IGN recently had a chance to speak with Diablo III Game Director Jay Wilson and Senior Game Designer Andrew Chambers about Diablo III the new 1.0.4 patch. On top of adding a host of changes to all the classes, this patch touches on every major system of the game, as well as adds a whole new game component called the Paragon System. The goal for 1.0.4 is simple: give players a reason to keep playing…and to come back if they’ve stopped. Doing that is harder, though, because Wilson, Chambers and the entire team have to struggle to design and update a game that needs to appeal to a vocal hardcore minority, as well as millions of other players who will likely never read patch notes or reach max level.
Why does Diablo III need major tweaks, though? Why couldn’t they see the need for these changes prior to release? To Wilson and Chambers, it’s just part of making a game. "People play the real game at a different level than they play the beta," said Wilson. Before release there was no auction house, so the team tuned the game as best they could without it. "The game we released? We love," added Chambers, "But the thing is we’re our own best critic — harshest critic, even." With over 10,000 people playing the game, they feel it’s inevitable that issues would be exposed. "That always happens," said Wilson, "That happens with every game we’ve ever made. Even with games like WoW, where they do a more extensive beta test…they still have all kinds of things that slip through the cracks and get found out after."
Many things about Diablo III’s design have become contentious since design, but Legendary items have been a particularly sore subject. Thus the team is attempting to change them in a way that appeases fans with 1.0.4, adding considerable buffs to stats and new effects that make them feel ultra-powerful. Still, to Wilson and the team they felt pretty good when they first tested them internally. "When we would get Legendaries, Legendaries felt special. Because we didn’t have the quality level of items that quickly kind of propagated in the live environment, said Wilson. But the need for change also wasn’t unexpected according to Wilson, "We had an expectation that we would probably go out the gate and learn some things about the game and need to adjust. We just kind of planned for that."
The other major issue for fans has been finding reasons to keep playing after level 60. For some the farming and loot grind is enough, and Blizzard has already changed Magic find and item drops and is continuing to do so. For the rest of the audience, though, Blizzard is adding the Paragon System, an additional 100 levels that give small stat boosts and give you increased Magic and Gold Find after you hit the level cap.
Difficulty is something players often bring up as well, and it’s a particularly tricky part of the design to work on. Said Wilson:
The basic issue I think we have with difficulty is that we’ve got some players want a super difficult game and some players who don’t view Diablo like that. They think Diablo is much more of a farming game and…about the player feeling awesome. And the problem is they’re both right. One of the biggest problems of the game right now is we don’t address the issues separately for both groups…We’ve touched difficulty,and we’ve really pushed it more towards it’s going to be a bit easier because we’ve gotten way more feedback that the game’s too hard than we’ve gotten that it’s fine.
Wilson was quick to clarify that the issue of difficulty wasn’t off the table, just not something they’re touching in 1.0.4. "That being said, moving forward that’s one of the things we’re going to be looking at next…How can we address it for both players?"
Ultimately, the goal is to make sure players enjoy themselves. "Everybody should be able to have fun," said Wilson. But how do you design a game to be fun for everyone? For Wilson and the team it involves listening to everyone and gathering as much information as possible, not just listening to the loudest voices. "It’s important that you listen to your forum community, but it’s also important that you recognize they’re not the entire audience…You’ve gotta play the game, you’ve gotta talk to each other about it, you’ve got to gather as much anecdotal evidence as you can." Only after a lot of listening and talking then do Wilson and the team, "make decisions about what’s right for the game."
Anthony Gallegos is an Editor on IGN’s PC team. He enjoys scaring the crap out of himself with horror games and then releasing some steam in shooters like Blacklight and Tribes. You can follow him on Twitter and on IGN.
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