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    A site reader named Stalkman sent in a couple of good guest articles late last month, but what with all the news from Gamescom and the console launch, I lost them in the shuffle. Happily I rediscovered them today, and here’s the first of them, with another one coming up next week. This one talks about the development process of Diablo 3 and how the designers could and should do a better job interfacing with the community, for the sake of the game and the happiness of the fans.

    diablo 3 article

    What I do know can happen with perfectionism is that when the details are the focus for too long the big picture gets missed. The rune system was shifted around several times before the game’s launch to something that works quite smoothly. However in the same breath, the tuning of inferno’s difficulty and legendary items seemed to be hacked afterthoughts. Both skills and items play a role in shaping the long game, but I disagree that focusing on the skills was the way to go.

    …I submit the best way to fight the infamous attitude is to open the lines of communication as we’ve been seeing with the recent developer interviews. As an impatient fan, it’s so much more reassuring to be getting information that I don’t agree with rather than no information at all. Given the Diablo 3 community’s stamina for complaint and criticism, it could be argued that Diablo 3’s staying power lies partially in its bad press.

    That’s just a short excerpt; click through for the full piece and add your thoughts in the comments.

    When it’s Done and the Future of Diablo 3

    I recently watched the movie “Indie Game” which follows three developers in different stages of the development process. One of the young professionals is a tortured guy in his mid twenties who has remade his title from the ground up twice. The night before a show, he makes changes to the game creating an unstable build that keeps crashing whenever someone tries to play it. His partner left and isn’t making his life easy. His girlfriend went the same way as the partner. As a viewer, I ended up feeling bad for this guy who had a great idea and a nearly finished product who couldn’t get out of his own way.

    Watching this poor, perseverative soul, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Blizzard’s design philosophy: “When it’s Done”. In one of the recent glut of interviews, the developers described themselves as creative types who have a natural tendency towards a big reveal of a perfectly crafted product which they have to fight. But when is it done? My fear is that whomever is making that vital decision will be part of the same insular, perfectionist culture as the rest of the team causing delay after delay. I don’t know that this is what was happening in the year before release of Diablo 3, but no contrary information has been provided so I’m left with my conjecture.

    What I do know can happen with perfectionism is that when the details are the focus for too long the big picture gets missed. The rune system was shifted around several times before the game’s launch to something that works quite smoothly. However in the same breath, the tuning of inferno’s difficulty and legendary items seemed to be hacked afterthoughts. Both skills and items play a role in shaping the long game, but I disagree that focusing on the skills was the way to go.

    This is for two reasons. The first is that items are what drive the bus in the Diablo games. The skill progression is nice, but isn’t at the heart of the longevity. The second is that even with the polished set of skill runes we have now, there are mandatory runes and many that aren’t used at all in the few skills for each class that are viable for inferno play. No matter how much time was spent on the skill system, there were always going to be skills that were the better choice, which nearly all players are going to look up online and use without much experimentation. The delicious nectar that keeps us coming back is the item drops which distinguish your character from others. This differentiation through items was most pronounced in Diablo 3 because of DiabloWikifreespecs and set stat progressions but the items weren’t developed well enough to balance stat and skill homogeneity. The first legendary that ever dropped for me was a 463 DPS Skysplitter in May 2012. Looking at it even then something was very wrong. Its face value to me the player was off immediately, and I couldn’t have been the first person to have such a reaction.

    I submit the best way to fight the infamous attitude is to open the lines of communication as we’ve been seeing with the recent developer interviews. As an impatient fan, it’s so much more reassuring to be getting information that I don’t agree with rather than no information at all. Given the Diablo 3 community’s stamina for complaint and criticism, it could be argued that Diablo 3’s staying power lies partially in its bad press. For some reason people log on so they can tout the superiority of Torchlight 2 or Path of Exile in general chat. For the Diablo 3 community any news is good news, evidenced by the fact that some of us were excited to find out that there wasn’t going to be any new content until at least November. Not because we don’t want the game changed, but because the developers actually told the community what to expect, unlike the grinding years of silence pre-release. Not that I blame the team. With a community that has enough vitriol to give the League of Legends crew a run for their money, opening the door and inviting “What do you think of us, really?” would be about the last thing I’d want to do.

    An area that I’d like to be explored is how the “When it’s Done” approach influenced Diablo 3’s development in its last year and what the team has explicitly learned and what they’re trying to do differently. We know that there’s going to be a blackout of new information and content until the expansion is announced, so why not dig into what was going on in the year prior to release? I’m not looking to put any game directors head on a pike, but rather what shaped the latest game in a series that has followed me from my early adolescence well into my adulthood. The open communication makes me very hopeful for the game’s future along with the strike team from the other teams at Blizzard. That’s open communication within the very limited context of a Blizzard development team, however Flux’s interview with Wyatt and Travis were the most candid and refreshing I’d ever listened to after spending an adolescent lifetime following Blizzard games. I strongly urge you to check them out if you haven’t yet. I hope that Travis and Wyatt may have learned some things from talking to Flux, but there I may have over extended my optimism.

    Going back to the items for a moment, focusing only on the legendary items, the Diablo 3 team had a group of people on campus who had hand designed every item with weighted stats to be roughly equal for their game. Why were they not used, or not used effectively in the game’s development? I don’t want it to become Wodin’s Wizardspike, but now the Diablo 3 developers are using the example of WoW legendary weapons as a small part of the experience they want to provide moving forward.

    I hope that as the lid continues to slip off the Diablo 3 development process there’s more regulated exchanges between the development team and the community in a way where both can learn something: a cross pollination which would benefit both the team and the community. The community would get more information to be excited about or more insight into why decisions were made in the games development. What they do with that information is their business. The developers would get fresh eyes and input, provided they choose who they talk to wisely.

    –Stalkman

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    This guest article is by Stalkman and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Diablo.IncGamers.com. Offer the author feedback in comments, and if you’re interested in contributing a guest article or other content to this site, get in touch with [email protected]

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