Diablo 3 Beta Receives Massive, Worrying Skill & Attribute Changes

In the past month, we’ve seen massive changes introduced to core systems within the Diablo 3 beta. With the full game targeted for release by June, concerns have been raised regarding whether Blizzard can get the game in a release-ready state in time. The scope and timing of these changes suggest Diablo 3 is nowhere close to release-ready, and Blizzard fully intends to continue iterating on game systems until it is — the question is, can it meet its Q2 2012 deadline?

Let’s take a look at the three major patches the D3 beta has received since launch.


Patch 5: November 3rd, 2011

The first major changes came into effect little more than a month after the start of closed beta.

Nephalem Altars were introduced as a means to prevent players from switching trained skills mid-combat. In order to change skills, a player would need to locate and click on an altar, which could be found in towns and key locations. This feature would be short-lived.

Blizzard began to phase out the Cauldron of Jordan, an item which effectively allowed players to sell items anywhere, anytime — a process that would be complete five patches later. In this patch, the Cauldron was no longer accessible in the beta, becoming a reward at higher levels in the game.

In a controversial move, Blizzard reworked the skill system to make every skill based on weapon damage. This was the only major change this patch introduced that is still in effect today.


Patch 10: January 23, 2012

The second patch to introduce major changes was released four months after the start of closed beta and removed a half-dozen features or systems from the game.

Nephalem Altars were removed in favor of a 30-second cooldown on freshly equipped skills.

The Cauldron of Jordan was removed entirely.

The Nephalem Cube, an item that allowed players to break items down into crafting materials, was removed from the game, and its functionality was passed on to the Blacksmith.

The Mystic, an upgradable NPC that enchants player gear with magic attributes, was deemed superfluous by the design team and removed from the game. Diablo 3 Game Director Jay Wilson explained:

(…) the Mystic simply wasn’t adding anything to our customization system. Enhancement was really just the socket and gem system with a different name, and it would prolong the release of the game even further to go back to the drawing board and differentiate it, so we’ll revisit the Mystic and enhancements at a later time.

Scrolls of Identification were removed from the game. While this wasn’t a huge change to the overall game — and one I believe was an obvious improvement — it follows in this patch’s trend of cutting features.

Most strikingly, Blizzard completely reworked the core character attributes, removing Attack, Defense, and Precision, and adding the more traditional Strength, Dexterity, Intellect, and Vitality.

Jay Wilson said:

Obviously these stat changes are one of the bigger systems changes we’re currently working on as they have far reaching requirements to re-itemize and balance the game.

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4 Comments on Diablo 3 Beta Receives Massive, Worrying Skill & Attribute Changes

Heru

On February 27, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Sounds like Duke Nukem Forever syndrome. Reworking the game over and over trying to make it “just right” and not only was DNF delayed for over a decade, the finished product was crap.

Grump

On February 28, 2012 at 8:04 am

There’s some serious selective quoting going on here.

You pick on this as a problem with Blizzard’s workload.

“But with around 120 base skills, that meant there were around 600 rune variants; on top of that, each variant had five quality levels each, meaning ultimately there would be something like 3,000 different runes in the game… and we knew we were heading toward a problem.”

But Jay then says that the problem was not one of workload, but of interface design and inventory management.

“Diablo is certainly about the items, but later in the game, having to juggle all of those various runes was not only un-fun, it was a serious and tedious inventory problem. We went through a number of different iterations, some of which we fully implemented and tested, to try to solve these fundamental issues while still keeping the customization intact. Ultimately we developed, implemented, and have been playing and testing a new system which we’re confident hits all of the desired mechanics and solves all of the related issues – and that’s what I’m going to talk about today and what you’ll see in Beta patch 13.”

i.e.: the problem was never about workload and development time, but making something that wasn’t a chore for players. It’s insane to use the redesign of a core system which could have been released over a year ago as evidence of an inability for the Diablo 3 team to iterate and improve because of shareholder pressure. Duh.

jon420

On February 29, 2012 at 9:37 am

I payed 80 bucks for duke and I dont care who sais its crap, I like it better the Call of Duty (haha please dont hurt me)

clamsarehot

On May 10, 2012 at 10:45 am

I feel sorry for the lower level developers who have no say in these matters but are probably working 20 hour days to fix the mistakes the idiots at the top have been making for YEARS. And I bet a lot of them KNOW this game is going to suck, which I’m sure makes it difficult to have any passion for developing it. I’ve worked on a software project before where management had no clue what they were doing, and were completely unappreciative, and it’s quite demoralizing.