news-livestream-18dec2014aThe final Play Your Way livestream of the year went off this afternoon, hosted by CM Nevalistis and D3 developer John Yang, along with players Neinball and Abachio, whose non-Marauder DH was the featured build on the show. It was a Demon Hunter fest, with all four players running that build, and much of the conversation focused on recent and upcoming changes for the Demon Hunter, including skills that have been tweaked (Nightstalker), current changes to Marauder’s Set, upcoming changes to Natalya’s Set, DH items, and more.

    Other game issues got some discussion as well, and there was a lot of talk about Ancient Items, increased Greater Rift monster density, Legendary Gems maybe going into armor, and more. For those of you who couldn’t watch, I typed out a rough transcript of all key stuff that John Yang talked about, added notes and links for more info, and highlighted the important parts.

    Here goes, and the full video is embedded at the end, for your viewing pleasure.

    Abachio Talking about the gear on his DH and why he’s not in a Witching Hour belt since it’s so hard to find.
    John Yang: It should be a little easier now in patch 2.1.2.

    All the most uncommon Legendary Items are boosted considerably in drop rate in the new patch. This means that you’ll find the total amount of legendaries as before, but the specific ones that were previously very-rare and ultra-rare are now more common. If you don’t know which ones are so designated and want to learn more about the overall legendary drop rate info, and want to see tables listing the precise drop rate for every item in the game, we covered all that in a big article back in September, when the drop odds were last tweaked.

    We’ll post updated info on all the drop odds once the Patch 2.1.2 changes are finalized.

    At least anecdotally, these changes to what’s ultra-rare are working. In limited play time on the PTR since the last tweaks to the drop rate, I’ve found 2 Tasker and Theo and 1 Frostburns gloves, plus 1 Ice Climber boots, all of which were previously ultra-rare. Still no luck on an Ancient Kridershot, though I’ve mostly been playing a Monk to test out the Sunwuko’s Set changes. (It’s nicely buffed, but still inadequate to compare to other top geared classes.)

    Night Stalker changes. The Demon Hunter passive on live is pretty much infinite Discipline. Some builds on the PTR need to change things around to keep enough of that resource. Abachio says he’s switched one skill to get Preparation on his bar. Nevalistis says she switched a passive from Night Stalker to Perfection, to save on discipline costs.

    John: We’re redoing Nightstalker from Discpline. Now on the PTR grants more Hatred per use of your generators. The reason: Discipline is meant to function like a cooldown for Demon Hunters. Smoke Screen has an intentionally short cool down since it’s supposed to be limited by Discipline. But with Nighstalker giving so much, like the old Critical Mass for Wizards, it’s too easy. Players are exploiting Night Stalker to enable them to stay in Smoke Screen the entire time, which is basically permanent invulnerability.

    So sorry for killing Night Stalker, but people were playing with 2m toughness and living entirely by using perpetual Smoke Screen.

    Smoke Screen has also been tweaked/nerfed in the upcoming patch, with a longer downtime between casts. Currently the cooldown is 2 seconds and SS lasts for 1 second, with the Lingering Fog rune raising that to 1.5 seconds. Patch 2.1.2 is going to increase the cooldown to 3 seconds, so Lingering Fog will only grant 50% uptime.

    That was just the very start — click through for the rest of the transcript:

    Some conversation ensued about the various Demon Hunter builds in the livestream, using Strafe and Ball Lightning.

    John: I really like Ball Lightning. I think we’ll have other Demon Hunter builds that utilize lightning in the future.

    Neinball: Strafe is so fun. Reminds me of WW Assassins in D2.

    John: People love channeled skills. WW, Strafe. It just feels cool to mow down things where your cursor goes. We’ll have more strafe items in the future. We want something that makes Strafe pierce, since that simultaneously improves things. It changes how you play and it gives you more power. Strafe automatically targets anything nearby, so players just spin through the middle of enemies. If Strafe pierces as well, that changes the tactics, since you’ll want to more around the edge of groups and try to line up or group enemies, so the Strafe will hit more targets per shot.

    Conversation about the upcoming buffs to all of the original class sets. The devs have repeatedly said they’re going to rework the 4 and 5 piece bonuses to Inna’s, Zunimasssa’s, Natalya’s, Immortal King’s, and Tal Rasha’s sets, to make them enable another build per class that will be competitive with the newer class six-piece sets.

    John Yang: Natalya’s coming 5 piece bonus. The idea is a Rain of Vengeance set. The four-piece bonus will do something like reduce the RoV cooldown by 2 seconds each time you use a Spender, and the five-piece bonus will do something like triple your damage while RoV is active.

    So you’ll cast RoV and go into a power up damage mode, where you’ll want to cast Spenders to reduce the cooldown on RoV, while getting a damage boost to them. So you’ll be playing very actively, using spenders, and we think it’ll be lightning as the element of choice, since the RoV rune effect Shade is the most popular rune. It’s probably the easiest to aim and big attack area.

    Players will probably start off using cold since that’s the Rain of Vengeance Rune that’s the one with auto-targeting, and then go to fire since that’s the RoV rune with six second duration, and then ultimately lightning, for Shade which has just a 5s duration. Players will want Cooldown Reduction (CDR) and Attack Speed to benefit from the set bonuses, and the build will sort of cycle itself. So you’ll do one thing to enable the second, and that one enables the third, adn then it repeats.

    In Patch 2.2, we want to finish off the vanilla 5 piece sets, getting 5 piece special bonuses. And we’re also going to add in the three new six-piece sets we showed at Blizzcon. With that new Multishot set in, Demon Hunters should have 3 really solid builds to play soon.

    We want to buff the 5 original class sets, give them all a big new bonus to be viable with the other new sets, and get in the 3 new sets. Those were rushed on features and artwork, just to get them playable in the Blizzcon demo. That’s why they’re not ready yet.

    Everyone jokes about how the PTR always drops better gear or items you’ve long sought on Live, as if it means to troll you.

    John: My first Rift on the PTR I got one of the only 2 items I need for any of my characters. A Pride of Cassius for my Barb.

    Some discussion about the targeting range of Turrets, and Neinball points out they have really long range, and are able to fire from well off the screen to hit targets near the Demon Hunter.

    John: Range on Turrets is AI radius. Something like 90 yards. It’s probably a little on the long side, but the alternative is to have them below the AI. I don’t think it’s too bad. You still have to be there for them to work. I haven’t heard complaints about the range on the turrets.

    Goblins should not be appearing in Greater Rifts. Bug on the PTR now, should be hotfixed soon. Came in when they added a lot of new goblin stuff in the patch.

    Everyone rushes in for a DiabloWikiConduit Pylon and three of the party die trying to get there, since monsters are just everywhere, even making the pylon impossible to click on. Later in the stream they got one in a very crowded place and even with all 4 players at once zapping with the Conduit, it was barely able to kill off trash mobs.

    John: Conduit Shrines: At highest levels it makes or breaks the GR time and leaderboard. That’s not something we want. So we broke Conduits against Guardians. That said, I think they’re underpowered now. Conduit shrines aren’t fun to get anymore. They’re open to taking a look at the damage again.

    I have to agree. I thought Conduit Pylons were definitely an exploit before in how their damage scaled up for bosses, especially in killing Rift Guardians in seconds, but they should at least still slaughter trash mobs. Currently on the PTR a Conduit is almost not worth getting. It can be helpful for lesser-geared characters, but a character with good equipment gets almost no benefit. On lower difficulty when the Conduit does kill you don’t need the help, and on higher difficulties the damage from the Conduit isn’t enough to make a real impact.

    Right now on the PTR, Power or Channeling Pylons are *much* more impactful, for most characters.

    John: Rift Density: In 2.1.2 we really cranked the density in Rifts. Not sure why we did that now, to be honest. But it’s changed the balance a lot. It’s easier to progress to higher Rifts.

    John: Revive on corpses in Greater Rifts. Some players have asked why we don’t just have deaths subtract from the time remaining, instead of making players wait 5, 10, 15, 20, etc seconds as the penalty grows longer each death.

    That’s because it wouldn’t be friendly for multiplayer. If everyone dies then you’ve got 4x the time penalty. It would also punish the entire group for one person’s mistake. And now you can always revive someone who dies, saving them the penalty.

    John: Question about the Demon Hunter passive Grenadier, and why the passive Ballistics is so much better. Grenades itself is a little awkward now. Hard to aim. I like the skill, but yeah, Grenadier could use some buffs.

    Conversation turns to the other classic class sets and their coming improvements. John doesn’t say much about them, compared to the details he earlier shared about Natalya’s set, but there is some new info:

    John: I’ve been working on Zunimassa’s and the Immortal King set. Don Vu has been working on Inna’s, which is going to become a Dashing Strike set.

    Zuni’s set. It’s a pet based set, as it makes Fetish Army last forever. That’s one type of pet set bonus, and the other two are to make the pets hit harder, or faster. Both of thsoe are covered by other items already, so I’m looking at more of a primeval set property. People often ask if we could Sacrifice Fetishes. That’s a cool idea.

    Immortal King’s set is still to be determined. We might do something with a focus on Hammer of the Ancients. Hammer and Seismic Slam are fun to use. Seismic Slam especially, since the effective target is cone-shaped. Those are fun to use in games since it’s strategic. Monsters come from all directions and you can just attack in all directions, but with a cone you want to reposition so you get more enemies in the impact area. It encourages positional and directional gameplay. I think it’s fun.

    Question about adding a display to show how many Sentries are active, especially with the new Maruader’s Set bonus, where each additional Sentry adds +100% damage to the Demon Hunter’s attacks.

    What if we had a counter for sentries so that players could tell how many were still active. They last for 30 seconds and you need to recast them, but it’s not always clear how many you still have active.

    Currently in the game, we only add counters, profile pictures on the top right of the screen, for pets that have life bars and can die. Sentries don’t have those, just a duration. We’ve talked about how to show the damage buff from Sentries; would the icon show how many you had, and somehow incorporate a timer to show the cooldown as well? Seems confusing.

    Basically we’re hoping that players can just get the hang of it and that Sentries last long enough for players to mostly not care if they have a counter display. We just hope the need for a sentry counter is not really there.

    I think Sentries need a counter, or at least should show as a buff above the tool bar, where other skills that buff damage show up. I think it would be pretty simple; just show a damage buff icon of the skill, with a number 1-5 showing how many sentries are active. It would have the same second hand changing color animation we get on buff icons now, with the number on the icon showing how many are currently buffing your damage.

    I could be wrong, but my impression from PTR testing is that you only get a damage buff from Sentries that are active, i.e. close enough to you to be shooting. In the current PTR patch with M6, when I run off from a cleared section and move 5 or 6 screens to the next battle, I assume my damage has dropped back to unbuffed and that I need to cast new Sentries to get the buff building again. I’ll have to watch the damage numbers more closely to try to figure that out for sure, to know if the 2 or 3 sentries 10 screens away are still giving me a damage boost for the 10 or 15 seconds they have remaining.

    Why does the PTR go so long time time?

    John: The PTR has been up longer than we’d like this time. Ideally we’d like to ship the patch this week, but we don’t want to ship it out just before Christmas with a lot of people going on vacation. If something big breaks and there’s no one here to fix it, that’s a problem. Contrary to popular belief, engineers and programmers are people too. And not just at work 24/7.

    Nevalistis: I’m putting together an article with some announcements about timing of the PTR and other things fairly soon.

    Nevalistis’ comment wasn’t totally clear, but it sounded like that announcement would tell us about the PTR and Live patch schedule, and probably also give info about Season Two. As we’ve heard many times, they’ll give us at least thirty days notice before a Season ends.

    John: Rift Guardian health. We’re working to normalize Rift Guardian health and damage. We want them to be roughly their life and damage output before we do more tweaks. For instance some like Blood Maw are much more damaging than the others.

    We want to get all the guardians roughly even, and then I think their hit points could use some reduction. For isntance, Raekor’s Barbarians spend seven minutes to clear the entire rift and love it, and then spend eight minutes grinding the boss and hate their life. That’s because Raekor’s has the best AoE, so it’s an extreme example, but it’s logical since even if the Barbarian changed their build to do a bit less AoE and a bit more single target damage, they’d be slower on the whole.

    I don’t think we should change Rift Guardians just for individual builds, but I do think overall Guardian health still feels a little on the high side. Not just about their total hit points, but it depends on their abilities. By the time players go through their entire attack cycle a few times, they’ve seen all the tactics but aren’t done with the battle yet. My inclination is to reduce Rift Guardian hit points by maybe twenty percent?

    Ancient Legendary items got a bit of discussion, from some fan questions and comments.

    Neva: People ask about Converting normal legendary items to Ancient quality.
    John: Yeah, I don’t like that idea. The point of Ancient items is to give players new stuff to find. We don’t want to just allow upgrades of existing gear since you guys have great rolls on the stuff you’re using, and if you could just bump it up to Ancient, then you’d never find another upgrade.

    In Diablo 3, the way you upgrade items is really by finding a new one of the same item type with a better roll. We don’t have item tiers or stuff you find in lots of RPGs.

    The issue I think is most pressing about Ancient Items is how they are essential in weapon slot, slightly useful in armor, and irrelevant on jewelry. That issue was not addressed in this live stream, but if you want to know all about the new item quality, check our recent article analyzing ancient items, plus over 100 screenshots of examples from the PTR.

    Question about expanding the function of Legendary Gems. Could they work in Armor instead of just jewelry?

    John: That’s possible. The weapon one made the most sense for the new Gem of Ease. We wanted a way for people to level up alts and twinks and that weapon was the best idea for that. We put Legendary Gems only into jewelry since it was restricted to just those slots and one socket per item.

    Legendary Gem sets. We haven’t talked about that. Set bonuses are cool, just as a thing. I like the way you put two lego pieces together and get a new bonus.
    Neinball points out that multiple legendary gems in the same item is basically a D2 style Runeword, and John laughs and says they’ve talked about it, but don’t have plans for Runewords in the game now.

    Question: Bug on PTR where sentries were gaining the bonus from Marauder’s set. Why was that a bug rather than a feature?
    John: We wanted to change that set so the overall power level of the classes felt more equivalent. And the balance of power from the set should be divided more evenly between the Demon Hunter and the Sentries. On the live version of the set, the Sentries do most of the damage, when there are more Sentries active.

    With the new version on the PTR, the damage is about equally-divided between the DH and the Sentries, no matter if you have 1 or 5 sentries active.

    Question: Could DiabloWikiRamalandi’s Gift work on Rings and Amulets?
    John: We could do that anywhere, but we restricted the Gift of Ramalandi to weapons since that was the item slot where not having a socket felt the most terrible. I think the current system, where players have to enchant for sockets in their rings and amulets is a good one, with trade offs required.


    Question: Why is the Blood Shard cap so low?
    John: We know the cap is low, and for a reason. You’re not going to like this, but it’s mostly there to prompt new players. When someone starts off in the game they’re building up Shards through Bounties and Rifts, but they often end up not noticing Shards or how/where they could spend them. It’s just another currency. But when they hit the 500 cap and literally can’t pick up anymore, they notice that and go figure out what to do with the Shards.

    The other request is that players could gamble what they wanted with them, without changing characters. I have a lot of alts and I understand that; how it sucks to farm Shards with one character and then you have to log off and log on with another character to spend them. It’s tedious.

    One suggestion we’re considering is to put a sort of drop down menu on the gambling interface, so you could gamble as though you were any class. So you’d be farming with your Demon Hunter and then you could choose to gamble as though you were a Barbarian and buy one-handed weapons or whatever.

    That’s a possibility, but we like having Blood Shards so hard to ignore now, with the fairly low cap, for new players to be sure they notice.

    The show ended after an hour and Nevalistis said this would be the last one of the year, and that they were putting the Play Your Way Thursday on hiatus for a while, until the new patch goes live. The reason is that so many items and skills are changing that lots of builds that work now will need tweaks in the upcoming patch, such as the Night Stalker changes seen in the Demon Hunter build profiled in this livestream. So no more Play Your Way Thursdays for a while, until the patch is out and players have a chance to try out new builds with the new gear and other changes.

    Watch live video from Diablo on Twitch

    On the whole it was a good livestream with John ready to share info and ask questions. It would have been better if they’d had more discussion topics and questions pre-screened. Quite often the players got caught up in the game action (dying a lot in a crowded Greater Rift 35) and hardly talked, and though Neinball got in a few questions, there was a lot of, “anyone see any good questions in the Twitch chat?” type remarks from the Bliz peeps.

    Still, a pretty good info source, and all we can do now is keep testing over the holidays and look forward to 2.1.2 after the holidays, Season Two starting hopefully not too long into January, and the bigger Patch 2.2 not long after that, with all the new item sets and changes to the old five-piece sets.

    Has excite? Has endure?

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