Sunday 28 December 2014

Game is currently suffocating due to the length of patch development.

First of all I want to get out of the way that I have immensely enjoyed this game and I don't subscribe to the hyperbole that this game is awful or that the devs have no idea what they are doing.

Today I’m bitching about the length of time it takes for us to get meaningful content updates. Currently one of the biggest complaints people have about the game is about how each class is pigeonholed into a single skill and item build. What we really need are additional legendaries with game changing properties and a significant fix to ALL of the existing sets that are currently drastically underperforming, but this fix is nowhere in sight.

I feel the Blizzard has been way too conservative with their legendary design. Everything has such an obvious application: such as lut socks supporting the EQ set. Every top build has such an obvious piece in every gear slot that there is no real choice in how to equip yourself and there is a really tiny pool of items you’re ever looking for at a given time. What would I ever really consider besides Pride of Cassius for the belt slot of my Raekor Barb? It would be refreshing to have many different choices for that slot but as of right now there’s nothing that can compete with giving Ignore Pain such High uptime. And given what we’ve heard from the dev team, we are getting very few new legendaries per season and these patches and seasons are coming out at a snail’s pace.

I feel like, and this has been suggested ad nauseum, that we need every single legendary to have a useful property. Everything doesn’t have to be BiS, but if everything had at least an interesting property then at least it would lead to interesting builds and, god forbid, a cool build that Blizzard didn't necessarily intend to be viable. New effects and items are desperately needed for the longevity of this game and Blizzard appears potentially years away from addressing this. They seem to be promoting build diversity with things like their “Play Your Way” community blogs and streams, and I think that’s great. It’s baffling, though, that they have such a focus on whacky builds in their community efforts when there is such little opportunity for good different builds in the actual game.

Sets are great, especially as a fresh max level character and you complete your first set, but they have a couple of serious problems. First is the fact that you are locked into 4-6 pieces of gear which leads to less gear and build options. Second is that if more and more sets are added to the game they will become much harder to complete. Whenever a piece is dropped the item type (gloves, chest, etc.) is rolled as well as the rarity (rare, legendary, set, etc.). Having more and more sets in the game dilutes the chance that a set piece you need will drop.

The fact that they are adding 2 sets in 2.1.3 is nice, but nowhere what is needed to breathe new life into this game. They are addressing some of the underpowered current sets, which is nice, but why not fix all of them? The earthquake set for barb has such awesome gameplay but doesn't have all the tools needed to compete as a top level barb build. Why not? Why is IK so boring and underpowered? I’m obviously a Barb main, but most classes are in a place where 2 of their sets are horrible and 1 is godlike. How hard can it be to balance things with the resources and mountains of cash available to Blizzard?

Currently the amount of time it’s taking for meaningful content to come out for this game is crippling it. Itemization isn’t even the main focus of 2.1.2 and that is taking forever to come out. Maybe this will always just be a game that is worth binging on every once in a while when they release something new like a major pack or an expansion, but I feel like it could be so much more. Their willingness to throw stuff on to a PTR for us to test is great. They need to take it further, however, with the intent to adding a lot of meaningful new items as well as item reworks much faster. The PTR would be a great place to test riskier legendary designs that could potentially break the game before they make it to the live server. Without a faster turnaround on content development I see Diablo 3 locked into the current pattern where people play the game when there is new stuff, and then quit shortly thereafter when they’ve exhausted the content.

The obvious comeback to everything I’m bitching about is that “Well Blizzard Obviously can’t make this kind of content for us because they don’t make any money off it since there is no sub fee and we’ve already bought the game”. I disagree with this type of assertion on a couple of levels. The way Blizzard has made money on Diablo 3 and its expansion to this point have been by expertly hyping each game during the buildup to launch and then breaking sales records when the games are released. We have paid for the right to a great game and by working on this game to max out its potential they build hype for the next expansion and could set even loftier records Additionally it is not our fault that Blizzard chose not to include microtransactions in Diablo. A truly epic content update would totally be worth 20 dollars, and would literally make Blizzard HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS. If it would take microtransactions for this game to get the treatment the franchise deserves then I’m fine with that.

Blizzard clearly cares about the longevity of this game. They gave us leaderboards, Greater Rifts, and other meaningful updates post RoS launch. But the length of time it takes to release even basic content updates like 2.1.2 and no stated plan to completely rework sets and legendaries is why most of the playerbase will only come back periodically on patch days, and why this great game’s real potential remains unfulfilled.