Travis Day interviewed from Blizzcon 2014. Travis answers questions about Greater Rifts, Rift Racing, Legendary Gems, Ancient Items, new legendary items and Item Sets, buying more stash space, trading, Realm of Trials, improving bounties, game control problems, build viability in the end game, and much more.
There’s a full transcript for this interview, so click through to read along.
Diablo 3 Podcast: Travis Day Interview
Here’s the full transcript for this show. We previously posted the transcript of the first half, so if you’ve already read that and want to pick up where you left off, skip down to the 16:00 mark.
IncGamers: So Travis, what have you been working on recently?
Travis: Lots of things. Recently in Patch 2.1 I spent a tremendous amount of time working on the legendary gems. I got married and went on my honeymoon also, during our Patch 2.1 PTR. Recently I’ve been working on Patch 2.2 and Ancient Items and some other stuff we’re going to show off tomorrow.
IncGamers: What was your favorite legendary gem, since you were working on them?
Travis: Oh wow… I think my favorite is Boon of the Hoarder.
IncGamers: Hah, you and everyone else. We ran a vote recently for favorite Legendary Gem, and Boon of the Hoarder came in first. Despite the fact that people constantly post saying gold is meaningless and worthless and they have too much of it. People just love the shiny. And the level 25 bonus you get to move really fast.
Travis: Oh yeah, I love it. My first time using it… I don’t even remember what I was killing. A pack of swarmer mobs… and my screen just exploded in gold.
IncGamers: It makes you play terrible areas too. I do the Ruins of Corvus in Act Five for all the scarabs. Or the first time I was using it, I was doing the Spider Caves in Act One. Everyone’s least favorite bounty area, but there are *so* many little spiders.
Travis: Yeah, totally.
IncGamers: So speaking of Legendary Gems, that was one of my main questions. About how there aren’t any useful defensive ones. But today’s What’s Next in Reaper of Souls panel revealed two new legendary gems with big defensive properties. I assume you guys looked at the currently popular gems and saw the two defensive ones were the least used?
Travis: Yeah, they are. We’re always trying to iterate and always trying to find interesting ways to add new items to the game, and Legendary Gems are just the newest feature. And since they’re a new feature, the first round that we created and sent out with Patch 2.1…. there was a lot of question marks. We weren’t really sure…
We knew things like Moratorium would be less popular than Bane of the Powerful, but we put them out anyway. We were like, “well, even if only Hardcore players use them.”
IncGamers: *laugh* But Hardcore players don’t use them. I play Hardcore.
Travis: Yeah… The thing players ask us for the most is healing and defensive gems. Which is great, because it’s amazing when players want more tanky things. Because for years, its’ been “no one cares about tanking in the game.” I think Greater Rifts helped sort of reframe the mindset about those things.
IncGamers: I was surprised none of the Legendary Gems have any of the “resurrect upon death” properties. Those are found on many items now and some skills, but they’re unevenly distributed and Barbarians still don’t have one, and that class really suffers for it in Hardcore.
Travis: We haven’t talked about that yet, but it’s something we’re open to.
IncGamers: Is it because Blizzard hates Barbarians?
Travis: Blizzard loves Barbarians! I’ve played one myself quite extensively.
IncGamers: Well players just say that for whichever class is best or worst at the time. Obviously you guys loved the Barbarian best for like a year and a half during Vanilla.
Travis: Ahh… I think we just didn’t patch as much as we could have. To maybe try to normalize the playing field. I enjoyed it thoroughly, personally.
IncGamers: Jumping around to different questions to cover the most requested ones. Probably the most requested issue relates to stash space. Everyone wants more, and players talk all the time about how they’d even be happy to pay for more space. It seems a natural extension, since you guys had the whole Real Money Auction House, and that was supposed to be the ongoing source of income to pay for the servers and development. And now that’s gone, so why not fill the money hole with DLC stash and character tabs?
Travis: Well that’s two questions. Do you want to know about stash space or about microtransactions. Since those aren’t the same thing.
IncGamers: Well stash space…
Travis: Stash space comes up a lot. I’ve said myself, “I would totally pay to have more stash tabs.” But honestly… that’s when I’m in my player’s shoes. When I’m in my designer’s shoes, we talk about it differently. No matter how many tabs we give players; two more, five more, etc, they’re going to fill those and want more. So what we’ve been trying to figure out recently is how we can help you better manage your stash. How we can help you not need to save so many things.
So take something like crafting materials. Maybe we make them easier to store. maybe we find reasons for players to get rid of some extra stuff they’re keeping.
On top of that there are technical reasons. There are only so many… we call them “actors” but it’s about how many items are in our game and how many it’s storing in memory at any given time. If we do almost any more than we have now, the game can’t physically keep up with it.
IncGamers: It’s often an issue in Hardcore since players need to hold extra gear for when they die. And you guys have put in so much more customization of items that gear isn’t interchangeable between different classes or builds anymore.
Travis: There are a lot of technical limitations to it. The one that comes up a lot is, “what if you just let us pay for more storage?” Well one, even if we did that, that’s not necessarily the right fix or the right approach. And two, there are a lot of technical reasons we couldn’t do that. So instead we’re trying ot figure more ways to get rid of things and feel good about it in the process.
IncGamers: I’m sure I’ll be asking you about this next year…
Travis: *laugh* Well… I hope not. I’m sure by next year you’ll have seen some changes.
IncGamers: So, Trading. Pretty much everything is bind on account now, except legendaries in the same game. And there’s constantly requests, especially from people in the clans I head on US and EU, to allow some trading within clans. Make it so you have to be in the clan for 30 days so people don’t just join up to buy gear… any possibility we’ll see more trading allowed in the future?
Travis: We’re happy with how trading is now. We hear this feedback a lot…
IncGamers: I’m asking the most popular questions first.
Travis: Yeah. Someone at the bar yesterday was asking me about this.
When we took trading and restricted it as much as it had to be to help make the game the best it could be, it was something that I use an anecdote a lot in these conversations. In D2, my buddy would join the game and throw all these items on the ground and I’d be like, “Sweet! Hooray!” But that moment of altruism on his behalf, and that moment of excitement for me, basically just truncated all future item finding for me.
So even though this issue comes up a lot with suggestions for safeguards like 30 days in the clan, or on the friend list. The reasons we got rid of trading was to protect players from spammers, bots, people who would try to take their credit card info. Any trading that’s available at all will open the door to black market sites. And ultimately, you still can. If you’re playing with your friend or family, here’s a great item and here you go.
The trading rules we have in the game now are the best for the co-op experience we want players to be having.
IncGamers: Difficulty! There was nothing in the panel about higher difficulty or changes at that end. Now that so many players are well-geared, having just Torment 6 isn’t enough. That’s only equivalent to Greater Rift 25 and lots of players can just steamroll T6 in a few minutes, with no difficulty or danger. Obviously you guys want Greater Rifts to be the highest difficulty for the end game content, but it seems like T6 has become pointless for some. Have you thought about higher levels of Torment?
Travis: This issue comes up sometimes around the office, but we don’t have any plans to add higher levels of Torment now. When we do talk about this, the issue is usually… we talk about what we want the cadence of the gameplay to feel like. We don’t feel the game is at its best when played at the highest difficulty for extended periods of time. Which is why Greater Rifts you have to sort of work your way up each time. We feel like the game is better with peaks and valleys. When you’re compressing and trying really hard, then the unwinding.
And we feel like T6 Rifts are filing that purpose now for the really advanced players. While Greater Rifts are the higher difficulty. And we don’t really want to muddy that water now.
IncGamers: Speaking of Rifts, how about the Realm of Trials? Some people hate doing it. They hate doing Waves, and character builds vary a lot in how effect they are in that area. People always ask why they can’t start on the last Rift they did, instead of doing Waves. And sure, that kind of usurps the function of Urshi and the choice players have to make between upgrading their gems or their rift key… I’ve heard many people talk about how they can only do say Wave 30, but up to Greater Rift 35 or 38. Unless they party with some Demon Hunters, in which case they can start right out on GR40. Is that a concern for you guys, balancing Waves with Greater Rifts?
Travis: I think the Trials are something we’re still iterating on. WE talk about this a lot at the office. There are some changes going in Patch 2.12 to make Trails more rewarding and to take some of the more frustrating things out of them. People talk about the ability to pull some of the monsters, like with Piranhas or Cyclone Strike. I think last week we made the change to allow you to pull all the monsters in the trials.
We talk about this a lot… How often people should need to do trials… This is something that we know we want to change, but we don’t necessarily know what we want to do yet. I talk about this with Wyatt a lot. We know we want to have Trials, they serve a very good purpose to let players not have to clear 1-30 every time, that’s why we have trials. They can be a point of friction for people who want to do a lot of Greater Rifts in a row.
But at the same time, when I go to a ride, and they take out a measuring stick and say you must be this tall, they don’t measure me again the second time, and the third time, and the fourth time I go through the line. So we want to reduce the amount that players need to do Trials, but not remove them entirely.
IncGamers: How about giving multiple keys when you do a trial?
Travis: Sure, possibly. Maybe we could give 5 or 10 keys at a time.
IncGamers: Could they pop and drop all around the level, so players would have to run and pick them up?
Travis: *laugh* I don’t know that that would be as fun….
IncGamers: How about a Trial Key goblin, and he runs around the level, dropping the right keys. We need more types of Goblins, right?
Travis: Goblins are awesome.
IncGamers: So changing topics again, something that’s been mentioned a few times recently by your fellow developers is the possibility of Bounty improvements. People do Adventure Mode non-stop, and you talked about it in the panel but just in terms of improving the Rift map layouts, or fixing monster density in Rifts. What about making bounties more compelling or rewarding? No one does bounties in Acts 2 or 3 or 5. How about boosting those? Putting the Ring of Royal Grandeur in Act Five? Giving out a bigger bonus to players who do all 25 bounties in the same game? Any ideas for making Bounties more rewarding?
Travis: I don’t think Bounties are not viable. They’re really good and they have a distinct purpose in the game. When we talk about this at the office, generally my opinion on the topic is that bounties are cool as they are. I think it’s that in the last patch when we changed how many Rift Keys are required to open up a Rift, it went from 5 down to 1.
One key per player was good, since you didn’t just stand around in a public game going, “Who’s going to open this?” And then people join and leave and don’t open it. But the downside is that if you’re a solo player, or a hardcore player with some friends you don’t use keys as often as you used to. A full Act of Bounties used to give you one Rift and now it gives you five. So it’s really shifted the focus purely because we under-costed keys now.
That’s something we talk about so do we raise the key cost back up, or do something else to make people do bounties. But ultimately I think between the Rift cost, and the Bounty bag rewards… I think bounties are less fun than Rifts, so we don’t want the focus of the game to be on them.
IncGamers: I know you guys have exact stats, but when I’m on and looking at what people in the clan are doing, it’s 99% Rifts or Act One Bounties, since everyone always wants a better Ring of Royal Grandeur. But the incentives are so different. And Act One is so much faster and easier. It seems very unbalanced.
Travis: People have just suggested why not moving the Ring of Royal Grandeur to Act Five. And then it’s like, we’re just moving the problem, and everyone just does Act Five. There’s no plans to do anything of that nature. If anything we’d look at it on the key front, or increasing the diversity of the rewards.
Part two of the interview begins here:
IncGamers: Build viability. Obviously there are some builds that are very powerful now, but not much variety at the higher end. In the current game it seems like almost any build with good gear is okay to about Grift 25, and then there are a few builds per class to go from GR 25-35, but to get above that there’s one build, at most. Are you guys thinking about… so when you balance new builds, such as the new Demon Hunter Multishot build in the demo here, or N3rdwards is stoked about the new Wizard Slow Time build.
Are you guys designing these builds to compete at the highest levels? Or do you just want the new ones to be pretty good but you don’t really math it out to see if they’re equivalent at the very top?
Travis: Oh yeah, we want more build diversity. It’s hugely important to us. We want classes to have multiple builds. Really a huge part of my work when I’m designing builds like those you see in the demo is… What are really cool play styles that we want to reinforce. And what do we have to do to make that playstyle as good as the best thing now?
How do we take this Mulstishot build and make it as good as M6? How do we take this Slow Time build and make it as good as Firebird’s? So that’s definitely our priority. Is always trying to find ways to prop up builds that players ant to do, but that aren’t in the game yet.
IncGamers: The new items enable new builds focused on new skills. That’s something players always want. You guys want to enable skills via new items, rather than buffing items directly. And people are like, “I want a great legendary for every skill in the game, and I want it now.” I guess you guys would like that too, but you can’t magically create them all. So is the plan to just add another dozen or so every season?
Travis: The plan is to continue retrofitting old content and making cool new content.
IncGamers: Why don’t you make every legendary awesome right now in the next patch!!?
Travis: …If there were more of me, I would totally do that. It’s purely just a matter of how much we can get done at any time. Our focus is on trying to get items that don’t have cool powers… cool powers. We’re adding new items every season, and on top of that adding more item content for non-seasonal players.
We’re adding as much content as we can get in and we’re pretty happy with what we’re doing now. And the plan is eventually to have every legendary with cool stats.
IncGamers: Speaking of new content, Ancient Items. Those are new finds of existing legendary items with up to 30% higher stats?
Travis: Up to 30%, yeah.
IncGamers: The panel said those would drop more frequently at higher levels of Torment. What kind of % is that? Like 9/10 are normal version legendary and 1/10 are Ancient Item upgrade type?
Travis: Yeah, about one out of ten, actually. Obviously we may have to adjust that once the patch goes to PTR, but right now the rate is about ten percent on Torment 6. That includes from crafting or Kadala or world drops. That number may go up or may go down.
IncGamers: And I just pulled that number out of the sky!
Travis: *laughing* good job.
This interview took place Friday afternoon, before anything but the most basic Ancient Items info had been revealed, which is probably why Travis surprised and amused when I threw out the 10% drop rate figure, since he was thinking, “Dude, good guess!”
The next day’s Evolving Reaper of Souls panel talked about Ancient Items in more detail, and gave the odds as 1.5% of items on Torment 1, increasing up to 10% on Torment 6.
Incidentally, there’s not yet any official word about what the AI rate will be with gambling and crafting (since those don’t scale up by difficulty, and would be easily-abused if they did.) Nor is there word about if the 10% odds will scale up even higher for drops from Greater Rift Guardians on GRifts above 25.
IncGamers: So do Ancient Items look just the same? Is the clang or drop beam different?
Travis: That’s the idea.
IncGamers: So there’s going to be new excitement when IDing, eh?
Travis: Sure, it’s meant to preserve a little bit of that anticipation. And Ancient Items are really meant to serve the players who want to play the game a considerable amount. We want our game to be as accessible to all of our players as possible. And our drop rates reflect that.
I started my Seasonal Monk and within a week I had surpassed my Crusader from ship of RoS, since drop rates are insanely high now, Kadala is really rewarding. And it’s great that I could do that with a brand new character, but man I really wish there was still something I could want… cause I’ve got everything already. And Ancient Items are really meant for people like me or streamers or players like you who play a lot and want something new to discover.
IncGamers: Well I play Hardcore so I’ve always got the chance of needing all new gear.
Travis: Well then there you go… you’re always finding cool new stuff.
IncGamers: Yeah, like it or not.
IncGamers: It seems like everyone has their own favorite skill they want a new legendary item to make end game viable. I’ve got a friend who really wants Strafe to become awesome, and is just waiting for that item to come along. How do you guys decide in the office which skill to buff? Do you throw darts at a board or something?
IncGamers: Say you’re a Monk fan… those new bracers (Gungdo Gear) that make Exploding Palm chain to everything… So someone just loved Exploding Palm and lobbied for it? Like how did Multishot get picked for the new Demon Hunter set? Was that John Yang, since he’s the big Demon Hunter fan?
Travis: No, actually Multishot specifically, that’s one that Kevin Martens has been asking us to do for months. He was like, “Make a Multishot bow! Make a Multishot bow!” So I said, “How about I make a Multishot set?”
I’ll talk about this on the panel tomorrow, but a lot of that comes from the fact that currently, Demon Hunters are… their best set isn’t necessarily the most engaging, and we definitely wanted to get the class back to a place where you shoot things in the face with your arrows. So when we were working out the new set, we were like, “Okay, you’re going to use your bow, it’s going to be at least as good as Marauder’s!”
That’s generally our approach to creating new items. What are the viable builds, what are the builds we think would be good, and what are the iconic skills that aren’t good because there are no items for them. So let’s make items for them.
IncGamers: Yeah, I definitely like the Multishot idea. I’m not a big fan of Marauder’s since I like to play the pewpew style and shoot things myself. Just putting out a bunch of turrets and watching them kill things while I stand back doesn’t feel very “Demon Hunter” to me.
Travis: I can see that. I personally enjoy the Turret gameplay, however I don’t like the way Marauder’s worked out. It’s a good example where we just started from a strong fantasy point, and afterwards we were like, “Yeah… it works, but the gameplay could have been better.”
We don’t want to nerf it, so our solution is to make something even better that’s way more fun, and if you still want to do the turret thing, you’ll still do the turret thing.
IncGamers: I often wonder if the Sentry Marauder’s build worked well, but wasn’t nearly as damaging, if people would still use it. Like say it maxed out at GR35 or so; strong but not super OP. Would people still use it because they enjoyed it, or do they only play it since it’s so powerful?
Travis: Oh, absolutely. I think some people really enjoy that gameplay.
IncGamers: Well maybe we’ll see, if come the next patch M6 is no longer the most powerful.
Travis: Yeah, come PTR time we’ll get a lot of feedback and as always we’ll iterate based on that.
IncGamers: Okay, I’ve got some Rifts questions, but I have to put in my own request first.
IncGamers: Controls. I’m one of those people who almost can’t stand to play a melee character anymore since I hate having to do all that left clicking. I don’t want to waste a skill on the left mouse button. I want that one to just be Force Move, with a skill on the right mouse and then 5 keyboard hotkeys. I like my main attack skill on the fight click so it auto-acquires targets and doesn’t require all that clicking and accidentally picking up trash, clicking on the wrong monster, etc.
It wasn’t so bad in the D3V play style since then you had to click a lot to build up resource, and then you could spend it with big spenders on the left click. That’s not really the gameplay anymore, with so many ways to generate resource, and having to left left left left left left endlessly is very annoying.
IncGamers: I mentioned this to Josh and Wyatt last year and Wyatt was like, “I understand your complaint, but there are reasons that probably can’t be changed.”
Travis: I would repeat what Wyatt said, but I don’t know what he said. The control scheme is more or less what it is for a reason. More than anything when I listen to that feedback I wonder why you aren’t using your basic attacks…
IncGamers: I use them, but I prefer them on the right click. For instance in D3v I played a lot of Monk with Fists of Thunder on my right click and Wave of Light on the left click. And the gameplay was building up Spirit with the right click, and then eventually spending it with Shift+Left Click to target the Bell exactly, instead of having to click on a monster and possibly aiming it inaccurately.
The right click for main skill works so much better since you don’t need to click 5000x a minute, and you can just hold down the right click and target what you like, without accidentally clicking on chests, or picking up trash items, etc.
Travis: Um huh. Honestly I can’t give you a good answer for that. I’ve done nothing with work on the controls.
IncGamers: So who can I blame for this? Is it Wyatt’s fault?
IncGamers: Because it’s “Story Time with Wyatt” tomorrow, and I can harangue him then.
Travis: You are free to ask Wyatt about this tomorrow and see what he has to say.
Sorry that controls complaint went so long, but Travis obviously had zero familiarity with the nature of the complaint, so I had to explain. And it was pointless anyway since he doesn’t work on the controls and doesn’t mind the left click heavy play style (he mentioned his melee chars several times during the interview.)
I did get some hope for the “Diablo III’s controls suck for melee characters” issue from Blizzcon 2014, though. I don’t think the new Barb Rend + WW set is viable, and the Crusader continues to not interest me, but the new Monk bracers Gungdo Gear, with that incredible contagious Exploding Palm ability, will single-handedly (item-edly?) get me playing a Monk again. And yes, it’s sad that when I saw that item on the demo Monk, my first thought was “can I stand to play this build with all the left-clicking required?”
Happily, the answer is yes, since Exploding Palm works okay when mapped to the left click, freeing up the right click for whatever Primary skill is the Monk’s most powerful come next patch.
IncGamers: Okay, let me ask the Rifts question that many people requested. Rifts are good, but the main complaint is that people want less randomness, and a way to compete. People would like it if say Grifts 10, 20, 30, 40 had leader boards just for that level. So players could gear to that goal and then post their best times on those GRs, instead of their best time just showing for the highest GR they’ve ever completed.
People want it sort of like the “Finish all Acts in under an hour” challenge. Where someone could say, “I’m just going to do GR 20 and I’m going to gear for that and see how fast I can possibly clear it. And if they can do it in 4 minutes then their friends will see that time and try to do it in 3:50, and it’s a sort of a competition.
The other common request is for Rift Racing, where say there are four people in the game, and they’d agree to race. So they all open up an identical Great Rift and start at the same time, all playing solo, and see who can finish it first.
Travis: Those are both interesting ideas. The second one is actually something we have talked about at work. I think it’s really cool myself. I agree that it would be fun to… what was that game… it had floating castles… “Mighty Quest for Epic Loot”!
We talked about one of our favorite things from that game was that I could challenge a friend to a castle, with the same layout and we’d race to see who could get the best time. It would notify you that like, “Joe Chilly beat your time!” And then I’d play and “Travis Day beat your time!” and we’d go back and forth.
So it’s a cool idea, it something we could look into down the road. But I agree, it would be awesome.
IncGamers: Okay, last question and a short one. Any thought about making Rares viable for end game stuff. People often suggest what if we had Rares with 5 or 6 primary stats. Obviously they’d be lower numbers than on Legendaries, but as it is once you’re in decent legendary gear, Rares are just garbage. You don’t even look at them. Have you guys considered making Rares or crafting items more viable end game?
Travis: I think that all items eventually, the more powerful your character becomes the lower tiers of items are things you’re not going to equip. I think that’s better than suddenly every yellow that drops you have to pick up and look at. I think the best thing we can do in this scenario is that you have a use for those things, whether it be salvaging or crafting or whatever.
And I promise you that once we have Ancient Items, you’re going to be trying a lot more crafting to get Ancient versions of everything. That’s going to make you want a lot more crafting materials than you do now.
IncGamers: You’ve been listening to the Diablo Podcast, and *moooooo*.
Travis: There is no cow level!
Thanks to Travis Day for the good answers and big thanks for not being afraid to tell me “that’s not going to happen” rather than just dodging the question. Thanks also to everyone at Blizzard PR and the CMs for setting up the interview and inviting Diablo.IncGamers.com to attend another big BlizzCon.
And thanks to our readers for suggesting so many good questions. Most of what I asked Travis came directly from the questions you guys put forward, and I was able to hit virtually every question/topic on my main list, and I got into half a dozen of the not so frequently asked as well, though of course 30m was too short to cover everything. (Though I did get to ask a lot more of Wyatt Cheng, Julian Love, and John Yang when I conversated with them on the show floor after panels or at the Community Corner booth. Details on those chats coming up “soon.”
The Diablo 3 Podcast Episode Guide in DiabloWiki.net provides links to every show, plus quick summaries.