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Starym

Diablo 4 System Design, Part 2

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Today's blog by David Kim, Lead Systems Designer, is focusing on itemization, probably the single most important aspect of an ARPG. First off, there's been a lot of mixed feedback on what players want, as you'd expect, and they're going to be doing something new, not just copying what came before in either D2 or D3.

Then we're on to affixes and we found out that they're adding more slots to all items and introducing three new ones, that increase durations on buffs and debuffs, as well as on-hit proc chances. But the big news on affixes if that certain ones will have requirements, so you'll need 50 of the new Angelic Power stat to enable a +1 to a certain skill affix, which is pretty interesting.

The controversial attack and defense affixes have also been changed, so attack is only on weapons and defense only on armor, with neither on jewelry. 

And the big one, Ancients will be removed from the game entirely and we'll be getting a Ramaladni's gift style item that can add a legendary power to a rare item!

Blizzard LogoSystem Design (source)

In Part I, we addressed many of the open questions from the community about the Diablo IV game designs we revealed at BlizzCon. I recommend checking that out if you haven’t already.

Itemization is a huge core part of any Action RPG. We’re focusing specifically on itemization in this blog because it’s a complex and nuanced topic. Let’s start with two key principles that guide us as the Diablo IV development team.

First, we agree that adding depth and customization to your character through itemization is incredibly valuable and important to the game. This has been the most-discussed topic since we revealed Diablo IV. To be clear—we believe Diablo IV itemization should be deep and rewarding and that’s one of our highest priorities. Another important philosophy across the whole game for our team is the concept “Easy to learn, difficult to master.” This core philosophy helped many of us become the hardcore gamers we are today, and one we want to embrace throughout the Diablo IV development process.

Second, we agree with the feedback that Diablo IV shouldn’t just mimic the itemization in our previous Diablo games. Our plan is to take the best parts of previous games and improve upon them while introducing new elements to make Diablo IV unique. We don’t want to create an exact copy of Diablo II or Diablo III. It’s worth calling out that, on this subject, there was a lot of mixed feedback and differing opinions, and we acknowledge that means there’s no single approach that everyone in the community will agree on.

That said, thanks to your feedback, we have some potential changes we’re actively discussing internally regarding itemization that we’d like to share with you today. Again, we feel it’s important to stress that this is very early design, and we’re sharing this with the community far sooner than we ever have before. There will be problems with these ideas we’ll have to iterate through, and what’s presented below is almost certainly not final. The reason we’re sharing this so early is because we want to involve the community in our process and learn as much as we can from your feedback, as soon as possible.

Let’s get to it!


Affixes in Diablo IV

We went through so much great community discussion, including a fair amount of conflicting feedback, and we’ve had dozens of hours of discussion on this topic. We were left with two major takeaways. First, item affixes should be a meaningful part of character power. Second, they should create interesting choices when deciding which items to equip. Our previous focus was on making each affix geared toward specific builds, so that the “perfect item” would vary depending on the build you were pursuing. We still like this overall direction, but we understand it can also feel like your choices are limited because you end up chasing a list of “best-in-slot” items.

Here are the changes we’re considering:

  • We’re increasing the total number of affixes on items, including Magic (Blue), Rare (Yellow), and Legendary (Orange). This should raise the overall importance of non-Legendary affixes on your character’s overall level of power.
  • We are also introducing three new stats:
    • Angelic Power, which increases the duration of all beneficial effects (like self-buffs or healing)
    • Demonic Power, which increases the duration of all negative effects (like debuffs or damage over time)
    • Ancestral Power, which increases the chance of on-hit effects (aka increased proc chance)

These new stats can appear as affixes, such as +15 Angelic Power. In addition to providing the above-stated benefit, we want these new stats to also act as pre-requisites for empowering certain other affixes. If you don’t have enough of a specific power, you can still equip the item, but you may not benefit from an affix linked to that power.

Here are a couple of work-in-progress examples to better illustrate what these affixes do (again, none of this is final and could change considerably):

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Each of the three Powers will have a list of affixes that are attuned to it, so depending on which stats you care about, you might want to focus on Angelic, Demonic, or Ancestral Power. In the examples above, you would need 50 Demonic Power to get an additional rank in the Devastation skill, 55 Demonic Power for 25% Fire Resistance, or 60 Demonic power for an additional 2 ranks in the Char to Ash skill. If you wanted to build around Crushing Blow, you’d need to stack at least 55 Ancestral Power instead, while 40 Angelic Power would be required to gain 25% Cold Resistance.

We think these changes will address those two main takeaways pretty well. Legendary powers should no longer completely dwarf the strength of your affixes, and the affixes themselves provide more interesting choices because their strength depends on how much of the relevant Powers you’ve accumulated on the rest of your gear. You might find an amulet with the perfect stats for your build, but some of its Affixes may require Demonic Power when you’ve previously focused on Ancestral. Maybe your current amulet is the primary source of your Ancestral Power, so equipping a new amulet would mean potentially making sacrifices elsewhere.

With this system, it will be easy to identify items with good stats, but it will take some thought and planning to decide whether the item is good for your build. The best items for your character will really depend on what you currently have and how you’ve built that character, making it more difficult to just look up the right answer online.

At the same time, we think this system keeps items approachable, even if you make suboptimal itemization decisions. You may be weaker, but doing so won’t completely break your character. We can also introduce this mechanic gradually and naturally as you level, rather than making it a requirement to understand at the beginning.


Attack/Defense Changes

Based on your feedback, we’ve changed Attack to only be found on weapons, Defense to being only on armor, and we’ve removed both Attack and Defense from jewelry entirely. The goal here is to better embrace the fantasy of each type of item.

We like the Attack and Defense stats as a way to convey power progression on items. A core part of any ARPG is the quest for more power. Just as we have skill ranks, talent trees, character levels, and so forth, Attack and Defense allows us to reflect your power growth in items as well.

To be clear, Attack/Defense is not the end of the story of an item’s power, but it does fulfill the “easy to learn, difficult to master” design philosophy by giving players a broad sense of whether the item is an upgrade. Players who are optimizing their character will still need to take the additional affixes on an item into account, as their benefit to your build can outweigh the raw Attack or Defense of an item. Solely picking your items based on Attack and Defense will almost never be the optimal way to play, but it does provide a good starting point for newer players.

It’s important to reiterate here that items are just one part of a character’s overall power. Our goal is to spread out power across different sources, including skill ranks, your character’s level, talent trees, items, and the endgame character progression system (which, like everything else, is still in development).


Ancient Legendary Replacement

In our last post, we mentioned that we were looking at some potential changes to Ancient items based on your feedback. We are going to remove Ancient Legendaries from the game in their current form entirely.

Our newest proposal hits a couple different feedback points: addressing the usefulness of Rare (Yellow) items as well as increasing the depth and complexity of player gear choices in the endgame.

We will be introducing a new type of consumable item (which we haven’t yet named). This item would be earned by killing monsters, just like other items. It would have one random Legendary affix on it, drops only in the late endgame, and can be used to apply that affix to any non-Legendary item.

This means a few things:

  • We create an “elective mode for items” that is experienced after players have had time to experience Rare and Legendary items normally, as well as familiarized themselves with a variety of affixes
  • This adds a way to introduce new methods of play without adding even more power to endgame items
  • Rare items with the best affixes on them are always useful and retain value

 


More Feedback

We want to remind you one last time for good measure that none of this is final—we haven’t even tried most of this in a working build yet! We’d love to get some constructive feedback on these approaches, as well as the general direction we’re headed for itemization. We’ve never shared this level of detail this early before, but we look forward to reading what you have to say.

Thanks,

David Kim
Lead Systems Designer

 

 

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7 hours ago, Starym said:

We will be introducing a new type of consumable item (which we haven’t yet named). This item would be earned by killing monsters, just like other items. It would have one random Legendary affix on it, drops only in the late endgame, and can be used to apply that affix to any non-Legendary item.

This means a few things:

  • We create an “elective mode for items” that is experienced after players have had time to experience Rare and Legendary items normally, as well as familiarized themselves with a variety of affixes
  • This adds a way to introduce new methods of play without adding even more power to endgame items
  • Rare items with the best affixes on them are always useful and retain value

I really like the sound of this... man, if they pull this off then I will never touch a set piece ever! I enjoy weird and wacky builds!

 

7 hours ago, Starym said:
  • We’re increasing the total number of affixes on items, including Magic (Blue), Rare (Yellow), and Legendary (Orange). This should raise the overall importance of non-Legendary affixes on your character’s overall level of power.
  • We are also introducing three new stats:
    • Angelic Power, which increases the duration of all beneficial effects (like self-buffs or healing)
    • Demonic Power, which increases the duration of all negative effects (like debuffs or damage over time)
    • Ancestral Power, which increases the chance of on-hit effects (aka increased proc chance)

Not sure how I feel about this... seems interesting. However I really hope they don't rely on this system solely to make items unique and different when considering how to build. 

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I don't like these power systems. If it requires careful balancing of items to get to those marks then you'll just eternally feel bummed out getting drops of the other powers. Kill a raid boss... Oops, guess I can't use that item or I lose too much power.

 

Why convolute "+X to Skill Y" behind such a wall? You'll have to work your build around entirely to make use of a different set of gear because it relies on a different set of power. Imagine D3 where you find a cool weapon, but because it's a one-handed axe, you'll have to grab at least 5 pieces of gear to be able to carry that axe. Oops too bad, while you managed to carry that axe, you traded off too much of that other power to benefit from you skills.

 

I'll keep my optimism but we're talking about David Kim here after all. You know, the dude that changed balance around in S2 because it makes it more fun to watch instead of fun to play. (Ask any pro or expert caster such as Artosis/Tasteless)

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As far as I can tell, these items can be traded.

Therefore, if you obtain an awesome item your build doesn't want, trade it in and buy your dream item from someone using a different build, instead!

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      Blizzard's Diablo 4 release timeline has never been outright stated, and the most accurate piece of info on the matter we have is from BlizzCon, where we learned it was "not even Blizzard soon", implying quite a few more years of development were to come. However, the demo that was presented at the convention looked very polished, and even if it was a vertical slice, it was quite far along, which has prompted many discussions on the game's potential 2021 or 2022 release date.
      Today we have redditor poundcake_64 discussing the recent additions to the Blizzard CDN (Content Delivery/Distribution Network), which include not only project Fenris that we already talked about, but also many updates to it in recent weeks. This is all speculation, obviously, and there are differing opinions on poundcake's interpretation of the facts, but we're going to summarize his conclusions anyway, and you can check out the different opinions on the matter in the reddit thread.
      The main claim here is that Diablo 4 is much further along than most of us assumed, with a possible release in 2021. The reasoning given is based on the authors 20 years of experience on the IT field and the patterns of update patches and their contents on the Fenris/Diablo 4 CDN. The first argument is a comparison of the Diablo 3 builds and the fact that the current D4 build already has 142% more versions than the original D3 release build. The second is that Blizzard are already adding things like RGB product integration testing with Corsair and a Vivox SDK (a voice and chat commonly used for video games, like Overwatch), which would be somewhat strange if the game was at an early stage of development. He also reveals the current version on the CDN is playable and is possibly being used by Corsair and co. to test their product integration. He also found out the game is currently 30 GB large, which would be a lot for something not that far along. Finally, he claims that Rod Ferguson was actually brought in to push the project over the (near) finish line, and that Activision are pushing hard for releases, especially knowing Blizzard's usual slow/procrastinating nature of development. Read the full details of poundcake's arguments at the bottom of the article, as he goes into far more detail and is certainly more convincing than this summary.
      My personal thoughts on all this are mixed, as the game build versions could mean anything, as the way Blizzard mark or update them could have changed many times since Diablo 3. The Corsair and Vivox integration, on the other hand, could go either way, but to me it does sound like the game is a significant way along, and this news is actually quite positive for those of us (aka all) that want the game to release as soon as humanly possible (while still being a quality product). Rod Ferguson's addition could be both a good and bad sign for the game's previous development (and I think it's definitely a good sign for its future development, having played most of the Gears games - (regardless of what you think of the games themselves, they're very efficiently made and solid quality products), as he could have been brought in to finish the game quicker/at the finish line or because there was trouble in leadership in the previous regime. Unfortunately I'd say the latter is more likely, as we know/heard solid rumors that another version of Diablo 4 was already scrapped and the team lead left the company, so it wouldn't be that hard to believe the current version of D4 also had leadership issues (especially with the rather uninspired "what do you think we should do" presentation of the game at BlizzCon).
      Having said all that this particular post does give me a lot of hope, as I was completely shocked to see a finished demo of the game at BlizzCon already, and any evidence that the game is much further along that we thought, no matter how flimsy it might be, is something I'm going to be inclined to believe. With the quarterly updates for 2020 we can be sure the game won't be coming early in 2021, as the marketing push needs some time to play itself out, but if these are just the preamble and the real push starts in early 2021, a release in the same year could be possible. The "not even Blizzard soon" comment was somewhat conspicuous, especially considering Activision's constant pushing to get more frequent game releases out, so it might have been a bit of a cover, so they can pull out a huge reveal at this year's BlizzCon about the release date next year. The current pandemic may have thrown off all of these calculations, of course, but I have to say I'm more optimistic now and significantly more hyped.
       
      What do you think about all this? Just random reading into things that we want to have happen, or is there something to it? When do you think we'll see Diablo 4 released?
      Source.
    • By Starym
      Some news on the Diablo 4... well news, as the official twitter has commented that the second quarterly update is being "aimed" at the end of June! In   the February update we heard and saw a lot about the UI and the Cannibal monster family, and got the great news that the game would be playable on controller on PC, with detailed explanations and images, so hopefully we get another great update in June as well. We also learned that the first encrypted build for Diablo 4 may have made its way to the Blizzard CDN earlier today, so check that story out as well.
       

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