Wyatt Cheng on Retroactive Diablo 3 Legendary Item Changes

What is the thinking behind changes to Legendary items? Will they be retroactively changed to fix problems with the item?

Wyatt Cheng

Wyatt posted in the Monk forum to explain the process they go through when deciding how to handle changes, but the idea is to try and make items “feel permanent” and not make changes unless it’s deemed absolutely necessary.

Adding improved competing items without making changes to the problem Legendaries appears to be how the team want to handle any changes. Here’s Wyatt Cheng on Retroactive Diablo 3 Legendary Item Changes.

Will the new changes to legendary affixes be retroactive? E.g. Madstone, Leoric’s Crown, Vigilante Belt. Would this apply retroactively to items that have had their affixes modified? (Thinking Flow of Eternity).

We try to avoid retroactive changes on items as much as possible. First and foremost, there needs to be a compelling reason for us to make an item change retroactive, because in an ideal situation, items should have a sense of permanence. As part of that permanence, we want to avoid creating an environment where players feel they need to hold on to a Legendary forever in hopes it gets buffed or changed in your favor.

There’s a lot of philosophy that goes into when we make these decisions. First, we try to determine if the issue we’re trying to solve can be done without changing the item. For example, say there’s a problem with a Legendary. There’s a few ways we can address that without messing with the item itself. Maybe the skill an item relies on is weak, maybe the skill merits a buff. We could also introduce a new Legendary item that offers a cool interaction or synergy with the “weak” one, and makes it better.

Even in cases where an item is “too strong,” we first ask ourselves if it’s possible to introduce other, comparably strong items to compete with it and create choice. Stone of Jordan is a great example. It’s a very strong item, but rather than nerfing it, we’ve chosen to introduce other, equally powerful rings as alternatives.

Ultimately there are 3 situations that have come up to date that warranted a retroactive item change:

Situation 1. There might be a case where a mechanic is simply not something we want and no future Legendaries or skill adjustments will alleviate the problem. Those are the cases in which we make a retroactive decision. While we don’t like to nerf things, it was clear to the majority of the community that DiabloWikiThe Furnace and DiabloWikiRimeheart were causing problems and it is better for the overall health of the game.

Situation 2. We have retroactively buffed set bonuses. The sets play a pivotal role in the overall power level of each class. If we introduce a new version of a single item such as DiabloWikiDepth Diggers, we can do so without many side effects. In the case of altering a set bonus, trying to maintain set items with different set bonuses is impossible. If we made a new version of the set it raises questions of how the items mix-and match, confusion over the names and if the set effect is the same but with larger numbers it becomes just plain confusing. Do not expect us to do this type of retroactive change much in the future, our focus as a development team will be on bringing new Legendary items and new Set items to the game.

Situation 3. In the case of the 2-handed change we made the buff retroactive because we didn’t want an entire class (Crusaders) to log in and feel substantially weaker due to the corresponding adjustment to Heavenly Strength. If we hadn’t also been tweaking that passive, we probably wouldn’t have made the increase to 2-Handed weapons retroactive. We try our best to avoid situations where a class logs in after a patch and feels substantially less powerful. In this case we had to choose between trying to avoid retroactive changes and ensuring a class doesn’t feel substantially weaker and we upheld the latter.

You shouldn’t expect retroactive changes from us frequently, if at all. We really want items to feel permanent, and for players to feel free to salvage/vendor items without fear of regret.

The last is a good point, as retroactive item changes work both ways. If players are expecting current gear to get a buff, then we’ll be afraid to sell or salvage anything, just in case it’s improved. (And imagine the players complaining that item X needs a buff, just since they’ve got it in their stash.)


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  1. I could be wrong, but I don't believe Wyatt ever answered the specific question. Are the changes (buffs) to some legendaries on the PTR now, including Madstone, Leoric's Crown, and Vigilante Belt going to be made retroactive?

    I guess not, as that's the general theme of Wyatt's reply. "no retroactive unless very special circumstance." But he could have mentioned those explicitly, along with all of his higher level theory explanation…

    • The PTR mirrors what we'll see on live, so the changes that are/aren't retroactive there will/won't be retroactive on live. That means retroactive 2h buffs but no retroactive buff to the legendaries you mentioned.

    • I think the reason they avoid retroactive changes on items as much as possible. Is because its a cheap way to keep people playing the game.

  2. ” items should have a sense of permanence. As part of that permanence, we want to avoid creating an environment where players feel they need to hold on to a Legendary forever in hopes it gets buffed or changed in your favor.”

    Wait, what? This makes no sense at all. They want items to have sense of permanence, but they do not want players holding onto items. Mild schizophrenia maybe?

    • He's saying they don't want players to hold on to bad items now in case those items are retroactively buffed and become amazing at some point in the future. I thought it was pretty easy to understand.

    • Yes, permanent in the sense that if they suck now, they'll suck forever.

  3. Oh bravo, that's reassuring to know, that mere years into a static, finite game they don't intend or expect to make sweeping changes to discrete areas of existing content anymore.

    Crazy idea: How about some proper pre-release testing in order to avoid those kinds of changes alltogether? It's kind of hard to believe there was once an age when these guys managed to sell cartridge games with no chance of post-release fumbling on half-baked botch indefinitely …

  4. I agree with their overall philosophy, but I just wish they'd do things *faster*. It shouldn't take them this long to rebalance existing items. New items, maybe, but not items that already have art, mechanics and lore in place.

    • They take your average development time and double it.

    • I've said this multiple times, but I think the PTR should be up all the time and changes (the more radical the better) should be tested there constantly. Watching the D3 devs (and Blizzard in general) work from the outside I have the feeling that they are way too keen on balancing things on paper and worrying about potential issues that may not even exist. Having a permanent PTR would give them a test environment where they could experiment with implementations and get instant feedback from the group that matters the most: their players.

      They must have tons of internal testers of course, but I know from experience that testers aren't always playing in the same mindset and aren't necessarily as critical of the game as players are. Also, I'm sure they have more players willing to test the game than they have testers and when we're talking about findings bugs and issues there's absolutely a strength in numbers.

      • I agree HardRock, I’ve been saying to my friends that Blizzard iterates on features too much. They basically iterate a good idea until they get rid of it. There always seem to have a cool idea but then remove it for pretty peripheral reasons. C

  5. Don't forget that when D2 first came out, uniques had no minimum level. So people would save a tarnhelm and 2 SOJs from gambling and give those to a level 1 sorc and kill everything with a strong frost nova.

    Then Blizzard decided to implement a minimum level on uniques, but it wasn't retroactive. So you had old SOJs with no min lvl out there mixed with the new ones which had a min lvl.

    I used to have a ton of old uniques muled but they poofed when I stopped playing and my account got deleted. That hurt. I imagine there could still be old sojs and tarnhelms out there though.

  6. "We try our best to avoid situations where a class logs in after a patch and feels substantially less powerful." Wyatt

    (Like Monks?)

    • Basically- You got a rare elite item that actually let’s you beat this game on the hardest level? We’re taking it away. On the other hand, we’re not going to change items that could actually help you. This way you’ll all struggle for another hundred hours or so before getting frustrated and quitting.

      That being said bring on 2.1!

  7. i know my mlw and stormshields were all retro buffed on ptr

    i cant test the ones you mention. i came here to try find out too.

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