There’s a letter being posted in the forum here and on the official Battle.net forums, that purports to be from Jay Wilson, explaining why Diablo 3’s release is being delayed until November.

    There’s no blue comment on this yet, but seriously, do you really need one? Of course it’s not legit. Besides there are a lot of grammatical errors and issues, and the whole thing directly contradicts numerous recent Blizzard remarks about stress testing, features being postponed due to the time crunch, “days” left before a release date announcement, etc… just the title should give away the fakery — as if Blizzard ever targets anything to a month, much less a day, this far in advance?

    Here’s the start; click through for the whole thing, though I dearly hope no one is bored or paranoid enough to read the entire thing. It’s the very definition of TLDR.

    A message from Jay Wilson:

    We know that all of you have been waiting for the imminent announcement of the release date for Diablo 3, and we want to thank each and every one of you for your patience. With that in mind, we’ve got some good news for you today. The release date for Diablo 3 has been set, and the game is scheduled for release on November 5, 2012.

    Now before you race off to the forums and start screaming for our blood, I want to take a few moments to explain why we’ve decided to hold the game back for a later release, and why this announcement is a good thing. As well as announce a few things that should make the wait a little more tolerable for our most ardent fans.

    First off, I want to address the elephant in the room. Many people are going to see this as another delay, in a long series of delays, that they think Diablo 3 has experienced. I want to assure you however that this is completely untrue.

    We’ve been working hard on the game and its systems, and going through the iterative process that makes each one of our games the best it can be. While we’ve certainly had other launch windows in mind, in classic Blizzard fashion we’ve been sticking to “It’s done when its done.” Diablo 3, while still very good, just isn’t where we need it to be to officially launch. It has some rough edges, and while I want to see the release of the game as badly as anyone, we need extra time to polish some systems before they are ready for release. The extra time from now till our official release date will be used to continue our iterative process and make the game into the phenomenal success we want it to be.

    Now for the inevitable question, if we’re still developing the game and its systems, why have we announced an official release date? This is not Blizzards standard procedure but put simply, we feel the game works very well as it is today, and expect it to improve a lot in the intervening time from now until release day. As such, we feel confident that even if internally we see that there are things that could still be improved, by November the game will be ready for its public debut regardless. Development on Diablo 3 will not end on release day. Far from it. We will continue developing content and making changes for many years to come. So on November 5, 2012 the game will be in stores. We want everyone to experience the amazing adventure of Diablo 3, and we expect it to be a spectacular success.

    What does this mean for the Beta? The Diablo 3 Beta test has been going extremely well and we are exceptionally pleased with the progress we’ve made stress testing our systems. Feedback from Beta testers has been very positive, and everyone has been instrumental in getting the final bugs worked out. Auction House testing has revealed a few issues with our systems, but once we get some new hardware in place to handle demand we expect it to work flawlessly. Therefore we fully intend to continue running the Beta right up until release, and will continue to work with the community to find and resolve any issues that we find along the way.

    And now as a preview of things to come, I wanted to share a few of the systems we are currently focusing on and what sort of changes you can expect in the Beta between now and release.

    Internally we’ve developed some fundamental changes to the resource systems of three classes, namely the Wizard, the Witch Doctor, and the Demon Hunter. We really enjoy the feeling of the Barbarians and the Monks resources, and how they are focused on generating their respective resources and then spending those resources on unleashing powerful skills.

    The Demon Hunter matches this style most closely, but we feel the dual resource system of Hatred and Discipline isn’t working out the way we want. The system is a holdover from a previous iteration where Hatred and Discipline balanced each other in pendulum style swings from one to the other. As the game stands today, we feel Discipline is superfluous and have decided to remove it. The Demon Hunter will now operate the same as the Barbarian or Monk, generating Hatred, and then consuming that Hatred to use various skills. Most skills that previously cost Discipline, now simply cost Hatred instead. To keep the resource balanced now that there are extra abilities to spend hatred on, hatred generators give slightly more hatred, while spenders cost slightly less. The Demon Hunters natural Hatred regeneration has also been increased.

    In keeping with this new design philosophy the Wizard has undergone some changes as well. Natural regeneration of Arcane Power has been reduced, and the Wizards signature spells now generate Arcane Power rather than simply being free to cast. As well, some skills that were previously Arcane Power spenders have been reworked into signature skills. Arcane Torrent for instance, now generates Arcane Power when used.

    Similar to the Wizard, changes have also been made to the Witch Doctor. First a thematic change has been made to the class’s resource system. Mana has come to feel like a poor fit for the Witch Doctor, and we are renaming the Witch Doctor’s resource to Mojo. This will also be accompanied by an artwork update to make Mojo a sickly green liquid filled with bones. This will be a resource that better reflects the nature of the Witch Doctor’s skills and makes the class feel more cohesive as a whole. Next, to bring the Witch Doctor into line with the generators and spenders design, some of the witch doctors skills like Poison Dart, Hex, and Soul Harvest now generate Mojo. Zombie Dogs also generate Mojo for the Witch Doctor based on the damage they deal. Other abilities such as Grasp of the Dead, Haunt, and Firebats will continue to cost Mojo. The Witch Doctor has not been altered to generate Mojo naturally over time, but will generate additional Mojo from attacks which do damage over time.

    We feel these class changes make for a much more dynamic experience within the game. The Barbarian and the Monk remain largely unchanged at this point, though we are also working on adding a few additional skills to each of the classes which will include those two as well.

    Speaking of skills, that brings me to the current iteration of the Rune system. While we feel it works well enough within the game right now, it also doesn’t match our expectations for how the system should operate overall. When we began on the current iteration we wanted to emphasize a guided experience for our newest players. Along the way we seem to have lost a bit of the specialization or choice that we all enjoy and hurt the experience overall. As well, forcing a player to level to 60 to get all of the available Runes left some of our internal testers discouraged, and detaching the Runes from the loot system meant there was no longer that instantaneous spike of happiness at finding a Rune.

    To remedy the situation we’ll be making some fairly large changes to the Rune system once again to bring back choice and customization, while still guiding new players who may be confused by the complexities of the system.

    We’ll be moving back to a system where runestones drop from monsters, but to counteract the bloated inventory issue we ran into previously they will only drop as three different types and not be tied to individual skills. The three types of runestones will be Lesser Runestones, Greater Runestones, and Exceptional Runestones. Lesser Runestones will drop in Normal difficulty, Lesser and Greater Runestones in Nightmare, and Lesser, Greater, and Exceptional in Hell and Inferno. The runestone item that drops will be unidentified, and will be called Runestone until it is identified and the player discovers its quality. When a runestone is used, you will select an ability and the rune effect you want, and inscribe a blank runestone tying it to that particular skill. The runestone will then be removed from your inventory and the rune of that quality for the selected skill and rune effect will be activated in the Skill panel. Lesser Runes will endow abilities with a reduced effect, Greater with an effect roughly equal to what is currently in Beta, and Exceptional will be equivalent to what the internal rank seven runes used to be.

    With this change comes an additional one. We are in the process of reintroducing the Mystic to the game. While previously the Mystic’s role was to enchant items with various enhancements we felt that was better covered already by the Blacksmith and the Jeweler. The Mystic will now be involved in upgrading and breaking down the various runestones. After a runestone is inscribed it can not be altered and exists only in the Skill panel, but uninscribed runestones can be combined to create a runestone of the next highest quality, and higher quality runestones can be broken down into lower quality ones. Currently we have five Lesser Runestones forming one Greater Runestone, and five Greater Runestones forming one Exceptional Runestone. Breaking down runestones is not perfectly equal to upgrading however, a single Exceptional Runestone breaks down into three Greater Runestones, and Greater Runestones break down into three Lesser Runestones. This is to encourage the player to use the runestones as the quality they are dropped at, but still allow the system to provide the type of runestone the player needs as they see fit. The Mystic is also restricted in that runestones can not be transmuted into Exceptional Runestones until at least Hell difficulty to avoid to much focus on upgrading the runes of any one skill to the detriment of all others.

    Rarity within this new system is paramount to its success. We expect to tune the drop rates so that a person will have the option to either inscribe all or nearly all of their abilities with all possible Lesser Rune effects by the end of Normal, or to choose a few abilities to focus on and inscribe Greater Runes. Nightmare will equivalently involve getting most runes to Greater quality with a few remaining as Lesser, and Hell and Inferno will then provide the ability to access Exceptional quality through transmutes or drops. Drop rates will be tuned such that Lesser Runestones are relatively plentiful, while Greater and Exceptional are much more rare respectively.

    We feel such a system fixes several major issues. Inventory bloat no longer exists, unidentified runestones stack and identified runes stack by quality. After a rune is inscribed it is removed from inventory altogether and attached to the Skill panel. At worst this means a person could horde unidentified runestones and the three qualities taking up a maximum of four inventory slots. Secondly, choice is reintroduced to the system, the upgrade path for runes is unique to each person, while never punishing the player for choosing any particular rune. Additionally upgrading each rune from Lesser to Greater to Exceptional provides another layer of choice within the system. Add to that the excitement of seeing a rune drop and the double excitement of identifying it and finding its quality and you can see why such a system benefits the play experience.

    Now the only question that remains is what to do about new players. As I said earlier, the system in use in the Beta today was designed to be easy to understand and provide a guided experience. To help players who may be confused by the abundance of choices, by default, the game will suggest a skill and rune to inscribe when opening the Skill Panel. That suggestion will be based on the players available runestones and on the players level and skills currently in use. The suggestions themselves will be modeled on the current upgrade path that we have working in the Beta. So for instance, if a new Wizard opens the Skill Panel with an uninscribed Lesser Rune in their inventory, the game will suggest that the rune be inscribed with Magic Missile – Charged Blast. If that same Wizard is a higher level and using Arcane Orb, the game may instead suggest Arcane Orb – Arcane Nova. More advanced players will be able to toggle the suggestions off in the game menu options. This way we provide that same guided experience for new players, while not forcing more advanced players down any specific path.

    Finally, Arenas and PVP will be available in the game at launch. While we previously had said that we would hold PVP back until a later patch, that decision was based on an earlier release timeline. With the move to a November release, we will have ample time to bring the PVP systems up to our, and the players, standards. The players and fans voiced major concerns about releasing the game without its PVP component and we’ve eventually come to agree. That said, we intend to begin adding PVP and Arenas to the Beta within the next two months so we can get a feel for the current systems weaknesses and give us a better idea of where specific improvements need to be implemented.

    Hopefully that provides a little bit of insight into why we are holding release until November. But before I go I want to make one last announcement.

    While the Beta has been great at testing our hardware, we’ve come to the conclusion that we need something even larger, something more monumental, to really put everything through its paces in preparation for release. In light of that, after next weeks maintenance, we will be moving the Beta from its current closed invite system, to one that is open to the public. So please, if you are not already part of the Beta test, come and join us for a first peek into the world of Sanctuary and give us a hand finishing this thing off right.

    Looking forward to seeing you there.

    Thanks for reading.

    Jay Wilson

    Game Director for Diablo 3

    You can stop mailing in for clarification now, Jay has tweeted :

    That post is not me, and not true.

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