I recently did something in Diablo 3 that I’d never done before, and it’s something that I bet a lot of you guys have never done at all. I made a new character of the same class as one of my existing characters. No, it wasn’t a misclick. No it wasn’t just a mule. No I didn’t forget that the Beta was over.

    I made a new Hardcore Demon Hunter, but this isn’t an article about “my first HC D3 char,” though I’ll probably write one of those at some point, after I get some more play time and figure a way to structure it so that I’m not just repeating things Xanth has already said..

    I’m not going full on Hardcore yet, but after some weeks of alternating my play time between a Wizard, Barbarian, and Demon Hunter, all at level 60, I was in the mood for some different content. Lower level content. Inferno is fun and item hunt-alicious, but going back to the beginning was enjoyable in a different way, especially with the added excitement of Hardcore style mortality.

    My HC Demon Hunter is doing fine, and after about 5 hours of more-meticulous-than-usual play time she’s into mid-Act 3 and hoarding every gem and gold coin like Smeagol on meth. (And I should enjoy it while it lasts, since I think Demon Hunters are the least likely long term HC success story.) But this isn’t an article about Hardcore play!

    It’s an article about rerolling, and if you click through you’ll read what’s fun about rerolling, what I learned playing a new character through old content, why Blizzard removed any reason to reroll from the game, and some speculation about how that’s changed the play experience.

    What’s Fun About Rerolling

    Nurses, flight attendents, and Demon Hunters -- best when female.

    The rerolling experience was an interesting one. I hadn’t done a new character from scratch since a few days after Diablo III launched, back in May. During the first week I made one of each class and leveled them each to at least 15, to experiment with the early game stuff and at least get my feet wet with every class. In retrospect I have no idea why I felt the need to play five new characters just through the Beta content once the Beta was (finally) over. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and yes, that’s Jay Wilson’s usual excuse to defend D3 design decisions when Bobby Kotick drunk dials him at 3am, screaming about insufficient RMAH revenues. (I wanted to get my contractually-obligated DiabloWikiBobby’s Eyes reference out of the way early on.)

    So, it took me 8 weeks to feel any nostalgia for levels 1-13, but when I returned there, it was fun. I hadn’t done any HC play since the Beta, so I was starting completely from scratch. No gear, no artisans, no gold, etc. And since I was playing Hardcore, I approached the early levels differently. I wasn’t super cautious, since Act One is pretty easy, but I did spend additional effort on making sure I had decent equipment. And the fact that I was HC, and that I didn’t have twinks or gold, meant that I had to take the early gameplay experience seriously. More seriously than I’ve taken recent low and mid-level play with my Monk and WD, both of whom are well-twinked out from stuff my big 3 have found.

    The main difference I noticed with this new Demon Hunter was due to using new/different skills than I do with my level 60 DH, and to replaying the beginning content now that I know what I’m doing. I thought I was experienced at D3 after the Beta, but those early levels don’t require enough skill to serve as much of a training ground. Playing through Act One and Act Two now, I knew every scenario as soon as I saw it, knew what to expect from all the enemies, and knew how best to use my skills in different scenarios.

    While playing I kept encountering enemies or areas that I remembered being troubled by when I first played through the game. And invariably, I wondered how lame I must have been to find them dangerous. Remember when you didn’t know enough to back away from a Molten boss when it died? When you didn’t notice that orange circle forming under your feet while you were busy shooting at/pounding on a Desecrator? When the appearance of several little blueish-white dots around the screen didn’t start an automatic timer in your head, letting you know exactly how far and fast you had to move to avoid being frozen? When you’d remain where you were standing after being hit by a flaming projectile from a Fallen Shaman or Mage Construct?

    Dodging that sort of stuff has long since become second nature for me, along with habits like moving left or right after every shot to stay a step ahead of Mortars and avoid other incoming projectiles, dropping a Caltrops before Vaulting back to get firing room against fast attackers, etc. Now that I know how to play, my main challenge with most boss packs on Normal was trying to kill them without taking a single hit, and I often found myself wondering how it was even possible to die to a boss with only one modifier. What matters Jailer or Waller when they can’t stick Frozen or Arcane Enchanted into the mix? Who cares about Vortex when they can’t pull me into Molten and Fire Chains? Etc.

    Yes, you’re free to quote this back to me when I get lazy about defensive gear and skills and get swarmed by a Champion group of Fast Soul Lashers in Act Three.

    Why No Rerolling in Diablo III?

    Diablo III’s developers made several design decisions meant to minimize the need/reason to ever reroll a character in Diablo III, as they departed from the D1 and D2 system of permanency (and thus multiplicity) in character creation. A Bashiok argument on the issue, from February 2012:

    Leveling characters is cool, and some people legitimately enjoy that process, and we agree it can be fun and would still like to find ways to reward people who enjoy leveling additional characters, but being required to get through it just to try out some different skills is no longer acceptable to us. That’s a level of masochism we just don’t care to revisit. We thank the 90?s for their contributions to game design, and the ‘crush the player’s soul’ dungeon master mentality, but we’re moving on. We have this crazy notion that games shouldn’t punish you for trying to enjoy them.

    Fact of the matter is though that the longevity in Diablo II was not made by leveling characters. You can get a character to 80 in a matter of hours. The longevity was from experimentation, customization, and the randomized item drops needed to perfect them. And that’s amazingly even considering that a huge portion of the item hunt was completely ruined due to the mass proliferation of what should be insanely rare items. Longevity in Diablo is from exploration, character customization, and more specifically, killing monsters to see what they drop – not leveling.

    Avoiding the temptation to digress into *conversation* (ranting) about the issues of longevity, character customization, and item hunting in Diablo III… Bashiok makes some reasonable points about rerolling. His “crush the player’s soul” hyperbole is silly, but Diablo II was much sillier by including no way to respec skills or skills whatsoever. Not even to fix a misclick. Respecs were eventually added in patches directed by the D3 developers, but not until 10 years after release, and by that time it’s not as if anyone still playing the game was like, “I need to experiment with a variety of skills to decide what I want to build for, long term.”

    There’s no way to say if freespecs would have had a positive or negative effect on D2, back in its glory days. It’s impossible to make a full comparison of D2 to D3, since player expectations were very different back in 2000, the pace of character movement varies a lot between the games, low level chars in D2 can level up much faster than D3 thanks to shared experience in large games, and D2’s skill system/skill points/attributes/etc enabled and required much more thought and planning and character identity. But while there were a lot of player complaints about Diablo 2 in the early days, if anyone was really vexed by having to make another Sorceress or Amazon or Necromancer from scratch if they wanted to play a different build, I don’t remember it being voiced.

    This despite the fact that making a new character in Diablo II had a lot of dumb and unfun aspects, such as not being able to spend many/any of your skill points until level 18, or 24, or 30. (Later patches with skill synergies altered this system considerably.)

    This isn’t to say that D3’s freespecs system is awful. I very much enjoy being able to try out every skill on the same character, and to switch around as I level up. I also think the Nephalem Valor system is a decent mechanic for late game, though I don’t think it really matters in terms of adding character identity by discouraging constant respecs in the end game. Most players create a build that’s the best for all types of random boss encounters, and if there’s respecing late game it’s when boredom or curiosity drives a total character revision, or when a very different build is required to beat a specific quest boss or Act Boss.

    Demon Hunter Skill Digression

    Here’s a quick summary of some of my impressions of the Demon Hunter skills, and how they felt different using them at level 10 or 20 than at 60. This is not meant as a strategy article or a skill analysis, and is likely of interest largely to DH players. The rest of you are free to skip down a few paragraphs to the conclusion.

    I hadn’t used DiabloWikiHungering Arrow in weeks, since discovering how much better DiabloWikiCovering Fire was for virtually every situation, but that rune effect isn’t available until level 34, and the other/earlier forms of DiabloWikiEvasive Fire aren’t any good. So D3’s version of the piercing Guided Arrow it was, and I found it fun and effective against individual targets, though it took me a bit to remember that my main Hatred Generator was crap against larger groups of enemies and had a lag time between the click and the hit.

    I hadn’t used any type of DiabloWikiChakram in weeks, but once I rolled up DiabloWikiTwin Chakrams at 18 I remembered why I loved that skill on my first run through the game. Hurling them into a horde of onrushing Fallen on the open plains of early Act Two remained quite satisfying, It also reminded me why I stopped using that skill later in the game, since it’s unsuitable for quickly hurling over your shoulder while kiting.

    I’ve come to enjoy DiabloWikiBall Lightning at high levels, but I didn’t use it/like it on my first Demon Hunter until I was in Hell, so starting to use it at level 24 (which I dinged to late in Act 2, while replaying some content to level up before Belial) was awesome. God did it hot knife through butter the hordes of skeleton trash mobs in Zoltan Kulle’s funhouse levels.)

    Best of all, I could once again DiabloWikiVault with the freedom and impunity granted to speed-addicted Demon Hunters on difficulty levels not choked with DiabloWikiJailer, DiabloWikiWaller, DiabloWikiDesecrator, DiabloWikiMortar, DiabloWikiChampion packs of the sort that mandate DiabloWikiSmoke Screen for survival. Even bester, I now know enough to use DiabloWikiPreparation all the time, which combines with Vault to give the Demon Hunter a truly Olympian ability at cartwheeling through the levels and simply humiliating the slower-moving enemies who are lucky to even time to turn around before I flash past them and blast them from the other side.

    Rerolling = Longevity?

    Obviously players *can* reroll at any point in Diablo III. There’s nothing to stop you from offloading all of a character’s gear, deleting them, and then making a new one, which you can level up with or without twinks. Or you could just not allow yourself to respec, or to only respec a limited number of times. But you could say the same about Hardcore mode, since you could just delete your Softcore character when they died.

    By the same token, there’s nothing to stop you from using god mode bots in most single player games, or cheating at solitaire, etc. The point is that games of all types become or remain fun by imposing limits and controls that you have to work to overcome, within the parameters of the system. That’s why it’s really fun when you find a great item in the game, a bit less fun when you just buy it in the Auction House, and wouldn’t be any fun at all if you could just type a cheat code in and create it from thin air, without any cost.

    The question is if the game provides any incentives to do so, and if rerolling, or game features designed to encourage it, would improve the play experience and/or longevity. And about that, I dunno. I didn’t mind making new characters in the early days Diablo 2, but I was playing HC exclusively back then, so it was mandated as a punishment for failure. I haven’t had time or desire to play only HC thus far in D3, partially since the leveling up process takes so much longer in D3, mostly since you need such uber gear to succeed in Inferno. Most any level 70 character with decent gear could compete in the D2X end game, whereas a level 60 with good enough gear to struggle through Hell will probably die to the first boss pack they meet in Inferno.

    Since Inferno balancing is a whole different question, let’s stick to the rerolling topic for today. So how about it?

    Have any of you guys rerolled? Did you enjoy it? Were you curious to revisit lower level skills, or just really bored, or do you play Hardcore so the new character wasn’t exactly by choice? Do you think you’d enjoy Diablo III more if the game placed some limits on the number of skills you could use on a given character? Or had high costs for respecing? (Personally, I’d have to say no, but I think that largely goes with the D3 system of no skill points or stat points. Since you’re not doing anything to customize your individual character, it would feel weird and stupid to be locked into using them however you first made them.)

    In any event, I can recommend trying a reroll, and not just to make a new class. It’s fun to reuse those early skills and revisit those early areas with better tactics. I do think it’s best tried with a HC char, or even on a different realm, to avoid the temptation to massively twink the character out. Much like abusing the GAH bounty before Inferno, when you actually *need* the gear, overgearing a character at the low or mid levels takes away all the fun and challenge, and turns the game into a very boring click click click ordeal.

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