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    As we’ve mentioned in some previous reports, the Diablo 3 devs were very accessible and chatty at Blizzcon this year. DiabloWikiWyatt Cheng was one of the most visible, spending several hours Saturday night hanging around the “Meet the Blues” booth and answering virtually every question fans put to him. (The story is told on the next podcast, to be posted this weekend, but I stood listening for a bit until Wyatt turned to me and said, “Flux, ask whatever you want, but you have to do it sarcastically.” Thus proving what he’d told me earlier, that he is in fact a regular listener as well as occasional guest on the DiabloWikiDiablo 3 Podcast.)

    Part of what Wyatt talked about were upcoming changes to the health and combat system, and how we’ll be better off in Diablo 3 when our characters are taking more regular damage. Partial fan reports on that were floating around, prompting Wyatt to jump in and offer a fuller explanation in a thread on Reddit. Here’s an excerpt; click through to read Wyatt’s whole long post.

    Wyatt Cheng

    Wyatt Cheng

    So now let’s highlight a specific change coming in Reaper of Souls for DiabloWikiDesecrator. Currently on live Desecrator appears under your feet and deals no damage for the first 1.5 seconds or so. After the first 1.5 seconds you start taking continual damage over time until you leave. In Reaper of Souls this is changing so that you start taking damage immediately. The damage per second is less than it currently is on live to offset the fact that it starts immediately. Why is this a good change?

    For starters, it means that the faster a player exits Desecrator, the less damage they take. Previously there was no difference between leaving the Desecrator in 0.7 seconds vs 1.4 seconds. With the new Desecrator, a player who gets out in 0.7 seconds will take half as much damage as the slower player. There is a continuous spectrum that basically says “You’re going to take damage, but how much damage you take depends on how quickly you get out.”

    Now with Desecrator!

    Now with Desecrator!

    I noticed the change from Desecrator in an odd place; in an DiabloWikiAdventure Mode game going after a DiabloWikiBounty on DiabloWikiIskatu, the Purple you get right at the start of Act Four. Like most of the purples he’s been tuned up considerably in RoS and now puts out Desecrator pools all the time. (There are also damaging Meteors constantly falling from the sky during that battle.)

    I’m used to 1.5 second grace period on Desecrator in D3V, so I got double surprised there by 1) the fact that there were Desecrator pools at all in that battle, and 2) by how quickly they started to cook my feets. Even beyond the surprise it was dangerous since all the little black crawly shadow monsters make it hard to move out of the Desecrator pool, and that battle was *much* harder than I expected. But as Wyatt says in this post, it was hard due to constant little points of incoming damage that felt fair and avoidable, rather than by some cheesy spiky surprise attack.

    Click through for Wyatt’s full article-sized post.

    Hi I just wanted to come in and provide additional detail on some of the damage philosophy stuff we talked about at the Blizzcon Community Booth. I think everybody at the booth was able to internalize the core of the philosophy and I want to make sure people reading this write-up afterwards understand what is happening too.

    When I say we want mechanics in the game that cause unavoidable damage this absolutely does NOT mean you’re supposed to just die. The idea is not “random damage, now you’re dead LOL” the idea is to give people a sense for where they stand. I think right now when some people hear “unavoidable damage” they think “unfair deaths”. This is not the intention. Paradoxically by adding unavoidable damage in controlled and moderated amounts we are working to make death feel MORE fair. Confused? Let me explain.

    Right now deaths in the live environment don’t always feel fair for a variety of reasons. One of the many reasons deaths don’t always feel fair is the game doesn’t clue you in on how much survivability you should gear for. Indeed you can be cruising along slaying some monsters and suddenly get DiabloWikiVortex’ed into a Frost Orb and die instantly. Up until that Vortex/DiabloWikiFrozen combo, you weren’t taking any damage at all.

    Why did you die instantly to the combo? Maybe it’s low survivability on gear. But you had no idea!

    Let’s say that most players with “average” gear have 300,000 DiabloWikieffective health. How much damage should a monster melee attack be doing? Maybe 25K damage? That lets you take 12 sizable melee hits. Sounds about right. Now imagine a particularly skilled demon hunter has sacrificed all defense on their gear to maximize damage and has only 50,000 effective health. This Demon Hunter is incredibly squishy but the game feels “right” because she’s still taking 0 damage through skilled play. Now you get hit by a Vortex/Frost Orb combo which chunks off half your health, followed by a single melee hit from a monster which kills you. This death feels incredibly unfair. From the Demon Hunter’s point of view, she was taking no damage at all, and then suddenly she was dead. There was no warning, just a vortex and a death.

    So now let’s highlight a specific change coming in Reaper of Souls for Desecrator. Currently on live Desecrator appears under your feet and deals no damage for the first 1.5 seconds or so. After the first 1.5 seconds you start taking continual damage over time until you leave. In Reaper of Souls this is changing so that you start taking damage immediately. The damage per second is less than it currently is on live to offset the fact that it starts immediately. Why is this a good change?

    For starters, it means that the faster a player exits Desecrator, the less damage they take. Previously there was no difference between leaving the Desecrator in 0.7 seconds vs 1.4 seconds. With the new Desecrator, a player who gets out in 0.7 seconds will take half as much damage as the slower player. There is a continuous spectrum that basically says “You’re going to take damage, but how much damage you take depends on how quickly you get out.”

    Additionally, this change gives the Demon Hunter from our previous example a much better sense of where she stands with respect to her survivability. On DiabloWikiMP0 you might take 10K damage per second in Desecrator. With 50K effective health she notices she’s missing some health but she says to herself “I could stand in that for 5 seconds if I had to”. However, she turns up the MP and suddenly now she’s taking 25K damage per second. Now she’s thinking “That Desecrator is starting to hurt, and it’s stressful. I can only stand in it for 2 seconds before I die, and even getting out in 0.5 seconds I am losing 25% of my health”. By doing moderated amounts of unavoidable damage, the player can get an intuitive sense for how risky they can be. You can still perform much better as a highly skilled player but there are less surprises. Suppose 0.5 seconds of Desecrator, a monster melee attack and a Frozen explosion all do roughly the same damage. At the point that you notice a Desecrator is “pretty scary” you now have the information to extrapolate that a Vortex/Frozen/Melee attack combo is going to kill you.

    Ideally Diablo is a game where both your play skill matters and your gear matters. This applies to damage and survivability. We have survivability stats on gear for a reason and we want to make sure you get a tangible benefit from it. Your skill allows you to minimize how much damage you take, your gear determines how much of a buffer you are comfortable with.

    This sort of thing is what the devs have been pushing in Diablo 3 since well before release, and we heard virtually identical arguments to Wyatt’s made back in 2008 and 2009 when the devs were first explaining the health orb system and the removal of health potions. The did pretty well in remaking the Diablo 3 health and combat system at low levels, but at higher levels DiabloWikilife steal became so powerful that it shorted out their attempted system change. (Which is ironic since that was the real issue with end game health in Diablo 2; well-geared players stayed alive from life steal and hardly ever drank potions except the occasional Full Rejuv in an emergency, and that was more often due to being dry on Mana while battling a Mana Drain or Physical Immune boss than from a need to heal.)

    So now in RoS they’ve all but removed Life Steal, kicking healing to more gradual and incremental sources like DiabloWikiLoH, DiabloWikiLfSS, DiabloWikiLfFS, etc. And that goes along with reductions in big monster damage and increases in lots of smaller sources of monster damage. Do you guys think it’ll work this time? Do you embrace the change and the principle behind it? Or would you rather keep face rolling through content with big DPS and LS, D3V style?

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