Monday, May 28, 2012

Diablo 3: Suggestions For A Variety of Things

I still can't get past Act II.
It's been nearly two weeks since Diablo 3 has come out. There has been statements from both sides about how good or bad the game is. While I'm leaning on the side of thinking the game is moderately decent, I have my own issues with the game. In this article I will offer suggestions to improve Diablo 3 while dealing with most of these issues. It is a little long, so if you are looking for something specific, you can skim through or use the Find function (Control-F).

User Interface and Settings
Before getting into the meat of the suggestions, I have some things to say about the user interface and settings. Both aspects are not too bad in its current state, but I feel there are ways to improve them:
  • Have an option to show resource games. As someone who plays a Demon Hunter, I have to manage two sets of resources (Hatred and Discipline). A few of the Demon Hunter abilities have a chance to generate Discipline, which can have a significant impact on Demon Hunter play. Hatred generation is also helpful to track given how many forms of Hatred generation are available. On top of that, other classes have their own resources and from what I've seen on some gear and skills, there are some "chances" to generate the class' specific resource. Therefore, everyone wins.
  • Alternatively, or in addition to the previous suggestion, also have an option the resource and health at all times. It makes it resource tracking easier and helps the player to determine what abilities should be used when.
  • It would be awesome to have the option to zoom the camera using the mousewheel (currently the camera zoom can only be changed between two modes using the Z hotkey). This is mostly due to the fact I play a lot of games where the camera zoom is changed using the mousewheel.
  • Furthermore, something worth pointing out is that the amount of area a player can see. There is a maximum camera range, and I'm unsure if changing the screen resolution has significant impact on the camera zoon, which can affect gameplay (especially ranged classes which thrive on the ability to target enemies from long ranges), but according to this video it seems possible to have a large field of vision at high resolutions.
  • It would be great to have an option to enable the sound when Diablo 3 is in the background or minimized. Many other games offer this feature and I (and I am probably not the only one) have a tendency to alt-tab the game while checking on other stuff. I like being able to hear what's going on in the game while I do this so I can react to sound cues.
  • Have an option to show experience bar text as well as experience and gold gains (from quests) in the chat window. I like information. I like knowing how much experience mobs give. In addition, I have a tendency to rush through the quest rewards window on accident a lot, so I don't know how much gold or experience I got until I repeat the quest. Not a big issue, but knowledge is a good thing in my book.
  • Add more graphics options. For instance, textures can only be set between high and low (and to be honest the difference isn't that significant), among other graphics options that seem rather lacking. It allows players to have more options in terms of playability varying levels of graphics due to improved framerates (for instance I would probably run the game at a medium-level graphic setup to record).
  • Allow the remapping of more keybindings. Specifically, I am talking about the function keys (like F9). It is the default key for recording with Fraps, and it would be nice to keep it that way. However, in Diablo 3 it also opens the achievement window.
  • This one is not a big deal, but dyed equipment should have some sort of way (that isn't visual) of denoting the item is dyed. Just a nice way to add information in case someone else wants to copy the style or remove the dye.
I need better gear...
In this section I will cover suggestions to improve gameplay excluding class balance.
  • One thing I rapidly noticed while playing the game is that some graphical effects, especially fire effects, tend to be extremely graphic intensive. I understand that these effects are normally pretty graphic intensive, but I swear some spell effects have far more particles than others (for instance the particle effect of some components of the Nether Tentacles ability is actually pretty low even at the high graphics setting). In addition, this "issue" makes playing with multiple players much more graphically intensive (thus it would be nice to have something like in World of Warcraft where the player's spell effects are emphasized).
  • Another performance issue I noticed is that the game has a tendency to stutter for some time after the game is started up. Initially I blew this off as a normal occurrence (I play Skyrim sometimes, and that game is very graphically intensive and takes time for the computer to properly load all the assets), but the issue seems to happen for quite a long time (as long as a score of minutes sometimes). Attacking enemies, for instance, drops framerate to that of a slideshow during this time. For more information on this particular issue, check out this thread. (Apparently fixing this issue would require a recoding of the game from the ground up, so try the solutions in the thread if you are having this particular issue.)
  • There are some problems with gear (balance). While I understand the randomization of gear attributes is a core aspect of Diablo, when attributes are generated at abnormally arbitrary values for items of similar quality and level (for instance a level 60 magic ring can have a range of 40-80 Dexterity even when that is the only attribute on the item). In addition, considering gear is the only way to truly customize characters by attributes, item generation may need to be smarter. For instance class-specific items probably shouldn't generate with suboptimal  primary attributes (like a Wand with Strength) as frequently as one with optimal primary attributes. At the very least it would be nice to have more consistent gear attribute strength based on item level and quality (it's okay to have deviation, but it attribute ranges shouldn't be so enormous).
  • Have elective mode on by default. It would be nice to know about the versatility of skill usage off the bat. It took me quite a time before I learned about elective mode (by the time I reached late Nightmare/early Hell) even though there was a brief (although forgotten, due to the speed of the gameplay) note about it. In addition, add a tutorial for elective mode as soon as the first ability slot is unlocked with the option to turn off the tutorial (a check box showing "Please do not show this again" would suffice), ensuring they know about the elective mode.
  • If the player is playing single-player, have the game automatically pause if the game is put into the background or minimized. This isn't necessary, but might be helpful if someone accidentally clicks off the window in windowed mode or wants to quickly switch between programs running on their computer. (I believe it would be most helpful to have this functionality as an option).
  • Adjust the cost of some crafting recipes. While early on the crafting costs are tolerable, by the middle and later parts of the game crafting has a tendency to become too costly to craft individual items (specifically rare items) gold-wise. For instance, crafting a level 54 rare helmet costs about 10,000 gold. However, the Auction House frequently has items for similar prices with attribute the player may want (thanks to the usage of the filters). While this may be a problem with the players themselves, magic items in comparison cost significantly less to craft. It feels like too much of a gamble to bother crafting rare items at lower levels (at max level I can completely understand, however, although a slight price reduction may help in terms of having a gold sink where players "gamble" with the crafting system).
  • Furthermore, the price of the jeweler's functionality to upgrade gems is very silly cost-wise. This is far more clear cut. Even to craft the lower tier (flawed from chipped) is about 500 gold per gem. It gets even worse by the time Flawless Square gems are reached, costing 20000 gold and 2 Tomes of Jewelcrafting (an uncommon drop in Hell Mode). The problem is that gems, up to a certain point, can naturally drop off mobs, so the gems will naturally be devalued and upgrading lower tier gems up to Flawless Square is completely pointless. Thus, it would be helpful to reduce the price in order to have the second option (possibly even to costing no gold at all).
The Auction House
Auction house was bugged when I took this. It says I have two auctions..
The auction house is a pretty nice place to sell excess items you don't need. However, there are many problems at the present and further issues might spring up that could severely harm the Diablo 3 gaming economy.
  • Improve the auction house's filtering system by allowing the option to filter out certain attributes. This helps deal with the random item generation and gives players items with attributes they do not want (like a Demon Hunter might not want Intelligence on their gear)
  • Improve the auction house's filtering system by allowing item searches by name for all items, whether they are equipment pieces, commodities, or crafting recipes. This will allow people to type out what they want (they can even type out magic item prefixes/suffixes they want and filter items that way instead of using the attribute filtering system).
  • Improve the auction house's filtering system by allowing item searches with attributes similar to that of an item you have. This is not only helpful for finding suitable upgrades, but also fantastic for sellers, since it is hard to filter out for every attribute possibility for each item one may want to sell (and quite frankly it's a lot more work than the seller should have to do).
  • Allow players to see their own broken gear on the auction house. This one is straightforward. It allows players to see their own gear and determine whether they need an upgrade (also the side-by-side comparison doesn't always work). Alternatively, allow the gear to be repaired while using the auction house for the same price.
  • Have more ways to sort items. Specifically, I am looking for by level and by price.
  • On another note, it would be nice to have some way to exclude items that are socketed, but already gemmed (it tends to go through filters the way I use them at the moment).
  • Add more functionality to the auction house, such as by allowing auction cancellation early and/or having shorter item posting times. It allows players to switch out items that are clearly not selling for an item that might sell. It would also be a good way to allow such item replacement given how few items are allowed to sell on a per player basis at any given time (i.e. 10 auctions are allowed at any time).
  • Equipment is currently reusable and resellable with the current system. This may have been viable in Diablo 2, but mostly it was because the online ladders got reset periodically and item trade was more direct and not as much within the game's focus. However, with a public trading system, item trade is much more accessible, and with it there needs to be checks to ensure prevention against issues like inflation and item flooding. 
  • Because of this, I suggest that items that are purchased from the auction house, then equipped, become account bound (and have a warning when attempting to equip). This will allow players who acquire an item and use it for a time to sell it and for players who want to play the market to do so, but people who actively find an item will not be able to purchase it, use it, then reap a resell value and further increase the market's overall equipment "supply."
Demon Hunter
I may not have played other classes much, but I have played Demon Hunter enough that I have a few suggestions to offer (some of which have even been discussed numerous times in the official forums).
  • One thing I sort of noticed when playing a Demon Hunter is most of their shots do a lot of damage. They can do as much as 300% (or more) weapon damage and be shot really fast. Abilities like Elemental Arrow - Nether Tentacles are example offenders (it does 155% weapon damage but can hit enemies multiple times and on top of that it heals the Demon Hunter for a fraction of the damage). Not really sure if it needs a nerf, but I've heard other (ranged) class damage is much lower.
  • While Smokescreen on release was far too strong and could be chained to become invulnerable, in its current state the base ability is extremely underwhelming. It lasts about one second (one second of invulnerability) on a three second cooldown and is limited by a resource. Because of this short duration, the only rune that is really viable is Lingering Fog, which increases the duration.
  • However, resolving this problem by putting a longer cooldown and giving back the original duration would allow Demon Hunters to resurrect party members virtually uninterrupted. I would instead suggest that the base duration is increased to 1.5 or even 2, and that Lingering Fog rune increases the duration by between 0.5 to 1 seconds (not 1 second if the base duration is increased back to two). Smokescreen should also have a longer cooldown (as long as 10 seconds or more, possibly, if other suggestions are implemented). Alternatively, have Smokescreen reduce damage taken by a very large amount instead and give it the original duration.
  • This brings me to the next issue of Demon Hunter not really having any passive defenses. This makes Demon Hunters extremely reliant on having a good connection to react to attacks (even those attacks that can come from quite a distance away or are so fast that only the sharpest of human reflexes could even possibly react in time even at 0 ms latency). In addition, Demon Hunters only really have two ways to defend themselves from direct damage, and both are tied to the same resource. Because of this, the alternative defensive ability, Shadow Power with the Gloom Rune (65% reduced damage taken for 3 seconds and costs as much Discipline as Smokescreen) is sometimes, if not often, ignored in favor of Smokescreen, but to be honest it's not really enough.
  • This brings me to my suggestion. Demon Hunters simply need some more passive defenses. From what I can tell all the other classes have some additional form of damage reduction (melee classes, for instance, automatically have 30% extra damage reduction because of the nature of melee classes having a disadvantage against a large number of mechanics, including melee attacks from mobs). It would be great to at least have a passive skill like that of the Witch Doctor's that reduces all damage taken by a flat amount (20%). Making changes like this to the Demon Hunter's defensive utility would give further reason to nerf Smokescreen to prevent Demon Hunters from having one extremely strong gimmicky cooldown, even as they do now.
  • I never thought this would happen outside of World of Warcraft (or Neverwinter Nights 2, I guess, but that's a different story), but pet AI in this game is pretty bad. Given how Demon Hunters (and possibly Witch Doctor) like to stay at a range, the pets sometimes never go out to attack (thus assisting their master). I've also read, and personally had, issues where my pet would go out to attack mobs (like Treasure Goblins) without me wanting them to. Because of this, I think there should be some way to control what the pet does, whether to tie pet attacking to the master's act of attacking, or going all out and adding a pet bar to all pet using classes like in World of Warcraft.
  • Another thing specifically about Demon Hunter pets is that they seem to deal a rather underwhelming amount of damage to the point the passive effects greatly trump anything related to the pet's act of attacking (I do think the Spider pet's slowing attack is underwhelming considering there are a litany of Demon Hunter abilities that are superior and using a ranged weapon with cold damage essentially accomplishes the same thing). In short, most builds, if any, use Bat Companion purely for the Hatred regeneration, which probably needs to be nerfed in its own right (generates 3 Hatred per second).
  • I therefore suggest the following (assuming pet AI is improved somehow):
    • Increase the base damage done by the original raven pet to as much as 80% weapon damage or otherwise somehow improve their damage (if they don't scale of attack speed, for instance, allow them to).
    • Have the spider pet do a bit less damage (as little as 50% weapon damage) and have the slow apply to multiple targets or make it so the Spider attempts to attack many different targets.
    • Reduce the bonus passive Hatred generation of the bat pet to as little as 1. In addition, also consider increasing Hatred generation done by Hatred generating attacks (or have the Bat's attacks generate Hatred).
    • Have the boar's attacks deal more damage (around 90% weapon damage?) and splash a lesser amount of damage over a reasonably sized area.
    • Ferrets not only need to run independently of each other (as opposed to stacking up) but also need to act independently of each other. In addition, have a bonus passive effect that increases gold and health globe pick up range while the Ferrets are active by some percentage.
    • Have the wolf companion last longer (as long as 40 seconds) and instead cost Hatred instead of Discipline (if any resource at all). The damage it deals should probably be around 110% weapon damage (instead of doubling it to 160%). In addition, it should have some bonus active attack such as a rending attack that does additional damage over time or it can howl and increase damage done by both pet and master by a small amount (like 5-10%) for a short time (like 5 seconds) with a cooldown (20 seconds, for instance).
  • It's not important, but it would be great to have some sort of way of knowing a pet is active (such as a portrait or a buff). It helps because sometimes the pet is forgotten in such a fast-paced game (and if you're like me you summon the pet again thinking it's not summoned sometimes).

And that's it for my suggestions so far. As I play more classes I may also add in more suggestions for those classes and I have some things in particular to say about Inferno mode in general. I will also post a follow-up article, as I am not quite finished yet, detailing something I consider a bug with possible suggestions to fix it.

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