In most computer RPGs, including Diablo and Diablo 2, low level spells/skills (ones your character can use starting at level 1, or 5, etc) are generally less powerful than high level skills (ones you have to wait until level 20, or 30, or 50, etc) to start using. I’d never thought of this as a particularly contentious issue, and in fact it seemed fairly justified to me. If I’ve got to play hours and hours before I can start using a skill, I expect that skill to do more than does a skill Ic could use the moment I first wandered out of the Rogue Encampment.
Though I’d never really thought about it, I figured almost everyone agreed on this, an assumption I had to rethink after reading the comments to this news post, in which first Bashiok, then me, defended the Witch Doctor’s Plague of Toads skill. I said that not every player would like every skill, and that perhaps Plague of Toads (PoT?) wasn’t meant to be the one you took down act bosses with, but that it was very viable early on, and a lot of fun to use. That wasn’t good enough for some fans, who disagreed with the entire design concept. They wanted every skill to be useful throughout the entire game, and thought it was a mark of poor design and balance if a skill became non-viable in the late game.
Spurred by that earlier debate, this installment of On the Drawing Board examines the issue of skill design and long term viability. Click through to see a list of the key issues to consider, then hop to the comments to join in the discussion.
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