While updating the DiabloWikiMagic Find article in the DiabloWiki last night, I spent some time reading over a bunch of the older Blizzard posts on Magic Find in Diablo III, as well as reviewing the changes they’ve made to the system, and to item hunting in general. It was an interesting refresher, as it’s easy to forget just how much things have changed over time, and will likely continue to change.

    This article covers the entire issue of Magic Find in Diablo III, from the early planning, to a comparison of MF in D2, to the overall game and itemization issues that drove most of the changes to Magic Find.

    Magic Find Planning in Diablo III

    Pre-release, the Diablo III developers were all about Magic Find incorporating trade offs. Like many fans, they realized that the problems with Magic Find in Diablo II stemmed mostly from the stat being available in large quantities on some of the best items in the game. Thus there was no trade off or sacrifice; you could have huge MF and the best gear. In fact, much of the best gear was the *best* because it had MF (and other great stats) on it. Here’s Bashiok explaining how MF should work in D3 from December 2009.

    I think the trick with magic find, or any sort of tertiary stat that doesn’t directly relate to player power, is to make sure that it’s an actual trade off. A lot of times and specifically for certain classes in Diablo II you could stack magic find and still be perfectly able to fight and kill. So what it really comes down to is properly weighting stats on items and ensuring that if you do want to stack something like magic find, that it’s clearly going to limit your power in downing enemies. Auto-stats to a degree also help out in this regard as you can’t effectively stack stats as easily to offset the loss of stats coming from items that might otherwise help keep you alive or kill at an acceptable pace.

    If you can find any connection between his words in that post, and the way Magic Find was ultimately handled in Diablo III, feel free to share them in comments. Since I sure don’t see it.

    The sentiment was fine, but the execution was nonexistent, and when D3 launched Magic Find was just another stat thrown into the random pool on rares. From their weapons, D3 players wanted damage (from raw DPS, critical hit, attack speed, etc). From their armor, D3 players wanted lots of different modifiers. The most popular/useful, all of which could be had from multiple different item slots, included: resist all, critical hit chance, critical hit damage, attributes, +damage, +attack rate, and Magic Find. How much of each of those properties could be obtained from each gear slot varied, but the general goal for most players was to get as many of those affixes as possible, thus boosting their cumulative total.

    This was a functional system, but it was lame; a sort of modifier soup version of itemization, and it’s unfortunate that it still largely defines item hunting in Diablo III. (Though at least the newly-improved sets and legendaries offer some variety in stats and some potential for individual items to stand apart, instead of everything just being a slightly better (or worse) version of everything else.)

    That basic approach to MF, of throwing it into the mass of other mods, was a big departure from how the stat was handled in Diablo II.

    Click through for much more, including the Paragon system, Monster Power, Magic Find in parties, gear swapping issues, D2’s Magic Find pros and cons, the (nonexistent) future of MF in D3, and much more.

    In D2 you *could* get Magic Find here and there in dribs and drabs on rares, but that was not ideal. For the most part in D2, MF was obtained in large amounts on individual set or unique items. For instance, there were a lot of belts with better stats than Goldwrap, but it was the best (and sometimes the only) way to get MF from that item slot. The same went for Chance Guards, Ali Baba or the Gull, Wealth, and numerous other items. (The partial set bonus from Tancred’s amulet was probably the cleverest of them all, in terms of MF with a trade off.)

    Furthermore, magical items were made more interesting since they could roll with higher value properties than rares, and thus during much of D2X’s prime years, magical rings and amulets could turn up with much higher MF than any pieces of rare or set or unique jewelry… with the trade off that those magical MF rings boosted nothing but MF, since it spawned in the prefix and the suffix slot. Needless to say, giving up your entire amulet slot purely for (up to) 50% Magic Find was a huge sacrifice to your overall survival and killing power, but it was the sort of interesting item decision you had to make in that game.

    I’m simplifying D2’s Magic Find situation a bit for this example, and the D2X expansion and later patches added more MF options to more gear slots, and began the stat creep wherein MF was tacked onto items that would have been great even without it, such as Tal Rasha’s Set and the SHAKO. In general though, D2 did a good job of making Magic Find a great stat, while requiring players to make at least some trade offs to obtain it.

    The biggest change/problem from that system to D3’s is that the sets and unique items in D3 were completely boring and lame (and lacking in signature stats, such as big MF) at launch, and the fact that D3’s end game is (or was, pre v1.0.5) quite hard. This meant that players couldn’t really make *any* equipment sacrifices if they hoped to survive Inferno, which had the effect of further restricting item variety in the early going.

    It’s ironic, since now that DiabloWikiPatch 1.0.5 is lowering the difficulty of DiabloWikiInferno (at least on DiabloWikiMonster Power 0), and making D3’s end game more comparable to D2’s in terms of “challenge,” it’s the perfect time for Magic Find to start to actually matter and be a more fun stat. Now is the time that players could start to make real item choices, such as loading up on MF while lowering their overall killing/survival stats since Inferno is no longer too hard to survive without optimal gear. And yet there’s going to be very little reason to do that in v1.0.5, since 1) Legendary items are still fairly boring in terms of adding interesting stats (like MF) that you can’t get on Rares, and 2) the Paragon system is explicitly designed to remove the importance of Magic Find from equipment by giving all high level characters a passive MF and GF bonus.

    The Paragon System

    The DiabloWikiParagon System was revealed in August 2012, and presented as a way to increase the length of the end game and give players more to work towards long term, but chiefly as a way to end the utility of Magic Find on gear. That’s not an opinion on my part; the devs stated that as one of the explicit goals of the system:

    We wanted to find a solution that was not only very forgiving of gear swapping, but one that would ultimately help us slowly and gently move Magic Find off of items in the future…

    With the Paragon system in place, we’re capping Magic Find and Gold Find to 300% (before Nephalem Valor). This means that without any Magic Find gear at all, you’ll hit the cap when you reach Paragon level 100. This way, you can continue wearing your current Magic Find gear as you slowly but surely work to gain Paragon levels. Eventually, once you hit Paragon level 100, you’ll have the freedom to completely focus every slot on stats that help your character kill stuff faster and stay alive longer. The idea is that if you’re currently swapping gear in and out for the Magic Find bonuses, you can continue to do so… but gain enough Paragon levels, and you won’t need to anymore.

    This seems a fairly radical approach when you remember that Magic Find is one of the most popular item modifiers in the game, was one of the most popular features in Diablo II, has been copied by practically every other item-hunting type game since then, and that Diablo-style games are almost entirely about item hunting. In light of that, the developers working to remove the impact of a stat devoted solely to impacting the item hunting experience seems a bit like defenestrating the baby with the bath water.

    What’s next; removing skill points, stat points, and any sense of permanent character customization? Oh wait…

    Magic Find in Parties

    Another big change in post-release Diablo III relates to how Magic Find is handled in multiplayer games. The big innovation to this system in D3 was revealed shortly before release, when the developers announced that Magic Find would be added up and averaged evenly throughout the entire party. If you had 200 MF and another player had 10 MF, you’d both have 105% MF for the duration of your game.

    This was a fairly radical change, but a majority of players approved of it (you’ll note my repeated objections in the comments) since it seemed necessary, in conjunction with the individual item drops in Diablo III. Otherwise, conventional wisdom decreed that players with high MF would join public games and then hang out in the back row, contributing little to the overall killing speed with their suboptimal gear, yet still getting a full share of the item drops.

    That seemed logical, but it didn’t really scale with the Diablo III itemization. Ironically, it would have been *very* true in Diablo II, if the non-ninja-looting system had been implemented, since in that game it was very possible to optimize for MF while greatly dropping your killing and survival powers.

    That wasn’t such an issue in D3 due to the item system, and soon enough the Auction House and MF on Rares created a situation where the richest players had the most powerful characters, whose items had the best offensive stats, AND the best defensive stats, AND Magic Find on top of that. Basically, the way Rares work in D3 means that there are essentially SHAKO-style items for every item slot, with all the best mods and no trade offs, if you can afford to buy them.

    D3’s items and the way players played (or refused to play) in party games led the devs to eventually walk back the shared magic find in parties. That change was announced along with everything else coming up in DiabloWikiPatch 1.0.4.

    The first change we’re making in 1.0.4 for co-op is to remove averaging in multiplayer games of Magic Find and Gold Find. You’ll benefit from your full Magic Find stat, independent of other players in the game. We originally added Magic Find averaging so optimal play did not involve people stacking what we call “adventure stats” to the detriment of their party. While this may re-emerge as a problem, we think the current solution feels like too much of a penalty, and is doing more harm than good.

    Basically, the Paragon system would have made shared Magic Find as irrelevant as the devs want Magic Find on items to become, so they clipped it. It’s funny how MF sharing in parties, which was such a big and controversial feature pre-game, vanished with hardly any attention paid pro or con.

    And no one cared.

    Weapon Switching in Diablo III

    D2X included the DiabloWikiWeapon switch hotkey, which has since become a standard feature in almost every ARPG. The D3 devs felt that a WSH (much less the oft-requested full kit/spec swap option) was an exploit and shouldn’t be included in D3. So they left it out, which is ironic since with their item system, it wouldn’t have really mattered.

    Players used the Weapon Switch in D2X to boost their skill levels when casting buffs or summoning minions, and switched from their normal weapon to one with smaller damage but bigger MF before boss kills. You’ll note that neither of those options exist in Diablo III — there aren’t any weapons/shields with big MF, and without skill points there’s very little to be gained by switching weapons before casting buffs or summoning pets.

    Just for the sake of the argument, if we had a Weapon Switch Hotkey in Diablo III… how would it be used? I guess the exploit would be to carry a weapon/shield with high life or resource regen, or maybe life on hit, and switch to that for defensive purposes, or to regen very quickly between battles or while running for your life. Would that be a bad thing, though? It sounds pretty fun to me; giving quick-thinking players a way to diversify their play style and experience, without adding such a huge bonus that it’s an exploit. It certainly wouldn’t compare to the way Life on Hit and other Critical Hit procs can be abused while using without any weapon switching at all.

    Magic Find System Changes

    Weapon switching aside, the bigger issue with was exploits to Magic Find from gear swapping and the just generally lackluster system of item hunting.

    To their credit, the D3 devs recognized that this was a problem only a month after release, and proposed some big changes. Refer to the whole dev update from early July for all the details, but their potential proposed solutions were:

  • Option 1: Set a Magic Find Cap
  • Option 2: Slowly Adjust Magic Find Over Time
  • Option 3: Use your average MF% or your lowest MF% of the last 5 minutes
  • Option 4: Zero-Out Your MF% for 3 Minutes After Swapping Gear
  • Option 5: Gear Swapping Interacts with Nephalem Valor

  • They left these issues open to debate and encouraged player feedback. I’m not about to read over the whole feedback thread on Battle.net, but we ran a vote with their options as selections and the winner was… none of the above.

    Which of Blizzard’s proposed Magic Find changes do you prefer?

  • 6) None of the above. Retain current system. (29%, 3,059 Votes)
  • 4) Zero-Out Your MF% for 3 Minutes After Swapping Gear (26%, 2,740 Votes)
  • 1) Set a Magic Find Cap (15%, 1,602 Votes)
  • 2) Slowly Adjust Magic Find Over Time (11%, 1,202 Votes)
  • 5) Gear Swapping Interacts with Nephalem Valor (9%, 909 Votes)
  • 3) Use your average MF% or your lowest MF% of the last 5 minutes (5%, 547 Votes)
  • 7) Some other new system I’ll brilliantly explain in comments. (5%, 534 Votes)
  • Total Voters: 10,593

    Blizzard took note of this, and the decided-mixed feedback, and decided to do… something different. They developed the Paragon system, which incorporates a magic find cap, but does nothing to penalize gear swapping and basically sidesteps the entire issue by giving every high level character the option of achieving the maximum magic find all the time. Thus there’s no reason for gear swapping at all.

    The Paragon system was a clever solution in the short term, as it gave players some sense of progress beyond the low max level cap, and basically waved a shiny object in front of our cat-like attention spans. However, Blizzard realized it wasn’t a long term solution since eventually everyone who wanted to would be max level and max MF/GF. Hence the incoming DiabloWikiMonster Power system, which will allow players to select higher difficulty content and will reward them for doing so with the potential for greater item drop/quality. That, plus further boosts to the quality of Legendary items, and another boost to their (still very low) drop rates should go some distance towards improving the overall gameplay experience.

    Magic Find from Monster Power

    I posted this article the afternoon of Thursday, October 11th, and made only a few references to Monster Power, since the details were not available. Naturally, just minutes before I finished the article and posted it, Blizzard revealed all those details, necessitating some revision of this article. (I blame Bashiok.)

    The MP system allows players to set their desired difficulty, from 0-10. As the value increases, monsters gain hit points, deal more damage, are worth more experience, and have a chance to drop additional items. Blizzard released two infographics that itemize the differences.

    The MP system incorporates Magic Find, but does it in a strictly power-based way. The more powerful your character is, the higher the MP level you can survive on and the more items you’ll find. It’s a good system in that it rewards playing against harder enemies, but it completes the removal of Magic Find as any sort of “trade off” in item stats. In that way, MP is exactly the opposite of how MF works in most ARPGs and how the D3 devs said they wanted it to work pre-launch.

    Now with the MP system, rather than Magic Find being a trade off players pursue by wearing less powerful equipment, MP grants more MF the higher quality gear your character has. The danger seems to be that this is a huge “the rich get richer” type of tool, with all the best rewards (experience, items, magic find, etc) going to the players who are already the richest and best equipped.

    We’ll have to see how this system shakes out long term, but it seems to put characters on a definite treadmill, where the best-geared will accelerate more and more rapidly, pulling away from more casual players and those without the time and/or Auction House budget to keep up.

    Magic Find Into the Future

    As best as I can tell, Magic Find has no future in Diablo III. It still exists, but with the Paragon System providing MF/GF as a passive bonus, most characters will eventually Magic Find at or close to the max 300% cap. It remains to be seen just how much a difference the various levels of Monster Power will make — it might turn out to be an amazing and awesome system and we’ll all find ourselves struggling to survive with our MP set just one notch higher, for the improved rewards. It remains to be seen. (The full MP details were released just after I posted this article; see the section above for details.)

    What we can see clearly now is that Magic Find (from equipment) is effectively being removed from Diablo III. And I think that’s a shame.

    Magic Find is one of the most interesting ARPG items features I’ve ever seen. It gives players the ability to customize their own play experience in a variety of ways. If you just want to kill fast, you don’t use MF. If you want to get more rewards, you do. How you move the slider on the MF vs. killing power slider is up to you and your equipment, and it’s a sort of minigame that you can play while working on the larger game project.

    As Bashiok (and other devs) said way back in the 2008 and 2009 days of early D3 development, it’s a good system if the trade offs can be balanced properly. Sadly, D3 did a worse job at that than D2 did, and as a result the devs are basically punting the entire MF system from the game.

    I disapprove, and let me make clear that I am actually arguing against my own interests. Given the limited hours I’ve had to play Diablo III, and my disdain for using the Auction House. (I pay the Iron Price for my gear.), I am not at all benefiting from uber gear with massive stats + MF. I’m at a competitive disadvantage in Diablo III, across the larger player population. My self-made characters are well below the high end of the curve, and thus (unlike in my old D2 days) I am very far from the high end economy. Therefore, I should welcome the flattening of the difficulty, the removal of great gear as a requirement for high Magic Find, etc.

    And yet, even as the devs improve the play experience for the masses, I lament the loss of specialization and variety that largely defined the Diablo II play experience.

    I like a lot of the Paragon and Monster Power system ideas, but the way they negate MF is a shame. Eventually, everyone will have max Magic Find, and that reminds me of Syndrome’s insight from The Incredibles

    “I’ll sell my inventions so that *everyone* can have powers. *Everyone* can be super! And when everyone’s super… no one will be.”

    In the future of D3, everyone has MF… which means that no one does.

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