On the Drawing Board #4: Preset Attributes

The Blizzcon announcement that they’d removed player-customized attributes, and that D3 items would not have attribute requirements to equip, caused a huge stir of controversy. Blizzard said it made the game easier to balance and kept noobs from wrecking their characters. Angry players lamented the loss of character customization and the “training wheels” approach to D3. Approving players said they’d never liked attributes in the first place and pointed out that everyone on Battle.net has the same build anyway. There were more arguments than just those, of course, and they’re all summarized in this installment of On the Drawing Board.

The article also features a thick slab of discussion about larger game issues: what effect does the removal of item attribute requirements have on overall game design? How will this affect HC characters? What other attribute-tweaking game mechanics and equipment options (such as the Talisman) do we not know about yet? There’s a lot more, so read on for all the details, and join the discussion afterwards.

On the Drawing Board #3: Preset Attributes

One of the most controversial features yet announced for Diablo III is a big change from how characters were created in the earlier games in the series. The character attributes, which are strength, dexterity, vitality, and willpower in Diablo III, will be automatically placed when your character levels up. Attribute points still exist, and the values are displayed in the character window, but you don’t set them yourself. When your character levels up; they are automatically allocated in a mixture the D3 Team has devised. The characters at Blizzcon could only level up to level 9 or 10, so we have no idea how the points will be distributed long term, but from what we saw while playing, they were fairly-evenly distributed. A level 10 Barbarian didn’t have 80 strength and 5 willpower, for instance. It looked like each attribute gained 1 or 2 per level.

Player reaction to the auto-attributes announcement has been mixed, to put it kindly. This change was first revealed in a news item we posted from Blizzcon, immediately after hearing this news from Jay Wilson, and it spurred massive discussion there, and especially in a now 29-page thread in our main D3 forum. Much of the early discussion centered on an error; we’d reported that there would still be attribute requirements for equipment, which turned out not to be true. Jay hadn’t said there would be, but he hadn’t said there wouldn’t be either, so we just assumed that basic game feature would return from D1 and D2. The fact that there will not be any attribute requirements for items in D3 defuses a lot of the “But what if my Wizard wants to wear heavy plate?” complaints, but there were other arguments than that.

Incidentally, there will be some item requirements, they’ll just be based on Character Level, possible other unknown factors, and sometimes on class. We saw a few class-specific items in the Blizzcon build (axes that only Barbarians could use) but on the whole, characters will be able to wear or use the vast majority of items they find in Diablo III, if they so desire.

The fact that characters will be able to use most items they find is a great concession to Diablo’s gameplay style, and a sign that not everything in D3 is influenced by WoW’s design, but it’s only a small part of the larger issue. What does the lack of assignable attributes change? What are the pros and cons behind this decision, and what are some of the larger gameplay issues that have to be considered? This article will attempt to sum up the points on both sides of the issue, and bring some clarity to a murky topic.


It’s noob-friendly, and attributes were largely irrelevant in D2 anyway. Jay Wilson stressed this in our interview, and Bashiok reinforced it in a forum post:

For the most part attribute spending in Diablo II was a great way, when you didn

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