While the D3 Team has talked a lot about their planned improvements to the multiplayer experience in Diablo 3, they have yet to detail many (any?) of the actual benefits that will accrue to the players in a multiplayer game. The developers have shared their concept of MP gaming, and how they want to encourage it, but the feature changes thus far announced are all more about removing the un-fun elements of MP play that exist in D2, rather than new features or spells that will actually work better in MP games than they do solo.
For instance, here are some of the “improvements” to the MP experience that we know we’ll see in Diablo 3:
No non-consensual PvP (No Pking.)
There aren’t any details yet on how this will work, but from the hints given it sounds like there will simply be no way to PvP in regular games, and players will have to join special PvP or Arena type games to fight head to head. (Old school Mking techniques, like leading dozens of monsters to trap waypoints, will presumably still be possible. Where there’s a will, griefers will always find a way.)
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Better game finding/joining tools.
Jay Wilson has talked about how the D2 style of scanning lists of game names is sub-optimal. They want much better friend list contact options, and their dream system for D3 is a way for players in a game to agree to play another game together, and with some simple clicks it would be so.
Individual item/gold drops.
No more early bird gets the golden worm; now every player within some critical range of a dying monster will get an item/gold drop only they can see or pick up. (This doesn’t mean that every single monster will drop an item for every player in the game, though most bosses will. It just means that the drops your character sees can’t be snatched by anyone else.) There is, of course, debate about how this might be exploited by MF-wearing tag alongs.
Shared health globes
Every character within range will receive the benefits of a health globe when any other character activates (walks over) one. This includes (presumably) the non-hps benefits of a health globe, such as various skills that activate upon using them, mana recovery for the Witch Doctor, etc.
These are all features that most Diablo players welcome (well, except for the PKs) but you’ll note that none of them are actually bonus benefits to playing in parties. (We’re assuming that experience sharing will work something like it did in D2, though this has never been addressed by the D3 Team.) They’re just removed disincentives to playing together. You don’t get more item drops, or more health globes, by playing in a D3 party. You just don’t have to worry about other players stealing your lewtz if they’re quicker to the scene of the crime.
True, the removal of disincentives is an incentive of a sort, but from what they’ve shown us so far, the D3 Team seems to assume we’re all gagging eager to party up and play in big games, and all they need to do is remove the negative aspects of party play that we all saw in D2 to have us lining up to party up. I’m not sure that’s the case, since so far in Diablo 3, we’ve seen almost nothing of shared skills, which provided perhaps the strongest benefit to playing together in Diablo 2.
It was possible to play a D2 game with just Amazons and Sorceresses, but everyone was happier to see a Barbarian, or a Paladin, or a Druid, join their game since they knew those characters had party-benefiting skills. A few odd play styles aside, when you saw one of those characters you knew your character was about to bask in the warm glow of Battle Orders, or Oak Sage, or revel in the murderous boost of speed/damage that was Fanaticism, or that your spells were going to dissect monsters that were down 150% on all of their resistances. Those sorts of huge party bonus skills almost made the ninja looting, PK attempts, and soul-killing idiocy of Battle.net conversation worth enduring.
Won’t we see such party benefits in Diablo 3? Most of us were assuming so, but but we know most of the skills in the game, and so far exactly one has a party benefit. It’s the Barbarian’s Battle Cry, which is basically Shout from D2, boosting the defense of everyone in the party. (While this will be a useful Barbarian skill, its utility as a party skill is uncertain, since Wizards and WDs aren’t tanking, and will probably have such low defense that doubling it would mean nothing to them.)
There’s nothing (yet) in D3 that works like the best party skills did in D2; no known skills will boost the party’s hit points, damage, attack speed, resistances, etc. Nor are there any easily-activated debuffs that will hobble the monsters in fashion that’s useful to everyone. The Witch Doctor has some mind control skills, but these work in a radius from the caster, so only affect monsters near the WD, and they don’t make the monsters easier to kill as did Amplify Damage, Decrepify, Lower Resistance, etc. Furthermore, look at how they work. Horrify makes monsters run away from the WD; imagine your Wizard or Archer is standing on the edge of the screen; where are those monsters likely to run? Right at you, arriving just as the Horrify wears off. That’s not a skill you’re going to be real eager to see any WD casting in a party game.
Party Skills Required?
Does Diablo 3 actually need party skills? Will players play together just because it’s more fun in a group, and it’s easier with a variety of damage types going at the monsters, and since no one’s ninja-snatching all your drops anymore? Or do you want there to be skills coming from other players that actually improve your character, or debuff the monsters?
Jay Wilson changed the complexion of this issue in our recent interview, when he broke the news that we will probably see Auras in Diablo 3, most likely as Monk skills. Auras, by definition, are party-benefiting skills, and could make the Monk the most popular MP character of all. But if the Monk has some awesome, Paladin-like auras, and none of the other characters can do anything for the party other than add damage; would that cause more problems than it cures? Would everyone post “LFG Monk!” notices, while freezing Witch Doctors out of party games since they can’t add anything useful to the group?
It’s too soon to predict, with more skills yet to be revealed, but it is surprising that with all the skills we’ve seen, none of them are clearly “I want someone in my party using this” type abilities. Is the D3 team not thinking about party play yet? The multiplayer gameplay footage we’ve seen is all very “rat race” in style. Multiple characters racing to kill the fastest, without any sign of teamwork or cooperation. Is that their vision for Diablo 3? Is that a vision you share?
On the Drawing Board is written by Flux. These articles examine crucial game design issues and decisions in Diablo 3 by explaining the issue and presenting arguments for and against. On the Drawing Board aims to spur debate and further the conversation, rather than converting readers to one side or the other. Conversation and disagreement is encouraged. Have your say in the comments, or contact the author directly. Suggestions for future column topics are welcomed.