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Diablo III Season Five Postmortem

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20187-diablo-iii-season-five-postmortem.

A look at the legacy of Season Five, and how it has shaped the game.

What will we think of when looking back at Season Five?

 

Another Season has come to pass in Sanctuary, and with it some pretty massive revelations. We saw a rise in certain playstyles, reactions from Devs, changes in Team Diablo, No-Boss runs, Banwave after Banwave, and even new ways to play the game.

 

So what is the lasting impact of Diablo Season Five?

 

Disclaimer: This post is purely the opinion of the author, Realbookwurm, and is intended to review from the broad community perspective what Season Five was like to many players. Many arguments here have subjective components, and as such should not be taken as fact. Your mileage or experience probably varied. 

 

Let us start with the bad, and work our way to the good stuff, since there is a lot more that Season Five has done to impact the game positively than negatively.

 

The Ugly

 

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  • Set Dungeons: While the concept is novel, the execution and reality did not meet the standards of the community by-and-large. Born as an attempt to give players a specific goal, something which Diablo often lacks, the idea was sound. Why not create a scenario where players can demonstrate mastery of a Set's mechanics, and even be rewarded in game for the their efforts? Well, the schism between great idea and the reality is probably most related to the actual objectives of the dungeons. Some set dungeons were quite easy to grasp and execute, the Immortal King's Dungeon for an example. Others suffered from mechanics that were unclear, counter-intuitive or just plain at the mercy of RNG. Firebird's Finery Dungeon asked players to die on purpose. Shadow's Mantle Dungeon gave an objective that failed players for consecutive hits on an enemy. Jade Harvester Dungeon gave you invisible enemies, and penalised you for not killing them. Wrath of the Wastes Dungeon put you in a Melee build and told you not to take ANY physical damage. The number of dungeons which seemed to nail it were small, and the ones that frustrated players seemed numerous.  

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  • Power Creep: While this is always present, Season Five saw an unprecedented leap forward in the average player's experience. From people doubling their highest Greater Rift, to Paragons running into the thousands, the whole game now has a higher bar set. There were many reported situations of public groups that would kick people for "only being Paragon 800" or similar. Players in groups cleared Greater Rifts well past the 105 mark, while solo saw numbers in the 90s. Season 4 had not even saw the group move past 90, so seeing people now doing it alone has really driven this point home. 

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  • Paragon Disparity: This point is substantially tied to the previous issue, but deserves a special nod, as many player find themselves on one side of the divide or the other. The group meta saw legitimate players spanning well into several thousand paragons, and on the flip side any number of posts in r/Diablo's reddit detailing solo player journeys saw people hitting new highs in the hundreds. While many were not directly affected by this divide, the solo leaderboards closed in a stranglehold not from the Solo players themselves, but instead were mainly comprised of group players who then leveraged their superior paragons and gear in order to also dominate in this area. 

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  • No-Boss Runs: This one was saved for last on this list, because it is a bridge between the two previous issues listed, and The Worst issue which is near the end of this editorial. While it was not a new idea, the prevalence of this phenomenon in Season Five had new levels of impact. The idea behind a No-Boss Runs is that players in a group (or even solo) run an extremely high greater rift level (usually higher than could actually be cleared) and play up until the rift guardian is spawned. Players then exit the game and make a new rift, repeating the procedure. The result is massive amounts of XP gained, lending handily to the paragon disparity. Since the rift guardian is usually the bulk of time spent in a rift, and nets significantly less experience per time spent comparative to the rest of the rift, this practice born of pragmatism characterized greater rift pushing this season. 

 

 

The Bad

 

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  • Lost Devs: This season saw the departure of many strongly talented figures from Team Diablo, and while some could potentially return, others are lost for good. How this will affect the game moving forward remains to be seen, but the figures lost were those who had direct and observable impact on the game as a whole.

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  • Class Diversity: In what always results in a continued struggle, Diablo's developers yet again took painstaking efforts in balancing, with a goal of roughly approximating all sets to be equal in terms of power. Once more, we saw a season ruled by flavor-of-the-month builds, and a particular class warping the entire group meta in around itself. While Season Four was the Year of the Monk, Season Five will forever be the Year of the Wizard. Like the Static Charge Monk of yester-season, the strength of the Energy Twister Wizard left an indelible mark on the group play of Diablo, and even caused a series of severely hard-hitting changes to several class and item mechanics. Health Globe spawning as a purposeful mechanic has all but been removed from the game, and the warp was so massive that even other classes had their skill mechanics changed thanks to the Wizard build in question.  

 

 

Mixed

 

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  • Buff UI: While this issue is actually part of larger change that has positively impacted the game, it also has some quirks that presented and still require a clean up. The changes to the Buff UI that came baked into Patch 2.4 are overall successful. Making the bar more concise, it grew in Season Five to be the tool of information it was also supposed to be, and no longer is quite the source of player focus it once was. While the goal of making players engage the game (not their buff bar) seems to have been achieved, the improvements have left some aspects seemingly unpolished. The two most common issues that now seem to arise in discussion are the lack of drop shadow on stack numbers, and the paragon point allocation button covering part of the bar itself. With some minor tweaks, these could be changed and really let the newly designed buff bar come into its own glory. Rightfully so, as it now is leagues ahead of its old counterpart! 

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  • Stash Tab: While this might be a confusing place to find the stash tab, please read on as to why it finds a home here. Many players, myself included, were ecstatic about the inclusion of this reward. To me, the gaining of the extra space was massive, and let me fully devote a tab of stash to each class, as I am an alt-a-holic. I did not have any issue with the implementation, but the implementation was inline with how I play the game already. For many players, the implementation did not line up with their playstyle, or desired mode of play, and this is what lands the stash tab here. Like a billion dollars in the bank, it's great for those who have it, and not so much so for those who don't. I play seasons exclusively now in Diablo, and even quit during the interseason period to recharge and play other games. While Seasons are on, I religiously play each weekend with some friends, and manage to go far in, or complete the season journey. Getting the stash tab for me was merely a consequence. Now, my playstyle is not the only one. Many players don't play seasons. Others, are not as able or willing to devote the many hours needed to get to where I do. As a result, many groups found themselves left out, or struggling with a game (something we play for fun) to get what they felt was necessary to enjoy the game. This lack of fun for those players, well it's rough. I applaud the developers for setting a standard which players must achieve to be rewarded optional content in the game. Likewise, I see the strong argument from those who do not like being forced to play a game mode they do not enjoy in order to get access to something they want, and sometimes feel compulsion to gain. I am not sure what the right answer here is, and as such it remains in the murky waters of mixed. My only input is that I do think there is strong value in rewarding players for certain achievements. The term reward is defined as "a thing given in recognition of one's service, effort, or achievement." Perhaps the discussion should focus not on what is wrong, but what else can be opened as an avenue for others to also achieve. 

 

The Good

 

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  • Single Player XP: Wait, wasn't there something about paragon disparity earlier? Yes, but there is strong hope for solo players, and Season Five gave the most compelling evidence. While by season's close the gap was huge, the early reports of the season saw solo players hitting 70 in roughly the same time as partied groups. This was the first time this had occurred in season play without some form of XP exploit being used. The main driver behind this was the addition of bonus kill-streaks which had previously been seen in console versions. Additionally, changes were made to group dynamics and xp sharing. More changes are coming with Season Six, meaning the outlook for this aspect is high. Perhaps this issue will eventually see a form of parity between groups and solo players. Certainly, we are seeing that goal closer than further as of writing.

 

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  • Death's Breath: They're a distinct color now, making them much easier to distinguish. This optimizes time spent while farming, and is a seemingly small, yet huge-in-impact change that I have yet to see a complaint about. An all around victory. 

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  • New Zones: For those who saw the Diablo panel at Blizzcon this year, the amount of changes coming with 2.4 seemed impossibly large. Since Season Five is a child of Patch 2.4, the addition of new zones with the patch meant that many players saw these sights for the first time in season. From minor additions with the Library at Leoric's Manor, to the entire zone replete with new mobs, tiles and lore (Greyhollow Island) there is not a fair argument against these additions. Free is free, but quality additions for free are just gravy!

 

The Great

 

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  • Empowered Rifts/Caldesann's Despair: While Wyatt Cheng (@Candlesan on Twitter) might hide his despair of this change behind a weak anagram, finally having a viable and impactful gold sink enter the game has many of the Diablo 1% jumping for joy. With so much gold coming from regular farming of high torments, and trips to The Vault, the community saw gold inflation in the highest order. With so many sources of generation, and few sources of loss, the amount players had stashed away became looney (Canadian money jokes). The idea of slightly lessening the time needed to level gems, and thus getting to imbue gear with the new enchanting recipe in Kanai's Cube faster, all while making gold worthwhile again was a massive victory for Team Diablo. It addressed an issue in a creative, fun, and engaging way that had players wanting to play the game more. It also diversified to a greater extent what players did while playing at endgame, and I think it is easy to classify this as an example of creative game design which resulted in a victory. 

 

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  • Haedrig's Gift: The thorn in my side, (I played Invoker's Burden Crusader this Season) I have to admit that this feature was a success from the community perspective. I will freely admit that I was bent out of shape with the announcement of this feature, and still question its merit. However, I was shown how my opinion here is narrow, and needs broader context. As a gamer who loved the early adventure games such as Sierra's King's Quest line, or the amazing LucasArt's Monkey Island series, I lamented the inclusion of "free sets" as a softening up of gaming culture, and an attempt to cater to those who want things without working for them. I also still question if this sped up the progression of seasonal character too much, leading to faster burn-out or season completion. The second point I hold true to, the first, I was gravely mistaken on. While I can be crusty old gamer who complains about walking uphill to school both ways "back in my day," I also have my scope wrongly adjusted to those old games. Many old computer games are famously confusing and difficult at times, and often lead to out-of-the-box or just plain weird solutions. These games also could often be played, once you knew what to do, in a matter of hours. You might sink lots of time into solving the puzzles initially, but the actual game length is relatively short. Now, we have a whole genre of game with the word massive in its title. These are games where a player can take an hour just to make a character's appearance right if they so choose. In this wave of massive gameplay comes things like Diablo, which actually never end. Sure you can beat the game, but that's not the goal for most. Set dungeons still leave the stopping point role unfulfilled. Instead we continue to push hard, faster and further a group each season, and many players were not having fun anymore trying to keep up. Enter the Gift, and now player who might have never even owned a full set before are getting a chance to explore the game in new and exciting ways. This is obviously a positive, and something that is good for the health of the game. In practice my Softcore Crusader who received Invoker's Burden through the Gift, and my Hardcore Crusader who farmed the pieces had very little difference of experience. It was a small gap in time spent between their progression, several hours to be fair. My enjoyment was no less on my softcore crusader, and progression only felt slightly slower on my hardcore one. The upshot? It let players with limited time, or perhaps those who don't spend hours talking theorycraft on the forums to be able to get moving faster and enjoying themselves sooner. Thus, I have to concede this to the clear win category. 

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  • Diablo Unannounced Project/Job Postings: While this isn't anything related with the Season, it did come to light during the season, and had a measurable effect on the community. The posting of various jobs to Blizzard's career page, and the mention in those posting about a "Diablo Unannounced Project" have many speculating. With the possibility of another Diablo III expansion, to another game set in the Diablo universe, to Diablo IV, the community is abuzz with theories. Only time will tell exactly what it is that Blizzard has up their sleeve, but many remain exceptionally excited for whatever that could be. More Diablo is always welcome.

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  • Kanai Event: Like the previous entry, this is more something that merely came to light during Season Five, and is not a direct product of it, but it certainly merits mention. The event consisted of a longstanding mystery of Kanai's Throne Room finally being revealed. Since the arrival of Ruins of Sescheron in Patch 2.3, there were cryptic in game clues and references to the "right time" in Kanai's Throne Room. The right time turned up in Season Five, with the Kanai's Stomping Ground event coming to life in March. This tribute is touching and tasteful on behalf of Blizzard, and is set to outlive this past season, by coming around each March. More can be read about the event and the person it honors here. 

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  • Legacy of Nightmares/Invoker's Burden: These two sets might not share anything in mechanics, but what makes their birth in the Season 5 meta important is that both represent a paradigm shift in what makes a character powerful in Diablo. Firstly, let's examine Invokers. This set, also known as the Thorns Set, offers a look into a world where Crit Chance/Crit Damage stats and Sheet DPS are utterly irrelevant. This change was lauded by many long term pundits of the game, who often argued that Crit was a stat too crucial to DPS output. This new way of thinking about how you get your damaged threw convention out the window, and did so successfully. 97,786 is how much DPS when my Invoker Crusader cleared his first 70 Greater Rift, something I know because I immortalized it via screen capture.28rp37o.jpg With DPS figures ranging in the 2-3 million range for well-geared and high paragon toons, the idea that 97,786 could do anything of impact seemed astounding. It still is, if you think about Diablo convention to this point. This brings us to Legacy of Nightmares, another fly-in-the-face of conventional Diablo 3 Since the Loot 2.0 revamp, sets have been king of DPS. Some argue the lack of true diversity is gone in builds, something Vanilla had a surprising amount of in contrast. Few arguments could be mounted for anything but set based builds of late, and enter unique_ring_014_x1_demonhunter_male.pngThe Legacy of Nightmares . The "No-Set Set" gave rise to a new and exciting branch of gameplay that satisfied many of the prior complaints of too heavy reliance on set bonuses. While the issue is still not dead, after all Wizards couldn't seem to materialize a competitive build with LoN, it went on to dominate the solo leaderboards for classes like Crusader and Demon Hunter. I will state there is much work to be done here, but like Apollo 11, this was a "Giant Leap" for Diablo III. 

 

Now, the heart of article is revealed. We have made it this far, and now the rock bottom and the sky-high aspects of Season Five come to light. 

 

The Worst

 

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  • A Support Meta/Single DPS Gameplay: This is probably not a twist(er) to those who played Season Five, as we saw a worrying trend that began in Season Four take a whole new level of notoriety in Season Five. In a game that is all about smacking skeletons until they collapse, a striking meta emerges where 75% of a Four-man group are not doing it. David Brevik (you know, the guy who envisioned Diablo and worked so hard to make the game a reality) stated fondly of working on the first Diablo "I clicked on the mouse, and the warrior walked over and smacked the skeleton down. And I was like, ‘Oh my god! ...That was awesome!'" Thus was born the Action Role Playing Game, or ARPG. This quote characterizes what makes the arpg so special, and for many what their first Diablo experience was like. With this in mind, consider a situation where only one out four in a party are doing the skeleton smacking. Change might be good, but such a dramatic shift away from what seems so core to the arpg and the Diablo experience is nearing criminal. The reaction from the developers behind the game seems to be in vein with my own take on the situation, as they have mobilized en masse to try and cull this type of gameplay. Even well-known community figures admit that they only partake in it because it is the most efficient, not because it's what they enjoy. It is how to climb the leaderboards, for better or worse. Worse, really. This will likely be the most remembered aspect of Season Five looking back. Actually, strike that. The most remembered thing about Season Five, the thing that will put it down in the history books as what went right is: 

 

The Win

 

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  • Season Five saw the purge of the Botter, and humans attaining victory. An update to Blizzard's Warden, in conjunction with well timed and decisive waves, saw the leaderboards all but purified of those who chose to break the Terms of Service by utilizing suspect third party softwares. Whether you and Brother Chris played Diablo 24/7, or you used a software which rhymes with MurboMud, or maybe plotted your trips through Sanctuary using some GPS, you probably saw the boot. While not all elicit software users were burned by the righteous fires of the purge, a great chunk saw, and thus now fear the Light. Whatever this means moving forward, the message has been sent, and the result are clear for all to see: Play by the rules, or risk consequences. Exceptionally well played on Blizzard's part with timing and deployment, the banwave has many of the jaded questioning if perhaps there is much to be said about the game after all. Excellent work to Blizzard, and I personally hope that you keep this momentum you've gained. 

 

 

Conclusion:

 

Season Five has come and gone, and with it a new legacy was born. What the full effect is still remains to be seen, but we can assess some core principles in the immediate. What we know is that like any Season, there are going to be bad aspects, and those that make us remember exactly what has us logging in again and again and again. Season Five seemed to polarize the issues, making the extremes of the bad, as well as the good, more apparent than ever. In the end there more good than bad, and this should have all fans of the franchise reaching for that mouse.

 

Personally, I had a great time in Season Five, and I am looking forward to Season Six, which will begin as follows: 

  • North America: Friday, April 29 @ 5:00 p.m. PDT
  • Europe: Friday, April 29 @ 5:00 p.m. CEST
  • Asia: Friday, April 29 @ 5:00 p.m. KST

 

I want to thank readers, and now that I have said my piece, I open the comment box to all of you below. Do you agree or disagree with my take? Let me know! 

 

In the meantime, happy farming! 

Edited by Realbookwurm

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Great article! I definitely agree with your points but I feel like you forgot to mention how upset many players got with the addition to insane skill damage on legendary items like The Gavel of Judgment or Tzo Krin's Gaze thus removing some creativity to changing builds up. In know Quin ranted a lot about how he did not like this. I was rather indifferent about the issue but I know from the forums that many people hated it.

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Good stuff.  In reference to the extra stash tabs, I would call it bad if not ugly,  Of course, you've heard me gripe about this before. biggrin.png

 

You said that you come from a gaming culture that believes in working for rewards, so from that perspective, the seasonal cache tab reward is good.  For the most part, I agree.  The problem in this case is, lack of storage is such an issue in this game that offering a fix for it via a reward is ludicrous.  It's like they said, "Oh, your game crashes to the desktop every 30 minutes?  Do well enough in the next season and you can earn a fix for that!"  Seriously--if they said this, I'd consider it no more ridiculous than earning new stash tabs.  When part of the game is broken, don't ask me to "earn" a patch for it.

 

But I realize I'm on the extreme end of wanting storage.  I could easily put to use 10 times as much stash space.  So considering the normal players, ok, they want to offer the tabs as rewards.  They still messed it up, and here's why:

 

In-game rewards fall into two categories--cosmetic and useful.

 

Cosmetic: wings, transmorgs, pets, banners, etc.  It's perfectly ok to lock these things up to where the casual player simply can't get them.  No matter how cool I think those wings look, if I can't put in the time to get them, it doesn't hold back my game.

 

Useful: armor, weapons, skills, recipes, NPCs, maps, waypoints, stash tabs, etc., etc.  Anything effecting actual gameplay.  It is never ok to lock these things completely away from the casual player.  Non-casual players will earn these things a lot sooner and faster and more often, but the casual player will get there eventually.  They may go a really long time before they finally get to Cube a Furnace, but it will happen and be really cool when it does.

 

Extra Stash Tabs are useful items (very useful) that have been completely locked away from the casual player.  No matter how long I keep playing the game, an extra stash tab won't finally "drop" (because the Season expires before I can get there.)  Then they add insult to injury by locking them away from even some non-casual players by requiring a game mode they don't enjoy.  All this for something that should have been considered a fix--not a reward--in the first place.

 

/rant

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      Strong C++ programming skills. Familiar with implementing client/server architecture. A mind towards scalability and performance. Excellent debugging and diagnostic skills. High comfort level working within (and analyzing and improving) an established codebase. Able to work in a collaborative environment with a team of highly skilled programmers. Familiarity with OS, networking and server design concepts. Experience working with Hybrid and public cloud APIs/tech. Excellent verbal and written communications skills. Passion for video games and highly motivated. Pluses
      Previous experience shipping video game titles or other software. Linux development experience. Database development experience (e.g MySQL). Familiar with Python. Experience working with distributed systems. Networking experience (knowledge of low-level protocols and high-level protocols). Low-level network knowledge and diagnosis including packet capture (e.g., tcpdump, wireshark), routing, firewalls, DHCP, DNS, and NAT busting.
    • By Stan
      In the latest Challenge Rift, we've got a faceroll Uliana Monk in the US and a Wave of Light Legacy of Dreams Monk in the EU region. 
      Challenge Rift 117 EU
      Gear
      Tzo Krin's Gaze The Traveler's Pledge Pauldrons of the Skeleton King Magefist Cindercoat String of Ears Pinto's Pride Pox Faulds Fire Walkers Oculus Ring + Bane of the Powerful (Rank 44) Justice Lantern + Legacy of Dreams (Rank 76) Eun-jang-do + Shard of Hate Kanai's Cube Powers
      In-geom Leoric's Crown The Flavor of Time Skills
      Mantra of SalvationAgility Mystic AllyAir Ally Dashing StrikeBlinding Speed EpiphanyDesert Shroud Wave of LightExplosive Light Cyclone StrikeImplosion Passives
      Beacon of Ytar Harmony Sixth Sense Seize the Initiative You're going to be using Wave of Light to kill pretty much everything in sight. There's no point in using Cyclone Strike. There's no need to waste Spirit for activating Mantra of Salvation, just make use of its passive and that's it. Use Mystic Ally when it's off cooldown, it's going to give you 100 Spirit, which is valuable, because you have no Spirit generators. You will gain a toughness bonus from Dashing Strike, use it to move around. Keep Epiphany up at all times. Mnemonic has more information about the layout of this week's rift in the video below!
       
      Challenge Rift 117 US
      Gear
      Madstone Uliana's Stratagem Set (5/6) Squirt's Necklace + Bane of the Trapped (Rank 88) Gungdo Gear Binding of the Lost Stone of Jordan + Esoteric Alteration (Rank 45) Obsidian Ring of the Zodiac + Bane of the Trapped (Rank 90) Lion's Claw + The Fist of Az'Turrasq Kanai's Cube Powers
      The Flow of Eternity Spirit Guards Ring of Royal Grandeur Skills
      EpiphanyDesert Shroud Mantra of SalvationAgility Seven-Sided StrikeSustained Attack Dashing StrikeBlinding Speed Way of the Hundred FistsAssimilation Exploding PalmImpending Doom Passives
      Harmony Near Death Experience Beacon of Ytar Mythic Rhythm This week, we've got a Uliana Monk and Seven-Sided Strike is going to kill everything. Dash around using Dashing Strike) and cast Epiphany whenever it's up. Never use Mantra of Salvation, Way of the Hundred Fists, and Exploding Palm. Check out Raxx's clear for layout and more details.
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