Diablo 3 Forum Watch: Why are Patches and Content so Slow?

In a new post in our Diablo 3 Community Forum, Gerhard makes an argument that puts a finger on a lot of the fan discontent I’ve heard lately. Here’s an excerpt from his post, Diablo 3 Forum Watch: Why are Patches and Content so Slow?

I don’t post often, but had the urge today because I can only conclude that Diablo 3 is currently on the back burner at Blizzard. They surely have redistributed quite a bit of the team to help out teams for other games – I can’t otherwise explain why they are doing things like they do them now.

…How on Earth is it possible to have a new set done to the point it is playable and with all its art in place (I’m talking about the new DH multishot, WIZ slow time and BARB whirlwind/rend sets) and not be at the stage of balancing it via, say, the current PTR?!

…I don’t know, it just seems to me that what they are churning out content-wise is very, very little and that they are very, very slow at that. And they tease people of what will come “in the future”. Seriously, at this pace they are going, when will patch 2.2 be rolled out? By June 2015? It’s OK to tease a new expansion a year before it will be released, but to tease a few items that are almost dome is just redic and rubbing salt in the wound.

See the full post and the thread for more debate. I don’t disagree with the “patches take too long and I want more content” sentiment… but I think our impatience is largely misguided. Or at least based on misconceptions.

Ironically, the false expectations were created by the D3 devs themselves, as they scrambled to improve the game after launch. The Blizzcon 2014 Evolving Reaper of Souls panel went into gruesome detail about a lot of the problems they’ve fixed since D3v, including the terrible item system, no DiabloWikiend game, too steep difficulty progression, lack of multiplayer perks, etc. Those and many other issues were fixed, or at least improved upon during multiple patches in 2012 and early 2013. Then in mid-2013 we got the Reaper of Souls announcement, plus all the news about the itemization makeover coming in DiabloWikiDiablo 3 version 2, which launched in early 2014. RoS followed in March 2014, and had a couple of quick patches as well.

We’ve seen much less activity since then, spurring rants like the OP quoted above… but I think what we’ve seen in the past 6+ months is what D3 devs had in mind from the start. A patch every few months with some new legendary items and some other game tweaks, but not big system changes or content additions, except in the form of Expansion Pack(s). Diablo 3 isn’t a WoW-style MMO with a monthly fee, and it’s not a “free” to play ARPG supported by advertising and a cash item shop, and it’s not one of those console games that ships with 50% of the content and sells the rest $5 or $10 at a time as DLC releases over the next year or two. D3 doesn’t even have an DiabloWikiRMAH anymore.

Diablo 3’s financial model is old school, much like D2’s or Starcraft’s, with a full-priced game followed every couple of year by a big expansion pack, with occasional patches and small additions in between. Players can object to D3’s financial model and wish it was something different, but it is what it is, and it seems highly unlikely that the devs can or will suddenly switch over to F2P with DLC or a cash shop, etc. And it’s also unlikely that they’ll start cranking out new content for free on a regular basis; at least not while most of the team is toiling on the next expansion, which we’ll likely see announced in the coming months. (At Blizzcon in October they didn’t announce anything, but made a lot of jokes and allusions to big content coming in the future, that they couldn’t talk about yet.)

I’ll echo what Gerhard said in the forum thread. What do you guys think of the current pace of development and the larger issue of the financial model? Would you prefer regular content updates? Would you pay $ for them? Are you content with minor patches while you wait 18-22 months for each new expansion? Do you want both? Or something in between

Tagged As: | Categories: Controversy, Diablo 3 Expansions, Forums


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  1. The problem isn’t the expectation of regular patches. The problem is isolated (and for some people might be enhanced by the expectation of regular patches) and is this: They teased some game-changing items, and then dangled them into the future.

    The quoted OP is right, they have completed items, but aren’t releasing them. They’re promised for some Season 3 future, when they have given zero idea of when the Season 1 will even end. They don’t care to even release a ballpark figure. The items are what people want for their endgame (new gems, revamped sets, and even those sweet NEW sets) but we’re all waiting for the halfway mark (Season 2) but they won’t even give us that.

    What Blizzard has done is to say this, essentially:
    “Hey players, we know there are some rough edges left after all the work we did. Here’s how we’ll sand it down to be even better. We’ve got the sandpaper, the plans, and even a bunch of practice wood. But to hell with it. We aren’t gonna finish sanding it down. Go pound sand.”

    • I agree with a lot of what you said, and I think the key word is "expectations".

      Like with the original game, Blizzard found themselves once again in a situation where they had to present at least something for Diablo players on one of their expos/some other expo/their website/their social media/some other presence. They did by setting expectations (new tier of gear) and left people waiting. And if you recall some announcements they made to stirr up D3 pre-release press, you know that this wait can pretty much be indefinite and some of those promises were never heard of again.

      You'd think they have to realize at some point that 'the more, the better' is not a concept which neccessarily applies to communication. But hey, we know Blizzard take their time.

      On the other hand, they're probably not in a rush finishing production leftovers like tilesets/creatures/mini-systems which didn't make it for the RoS release. The fact that they're doing this at all hints that they're looking for ways of producing non-expensive content for bridging towards –something– in the future.

      With some new art, a bit of new programming and a lot of number-twisting all in place for testing purposes on the PTR for weeks now, it should be pretty obvious, that this patch will release when it's scheduled, not when it had its minimum of required public testing.

    • Doesn't that get into the "damned if they do, damned if they don't" issue? We've had that regularly since about 2008 with Diablo 3, where if the devs don't share info about future plans fans complain that we're not getting any news. And if the devs do share future plans fans complain when the plans change, or if it takes too long. Or both.

      • Why announce features early which are still subject to change/exclusion (fundamental design changes, not numerical adjustments)? For the players, there's no benefit in knowledge of vague ideas for possible features which end up being cut. All this creates is a short burst of attention at the risk of major disappointment on their audience's side.

        Remember D3's announcement in 2008? They showcased a prototyped level representing "what could be" – of which half of the features never made it – and this was literally everything they had of the game at that point. Why not make sure things are at least actually realistic, working and fitting first, before presenting them as product features to the public?

        I suppose this has something to do with 'avoiding the grand reveal', as in reducing risk on THEIR side. But even when they get public feedback on early concepts, they don't seem to be particularly fuzzed about making major changes based on it; see long debated yet unadressed issues such as "wtf art!?", "uh, no endgame?" and "almost a year of drawn out beta and nothing happened?".

        Noone is forcing them to engage in communication about fundamental things which aren't at least pretty much "a safe bet". Noone except themselves with their tendency to hype their products as early and relentlessly as possible.

        Back to the original patch topic: Announcing a new season, new seasonal rewards, new goblins, new legendary affixes and such for the upcoming patch – all fine. But why announce things (creatures/tilesets) for patches beyond the next patch which isn't even anywhere close to release yet? Why announce a new tier of top-level items which devalue the current ones ("whatever rare awesome Legendary you find until this patch hits, there will be better stuff afterwards"). How desperate about filling an hour of Blizzcon panel time do you have to be to showcase low-poly rodents (beetles/maggots/wasps) as new features coming in 2015 or beyond?

        Rose-tinted glasses may be heavily involved there, but I really preferred their communication when every three or four months a tight-lipped GFraizer took news to their website/forums about things that were definitely accomplished, meaningful and ready sharing.

  2. Seasons should be 4 months max. If everybody knew season 2 was starting on Jan 1st people wouldn’t care as much about new content because the new season would be the new content. All that is \needed\ is fixing any exploits (even though people will bitch, it makes for a better competitive season).

    The problem with actual new content is that Bliz has chosen to make set items and legendaries the only source for late game power, and puts tons of design resources into ANY addition. Stop chasing perfection with each item and just include 1 or 2 leg items per skill that somehow make it better (think staff of kyro with deadly reach). Then look at the least used skills at the end of the season, boost either the item bonus (staff of kyro does… 200%?) or base skill, and boom new season with a fresh look. Worst case scenario is they boost a bad skill too hard and for 4 months players dominate and have fun with a skill that has ALREADY BEEN BUILT INTO THE GAME BUT NEVER GOT USED.

    TLDR: new season –> review prev season stats, boost bad skills and fix exploits
    expansion –> new class, skill overhauls, new sets that completely change gameplay

  3. The problem is they make everything seem more complicated than it actually is.

    You don't need hours for one item, especially if it's junk. Not making the item, just talking about it. The making part is taking weeks, at least.

    If someone did spend that degree of thought and effort on one item I'd expect it'd at least be relevant and well suited for the metagame, instead of conceptually flawed. I'd also expect it'd be implemented at the correct caliber (while making a potentially useful item overly strong or weak is an easily corrected problem, it's one that should have been corrected in that long a timeframe).

    Instead we get small numbers of class specific items (meaning we ignore 5/6 without looking) that are almost always junk. And then we get things like that elemental ring of LOL.

  4. in all seriousness though the PTR is the problem as well it should be run 1 1/2 months before the season is due to end (which should only be 3 months) with the extra content due to go in before the next season kicks off – this gives enough time to iron out bugs balance and fix exploits, the new content so far next season has just been a few new sets, redesigned current legendaries with the additions of reskinnned goblins and 3 new gems surely they dont need 5 months to create this content since more than half of it is repurposed and given different effects/loot tables.

    I believe since diablo only generates revenue from the full game and dlc only it feels like at the moment we as a customer and player of Diablo are getting second rate service from blizzard because they have more important things on their mind i love the series and i would like for them to put a bit more oomph into what they are doing since release 99% of legendaries are shite (sorry for my language but it cannot put it any clearer) and its taken them 2 + years to do anything about it.

    TL:DR Blizzard take the thumb out ya ARSE

  5. I would love a blue response to this!

  6. Hey! First off, thank you for featuring my post on the front page!

    Also, I must apologize if anything I wrote sounded a bit too hateful – I was sick three days ago and had a very rough time at work, so when I came home I wanted to relax a bit and thought to fire up Diablo after perhaps two weeks of not playing, but then I realized that the patch they said would "be out shortly" still hasn't been pushed to live, so I went on a rant-spree.

    But nonetheless, I still think that they could put a bit more effort in that extra content – precisely because they (as Flux put it) have brought that on themselves.

  7. I think that you should also consider the situation the player base (at least the vocal ones) have put the devs in. If they don’t \demo\ some new stuff and show what they are working on, people complain. If they show stuff that is going to come out in a more distant future (early conceptual ideas), people complain. It mostly seems that no matter what they do, people find a reason to complain. They literally can’t win.

    My guess about the sets is that they don’t want to add them in until they have all of them done. I think they also want to retro the old ones as well, so that’s taking Dev time. In addition, they just revamped their entire code base for Grifts, changing layout generation and increasing monster density and variety. All of those things take Dev time that people often forget. Also, if there is another Xpac, it’s being working on in the background, and everything the do now has to fit into whatever new systems they implement for that.

    It could very well be that the team isn’t running with as many people as it once did, or that it should, but I’d guess that they are putting plenty of hours trying to make the game better.

  8. I think this game is becoming a dinosaur. Everything else is moving at the speed of light and this game thinks its still the only thing out like when D2 was king. Bliz wants a 10 year run for this game like D2, but doesn't seem to understand the players or the marketplace anymore.
    The PTR seems to be its own season now. When S2 goes live so many will be burned out.
    Its so frustrating because the game is really in a good place but they tease so much and take so long.

    • this is why i am ignoring this ptr and only get back to the game when the new patch is released.

      there are plenty of other things to do apart from d3.

      even when i was playing d2 in the past, i would take breaks that lasted months before going back to it whenever a new season started.

  9. Here's a question. Why not make seasonal items not require new art? Just use existing art and give it legendary status. Then the only programming required is whatever it takes to make the special properties take effect. A much smaller team could support this type of item generation.

    My other complaint is that they have gone down the wrong path with set items. They are walking a path now where they HAVE to create a new set per class in order to make a new build interesting. That really makes this process extremely slow. The other big problem here is that it really dilutes the item pool. The barb is a great example of this already and we have a 4th set incoming. There is already earth, kings and raekor. Throw in the damn blackthorn and invoker set and finding the set we want is like pulling teeth. (they really need to make invoker and blackthorn set crafted)

    So imagine if ultimately we wanted at least 10 playable builds per class. Set farming would be just stupid.

    These sets should be nothing more than boosters to things like Akkhan and they should be at most 4 pieces. Let legendary items dictate cool bonuses to the other skills.

    • I think the seasonal item artwork is pretty minimal. Lots of item slots don't have any game view art at all, or they can just modify some existing item artwork. The ones where art's essential are sets, like the 3 they showed at Blizzcon and are adding in v2.2.

      But even then, I don't think they ever have a whole patch finished and balanced are sitting around twiddling thumbs waiting for someone to finish the textures on a new pair of shoulders. The time required for new features is more about concepting and balancing and such.

  10. The biggest issue is that patches feel entwined with content now (with minor exceptions). They can take their time with set changes, s02, whatever… Why not release better density and higher stacks now? Or even better drop rates?

    I would love to see a couple patches/month with minor fixes and qol changes. Everytime I'm on act 1, thinking about the new placement of artisans… That needs 2 months of testing?

  11. \Diablo 3’s financial model\ ?
    What the fu**? We playing video game or what?
    I playing D2 LoD currently. With glide wrapper it looks good on my 22\ monitor.
    This game is awesome…

  12. This a general statement. There is a widening gap between what the game is and the vision of the future of D3 from the devs and Blizzard, and what an increasing percentage of devoted fans envision for the game. I am not saying what is correct or what is right just seeing that gap widen is obvious to me. Maybe it is the timing of these updates or maybe it is the timing and content also.

    I do see the same kind of gameplay with a different vision for the game coming from Korea in Lineage (brand) and another Korean game (can't remember the name sorry) that is more of a mmo type setting. Hopefully a western gaming company can see a need and place for this kind of gameplay and supported persistent and growing game.

  13. "Diablo 3’s financial model is old school, much like D2’s or Starcraft’s, with a full-priced game followed every couple of year by a big expansion pack, with occasional patches and small additions in between."

    Exactly. They were betting on getting D3 done right the first time. But they failed, miserably. Now that it's on consoles, they really need to stop the current model, and switch to something else. Drop the OO DRM, I'm surprised people haven't started servers yet by pulling the game data from the console discs. I remember dupers were trying to bootleg D3 waaay back when Beta launched, and they got so far as monsters that stand around doing nothing. Should be much easier to port console data to PC.

    • They got a lot further than that.

      The financial system is completely fine for the PC. Anyone that wants paid DLC should get their legs cleanly broken and removed.

  14. While it’s true they have a damned if you do/don’t sword over their heads, the big issue is the timing of the completed items.

    -The Season 2 items (gems and updated sets/legendaries) are what people are most excited about. Maps, new monsters, and general fixes are nice, but take community excitement for all that combined and it doesn’t come close to the item lust. These items have been finished and tested.
    -The Season 3 set items seem to be super wanted. These items would be quick to finish and even test, but there’s a wait.
    -This causes major excitement and longing for S2 and S3. But we’re on a Season 1 that looks to be four months long or even longer. While Blizzard will never get past the \we want moar\ uproar, this round at least the big question is:

    \You have shown us moar. We want that moar. WHEN?\

    Blizzard’s response: \Go pound sand.\

  15. Make this shit offline, and update as they want. Like in D2.

  16. I agree… The game is already dead anyway, at least offline it lasts forever

  17. I, Clavdivs, The God, declare that 'patch' doesn't necessarily bring any new content, and often offer fixes and balances. Like them or not, think of them as they should've been here from the start, one cannot deny there were a decent number of content patches.

    But, what about number-crunchers, a simple buff/nerf patches? If the data shows that usage of some-passive-skill is ZERO percent and some-skill 95%, then there's something wrong, isn't there? Something which could be fixed with a patch that replaces, for instance, a 20% with 30%… Instead simple buffing, lots of skills are being replaced, sometimes unnecessary (or more graphically pleasing, but essentially, a number change would suffice and take almost no effort or resources)

    From that point of view, patches should be out every 1-2 months, especially in a game where balance is in this state.

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