I’ve never attempted to write a review for a patch before, but given how important a patch 1.0.4 is for the survival of a game that thrives on what are essentially microtransactions via the RMAH, I thought I’d give it a shot. Truthfully, I haven’t actually played Diablo 3 since July. After weeks of farming A2 Inferno, I had finally gotten a truly gross item to drop. An Amulet with 500+ LoH, 60+ All Resistances, over 220 Int, and some other not as impressive stuff. It was an insane Melee Wizard Ammy, and was so good that I could use it on my barbarian if I wanted until I moved it. The monster slots had finally hit the jackpot, and I suddenly had an item that was worth literally millions of gold. There was nothing as good on the RMAH, or the gold AH, so it was hard to discern just how much it was worth. I asked around, did the research, and looked for trades. Most people just didn’t have the gold to buy such an item. Eventually, I became discouraged, and just stopped logging in to try to sell it. The problem was not just the AH, where you could only search for 3 affixes at a time for a given item slot. There just weren’t many ways to talk to other players in an open forum. The trade channel only ever had about 100 people in it, a pittance to the amount of people playing at any given time. The game was slowly dying as people realized that D3 was not an vast game that you could play for eight hours a day for six years like World of Warcraft, and the negativity on the forums and in the minds of the players was pretty plain. I knew I was buying an arcade like smash-the-monsters-and-grab-their-stuff game, but most people just couldn’t make that transition.
Clearly that situation doesn’t illustrate all the issues D3 has, but it showcases two big ones. A lack of what people perceive as an end game(something which doesn’t truthfully exist in games like this), and the community being fragmented and isolated into small pockets.
Now we have 1.0.4. Mind you, I haven’t played it for even a second, mostly thanks to Nunu being free this week on LoL, and Chet calling me during what was supposed to be my only game of the night(I had planned to check out the patch personally). Five or six games later, and it was bedtime. Still, assuming these notes are accurate, it’s not difficult to discuss how these changes affect the game and the community. So here we go!
The big huge flagship of 1.0.4 is the Paragon system. Oddly enough, I first heard about this idea from a dude named Kripp, who streams every night on twitch.tv, and posts YouTube videos every so often, like http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bdwQ5aXOStQ . Start at the 10:50 mark to hear where I think the Paragon system originated. Note that it was posted on June 24th.
Anyway, without describing it in too much detail, the Paragon system allows a character to continue progressing by earning small stat increases each new level, along with a permanent 3% increase to their MF and GF. Additionally, MF has been capped at 300%. Sounds great right? It eventually will solve the issue of players gear swapping into MF gear just before a rare/champ pack dies to maximize drop potential because after attaining the 100th(and last) Paragon level, their MF will naturally be capped, which also releases the tension players currently have between balancing MF gear with their ‘best’ gear. Still, since the Paragon levels will take quite a bit to get through, the problem will remain for a few months. More importantly, it gives people a feeling of getting better without having to resort to upgrading an item. Getting to level 60 is very, very easy, and hitting that brick wall of itemization really sucks. Now, it’s still going to suck(though not as much as you’ll see below), but every now and again, you’ll ding a Paragon level and feel good about accomplishing something. Hooray!
The other big huge gigantic change is the elimination of averaging the MF in a party for multiplayer. Now, this change only took up a single line in the patch notes, and was kinda just tucked in there, but of everything that’s changed, this is second only to the Paragon system. See, people want to play together these days. All the big games have random matching systems. LoL, CoD, DOTA 2, and countless others all have systems that randomly place you on a team with people. The downside to all this is that when you get paired with bad players, you suffer. In D3, after they changed monsters so they don’t hit harder in multplayer games, the only thing holding multiplayer back was the MF problem. If you joined a game, and saw that you had more MF than everyone else, there wasn’t much reason to play, as they were just leeching off you. If you joined a game, and saw that you had less MF than everyone, the higher MF players had an incentive to leave, because you were practically robbing them of drops. As a result, everyone pretty much played alone, or with friends they trusted to share drops. With averaging gone, the only way you can really be punished for using multiplayer is griefing, or someone just being so poor that they can’t make up for the 75% increase in monster HP for them being there. Since blue/yellow monster HP is actually down with this patch, it alleviates this issue even more. Now, people are going to get the awesome action they wanted when they bought the game. Barbs spinning everywhere, Witch Docs throwing curses, fire, and toads, Wizards just asploding everything, Monks flying around the screen kicking shit, and DHs standing in the back still shooting stuff because they die in one hit(:P). All that, at once, without the problems of other people so easily bringing down your game experience.
This patch has tweaked just about every aspect of the game, from monster stats/affixes, to character abilities, to itemization. I’m not going to list everything since you should read the notes yourself. The point is that all of these changes all point toward the game being easier. Now, recall that I haven’t played this patch yet, so all those numbers on reduced monster damage and higher minimum/maximum damage affixes on level 60-62 items don’t mean a whole lot until I’ve carved up a few thousand demons and seen the effects in a more organic way. I’m also not sure whether I should like the direction these tweaks take the game. I was very unhappy the first two times Inferno got nerfed. It’s not often that a game has a setting that so efficiently crushes your soul for the smallest mistakes. It was very rewarding whenever I did much of anything right in the original Inferno, but it didn’t happen often. Mostly I just ran away from stuff, or died alot. At this point, nerfing it for a third time doesn’t really do much in terms of making it less rewarding. It already wasn’t very satisfying to overcome a challenge. The reward has become the items and Paragon levels now, which is a fine switch because it’s so much easier to keep that feeling of progression going using those tools rather than clearing content. Under the old model, the progression essentially stopped when you killed Inferno Diablo anyway, and this isn’t an MMO where every three months there are brand new things to do. You aren’t paying for new content with your subscription fee like you did in WoW, so don’t expect it often.
What the nerf DOES do is allows for new builds to emerge. Making stuff easier to kill, allowing for players to take a hit or two more, and bumping the damage on many underused abilities makes for tons of new ways for players to explode the forces of Hell. I’ve always wanted to try a Throwing barbarian(like the old D2 one), but I couldn’t get it to work right. I just died too often, and it was too slow compared to the WW builds. I don’t know much about the Monk or Demon Hunter, but I know that the buffs the other classes got will enable new builds, and diversity makes the game exponentially more interesting. Perhaps the game getting easier just provides for a different kind of fun, and missing the old tearing-my-hair-out version of Inferno is just poor logic when I’m having so much fun now. Suppose we’ll see about that.
Something else in the patch is contributing to the viability of these new builds as well. The buff to legendary items is great, not just because now sometimes the best item won’t be some randomly generated name and stats. These buffed items also tend to have unique effects that are tailored to specific purposes. In D2, the Lightsaber really filled a niche role for a WW barb who wanted to be able to compete against a Trap Assassin. It was solid all around, but the Lightning Absorb was really the unique effect that really made it special. Now, there are items like the Three-Hundreth Spear, which provides a hefty bonus to Weapon Throw and Ancient Spear, and are specifically designed to be a desirable item for that type of barb, and at the same time makes the build more viable. Creating new(though not always strictly BETTER) legendary/set items are another way to give that sense of progression to players who are always looking for ways to expand their ability to do things in new and exciting ways. It also keeps players actually playing the game itself, since they have to get those items from somewhere, and the items will be so expensive on the AH to start that people that take a break will quickly find that their gold’s buying power has diminished substantially. This also helps drive the RMAH, since demand will be very high to start on premier items. Whether I’m alright with Blizzard being in control of the supply of a commodity that they earn a percentage on per trade, let alone being able to create newer or better versions, is not for this review, but to provide closure on it for now I will simply say I have never used the RMAH to sell or buy anything.
There are dozens of other changes that impact your play experience, like now being able to search for up to six affixes in the AH for a given item, making it easier to narrow your search criteria to exactly what you are looking for. As mentioned in my story about 1700 words ago, this makes it far more likely that your item will be seen by exactly who is looking for it, and give you a better idea of how to price your finds. Perhaps most importantly, it also means that more people will be playing, and the ship will be righted, heading right towards 1.1, where PvP awaits!
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