Item Progression and the Cube

Bashiok emerged from nearly a week of silence to finally give us some - Diablo III Diablo III stuff to talk about. While most of his posts are short on new information, there are some nice clarifications on item progression in the game and visual item progression throughout Diablo III's difficulties.

While responding to a few questions, Bashiok made clear that the eighteen tiers of items are purely visual.

Official Blizzard Quote:

Without being able to upgrade the item to the next tier, does that mean the lesser tier item is salvage garbage?

Right, going back to the tier thing which I believe was a misunderstanding of me referring to the visual sets. It doesn't have to do with item stats at all really, just cohesive armor looks.

There are better and better items as your progress through the difficulties and they can roll out more affixes as they go higher. So to answer your question, yes, worse items would be sold for gold, salvaged for crafting materials, or otherwise 'traded' away.
However, his explanation does seem to imply that there could be an overlap between the last items in one tier and the first items in the next. As Bashiok later explained, these visual tiers are also divided amongst the difficulties, which means that your character look will be continuously changing throughout Normal, Nightmare, and Hell, as opposed to revisiting old item looks each time you advance a difficulty like in - Diablo II Diablo II

Official Blizzard Quote:

[The item tiers] are distributed through difficulties with each difficulty dropping items of a specific number of visual sets. So, for instance, in Normal you may see set looks one through five dropping. In Nightmare you may see the visual sets six through ten. etc. Just an example, I'm not sure how exactly they were decided to be broken out.
After this explanation, some concerns were raised about whether or not eighteen tiers, which translates into six tiers per difficulty, would feel like enough progression throughout the game, and Bashiok continued to elaborate on exactly how item progression works.

Official Blizzard Quote:

So yeah, this was more or less how I thought you guys had made the system... as you have played the game, does 5/6 set visuals per difficulty feel progression enough?

I think it feels really good. You're not getting whole sets dropping for you so it's a pretty constant upgrading process. You're probably not running around with a complete looking set for long unless you're denying yourself upgrades to make a cohesive look, or just getting bad drops.
Even though thinking of item progression as being divided into tiers may make it seem as though you are only upgrading your look six times per difficulty, it is important to keep in mind that you will most likely spend most of your time in gear comprised of items from different tiers. So while there are technically only eighteen different item looks, your character's look will be changing many more times than that number implies.

In another equipment related topic, Bashiok also had some interesting input about the game's salvage mechanic.

Official Blizzard Quote:

It has a name. It is not Salvage Cube. The name does include Cube, though. The name is sort of a spoiler, which is why we haven't revealed it yet.

Although Bashiok does not divulge the current name of the cube, some of you may remember Jay Wilson called it the Nephalem Cube at the last BlizzCon, which is a name that could certainly be considered something of a spoiler. Bashiok may have simply forgotten the name was already revealed, or the name could have changed since then. If any of you are unclear on the lore implications of the Nephalem, be sure to check out PhrozenDragon's Cosmology of Diablo articles or the first part of Force's Diablo Lore video series.


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