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    Since the big (and encouraging) list of changes was posted earlier today, we’ve seen a ton of player debate and discussion. Most of you guys seem to like the proposed changes, but there are a variety of opinions on every point, and numerous topics worth deeper analysis.

    That’s what this article is for, but first… let’s vote!


    How do you feel about the proposed v1.0.4 game changes?

    • 2) They're good, but don't fix everything. (40%, 2,037 Votes)
    • 1) They sound awesome. Big approval. (36%, 1,864 Votes)
    • 3) They're not so good, but at least a step in the right direction. (11%, 584 Votes)
    • 4) They're lame. Useless. Too little too late. RagerageRAGE! (8%, 432 Votes)
    • 5) No opinion/not sure. (4%, 220 Votes)

    Total Voters: 5,138

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    No More Party Average of Magic Find

    We were promised a whole raft of changes to how Magic Find works, so the brief tease in today’s article is just the first detail. Here’s what they told us about MF, in a post earlier this week:

    Following up on earlier discussions, Game Director Jay Wilson will be providing an update on how Magic Find is evolving in patch 1.0.4.

    If Blizzard is preparing a whole article on the MF changes, we’re obviously going to see more than just the removal of party-averaging of MF. That said, that change in today’s update was probably the most controversial tidbit, with numerous opinions on both sides of the issue. Lots of players approve of the change and think it will promote more MP gaming (which was what Wyatt Cheng said it would do in today’s update). Other players see a dark lining to that silver cloud, in that no MF-averaging will lead to lots of MF-leeches in MP games, where players load up on big MF gear, at the expense of their killing power, and tag along, providing minimal assistance while using your kills to enrich themselves.

    Since the D3 devs aren’t complete idiots it’s likely that the D3 Devs have considered this issue, and that in Jay’s blog on the Magic Find changes they’ll reveal a bunch of other details to the system changes that will address those concerns. If so, goodie. If not, sorrow.

    The issue of D3’s lack of bonuses to party play came up in the Barbarian podcast yesterday (the only non-Barb specific that seemed crucial enough to digress into), and lowering the bonus hit points of monsters was one of our key points of agreement, so it’s nice to see that mentioned in Wyatt’s post today. I’m sure there will be more details on that to come, but I’ve got a couple of questions/suggestions.

    Why not retain MF-averaging, and keep individual MF as well? So the total MF shares, but players who have more than the average keep their own bonus. For example, if your Barb or Monk was the tank and only had 50% Magic Find, while that Demon Hunter providing artillery from the back had 200%, you would get 2/250 = 125% MF, while the Demon Hunter would keep his full 200%. And the Nephalem Valor stacks would add on top of that, as they do now. This would provide an actual bonus to playing in parties; players who were tanking wouldn’t feel they were doing all the work without getting the shared MF rewards, and players with great gear and high MF wouldn’t have a disincentive to party up. Everyone wins!

    On that topic, a popular suggestion I’ve seen is that Nephalem Valor stacks should go higher than 5 in multiplayer games. Say that 5 is still the threshold for guaranteed bonus rare item drop every time. But what if stacks went up to 6/8/10 with 2/3/4 players in the game? And this applied a big bonus to item quality, thus improving your chances of seeing green and orange items drop? (Rather than say, 4 rares per boss.) Again, it’s a pure bonus to playing in parties, which is what Blizzard keeps saying they want to encourage in Diablo III.


    Click through for more discussion of other changes, including the general easing of game difficulty (are we games all wimps now?), the boosts to 2H weapons and ilvl 61/62 weapons (which is a HUGE stealth buff to crafting), more hit points to trash mobs (good and bad), and the possibility of summoner Witch Doctors riding again.

    Two Handed Weapon Improvements

    The issue of two-handed weapons is a long-debated issue. It also came up on the Barbarian podcast last night, and I was amused to see that every point we’d argued about this back in 2009 was still open to debate. It’s funny that as many lessons as the Diablo 3 devs took from Diablo 2, they somehow didn’t seem to spare a single thought to the whole issue of two-handed weapons.

    No one used them in D2 since their higher damage wasn’t ever higher-enough to make it worth giving up a shield or other off-hand option. And now in D3… no one uses them since their higher damage is never higher enough. Furthermore, D3 added numerous off-hand items that are better (for damage) than shields, AND D3 made attack rate much more important than it was in D2 (since attack speed triggers crits and resource generation per hit, rather than a % as mana leech was in D2). If anything, D3 went backwards on the whole “making two-handed weapons more viable” issue.

    So now they’re trying to address that, in various ways.

    We also want to close the gap between dual-wielding and two-handers, and so we’re improving two-handed melee weapons by creating a new set of stronger affixes to compensate for the loss of stats that can come from your offhand.

    On the topic of two-handers, we’re also changing how damage is calculated on a few damage-over-time skills. Many skills have text like “Deals 75% weapon damage for 5 seconds”, which isn’t exactly clear as it can be interpreted a few different ways. It also made skill evaluation difficult, particularly for skills with long durations or cooldowns. We’re switching a lot of these skills to read “X% weapon damage over 5 seconds”. Many skills already follow this format, and understanding what the skill does is very clear. As the skills are converted there is an additional opportunity: when converting to this format, choosing a value for X depends on your weapon speed.

    So what we’ve done in most cases is assumed a high attack speed (at least 2.0 attacks per second), chosen a value of X, and then in many cases bumped the value even higher. A skill that currently does 75% weapon damage for 5 seconds, with a 2.0 speed weapon, will convert to at least 750% weapon damage over 5 seconds. The skill becomes easier to understand, is a small buff for most one-hand builds, and a big buff for two-hand builds.

    Yes, that’s fairly confusing. So basically, they’re fixing the tooltips to more accurately reflect what’s happening, as players are currently underrating the value of higher damage. And they’re also changing how some of the skills calculate their damage, to make it more about total damage than about frequency of damage.

    That seems like a good start. The bigger issue is the new class of modifiers, which will presumably only spawn on two-handed weapons. We’ll obviously have to see what those are, but I hope they’re not just higher damage numbers, since there are many other issues. As we talked about on the Barb podcast, most Barb players (softcore, at least), especially using the popular Sprint/WW build, are now dual wielding, and using a very fast weapon with high Life on Hit in their offhand slot. More hits = more Life on Hit, more chances to proc Critical Hits, and other good things. As players are now choosing less total damage in favor of more total hits, upping the damage of 2H weapons won’t do anything to improve their popularity.

    Furthermore, the real issue with two-handers is very obvious in Hardcore, where the loss of a shield is very dangerous. Which takes us back to some of the main suggestions from 3+ years ago: inherent defensive bonuses to two-handed weapons (such as vitality, defense, armor, blocking, dodge, life on hit, etc).


    Item Level 61 and 62 Weapon Improvements

    Just how this will work out remains to be seen. Here’s today’s quote:

    Weapon damage is the most important stat on a weapon. It can be disheartening to get a lot of weapon drops and you know before even looking at them that they have no chance of being good. To help give weapons a fighting chance, the raw damage value on all level 61 and 62 weapons will be able to roll damage that extends all the way to the top end of level 63.

    That’s not entirely clear, but it sounds like they’re boosting the base damage of item level 61 and 62 weapons, so they’ll have the same top end damage potential as item level 63 weapons. For example, here are the base item level 61, 62, and 63 one-handed swords. Hover on the links for the pop up value, from DiabloNut.

  • Ilvl 61: Saif. Damage = (78-81) – (181-187)
  • Ilvl 62: Conquest Sword. Damage = (90-93) – (210-216)
  • Ilvl 63: Rune Sword. Damage = (104-107) – (242-248)
  • So now all of those swords will have 248 for their highest possible damage, but the minimum damage will still be higher for the Conquest Sword and the Rune Sword? Or are they getting a bigger rebalance to make the item level 61-63 weapons much flatter in overall potential damage output? Remains to be seen.

    At any rate, this should make for a much larger pool of potentially great weapons. The interesting thing a few of you guys pointed out in comments was what a big buff this will be to crafting. Currently, crafting high end weapons is folly, since the highest recipes only go to 61 or 62, and thus can’t ever spawn with equivalent stats to the top end ilvl 63 weapons that can only be found from monster drops. I assume this was intentional on the part of the developers, as they wanted the best gear (there are no ilevel 63 sets or legendaries either) to be only findable from monster drops. A valid theory, but in practice it’s done what Wyatt said in today’s update; made any weapons you find with lower than level 63 seem almost like a waste of time.

    We can’t project the change this will make to Legendaries, since they’re getting a ton of other improvements as well, but it’s a very obvious improvement to crafting. As some people pointed out in comments, the ilevel 61 and 62 rare crafting plans instantly skyrocketed in value when Wyatt’s blog was posted. Since I’m already on the one handed swords page of Diablo Nut, here are the three relevant one-handed sword plans:

  • Exalted Conquest Sword.
  • Exalted Fine Conquest Sword.
  • Exalted Grand Conquest Sword.
  • All are level 62, and all have (had?) a base weapon damage of around 10-30 less than an ilevel 63 item. I hope you had these recipes already, or else you’re planning to find one, since their Auction House price went up from 80k to well over 1.3m today.


    No More Invulnerable Minions

    This change also spurred some debate. Many fans are overjoyed, others say that DiabloWikiInvulnerable Minions weren’t so bad since the last patch, which lowered the hit points of their non-invulnerable boss by a considerable amount. I’m kind of in the second camp, since I didn’t exactly *like* this DiabloWikiBoss Modifier, but I couldn’t deny that it did what many features in Diablo III are supposed to do; changed up the gameplay.

    It put more value on AoE attacks, on positioning, on movement speed, on skills like DiabloWikiDiamond Skin and DiabloWikiIgnore Pain that let your character ignore the minions (for a few seconds), and generally promoted different tactics than were required when dealing with any other boss affix. Which is a good thing, in general. Whether the drawbacks and difficulty spike of these guys offset that, is open to debate.

    One suggestion in the comments I liked was from Lanth, who said these shouldn’t be removed, but should be modified. Maybe instead of 100% shielding, they’re akin to the Ghostly champions in Diablo 2, and take damage, but with a huge reduction. So they’re not Invulnerable, but are just really damn durable. They might also become permeable, like attacks always pierce against them, so they wouldn’t work as such annoying meatshields to make their boss almost impossible to hit with non-AoE ranged attacks?

    I dunno, there are a lot of possibilities, but I think we’ll miss them once they’re gone, especially with all of the other difficulty reductions we’re getting in v1.0.4 (and the many others we’ve gotten since release.)


    Health and Drop Improvements for Trash Mobs

    So, in 1.0.4 we’re increasing the health of normal monsters by approximately 5%-10% in Inferno, but also increasing the likelihood they drop magic or rare items by a factor of four. We’re correspondingly lowering the health of Champions and Rares by 10-25% and editing specific affixes to shrink the difficulty gap. We’re still working on those numbers, but that’s approximately what we’re shooting for.

    I like this one in both directions. I think normal monsters are way too easily-killed in Inferno, and I think they drop far too little stuff. This has created a system where most players, especially when on Magic Find runs, just ignore the regular monsters and rush through the game, seeking the next boss or champion. Currently, you actually want to skip over those regular guys most of the time, since they’re handy to have around during a boss fight, so you have more targets, to trigger more procs and crits and health globes and just generally get in the way of fast bosses.

    This is especially true against tough bosses, such as Shielding or Invulnerable Minions, where characters with builds that require lots of hits to generate procs are stymied by enemies that can’t be hit.

    This point is open to debate, but IMHO it’s cheesy to have levels full of meat sacks that provide no real risk or reward, which players largely ignore while dashing from one Elite to the next. The current game basically equates regular monsters with white items, which are only there to get in the way and annoy you, while perhaps making the blue and yellow items more interesting. I’d rather have white items have some purpose or value, and the same logic goes for white monsters.


    Witch Doctor Pet Improvements

    The DiabloWikiWitch Doctor is clearly the least popular character (at 10%, a distant 5th in our current class vote), and clearly a broken design in the game now, as most of his pets are simply useless by Hell, much less Inferno. It’s like the WD pets got the treatment initially meant for DiabloWikiFollowers, until they were buffed shortly before release to remain viable all throughout the game. (And I think that balance went quite well; Followers are useful in Inferno, but not mandatory to the point that you miss the horribly when playing MP.)

    But improvements are coming!

    Would buffing the skill increase or decrease build diversity? Some skills when buffed cause other skills to become obsolete, so there’s a net decrease in build diversity – we’re more careful with those. Other skills, when buffed, add to the total pool of appealing skills, which increases build diversity. The most obvious example here is the Witch Doctor Zombie Dogs and Gargantuan, which are both receiving significant improvements in 1.0.4.

    I’m a useless lemming on this point, as I have level 60 Barb, DH, and Wizard, with a Monk in the low 50s… and a WD still sitting in Act 2 at level 18, all but forgotten since I played him a few hours shortly after release. The only reason I ever think about playing him more is that I’ve got damn near a whole tab of my stash clogged by Int/Vit gear, including a ton of mid-level stuff that I’m unlikely to ever need on a rerolled Wizard. And like two rows of damn Ceremonial Knives.

    (Side point, but seriously… what would you pay for another tab in your Stash? One million? Ten million? Five bucks on the RMAH? Forty bucks for the Diablo 3 expansion?)

    I haven’t been not-playing the Witch Doctor since I know pets are worthless later in the game, but knowing that there are very few viable end game WD builds has certainly proved a disincentive for me to level one up. Hopefully v1.0.4 will change that!


    More Difficulty Decreases

    Last point, and here’s where I insult most of us. Me included.

    I was one of the many fans, pre-release, who openly doubted and mocked all of the “We’re making Inferno really hard!” guarantees from the developers. Granted, in retrospect we were correct to doubt (and mock) many of their assurances about Diablo 3, but I (and many others) were very wrong about Inferno. It was hard. It is hard. Much, much, much harder than any difficulty level or area of Diablo 2. This despite the fact that all right-thinking fans liked the idea of Inferno and wanted it to be challenging. And yet once we got it we all bitched and bitched that it was too hard, that it was just a gear check, that it pigeon-holed us into only a few viable builds, that it forced us to use 4 defensive skills, etc.

    All of those complaints are true, (for the most part) but still… what happened to surmounting challenges? Adapting to a game’s difficulty and finding ways to triumph? Where did the old time gamer guts and gumption go? Since when did a game have to conform to exactly how we wanted to play it, or else it was no fun and too hard and sux sux sux?

    Remember when I posted this cartoon and we all laughed and said how Diablo III would be way too easy and it was all dumbed down and Inferno wouldn’t be a challenge, etc?

    And then D3’s Inferno actually was hard, and people were all like, “It’s too hard and it’s not the right kind of hard and I want it changed!” This at the same time that other players were beating the entire game in 4 days, playing entirely self-found, using gear that you could buy for less than the price of the materials it could be junked into, today. And other people beat Inferno in Hardcore and needed hardly more than a month to do it?

    Yeah…

    So anyway, we’re all wimps and whiners. Let’s just accept that and move on. More importantly, it turns out that players don’t actually want games to be hard. At least not for us. We’re fine with other people struggling, but we are special and wonderful and the game should recognize that. Which is a fine attitude to hold, so long as you’re aware that you’re being ironic and absurd when you take it.

    The lesson I’m taking from Diablo III’s Inferno is that players don’t know what they want or what’s best for the game. No, that’s not exactly a revelation, but most players said D2 was too easy, there was item inflation, and that they wanted more challenge in D3. And we got D3 with challenge and much harder to find items, and it was history’s greatest mistake. Obviously there are more factors to consider than hard vs. easy, but in general terms, players don’t want a game to be hard. We want to play and have fun and feel awesome and powerful, and we got to do that in D2 since the end game was hell difficulty, and you could complete it with junk equipment, and could rampage through it with good gear and playing skill. You can do that in Hell D3 also, but since D3’s end game is Inferno… yeah.

    The fans have spoken.

    Good gear and playing skill in Inferno might let you struggle through Act One, but see how far that gets on you Act Two? Here’s a hint, Eirena giggling while you get repeatedly one-shotted by the Wasps and bomb-throwing Lacuni in the canyon ten feet outside of Caldeum. A joyous experience that sends you crying back to Act One, or to the Auction House where you realize that 200% res all and 24k life is a joke, and that all the gear you need to survive is 1) really hard to find, and 2) way out of your price range.

    All that said, yes, Inferno’s too hard to be fun for most players, high quality gear is too hard to find, and D3’s end game is lot less fun than D2’s was. Even though hardly any of us would have predicted those facts 4 months ago.

    While a lot of fans weren’t happy to hear about yet more Inferno difficulty nerfs, one change does seem to be pretty popular.

    We’re removing Enrage Timers and the “heal back to full” behavior from Champion and Rare monster packs. We don’t think they fit well into the general philosophy of the game, which is more about trying to farm as efficiently as possible. You’re already incentivized to kill things quickly, if a pack happens to take you a long time it can just feel unfair to have the pack enrage, kill you, and then heal back to full.

    The original intent behind Enrage Timers was to have a few encounters that served as a “DPS check” that also add tension and excitement. Due to the randomness of Champion and Rare monsters, combined with a general philosophy of efficient farming, this was simply the wrong approach for us to take. The Enrage Timers feel more appropriate on bosses, where the setup, predictability and mechanics of the fight add the required context for the time limit.

    So apparently Enrage Timers will remain on Elites, like Act Bosses, but you just won’t see them on random boss and champion encounters. This is only half the desired change, since most fans don’t much care for Enrage Timers at all. A quote from the comments that I thought summed it up pretty well:

    This is especially true for Hardcore. I like to play through content blind, but with “dps check” enrage timers I feel like I’m forced to Google what DPS i need before attempting the bosses.
    –Entranced

    Unfortunately, it sounds like you’re going to have to keep researching the DPS requirements in advance. Happily, with the improvements to ilvl 61-62 weapons, those shouldn’t be so hard to achieve.

    Conclusion

    Lots of changes, and lots more to come. As many people have said in comments, it seems that the devs actually are listening to fan complaints, or at least they’re agreeing with the fans on what changes really need to be made. It’s a tricky thing for them to balance, since players have tons of complaints and requests, which usually contradict or overlap. It it pretty obvious though, that players are more interested in a game that’s challenging, but not actually hard or difficult enough to require special effort to defeat. It’s kind of an illusion of difficult that most of us are after; enough challenge that we have to play better and gear up, but not so much that it’s show stopping.

    The hard part for Blizzard is finding that balance, and they’ve obviously struggled to achieve it yet with D3.

    Ironically, and perhaps justly, their online-only DRM makes it much harder for them to fix the problems. If they’d allowed a single player version of Diablo III, and especially if they’d made it mod-friendly the way Runic is doing with Torchlight 2, there would be a thriving community of Diablo III modders, and people like like Brother Laz would be working to help field testi every sort of change and improvement to D3. The devs could join the rest of us in testing those out, seeing which ones were the most popular, and which changes to items, classes, skills, monsters, etc, paid the greatest dividends.

    Instead it’s all on the devs to make changes, and then test them internally. Which is a good way to find bugs, but can’t compare to letting tens of thousands of expert players rip into the product to find the soft spots. Note how quickly most of the key problems with Inferno (as well as various skill exploits) were found by fans post-release, and how utterly unaware of them Blizzard was even after months and years of game development?

    We’ll never get offline D3 (over Bobby’s dead body?) but it’s surprising we don’t have a D3 PTR by now, where where interested players could try out the new patches before they went live for the full game. Perhaps that’s coming in v1.0.4 as well?

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