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System Design in Diablo 4, Part 1 (Official)

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Here comes the previously announced blog from Lead Systems designer David Kim (formerly of StarCraft 2), in which he goes over the most talked about topics after the reveal. We find out more about the team's plans and thoughts on itemization, elective mode, ancient items, endgame progression, sources of power and key dungeons!

You should really rad the whole thing as it's got a lot of info, but here are the new things mentioned:

  • Elective mode will be the same as in D3, bind anything to anywhere
  • Ancients won't be simple like in D3, feedback has changed their mind
  • Endgame progression systems (aka paragon level equivalents) are still debated whether they should be finite or infinite

Blizzard LogoSystem Design (source)

I have learned over years of experience that the player community is an incredibly valuable resource to draw upon when designing and refining a game. By working together, we can achieve great things. The biggest challenge with parsing community feedback is that with so many opinions, the takeaways are rarely unanimous. Diablo IV is still very much in active development, but we plan to keep you in the loop as we continue to design and iterate so that you can be a part of what we’re building. I am so incredibly appreciative for all the feedback we’ve received so far and I’m eager to dive into some of the most talked about topics.


We’re still working through all the feedback that came in regarding itemization and we’re actively discussing ways to add more depth and complexity to base items (including Rares), ways to add greater variety to item affixes to make those powers interesting and your choices meaningful, and ways to give players more freedom to choose how to customize items, so you can have fun exploring a wide range of effective gameplay possibilities instead of just looking up “the optimal build” online.

We’ll go into way more depth regarding itemization in a separate post soon, but we don’t want to leave you hanging until then—so we’re going to update you on a few other topics now.

These are some of the topics that we’re seeing come up most often, but if we’re missing something, please let us know and we will try to share our thoughts on those subjects as well in future updates.


Elective Mode in Diablo IV

There’s a misconception that Diablo IV will lock skills to specific slots because of the BlizzCon demo user interface. Like many other things in the demo, the UI is not final and we will support Elective Mode-style skill selection. Skill selection and assignment will always be completely open for all players.


Ancient Items

We completely agree with the community sentiment—Ancients as they are don’t really serve a clear purpose in Diablo IV. We should have done a better job of explaining the role of Ancient Items in Diablo IV. We had a preliminary direction to share, but you’ve brought up some great points, so we’re revisiting our designs with your feedback in mind. We hope to have more details to share in the follow-up itemization update.


Endgame Progression System

We haven’t decided whether the character leveling and experience system should be finite or infinite. We’ve been discussing the pros and cons of both and would love to hear your thoughts. There seems to be some concern around infinite being worse because it will eventually overshadow all the power granted by other sources. However, we can control how much power each system gives, whether it’s infinite or finite.

For example, say we’re talking about thousands of hours of gameplay . . . within those thousands of hours, we could choose to create a finite system that grants 1,000,000 times more power than an infinite system, making it practically impossible for the infinite system to catch up in power.

Also, power increase doesn’t need to be linear throughout the ranks—it can slow down as players reach higher levels. We believe the more important question is what experience feels best for players, and we can playtest various approaches to tuning to find the power curve that makes the most sense.

We have a couple reasons for having a different experience system in addition to a level cap. A level cap gives us the ability to grant players a sense of completion. But for players who want to go deeper into the game, a second experience system allows us to capture the fun of achieving those really difficult endgame goals and ranks. We can also introduce additional depth through this system, because players will be more experienced with the game at this point. Ultimately, our goal is to create a meaningful system that provides clear choices depending on your preferred playstyle in the endgame.


Sources of Power

The community has shared many good points on the topic of power sources and we’re reevaluating how much power comes from each source at any given time.

However, we want to clarify that in Diablo IV, power doesn’t come mostly from items. We want to have a good mix of power sources: characters naturally get stronger as they level up, skills have ranks that increase power, talents provide specific playstyle choices and additional character power, and of course items grant power and meaningful choices as well.

Something else to keep in mind is Legendary powers are just one part of an item’s power, and they won’t invalidate all other Affixes due to how powerful they are. For example, two to three normal Affixes are currently equivalent in power to a Legendary power on most items.


Keyed Dungeons

A big question that’s come up is exactly how Keyed Dungeons are different from Rifts. Keyed Dungeons introduce greater challenges as their tiers increase through Dungeon Affixes. The majority of dungeons are real places in the world, and players will know some information about them including what types of monsters, events, and layouts to expect. With this information, as well as the specific Dungeon Affixes being displayed on the key, players will be able to strategize their approach before going into the dungeon. We believe this is the biggest change from Diablo III Rifts: the added planning and strategizing that takes place before you decide to run a Keyed Dungeon.


Please continue to share your thoughts—we want you to be involved in the Diablo IV design process. I personally believe in making the best decisions for the game based on the strongest design ideas, no matter where they come from. My biggest hope is for us to be able to constructively discuss and iterate on the topics that are most important to the community—so keep the feedback coming!

See you in Hell,

David Kim

Lead Systems Designer

The Diablo IV Team




Related Diablo 4 Articles:


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