One-Shot Deaths and Diablo 3 Difficulty

A fan listed a litany of complaints and comments about Diablo 3 and got a decent reply from a Blue. Here’s the quoted bit, and Lylirra’s reply:

1. The most popular builds do not account for position. Barb WW builds, monk TR builds, and DH strafe builds are unaffected by pathing, and there are no environmental effects to consider, anywhere.

2. The key builds do not significantly consider the placement of skills. There is typically only one skill utilized, and that skill typically does massive AOE damage centered on the path of the player.

3. Complexity and speed do not change. The game does not alter fundamental mechanics between Normal and Inferno. Speed does not change. There is ONLY the scaling of damage and health, with the exception of a few monster affixes, most of which are not particularly strategic, but instant and automatic.
Lylirra: All solid points, and we agree on most fronts. Popular builds don’t account for position or placement of skills, and we could do more to scale difficulty better. The conclusions you came to in terms of how we might address those pain points are different than the solutions we’ve considered, but it’s totally understandable to see how you arrived at them.

Either way, this is a great discussion. I’m curious to see what other players think and have them weigh in on two points: 1) whether or not they agree with your premises and b) how they’d personally like to see the game evolve to improve on those areas.

Interested to see where this dialogue goes from here, so I’ll be keeping an eye on the thread. (May not post much, but I’ll definitely be reading along.)

I’ll point out the fire grates, most dangerously seen on Keep level 1, for “environmental effects” in that they can quite easily one-shot an unprepared character. I suffered any number of (softcore, low res) Demon Hunter deaths to those, some months back. The thing I found more interesting about the OP is this bit, which Lylirra did not quote in her reply:

…it would appear that most of the game is strategic avoidance of the 1-shot character kill. In point of fact, I don’t remember a time when my character was ever NOT killed by a 1-shot. Of the last 100 deaths, I bet 99 were a vortex or fear into fallen ‘banelings,’ or some such meaninglessness.

That bit caught my eye since Diablo 2’s health system was one aspect of the game that Jay Wilson and other D3 devs many repeatedly critiqued back in the 2008-2010 time range. Here’s an example, quoting Jay from GC 2008, and I remember dozens of other interviews and panel discussions where very similar things were said.

Click through for a Jay Wilson quote about how the D3 health system would greatly improve on D2’s, and some commentary on how ironic that is, as both games have almost the same issues in the end game; issues the D3 devs apparently didn’t grasp from D2, or just didn’t see any way to avoid in D3.

Jay Wilson: A lot of people, I think, would say that’s a hallmark of the Diablo series, the potion system. We looked at it and said, ‘No, that just makes the game worse,'” said Wilson. “It doesn’t make it play like a better action game, it just kind of gives the player infinite health. It’s actually a fairly poor recovery mechanic because it forces the designers to design monsters that have to deal with a player that has infinite health. The only thing you can do is have monsters that can overcome that health and essentially one-shot you. That’s not a very interesting monster. It’s actually a horrible monster. But that’s the only option. The design shoehorned the designers into that kind of monster design.

So we focused on a health system that actually forces the player to think tactically to recover health from monsters and to put them in some situations where they are low on health but have to walk into an enemy encounter anyway. That makes for a much more challenging encounter but it also makes for a situation where we can design the monsters to be a lot more interesting. We actually can lower damage on monsters. We want monsters to do less damage because we want them to wear you down over time and do things that are challenging in different ways.

I remember this point clearly, since the D3 devs made it very often, and they were always wrong. The basic argument is fine, and they accurately sum up the D2 and D3 potion/life/monster system… at low/mid levels. At high levels in D2 though, potions became almost completely irrelevant. At that point, well-geared characters almost never drank potions, other than occasional emergency full rejuvs, since everyone had sufficient life leech and mana leech/regen that essentially provided infinite resources.

That was the system design that needed adjustment in D3, if the devs wanted to make a game that remained challenging over time, rather than just a one-shot-or-not fest. And they did a great job of that in D3… in the early game. More than the early game, to be fair. I remember struggling through long, edge-of-disaster battles well into Diablo 3’s inferno difficulty… months ago. These days, though? Now that we know what we’re doing and have great end game gear? Not so much. At this point in D3, for a well-geared char, the only real dangers come from eating multiple DiabloWikiMolten firebombs, or being frozen/walled for multiple DiabloWikiArcane Enchanted needles, or getting DiabloWikiKnockbacked or DiabloWikiNightmared into multiple Fallen Fanatics, etc. All of which are essentially one-shot deaths that are essentially identical to D2’s end game dangers.

Thus, the changes to potions in D3 make virtually zero difference in the end game, since just like in D2, high end survival and health management is entirely about Life Leech and Life on Hit. Those mods are a bit harder to stack up in D3, and you’ve got to watch for DiabloWikiShielded bosses, but those are far less common than Physical Immunes or various other un-leechable (skeletons) enemies were in D2, and D3 has nothing like the Mana Draining enemies in D2 that could render you instantly unable to use any skills, much less leech.

I don’t mean this as some huge indictment of D3; I think this game’s health and resource and combat system is a big improvement over D2’s in most ways… but it’s a fact that D3’s end game difficulty has wound up more or less identical to D2’s, for exact same reason (life leech). And it’s ironic since the D3 devs never publicly addressed the real state of D2’s end game health issue.

I always assumed that the D3 devs *knew* the actual state of mana and life leech in the D2 end game, but chose to speak about potion spam in interviews since it made for a better example that was much easier to explain. But now that the D3 end game health issues are basically identical to those we saw in D2… I’m beginning to wonder if the D3 devs really didn’t understand the D2 end game? Or if they just didn’t realize that D3 would end up in the same place? Or if they knew it would at the high end, but couldn’t figure any way to avoid that and figured it was a problem to address later. (Later is now.)

Tagged As: | Categories: Blizzard People, Blue Posts, Bosses, End Game, Monsters


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  1. By now everyone should be clearly aware that the D3 devs never really knew what the F they were talking about. All that past talk bashing the predecessor is a reflection of their inflated egos, thinking they could reinvent the wheel one too many times.

  2. I don’t think they neglected the issue. Rather they choose not to speak of it. It’s a tricky one, and they went public addressing the ‘potion’ one. I’m rather positive that they brought the issue up during discussions indoors. I’m expecting them to come up with something else to deal with it in the expansion, among other major overhaul.

    • This is what many in the community said to themselves back before release. Why people keep getting their hopes up for every single patch/future expansion to deliver what every past one hasn’t is beyond me.

  3. Act IV can be tricky on Inferno difficulty. You might not get 1 shotted, but you will be forced to watch how you are unable to reach a mob to life leech it or to swallow a health orb. The debuffs in Act 4 are really crazy and beyond nasty… Not to mention pack of Corrupted Angels or Morlu Casters can play with you around for a while

    Also most 1 shot attacks kinda have this advance warning:
    – the Berserker’s have a build up attack which is really visual.
    – Lunatics if spotted beforehand, can easily be avoided (it’s really dumb when they are standing just behind the door btw…)
    – Pack Beast charge (when not from 2 screens away)
    – Mallet Lords
    – I’ll also mention the Wood Wraths, because their poison daisies just scream “move or you’re fucked”

    It’s only natural to outgear everything at some point, you can’t expect to be equally challenged throughtout the whole end game. Higher monster power levels almost help. Try playing with lower resists on higher difficulties.
    However the boss battles are better crafted than the D2 ones. There are only few boss attacks that could melt you down substaintially or potentially 1-shot you with weaker gear, but they are pretty easy to spot, react and avoid as well.

    Excluding WW Barbs with WotB, people can still die from some monsters without getting one shotted. (Health link champions actually hurt my barb pretty bad)
    For elites those would be Jailer/Frozen Ranged enemies, Electrified Cultists. As for white mobs I’d point out Blood Clan Cultists and Succubi + Hulking Phasebeasts.

  4. Personally I’m over the point where I think these discussions even matter at all. How many times they said they’ll look into something, and they are curious about what we think? Even if they said this, NOT A SINGLE TIME anything changed or it took far too long to keep me interested.

    Just some of the things Blizzard couldn’t fix in the last year, but they could make blogposts once /2 months to convince you why is it good as it is and why they can’t / don’t want to fix things.
    Two handed weapons
    Useless weapon types (including 2h weapons, wants, 1h crossbows, etc.)
    Useless legendaries
    Trifecta items
    Non existent build diversity
    Hilariously unbalanced generator skills (Thunderclap, anyonbody?)
    Black Weapons, a single bug they said they CAN’T fix. Ridicolous.
    no-AH realm
    Player versus Player as a “2-3 months post launch patch” hahahaha
    Paragon System changes (integrating it to the achievements)
    One With Everything
    Useless passives
    Overpowered passives

    There were 2 and no more but TWO patches changing skill balance.

    The last year of Guild Wars 2:
    Added tons of PvP maps
    Added a whole new gigantic region
    Balanced both PvP and PvE in terms of skills and stat mechanisms at least once or twice a MONTH.
    Added tons of new items, skins
    Added tons of new quests, contents, long and interesting (also rewarding and challanging) dungeons, all of them with high quality audio conversations, rewards, scripted events.
    Much much much more

    I don’t give a fuck anymore what Blizzard says. They had a year to proove themselves and they prooved they can talk, but when it comes to actually doing the job they don’t know what to do or even if they do, they don’t know how to do. And if they know even that, they have no idea how ridicolously slowly they do it – and time increases expectations, and at the end they don’t get why everyone’s disappointed.

    As I said, I don’t trust the D3 Devs, not anymore. I trust what I see in the final patch changelog. Sure they can talk, but it’s even more sure they do their jobs WRONG.

    • Path of Exile has same problems at endgame as D2 and D3, although there is definitely more fun in the customization of your character and planning of the build you use than there ever was in D3.

      • Define “same problems” please. Better random crafted maps, crafting items, events, new skills every certain time, etc…

        Anyway, all I linked PoE for…is the update history. They constantly solve issues, introduce new items, skills, mechanics, history/quests, events, skins, improvements, etc…My point was simple, the D3 patching speed and results are pauperism.

        This is a patch, not the D3 Hotfixes.

        • It’s a lot eaiser to patch a game while in beta, not a retail version.

          • Also a lot easier to patch a game when you don’t have to send a memo to 5 managers to schedule a meeting to get everyone together to discuss what will be considered.

            The PoE team probably operates a little better than the mega corporation Blizz turned into.

            Remember the “ask the devs” being delayed because some devs were sick or on vacation and nobody else knew for sure how to answer? That shows a lot about how they have been operating to me. Separate departments operating on different issues. No cohesive vision. Too much involvement from managers with no passion for gaming. Just “bottom line” guys – “How long will it take to change X and how much will that cost us in developer time and how will it increase revenue?” Too many of these guys in these developer round table meetings is my guess. They are the ones pushing for the lazy quick band aids and the devs just fall in line and do what they are told without question.

            Obviously this is all just my bitter speculation since nobody really knows how they work differently than the PoE team.

          • As much as I love D3 and prefer it over PoE simply for the speed of gameplay, please explain how D3 is not still in beta. I have never cared about efficiency in D2 or D3 and just get all my fun in playing weird builds using weird uniques, and as far as I’m concerned PoE is much further along than D3, with far more frequent updates, and far better developer feedback. D3 should utilize the PTR and try frequent changes to different skills and keep the game fresh. They have an amazing resource with the community to constantly improve the game and they take forever to implement a 2% increase in health regen. They’re failing their community on a weekly basis.

    • Too bad Guild Wars 2 pvp is still a complete failure because there’s no matchmaking system. Every game is a stomp for 1 team or the other.

    • Diablo 3’s dev team failed to deliver significant upgrades to a visibly flawed game. Arenanet failed to deliver significant upgrades to a visibly boring game, no matter how many updates they brought over the last year.

      I’d say i don’t care about what any of the two companies have to say anymore.

  5. The same comparison can be made with their philosophy on low level set items.
    Early in development they said they were too dificult to complete a set early in the game and when you could they outlived their usefulness.

    D3 simply shifted that baggage onto blacksmith legendary plans and low level legendaries.
    Any low level legendary found late game has far outlived it’s usefulness while no early level characters had enough magic find to have a prayer finding them in the first place.

    I find a striking parallel to what you pointed out here Flux.

    • I fully agree with Flux, here. These were my thoughts as well, when I watched them talking on the health system, and actually referring only the potions problem.

      Concerning the low-level items. ForgottenOne you are so damn right. I really really never understood what the hell is the reason of them being so hard to find in the beginning. A broken system in D2, remained broken in D3. Disappoint.
      Honestly, what is the purpose of completing Sigon’s Set with your 10th character or with a character who is a real “farmer” (at level 40-99) ?! It is supposed to serve low level characters for gods hake!

      • I’ve seen parts of sigon set used in low level dueling. Usually at the level 9 and 15 brackets. But beyond that no one else ever wanted Sigons other than when used to jumpstart a character through A1-4 Norm.

    • Yea this is a big flaw. At least you can go on the auction house and buy any low level legendary you want.

  6. Compared to D2, they did a fantastic job on the health/combat/monster system. Flux, crank up the MP. If you have infinite health/resources on MP10, then you’ve beaten the game.

    • no they didn’t

      you pick up an drink health pots just by being near them, which is usually what you don’t want to do

      you want to save them for strategic times, for when you actually DO need them

      how many times have been at full health and wasted a health globe, just because I was too close

      the only improvement they made was having the health wells always spawn and always be in the same place when fighting Diablo and the butcher

  7. Can anyone survive a 5-fallen-maniac blast on MP10? How much EHP is necessary?

    I play with part-IK barb (no sprint or permawrath) and the game is weird. I can tank almost anything. Except spear goats on arreat’s crater 2. On MP2, they are tough enough, tough as in “runs madly on arcane beans taking hits form elites to kill regular goats”.

    Most damaging stuff:

    – 3+ Fallen Maniacs
    – Spear goatmen on arreat’s crater 2
    – Ranged attacks (IK gives lots of melee dr)
    – Rest (Elite packs, act bosses, plagued, molten, arcane beans…)

    Thank heavens Azmodan didn’t send a bunch of fallen maniacs and wasted resources with garbage like elites, Gohm, Siegebreaker, himself…

    Picture that: a line of defending knockback marshmallow things, followed by dozens of fallen maniacs with a line of goatmen behind. Sanctuary = gone. Azmo should forget about the other demons, siege beasts, etc…

    I’m not complaining about the need to use a mobility skill or “game is hard because I got 1 hit koed”. I’m ok with getting 1-shoted by Azmodan’s fireball, he’s Azmodan and it’ a huge fireball. Problem is taking a lot more damage from fat goblins or goats throwing sticks (droping more wealth than a prime evil when killed, I add.)

    • Isn’t Azmo the easiest of the 4 act bosses? Maybe one of the easiest small act bosses, too.
      Very good point there.

    • Most damaging stuff? How about Fire that comes from the ground in A1(halls of agony) and A3(Keep depth) – its fu**ing crazy… Elites, crazy demons from hell could’nt do a shit, and some puny fire killed me in 2 sec…

  8. Wait wait wait. Hold the phone. You can’t leach off of skeleton enemies in D2? I never knew that.

  9. Great quote from Wilson. He correctly analyzed D2 and most similar games, and explained how an A-RPG should be. Less dmg taken and less healing gained (from potions, life leech etc). More time to react and adjust during combat.
    Health orbs as a main source for healing was supposed to help achieve that goal.

    Then they failed to deliver on it.

  10. The game has been live for almost a year, and yeah, I am a bit upset over the time it takes for patches to be implemented. When I look at comparisons to other games, and how often they are updated and patched, it is very clear to me there are not many people working on it. Anything these few people come up with have to go through a whole series of people that really do not give a shit at this point.

    I am a day 1 player that has played straight through with no breaks. I have put a lot of time into the game. I cannot help but feel a big let down with how everything has turned out. I played the shit out of D1 and D2, and I expected so much from this game. I say this, but there is a lot I do like about the game. I think it comes down to the way loot is that bothers me the most. This is supposed to be a hack and slash RPG in which you kill monsters for loot. At a certain point, most people leave 99% or more of the loot on the ground. The itemization is the biggest issue in the game for me, hands down.

  11. the goal is to gear your character to handle any elite combo. the result is you have a character that plows over 95, then 97, then 99.9 percent of all monsters. the problem is that elite damage is so hard to avoid with player skill. it’sa gear check. the result is stacking healing and damage, not health pool.

    I don’t know how you make gear feel relevant, make the game challenging, and prevent the one shot scenario. the one shot is an inevitable result of people optimizing their character to handle most situations with a comfortable , not excessive, margin. if you stack health pool and damage and rely on globes to heal, you definitely get a differentfeel

  12. the goal is to gear your character to handle any elite combo. the result is you have a character that plows over 95, then 97, then 99.9 percent of all monsters. the problem is that elite damage is so hard to avoid with player skill. it’sa gear check. the result is stacking healing and damage, not health pool.

    I don’t know how you make gear feel relevant, make the game challenging, and prevent the one shot scenario. the one shot is an inevitable result of people optimizing their character to handle most situations with a comfortable , not excessive, margin. if you stack health pool and damage and rely on globes to heal, you definitely get a different feel

  13. It’s not in beta because it is totally playable and has been since launch, maybe with a few bugs. They are changing systems and tweaking the game, it is a hallmark of the Blizzard games in general, and one of the reasons why, despite stepping away from this game, I never gave up on it, because I know they are always working on it. This makes them a lot more like Stardock or another similar smaller developer and is one of the very few things that endears me to Blizzard.

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