It’s a known secret that melee heroes have the short end of the stick when it comes to the end game in Diablo III. We’ve seen countless people across the net create ranged characters that depart from their preference simply due to the fact that Inferno punishes close-quarters combat. During yesterday’s AMAA, the pink elephant that never seemed to be addressed was the disparity between the two. What are the developer’s thoughts on this glaring problem?
Can you please explain/reconcile the disparity between melee and ranged in this game?
I’ll state up front that I do think there’s a disparity between melee and ranged, and I would like to see that closed. I feel like if I talk a lot about thought processes and design philosophy and don’t state this up front people will lose the forest for the trees and conclude we think everything is fine. So I’ll say it again: melee vs. ranged disparity is not fine, changes are being made, and even if you disagree with the approach outlined below we can hopefully have the common ground that the current situation needs improvement.
It may not look like it on the surface, but a large number of the changes in 1.0.3 are actually targeted at closing the melee/ranged gap. Let me go through some of them.
I’m going to use Hardcore as a starting point. In Hardcore, there’s actually a reasonable distribution of classes, and I don’t think the melee vs. ranged disparity is as large. There are a lot of Hardcore players of every class in Inferno without a huge disparity. Why is this important? It’s because a significant portion of the melee/ranged disparity is related to a ranged character’s ability to progress even while dying. A melee player can throw themselves at a monster and die, doing almost no damage to an elite enemy. A ranged player can do a huge amount of damage to an elite enemy, die, respawn, and basically attrition the enemy down with repeated deaths. In the Hardcore environment where a single bad Mortar, Vortex, Jailer, or Reflects Damage will kill a glass cannon-ranged character, the disparity between ranged and melee is an order of magnitude less.
One of the more controversial changes in 1.0.3 is the increased repair costs. The design intent of these increased repair costs is to make death more meaningful. One of the top arguments we see against the increased repair costs is “I’m already dying dozens of times to make any progress in Inferno. Don’t you see this is going to make this impossible?” This concern is most often brought up by ranged glass cannons. Many melee players respond “increased repair costs seem fine” because they haven’t been using death-zerging as a tactic. Melee can’t easily death-zerg an enemy down, but ranged can. I don’t think the answer is to make death-zerging more attractive for melee; I’d rather make death-zerging a less profitable strategy for ranged.
Enemy Health and Damage
We’re also looking to adjust the damage and health of enemies in Inferno Acts II, III, and IV. This is another change that is primarily for melee with secondary benefits for ranged. A lot of ranged are building glass cannon with the mentality “well, I’ll just try not to get hit at all.” So, reducing incoming damage when they weren’t taking any before isn’t significant for them, whereas reducing incoming damage for the melee is a big deal. For the ranged classes, I’m hoping that the incoming damage reduction will make some survival stats more appealing to ranged classes. While before the damage was so large it just felt pointless to try and mitigate any of it at all, after the change hopefully ranged classes will think “well, if I just put on a modest amount of survivability, I don’t get 1-shot, so that’s worth it.” There are some ranged players who are already doing this — stacking survivability so they don’t have to endlessly kite — and it just feels like the minimum amount of survivability to avoid the 1-shot is so large it’s unattainable. That’s one of the things 1.0.3 seeks to address.
Damage Reduction in Co-op
Another change which is targeted at improving life for melee is the reduction in co-op damage. Again, since many ranged players just build glass cannon and avoid damage completely, they didn’t really care if incoming damage went up as other players entered the game, but the melee characters really noticed. It was very easy for your life-on-hit to have you at a steady equilibrium, but as soon as another player entered the game your life-on-hit was no longer covering the incoming damage and death became imminent.
And finally, there are always minor polish adjustments designed to help melee — such as the AI on some monsters (BEES!!!) being tweaked to run away less often, which again helps melee more than ranged. I actually spent some extra time the other day to make sure if a Sand Wasp runs away from you, and you start chasing the wasp, it doesn’t turn and shoot 4 bees in your face (hopefully that makes 1.0.3). I’m also working with one of our gameplay engineers to make it so if you sidestep the Dark Berserker’s power hit (where he brings his giant mace down), he doesn’t turn to track you as he swings (though that change probably won’t make 1.0.3). These kind of AI adjustments are things ranged players don’t even notice, but are huge for melee.
Another adjustment being made is increasing both the maximum range and the dead zone of Mortar. Mortar was specifically designed to be an anti-range affix, but many ranged players would just stand even farther away, whereas melee would sometimes get caught in the cross-fire of two Mortars. Increasing the maximum range and the dead zone helps with both of these.
We’ll be including this response in the AMAA transcript, as well (just in case some players don’t find this thread).
His response seems somewhat of an amalgamation of already expressed changes re-appropriated for this specific question. However, it explains additional reasons as to why they’re making the changes they’re making. Death zerging is definitely a tactic that is a problem when it comes to appropriate hero progression. I personally feel that it would be eliminated if they unified death penalties rather than spread out the cost that feels much more severe. Currently, Inferno deaths can include one or more of the following: resurrection timer increase, monster health-regeneration to max (this seems to be a hidden modification on some mobs – not all seem to do this), enrage timer, and durability loss.
That is a lot of penalties for death. With that weighing on your shoulders when death tolls, I feel more frustration than anything else. It is possible that it will balance out with tuning, but how they’re addressing it from the current standpoint seems somewhat inadequate. There is a fine line between “just right” and “completely frustrating” when it comes to death. We’ll all have to experience 1.0.3 before coming to any conclusions about these tweaks, but the current death penalties seem to be at odds with their original design philosophy of reducing the severity of death and to “get people back to demon killing.”
Do you think this adequately addresses the matter? What would you suggest as an alternative if it is not?