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    Diablo 3?s early gameplay is very structured and linear, with few player options early. Too cattle chute-y without enough exploration? Also, the guys debate the new and major changes to the skill system.

    The thirty-fourth episode of The Diablo Podcast is now online for your listening pleasure. Neinball and The Eliminator join Flux for a dual show; with 30 minutes of one topic, and 20 of another.

    The first half-hour of this show covers D3’s early game structure, including the story, quests, and general presentation, based on the detailed information revealed during the Beta demo. There’s a great deal more story and interconnection between the quests in the full game than we’d seen previously during the Blizzcon demos, but there might actually be too much? Several of the people I talked to from the media event in July said they felt a bit overly-guided, cattle chute-style, through early Act One, and that they hoped for more allowed exploration later in the game. I hope so too, and think it’s just that Bliz has the early game set up on training wheels to guide noobs through without confusion. Then again, both Neinball and Eliminator are long time WoW players, and they testify that the entire game in WoW these days, level 1-85, is basically the same sort of “led by the nose” character/quest progression. Might that be a sign of D3’s overall design concept?

    The second half starts at the 30:50 mark, when the topic changes to the skills system. All of the new changes to skills are covered, including six max skills, the new tiers when skills are enabled, the removal of skill points, the big changes to traits, and more. Will skills scale up enough to feel different? Will freespecs end “builds” since players can shift their skill points around perpetually? Can cooldowns make higher level skills balanced but still powerful? Can Blizzard keep the levels difficult, if players can always change their skills to the most optimal for a given area?

    The Diablo 3 Podcast Episode Guide in DiabloWiki.net provides links to every show, plus quick summaries.

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