Should Reaper of Souls Drop a Difficulty Level?

A fan brought up one of my favorite suggestions for improving Diablo 3: dropping one of the four redundant difficulty levels and streamlining the reroll process, which new datamined info seems to suggest Blizzard is actually going to do:

If they are merging nightmare and hell into one and having inferno as the 3rd I don’t think it would be all that bad. I’d rather play through the game 3 times instead of 4. But if they are doing this why not just keep the names normal, nightmare, and hell like they did in d1 and d2. why break tradition. Or they could be adding a 5th difficulty. Unlock torment difficulty after beating act 5 inferno mp10???
Grimiku: We’d like to give players more control over the difficulty settings, and we’re looking at ways to accomplish that. It’s a little early to share any details, but there was an interview prior to gamescom where Josh Mosqueira shared some of his thoughts about it. He mentions (at 7:30) that Diablo III has a great engine, but we constrain some of it’s awesome potential by forcing players to replay the same Acts, quest, and levels over and over.

should reaper of souls drop a difficulty levelThe Blue reply is meant purely to spur discussion, so lets! The interview Grimiku linked to is one I conducted with Josh and Wyatt back before Gamescom, and it’s kind of beside the point since back then we had to pretend that a fifth act and a higher level cap weren’t certain features for the expansion. Now Act 5 and level 70 have been confirmed, but there are other big changes coming to difficulty levels that will change everything.

According to RoS datamining: 1) Monster Power is (apparently) being entirely changed from MP1-10 to a 0-5 difficulty thing a lot like the MP options on the Console. 2) Nightmare is being removed and a difficulty level called “Torment” is replacing it, and perhaps Hell as well?

Click through for details on that, plus speculation and argument.


Datamining: New “Torment” Difficulty Level

Newly-added achievements datamined from the current test version of Reaper of souls:

  • Kill the Butcher without being burned by floor fires or being grabbed by Ancient Spear on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill the Butcher in under 2 minutes on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill the Butcher while he is stunned by his own charge attack on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill 10 Veiled Sentinels in the first 30 seconds of starting the fight with Belial on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill Belial without getting hit by his breath attack on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Destroy the Demon Gates before any Demon Troopers can spawn while fighting Azmodan on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill Azmodan without walking over the bloody demonic ground on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill Azmodan without getting hit by a fireball on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill Azmodan without killing any of his minions on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill Diablo without getting trapped in a spike trap and without dying on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Fight and kill 5 clones of yourself in Diablo’s Realm of Terror on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill Diablo without using any health globes or healing wells on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • This loading screen tip has been removed:
  • TIP024 – Defeating Normal difficulty will unlock the next difficulty setting, Nightmare.

There’s been some speculation that Torment would be a new highest level difficulty, something reached after Inferno. That seems unlikely, given all of the “on Torment or higher” lines. Instead, it seems like Torment is replacing Nightmare and perhaps Hell as well. Compare those datamined strings to the current Butcher achievements:

Current Achievements:

  • DiabloWikiStunning Reversal — Kill the Butcher while he is stunned by his own charge attack on Nightmare difficulty or higher.
  • DiabloWikiDon’t Stand in the Fire! — Kill the Butcher without being burned by floor fires or being grabbed by Ancient Spear on Hell difficulty or higher.
  • New Datamined achievements:
  • Kill the Butcher while he is stunned by his own charge attack on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • Kill the Butcher without being burned by floor fires or being grabbed by Ancient Spear on Torment difficulty or higher.
  • There you have current achievements for Nightmare or higher and Hell or higher, replaced by two identical achievements for Torment or higher. It doesn’t prove Nightmare and Hell are being combined into one new Torment difficulty level, but it’s certainly evidence pointing in that direction.


    Arguments for One Fewer Difficulty Level

    We debated the difficulty thing on the last podcast, and arrived at some key points:

  • In D3V at least, the *real* game begins in Inferno; bonus content, end game equipment, all skills available, MP1+ monster density, etc.
  • D3V is balanced to 30/50/60 progression. RoS and Act 5 could retain Hell and rebalance to something like a 35/55/70 progression? Or turn up exp gain and just do it to 40/70 and then right into Inferno.
  • The fifties are fearsome now; harder Hell enemies, crappy sub-60 equipment, and it’s boring to do all the content a third time when you just want to get to Inferno.
  • Currently, characters can not handle Inferno at lvl 55ish, unless using miraculous -req twinked gear. (Even if there was no lvl 60 requirement to enter Inferno.)
  • That might not be true of Inferno in RoS, with lvl 63+ gear good enough to survive Inferno in the early going?
  • If Torment replaces NM + Hell it seems like we’ll get redistributed experience progress, 40/70/Inferno, basically. Perhaps the devs will rework the exp curve to produce faster leveling, or just by enabling DiabloWikiNephalem Valor stacks at lower levels they’ll guarantee that characters gain exp faster than in the current system?

    That aside, the big cliff between 59 and 60 doesn’t seem to be repeating at 69 to 70 in RoS. If that’s the case, maybe the devs can remove or loosen the level requirements to advance to the next difficulty level?

    The point of those 30/50/60 hard limits in D3V seems to be to prevent the most exploitative rushing, and the 60 limit to enter Inferno is almost irrelevant since no character in sub-lvl 60 gear (unless it’s -req stuff) can survive Inferno anyway. But with good gear starting at level 60 in RoS there’s not going to be a need to limit Inferno to level 70. Especially given that characters may have hundreds of DiabloWikiParagon Points before max level, boosting their abilities.


    Ladders and Rerolling?

    Finally… if you’re playing softcore and want to not care about this because you’ve never rerolloed, remember that we’re going to get DiabloWikiladders at some point, and that the Diablo 3 Ladder system will presumably require you to start new characters from scratch each season, probably without any twinks and carried over Paragon points. If you’re going to ladder you’re going to reroll, hardcore or softcore, and you really don’t want to waste those hours grinding through Hell again, before getting to all the real perks and fun stuff in Inferno… do you?


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  1. I think it comes down to this; Inferno was added as the final uber level of item finding for the hardcore elite player but then added later on was Monster Power levels, so keeping those two ideas in mind Inferno actually becomes redundant in its purpose because monster power levels are providing a more fine tuned element of what inferno was supposed to be.

    • Had blizz stuck to the original plan and made Inferno a flat difficulty, with higher chances at the best gear, while Hell was still a completely desirable and viable place to farm end game gear … Sure 4 difficulties would have made sense.

      Problem is that Hell wasn’t a useful place to farm for end game gear, despite early claims that it would be, and inferno wasn’t flat difficulty and even had end game loot spread out to the latter difficulties.

      They royally screwed up with their design at release. It makes absolute sense to cut out an earlier difficulty.

  2. I would like to see all difficulties scrapped and have the content adjust to the player level dynamically. Something like this:

    Normal Mode – story mode for casual players
    Nephalem Mode – open gameplay across all acts

    Ok, not really removing all difficulties but it separates story from grinding, and saves having to replay a linear progression 4 times over. The more you play, the tougher the monsters get and the better the loot.

    • Agreed. With monster power granting 10 difficulty levels, they could remove “game modes”, or whatever they call it now, completely. Or replace them with something meaningful, as you suggested. As it is now, game modes are quite obsolete and furthermore annoying.

    • I mostly agree with you on this. One of my biggest gripes during my initial play through of D3, was that they changed the way-point system to be woven in (too closely) with the story. Personally, I would like to be able to find a way-point throughout the game and then be able to jump through acts on said difficulty without having to exit/re-enter a game where I want to be. To me, it’s tedious and unnecessary.

      I do like the idea of Monster Power and the ability to adjust the difficulty in Norm/NM/Hell. This allows it to be more accessible for the more casual player or more of a challenge for the seasoned veteran. I’ve never seen a reason for the fourth difficuly that is Inferno. This is where it could be changed into what you called “Nephalem Mode” where the story elements are removed from the way-point system and more end-game systems can be found, thus creating more flexibility and open world exploration.

  3. from the leak patch notes, isn’t there a supposedly new difficulty level callled Torment? (no i’m not kidding…check diablo fans last patch leaks post) or is that the name they use in non US clients for inferno?

  4. One thing you didn’t mention is that a change to the difficulties has already been datamined (the Torment difficulty).

  5. It doesn’t really matter unless they make playing alts of the same class worthwhile.

    I would love it if you did not need to play story past normal to progress. Killing normal act 5 boss unlocks zones you can farm in any difficulty. You can still play the main story for fun and it behaves similar to current play, but its not mandatory. Unlocked zone monster levels can be selected with difficulty. 0 gives monsters three levels under, 1 gives one under, 2 gives one over, etc.

  6. I’d love to see only 3 difficulty tiers, with Hell being what Inferno is now. Playing through the game 4 times per character is horribly tedious. As it is, Normal is fun because it’s easy, and Inferno is fun because it’s challenging and the gear is interesting. NM and Hell are completely un-fun and all the gear is lame. The only thing I like about Hell is hitting 60 in A2 and turning the rest of Hell into one big MF run. But yeah, I think Blizzard is aware something has to change.

  7. I’m becoming more and more convinced that they are getting rid of all difficulties in favor of Story Mode and Adventure Mode. This is also something I’m really looking forward to.

    With the scaling and randomisation capabilities of D3’s engine there’s no reason a player would need to wait to max level before taking part in the Adventure mode features (loot runs, nephalem trials, bounties, etc.). Scaling legendaries is another hint that loot runs is not something that needs to be delayed until level cap.

    • They said in GamesCon interviews that as soon as you get past normal you unlocks all end game content (loot runs, etc.), so it’s not Inferno-only. I don’t know how about Nephalem trials, they should be available since normal.

  8. What is curious is that many of the change they are making were proposed and scrapped.
    Inferno was flat but they changed it and only MP1 is flat which make 4 non flat level before flatness… and now they are removing Hell so we finally have 3 non flat levels and flatness. I agree that a system where monster level = character level + (MP-3) + (3 for elite, 0 for other) would be good…
    Also, I am sure they also spoke about removing life steal affixes and skills in the early stages of development because it made the life bulb constantly moving from full to almost empty. They did not for some reason. And finally, they speak about scrapping LS.

  9. So, now we can all agree that Jay Wilson ruined this franchise?

  10. The last point of ladders and rerolling made me realize that I just assumed there would be ladder and non-ladder modes. Is there anything that points to everyone having to do ladders or being to chose? Seems like forcing everyone into ladders will creat an outcry for old chars that will be ‘deleted’

  11. I think Blizzard has ALWAYS taken the wrong approach to difficulties. Yes, even the Blizzard North team!

    I NEVER played Diablo 1 or 2, beyond normal difficulty. Why?

    Simply. In all those years, both prior, and during, the idea of difficulties that had been ingrained in me, at least, was the following design idea:

    (example taken from Doom I & II)

    I’m too young to die! = absolute beginner mode.
    Hey, not too rough = Easy mode.
    Hurt me plenty = Medium difficulty.
    Ultra-Violence = Hard Mode.
    Nightmare! = You’re such a bad-ass, you could beat John Carmack, in his own game!

    Difficulty completely centers around your ego. There is zero bonus items, no new content, nothing your missing out on, other than challenge.

    During the entire time I played D1, and D2, I never was clued into the fact that playing at the higher difficulties actually had newer more powerful gear.

    Years later, I found out about the LOD expansion, and discovered some diablo-based websites. It was at that time, that I discovered EVERYTHING that I had missed!

    I did eventually get D2LOD, and replay the entire game to complete the story.
    But after what was my 2nd play through of D2, I just didn’t feel compelled to play through a third time.

    D3, still fails at letting you, the player know exactly what kind of gear is waiting for you, in the higher difficulties.

    The ONLY reason I felt compelled to get my characters to lvl 60 was so unlock all of the skill runes.

    But playing through the game FOUR frakking times to do it, is just nuts!

    Now I’ve done it, and done it so many times that I should probably be committed to a nut-house!

    However, because of the gear-check wall, and having to resort to using the AH, this process was NOT fun, it became a job!

    I think part of the problem is using the term difficulty. “Difficulty,” SHOULD be ego-centric, not gear/skill-centric.

    Maybe they should be called “phases.” I would think that a maximum of 2 full game completions be needed to unlock all of the skills. A third “phase” being end-game farming, etc.

    Thanks for reading.

    • Replaying the same content isn’t ideal, but I think it beats games having a much lower max level. One time through isn’t enough progression. And for a non-MMO it’s not realistic to just hope they create 3 or 4x as much content to allow for end game style play on a single pass. Fans of the genre would feel ripped off if chars reached max level in just 10 or 12 hours of content…

      I guess the current Diablo style system, with more bonus end game-only stuff would be my ideal. Not just Infernal Machine stuff tacked on, but whole new areas and bonus content that’s not just reused maps. And it seems like RoS is going that way, with Loot Runs, though obviously we’ll have to see them to know just how well they actually vary from the existing content.

      • Thanks for the reply.

        “Fans of the genre would feel ripped off if chars reached max level in just 10 or 12 hours of content… ”

        I can agree with that argument, but My first play through of D3 Normal, 1st character was at least 10 to 12 hours. I spent that time listening to lore books, looking at all the wonderful art, talking to all the NPCs, etc.

        Even with rushing each act, (NOT power leveling) at a little over an hour an act still means that one max level character has 12 hours of playtime. With a forth phase of game play still awaiting them (Inferno.) Paragon Levels, not withstanding.

        I really can’t see anyone complaining if they reached lvl 60 by the end of the 2nd full play through of the game. Especially with all of the end-game content they are adding, and a 3rd run through of the game awaiting them.

        Mind you, this is all still just one of five different classes (6th one pending.) So, that is a LOT of time, for anyone who wants to play at least two classes!

        Plus a LOT of game time for your money spent. Seriously, most games are $60, and you get max of 12 hours of play time out of them, and no one complains.

    • With patch 1.10 I was sure that the original idea behind the three difficulty levels was changing the world and it’s inhabitants a bit in each of them: The tone of the world and story becoming harsher and more mature, the higher difficulty one gets, including different outcomes of quests, or even completely different story lines, and monsters gradually gaining additional abilities. I had put it to the level of technology then that only the latter had been doable (, and then only just a tease and not gradually at all, ) and forgot about the thought until now…

  12. QUOTE

    Seriously, most games are $60, and you get max of 12 hours of play time out of them, and no one complains.

    i don’t. then again, i don’t buy those games.

  13. As mentionned earlier, the original idea was that inferno was the end-game. Now, we can say that inferno MP0 is what Hell should have been. And Inferno MP10 is the real end game/goal to reach. So that makes one of the previous difficulty level useless. I think Hell is fine as it is: it becomes difficult at the end (without level 60 equipement). Normal and Nightmare are really too easy and should be merged.

    I also like the idea that they could completely change the way difficulty is adjusted and introduce a new system where you could more freely choose where you play in the game.

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