With the game drawing tantalizingly close to completion, there wasn't any ground braking announcements in this particular panel, but one could say none were expected. Most, if not all of the game features have been announced prior, even if they have not been detailed yet. So in that light, while nothing completely new was founded, we received a great deal of detail on already existent features.
Achievements & Banner
As the panel opened they jumped right into it, beginning with Achievements. We've heard very little on this front in the past, so any news on them was welcomed. There are three main ways to progress through your achievements.
- Game Progression:
- Obscure Gameplay:
- Longterm Goals:
Your achievements progress reflects onto your Banner, slowly but surely adding new ribbons, facets, or other features. New ways to personalize your banner may become available through these achievements also. These small additions to your banner themselves expand as you complete more and more achievements. For example, as you progress in a certain category of achievements more gems may start appearing on a ribbon dangling from your banner. Or as you play through more Hardcore content the mound of skulls and bones under your banner will grow.
Crafting is getting an overhaul in Diablo III, becoming more viable for any stage of the game. In this topic we got a good amount of confirmation on the abilities that each of our three Artisans will provide.
Through these enchantments, you can also take advantage of very off-class type items on your character. An example the developers gave was a Demon Hunter using a one handed axe and a shield, both of which being enchanted with Hatred regeneration, something that wouldn't natural spawn on such weapons. As the Mystic levels up, she will have access to more powerful enchantments, which are dropped as recipes in the game.
Gems, add sockets to items, and remove gems from items. Exactly what scales as he levels isn't entirely clear yet, but one could imagine a few scalable aspects, such as what level gems he can combine, or what level item he can add sockets to.
Now through the Blacksmith you'll be able to craft your way to a full set if you're willing to front the needed materials and gold, making those low-mid range set items a viable choice. Besides crafting he can also repair your items, something that will likely need to be done regularly come Inferno, seeing as you loose 10% of your item durability with each death in the game.
PvP: PvP hasn't undergone very much change, which at this stage of the game shows how solid it is at heart. As was discovered a while back, the Arena will now have a team death match style of scoring. Meaning that your lives are infinite, you respawn shortly after each death, and the team with the most kills at the end of the game wins. Exactly how long each round will be isn't clear, though one full game will likely be around ten minute. The system of health globes that spawn at certain points on the map wasn't spoken of, so where they are with that is unknown.
Something that has changed is the amount of players in each match, moving from 3v3 to 4v4. Another useful tidbit of knowledge is that you will not be able to swap skills in between matches. This makes it so a team can adapt their play style to counter an opposing team, without worrying about them having an entirely different skill-set from round to round, making it so comebacks are very possible if a team can adapt efficiently. This forces players to think strategically, instead of just swapping skills to deal with a problem.
Auction House: As known, you'll be able to trade nearly anything you find in-game through the Auction House, be it gold, gems, crafting materials, tombs, etc. Whole character selling will not be available at launch, but will likely be added later on. Search features will be extensive, including a "smart search" which detects common stats across your character and searches for items with similar stats. For the more picky person there will be an advanced search feature where you'll be able to pin point exactly the item you're looking for.
Life Cycle Of Items
With the introduction of the auction house, comes a new level of item recycling that had never been seen in a Diablo game. Whereas in Diablo II items more or less drifted around form player to player endlessly rotating, in Diablo III these items can be transformed into many forms, and then like a Phoenix reborn, take shape into new amazing forms.
In Diablo II the ideal life cycle of an item was as follows: Drop > Wear > Trade > Eventually Sold. That's about as far as it went in the best case scenario. This wouldn't be so terrible if gold had any true value in the game, a purpose.
In Diablo III this is the ideal life cycle of an item: Drop > Wear> Trade > Eventually Salvaged > Crafted into new item > Eventually Sold. Not only are there many more things you can do with an item, but when it is eventually sold for gold, that gold can be used to continue feeding the economy, or even better, sunk into one of the many gold sinks, removing it from the game and delaying the build up of gold in the economy.
Final Game Tuning
Those words have a great ring to them, or maybe just the word "final" being used at all. Tuning, or polishing if you will, comes as the last stage of development. It's where numbers are tweaked, and features are perfected for release. This polishing happens across the entire game, so we'll touch on the interesting topics which were presented.
- Monster Improvements:
To adress this, the new affix called Mortar was introduced, where a creature will lob fireballs across the screen, endangering casters while flying right over melee characters' heads.
- Passive Skills & Synergies:
With the idea of class specific resources surely came a huge amount of development to get to this point. As with any complex feature, constant polishing is the only way to achieve balance. While each class is fairing well with no major setbacks, small tweaks are being made to adjust how each class handles.
Bash or Frenzy in favor for the larger ones like Leap Attack, or Ground Stomp. To account for this the amount of Fury the smaller generators will create is getting bumped up. They also found that come late game the Barb is having a tough time surviving due to the classes' need to be within melee range of creatures. This is a little more complex polish, and will involve a few defensive changes.
A common concern with this change is - well if casters depend on weapon damage, shouldn't I just run around with a two handed axe? - This is being addressed by also having the casting speed rely on weapon speed, so while your attack may do more damage with a two handed axe, your DPS may be less than if you were to use a wand with a lower attack, but faster attack speed. There are also class specific buffs on many casting oriented weapons that could sway a players choice from say a sword, or axe.
While each class have some very specific changes coming, one change is reaching across every class - awesomeness. Through feedback from the community, and internal testing, a lot of players have found skills as a whole don't make them feel as awesome as they'd prefer. Blizzard has heard the cries, and plan to increase the visual effects of many skills, helping enforce the fact that you're a badass demon-slaying demigod.
Many fans have speculated on exactly how difficult each act will be. Some even feel the entire game will be relatively easy. This may be due to the easy content we've seen in the beta, which is indeed very casual. This is by design though, normal difficulty is meant to be a kind of
Very casual players will enjoy this first difficulty, while more serious players will find it laughable. This again is by design, because in essence every serious gamer was once a casual gamer. At one point in time we all were n00bs. Blizzard understands this, and wishes to help turn those casual gamers into more dedicated gamers through nice and easy difficulty transitions.
Blizzard also understands that a large portion of their fan base are hardcore gamers looking for a challenge. Thus comes the concern that even in later difficulties the game will not present an adequate challenge, well Jay Willson assured us that this isn't something we should be worried about. Through a display of testimonials from in-house testers who have been put up against the Inferno difficulty, we're given an idea of how difficult endgame content will truly be.
Followers replacing mercenaries wasn't all too popular among the community. The fact that these new side-kicks were only available in single player was a big change it itself, but the added hit of them only being viable in normal difficulty never settled well with the majority of the fan base. In good fashion Blizzard has listened to these concerns and tweaked followers to be viable through all levels of content, though still only useable while playing solo.
Town Only Skill Swapping
The title speaks for itself, but the reasoning behind why this change is being made is interesting. The dev team found that more and more often players would have their skill UI open while slaying monsters, swapping skills out multiple times as they played through small areas. This would make for some problems if left unattended. Not only does it take up a large amount of screen real-estate, but it takes away from the feeling of identity with your character when you're changing such a core aspect so often.
So right now they're testing town only skill swapping where you'll walk over to this area or NPC to swap out your skills. Jay didn't seem very happy about this, and stated how this isn't the final solution. If this doesn't work they will also be testing an out of combat swap system. This second option could make for some heavy development, since it have been stated that Diablo has no in, or out of combat tracker that these type of systems can communicate with.