More Glimpses into Blizzard Design

About two weeks ago, I pointed out how the Diablo 3 forums are really the place to be if you are interested in Blizzard’s evolving, internal design philosophies. It is not every day that you hear Bashiok come out and say that WoW has been “[…] struggling with how to cope with a skill tree system, which has huge inherent issues with very little benefit, for years.” Nor the disdain that Jay Wilson feels towards PvP affecting PvE game balance. Now there is another nugget of design insight from Bashiok which, while not as bombastic, is still rather interesting:

In some cases though we are purposefully avoiding affixes we just don’t think promote good gameplay, like +damage to X. We want people to play the game and have fun, not feel crappy because they’re in an area full of ‘beasts’ and are stacking +damage to demons. It also encourages a whole host of other divergent gameplay like holding sets for specific types of enemies, or building sets to run specific areas at end-game. Lastly it’s very difficult to make affixes like that compelling, and not necessary. Either it’s powerful enough where people do all those crazy things to leverage the bonuses in destructive ways, or the affix is just de-emphasized to the point of meaninglessness.

Feel free to read the actual thread for the full context, and the full quote for that matter.

I find it interesting because it perhaps speaks towards the larger question of specialization, and what role (if any) that it should play in games generally¹. Is having and collecting a demon-slaying set not fun? I remember back in the Quel’Danas dailies circa TBC how I would typically skip the non-demon quests on my paladin since having Holy Wrath made the impaling-demon-corpses quests that much quicker/more entertaining. Here was a time to flex an oft-neglected muscle in a thoroughly satisfying way!² Of course, the flip side of specialization also in TBC was how paladins were heroic 5m tanking demigods and largely unbalanced garbage raid tanks.

Honestly, Blizzard probably has the right idea here. Specialization with equipment sounds nice on paper, but it also devolves into the D&D-esque “golf bag” problem when you simply “specialize” in everything, and whip out the demon-slaying sword for one fight, and then the beast-slaying sword the next. Similarly, class specialization is usually long periods of underpoweredness punctuated by brief moments of awesomeness… assuming the class is balanced to begin with.

¹ Pun maybe intended.

² Err… no comment.

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Posted on September 29, 2011, in Diablo, WoW and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the link, I must say I agree; it is no fun to have to have half a dozen sets of armor for each type of adversary…but at the same time the boss fights in WoW where one had things like a Frost Resist set didn’t bother me too much so long as they were the exception and not the norm (and only 1 per dungeon…maybe 2 at most) as I guess they felt like the occasion where more specialized equipment was needed. So I suppose it is sort of a “Sweet spot”…but I do feel like that sweet spot also should not require a playstyle that is against the “intent” of the design or theme.

    For example in 4.3 they are trying to end Enhancement Shaman use of caster weapons because their “intent” for Enhancement Shaman is as an elemental warrior of some kind…I think. It has always sort of irked me when classes feel obligated to do unintended things to stay competitive (like paladins wearing cloth to heal, etc).

    I like these bits of insight we get from them; makes them feel a little more human and is nice to see when they are the same issues players are considering.

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  2. I liked the fire resistance set in Molten Core. Having one off-set which is used for the second half of a Tier is, in my opinion, a good idea. Collecting it, and therefore preparing for the raid, made the raid more meaningful. Being forced to spend gold on two frost resistance items for one boss in ICC is just annoying. It doesn’t make ICC more awesome it just wasted my time to obtain those items by going to the AH.

    Either add a grind or nothing. Those meaningless “I’m going to waste 10 minute of your time” tasks are stupid.

    And fire resistance “solved” the power creep problem by “wasting” item points on a defensive stat.

    Then again, being forced to rebalance multiple sets every time you get a new drop and figuring out how to enchant and gem and reforge everything so that both sets are hit capped isn’t that much fun either.

    I like the idea of The Witcher of using one set but having multiple weapons for different kind of enemies. Weapons can be switched in combat and are more awesome then gear anyway.

    Like in having one weapon for undeads, one for daemon, one for humanoids, one for elementals. I think collecting multiple weapons could be fun. Everyone loves weapons.

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  3. If specialization led to more of what you mentioned: “I would typically skip the non-demon quests on my paladin since having Holy Wrath made the impaling-demon-corpses quests that much quicker/more entertaining. ” — then I would be all for it.

    If a virtual world were massive and varied enough so that no one character could ever hope to master all things, then it might be cool to develop one character that was good at hunting demons and another that was good at hunting undead and to be completely unable to develop a character that was good at both.

    But that’ll never happen. Most people would hate it I’m sure.

    With regard to having equipment affixes of the +pwnage to X type, I agree with Blizzard’s stated philosophy. Unless its going to be a permanent feature of my current character, then it would just lead to excessive annoying inventory management.

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