Controversies such as the rough launch and ongoing problems such as the exploits I discussed yesterday can do real harm to the sustainability of a game, especially a franchise with the mythical reputation of Diablo, even when the game is a top notch product – and make no mistake, I think Diablo 3 is a 9/10 creation. It’s no surprise then to see a reflective post from Mike Morhaime on the official boards a few months into the game’s life cycle. It’s a long post and worth a read – I’ll quote a few sections and discuss them but check the link out for the full thing.
We are not satisfied with breaking launch records; we want people to continue playing and enjoying Blizzard games for a very long time. The Diablo III team has made an epic, entertaining, and beautiful gaming experience. That being said, we know that it isn’t perfect. Our teams are working hard to improve the game balance, build on our design, and listen to what players are saying to make it the best game it can be.
This is really the core of his message. Throughout he comments on plans for ongoing development and support. It’s something that is obvious if you think about it (the ‘long tail’ income from Diablo 3 requires players staying interested for a long time and using the RMAH) but it never hurts to remind players that the development team are committed.
You’ve seen some of that work already in patch 1.0.3, and you’ll see additional improvements with patch 1.0.4. On the game balance front, this update will contain changes designed to further deliver on the team’s goal of promoting “build diversity,” with buffs to many rarely used, underpowered class abilities. Another topic we’ve seen actively discussed is the fact that better, more distinct Legendary items are needed. We agree. Patch 1.0.4 will also include new and improved Legendary items that are more interesting, more powerful, and more epic in ways you probably won’t be expecting.
These are two changes that are much looked forward to. Statistics indicate that Witch Doctors are in a bad way (I know it’s the character I play the least, love the ‘style’ as I might) and a lot of classes are restricted to 6 specific skills and runes in Inferno. Legendary items are also, woeful. I’ve been really lucky with the number I’ve seen whilst playing – some players report they’ve had 1 drop total – in that I’ve had about 7 legendary drops. “Luck” maybe isn’t the right word though, as each of these ‘legendary’ items has been absolute rubbish .
We’re also working on a number of interface updates, including social improvements that will allow players to more easily view their friends’ achievements, more quickly join games, and more efficiently communicate with each other. In addition, we’ll be making updates to the auction house in the future to provide players with better information through tooltips and notices, offer improved search functionality, and more.
I think this means there will be changes in game that reflect the design philosophy behind the announcement of the incoming D3 character profiles. It’ll be interesting to see what changes they bring in. A more social online experience can’t be a bad thing and this is something that Blizzard’s battle.net 2.0 service as a whole is being lambasted for, SCII and D3 alike.
We know the auction house isn’t perfect, but with your help and feedback, we’ll be able to continue making it a better experience for those who choose to use it. On the flipside, we are also committed to ensuring you have a great experience with Diablo III without feeling like the auction house is mandatory, which was never our intention. Thank you for all the feedback about that.
I’m not convinced that they can make either auction house feel like a ‘nice bonus’ for those interested in using it. I’m talking about those who don’t like the auction houses (I love them myself ) but want to complete the game. They just can’t find the gear they need to progress. Patience barely comes into it, the lottery that is item RNG means it’s very unlikely you’ll get the gear you need to progress from drops even playing 500 plus hours. And that’s what Blizzard wants, after all, because using the RMAH drives long term profits for the company. At the same time, too much of an emphasis on the RMAH and it will backfire as droves of players leave.
I know many of you are also looking forward to patch 1.1, our PvP update, which will provide new experiences and give you a whole new way to apply the skills you’ve picked up while battling demons. This patch will also build on the social and auction house changes I mentioned above, and the team will continue to fix bugs and further tune game balance as well.
We’re also working on a gameplay system that will provide players who have max-level, high-powered characters new goals to strive for as an alternative to the “item hunt.” We’re not ready to get into specifics just yet, but I can say that we’re actively taking your feedback into account as we plan out the future of the game.
The first paragraph is what we’ve been expecting for some time. PvP will really cement Diablo 3 in place as a classic entertainment product rather than a ‘good game’ – if done right. Of more interest is the second paragraph, “the gameplay system that will provide players who have max-level, high-powered characters new goals to strive for as an alternative to the “item hunt”.” This is great news and it’s intriguing. A lot of you might think “Inferno is the end game no?” and if you’ve not yet reached and cleared it then you’re right. A lot of players though, myself included have long since beaten everything the game has to offer on at least one character class. At this point, your options are: farm; clear Inferno on multiple classes; play the Diablo 3 RMAH metagame.
I’ve indulged in all three of these and right now I can tell you that I play the D3 RMAH metagame almost exclusively. It’s just so efficient. It’s more profitable than farming, less time intensive, more reliable (you can find more information about this in the Gold Guild) and, after hundreds of hours play since launch, it lets me get a bit of perspective on the game – more so than continuing to farm Act I over and over would. So I’m really looking forward to both PvP and this new gameplay system. What do you guys think they’re working on? Players have voted in numerous fansites for things like endless dungeons, more events and the like. I wonder what Blizzard have in mind?