[D4] Expanding end game with territory systems and world customization

Wanting to discuss some end game ideas and assess whether they would be viable for D4. I had shared my thoughts before so forgive my repetition as much of what follows will be maturation of those concepts.

Linking End Game Progression with Content

I believe you cannot escape talking about end game content without partially addressing end game character progression as it is key for supporting character identity and player motivation. Based on what information we have received from the developers I would be in support of a hybrid EXP and achievement based progression system. For example instead of “Paragon” I would suggest expanding on the tripartite itemization system (Angelic/Demonic/Ancestral) into a “Blood Affinity” system. Whereby a player after reaching a certain level cap would awaken their blood power and be afforded a few flexible “blood” points (say 30) that they can allocate to any of the three alignments. Players can then earn more blood points through a combination of gaining EXP and completing specific in-game activities but each additional blood point requires increasingly more EXP/tasks (task variety) in order to manifest. Increasing allocation of more points towards any one particular affinity (say past the first 20 points) would also have an adverse affect on one or both of the opposing alignments whereby points would be consumed (if no points remain in a particular alignment the effect is the same with a negative penalty assigned instead).

Now the reason why a player would want to build up blood points (beyond just item thresholds) would be to unlock new character specialization skills/skill trees by reaching certain blood affinity thresholds. For example, say after 30 points have been allocated to a given affinity a new skill/skill tree would become available (with a play style representing that particular affinity). This would results in expanded character classes to include 3 arch-typical specializations (Angelic/Demonic/Ancestral) and 3 hybrid specializations (Angelic+Demonic/Demonic+Ancestral/Angelic+Ancestral). With players needing to decide whether they value developing skills with focused specialization or gaining new skill combinations.

This sort of system should allow players to re-specialize but with increasing penalty and reward those who devote themselves to a specific purpose at the risk of not being able to handle all of what the world can throw at them.

Territory Systems and World Customization

I think it would be interesting if the developers looked into developing indirect player interaction through world customization and territory systems. They pour so much effort into developing environments just to have players speed through areas in order to get to the next instance event. It baffles me why they don’t develop territory systems that allow players to influence the game dynamics for a given area and have that influence shared in the “open-world”.

I think this would be a win-win situation. Developers would partially off-load the responsibility of creating new content and players would become more invested in the world.

I am not advocating for a full-on map/dungeon creator but rather just subtle influences. Imagine the scenario (as part of the end game) where the eternal conflict is spilling into Sanctuary and each faction (Angels/Demons/Nephilem) are vying for control of territory and issue quests to expand their influence. One such quest could be to open rifts/portals to allow their forces to advance. Now imagine the system where a player has the ability to customize a rift/portal by influencing the mobs/guardian affixes, density and difficulty (to some degree). So not only could a player complete a rift for loot but also choose to leave it open. If left open the rift starts to influence the surrounding environment by spawning mob types similar to what would be encountered in the rift and also begins to alter the surrounding environment - elemental effects such as frost/fire/poison/lightning/etc dictated by the rift customization.

As players expands their influence by opening more portals and connecting territories the mobs spawned could receive buffs in terms of toughness/exotic affixes and players could be given the opportunity to upgrade one of the portals into a “Greater Rift” which connects adjoining portals. Thus if a player from an opposing faction would want to clear the area and setup their own portals they would have to clear all the levels in succession.

This concept of territory competition could be threaded with other end game elements to facilitate different forms of game play while maintaining a consistent theme. “World bosses” could change from being a local time gated occurrence to being governed with player agency whereby they are spawned when a group of faction aligned players share farmed resources and expend blood points in order to create a guardian for their territories that prevents any of their rifts from being closed.

Villages within territories could also undergo similar treatment becoming another faction objective whereby players can influence village evolution and build towards something akin to a stronghold. Once obtained the stronghold could produce region altering effects such as denying players aligned with opposing factions from opening portals and can only be negated through a siege event (mass PVP instance) from opposing factions.

This concept of object scarcity in a “shared world” should also translate into more dynamic player based quests. Imagine if a singular unique world item could be crafted after collecting hidden pieces which are scattered randomly across the realms (shards of the world stone or black soul stone) with each faction competing to assemble it. Now if a player happens to locate a piece they have the ability to relocate the fragment and store it in one of the rifts/strongholds/territories under their influence. But in doing so advertises to the world the location of the fragment. Once the item has been stowed away the player(s) in possession could be granted additional territory buffs (ie. increased magic find in territories) as well as trap/puzzle mechanics to help safeguard the item but will be faced with warding off PVP instances in order to keep it.

Game Play Feasibility

I wonder what the community thinks would be the feasibility of such game play systems for an ARPG MMO and whether implementations of them would actually be any fun. In a table top setting territory systems would be turn based with a limited number of players so I can imagine there would be some difficulty accommodating real time inputs from numerous sources. Would some sort of priority system need to be in place (resulting in time-gated content) or is it possible to have instances be continuous and real time? For example would one rather have a priority system which prevents multiple players from entering the same rift based on first come first serve or does one prefer a system which allows players to enter the same rift but be provided with their own individual instance but with awareness of progression from other players in the rift and be given the choice to race/compete with others to be given priority over the territory?


Well thought out post. I’m not sure a secondary post leveling skill tree would go over well. Personally I like it, but I bet many would complain that they are forced to do it to gain the benefits als AP fornyour artifact weapon I WoW.

I’m not a fan of player created/influenced content since history has shown us that players do their darndest to screw over their fellow players. Case in point setting a time and date to open the AQ gates only to do it early in the morning so that most of the server could not participate, or setting a time for the Ony buffonly to not do it and keep players waiting. Just two examples that come to mind.

Now if all you mean is a rift, for example, can be altered to have extra modifiers to drop better loot, then if there is a limit on how much alterations and that it could not be a griefing situation then possibly.

Reminded me a bit of my break point idea :slight_smile:
Tho, it included the traditional stats

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To your first point, I believe the heart of the issue is centered around balance. I believe what people fear is not different class avenues but ensuring that the power between particular avenues is within similar ranges. We could approach this in a few ways.

  1. Perhaps instead of new active skills/skill trees people would be more receptive to the idea of new passive skill pools that emphasis either talent modification or resource management? That way people don’t feel blocked from using their favorite skill by say the items they carry (ie. item modifiers remain relevant).
  2. Introduce a skill ranking system. Skill points could pull from the same EXP pool as blood points and would be a way for people to ensure that their favorite skill remains relevant/competitive with other skills. I fear though this would lead to infinite power scaling so to counteract this you would need to include penalty thresholds to keep things balanced. For example say after 5 skill points each additional skill points would also increase/add charge duration, resource cost/cool down or decrease attack speed. So for a skill with 15 ranks applied [+15% damage] in order to realize full benefit a charge duration of 1 sec would be added [0.1 sec/rank]. The problem the developers have mentioned with this approach though is the complexity this could present to casual players (ie. calculating optimal thresholds and potentially ruining your characters play style if ranks are permanent).

Overall, this delves more deeply into character customization than what I believe the D4 developers have yet to comment on so we will have to wait a while to see how they approach things.

In terms of the “chase” item quests I do think it is a valid concern to make sure the advantage players receive isn’t dominant such that the items would become “necessary”. Again balance will be required and the advantage provided should be small (ie. +1% to magic find for a shard and if you assemble all 10 shards mobs/bosses you spawn drop an extra crafting material - Since the buff could be applied to the territory maybe there is room to have the benefit available to all players in the region though to keep the item “special” the benefit could be tiered [most benefit to item finder --> faction aligned players --> everyone else]).

To your next point regarding player influenced content I do share your concerns around potential abuse players might face with access to content. Indeed, with player influenced world boss spawning and siege warfare I don’t have good answers to how you can grant all players access on demand. With the world boss spawning I envisioned something where a group of people would have to share blood resources in order to spawn a powerful entity but I suppose to give solo players access one could create an avenue where once a player whose blood power reaches a “godhood” threshold can than use just their own blood to spawn a world boss?

Regarding village evolution and siege warfare I think the former will be easier to address than the later. Since what I envision for village evolution revolves around completing quest and errands (ie. defend town from waves of monsters, rescue villagers, collect materials for battlements, etc.) all players would be given their own individual instances but the stronghold progression and faction loyalty of the village would be put into a shared pool (players supporting the demonic faction contribute to the same progression towards building a cultist stronghold and compete with other factions to see who reaches stronghold status first). Solo player therefore would still have access to content as faction players.

The problem lies with what happens once a stronghold is completed by a faction. I don’t have a good answer. Perhaps as a consolation an avatar of their likeness could spawn and help defend during the siege encounter but I don’t know if this would be satisfactory as those non-faction players would also suffer from the same territory penalty as opposing faction players so why would they want to contribute to village defense. I also don’t have a good system to grant on-demand access to a siege event to accommodate all players schedules and player modes. I loathe imposing a time gated restriction to in-game activities (siege event only occur at said time and/or after said duration upon achieving) as it breaks immersion but the pain of missing out on content could be worse (entering the MMO theme park trap). Yeah any suggestions from players with more experience in this regard would be appreciated.

To your question about player access to shared custom rifts. Yes, I envision that players should only have agency over:

  1. Where to open a rift (in so far as the territory isn’t already claimed by another rift and world penalties are not active).
  2. Rift modifiers selected. Here there is tons of room to flush out what this could mean but lets say as base you get to select just a single modification and additional modifiers (mob/guardian - toughness/density (hard cap for bosses)/elemental affixes/exotic affixes (invisibility, death mechanics, teleportation, immunity) can be applied with extra cost of farm-able materials. And yes I agree there should be limits on number of allowed modifiers.
  3. Whether to enter or exit a rift. (Though it would be cool to be stuck in a hairy situation if you overestimate your abilities.)

Otherwise the rifts would function the same as D3 style rifts - individual instances of randomly generated levels just with no timer but you may have to race against the progression bar of others who enter the same rift as you “if” you wish to claim priority to establish your own rift in the territory upon killing the rift guardian.

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I had an idea about D4 Shared Skills. I think some skills could have a passive and an active effect. For example: 2h weapon mastery could allow a class to use 2h weapons (fixed passive effect) and reduce the equipement requirements of those items (passive effect that increase with skill level) and as an active effect it could work as a 2h weapon melee skill (the damage increase with skill level).

The endgame passives sounds similar to the endgame passives of modded d2 like median xl. Or even azerite traits in w.o.w. which doesn’t bother me 1 bit.

The rest I’m not so sure. If anything maybe say said village favors more of the demonic path, then they are less likely to give you certain rewards or quest depending on the path you chosen?

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Interesting discussion you provided there with “shared skills”. Looking back on it now do you believe that there would be too much overlap between legendary affixes and tomes? (Barring of course legendary items are designed with interesting and generic affixes.)

For example if a helm exists that allows a player to transform into werewolf after say they lose 50% health for 5 seconds and a bracelet grants 50% chance to ignite an enemy when slashed. Could that not fulfill the same roll as skills granted by tomes? I suppose a player wouldn’t have the ability to directly augment/modify the affixes on items with skill ranks (unless character specific skills indirectly support it).

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Yes, it could happen, but like you said, one can level a lot easier a skill with skill points and tomes. And can support a lot easier one of your skills with legendary affixes since those other effecs would use the same item slots.

Also, i like the idea of have a % chance of skill activation, that would limit it too. Another way to do it, for some skills, is with charges. Both things were done in D2.

I think all this could be a nice thing to have, and it could be balanced around the idea of don’t have as a goal (even if you can) to make this skills the center of the build but something to support a build. For example have a sorceress melee build: one could use items that give melee skills and extra defense, but the main defense and the main damage could come from sorceress skills like ice blades and ice armor (or flame shield).

Both things were done in D3 as well.

Plenty of skills had charges. There were gear that had skill procs, and gear and systems that reduced CDs on hit/kill/block that would essentially activate the skill, I know that’s not exactly the same.

Yes, you are right. I was talking more about item giving skills with x amount of uses. But how the skills with charges of D3 work could be a great way to do it: once you spend a charge, need to wait some time to recover it, this would make those items more useful.

Ahh, I did like those.

If done the right way and introduced well, it works and I would see this as an end game theme of skill improvement, so by the time you are doing this you have become comfortable with it’s workings. So that casual players will know what it is about.

But as this is not a true MMO, but a hybrid Arpg/MMO this changes could be shown only to the person that has made the quests and other changes to their own areas of influence. This could make for replayablity.

Then it could be a case where when the opposing factions attack you get a warning, as you do when playing Fallout 4. then it comes down to, do you spend time doing defense of area quests or let them fall in to the hands of the other factions. Maybe letting that happen but going back sometime later to retake an area could be another thing to be done in the end game.

Again this could make for replayablity, if drops are changed by say 1-2% in favor of the areas influence.

More over as it’s a non class or effectively a skill froma diferent class made an option via gear then it takes longer to charge a Shared Druid skill for a Barb to use say 2-3 times the recharge time.
That way its a nice thing that boosts you form time to time not something that says well I should just play a Druid if I want to do that.

What D4 needs is a revenue model that constantly generates income to pay for patches with loads of content every few months to keep players hooked.

Blizzard will need to explain to their shareholders that they can’t just make a product and let leave it alone for years on end without adding new end game content on a regular basis. The time of expansion packs is over and the model now is providing a live service that’s free for everyone and you make your money from mictrotransactions.

If the shareholders aren’t too greedy they’ll have a cash cow that’ll bring in consistent revenue for years to come and will work like WoW without charging an initial fee to play the “expansion” since you’ll catch more fish with a wider net meaning more free people playing your game the more there are willing to buy MTX

The only barrier to entry is the initial purchase price.

Forgive me for talking out of turn if your post is in response to the prior post (topic branching into revenue models feels somewhat disjointed). If your view however is that you rather see D4 released as a minimum viable product (MVP) with no end-game at launch and later patched with content according to a long term cycle funded through cosmetic/QoL MTX than I can respect your position but offer a cautionary rebuttal.

Games as a service might be headed towards being the most dominate revenue stream in the gaming industry but that doesn’t mean that game design or quality necessarily benefits from it. Even in recent memory games like Fallout 76, Anthem or Destiny all suffered heavy community backlash upon release by presenting games with watered-down systems and quality issues that bordered on the unplayable. If not implemented with care games-as-a-service can force developers to adhere to a drip-style approach to content releases which can lead to predatory practices (loot-box fiascoes/pay walls). That doesn’t make games-as-a-service inherently bad but I think it would be crucial to divorce game design/decision from your revenue model or at least establish clear boundaries (along with manage player expectation).

One might argue that if it works for GGG than why not D4, but one can’t forget the long path it took for GGG to build its player base. Nor can you discount stakeholder expectations a triple studio like Blizzard has to content with. Just picture a shark-tank scenario where a entrepreneur walks in and presents you with a deal where they need say 5 million to develop a game that can double your money in 5 years. As an investment firm (with fiduciary duty to other parties) can you really justify investing in such a promise if you have other offers which can recoup your upfront investment in a year with 50% upside the following?

All those games were doomed from the start and was something no one was asking for.

The Dev’s of this new game know we want it developed for PC first and to include an offline mode with LAN support. They also know that we want more than 6 buttons to press. They also know we want pvp to be viable end game content.
They’re also aware that the community wants more of a D2 feel from the next game.

The problem with those truths is just like Bethesda,Bioware, and Bungie, ActivisionBlizzard don’t take player feedback into consideration at all nor do to give the community what they want.

Bethesda doesn’t know what players loved about the original fallout games nor their bastardized version they’ve crafted (Everyones favorite 3D fallout game is an expansion made by obsidian), in fallout 76 they never had NPC’s in the game and expected everyone to just pvp only in a series known for it’s story and complex dialog options (which has be strangely absent from their releases)

Bungie released a “sequel” that could have been DLC for their original game but they wanted to milk the franchise since they had name recognition and success working for microsoft making Halo and copy and pasted the feeling of the Halo games and grafted RPG elements into it, something Halo didn’t have. Not to mention the fact they completely gutted the story that was crafted for the game.

Bioware Released trash before doing anthem with the new mass effect game, it’s clear to anyone who has a functioning brain that all the talent that worked there has long since left and it’s just a brand you’re buying now, buying a bioware product now is like buying an apple PC accessory, expensive pointless junk. As for anthem, it was a doomed project from the start because they literally had no expertise making that type of game and can only blame EA they love having reasons to shut down studios they’ve bought.

ActivisonBlizzard focuses on appeasing shareholders and enriching them with as much money as possible and leave player desires on the cutting room floor. They literally took trading out of an ARPG where the main point is getting and trading gear. Taking that part of the equation out of the game killed D3 and ran everyone off but some desperate fans hoping this game hasn’t been abandoned despite announcing two new Diablo projects. The fan base on these forums are delusional at best and refuse to accept the reality that D3 was a massive failure and harmed the brand, potentially beyond repair.

Honestly any attempts at trying to persuade them has fallen on deaf ears any not a single community suggested change has ever been added to blizzard games in recent years, they pretend that they know whats best because they’ve calcuated how to make as much money as possible and how to force players into being stuck in their games to drain as much wealth from them as they can. Literally the definition of predatory gaming.

In WoW they’re constantly testing what bs mobile phone mechanics they can get away with as they develop their new mobile titles before completely throwing the PC gaming community which built Blizzard into the power house it is today because they focus on shareholders and making all the money in the world, rather than make a good project that’ll be loved for decades to come.

Activision has literally proved this model works with their new CoD game making more money in from that franchise this year than they’ve ever made any year prior and that’s due to letting it be free to play, they make all the money in the world through microtransactions. This model works and requires capital investment up front to make the game then release it free with enticing MTX that players won’t feel scammed to pay for since they obtained the game for free.

This is the future where Diablo is heading. I just hope they don’t clone D3 since they removed so much player choice to make console and mobile phone ports of this engine. I wish they’d just focus on making good PC’s games first but that would cripple their console ports, and all they care about is making money so we as PC gamers suffer.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the topic of grinding as discussed on the forums and the challenges it poses when designing games with replay value and meaningful payoff in the hack and slash looter genre. There have been a wide spread of responses ranging from capitulation (“don’t spend time on a game that you feel doesn’t respect it” - very true), discussion over the semantics in trying to identify the root causes and “quick fixes” that seem to address more of the symptoms rather than the underlying problem (“make loot/rewards/payoff more accessible” - chasing the serotonin fix).

Before I discuss my approach to tackling the issue I thought I would share some insights from more reputable content creators who can articulate the issues far better than I ever could.

Framing the problem: Incomplete end-game
Taking D3 as the example, the core game play loop is to have your character go out into the world (via rifting) to slay monsters and to pick up loot. This is in service to character customization (a mid-tier loop) whereby your character accumulates more power over time to … do more rifting (*crickets)?!

I think it comes as no surprise to anyone that one of the major stumbling blocks in game design for D3 is the attempt to present what is at it’s base a “core loop” experience as also the end game payoff through the use of infinite level scaling.

The problem as I see it has two parts, the first fundamentally boils down to redundancy, whereby the player after being repeatedly exposed to the contents of rifting throughout the leveling process derives little satisfaction pushing higher rift levels as “winning” only results in the same content but with larger numbers. While the second is farming or “fishing” RNG for the perfect rift in order to complete higher rift difficulty, which transforms the player experience into more of a test of patience rather than one of skill mastery.

My personal take on approaching the end-game: Expandable content leading to catastrophic world events

[If the D4 developers are listening: As a player and not a designer my ideas probably aren’t very good solutions but hopefully they can offer some hint of inspiration.]

At first I thought world customization and player interactivity would be enough to sustain player engagement and that longer cycle events such as custom unlock-able siege events and world bosses would provide enough payoff in the end-game along side questing, dungeon crawling and dueling. But the more I reflect on this I think that even though my previous suggestions offer different avenues for progression through exploration and conquest I think ultimately they might still be missing that “on top of the world” sensation that comes after overcoming a seemingly insurmountable challenge. So the easiest thing to fill that gap would be to weave in some form of boss gauntlet as the end-game climax.

In keeping with the systems that I have outlined previously, each faction (angelic/demonic/ancient) could have a zone/labyrinth populated by several tiers of end-game bosses (don’t shy away from reaching souls-like level of difficulty) culminating in the final fight with the leader of said faction (Inarius, Lilith and Rathma for example). The first tier of bosses (1-4) could be accessible from the start (soft lock) while the remaining tiers would be hard locked requiring a drop of divinity blood and some number of attainable artifacts/keys which when submitted applies some form of custom debuff, environmental hazard or boss buff to the next tier of bosses. Example, tier 1 bosses (1-4) completely accessible from start, tier 2 bosses (5-7) require 1 ailment to enter, tier 3 bosses (8-9) require 2 ailments to enter and final boss (10) requires 3 ailments to enter.

I envision this end-game system would be revealed to the player gradually over the course of the game through discovery or completion of specific in-game activities whereby the truth of the world conflict becomes revealed. Than the player can be given that choice to rebel against their currently aligned faction and try to usurp their faction aligned leader or proceed to topple the boss gantlets of the other two opposing factions and claim victory over Sanctuary.

I was contemplating what sort of item or reward (besides accolades of prestige) would be meaningful to the first person able to reach the final stages of the game (in a open world setting) but couldn’t really come up with anything concrete (wanted to avoid granting an exclusive item for balance reasons). I personally think the most satisfying reward would be a choice of world catastrophic events (technically precursors to server resets) the player could inflict on the rest of the player base, as it transforms the personal experience into a shared one (whether pleasant or horrific). Of course that would probably be too outrageous in practice, but is just a thought.

Side thought: Out of curiosity…

Off on a related tangent, I am curious about other people’s opinions regarding whether D4 should have a dynamic or static shared open world? I am a fan of the concept of push-pull systems and that the state of game play or goals can change given certain world states and that the world states can be influenced by the actions of the player population. However, I get the impression that most seem to gravitate towards independent styles of content and would prefer a continuous flow of new content rather than interacting with the game’s systems to produce a different game state or experience the consequences generated by other players influence on the game’s systems. Neither is right or wrong and both fundamentally address the issue of variety in game play but am curious whether it is worth advocating for a dynamic world design?