Followers Viability

status updateBashiok has made a sort of status update on the DiabloWikiFollowers.

As you know Followers are single player companions but initially they were only to be of use in normal difficulty and Blizzard would work post-release to ensure they could not be taken beyond that point, no matter how much the player tried. Colourful rumblings from the community caused Blizzard to reconsider the wisdom of this restriction and at Blizzcon 2011 they announced that Followers would be viable in all difficulties. Not necessary, but available. Today’s update from Bashiok better explains their reasoning behind that change and finishes by asking for feedback on how you think you will use your Followers, (if at all).

The entire update is after the fold.

When we first announced the follower feature we revealed that these unique characters would accompany your hero on an adventure to save Sanctuary, but that they would only be able to survive in Normal difficulty. The amount of positive support the follower feature received, as well as the number of players who wanted to be able to keep these companions throughout the game — even into the toughest difficulties — left us wondering if it would be possible.

At BlizzCon we announced that we had taken that player feedback and were indeed working to make the single-player followers (templar, scoundrel, and enchantress) viable in the later difficulty levels.

We want to share some of the details surrounding this change and what it will mean for the single-player experience.

A lot of us wanted to see followers become viable throughout the game too, and agree they really add something to the experience as a whole. One of our main driving forces in making this decision was the benefits of the co-op experience, and the disadvantage of playing alone in the Nightmare, Hell, and Inferno difficulties. Followers won’t follow you into co-op games because you’ll already have the superior firepower of your friends to help you, but playing alone you’re going to want to take advantage of their benefits. We’ve made the later difficulties of the game brutally difficult, and we realize that for those attempting to tackle these later difficulties alone, they’re really going to actually want some additional support in the form of the followers.

Some players didn’t like their experience with mercenaries in Diablo II. We took feedback regarding mercenaries very seriously when designing Diablo III followers, and they differ from mercenaries in a few key ways that we think set them apart and resolve many issues. First of all, there is no resurrection or cost to your followers’ deaths, which makes their upkeep far less intrusive. When a follower takes enough damage to “die”, they simply take a knee, catch their breath, and after a few moments are back in the fight. That downtime could potentially have an effect on your own survival, but it’s unlikely to create a situation where you’re worrying about them or constantly working to keep them alive. We don’t want to turn what could be a fun benefit into a punishment by making players pay for their followers’ poor combat choices.

Secondly, when you die, so does your follower. These aren’t characters that can hope to compete or continue on without you. While some players prefer to be the lone wolf taking on the forces of evil, our intent isn’t to dilute the hero aspects by adding more wolves to your wolf pack. We want followers to be an extension of your bad-assery, not a liability. The followers could almost be considered automated buffs/damage skills, but of course with quite a bit more flavor and customization options.

We still have some tweaking to do with the followers, including their skills and end-game balancing. We continue to discover cool little ways to improve how each follower performs and the complements the different heroes. Our intent is to ensure players who take followers along find them to be helpful additions to their single-player experiences.

In the meantime, we’re interested to hear what you think of followers at end game and what your intent will be. Will you ever play alone, considering the benefits of co-op (personal loot drops, increased killing speed)? If you do play single player will you bring a follower? Or do you intend to challenge yourself by not bringing one?

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48 thoughts on “Followers Viability

  1. I would honestly be happy with the follower acting like this in the end game:
    A mobile buff that has high life and extremely small damage output, or even just a satellite that cannot be targeted but cannot take damage. The buff could be something small that compliments a build. I wrote this on, but what I like about followers isn’t a combat experience, but a narrative experience.

  2. I’m glad they are sticking with Followers being SP only, and I will use them. But I have to sigh a bit at this:
    “First of all, there is no resurrection or cost to your followers’ deaths, which makes their upkeep far less intrusive. When a follower takes enough damage to “die”, they simply take a knee, catch their breath, and after a few moments are back in the fight. That downtime could potentially have an effect on your own survival, but it’s unlikely to create a situation where you’re worrying about them or constantly working to keep them alive. We don’t want to turn what could be a fun benefit into a punishment by making players pay for their followers’ poor combat choices.”
    First off, resurrection cost was irrelevant in D2 because gold was like water. I really didn’t find it intrusive, just a logical game mechanic. If you’re unlikely to be “worrying about them or constantly working to keep them alive” then basically they are saying that they intend to remove any strategic element to followers. I’d rather they weren’t completely “set it and forget it,” that even if you can’t control their AI you at least have to be concerned about their welfare the way any powerful hero would need to be shepherding a weaker sidekick through danger. In multiplayer with other humans even if there is no healing or support class, you still don’t want to do stuff to get your friends in trouble. I think this should need to be mimicked with followers – if you want them with you, you gotta take care of them and they’ll take care of you!

    • In D2 resurrection cost was either nothing at all or a bit of an annoyance until you could save up your gold. When you happened to be low on gold (from a few deaths in a row on a particularly nasty champion, for example) the resurrection cost was most certainly “intrusive”.
      Nor does shepherding a potentially goofy AI sound especially “fun” to me, and I’m glad the penalties for followers getting taken out of the fight are small. Yes, you’ll probably do better overall if you try to synergize with your follower and not do things that will cause them to die, but this shouldn’t translate into a need to ‘shepherd’ them, nor into stiff penalties for their deaths. There are possible ways to include the “strategic element” you want that don’t relate solely to keeping them alive, such as synchronizing your attacks with them for maximum effect, choosing follower skills that best complement your own abilities, and choosing equipment to maximize a follower’s effectiveness. Those choices can all be very strategic, even in the absence of a need to shift-click potions to feed them to your merc.

      • Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer it if there were more/better options for controlling followers, especially some kind of AI controls. I just know that’s not going to happen. But I do have some faith that their AI will be vastly improved from the way mercs worked in D2. Even then I rarely had them die stupid deaths – all you needed to know was how to manipulate their “leash” and have reasonably good equipment on them.
        I just don’t like that you can be heedless of their welfare now. I like the idea of interacting with them on some level during the fight, not just outside of combat when speccing them out.

      • You didn’t need amazing gear to keep mercs alive in D2.  Elite runewords could make them really powerful killers, but they could thrive quite well on easily attainable gear. Most of my Act 2 mercs wore something like Shaftstop, Vampire Gaze, and Reaper’s Toll (none of those hard to acquire) and could hold their own against any Hell monster, even Baal if I tossed some potions their way.

    • Teh cost wasn’t the problem, having to go back to town after his/her dumb ass every time until his gear was good enough was the annoying part…
      But maybe instead of the Skyrim essential NPC way it would work better like DoW2, Gears or GW2 is doing it… they fall down and stay there until you spend a second or two to get them up…

  3. I just don’t want followers to be a necessity for inferno when soloing. I mean, it should still be doable without one, if a little harder. But if it’s just a little easier, then there is little point in taking them anyway.
    So for them to be helpful, they have to be actually helpful, thus becoming almost a necessity for inferno, or at least a no-brainer, instead of a choice.

    So yes, I agree that you have to keep looking out for them – while they would provide a good bonus, keeping them in shape would require you to actually do something to prevent their deaths – and that is incentive enough to actually evaluate whether you want the additional pain in the ass for the benefit – or not. IMO.

    • As i suggested before, maybe make them count as 0.3-0.5 of a player and have the monster adjust accordingly…
      That way you could even make the game harder on yourself by keeping them naked so they won’t be much help if you want…

  4. At least they finally admitted they’re balancing monsters around the inclusion of followers. To compensate, they should have no-follower achievements. The banner pattern could be the Forever Alone head.

    • From the Templar footage i’ve seen i don’t think you can play the game without using the followers at all… the Templar at least is part of the main story when you 1st meet him.

      • During that quest, Kormac isn’t actually a follower. You can’t change his gear or do anything but talk to him. Once the quest is done, a pop-up window comes up asking if you want him to come with you, or to dismiss him to town.

  5. I’m very happy to see followers being viable in end-game.
    Now they are pretty much exactly how I wished them to be when D3 was announced. More skills to pick for them and more item slots would be nice, but that is a small thing.

    Hopefully the ‘kneel down’ time while ‘dead’ will be long enough for people to care about their follower staying alive, if nothing else because their downtime endangers your own characters life.

  6. Ah, this is great news.  Not simply for the point at hand, but it is most likely the “large game system change” that Bashiok was referring to here:
    “It’s making sure everything is perfect. We’re not really in a strictly polishing phase yet though, although certainly that’s true for some areas of the game. Still, we’re in the process of working on some rather large game system changes, some of which we’ll be sharing shortly before or with the next beta patch”
    Knowing that the large change is something that does not seem to require an immense period of time means that we might not see this game pushed back as far as we reluctantly assumed.

    • Except that we already knew about this so I doubt that this is the stuff he was referring to that they were going to share with us along with the next beta patch…

  7. I want followers to be viable in all difficulties besides inferno.  I do not want to be forced to use a follower in inferno.  When playing in Inferno I will use every advantage I get, so yes I will force myself to use followers in inferno even though I would prefer to not use them in that difficulty.  I like being a lone wolf when I play single player at the highest levels.  I will lower my fun factor by forcing myself to use mercs for the benefits provided while playing in inferno since it is the hardest difficulty.

    The followers can simply say, “I am skilled, but demons of this ferocity will only have me slow you down.  I wish you good luck.”

    Another option would be for you to get a buff such as an extra passive or a small bonus to all stats instead of bringing a merc along that is only available when playing alone on inferno difficulty.

  8. To answer the question: i would be playing single player 99% of the time, and would much love a companion beside me all thru the game.

  9. I’ll check them out when the game is first released. Beyond that I may use them in the gaps between difficuly levels if I’m horribly undergeared. Otherwise I doubt I’ll bother with them too much.

  10. Followers should only be available in single player, enough said.

    There are just too many issues present when they are in multiplayer.

  11. well a bit off topic but, inbeta templar is a huge problem he constantly blocks your movement for example  when you use vault with DH after you tumble he just runs to catch up with you and you are struck behin him unless you move a little backwards and then forward again. same with barbarians leap.

  12. “We’ve made the later difficulties of the game brutally difficult, and we realize that for those attempting to tackle these later difficulties alone, they’re really going to actually want some additional support in the form of the followers.”

    So they just chose to ignore the people who would rather truly play solo. Thanks again for the middle finger to my preferred play-style, Blizz.

    Also, if merc death is gonna be that irrelevant, they should just go ahead and make them immortal. How dumb…

    • The just play solo, you’d think that for someone who likes difficult games that would be even better as it would make the game even harder…

  13. It seems I am alone in this, but for me this is horrible news. I hate the idea of having any sort of AI following me in the highest difficulties, it kills both the fun and immersion for me. I think their original plan of having followers Normal only was the best, anybody who cared about sheparding them could do so, but they didn´t affect end game farming. Of the all the things they could have done with them, they chose the worst one, for me and anybody who feels the same way about them. Now that folllowers are end game viable, they are a necessity, Bashiok himself says it, walking buffs and additional damage, all of which translated into quicker killing which translated into more loot over smaller period of time, which will obviously have a significant effect on end game inferno farming. I wouldn´t mind followers being end game viable if, and only if, there were significant drawbacks for the player using followers in inferno. For example, you can´t use passives if you have follower out, or, if thats to drastic (and it probably is), the simplest solution, if you have follower out, game increases difficulty as if there was another player, so instead of playing one player game, you are playing 2 or 2.5 players difficulty. Which means monsters have more health, more armor/defense, and spawn in larger numbers. Because, otherwise it will be completly OP feature, to have a follower play with you in single player game. Result of that is forcing any remotely serious player to also use them, and wasn´t that one of the things they set out to change with D3, how you were forced to use mercs in D2, and they wanted to change that, and now they are again forcing players into using followers. I am not interested in using followers, not will I ever be, and now I will be forced into using a feature I do not want to use, or risk getting left behind in Inferno gearing/farming. I am dissapoint.

    Edit: also, Bashiok´s comment about how overwhelming community support convinced into making followers viable in all difficulties, is true, pure BS. Followers are one of few issues where community is almost completly divided, and while there are a lot of people who are in favor of followers, there is significant percentage of fanbase who would rather not play with followers at all. I would rather them not using great community outcries (which didn´t happen) as an excuse to bring a feature that, many including me, do not want in the end game.

    • Having an AI be counted the same as another player doesn’t strike you as excessive?
      Man, i wonder why they didn’t listen to your opinion…

      • Not when said AI has significant amount of buffs and utility skills available, as well as added benefit of presenting aditonal target for monsters. Even smallest buffs would make followers a necessity in inferno, and followers definatly have more then small buffs to offer. Follower advantages may seem small, (they are not), but having follower out can mean the difference between getting some uber weapon after 70 hours instead of non followe 100 hours of farming. These aren´t real times of course, but it serves to illustrate the point of impact followers will have in inferno farming.

        • If you don’t want a follower in Inferno, don’t take them with you. Don’t you have the choice to leave them in town?

        • Yeah, but i’m betting another player will help you get that weapon in less then 70 hours… i’d say at most they should count as 0.5 players at most… if they need to count as more then they’re OP…

    • “It seems I am alone in this, but for me this is horrible news. I hate the idea of having any sort of AI following me in the highest difficulties, it kills both the fun and immersion for me.”
      You are nowhere close to alone in this. In fact, it seems once upon a time, Blizz was mostly on your side.

      • Then just don’t take them.
        This isn’t D2. Because they mentioned some sort of balance change does not automatically equate to it being drastic enough to have the follower be necessary like it was in D2 if you wanted that aura. It’s an entirely different system. Even their AI is almost completely different.

    • It’s never been there. They mentioned it as a possibility they might work on post-release. Whether they still would…
      I suppose a nice alternative for an expansion would be if you met an elderly Druid follower who, rather than fighting with you, stays in town but summons a spirit to go with you – a floating buff who doesn’t attack, and unlike in D2, doesn’t attract enemies or take damage. They could let you choose between three different spirits to mirror the choice between the three proper followers.

    • There is no passive type buff that can adequately balance a full blown second player/NPC. Never was, never will be. I think they finally wised up and said “there’s probably not a whole lot of super solo players around, so if they want to be ultra elite or whatever, they can go for it, but we’re going to balance the game and the monsters around the assumption that there are going to be at least two bodies (a player/follower or multiplayer) at all times.” Personally, I didn’t like mercs, and they definitely benefit some builds more than others (glass cannons). But I’m happy that the dev team stopped lying to themselves and realized they had to pick one way or the other, and design the game that way. They chose followers, which makes sense, since they are big on promoting co-op gameplay.

  14. Wait, so this was announced at Blizzcon (i for one missed it), but when Bashiok said they where working on a game system no one thought this might be it?

    • I wouldn’t think so. This isn’t a big deal and honestly it shouldn’t take them too long to figure out.
      It sounds like they don’t have a problem figuring out HOW to fix it as much as what people actually want, hence the request for feedback.

      I’m assuming that the large game system changes relates to skills, resources, or runes.

  15. People who dont like the idea of followers are a smaller minority than they suggest. Perhaps just more vocal.
    If you dont like followers, then dont use one. Simple as that. If your need to get the most phat lewt at the fastest pace possible is your overwhelming perogative, then i guess you have to weigh the two.

    For me i dont care about extra narrative or whatever, nor do i really care whether there is an extra ai person there or not. What i do like is making choices about abilities and gear, and these guys provide more of that. So i like them.

    • Nobody is forcing you to wear gear either, you could go try to play inferno without gear. Or runes, or gems. You could play the game without them and it would “only” be harder (impossible in later difficulties) and would take significantly more time. Now just replace gear/runes/gems/etc, with followers and you will see why am I against them. Also, if you are so uninterested in “phat loot” then go play naked in inferno because if inferno is balanced around you having them, then you might as well be.

  16. I don’t believe in being forced to change my play style to accommodate incompatible AI. A mercenary shouldn’t be an excuse to make the game more difficult, more often than not, the frustration of dealing with follower AI is aggravation enough.

    If the content is engineered with the assumption that I will always have a follower, then it must be a convenience feature. If I develop a play style that can solo the content, I shouldn’t have to change that style to work with a flavor/fun mechanic. Chances are, I will already have to change my style for whatever hotfix disrupts my build.

    The game is centered around progression through itemization (now for the player and the mercenary), the only other thing that progresses is the player’s skill (hopefully), while I’m fairly certain the mercenary AI will not. 

    I’m not really sure why it’s assumed that something I sink time into shouldn’t make the game easier. If I sink time into mercenary itemization (much like re-running hell for an advantage in inferno), I want that time sink to be a benefit. I want the mercenary to accommodate me, not the other way around.

    • In one small defense, the AI on the followers (the templar at least) is actually pretty good. He isn’t some massively aggressive powerhouse, he doesn’t go stabbing at anything under the sun and doesn’t attack very quickly at all, but he also doesn’t run into a wall for an hour.

  17. “We’ve made the later difficulties of the game brutally difficult, and we realize that for those attempting to tackle these later difficulties alone, they’re really going to actually want some additional support in the form of the followers.”
     That excuse is pure BS, it makes no sense, why not make it easier while playing solo instead if it’s more difficult than they want it to be?

    My speculation is that followers are in mainly as a crutch to help carry all the grandmothers out there to endgame. I personally think it would be better if the grandmothers had to struggle at lower difficulties for awhile, learning how to play before they could get to endgame. It’s quite obvious that followers are going to be extremely powerful if you look at their abilities and selfress.
    I’m not a fan of mercs/followers in endgame as you probably notice, if I want AI companions there are classes that have them already. Playing without a follower isn’t a real option if you gimp yourself significantly by doing so.

    • If they want to focus on co-op and get us to play mostly with other people making SP easier is the last thing they want to do… so their reasoning makes sense from that perspective…

      • Bashiok claims that later difficulties are so difficult when played solo that they’ve realized we’re “going to actually want some additional support in the form of the followers” as a reason for why they made followers endgame viable.
        The game can be made equally difficult with or without followers, how does his argument make sense as a reason for adding followers?

        This is what I’ve come to expect from Bashiok though, I can’t take anything he says seriously anymore when he talks so much obvious BS.

  18. Completely aside from the narrative issue, followers add more choices, more complexity, and yes, more customization to the game.
    You choose which follower to use, which skills to give them, and their gear.
    I do not understand the hate for a feature which is just what most players seem to be clamoring for: additional customization. Nor do I really understand the “but I want to play ALONE!” complaint. When you use a follower, you ARE alone… they may LOOK like another player character, but they function like a summons. Are people really so psychologically fooled by the scripted dialogue and human appearance that they think they’re not soloing when they have a follower?
    Just think of it as an especially customizable pet ability that every class gets.

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