BlizzCon 2011: Diablo 3 Has 2.8 Trillion Character Builds; Beta Feedback Has Helped Shape the Game

BlizzCon 2011′s Diablo 3 Gameplay and Auction House panel provided an in-depth look into features we’ve known about for some time. Read on for the highlights about D3′s Auction House, itemization, character builds, and gameplay. How many of the game‘s 2.8 trillion character builds do you plan on trying out?

Auction House & Items

Diablo 3′s Auction House is intended to be a convenient, secure, and easy way for players to trade items. Items for sale at the Auction House can be purchased with in-game gold or real money. Players can even freely participate in the real money Auction House as they are afforded a small number of free listings per week, meaning one could make money playing Diablo 3 without spending any.

“Smart” search options will automatically find items suitable for your build, and advanced search options allow you to locate items by affix.

In an effort to improve item life cycles, Diablo 3 includes a number of features. Crafting allows you to either create items or improve existing items; the Jeweler NPC adds sockets to items; the Mystic NPC magically enhances items. This degree of customization allows for the possibility of aberrant builds, such as a Demon Hunter with an axe that generates Hate — a property normally reserved for Demon Hunter-specific weapons.

Character Builds

Diablo 2 introduced the concept of “synergies” to skills — skills you could invest in to receive a bonus to another skill. Once you maxed out your favorite attack skill, you would then proceed to dump points into the skills that gave it a synergy bonus. While these bonuses seemed fantastic at first, the implementation of synergies actually served to limit our options — you wouldn’t max out your primary attack skill, then choose what other skills to use; you’d be forced to dump points into the synergy skills to get the most out of your primary skill.

In Diablo 3, the developers do want to retain the concept of synergy, but are aware that too much synergy serves to limit a player’s options and have worked out a system that retains synergy and freedom of choice.

Some recent balance changes have been made to the classes. The Barbarian now has increased survivability at higher levels; the Wizard underwent many tuning adjustments, such as now having weapon-based skill damage and attack speed; the Witch Doctor has been given a wider variety of options with regards to mana regeneration or conservation, such that a player could potentially have unlimited mana if he sacrificed some of his offensive capabilities; the Monk now has improved survivability between levels 1 and 15; the Demon Hunter‘s Hatred resource system is being retooled to include hatred generating and hatred spending skills. Overall, Blizzard “cranked up the awesome on all the classes,” ramping up the effects to add appeal.

From a design standpoint, Diablo 3 differs from World of Warcraft in that WoW focuses on optimal builds, whereas D3 focuses on viable builds. D3 has no inter-party roles roles to perfect, like “healer,” “tank,” or “DPS” — co-op is optional and intended to be fun, not competitive.

For instance, it is completely viable to create a Witch Doctor that doesn’t use pets, or a melee Wizard. Diablo 3′s skill system allows for a staggering 2.8 trillion builds, and while there will probably be optimal builds, these won’t shut down viable builds. Blizzard seeks to allow us to make the character we want to make and have fun with it.

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