Wednesday 18 November 2015

The way Blizzard has been using fun content to collect excellent data to improve Diablo III is very clever

Most of the features in Reaper of Souls are really cool, especially the last couple of patches. But in addition to being fun game design, they are set up really well to give Blizzard a lot of iterative data on the game.

Greater Rifts: Before Greater Rifts, there was not an easy way to tell if there were obvious exploits or clearly absurdly-overpowered builds. They are fun to push, but anomalies on the leaderboard are very telling to Blizzard. It is easy to spot an exploit or a broken build (one that is twice as powerful or more) based on the deviation from the standard on the GR Leaderboards.

Focus on 6-Piece Sets: This has been pretty hated-on but it let Blizzard set a simple standard for all characters to be effective at the endgame. By making it easier to finish a set every season they can get more and more class-specific data. By looking at GR clear data for a season they can see which sets clear which GR tiers to see if any classes or skills are major outliers.

Kanai's Cube: Kanai's Cube does for non-Set Legendary balancing what GRs do for Sets. If every single Helltooth doc must use Furnace, Grin Reaper, & Convention of Elements to push high GRs, this proves that these are the most statistically optimal gear choices in all situations and gives Blizzard a balancing standard to tweak from season to season. They can keep an eye on what the top clearers are using in their Cube slots and iterate based on that.

Legacy of Nightmares: Although it may see a nerf before the PTR's end, whatever version of this ring set survives to Production will continue giving Blizzard lots of good data--but this time, instead of seeing which individual legendaries are the most "mandatory" as a balancing standard, they will have a tool to see how all legendaries work in concert. It will help them find crazy GR outliers if people put together a ridiculous build using LoN and legendaries with very strong synergies and either tweak them down or keep working to tweak everything else up.

It's all really elegant and clever at the end of the day.

tl;dr: Blizzard has been adding lots of cool features that are fun to play, but they are also smart business deployments because they get a ton of data out of all of it to make the game better.