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A closer look at Power Creep

Discussion in 'Diablo 3 General Discussion' started by LukDeRiff, Apr 26, 2015.

  1. LukDeRiff

    LukDeRiff IncGamers Member

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    Patch 2.4 and Season 5 are upon us and it seems that they have opened the gates of hell to let Power. Every class received a variety of buffs to several class sets. There is a slew of new, powerful legendaries that have increased the powerlevel of existing builds or created new builds altogether. The Season 4 Leaderboard Records for all classes and all multiplayer configurations have already been broken. Hell, Wyatt Cheng announced that he plans to complete Greater Rift 70 using 10 different builds.
    It is hard to look at this development and not think of Power Creep. If you ask most people they will say that Power Creep has a negative influence on a Game. If that is the case then how come that most people report that they are having more fun than ever ?
    It is time to take a closer look at Power Creep and figure out what influence it can have on a game and on why it generally regarded as such a bad thing.

    First we have to ask ourselves the most basic question: What is Power Creep ? That must be an easy question to answer since the term is used so frequently by so many different people in relation to many different games. Turns out that is not the case. "Power Creep" is used in many different ways but there seem to be some consistent elements.
    At its core Power Creep seems to be the introduction of new content which can be played with older content, while the new content either (1) is more powerful than older alternatives or (2) the new content increases the overall Powerlevel of the game.
    A good example for the first scenario would be the introduction of new legendaries with strong legendary affixes. Scenario 2 is rarer but we have seen a great instance of it recently with the addition of Kanais Cube.
    So now that we know what Power Creep lets figure out what problems it can cause.

    First it can mess with game balance. In an older article on item balance in Diablo I mentioned that it is useful to think of a game as a series of decisions. When you make decisions you choose in between options. If game developers add new content, such as items in Diablo, they essentially add new options. If those new options are always better than the old ones you are always going to choose the new option. In that case the decision becomes redundant. While imbalance is not always bad, in most cases it makes the game shallow.
    At this point it is important to say that people play Diablo for different reasons and with different goals. What the "best" thing is subjective. Most players however play to progress (at least to a certain degree). That means getting more experience and more powerful gear. The fantasy behind Diablo is that the player is a hero that slayes demons and saves the world. Feeling powerful is at the very core of Diablo. In some way you could say that Diablo is basically one giant Power Creep. As the player levels up he/she constantly unlocks new, more powerful content. You can use a level 1 weapon at level 70 but would you ?
    This leads right into the next point. If the developers just keep on increasing the power of the players at some point they run the risk of "breaking" the game. In order to grasp this concept fully it is important to understand that game is also a system designed in such a way that it challenges the player in fun and interesting ways. If the developers give the players more and more Power without changing the other aspects of the system (game) they can easily create a situation in which the challenge is no longer fun. Somewhere along the way the game "breaks". The increase in power leads to a decrease in fun.
    The third and last point is that Power Creep can devalue prior accomplishments. This one is pretty selfexplanatoryö

    So to sum it up there are three major problems that can occur as a result of Power Creep:

    1. Issues with overall balance.
    2. The game breaks due to an overload of power.
    3. It devalues prior accomplishments.

    Lets take a look and see which of those apply to Diablo.

    First of all: Power Creep is not always a bad thing. As I stated earlier, giving the player more and more power is a core concept for Diablo. Reaper of Souls was a case of massive Power Creep and not many people seemed to have a problem with it because it satisified the need for more power and it avoided the three issues mentioned above.
    The first of those is overall balance. Patch 2.2 is still fresh and players are fine tuning different builds so it is hard to say whether the balance is better or worse than it used to be. What determines the quality of balance ? That is a good question. One could say that a game is well balanced if all options within the game are viable. The meaning of "viable" is another beast entirely. It is important to understand that there are different levels of balance. These levels are closely interconnected and serve primarily as a tool to help understand the incredibly complex reality of balance. The different levels I am going to use here are: Item/Build balance and Class balance

    Depending on which level you are looking at "viable" has different meanings. Players play for different reasons and while power is important it is not the only thing that matters to sizeable amount of players. Because if power was all that mattered why would players choose different character classes and not just the most powerful one ?
    If you look at build and item balance within one class you have to look at different builds for different purposes. Note that there are different builds for different activities (Rifts, Group Greater Rifts or Solo Greater Rifts). In-Geom for instance is a new one handed sword that does not see any play in higher Greater Rifts but is great for speed farming. Keeping this in mind it seems that Patch 2.2 is actually a step towards more build diversity.
    Class balance is different. The core fantasy of Diablo is to play powerful heroes. If one class is significantly weaker than the others that class does not feel very powerful. Obviously that is a bad thing. What does it mean that a class is stronger than another class ? There are many different aspects that factor into this. Solo or Group play is one of them. The next vital aspect is game mode, there are some differences between softcore and hardcore. By now it should be obvious that it is not easy to define what makes one class better than another class. However it is pretty safe to assume that a lot of the perception of the powerlevel of a class is based on the solo leaderboards. Whenever a new season starts there is a large influx in players starting the new hot most powerful class for solo leaderboards. In season one that was the Demon Hunter, in season two it was the Monk and in season three it is the Barbarian. What this means that is important to make sure that all classes performe on a similar level in solo Greater Rifts. In the most recent Tavern Talk John Yang stated that the goal is to have all classes within two to thre Greater Rift levels. That is the goal but what does reality look like ? That looks great and while there is a lot of season left to play for the moment class balance seems to be better than it has been since the launch of Reaper of Souls.

    The next major potential issue is that power creep can "break" a game. For Diablo it is important to consider that there are two different game modes. The one that is more important is Adventur Mode since the Story Mode nowadays is not much more than a storytelling device and a glorified tutorial. Adventure Mode offers a variety of activities, the major ones being Bounties, Rifts and Greater Rifts. The overall increase in power allows experienced players to reach Torment 6 in a couple of hours after the start of a new season. With decent gear it is hard to tell whether you are farming Torment 6 or Normal difficulty. I think it is fairly safe to say that power creep has broken the game at Torment 6. Not only are there no incentives to play Rifts or Bounties but there is also no challenge of any sort anymore.
    If you want to acquire better gear and experience it is just much more effecient to run Greater Rifts. Is this a bad thing
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2016
  2. Kasceis

    Kasceis IncGamers Member

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    I agree the power creep is real. This season was so easy.
     

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