Warning: This is a very long post requiring more than an hour to read. Below are stated the contents of the post, so you can go to the part you are most interested in if you don’t have much time. There is no TLDR.
First, I want to say a big “Thank you!” to the whole Diablo 4 team for developing and creating such an epic game! This is the best aRPG ever by far, light-years ahead from everything else until now ever produced in this genre. Bravo D4 team! You’ve got my approval. And when you’ve got the approval of someone so critical about that stuff like myself, you are surely on the right track with your game.
From what I saw and read in the last 3 days about Diablo 4 I can say with 100% certainty that this time the development team of Diablo 4 is designing the game with a plan in their heads. The random stream of (un)conscious thoughts that brought us RMAH, trials, endless paragon with an absurd curve, bounties, sets as top tier, set dungeons, challenge rifts with no tier progression snapshotting low-skilled builds, are replaced with a very deep understanding of what is being built this time.
Second, I want to say to the whole Diablo community that now is the time to support the Diablo 4 team with constructive opinions. Whether or not you like something about the game, put your arguments in a way that will deliver productive discussions. I would love to see such discussions organized by streamers who love and care for Diablo. There is no better time to improve Diablo 4 with our feedback as of now. The forges are burning hot and this time is for real.
Last, I am very happy that the Diablo 4 developers will be listening to the community through their quarterly discussions on crucial topics. There is nothing better than building a game together with your player base! I wish you all the best Diablo 4 team. Keep up the good work in the years to come!
1. Console feel
2. Seasonal experience
5. Trading & competition
I am going to go in-depth with these topics below and explain the problems I see there, but also defend the current iteration of some of the systems that are creating much tension in the Diablo community. Many posters want something exactly the way it was in previous Diablo games without realizing that the current version of it in Diablo 4 is better. I hope my post will change the vision of at least a tiny percent of these people.
So, here we go…
1. Console feel
I am a PC gamer. I communicate with the machine through keyboard and mouse. And if a key is not working properly or my mouse has dust beneath it, it is of utmost importance for me to fix these, because besides being a PC gamer, I am also a competitive gamer.
The most competitive games online have a top-down view and I am extremely happy this is the case in Diablo 4, just as it was in previous games from the series.
An isometric top-down view compared to other types of views allows the player to have a full awareness of what is going on around him. Such kind of view is great for games with complex and diverse paths. But do we have such in Diablo 4?
From what I saw of the gameplay shown at the panels, the dungeon corridors and paths are linear and narrow. Just as in console games. It creates the feeling that you are going through a tunnel made by some evil trapper, not randomly spawned by nature. This tunnel is the same no matter if you go left or right - its size, width and appearance are not that random as these would be in nature.
Maybe this kind of stuff is not that common to witness, but my fear is that the random procedural map/tiles generator is not on the level I want it to be. Or it is, but it is creating console-like environments, because consoles have more priority than PC profits wise.
Diablo 4 needs superb randomization of map areas, zones and dungeons. This should be always a top priority for an aRPG game, especially one of the caliber of Diablo 4. I wrote many times the random generation of maps in D3 lacks quality. I don’t want to witness the same in Diablo 4.
Another console-like feature in Diablo 4 is the UI. One of the most hated D3 features from all the community was its UI. Why not simply give us the freedom to move the UI in Diablo 4 as we want it to be?
I for example want my skill bar in center bottom. Other person would want it in different position. Some would prefer life/mana orbs in top left, while the map in bottom left. Why lock everyone in a console-like UI? If your concern is competition related, then simply give us 5-6 options for UI we can switch between. The majority of PC players will surely prefer a different one than console players. And your game will look great on Twitch no matter the UI positions. Don’t lock everyone within the same UI!
Last in this section are the flashing effects when hitting enemies. If I want flashing effects every second I’d go to a trance party, the music there is better kappa. Again, as many of us mentioned thousands times in the D3 topics - the solution is pretty simple - give us an option to turn off the flashing effects. Allow us to experience the Diablo 4 world without constant flashes when fighting. It may look cool on Twitch and promote your game, but think about those people like me who find this annoying.
2. Seasonal experience
The Seasonal experience in Diablo 4 will be the game’s main focus. The itemization, which I am discussing in next chapter, and other systems in the game speak for this pretty well. The Diablo 4 team wants the players to have different gameplay experience with each new Season by creating unique Seasonal mechanics serving for meta game shifts. Finally! Seasons will feel different than Non-Season and the item farming and build priorities will switch not due to power creep rather due to new interesting mechanics introduced with each new Season! Very, very cool!
This however means the dedicated NS players will be somewhat left behind compared to D3, but is this really a problem if everyone is having much more fun due to completely fresh Seasonal experience changing on regular basis?
What that regular basis would be, namely would Seasons refresh each month, or each two or three months is still unknown and will largely depend on how popular the game would be. The more popular and played Diablo 4 becomes, the more shorter Seasons we might enjoy since the Diablo 4 team would become larger and capable of delivering us more content per year.
Personally I would enjoy a flat one month Seasons as in Hearthstone. Here is what I would like to see from such monthly Seasonal experience:
- During first week the player is making the step to legendary items
- During second week the player is creating his endgame build with legendary items
- During third week the competitive player is ranking at the LB, while other players continue to improve their characters
- During last week a major world event with multiple world Bosses happens in-game and all players aim to finish that event together as a team fighting separately through the world, which is now cursed and each player receives unpredictable unique changes to his own skills, which will be there until all world Bosses are alive aka Season’s end
Such world event at the end of the Season would serve for new gameplay experience for all groups of players accessible only during that time of the Season. In-game AI could properly “evolve” each character’s skill bar into new one depending on how the player interacted with the game environment until now.
The majority of posts in the last days regarding the Diablo 4 itemization are mainly negative. Every player has the full right to be concerned whether we are getting a good itemization or not, simply because the itemization is the core of the aRPG game. You can have the perfect aRPG game in all other aspects, but if its itemization is not good, well, it is going to be a bad game.
But is this the case with the Diablo 4’s itemization or are the majority of posters simply not looking deep enough?
Contrary to what you expected to see in this chapter aka me hating the Diablo 4 itemization, I would try to explain why the current itemization in Diablo 4 lays the foundation for the perfect Seasonal experience everybody would enjoy.
In the previous chapter I wrote that the philosophy of the Diablo 4 developers is to create meta game shifts with each new Season. This would be done optimally if the legendary items are the highest tier of items in the game.
The current item tier structure in Diablo 4 is this:
Normal (white) -> Magic (blue) -> Rare (yellow) -> Set (green) -> Legendary (orange) and Mythic (red)
The concern of many players is that such item tier structure makes rare items redundant for the end-game. If Diablo 4 adopts the D2 itemization the item tiers would allow magic and rare items for end-game builds. But is this really needed?
What makes interesting the legendary items are their special properties modifying our skills and gameplay in unique ways. If we remove completely the legendary items from the game encouraging the players to min/max only magic and rare gear, what would happen with the idea of a meta game shift when a new Season starts?
Think about this… Take a break and think about this… Then take a longer break and think about this some more…
That is right - the meta game shift won’t be that impactful, because the special properties of the legendary items are missing.
A min/maxing done entirely with legendary items would receive the biggest impact from a meta game shift serving for highest possible skill cap.
The more we rely on legendary affixes the bigger the meta game shift with each new Season:
Magic & Rare only -> Magic, Rare, Legendary on the same item tier -> Legendary only
Why we need a meta game shift and what is this exactly?
Simply said, if using A, B and C skills with A’, B’ and C’ items is optimal during Season S, it won’t be optimal when next Season SS occurs.
An impactful meta game shift would guarantee the ABC combo is not optimal during Season SS meaning that the player would need to solve the itemization again. And again in SSS. And again… A fresh theorycrafting and itemization game with each new Season.
That sounds like a skilled aRPG game and would be best achieved with the current tiered itemization the developers have decided to use.
But what about the simplified Math?
Simplified Math doesn’t take the min/maxing away. It has no relation to it. Item stats serving for complex Math calculations only force the players to use online tools to “solve” the game. Complex min/maxing could be done entirely with a simple Math. And the more simple is the Math, the more newcomer friendlier is the itemization. Instead of having hundreds of “damage” stats on the items requiring a PhD in Math to properly solve, we have “Attack”.
And having one stat for damage doesn’t mean we won’t be able to min/max. The legendary item special properties serving for unique gameplays guarantee we would experience a complex min/maxing game in Diablo 4. It just won’t depend on complex Math. And there is no need to. Diablo 4 is an action-RPG, not a math-RPG.
So, we have the perfect itemization in Diablo 4?
Not quite. I am seeing potential pitfalls with the mythic items, which may turn to what sets are in D3 if not properly designed.
We would be able to wear only 1 mythic item in Diablo 4. That means the developers understand the great power behind mythics.
If mythic items are designed to force us equip specific combos of legendaries after we find them then this would be the D3 sets case. If mythic items are just legendaries with 4 special properties instead of 1 then everything would be okay as long as these 4 properties roll randomly and are not designed to force us into specific gear. I have no idea what their current design philosophy with mythic items is, but I hope they are aware of the situation where they might turn these into D3 sets.
Last, I am against ancient versions of sets, legendaries or whatever other items. I am against tiered versions of items in general since these are simply more raw stats. And this type of game should be left to those who grind paragon in D3 - just remove them the 20k paragon cap and let them grind stats for life in D3. But please, don’t do it in D4 masked behind tiers of items.
Don’t require from your players to grind simple stats when you have such an amazing possibilities for creating end-games for all groups of players.
I like the addition of cause-effect runewords in Diablo 4. I mean who doesn’t? It’s a very nice implementation and I would love to remain as it is now - simple - 1 cause and 1 effect. This would force us to choose more instead of binding dozens of effects mindlessly to a single cause.
But what about those D2 type of runewords? Some community members want the strongest items in Diablo 4 to be again the runewords from D2… Let’s grind for runes and combine them into powerful items… Sounds good on paper, but is it actually?
What the D2 runewords effectively do is lower the drop rates variance. Let’s say player A grinds 10 hours in a D2-like game with runewords and finds runes A, B, C, D, E, F, while player B grinds 10 hours in same D2-like game without runewords seeking item X, but doesn’t finding it. Now, player B goes to sleep waiting tomorrow to grind again for X, while player A who’s after the same item X (which is buildable with runes in his game) puts runes D, E, F in the cube creating G, and after that uses A, B and G to make the runeword “GAB” aka the item X.
Reducing the variance is fun, but this could be done with crafting too. There is no need to implement D2 runewords just for the sake of reducing the variance.
One of the reason for this is because the runewords themselves create unnecessary complications. If we have 1k legendary items and replace them with 1k runewords, every time a player wants to create a specific item has to open a spreadsheet and look at exact runeword for this item. And when the meta game changes, the player has to look again at other rune combinations.
The runeword mechanic was good in D2, because there wasn’t a crafting system for reducing the item variance and there weren’t any meta game shifts, so everyone’s cat knew JAH-ITH-BER is a powerful combo each Season.
So, no D2 runewords in Diablo 4 then?
Well, not quite. You forgot the most unique quality of the D2 runewords - they become known when you successfully assemble one. It happens so that because of the Internet guides everyone knew JAH-ITH-BER was powerful, but what if you don’t have access to Internet and you play D2 alone offline? How would you know this?
The only way is through a trial and error - and what better game for the dedicated players than this one?
Here comes my suggestion about how to implement D2 runewords in Diablo 4:
Make specific runes (blank ones) drop only in Seasonal mode. Let’s say we would have 6 such runes for 4320 permutations of 3 letter runewords. Players would be able to insert these in 3-socketed items to “guess” a runeword. And if there are 78 runewords not bound to item type or class, the player would complete one runeword on 55 attempts at average. In order not to have larger communities artificially grouping to reduce the waste of potential runes, each runeword needs to be unique per account and per Season.
This would mean same item X would be runeword “GAB” for player A and runeword “ALK” for player B in Season S. In Season SS item X would not be “GAB” for A nor “ALK” for B, rather something else that each player has to find out for himself.
Now you have an interesting game for the players accumulating more wealth than the others during the Season. And it doesn’t involve grinding for stats.
The items created with such type of runewords would be the most powerful items in the game (2-3 times more powerful than mythic), but only usable for the world event at the end of the Season, not for something else. Once the world event and Season ends, those items would become dust since in the new Season these runewords won’t mean anything.
The most dedicated players during the Season will naturally have the highest chance to properly guess a runeword thus wearing the most exceptional items during the world event and being recognized by everyone, because of this.
5. Trading & competition
The current trading format and its interference with the competition is the biggest problem in Diablo 4 currently. It seems to me the Diablo 4 developers have forgotten the D3 RMAH days, because they are not only allowing trading between the players, but implementing shared stashes for clans, which are going to amplify the bad effects from trading tremendously. I will go into more details below, but first I want to make clear which groups of players lose and which benefit from trading in an aRPG game in general.
Casual and new players benefit since trading for them is usually a social activity during which they receive less for what they offer from the pro traders, but they don’t notice this since they don’t know the actual value of the items traded.
The pro traders are those playing the trading game within the aRPG game caring mostly to make profitable deals and later receive real money from these.
The regular players are separated in their preference for trading. Some like it, others don’t.
The dedicated players are usually skilled as traders since they play much and know the value of items, and it may seem to some of them that trading is a good tool for them to acquire more wealth, but in reality trading absolutely destroys the meaning to be a dedicated player since all the time you put into the game makes no difference when the whale can buy everything you have with real money.
The whales are the players that don’t have time to grind the game and prefer to spend real money to acquire the items from the pro traders. Trading is obviously of utmost importance to them.
The competitive players dislike trading since it effectively changes the drop rates and a game can not be competitive if it has both drop rates and trading.
The above is the general case. We can draw important conclusions from it, namely that:
- Trading is good for new/casual players, pro traders and whales
- Trading is always bad for dedicated players although many of these don’t realize it
- Trading is bad for competitive players when it interferes with the competition
How is the trading currently structured in Diablo 4?
- Always tradeable (gold, runes, gems, crafting mats, consumables)
- Tradeable once (magic and rare items)
- Not tradeable (legendary and mythic items)
- Shared stash/bank in clans
In every online game making a clan popular and famous is the top priority of the clan leader and the clan members. Here is how this is going to work in Diablo 4 with such type of trading system:
- A clan leader will choose the majority of members based on their skill level
- Higher skilled members mean more popular clan
- After assembling a team of highly skilled members, support clan members will be chosen
- Support member is one that funnels the shared clan stash with all possible items with taking only the absolute necessary things for himself in order to farm
- Being a clan support member won’t be much fun, but we already know that when no fun activities are introduced in aRPG games players refer to botting
- The clan leader together with some other members will manage those brotherhood type of support members guaranteeing constant flow of needed items in the clan
- The fourth clan category of members is those of the whales aka the gold mines of the clans that will be there for personal fame as being part of a top clan without having the needed skills, but having the money
- The clan leader will choose the whales based on their RL money they are willing to donate to the clan
- The whales will buy needed stuff from other third parties when there is urgent need to do this aka when the support members all go offline at the same time suddenly (when banned) and supply the clan stash with gold that the skilled members could use for gambling
The expected proportional share of clan members:
- 1% is clan leader
- 75% are skilled members
- 20% are support members
- 4% are whales
Clans will be a real powerhouse in Diablo 4 with this type of trading system, especially because one can get legendary items from gambling. Botting and third party trading will flourish and competition will be crippled, because there is no SSF mode.
But the whales will be happy. And the whales are those spending most on MTX, right?
So, the current Diablo 4 developers philosophy in a nutshell about the groups of players is this: Glorify the whales and the casuals, disregard the dedicated players and cripple the competition, so that the truly competitive players go back to other games. We can always do this obviously, but I’d prefer to compete fairly in Diablo 4 too.
Such trading system however won’t allow for a fair competition as long as:
- Trading is enabled from the start of the Season so conquest competition is crippled
- There are no stat caps for PvE, PvP and PvPvE competitions ensuring that the whales and the botters have stat advantage
And if you want more people to follow Diablo 4 the competition has to be fair (no stat advantages from trading/botting/account sharing), engaging (high skill cap) and accessible (not requiring huge time investment), not spoiled by those investing RL money to buy stuff from third parties or run bots.
Thank you for reading,