Wyatt Cheng on Better Health Through Constant Damage


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?

Comments

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  1. I think this change is exactly what the game needs, like you say, early on in the game the system works as it is now, you can kill lots of mobs and use health globes to survive, but by the end of the game, no life steal = death, health globes heal you for minor amounts it seems due to the spikey damage, and I have deffinitely been in that boat of vortex death and previously taken no damage, and it is very annoying and leaves you wondering why? Sometimes I even quit diablo for a bit just because I’m annoyed.

    So far, RoS can’t come quick enough, every change sounds on paper, like a much needed improvement.

  2. Welcome lag death… I take more time than Xanth to leave the pool because of lag…

  3. Dunno, if i remember correctly (and its more likely i dont) the grace period is there due to packs spamming several desecrations right under you killing or hurting you very very fast and/or covering all walkable area with ground effects.

    And someone might be good enough to explain to me why this is bad:
    -Previously there was no difference between leaving the Desecrator in 0.7 seconds vs 1.4 seconds.-

    Especially considering that we are cheerfully talking about 0.7s timeframes when a great deal of players has to play with 200+ ms ping that gets amplified when the character is trying to do actions that require a bit communication back and forth.

    • What he means with that comment is that in the current iteration you have 1.5 seconds to get out of the desecration. So if you got out at 0.7 or 1.4 seconds you were still safe and clear because it’s before 1.5 seconds.

      Now you will get light damage right at the start and it values up. The whole idea of why it’s philosophically good is because now damage will be a flat curve as compared to a giant spike. You’ll know what’s coming right away as opposed to a sudden intake.

      • That does not really answer anything, does it?
        I was not asking -Why do we change damage mechanics of desecrate?-
        I am simply not understanding why a grace period is seen as bad.

        Or does a law exists that states -If damage is completely avoidable, it HAS to be huge.- ? For you, maybe Wyatt ? Did you people sign something? 🙂

        Hmm?

  4. One simple thing they could do is to increase attack speed instead of dmg on monsters in higher difficulties. That would make taking dmg a little harder to avoid, but the dmg will be a little bit more predicable and less spiky.

    I think a lot of the early philosophy was to give monstera slow but hard hitting attacks. The kind of attacks that gave the player a chance to react and reposition themselves. The idea was clearly to reward players for moving around and be aware of the battle field. I’m thinking of attacks like:

    Molten explosions
    Fire chains
    Grotesque’s death explosions
    Berzerkers spike club (the one that gets stuck in the ground)
    Basically all boss attacks and mechanics.
    Frozen

    The idea behind it is sound I think. To award players that is moving around a lot and is avoiding attacks. But it is really better on paper than in real life I think. When you have so many of these attacks it leads to these kind of situations where you either take little to no dmg at all or get completely destroyed in a matter of seconds.

    Now, imagine that all these attacks was still in the game but they were much harder to avoid. Lets say the frozen mines triggered faster, but freeze you for much less time. Molten death explosion delay was reduced but so was the dmg. Tune these type of abilities so that they require more skill to avoid but make it so that they don’t kill you instantly if you screw up. That would make for a much smoother experience I think.

    I think Wyatt Cheng is on to something here.
    RoS is looking extremely promising.

  5. Not hard to agree with this philosophy, however like all good ideas its the implementation that matters. I just hope it actually makes a difference when I can’t even see my character due to all the op effects.

    • yeah & if you are wearing fire walkers like me while you face molten or desecrator you wouldn’t realize half the time that the fire beneath your leg isn’t from your boots until you begin to notice you health rapidly dropping

  6. I’d rather faceroll through skillful play and smart item choices. Bring it on Reaper of Souls!

  7. they should just remove the “hit even if dodge” thing, then you will be able to play with meaningful skill/geared gameplay.

  8. As a dirty cheating WW barb with plenty of lifesteal, I know I’ll miss facerolling pretty much everything in the game. But I’m really excited about RoS and – if I’m being honest – ready for there to be a challenge to the game once more.

  9. For Desecrator, I think the truth is somewhere in the middle between what it is now and what they are planning. While everything is better than spiky damage bursts (over the whole game; for individual fights it has its uses, of course), imagine the situation, when you barely escape a dangerous situation by retracting, only to find yourself killed off a second later by a skill that is not telegraphed and spawns always right at your position (almost no matter the distance), always causing immediate damage. Even outside of Hardcore mode, this will be rather annoying than fun, because it leaves you with the same helpless, frustrating feeling as, say, perma-stuns or Vortex.

    Therefore, in my opinion, Desecrator either needs:
    a.) to be telegraphed right before the effect is spawned (telling you ‘yes, potion/cooldown now is neccessary, after all’, or
    b.) a shorter but still existing grace period (so you can at least escape undamaged while already running), or
    c.) very low initial damage (as in: almost none) that quickly/exponentially builds up to full).

    In any cause, peridocial, unavoidable, targeted, instant damage on a ‘don’t stand in the fire’ attack isn’t fun. Damage auras, while similar, would be a little different, as they probably wouldn’t have screen-filling range and you consciously enter the hazard zone (which also is usually more graphic => telegraphed danger).

  10. D2 did not have almost no unavoidable insta-hits. Adding unavoidable insta-hits would not have made D2 better, and it will not make D3 better. It’s a terrible, lazy design decision and more importantly, it’s not even remotely fun.

  11. lol. I saw:

    “You’re going to take damage, but how much damage you take depends on how quickly you get out.”

    and thought:

    “You’re going to take damage, but how much damage you take depends on how bad your connection is.”

  12. fire pits, fallen maniacs, charging beasts, etc. damage controlled, Ha!
    Insta death most of the time.

  13. Is he serious? All the madness in this game is not about 2 or 5 seconds standing in the Desecrator. It’s about when you put a Fast, Jailer and a Plague combo on the top of Desecrator. Now you are dead Waytt, this change has absolutely no impact on that situation. They need to fix ALL of the affixes and more importantly, they need to prohibit some of the affix combinations in the RNG.

  14. \fire pits, fallen maniacs, charging beasts, etc. damage controlled, Ha!
    Insta death most of the time.\

    This are instant deaths, but they are not unavoidable.

    Invulnerable Wall around DH/WD/Monk, then poison plague/desolcrator/frozen orbs, and sometime vortex them into these walls. These are unavoidable.

    They freaking hell never even answer to the ‘unavoidable’ problem. Instead of taking 50k damage after 1.5sec, you take 50k damage over 1.5sec, how on earth is the damage suddenly become avoidable?

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