There is no more Theorycrafting in Diablo 3

play-your-way-thursdayThis week Blizzard changed the name of their “Theorycrafting Thursday” project. It’s now called “Play It Your Way Thursday.” and there’s a short blog post explaining the change. I’ll quote it, but I’m posting it since I think the larger issue is worth debate, which begins after the Blue:

Theorycraft Thursday has been a wonderful experiment and opportunity for us to engage with you, the community, on a personal level. However, after reading through your feedback, we’ve made the decision to change the name of this blog series to Play Your Way Thursday.

So What’s Changed?

You may be wondering how this will affect the content of the newly named blogs. In short, neither the content nor the focus will be changing. You’ll continue to see interesting and innovative builds here, and the emphasis on accessible experimentation will remain.

This series was never intended to focus exclusively on top tier players who live and breathe Torment VI. While efficiency and number crunching are important parts of theorycrafting, they both stem from experimentation and hatching unique or, dare I say, crazy new ideas that take some trial and error to explore. Playing around with those ideas is a lot of fun, even if they don’t work out to be the best. After all, every great build has to start somewhere, so let’s poke around, think outside the box, and share your fun and interesting builds with the world!

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and the goal here remains the same. I still want you to send in your builds with your items to show the rest of the community how you play the game. This has been, and surely will continue to be, a fantastically fun feature to write and I look forward to continuing to share it with you all.

This makes me think of an issue we discussed on the last podcast (#144). Namely, that a character with quality gear can use virtually any DiabloWikibuild (or even a semi-random collection of skills) and play smoothly up to about Torment 2. To do T3-T4 requires very good gear AND a good build. To do T5-T6+ requires great gear and using the one or two ideal builds per class. (If there are such builds. Most Wizards and Monks would argue there are currently zero T6 viable builds for them.)

This kind of puts a damper on Theorycrafting, doesn’t it? I mean sure, you can use weird builds and do interesting, novel things in Reaper of Souls and hang with Torment 2ish…but only if you’ve got great gear. And in that great gear, if you were using a better build, you’d be able to do T4 or higher.

It seems like Nevalistis took the “Theorycrafting in Diablo 3” thing as far as she could, but in a game without meaningful DiabloWikiMagic Find, where all rewards stem from the difficulty level you play on, where the power curve is 95% defined by equipment, and the only thing worth picking up is a legendary item, there’s just not much room for quirky or unusual builds or gear combinations.

Or am I wrong? I’d be happy to be wrong, if someone wants to point out where and why.


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  1. I was getting worried that D3 was moving even further towards simplicity, but the ptr is showing new item affixes and all the new legendary gems, both of which can drastically change the number of potential builds (I hope).

  2. I agree the (current) lack of build diversity makes theorycrafting somewhat moot. I completely disagree that magic find was or is the solution. Magic find was to me fundamentally broken–wear gear that makes you lucky so you find awesome rare gear you will never ever wear because you always want to be lucky.

    I think what got lost some way is the idea that T1 and T6 were both suppose to be valid ways to farm endgame. T1 was suppose to be a mad dash appealing to players who wanted to feel epic, mowing down demons by the thousands. T6 was suppose to be a slow march appealing to players who look forward to a protracted battle with a single elite pack. Ideally the drop rates in T6 would compensate for the slower kill speed but not over compensate.

    The problem is the current situation where you have classes that can tear through T6 like butter. They get all the advantages–fast clears and better drop rates. If all classes struggled in T6 but breezed through T1 the system would actually be nicely balanced.

    I think the problem is everyone expects to be able to kill a elite pack in T6 in seconds when it really should be minutes. If you want to kill in seconds, the idea was you played T1.

    • Magic Find was never well-implemented in D3, (and not really in D2 either) but the issue with D3 is that all increased drop rates, gold, exp, etc, comes from increased difficulty level, which puts an absolute premium on builds that can roll in T6.

      D2 had the players X option, but that just simulated a multiplayer game, and the benefit of that was more difficulty, but it really only rewarded you with more exp. In D2 the highest difficulty wasn't that hard, which had pros and cons, but at least it didn't create the D3 situation where all rewards come from higher diff, hence the most optimal builds are the only way to play if you want riches.

      It would be interesting if D3 maxed out the leg drop rate at say, T3, and above that just gave you more exp and gold. Then we might see theorycrafting with a purpose, since players wouldn't be consciously giving up the best rewards by playing any build other than the most powerful cookie cutters.

      • > Magic Find was never well-implemented in D3, (and not really in D2
        > either) but the issue with D3 is that all increased drop rates, gold,
        > exp, etc, comes from increased difficulty level, which puts an absolute
        > premium on builds that can roll in T6.

        My (poorly made, apparently) point is that there should be no builds that can just roll through T6. T6 should be a struggle. Maybe putting some made up numbers behind it will help explain.

        Say it takes a group 5 minutes to just roll a T1 rift. Giving some time between runs that would mean a dedicated group could do 10 T1 rifts in an hour. Lets say drop rates are such that each member of the group gets about 5 legs in those 10 runs.

        Now the same group does T6 runs. Since it is much harder, it takes about 25 minutes to complete a run so they can only get through 2 runs in an hour. However drop rates are much better in T6 so each member can again expect about 5 legs on average in those 2 runs.

        So number of legs per hour is the same. The only difference is whether you like quick kills, moving fast vs slower kills, more strategic fight. Neither one can give better rewards per time spent or one side will be forced to choose a playstyle they don't like.

        This isn't my idea–this was the original way the different torrent levels were described. Is it perfect? No. But the idea has merit.

        The problem again is right now we have classes/builds like the pet WD and shotgun crusader that can run through T6 way too fast. My point was if the system is to work then everyone needs to be able to roll T1 and everyone needs to feel super challenged in T6.

        • On SC there is no risk, might as well stack DPS and go all in.

          On HC if higher difficulties aren't vastly superior to lower difficulties, the only correct way of playing the game is T1… which gets boring as hell very quickly.

          Without a meaningful balance between risk and reward there's no reason to even get in depth about the subject on a difficulty by difficulty basis.

          And no that wasn't SC vs HC BS. It's fact. Show me one meaningful penalty for death in SC. Pools don't count.

          Before we even get into that though we need to balance out difficulty itself so you can actually work out where you'd be fine difficulty wise, instead of random chain cc **** you deaths.

          • I agree. The only penalty now for SC play is if you don't want to die(like me>>> death equals I am playing poorly or I don't have a good enough build)and you do, then you become unhappy with yourself. Self imposed aggravation is the penalty. If you don't give a care neither does the game. However neither does the game reward really good play either.

            For instance if the game set everything you obtained while playing in a losable bag (it is gone, erased) if you die that would be a real penalty!!! You do a bounty but if you die in the middle you lose all the stuff you obtained and dont get a token!! But they would have to really make a noticeable difference between difficulties in drops. As of right now that is not the case.

    • Nevermind theorycrafting, it’s hard enough just to play your way when it gets nerfed into the ground. 🙁

  3. The title implies there was theorycrafting in the first place. Most people reached these conclusions quite a while ago. Seeing as you’re a veteran D2 player, I’m sure you saw it too Flux.

    You are right, but for more reasons than that.

    – All weapons HAVE to have a socket. Blizzard is finally admitting this with the drop which will add a socket to a weapon. And that socket always has to have an emerald. This does nothing to fix the uniformity of desired primary affixes, it only allows 4 instead of 3.
    – 2H Weapons aren’t feasible. The ~23 % dps buff may help, but probably not. This won’t be the first time Blizzard tried to fix something by just increasing numbers. Attack speed is still king for so many proc effects, and you can only have one socket with a 2H. The old manticores had 2 sockets, and we know how that turned out. Then there’s crusader balancing.
    – Magic find is gone, but if it was there, it wouldn’t matter anyways. The scaling on items is so outrageous that everybody only wants a few choice legendaries to piece together their builds – rather than a perfectly rolled rare or low level unique which can still be viable into endgame. Rares drop like worthless candy; there’s no reason to even pick it up as a high level char. Moreover, it’s highly doubtful that any implementation that fits the system would hold a candle to that gained by faster clearing time + higher torment level.
    – Paragon levels can be changed instantly. They don’t actually contribute anything towards making character builds *yours.*
    – I could keep going, but I’m going to stop here.

    I guess I’ll keep playing my Path of Exile. I keep checking Diablo news, due to nostalgia, and every time I do, I find myself thinking ‘Man, these guys are still missing the real problems.’ RoS was a brief respite from that, but the old problems came through.

    It sucks to see a franchise I loved die so hard.

  4. I whole heartily agree with you Flux, but I must say the problem that have you identified is from a core defect in a gameplay decision. Simple put they purposely chose to make the possibilities of game play limited and much more controllable for them, (or so they surmised). Because of this decision, the effectiveness of the different systems of gameplay dropped off significantly the higher the difficulty you go ie T5 plus. The importance and relative strength of let us say a pure offensive dps build is so much stronger than the correlating defensive skills build as to be not overcome able even with better gear and personal skill. Even their decisions for the ladder is completely in line with their build expectations. Speed of kill is the only game play that is supported or encouraged. A controlling type play is discouraged and not supported with skills, nor a defensive one or even a necrotic disease build. You must use a jade , instant damage (not kill over time) type approach or you die a pitiful death. They have gone with simple damage with different colors (that mean very little >>>arcane is not different than fire.)

    I hope I am explaining myself clearly enough.I will say Blizzard has clearly explained themselves in the focused type game they have created. It is the Blizz way or the highway and the result… frustration and head banging with no differential reward system except for their way to success.

  5. I enjoy the blog/article/whatever they call it. The problem is that the MAJORITY of gamers are this: Its t6 or nothing.

    The core problem is simple: Critical damage and critical chance. Remove them. Have skills offer a 20% or so chance to critical etc. Make them game more stat based than weapon based. Adjust it accordingly.

    This game has so many options, yet they fail to understand the only things required are primary stat/CC/CD. You could easily make it into a resource management game with options based Reducing the Cost or using skills that need a faster recharge time.

  6. Most monks are simply t6 support and are carried throughout the rifts so they don't really have any dps builds, they are viable and useful as support though. As for wizards, a few are decent, nothing crazy efficient like DH's or WD's. My wizard is pretty decent for T6 as an explosive blast wizard, and provides good support as well using frost nova and black hole so that's beneficial as well. It seems PTR is working towards making more builds viable, and I "hope" they get there..but it's blizzard, so who knows..

  7. I always come on this beloved site, at the hope of some good news on D3. I have great desire to play again D3, after a long time of absence. Yet, it is posts like this, that make me walk again away, in great disappointment. After all these months, and the game seems to be so badly broken… it keeps me away from playing. Some aspects of the game are fantastic, while others so bad implemented, that I can't keep playing it.
    And when I saw the expansion cost at 40 bucks or something… I got mad! I refused to buy it eventually. A slight "excuse us" would be to at least have a low price on the exp. Screw that.
    Well, it is such a great disappointment, that even after a year (or two?) from its initial release, the game have SERIOUSLY problematic mechanics, that never were fixed….
    I guess I have to leave the place once again.. such a shame!

    • I really wish there was modding in Diablo 3. Much more now than pre-game, when I was disappointed to learn that it would not be allowed at all. The game engine is great and I love the graphics and the look and feel and all that… but the basic game design is now so linear (rift rift rift and more DPS!) that playing with any kind of variety or exploration, or with a non-cookie cutter build, feels like wasted time.

      That's fine for the subset of fans who agree with and enjoy the current design style (mostly newer/younger players, it seems), but most old time D2 players I know feel like Sir Beren here, where we'd love to see much more variety, and that's what we got in D1/D2, largely through modding, since people created such wildly different versions of the base game. Not just harder or Tolkien-themed or whatever, but with big tweaks to make it better to go with a more defensive play style, or to reward full world exploration, or to force players to really specialize, etc.

      For instance, I imagine a version of D3 that allowed you to select 8 or 10 skills, had some kind of skill point system to make focusing on particular runes more powerful, and lots of monsters with immunities and special behaviors, and I think that would be amazingly fun and strategic. Having to vary attacks for the situation, needing to use tactics and CC against enemies you couldn't just steamroll with more DPS, etc. It would be so much more interesting (from my perspective) than the current rift rift rift treadmill.


  8. The big problem currently is the heavy reliant on specific +Elemental and +Skill dmg (perfection) on items for higher Torments.

    It takes MONTHS of playtime to find ONE Marauder Helmet with a decent roll. Unless you are super lucky and the +skill is roll-able, you’re stuck with one build.

    If I want to swap from Cluster Arrow Fire Rune to Multishot Physical Rune I would have to swap my Boots(+skill), Helmet(skill), Amulet (Ele), Bracers(Ele), Quiver(Skill) and one Ring(Ele).

    Plus probably something decent for Gloves and Chest instead of Magefist and Cindercoat …

    There is simply no way to test out multiple builds.

  9. Not to mention not enough stash space to try out all these builds .

    • Yep. Not enough stash space to store multiple items. This is a big problem, and I think Blizzard really needs to look into an alternate Setup. Meaning a whole item swap, not just weapons. It could be not done in combat.

  10. Really. Builds are no longer.

    What we have, since Patch 2.0 is an "itemized" style of play.
    SOME items have what they call "game-changing" properties.
    So, if you do NOT have one of them… you'll be painfully sweeping the ground with your belly, grinding for achieving those special items.
    And when you do… you'll be bored as hell, because all other gear and styles of play open to you will be inferior and less satisfying.

    Let me give you an example: So I found that famous wand (of Woh). Now I spend the time casting explosive blast, while at the same time using my big 60%+ CDR to stutter-freeze the enemy and my black hole to sweep away walls and ice, shaking enemies and playing their vulnerabilities to being struck back with my "strong arm"…. and that's it.

    That's why I have 3 accounts. In the otheraccounts I painfully strive to take my channeling spells to a good result, but all hope was lost with the PTR. Now I grind to find a Mirrorball source and so on.

    Oh well. One item, one build – that's it.

  11. The salvation to our problem here lies in one of two areas. Either more legs with more abilities that support unique builds or an actual skill tree that works within the paragon system to help promote more diverse builds so we wont have to look for alot of new gear or wait on it to be developed. I lean toward a skill tree or even more diversity in the paragon system would help the problem. As far as i can tell D3 is the only ARPG that uses this type of system almost entirely based on gear, and we see how it stifles creativity and progression for other players unique styles. Whatever the solution is I hope it comes fast and correct.

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