Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Diablo 3: A Fix To Affixes

Elite monsters are a recurring feature of the Diablo series, growing in importance with each successive game to this point, where such packs of monsters, which are exceedingly powerful, are a great source of loot due to the Nephalem Valor buff and its interaction with elite packs. However, one thing that has been discussed since the release of the game is the randomization of affixes, which give elite monsters their special quality. The pool of affixes and the way affixes are assigned in Diablo 3 resulted in combinations that have significant variance in difficulty and some are clearly too powerful in certain cases.

While I understand the randomization is something that makes the game recognizable as a Diablo game, I think there should be some checks and balances to keep some affixes from being too strong (especially in terms of melee vs. ranged). While patch 1.0.3 resolved some of the issues with these affixes, a few individual affixes need some changing and some combinations seem rather unfair when put together. That is why in this article I will offer some suggestions to changing the affixes themselves as well as the system of randomizing affixes on elite monsters.

Individual Affix Changes

In this section I will list each affix with a brief note on what it currently does. I will then note suggestion(s), if applicable to change the affix:
  • Arcane Enchanted: Summons Arcane Sentries, which create beams of arcane power that deal heavy damage and rotate. I would probably reduce the damage the Arcane Sentries deal.
  • Avenger: Whenever an allied monster within the same Champion or Rare pack dies, all other monsters deal more damage for a time. I wouldn’t change this affix.
  • Desecrator: Creates an area that deals damage over time. I wouldn’t change this affix, although I feel it is too similar to Plagued and would consider merging the affixes into a single one.
  • Electrified: Electrified monsters fire out bolts of lightning when damaged. I would consider making the bolts of lightning accelerate so they seem more threatening to ranged/mage type players while also making the spread of bolts larger so many bolts don't strike a melee player.
  • Extra Health: Very straightforward affix that increases the health of the monster(s) with the affix. I wouldn’t change it.
  • Fast: This affix causes the monster to have an increased base movement speed. I would change this affix to instead increase movement speed for a time (about 3 seconds) with a cooldown (8 seconds) and visual to indicate the usage of this effect. The movement speed of the monster would also have a cap so inherently fast monsters won’t get a ridiculously unfair advantage over monsters that are inherently slower.
  • Fire Chains: This affix allows the monster to create fiery chains with other monsters in the same pack, dealing heavy damage to enemies the chain touches. I would change this affix by only allowing chains to be connected between a pair of mobs and multiple sets of chains from the same group of Elite monsters cannot do stacked damage to any given target.
  • Frozen: The monsters will periodically create frozen orbs that deal damage and freeze the enemy in place if they are hit. I would change the orbs to spawn with more of a focus on the player and the amount of frozen orbs that spawn is based on the size of the group.
  • Health Link: This affix seems kind of strange. It links together the health of all monsters in the pack. I feel this isn’t exactly a strong affix especially against aoe attacks and may need to grant an additional effect like passive regeneration or a small amount of flat damage reduction.
  • Horde: This affix is only applied to Rare packs and increases the amount of minions. I would not change this affix.
  • Illusionist: This affix causes the monster to spawn many duplicates of itself with far less health and damage. I would change this affix by preventing the illusions from using any other given affix-related abilities (so the screen isn’t clogged with scores of frozen orbs and so on).
  • Invulnerable Minions: This affix is only applied to Elite packs and causes minions to be completely invulnerable. Fortunately this was recently changed for the better in 1.0.3 by reducing the leader’s health, which I thought was one of the issues with this affix.
  • Jailer: Monsters with this affix will periodically root enemy targets. I would probably change this by putting a diminishing return on the effect so that if multiple monsters have Jailer the player(s) won’t get chain rooted.
  • Knockback: Monsters with this affix knock back the target they attack sometimes. I would consider changing this affix by possibly removing the slowing effect, decreasing the knockback range, and, for the sake of convenience, if an attack that knocks a target back is also a killing blow, the target dies instantly as opposed to dying after landing.
  • Missile Dampening: The leader of a Rare pack will have an area around them that greatly reduces the speed of projectiles. I wouldn't change this affix.
  • Molten: Molten monsters leave a trail of fire that deal damage to targets within them and, in addition, the monsters explode when they die (I’ve died to many molten mobs in the latter manner). I would change the affix by reducing the damage of the fire trail and (possibly) making it last for a shorter time.
  • Mortar: Mortar monsters will barrage distant targets with balls of flame periodically. While this has been changed to have an increase maximum and minimum range, I would still change this affix by causing the balls of flame to not be a barrage but rather a larger ball of flame that fires periodically. In addition, each target within the range will have a ball of flame fired at them simultaneously.
  • Nightmarish: Enemies struck by a nightmarish monster may run in fear. I would change this by either having the effect have greatly diminishing returns or making the fear a controlled area of effect fear with a cooldown (that minions probably can’t have).
  • Plagued: A plagued enemy will create a pool of plague periodically under them. This is very similar the Desecrator in that it deals damage over time. As with Desecrator, I wouldn’t change it but may consider merging it with Desecrator.
  • Reflect Damage: Damage done to monsters with this affix will have a percentage of it reflected back at the attacker as well. I would change it so the ability is activated with a duration (3 seconds like the Fast suggestion) and a cooldown (8 seconds), probably with an increased percentage of damage reflected. There would also be a visual indicator.
  • Shielding: A monster with shielding can shield itself, making themselves immune. I would instead change the shielding effect to reduce damage taken by a large amount like 75%, especially given the fact Rare packs can have this trait (which essentially makes it too similar to Invulnerable Minions).
  • Teleporter: This affix allows monsters to teleport to a player. I wouldn't change it, but it seems too strong with certain other affixes.
  • Vampiric: Vampiric monsters drain health when they deal damage. I would make this effect an activated ability with a 3 second duration and 8 second cooldown with a visual effect like the Fast affix. The healing would be significantly increased as well to make the affix require some counterplay.
  • Vortex: Monsters with Vortex can transport players to the monster. Like Teleporter, I wouldn't change it, but it might be too strong with certain affixes.
  • Waller: Monsters with Waller can create walls to block projectiles and the player's path. I would consider making the walls destructible (with a percentage of the monster's health, for instance).
Categorized Affixes

Changing affixes may be good and all, but I don't think it's sufficient to negate the unfairness of certain groups of affixes. This is why I also want to categorize affixes, allowing only one or two affixes from each category to be chosen when randomizing an elite pack. The following is an example of categorization of affixes:
I can't use the table HTML code to save my life, so I used Excel to make this.
The idea is to prevent several affixes of similar types from being combined to create unfair combinations. For instance, a monster with Teleporter and Vortex would be frustrating for ranged classes (especially in open areas). I did, however, leave a few combinations that can be semi-unfair, such as Waller + any Travel affix so every elite pack isn't a breeze to kill. In addition, in coordination with these changes, I would consider buffing elite packs slightly (probably more in the health department than the damage department).

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