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The Paradox of Diablo: Why "Optimal Builds" Hurt the Game

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A lot of the comments on my last article got me thinking (and btw, thanks to everyone for reading and hopefully enjoying it) and opened up a whole lot of ideas for followups. But the biggest takeaway from them has to be something I've been struggling with for a long time now: the paradox of Diablo-likes, as I like to call it. Just to put a huge disclaimer at the top here: all of this is my personal opinion and preference, obviously, and there are many people who prefer to play differently, be it use the same build over and over (WW Barb comes to mind) or just push to the maximum GR every single season no matter what. This article is for the rest of us who are at least somewhat conflicted.


The what of Diablo-likes??

Ok, so bear with me here. A Diablo game is composed of three basic parts: the combat, the skills and the loot. Everything else is set-dressing and enhances (or diminishes) those three parts. I've already gone over how Diablo 3's combat is almost pitch-perfect and hasn't been matched yet in the genre (sorry Lost Ark), the skill system is problematic in most games in the genre so we'll skip that, which leaves us to focus on the real problem of (current) Diablo 3 instead - the itemization.

We all want the best gear. We all want to be optimal. We all want to push the hardest difficulties and feel powerful and awesome. That's what the game is about - power fantasy, killing demons, getting powerful rewards to kill more demons with etc. The problem arises when obtaining and using that best optimal gear becomes more important than everything else. When it becomes more important than fun. Think about that for a second. Something in a GAME you're playing is more important than having fun with said game. When you look at it from an outside perspective, it's a ludicrous statement. You play games to have fun, why on earth would you instead have less fun just so you can get better items and be more optimal? It makes no sense. And yet it's what I'd wager happens to most players. It's absolutely what happens to me every time I come back to the game. It certainly happens to anyone that goes "hardcore" (no, not the game mode) in these types of games. Now, obviously for that contingent of players that goes hard at the actual leaderboards and only wants to push themselves to ever higher Greater Rifts, THAT'S the fun in the game, but I feel pretty certain there are builds they'd rather play if they could push with those.

So the paradox here is that the point playing the game is to get better gear, but getting the better gear can make the game less fun at high levels of gear optimization, as it forces you into specific builds.

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The Loop

In Diablo 3, it goes a little something like this: you get the set that buffs you with infinity-gillion% damage and it's really fun to play, whether it's from the seasonal journey or from farming it the regular way. Then you play it some more and more and it gets less fun, as every repetitive activity does. Now if the set you have isn't the MOST optimal one you get to farm for the next one and when you get it, the loop repeats. But it only repeats once. Now you're stuck with this optimal set, and, ok, you can now search for the ancillary pieces of the build, the few legendaries and cube items that complement the set. Usually though, these don't add much to the build in terms of gameplay, they just make that way of playing more powerful. This is the end of the loop in terms of gameplay gains, unfortunately, as you're now farming for small percentage upgrades, that perfect roll with the maxed affixes that give you that +137 Strength or 1.5% crit chance that will push you to that next GR level (don't even get me started on Greater Rifts and their litany of issues). Now, don't get me wrong, this issue isn't related to just Diablo 3, it's a problem in all loot-based games. The better ones manage to distract you from the issue and possibly downplay the need for being optimal.

For Diablo 3 specifically, the issue really only appeared after Reaper of Souls, because that's when the excellent new legendary system was introduced. This is one of the best additions in an expansion I've seen to any game I've ever played, as it took the potential of ARPGs and put it into overdrive. Until then we had stat sticks for items and that was fine, that was the way it's always been, with the very occasional legendary that actually had an ability (ah, MaximusMaximus, you were ahead of your time), or sets that gave you just more of the same stats. But with RoS, every single slot you had was now an option for deep customization of your gameplay style. Sure, not all legendaries had gameplay changing abilities, but they all added something to your build, at the very least visually. I'd say that initial Reaper of Souls period was the absolute best in terms of itemization and build diversity (although I'm sure there were plenty of optimal and "must-have" builds even then), because legendaries were pretty scarce so you had to make do with what you had and create builds based on that.

Then came the enemy. The sets system in Diablo 3 is just bad, there's no way around that. It takes the loop and just speeds it up infinitely. When the change to sets to make them actually viable was first announced, I was thrilled. Permanent Call of the Ancients with a 6 set for Barb? Sign me up! I didn't even think of the fact that that was 6 slots immediately gone, with additional ones having to bend to the now Ancients focused build. The deathblow came when sets became infinitely powerful with the various nonsensical +28193463184327423% buffs and legendaries weren't buffed alongside them.

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The bonus is now 75,000%.

Now look, obviously a lot of this isn't the developer's fault. The team is ridiculously small and was getting smaller ever since RoS, so tweaking % numbers is an easy way to make it seem as if something is being added. I get that, that's fine, you do what you can with what you have. But it's not just Diablo 3 that has this issue. The more power vs. more fun is an eternal struggle in the whole genre. The glaring thing with D3 isn't that its itemization is bad, it's that it has SO much potential with all of these legendary powers that's being squandered.
 

Unsolvable?

Is this even a solvable issue though? Yes and no, unfortunately. The basic loop I mention above will always be there, there will always be an optimal build, no matter how hard developers try to avoid it. However, there are things that make it either last longer, make it a more smooth loop or make it less noticeable. There are plenty of potential solutions, too many to write up here, but the below are the ones I feel are most relevant (and easy to explain).

  • The easiest way to resolve the issue is to simply not care. Take whichever combination of items you enjoy playing, head to the difficulty those items allow you to play and have fun! I'm sure plenty of people do this already, but I've tried many times and everyone I know has as well - we never keep at it. We always end up defaulting back to the "good" builds.
     
  • Items HAVE TO be hard to get. Of course everyone wants to get to play with the big toys and it's not actually fair that only people that spend insane amounts of hours in a game get to use the most powerful items. But, once you remove rarity as an issue, other than small % upgrades, the system collapses in on itself. Once the powerful builds become easily available to all, those are the ones that will be used. By all. They are supposed to be the goal, the carrot that keeps you playing and farming and enjoying the gameplay.

    Now of course the reason things are as they are in D3 at the moment is because it's a 7 year old game and the hardcore players (again, not the game mode) have already had all the powerful items, so it's completely ok for more casual players to get them too, but I'm talking in general here. Making tiers of power (not tier sets, mind you) as incremental goals is the way to go. So casual players get to play with powerful things, but they know there's more out there. Getting one full complement of gear from a single tier allows you to start going for the next one and so on. Just to clarify, by tier I don't mean the same items with bigger stats, but you take your legendary pool and see which are more or less powerful and sort them that way. This is already a thing, as you can always find tier lists for items in any game, ranking them by their power. The problem there is that you can skip huge parts of that if you get lucky with a drop. So, if you get a really good top tier item, that's it for that slot, you just completely ignored the other options available there. There are so many fun and interesting legendary combinations in D3 that are simply ignored because they aren't powerful enough.

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  • Content helps out a lot, as doing various different things to obtain gear keeps it feeling fun. Specific game modes or dungeons can completely revitalize a game. For example, if you came across a dungeon with really good rewards, but weren't allowed to use any of your top items, that would make you instantly have to change your build and playstyle, play with what you have available and adapt. Balancing said dungeon would be a nightmare, but it would be doable. Even separating the loot pool into different game modes is an option, so certain content is only accessible with the "worse" loot. It still rewards you with desirable items, but in order to get a chance at it you have to make sub-optimal builds with items that are weak. There are many different ways to do this and use content to liven up the itemization game, force players out of their comfort zone and get them thinking.
     

My solution

While most of the above is only applicable to a new game I've found a solution that works for me in Diablo 3 specifically. It's still a tough sell to some of my more hardcore-minded friends who physically can't have fun unless they're pushing the absolute highest GR possible, but I'll force/threaten convince them of this new way eventually. So what is it? Well it includes a bit of patience, unfortunately, but basically you make your own tiers and see how far you can get with them. If I stumble upon Ancients for my old reliable Cyclone + every single passive legendary possible that deals damage to everything around you Monk build I'm going to play it until it's no longer fun and try to see what GR level is the maximum I can get with it. Basically that Cyclone set is my own endgame. But here's the thing - I can have MANY endgames this way. Whenever I stumble upon an interesting combination of legendaries that might work well together, I'm going to try them out (or keep them in the stash because I need one or more additional legendaries to make it work) and if it's a fun build, then bam, I have another endgame goal for myself - take THAT build to it's maximum potential and gather items for it.

I'm actually going to make a spreadsheet for this purpose (yes, it's a bit much, but I have to keep myself away from those damned optimal builds somehow), charting what builds make it how far and how I can improve them.

All of this might seem like a lot of work and mental discipline for just one game when there's so much else to play, but it's worth it for me. Diablo 3 has many flaws and issues, but at its core, it's still the best in the genre and if I have to put in a little effort on my end to get it fresh again I'm absolutely willing to do that. Having tried literally every alternative out there in the genre for significant amounts of time, I keep coming back to D3 and there has to be a reason for it. That's not to say the other games are bad, but they're just not what I'm looking for - perhaps I truly am a gameplay snob.
 

The real name of the game

Creativity. Creativity and build diversity are the one and only solution in the end. Everything else I wrote about is just trying to emphasize that one aspect. If a game's items spark your imagination, make you think "OMG, if I just combine these 2 legendaries, and add this third one in, and then another and another, it'll be amazing. I can't wait to get them and try it out!", that's it, the game has you. Discovering new ways to play and creating them by yourself is what makes these games fun in the long term. As good as the gameplay can be and as good as the individual items are, they all have a pretty short expiration date. Finding new builds that change the way you play extends that to the extremes. There's nothing better to me than finding an item or items for a different class that immediately has me thinking I HAVE to try this class out now, look at how great this item is! Then, every once in a while, hop on to your optimally built destruction monster and stomp some crazy high GRs and Torments for some catharsis, just for good measure.

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Conclusion

In closing, obviously you should play EXACTLY the way that you want to, and if pushing the high GRs and using the absolutely best gear that is available in a season is what's fun for you, then that's great, I'm actually envious of you! If using the same build all the time is what makes the game fun for you who am I to tell you different! This was just about my personal issues with the game and genre, and potential solutions to it. If you found any of this useful (or at all comprehensible), great! Let me know what you think of the whole thing above, from the paradox to the potential solutions and if I missed something in my reasoning. A big part of why I wrote this article (and hope to write more) is to see what other current Diablo 3 players think after 7 years, and to potentially be able to tell Blizzard what we want from Diablo 4, as they seem to not really have a firm idea themselves.

*Header image by PeterPrime.

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Apologies for the length, I'm still working out what the best format for articles like these should be.

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Thanks for the article, and I have to say I agree completely. I usually prefer to play on lower difficulties but with more creative and "off-meta" legendaries. Of course, it would be even better if we could equip most items and still be strong enough for the latter Torments, but that might be too much work for a small team.

In the end it's still a game, and IMO that means I should play to have fun.

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The whole thing boils down to them adding "set items" and making "legendaries" a step-up from "rares". Very early in D3's lifespan, rare items were actually best, and the game was much better back then as far as character progression goes (but it had a lot of other problems which resulted in an overall poor experience anyway).

Look at PoE's item philosophy. There are "unique" items there instead of "legendaries" (think about the name!). All that makes a "unique" item special is that it has unique properties - they are 'building blocks' for builds, and they are generally taxing to run because they lack other useful stats along with the property, compared to running rares in the same slot. This is how it should be. You should struggle to piece the build together whilst still trying to get enough raw stats from the other (typically rare item) slots. THAT's what makes the item chase fun.

In many ways I still like D3, but character progression and customization are two things they completely missed the point of as far as ARPG's go. It's like, they totally misunderstood what made D2 fun for most people when designing D3 RoS (and D2 was similar to what I described about PoE in many ways, although using slightly different tools to achieve it [runewords and items with skills on them - which I believe is where PoE took their inspiration for skill gems]).

Edited by Thaya
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In the old days i used to enjoy trying different combination of skills in diablo 2 LoD. Then came skill synergyes.... It's kinda fun for increase in complexity, but suddenly we are locked to certain combination and no longer free to mix and match.

Based on that i think somehow tired player that hates META set, META skill and META team composition will enjoy some chaotic moment. Something like season (or special mode) of no legendary/set effect but all dmg increased by xxx% and dmg reduction increased by yy% 😀

Maybe then we can see some crazy build like trap DH or clone Wizard (i know these build is not possible).

Well that's my idea if number tweaking is all we can ask from Blizzard.

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2 hours ago, Risen said:

In the old days i used to enjoy trying different combination of skills in diablo 2 LoD. Then came skill synergyes.... It's kinda fun for increase in complexity, but suddenly we are locked to certain combination and no longer free to mix and match.

Based on that i think somehow tired player that hates META set, META skill and META team composition will enjoy some chaotic moment. Something like season (or special mode) of no legendary/set effect but all dmg increased by xxx% and dmg reduction increased by yy% 😀

Maybe then we can see some crazy build like trap DH or clone Wizard (i know these build is not possible).

Well that's my idea if number tweaking is all we can ask from Blizzard.

Yep, content pushing build variety is a really good solution, which is one of the things that have to make it into D4.

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The idea of powerscale will always be a problem in a game with leaderboards, even if you don't play to be part of said leaderboards. You'll see your buddies pushing on higher GRs than you, and feel your pride hurt because you're playing with a less "optimal" build. You will always find yourself lacking power, at some point, even if you have near perfect itemization. And Tier Sets completely ruined that, as well. You use X Tier Set until you find Y, because it is better. It is quite frustrating.

I've been playing Leapquake Barbarian since they introduced it. I find the gameplay style extremelly enjoyable and hard to get bored of. Yet, it is a build considered mid-low Tier for GR pushing; and it is something I feel when I play with friends that use the "Top Tier" builds, cleaning stuff faster than I do, to the point I feel that my presence in the group is a mere placebo.

I've tried other Barbarian builds that are deemed better than Leapquake, but none of them felt good to me. So I stick with Leapquake because it is the way I have fun in the game. Same with Ulliana, another build that is deemed low tier compared to other Monk builds.

If Blizzard really wants to make an impact with Diablo 4, they will have to step-up their game and either change how the whole system works, or tweak it in a way that makes it enjoyable again and not a huge chore. But with the internet, things will always be tricky, because there will always have those threads with questions like "Which is the best build in the game?!?!?"

A lot of people will disagree with me, but I feel that if Blizzard really takes the supposed route and make the game like Dark Souls, replayability will become something more engaging. I played Dark Souls 3 over and over countless times because of how enjoyable it feels to fight those hard bosses again, but with full gear and spells and whatnot.

Edited by Valhalen
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I love the format, and the in-depth topic of game design. It would be wonderful to see more analysis' (analysees? analysi?) on topics such as skill systems and class structures. Keep up the good work.

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On 4/7/2019 at 5:42 PM, Starym said:

Diablo 3 has many flaws and issues, but at its core, it's still the best in the genre and if I have to put in a little effort on my end to get it fresh again I'm absolutely willing to do that. Having tried literally every alternative out there in the genre for significant amounts of time, I keep coming back to D3 and there has to be a reason for it. That's not to say the other games are bad, but they're just not what I'm looking for - perhaps I truly am a gameplay snob.

This, right there. I couldn’ta cared less about this season after straying off to Path of Exile, a suitably fun, suitably developed, suitably being-developed game, but then their season ended and they rolled out the new expansion, and starting anew in there seemed extremely unappealing. I still haven’t figured out how to stop these incessant, sudden deaths on my main character: Stepping on the wrong Pixels of Atrocity and Apocalypse and getting inexplicably one-shot into losing 10% of my total progress to the next level is not exactly my idea of a good time, considering that a single percentage point takes in the vicinity of five minutes to attain. I also read that it could be caused by a flaky server and tried to fix it with some manual sync command macros, the whole idea of which is as ludicrous as it is sad in a modern, supposedly powerful, spottily polished game engine. That game needs a combat log or at least anything in that direction; it doesn’t even have Diablo III’s simple “was slain by” messages.

Anyhow, after spending quite some time and, indeed, money on that game, I decided that if I were to start an ARPG from scratch, it might as well be ye olde faithful Diablo III. And despite picking my least favorite class, which I’ve blissfully ignored until now, I had a blast. The game has so many flaws, so many errors, which are all the more excruciating because it’d take a beginner programmer such as myself little more than an afternoon to fix. And yet there’s this strange attraction that keeps me going back to killing fruity, by today’s standards outdated-looking demons by the thousands. After months of making actual progress with a game that’s alive and well and tempting for a nerdy mind to crunch the numbers of its manifold possibilities, I find myself craving Diablo III’s fast food-like, greasy and sleazy and indubitably unhealthy (because short-lived) burgers, simply because their secret recipe – the combat – has never been copied by anyone outside the Krusty Krab: Guilty pleasure inludite.

I recall a similar situation many years ago when a far less popular game of a different genre, the real-time strategy–RPG hybrid Warlord’s Battlecry III, had this fascinating band of followers despite its endless flaws and, more importantly, its factually superior alternatives (Blizzard’s own Warcraft III, Spellforce, etc.). Not being a developer myself back then, I just admired its premise of never-ending progress, an utter niche but rewarding grind, long after it had been abandoned not only by the people who hated it from the start (and there were a lot), or those who liked it for a while and played it with me before shrugging it aside, but even by its own developers. So this tiny but glistening core humbly asked the company, at least what was left of it, for the custody of their misshapen, grotesque but all the same beloved game – and got it. After signing an agreement not to share the game’s code, they were allowed to make their own alterations and modifications to an already dead, zero-profit patient, and revel in whatever perverted homunculus might emerge.

If Diablo III ever found a fate like this, I’d gladly pour my spare time into raising this abandoned kid, for I know that with such coruscating potential at its core, one could develop something grand. Knowing it is about as likely as seeing a successful manned Mars landing in my lifetime, I get frustrated and consider equally frustrating options like Path of Exile again, simply because its many glaring mistakes have at least a mild chance of being fixed. Other developers would kill for an engine and combat like Diablo III’s, but Blizzard curses its offspring with a terrible sentence for the chubby son: Disregard.

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Think you nailed it on the head Infinal, Diablo III has the best engine / combat of the genre, while Path of Exile has the best itemization / crafting systems and a great on-going support, imagine what could be done if both's best parts were to be merged...Diablo III with actual support / innovation going on as well as a rewarding, long-term progression chase, and PoE without lag / rippy deaths all the time and more engaging gameplay.

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On 4/7/2019 at 6:04 PM, Valhalen said:

I've been playing Leapquake Barbarian since they introduced it. I find the gameplay style extremelly enjoyable and hard to get bored of. Yet, it is a build considered mid-low Tier for GR pushing; and it is something I feel when I play with friends that use the "Top Tier" builds, cleaning stuff faster than I do, to the point I feel that my presence in the group is a mere placebo.

I've tried other Barbarian builds that are deemed better than Leapquake, but none of them felt good to me.

Agree 100% and I have had the same experience but substitute "Leapquake" for "Whirlwind." That has been my favorite playstyle since D2. I love it.

A shame it caps out about 2-3 weeks into a season and pushing it beyond 100 is nearly impossible. And to do so basically requires grinding high rifts on another build (for me zbarb, which I enjoy but it gets old and requires a full meta group to be worth anything). 

My friends who like multishot DH, DMO frozen orb, and tons of other core, iconic builds that have FULL SETS designed around them have the same problem. There are playstyles and builds they really enjoy, but they very quickly max out and cannot be played in viable groups beyond GR100. 

And now we have "Season of Nightmares" that will just make 2 of the same top meta builds even stronger, while now making the other builds even WEAKER as they lose RoRG.

Season of Nightmares is right....... a nightmare for anyone other than the 2-4 super OP LoN builds.

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On 4/7/2019 at 5:42 PM, Starym said:

A big part of why I wrote this article (and hope to write more) is to see what other current Diablo 3 players think after 7 years, and to potentially be able to tell Blizzard what we want from Diablo 4, as they seem to not really have a firm idea themselves.

I personally would like to see that in regards to itemization Blizzard goes back a bit more into the direction Diablo 2, where unique items (the legendaries of D2) had predetermined affixes and were also not limited to 4 primary and 2 secondary affixes like in D3.

Some legendaries in D4 could have 6 affixes, while others have 8 or even 10 different affixes, and not just one special affix, but maybe even two or three, if it fits the fantasy of these items.

Also, their special affixes shouldn't be like insane damage multipliers to a single skill (because as you said, it funnels everyone into the same builds in the endgame), but more generic and not just apply to a single skills, but be useful to various builds.

Furthermore, there probably should be various Best in Slot legendaries for different purposes. There could be for example a really offensive oriented legendary Best in Slot weapon, then there is a defensive BiS legendary weapon, then maybe a BiS utility legendary weapon, or even several other BiS legendary weapons that provide offense and defense and utility in other ways than the previous ones.

==============================

If anyone is interested, I attached some concept art I made to this post to illustrate of how such legendaries could look like.

The numbers and so on are just examples for the purpose of illustration and if that would be a real game, the numbers might change.

There are a few more concept arts here:

https://imgur.com/a/Z5NswCo

==============================

Thanks for your article / blog post.

It very much reflects the thoughts and feelings I have about Diablo 3 as well.

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Nice article. IMHO, set items should be the standard, like start sets to get that little extra bonus )not the insane bonus u get now, but not in DH..:D) while legendaries should be the real deal and primals only on "legendary" items, not set items. that would make the set builds usable to a certain level and from that point on, u must work on ur legendary (and add possibility for all pieces to have sockets and modify more than 1 affix/suffix, after all, why to we horder so much gold if there is nowhere to spend it beside paying for grs?

The opportunity to reroll and get better affix/suffix would change the face of D3, turning the legs/primals the real goal not set items....

Just my thoughts tho..

Brgds

GK

 

 

 

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D3 hasn't had any major content update since RoS, - 4 years ago?  Content helps instill game-playing adventure, and peaks interest, which indirectly helps alleviate the continual grinding.

Content updates are needed for D3, and if not, then I hope they address this for D4 in a timely manner.

Edited by rickster

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17 hours ago, rickster said:

D3 hasn't had any major content update since RoS, - 4 years ago?  Content helps instill game-playing adventure, and peaks interest, which indirectly helps alleviate the continual grinding.

Content updates are needed for D3, and if not, then I hope they address this for D4 in a timely manner.

While I agree that the continual grinding can get stale without updates, grinding is very much a part of Diablo and this style of game. No matter what they change, the grind will always be there and I do think it should be. I'd hope for a balance in Diablo 4, where you get content on a scheduled basis, but you retain that grinding element.

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      We, the community, always point this stuff out to you because we care. If you need help testing this stuff we’re always happy to help.
       
      Whew, okay, let’s see if I can address these.
      Bazooka - we definitely consider this an issue (as I’m sure you can see from our last change), but it’s proving trickier to address than we anticipated. While Bazooka is harder to execute now, we don’t like that a build more or less requires macros to use effectively. This is something we want to address, but it’s looking like that will be a longer term process beyond 2.6.7. We did make a change to Blighter for this reason in 2.6.7. If this wasn’t enough, we’ll continue to re-evaluate. We’ll be releasing a small balance patch between now and the start of Season 19 to address some of the balance concerns the community has brought to us. Still getting the final details on exactly what this entails. Stay tuned. Because we’ll be releasing a small balance patch, we’ll be resetting the Era again. We’re just waiting for that to happen first. ? See point #3. This is also one of our areas of concern. We don’t want to “nerf it to the ground,” but we do want to pull it back. If AoV continues to need adjustments afterwards in either direction, we’ll keep looking at it in the long run, too. Sometimes finding the right balance takes us a few tries, and we appreciate your patience with us while work to get things where they need to be. I know it doesn’t always look like we listen or act immediately on feedback, and we can’t always act this fast; we’ve had a lot of conversations over the past couple of days regarding 2.6.7 and the areas where we could improve. Having a larger gap between patch and Season launch is serving us well in this regard.
      Lastly, I want to mention I’m working with the development team on a blog that focuses on Greater Rift Level Cap and our philosophy/approach around game balance. I think there’s some context the community is missing in our approach, and we want to explain this better and more clearly—it’s just going to take some time for me to put that communication together. I’m not trying to be mysterious; I just want to make sure we’re taking the time necessary to make things clear.

       

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    • By Starym
      It seems clarity is a real issue with the Diablo 3 community team, as the patch notes added to the Season 19 preview were NOT actually the final ones that will be arriving with the season. We'll be getting a balance patch before the season goes live, and it seems it'll address/nerf the new Crusader set Aegis of Valor and possibly have more tuning for the new items introduced in the patch.
      Perhaps this was the reason the season was delayed, as the devs knew they'd need more time to tweak the numbers of the newly changed items since the PTR.
      Balance Patch (source)
      Nope. The patch notes are just always included in the Season preview. It’s looking like we’ll be releasing a small balancing patch before Season 19 launches; I’m actively working on getting those details now and will post about them as soon as I have everything accurate and verified.
       

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    • By Starym
      We finally have the Season of Eternal Conflict start date, with S19 arriving a week later than the 17 and 18 - next Friday, November 22nd! This gives patch 2.6.7 two weeks of being live and the devs being able to catch any issues that might arise, which is the reason Blizzard gave for extending the downtime between seasons and between each patch and season.
      We also got a look at the cosmetics, both old and new, with the amazing new heavenly treasure goblin pet and portrait frame being the reward for finishing the entire season journey! Unfortunately we'll have to work for the two new sets, as they're not part of Haedrig's gift.
      Season 19 Start Date (source)
      Season 19 begins November 22, alongside our next Diablo III patch. Read on to learn more about the brand-new Season of Eternal Conflict buff, two divinely inspired new class sets, and a handful of old and new item reworks coming in Patch 2.6.7!

      Table of Contents
      Season 19 Theme Season 19 Cosmetic Rewards Season Journey Rewards Seasonal Conquests Haedrig’s Gift Patch Notes FAQ New Season Theme
      Season 19 is the Season of Eternal Conflict and with it come an awesome array of killstreak rewards! Inspired by the war waged between the High Heavens and the Burning Hells, you‘ll earn increasingly powerful effects as you unleash destruction upon your foes. So rack up those kills and clear the battlefields in the name of Sanctuary!
      All players will benefit from the Pandemonium buff during Season 19. For each stack of this buff, you’ll receive a small boost to movement speed and bonus damage, ultimately capping out at 50% movement speed and 100% damage at 1000 stacks. In addition, reaching certain killstreak goals will trigger a special effect and cause even more mayhem on the battlefield:
      15 Kills: Exploding Chickens seek and destroy 30 Kills: A wide Frost Nova freezes enemies 50 Kills: Corpses rain from the sky 100 Kills: Five massive Energy Twisters are unleashed 150 Kills: Dark Geysers form beneath enemies 200 Kills: Treasure chests fall from the sky 300 Kills: A ring of fire engulfs everything 400 Kills: Meteors hail from above 500 Kills: Angels descend upon the battlefield to fight for your cause 1000 Kills: ????? This Season, we’re taking action on the great feedback we received from the community about Season 18’s Triune buff. With the killstreak mechanic, we can make sure the benefit is always traveling with you and something you won’t have to constantly reposition for. There’s still more room for exploration and innovation in the future, and in the meantime, we challenge you to push these killstreaks to their limits and discover its ultimate reward! We think you’ll find it devilishly delightful.
      Return to Top
      Season 19 Cosmetic Rewards
      Beginning with Season 17, we began re-introducing previous Seasonal rewards to make them available to players who may have missed them the first time around. For Season 19, this means awards originally available from Season 7 are returning to the Season Journey.

      However, we know it’s nice to have something new to aim for if you’ve participated in previous Seasons. We’re bringing back End of Journey rewards as introduced in Season 17, with not one, but two new cosmetic rewards for those who complete the entirety of the Season journey. Feast your eyes upon the Valor Portrait Frame and Angelic Treasure Goblin pet!

      In addition to the Helm and Shoulders slots of the exclusive Conqueror Set, you’ll be able to earn a series of portrait frames that embody the snowy, foreboding aura of the Eternal Woods. If you need a warm little pal to keep you cozy through your cold journeys, the Dream of Piers fiery nature should do the trick—when he’s not instilling night terrors in the local fauna.
      Return to Top
      Season Journey Rewards
      If you’ve been diligently slaying demons for the past few Seasons and reached Conqueror in the Season Journey each time, you’ve surely accrued a few extra stash tabs. You’ll earn one additional tab each Season by finishing the Conqueror tier, up to a maximum of five:
      Guardian of Sanctuary: Finish a level 70 Nephalem Rift on Torment XIII within five minutes Gem of My Life: Level three Legendary Gems to level 55 All I Do IS Win: Complete two Conquests this Season Kill You: Kill Ghom at level 70 in under 30 seconds on Torment XIII difficulty Money Ain’t A Thang: Slay Greed on Torment XIII difficulty Take U There: Reach Greater Rift level 60 Solo Power Amplification: Use Kanai’s Cube to augment an Ancient Legendary item with a level 50+ gem Cubic Reconfiguration: Use Kanai’s Cube to reforge a Legendary item Return to Top
      Seasonal Conquests
      Want to prepare your Conquest plan for Season 19? Here are the challenges you’ll face!
      Returning for Season 19 is Sprinter/Speed Racer, where you’re challenged to complete the entire Diablo III campaign from Act I to Act V at level 70 in under 1 hour! Next is Avarice/Avaritia, where all that glitters is gold—that is, if you can complete a 50 million gold streak outside of The Vault or its Inner Sanctum. On a Good Day/I Can’t Stop encourages you to upgrade your Legendary Gems; level three Legendary Gems to 65 to complete this challenge! Push your way to Greater Rift level 75 to complete Divinity/Lionhearted. Lastly, a fan-favorite for those who enjoy unconventional builds, The Thrill/Superhuman requires completion of a Greater Rift level 45—solo and without any Set items equipped.
      Return to Top
      Haedrig’s Gift
      Finally, the Class Sets rewarded for completing certain chapters in the Season Journey courtesy of Haedrig’s Gift have rotated once more. We’ve listed the available Sets below. For those new to Seasons, here’s how it works:
      Completing Chapters 2, 3, and 4 of the Season Journey will reward you with three of Haedrig’s Gifts. Each Gift contains a few pieces from one of your Class Sets. Players can only unlock one Class Set in this manner per Season across Hardcore and Non-Hardcore, so choose wisely!
      The set you receive depends on the class of the character you’re playing when you open each Haedrig’s Gift. To collect a full Class Set, you’ll need to open all three on the same character.
      Here are the sets granted by Haedrig’s Gift in Season 19:
      Barbarian – Wrath of the Wastes Crusader – Roland’s Legacy Demon Hunter – Unhallowed Essence Monk – Raiment of a Thousand Storms Necromancer – Bones of Rathma Witch Doctor – Helltooth Harness Wizard – Tal Rasha’s Elements
      Return to Top
      Patch Notes
      Below you will find the patch notes for the most recent update for Diablo III, Patch 2.6.7. Changes from the PTR have been highlighted in RED.
      Last updated November 12 @ 10:00 a.m. PST.
      PATCH 2.6.7
      Table of Contents:
      General Seasons Items Monsters Bug Fixes Note: All changes apply to all versions of Diablo III, including PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC unless otherwise indicated. Please note that PTR is only available for PC and Mac users.
      General
      Greater Rift Keystones are now subject to vacuum pick-up A note regarding the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) has been added to the Options -> Privacy menu, clearly stating we do not sell account information. For more information regarding the CCPA, please see here (Console Only). Return to Top Seasons
      Developer Note: One of the biggest pieces of feedback from Season 18's buff was that the Triune bonus didn't stick with your character while you adventured. With Season 19, we've altered course as well as upped the ante by experimenting with new mechanics to add an element of both chaos and power to the battlefield. It should feel a bit like Pandemonium, and it may be a consideration whether or not you want to reset your total kill streak for a particular killstreak bonus versus continuously maintain the overall effect (especially as the highest level killstreak rewards will be harder to leverage in situations like Greater Rifts). Killstreaks with higher kill count requirements are more powerful, and we're looking forward to seeing what players think of and do with them! The buff for Season 19, the Season of Eternal Conflict, has been added Pandemonium For the duration of the Season, all players will have a stacking buff that that persists as long as you have hit or killed a monster within the last 5 seconds Each stack gives .005 movement speed and .001% bonus damage. This bonus caps at 50% movement and 100% damage (1000 stacks) In addition, after reaching a certain number of kills in a row, a power is unleashed, dealing an amount of scaling damage based on player level and difficulty or Greater Rift level: 15 Kills: Exploding Chickens seek and destroy 30 Kills: A wide Frost Nova freezes enemies 50 Kills: Corpses rain from the sky 100 Kills: Five massive energy twisters are unleashed 150 Kills: Dark Geysers form beneath enemies 200 Kills: Treasure chests fall from the sky 300 Kills: A ring of fire engulfs everything 400 Kills: Meteors hail from above 500 Kills: Angels descend upon the battlefield to fight for your cause Angels should no longer one-shot Rift Guardians. 1000 Kills: ??? Powers are tracked at a group level; this means only one power can be active in play at a time, regardless of the number of players in a group Two new Seasonal rewards are available for players who fully complete the Season 19 Journey: the Valor Portrait Frame and the Angelic Treasure Goblin pet Lilith's Embrace: This exclusive pair of cosmetic wings are now available for all players who purchased a Virtual Ticket. Hail Lilith. (PC Only) Return to Top
      Items
      Developer Note: With Patch 2.6.7, we are beginning to roll out new class sets for every class in Diablo III. For the Season of Valor, we're focusing on the two classes that embody the Light and wield some form of Holy elemental damage: Crusader and Monk. You'll also find a handful of retuned or newly added Legendary powers intended to synergize with the new class sets. We did a lot of community research into which skills were most requested by players as well as most underrepresented in current builds, and we hope you're as excited as we are for these new gameplay options. The other class sets will be coming in later patches, so if your class isn't represented this time around, fret not—they're coming in a future patch! You'll also notice a significant number of Barbarian item changes in this patch. While the Barbarian class set will be coming at a later date, we have very much heard the War Cry from our dedicated Barbarian community and implemented a number of changes heavily inspired by extremely thorough feedback. While not every suggestion has been taken at a 1:1 parity, the thoughtful analysis helped guide us to changes we could implement in this patch. Thanks very much to the community members who expressed their concerns in a respectful, constructive manner. It's very helpful, and we greatly appreciate the thought and effort that went into making your voices heard! New Crusader Set: Aegis of Valor 2-Piece Bonus: The charged bolts from Fist of the Heavens has a chance to cast another Fist of the Heavens Attacking with Fist of the Heavens empowers you, allowing Heaven's Fury to deal 100% increased damage for 5 seconds. Stacks up to 3 times (multiplicative). 4-Piece Bonus: Hitting with Fist of the Heavens generates 5 Wrath and reduces damage taken by 1% for 5 seconds. Stacks up to 50 times 6-Piece Bonus: Increase the damage of Fist of the Heavens and Heaven's Fury by 10,000% 20,000% Developer's Note: Thank you so much for your thorough feedback and testing on the 2.6.7 PTR! We decided to add Heaven's Fury to the mix based on popular request as well as because we agree that it matches the theme and adds more gameplay complexity. There is also still room for tweaks and additional iteration in the future, and we're glad we were able to introduce a set so many of you are excited to use! New Monk Set: Patterns of Justice 2-Piece Bonus: Sweeping Wind gains the effect of every rune and movement speed is increased by 5% for each stack of Sweeping Wind. 4-Piece Bonus: Each enemy within Sweeping Wind increases your movement speed by 5%. Stacks up to 10 times. Attacking with Tempest Rush reduces your damage taken by 50% and increases Spirit Regeneration by 50. 6-Piece Bonus: Hitting with Tempest Rush while Sweeping Wind is active will temporarily increase the size of Sweeping Wind after hitting over 30 times within a short period. Sweeping Wind damage is increased by 10,000% 15,000% Developer's Note: Thank you so much for your thorough feedback and testing on the 2.6.7 PTR! We heard Monk requests for additional damage reduction and to better integrate Tempest Rush as a skill. We hope the result makes for a more survivable and engaging build that still captures that rush of Holy Justice sweeping through crowds of dastardly demons. Darklight Fist of the Heavens has a [45-60%] 100% chance to be cast twice. Additional Legendary Power: Increases the damage of Fist of the Heavens by [200-250%][800-1000%]. Eye of the Storm New Legendary Power: When Sweeping Wind hits exactly 1 enemy, its damage is increased by 100%. Developer's Note: With the redesign of Patterns of Justice, there was less need for this item's introduction. We've removed it for now and may consider adding it (or possibly a different Legendary power) at a later date. Vengeful Wind Increases the maximum stack count of Sweeping Wind by [6-7] 10 Additional Legendary Power: Increases the damage of Sweeping Wind by [250-300%] [600-800%]. Won Khim Lau New Legendary Power: Hitting with Tempest Rush will activate Cyclone Strike, and both skills deal [500-600%] increased damage. Chantodo's Resolve The scaled attack speed damage bonus to Wave of Destruction has been reduced Developer Note: This is a reactive adjustment from an earlier change to how Wave of Destruction receives a bonus from Attack Speed. The buff that resulted from that change was more than we expected, so we're reigning it in. Wrath of the Wastes 6-Piece Bonus: The damage bonus now also applies to Rend Lamentation Additional Legendary Power: Increases the damage of Rend by [150-200%] Developer Note: While we were very happy with how much better Barbarians are performing, we are concerned we may have overshot it. By removing just one silo'd addition, we can observe how the class performance goes for Season 19 and consider re-adding this change in the future. Remember we still have a patch coming up where Barb will be one of the focused classes, so there will be plenty of time to revisit if necessary! Ambo's Pride New Legendary Power: Attacking with Whirlwind also applies Rend and the total damage of Rend is dealt over 1 second Remorseless Hammer of the Ancients has a [25-30%] chance to summon an Ancient for 20 seconds New Legendary Power: While both Wrath of the Berserker and Call of the Ancients are active, Hammer of the Ancients deals [200-250%] more damage. Fjord Cutter You are surrounded by a Chilling Aura when attacking. New Legendary Power: Seismic Slam attacks 50% faster and also deals 100-150% increased damage against Slowed or Chilled enemies Bracers of Destruction Seismic Slam deals [400-500%] increased damage to the first 5 10 enemies it hits. Fury of the Ancients Call of the Ancients gains the effect of the Ancients' Fury rune and your Ancients attack 100% faster Bone Ringer Now has a cap of 60 stacks. Developer Note: We never intended for this item to be used in a way where you farm stacks for an egregious amount of time (5+ minutes) and then watch all their health disappear in less than a second. It's not an engaging style of gameplay, and we don't want that experience to be the best way to play the Necromancer. Legacy of Dreams This gem is now more likely to drop from a Greater Rift Guardian Return to Top Monsters
      Blighter Blighter's Poison Tentacles' Area of Effect now hits less frequently, but at higher damage, when attacking players Return to Top
      Bug Fixes
      Wizard Archon Fixed an issue where certain item bonuses (such as from the item Deathwish) would persist between changing forms to/from Archon Developer's Note: A few patches ago, we stated we were going to continue to observe Bazooka Wizard to see its performance over time. Back then, we thought it would require a high level of skill to execute that would make it relatively less utilized as a hard, but rewarding, gameplay option. That hasn't been the case, as many feel it's too mandatory. In the context of this and other changes (like Bone Ringer and Chantodo's), we think it makes sense to make this change now. Spite Fixed an issue where casting Restless Giant would cause the 200% physical bonus damage to fail to apply when the Gargantuan enraged Squirt's Necklace Fixed an issue where some ground effects were causing the Squirt's Necklace buff to fall off despite being shielded Return to Top FAQ
      Q: When does Season 19 start?
      A: Season 19 begins Friday, November 22 at 5:00 p.m. PST in North America, 5:00 p.m. CET in Europe, and 5:00 p.m. KST in Asia. For time zone conversions, see this site.
      Q: When do Seasons go live for players on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch?
      A: Seasons go live for all console players globally Friday, November 22 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time, regardless of which regional version of the game you may have. Please note that Seasonal Leaderboards for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch are still separate by hardware platform.
      Q: When will Season 19 end?
      A: We are no longer providing anticipated end dates for Seasons. However, we are committed to keeping Seasons roughly three months in length (give or take a few weeks based on development needs) and will continue to provide a minimum of two weeks advance notice for when the Season will be ending.
      Q: When are the non-Seasonal Leaderboards being wiped?
      A: Non-Seasonal Leaderboards are tied to what we call “Eras,” each of which lasts about 6–12 months. The most recent era began November 12. For more information on Eras, please see this post.
      Q: What will happen to older Seasonal and Era records?
      A: Starting with Season 10, we removed old personal bests from Season 1. When Season 19 arrives, we will remove old personal bests from Season 10, and so on. We will be doing the same for personal bests from the previous Era when the next one goes live.
      Seasonal Leaderboard records are not being cleared and will remain archived both in game and on our website.
      Return to Top
      Themed Seasons are continuing to evolve as we venture into the future, and we’re quite excited to see where this one leads. Are you looking forward to the Season of Eternal Conflict? Are you going to try one of the two new Class Sets? Gear up and get ready; we’ll see you in Season 19!
      Note: Beginning next week, comments on Diablo III blog entries will be disabled. This is part of our website migration for GDPR compliance. We apologize for the inconvenience; please continue your conversation over on our General Forum.

      As always, we'll have our guides ready for the season start, including the two new sets and new builds with all the added legendary powers.
       

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      The season starts on November 22nd and we get new cosmetic rewards for the journey!
    • By Starym
      While the season preview blog is coming today, along with the official release date, it seems almost certain we'll be seeing the Eternal Conflict start next Friday, November 22nd. Based on the below blue post by community manager Nevalistis, and the fact it makes perfect sense to choose the start of the weekend for the launch, it's a safe bet we'll be starting our next seasonal journey then (unless something major breaks). We've also gotten a more detailed explanation on why the season (and probably all future seasons) was delayed yesterday, in case you missed it.
      Meanwhile, you can check out the official live 2.6.7 patch notes.
      Season 19 Start (source)
      We tried, once, to launch a Season on a Thursday instead. We received immense amounts of community feedback that that was not optimal; many people like taking the day off for the Season start, and that’s a lot harder to do on a Thursday than the end of the week.
      We went back to Fridays and haven’t tried to mess with it since.
      Now, obviously there is a very slight possibility the above might also refer to the Friday 2 weeks from now, or that the blog reveals a new release day for seasons, but we'd still say you can start getting prepared for next Friday.
      The header image is by liuhao726 over on Artstation, and is fittingly called "The Eternal Conflict", same as as Season 19!


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    • By Starym
      Diablo community manager Nevalistis took to the forums to explain why Season 19, the Season of Eternal Conflict, won't be following suit with the previous to seasons and will be releasing a little later.

      In short, the devs decided they needed at least a week between patch and season launches to be able to properly address any issues that come up. The other important bit of news is that we'll be getting the season 19 preview blog tomorrow, where we'll also find out when the exact start date will be - presumably some time between Tuesday and Friday next week. We also found out that there may be more tweaks between the patch and season this time around.
      Meanwhile, as we wait for the season to start, here are the official patch 2.6.7 patch notes.
      Possible Tweaks Before Season 19 Start (source)
      Possibly. I have a meeting with the team later this afternoon, and if something comes out of that, I’ll be back to let you all know.
       
      Season 19 Release Date (source)
      It won’t be this Friday, and I’d like to take a moment to explain why.
      Early during Patch 2.6.7’s development, our engineering team raised concerns about the extremely small window in between patch launch and season launch. In short, they were concerned that, as often happens in software development, if something critically breaks with deployment of the patch, they might not have time to resolve it before the Season launches globally. Three days isn’t very long to create, test, and deploy a hotfix, assuming we receive reports of it quickly enough (and it’s actually less time - it’s closer to a little more than 2 days as the season launches at 5PM Friday in each region, and that occurs on Thursday our time for players in Asia).
      We decided the compromise was to have at least one week downtime between patch deployment and season start. That gives us a more forgiving window to address critical issues, should they arise, and we plan to continue using this format moving forward to ensure we’re launching each Season in as strong and stable a state as possible. It also allows us to provide a more reliable Season start date going forward.
      Communication this time around was lackluster, and that lands on me. I overestimated the amount of work I was capable of getting done in a very short, inflexible window. For that, you have my apology, and my team’s already making changes and adjustments to better address that for future Seasons.
      The Season preview blog is coming tomorrow, come hell or high water, which is what I’m currently putting the finishing touches on. ? That will include the Season start date. In the future, that blog will ideally land before patch launch (as it has in the past), which should give most of you a larger window for planning your Season start plans like taking time off or scheduling play time with a group. I’m taking ownership on and improving the things I have control over, and trying to plan better around those I do not.
      I love my Diablo community, and will always strive to do whatever I can to improve things for everyone.


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