Diablo 3 is a good game that has the potential to be great. The famous "Complete Diablo Fix" thread had a lot of suggestions, but it was written from a Diablo 2-centered worldview. For reference,
I was wondering: what would Diablo 3 be like if it fully embraced its nature as a new game separate from Diablo 2? The following are my rather long ideas.
In order from smallest to largest game mechanic changes,
- Challenge players to compete against one another in ladders and scenarios.
- Make Nightmare and Hell relevant again.
- Diversify loot. Eliminate the Quadrafecta. Stats should be a choice, not "all of the above".
- Deisgn "loot sinks" to get rid of loot accumulation.
- Embrace the action in ARPG. Monster attacks and player skills should function more like a Zelda, God of War, or Ninja Gaiden.
1) Challenge players to compete against one another in PvE:
Competitive PvE has been a part of RPG culture for decades - in fact, long before videogames existed. Gygax's Tower. Moria/Angband. Final Fantasy Secret Bosses. Diablo 2 Ladder. World First C'Thun/Illidan/Heroic Lich King/Heroic Sha.
Diablo 3 has absolutely no mechanics for PvE competition. Inferno was beaten shortly after the game was released. Posting "4 MILLION DPS!!!!" videos on YouTube gets old fast. There is no ladder, no way for the most dedicated players to flaunt their insanity. Yet there is no reason for this to be the case. D3 could be an excellent competitive PvE game, and here's how:
Ladder: Not one, but many.
The argument against Diablo 3 ladders was that D3 loot is supposed to be "permanent", and having ladder seasons would make loot non-permanent. I will go into detail later on why permanent loot is a bad idea. The fact is, ladder was a very easy way for players to show off their insane competitiveness. Give players a choice between multiple different ladders with different objectives.
Ladders could be designed to be more like a leaderboard (ie, WoW Challenge Leaderboards) that shows elapsed time down to the millisecond.
- Paragon Ladder, Unlimited: Shortest real time from Level 1 to 60(100). Can freely group and trade including with non-ladder players.
- Paragon Ladder, Solo: Shortest in-game time from Level 1 to 60(100). Cannot group with other players but can exchange items from the Stash/AH.
- Short Ladder, Unlimited: Shortest real time from Level 1 to 60. Can freely group and trade including with non-ladder players.
- Short Ladder, Solo: Shortest in-game time from Level 1 to 60. Cannot group with other players but can exchange items from the Stash/AH.
- Short Ladder, Ironman: Shortest in-game time from Level 1 to 60. Cannot group with other players. Cannot take items from the Stash/AH. Stuck on MP10.
- Slayer Ladder, Solo: Shortest in-game time from Level 1 to beating Inferno Diablo on MP10. Cannot group with other players but can exchange items from the Stash/AH.
- Slayer Ladder, Ironman: Shortest in-game time from Level 1 to beating Inferno Diablo on MP10. Cannot group with other players. Cannot take items from the Stash/AH. Stuck on MP10.
- Slayer Ladder, Fixed Build: Shortest real time from Level 1 to beating Inferno Diablo on MP10. Once a skill is learned it cannot be unlearned, unless the character is transferred off-Ladder. Once a skill rune is learned it cannot be unlearned, unless the character is transferred off-Ladder.[/li]Items from restricted ladder (Ironman) should be transferrable to non-ladder characters (but not vice versa).
A lot of us don't have the free time to compete in ladders. We should have an alternative means to compete. Scenarios would provide those alternatives.
Each Scenario would have its own Scoring system allowing players to score points for impressive performances. Your name would show up on a leaderboard just like any Flash or iPhone game. For example, "I'm #16,234 worldwide on the Reign of Fire survival!"
- Dungeon Crawl, Random: An ordinary random dungeon (ie, Caverns of the Betrayer) with very high density of creatures and elites. Players would score points for damage dealt, killing sprees, etc. At the end of the scenario players would fight a boss and gain points based on how quickly they kill it.
- Dungeon Crawl, Designed: These scenarios would have be hand-crafted levels, somewhat like a D3 version of Halo "Spartan Ops". Point scoring works as above. Because they are non-random they would be more competitive, but would have to drop less loot. (or players would learn to farm them)
- Dungeon Survival, Random: Players are confined in a randomly picked area (ie, Skeleton King's Throne) and are faced with a never-ending spawn of random creatures and elites. Monster power increases by 1 with each round of spawns, and can increase to infinite values. Points are scored for every second alive, and also for damage dealt and elites killed.
- Dungeon Survival, Designed: Same as above but non-random.
- Speed Run, Random: A random dungeon populated with high difficulty creatures/elites, with a goal at the end. Players would be scored based on shortest time (down to the millisecond) to complete the speedrun. Some areas could be gated to force players to actually kill stuff instead of just running.
- Speed Run, Designed: Same as above but non-random.
2) Make Nightmare and Hell relevant again.
A large number of Diablo 2 items and Diablo 2 builds were never intended to actually compete in the endgame (Hell Baal, Key Farming, and Ubers). Instead you had teleport builds that could clear Nightmare Andy/Mephy/Baal over and over for specific low level drops (SoJ, etc.) and builds highly optimized for farming Hell Countess or Hell Mephy. This is because low level stuff mattered.
Low level stuff doesn't matter in D3, largely because there is no reason to re-level a fresh character. This is a shame because the leveling process in D2 was a big part of the fun!
Frequently resetting ladders would encourage players to actually level new characters at a regular pace. In order to further emphasize lower-level items and builds:
- Crank up the drop rate of low level Legendaries and Sets.
- Give low level Legendaries and Sets more unique affixes.
- Introduce mechanics that allow players to "upgrade" items, like Cubing Exceptionals into Elites.
- Introduce recipes, quests, and/or scenarios that require farming of large masses of low level items. Burning SoJs for Uber Diablo would be a primitive example.
- After PvP is implemented, implement Twink Brackets and "Turn off EXP Gain". We'll soon find out what is the Strongest Possible Level 20 (or w/e).
3) Diversify loot, eliminate the Quadrafecta.
Primary Stat. %Attack Speed. %Crit Chance. %Crit Damage Bonus.
The Quadrafecta absolutely dominates D3 gearing because there is no other way to improve DPS.
Diablo 2 wasn't exactly perfect in this regard - most classes really had a Trifecta that looked like this:
- Attackspeed or Castspeed, up to breakpoint.
- Damage: For physical this was weapon damage + primary attribute, for casters it was +Skills
- Buffs/debuffs: "-20% to enemy resistance", "Conviction Aura", "Amplify Damage Proc", etc.
Diablo 3's damage stats have one very interesting mechanic that D2 didn't, which is the multiplier effect of %CRIT and %CDB. %Crit doesn't do much good without %CDB. %CDB does absolutely no good without %Crit. I like this mechanic because it encourages players to commit to stacking DPS stats. Instead of removing Crit and CDB, we should add more stats so that we have a choice.
A few principles should be observed for the new damage stats:
- Don't let too many damage stats spawn on the same piece. If a Hexafecta item exists, it will eventually become the "gold standard" because it is the best possible item regardless of your build. Multiplicative damage stats should be limited in overlap, just like how a weapon cannot spawn with +200-600 Arcane Damage and +200-600 Fire Damage at the same time.
- Damage stats should be a choice, not an "all of the above". Alternative non-crit DPS stats should NOT crit, and should not work well with crit-heavy builds.
- Damage stats should be supported by passives and runes. Weapon Mastery, Critical Mass and APOC strongly favor Crit builds. In an expansion pack, new passives and skills should be designed around the new non-Crit DPS stats.
- % Inflict Deep Wounds: Bleed already exists in game but is weak. Change it to a Deep Wounds that deals a percent of weapon damage.
- +% Bleed Damage: This modifier would improve the effectiveness of Deep Wounds as well as any existing Bleed procs and skills (Rend, etc).
- +% On-Hit Proc Damage: This modifier would improve the effectiveness of everything from Hellfire Rings to the skeletons summoned by Wailing Host. It would also increase player abilities such as the Magic Weapon rune that says "Chance to arc lightning for 10% of weapon damage."
- % Proc Effect on Hit: There should be enough pieces of gear with on-hit effects so that a player stacking Procs and +% Proc Damage could deal the majority of his damage with just procs. Procs should not be able to crit.
- +% Damage vs Demon/Undead/Beast/Human: Make this affix a lot stronger, but make it stack non-multiplicatively with %CDB. So +100% Damage vs Demon and +100% CDB would only equal 3x base damage, not 4x.
- +% Damage vs Stunned/Frozen/Feared/Confused: Make this affix very strong for CC-heavy builds but make it stack non-multiplicatively with %CDB. So +100% Damage vs Frozen and +100% CDB would only equal 3x base damage, not 4x.
4) Design "loot sinks" to get rid of loot accumulation.
Everyone knows that D3 loot feels extremely weak compared to loot found on the AH.
This has nothing to do with drop rates or itemization mechanics. Instead, it's all about the durability of loot. Namely, good loot is indestructable. A sufficiently powerful item will exchange hands many, many times and never be vendored or sharded.
Therefore, any newly dropped piece of loot has to compete with every other piece of loot dropped since Diablo 3 was released. Any time Blizzard buffs loot stats and drop rates, the newly dropped loot feels stronger only for a short time until it becomes commonplace. If every piece of loot was godlike for 6 months, then every piece of loot would have to compete with 6 months' worth of equally godlike loot.
The one and only way around this is some form of permanent loot destruction. I would suggest taking a cue from Diablo 2 and introducing loot destruction through ladder competition. D2 took the primitive approach of doing a Reset every once in a while (destroying EVERYONE's characters and loot on Ladder). I would take the gentler approach of "optional" loot destruction:
- Sealed Stash Ladder, Pennant Race: Players race from level 1 to 60(100) on permanent MP10. Upon character creation, loot may be transferred from your main stash to a "Sealed Stash". Any loot collected within a Sealed Stash game CANNOT be transferred to any other characters, it is effectively Soulbound.
- At the end of each Sealed Stash season, the top X% players recieve a title, a portrait, and a special item that gives a bonus you cannot get anywhere else in the game. For example, a unique Charm that gives +10% MF/GF and can exceed the Paragon MF/GF cap.
5) Embrace the action in ARPG.
When D3 was first announced, I recall Blizzard using an awful lot of action game terms to describe the gameplay. The names Zelda, God of War, and Ninja Gaiden were thrown around in several interviews. Right after the first Monk unveil, I imagined running around blocking fireballs and chaining mouse clicks into ridiculous Limit Break type combos.
None of that ever happened. The ability of melee characters to block incoming projectiles was rapidly removed from the game. Following this, melee became much weaker than ranged due to the ease of kiting. In response, Blizzard increased the size of player hitboxes and made it much harder to avoid enemy attacks with movement. This was a huge disappointment.
I still think that Diablo 3 would be a lot more fun if it played more like a true action game. For those who think that Blizzard servers are too slow to run an action game: Starcraft 2 is a lot faster paced (some would say too fast) than Brood War and it is online-only and doesn't lag much.
Melee abilities should work more like a fighting game, with a few basic melee classifications.
- Jabs: Jabs would deal low damage but interrupt fierce and stagger attacks. This mechanic could include Fists of Thunder, Frenzy, Regular Skeleton and Demon hits.
- Fierce: Fierce attacks would deal tons of damage and break Guard, but can be interrupted or run away from. This mechanic could include Wave of Light, Hammer of the Ancients, "overhead smash" slow monster hits.
- Stagger: Stagger attacks have less attackspeed and damage than Fierce attacks, but can inflict snares, interrupt Fierce attacks and wear down Guard. This mechanic could include Crippling Wave, Cleave, and knockback/snare monsters.
- Guard: Guard abilities would allow players to deflect ranged attacks and melee jabs, but remain vulnerable to fierce, stagger and grapple attacks. This mechanic could include Ignore Pain, Shield Skeletons, Shielding elites, etc.
- Counter: A Counter ability can interrupt an enemy attack and deal massive damage/stun, but is useless if not used at the right timing. This mechanic could be used for Exploding Palm - its base damage is weak but it triggers the explosion immediately if used to counter a Fierce attack.
- Bullet Hell: Creatures should throw more projectiles and more melee attacks, but players should have a very small hitbox so they can dodge.
- DPS Off: Creatures should have abilities that counter or reflect player projectiles, but with a notable "telegraph" so you can anticipate it and stop attacking.
- Stutter Step: Ranged classes should have some abilities and/or passives that actually reward continuous movement over standing still. For example, a runed Acid Cloud that "saves up" damage stacks over ~3 seconds so that casting it every 3sec will deal almost as much damage as spamming, but with much lower mana cost.
- Random Monster Onslaughts: Like the skeletons falling from the ceiling in the Keep Depths, and Winged Moloks descending in flocks throughout A3. Make these encounters fancier, with a wider variety of attacking monsters.
- Random Monster Patterns: When trash monsters swarm you, have them come from all directions. Think of it like a "bullet hell" game rather than a traditional RPG. Some parts of Act 4 are fairly good at this. Do it in more Acts.
- Special Monster Behaviors: Stuff like Goatmen beating on drums to become huge, it's fun and it changes the pace.
- Traps that don't suck: Traps give a lot of flavor to Act 1 but honestly they are mostly unfun. The Act 3 fire grates are a random and crappy way to die. Make traps more entertaining to combat. Throw fires and lasers and sound orbs and plague pools at us, then give us a Resplendent Chest for surviving the traps.
- Using Monster Abilities against them: What if you could dodge a Dark Berserker's smash and have it kill off one of the Dogs around him? That would be fun.
- Make the existing SuperUniques much stronger and more lootable, much like the Keywardens already are.
- Give them "AQ40/BWD" behavior where killing one gives the remaining elites more affixes.
- Have some of them change behavior after reaching a certain health %.
- Have some of them occur in a chain, where killing the first group of Elites automatically spawns a second pack.
- Change the less-exciting storyline bosses (ie Araneae) to be more fun to fight.
- Give more bosses multiple phases with different abilities, such as Belial and Diablo.
- Allow players to gain up to 7 stacks of Nephalem Valor. However, Elites and Resplendents stop giving stacks at 5. (you only need 5 for Keywardens) Storyline Bosses provide two stacks and can go up to 7.
- Equalize monster density and elite density throughout the entire game, at least on Hell+Inferno. Cathedral, Caves of Araneae, Aqueducts etc should all be viable for farming. Put monsters in the monster-free zones like the area outside Caverns of Araneae.