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I regret using such a punchy title for Diablo 3’s 1.0.4 patch, but good god have you seen this?

Introducing the Paragon System

The new Paragon system coming in patch 1.0.4 is designed to address Magic Find gear-swapping while providing players who’ve reached level 60 with an extended progression system.
Here’s how it works:

  • After you hit level 60, any further experience you earn from killing monsters will begin to count toward Paragon levels
  • There are 100 Paragon levels
  • Every Paragon level will reward you with:
    • Core stats such as Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Vitality in amounts similar to what you’d gain from a normal level
    • 3% Magic Find and 3% Gold Find

In addition, a distinctive increasingly-impressive border will surround your character portrait in the in-game party frame to denote your Paragon progression, with a new frame earned after every ten levels. Your Paragon level will also be visible to other players wherever your normal level is shown.

[…]

The time to reach the upper Paragon levels approximates the long-term time investment required to get a level 99 character in Diablo II.

Now, the above is in addition to all the AH changes – the biggest of which is the ability to sort by Bid Price and Ending Time (eBay snipe city incoming) – and all the class and difficulty changes I talked about last time. For sheer scope, I recommend checking out the full patch notes as well.

Oh, and it will probably be Live by the time you read this, not the 28th like I thought.

Sitting in my chair, jaw slightly ajar, I could not help but start wondering if there comes a point at which even positive changes become too conspicuous. This patch feels like I just started haggling with a used car salesman and he immediately gave me the keys and said “Here, just take it and go.” Eyebrows and suspicious are raised in equal measure. These are not features Blizzard had planned to roll out at the start, like PvP; damn near everything is a concession based on (negative) feedback that apparently came to a great surprise to Jay “And Double It!” Wilson and crew. Should they be praised for listening to feedback or damned for releasing a game in such apparent need of repair?

Also… what does Blizzard know that we do not? Did they perhaps intend for Diablo 3 to hold everyone over until MoP’s launch, but the negative 2 million subs and the (assumed) precipitous drop in D3 player activity got them spooked? Why else roll out this magnitude of changes? I have no idea. All I do know is that this version of D3 I might be playing tonight is going to almost be a completely different game than the one I started playing four months ago.

And since I haven’t even reviewed Diablo 3 yet… I’m not sure which game to write about now.

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Exploitgate 2012

If you haven’t already heard, there was an exploit discovered in Diablo 3 that allowed Wizards to become invincible, permanently. By “discovered,” I mean formally discovered, since there was a Youtube video uploaded June 22nd ostensively showing the same thing. As in, this exploit has been active for at least a full month.

And it was not even something super-complicated. From the Kotaku article:

Step 1: Select Teleport – Fracture. Bind it to a key
Step 2: Select Archon, tested with Improved Archon
Step 3: Hover your mouse over or near your charcter
Step 4: Press Teleport
Step 5: QUICKLY(!) Press Archon

Blizzard has since pushed a hotfix to plug the hole, complete with rolling restarts, yadda yadda. Of course, the Wizard hotfix did not fix the Barbarian exploit that allowed them to gain +8% of their HP with every attack. That process is pretty simple too:

1. Have Furious Charge with Dreadnought Rune
2. Charge into opening cinematic (before it begins)

Now, if you are like me and played with/as a Barbarian, you might be wondering how that sort of life gain is even considered an exploit – Barbarians gaining insane amounts of life back and breezing through Inferno has always appeared to be the class Working As Intended™. But then, Kripparrian made a Youtube video that was all “Yo dawg, I heard you like exploits, so I put an exploit in your exploit.”

Honestly, his Jay Wilson joke is probably better than mine. And so are these.

There are a lot of different directions the resulting narrative can go – should we start postulating about the economic damage generated by these exploits, or what happens to one’s Battle.net balance when banned? – but beyond the delicious embarrassment of it all, what can honestly be said that was not already predicted months before the game was even released? Everyone knew there would be exploits. Everyone knew the existence of a cash-shop makes exploits worse. And here we are.

It does make me slightly nostalgic for WoW, though. Remember when exploits were more whimsical? You had your cutting-edge hardcore raiding guilds with their Saronite Bombs and trash mob buffs from other boss rooms. You had have your Mining bots teleporting under the ground and dumping 400+ stacks of ore on the AH with 12-hour auctions nearly below vendor price. Maybe some people sneaking through the Arathi Basin gates before the start put a damper on things, but it was only really terrible if AB was the random daily that day.

This Diablo 3 thing, though? Good lord. Nothing like knowing someone else probably made off with $1000 in drops by trivializing the content you are smashing your face into, to take the wind out of your sails. Hell, any one of us might have bought an item from them. If I hadn’t already stopped playing, I would at this sort of news.

Diablo Learns from WoW

All the cool stuff is happening on the Diablo 3 forums, as far as roundabout WoW internal design philosophy goes. For example, this is Bashiok:

You’re overestimating what stat points actually provided, customization-wise in Diablo II, and really overestimating what skill points did.

Diablo (1) did not have skill trees, it was a feature added to Diablo II, and then more or less copied by World of Warcraft. Some could say to World of Warcraft’s detriment as it’s been struggling with how to cope with a skill tree system, which has huge inherent issues with very little benefit, for years. Diablo III, like Diablo II, is an evolution of the series and game systems.

Saying that Diablo III shouldn’t learn from the successes and mistakes in World of Warcraft, let alone Diablo II or any other game, is just nonsensical.

Bashiok went on to post some Youtube links of Jay Wilson being interviewed about a host of Diablo 3 design questions. One off-shoot of that was about Diablo 3 PvP, in which he very strongly expressed disgust about how “PvP wags the tail” when it comes to WoW design, and that it would be “over his dead body” for the same to happen in Diablo 3. In fact, this is what he literally said vis-a-vis WoW:

Even the amount that PvP can alter the PvE game in WoW is unacceptable to us. Whenever we run into a case of “this would be really cool for us in PvE,” the PvP guy goes [raises hand] “That kind of screws PvP,” the answer is always “Shut up, PvP guy. It’s awesome in PvE and so that’s what we’re doing.”

This is not particularly groundbreaking news (the tension between PvE and PvP has been officially recognized for years), but it is fascinating to me hearing a more candid take on these subjects from designers. And, of course, what it could mean in design moving forward. Given that PvP is essentially free, infinitely recurring content while patches take 6-7 months to phone in lovingly craft, such hostility is… instructive.