that’d do is make people skip the big guys more.

      Here’s the actual problem. Most enemies have base XP values in the 3,000-4,500 range. Even at MP 10, 5 stacks, full party, XP gear yielding > 1,000% XP gained, you still get 50k a kill and need 100,000,000-300,000,000 or more per level very quickly.

      Of COURSE everyone speeds around mass AoEing hordes, it’s the only way to level at a remotely decent clip (also the only way of compensating for the terrible drop rate, as even with maxed 655 mf even the most ADHD spin to win Barbs are lucky to break 5 brims/hour).

      A whole lot of enemy effects exist just to remove control from the player. You already can’t dodge most attacks. People play games to play them and not to watch them be played for them. Of COURSE everyone goes for the only ability that allows them to maintain control of their character for more than four consecutive seconds!

      The problem isn’t that the players have made the simple, obvious choice. It’s that choice is singular. Big targets worth killing = single target DPS has a use. Other means of maintaining control of your character (Hi Raven Frost!) = not everyone is a perma wrath barb. Other means of not having to run through dead space so long – not everyone uses the only spammable fast move skill that doesn’t leave you out of resources to fight the mobs you are speeding for.

  14. The clumps of monsters do hinder the gameplay in a skill based way. At the moment it is use the skill with the largest AoE range and destroy as many as you can. Having less monsters that give larger exp and are far more deadly would lead to the incorporating of CC and Defensive abilities. Right now it just isn’t that fun to sprint AoE everything and pass up anything that isn’t orange.

    • To be honest, I find it fun… for about half an hour. Right now, with 4 of the classes the game is a mindless slaughter and isn’t very engaging in the long term. This is why I’m playing a DH at the moment, at least this way I have to pay attention if I don’t want to die all the time.

    • I wouldn’t say having large clumps of large monsters hinder game play, they just need to make a good contrast of the two. There needs to be a contrast of monsters where there are larger, more valuable, stronger monsters as opposed to denser weaker less valuable monsters, players can then choose builds based around this difference between AoE builds and single target type of builds. We as a community look pretty stupid right now after begging for larger density monster packs and now we’r crying about it hindering game play the real issue is making a good contrast.

    • There needs to be a “monster” some where in between elites and the main bosses. I think there should be “rare spawn” mini bosses through the maps. Some kind of mini-boss monster types that can fit into another category.

  15. The problem is the mechanism of some (okay a LOT) skills, not the numbers. Until an expansion I wouldn’t expect these to change.

    Inner Sanctuary, as the most useless active skill in the game explains everything. Then add Thunderclap and compare it to every other generator skill of the monk. It’s a joke indeed.

    All I wanted to have (based on early gameplay videos) is a cool looking Monk with simple orange looks, vielding a daibo. I didn’t ask for too much I guess, yet Diablo III was unable to give that to me. Oh well…
    *starts GW2 again*

  16. D2 doesn’t have that many *truly used* builds itself. Some skills, and some entire trees just suck ass. Stats are an illusion of choice. You always want just enough for gear, and dump the rest into life. Most but the rarest of energy shield sorc ignored energy safely.

    On top of my head:

    Barb: WW. Almost exlusively. It’s their only AoE attack that does actual damage, and it helps you survive through leech. And it’s fun.

    Paladin: Zealot. Hammerdin. Occasional PvP charger.

    Sorceress: Fireball. Blizzard. Frozen orb. Lightning. Basically 1 per tree. Occasional hydra/enchanter.

    Necro: Minion. Bone. Poison.

    Amazone: Multishot/strafe (they’re similar as heck). Java.

    Assassin: Lightning trapsin. WW sin has a steep item requirement, but are otherwise popular too because fuckin’ WW. Occasional bladesin, but once again, that has a steep gear req.

    Druid: Wind. Wolf. Bear. Occasional fire.

    • “Stats are an illusion of choice.”

      That’s only kinda true. You chose certain stats BECAUSE you wanted certain items. Items were the goal even in D2 and they defined your stats, not the other way around, just like in D3. Attributes in D2 were absolutely meaningless by themselves.

      • And of course this system had the huge problem, that unless you knew the requirements of every single item in the game, it was guaranteed that you will mess up your stat allocation, assuming you were going for maximum efficiency. Not a very good system at all.

      • Sure, but the item selection was rather limited as well. Most “builds” refer to “strength” to “as much as you need for gear”. Not really making a choice out of the stats themselvees there. And since gear wasn’t really much up to debate… myeah. You could’ve as well just had stats called “Click me 5 times for this item” and “click me 7 times for that item”… “dump everything here”. Because that’s what they were.

  17. I’ve thought of writing a review of each of the skills and what they would need in order to be balanced with each other.

    But ultimately it points back to what Flux said. You could have an instant-kill single-target ability and people still wouldn’t want it. Single target itself is pretty weak and useless in this game and messing with how much damage it does (even increasing it to instant kill) won’t change unless you lower the cooldown so much that it becomes ridiculous.

    What we’re asking the skills to do is all the same. Lots of damage to a large amount of targets, all at once, with the occasional survival or tank skill, plus as much movement speed as we can get. If a skill doesn’t do any of that (like if it’s just single target damage or involves moving monsters around without doing a lot of damage to them) we really don’t care.

    The other part is that skills aren’t really balanced versus each other. There are almost no skills that even have a reason to be used without a rune at all, except for maybe cosmetic reasons. I compare ray of frost to disintegrate for instance, and since disintegrate hits multiple targets and ray of frost hits only one, there is like almost no reason to ever use ray of frost. And even on that first, single target, disintegrate does just as much damage (except for the rune that increases damage over time for ray of frost.)

    So many abilities are just plain useless because they do not do enough damage, fast enough, to enough targets.

    And it’s not just theorycrafting or looking up builds on websites. I can pretty much feel that this ability is killing like 5 times slower than a different ability does. So of course I use the ability that kills faster.

    I don’t know any of the numbers, or the calculations involved in dps. (In fact, I still have ‘simple’ tooltips and have no idea what % damage each ability does when compared to each other.) I can literally see the monsters falling over when I use one ability that I saw someone else use, and when I use the ability that’s more ‘fun’ because I like the mechanic better, the monsters don’t fall over as fast. Using the same gear, I try both skills, and one kills monsters faster than the other, every time. So 9 times out of 10 I eventually wind up switching to the one that kills faster.

    Then you get into how a combination of a couple skills kills them even faster and eventually you wind up with the same build everyone else is using.

    It’s not really about getting ‘maximum efficiency’, it’s that you can sit there and whack a monster one way ten times until it’s dead or whack the monster another way and kill it in one or two hits. It’s more FUN to kill things faster, you feel more powerful, it’s the whole reason we level up and get bigger, badder, faster, stronger. It’s the whole point of RPG’s in the first place, to be ‘more powerful.’

    So becoming ‘more powerful’ simply from switching from one skill to another…yeah, people are going to do it. In fact, MOST people are going to do it. And especially in multiplayer, if you AREN’T doing what everyone ‘knows’ is the most efficient way to play, you’re a newbie. (This applies to pretty much every game ever, by the way.) So there’s peer pressure on top of that.

    But if I swing a sword and you swing an axe and they are about as equally effective, the key is for them to FEEL different. The balance in Starcraft 2 and Blizzard’s other RTS games is a good way to look at how to make stuff ‘balanced’ but feel completely different, have different mechanics, etc. (Last RTS I played was Warcraft 3, but you get the point.)

    If I was just as effective as you, using the skills I find more fun, and you use different skills, and you find those more fun, then great, we’re having fun. But when I use the skills I like and you use skills you like, and you kill everything so much faster than me, that’s what kills build diversity.

    Ultimately you want the skills to do the same thing in a different way. That way everyone can pick the way they like best.

    • “Ultimately you want the skills to do the same thing in a different way. That way everyone can pick the way they like best.”

      Yeah. Doing the same thing is really really broad however. They have to be as efficient as each other, but in a balanced game, they could be ridiculously different from one another.

      A purely defensive skill should theoretically be as efficient for killing as a purely offensive skill. Simply by making you able to stand in melee longer, or survive with less kiting etc, thus increasing the time you can attack.

      That said…
      If all skills are “just” perfectly balanced in terms of efficiency, then it would not matter which skills you took. Any combination of 6 skills would be as good as any other combination.

      So, for a game to be actually fun and having interesting choices, the skills should not be equally efficient for every challenge.
      Rather, they should have their individual strengths and weaknesses.
      HOWEVER, for individual strengths and weaknesses to matter, each of these strengths and weaknesses has to meet their challenges in the game (from the monsters).

      There has to be monsters where you really want to have something defensive to help you out.

      There has to be monsters where you really want a single target ability.
      There has to be monsters where you really want an AoE skill.
      There has to be monsters where you would really want to have different types of dmg (fire, frost etc).

      • Great, apparently miss-click posted in the middle of writing it… Continuing form above.

        There has to be monsters where you really want escape abilities or anti-crowd control abilities.

        Anyway, there has to be enough variety in the challenges you meet, that you want a broad spectrum of different abilities.
        You might not be able to pick a skill that is great against every challenge – due to the 6 skill limit – which means you will have to take into consideration both your strengths and your relative weaknesses.

        One real problem for the skill balance in D3 is not the skills themselves, it is the challenges offered by the enemies.

        They mostly offer challenges in which AoE is optimal. They offer no challenges in which it is optimal to have different types of the same attack (e.g. fire and frost attack for example).
        In softcore they offer very little challenge where a good defense is really optimal. Etc.

        Actually this was better early on in D3s lifetime, before most of the challenges that did exist (requiring good defense for example) got nerfed, back then the skills themselves were just badly balanced.

        These days the skills are better balanced in terms of numbers, but the variation in challenges offered by the monsters has decreased greatly instead.

        TLDR. To increase skill balance and build diversity, it matters just as much to look at the monsters as it does looking at the skills themselves.
        A lot of the underused skills today are simply underused because the game has such a limited scope of challenge.
        Aka. “AoE & mobility heaven”.

        • That was a point I also meant to make and forgot. All we really want from our skills is lots of aoe and mobility and a little bit of tank/survive. Maybe on rare occasion ‘escape’ (especially in hardcore).

          The game punishes single-target severely and doesn’t really care what type of damage you do.

  18. I think D3 should move away from static builds. We should have dynamic builds instead.

    What they should do is have a hidden internal logger determine which are the “most popular” builds for each class. When the percentage of the playerbase using those builds rise high enough to hit a threshold, a nerf AUTOMATICALLY goes into effect to weaken that class. If the percentage does not fall below that threshold after x amount of time, it gets nerfed again. These nerfs continue until it falls below threshold.

    Likewise, builds that are neglected and are below a certain threshold get buffed AUTOMATICALLY. If they stay below threshold they get buffed again.

    No-one would know which specs are getting buffed or nerfed. So you’re just going to have to experiment. And it may be constantly changing. This would kill cookie cutter builds.

    It would be a complicated algorithm to create and establish. But that’s the coders job.

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