Thursday, March 22, 2012

Swapping specs

Diablo 3 has a new system in place called Nephalem Valor Buff which only comes into play at maximum level (60).  This gives the player a bonus to magic find and gold find each time the player defeats a Unique monster or set of Champions.  Right now it looks like this buff will stack, becoming larger and larger with each group killed to some maximum.  Defeating a boss while under this buff will also grant extra drops.  The trick is that the buff goes away as soon as you swap out a skill for another one.  The design is to allow players to swap to new specs any time they want but to discourage them from swapping constantly based on what monsters they expect to face.  The other effect of this change is to make it optimal to play in a single game for an extended time.  Rather than just running the same boss over and over again every two minutes we will probably do much better clearing whole areas or acts in a single sitting which I think will end up being more fun than repeating a single short section over and over.

I think this is a somewhat kludgy way to address the problem of people respeccing right before fighting bosses. I can't see swapping specs to fight normal monsters being useful since you won't know ahead of time what the next pack will be nor what sort of mods they will have.  Bosses, on the other hand, are always the same so their may well be specific builds that are extremely powerful against them.  Without any other incentive I can easily see players feeling they need to swap out their specs against each boss to maximize their effectiveness; that is, of course, assuming the bosses are really hard, which I think they will be on Inferno difficulty.  In essence Blizzard is trying to save the players from themselves by providing an incentive to not swap specs during a play session.

There are some other things they could do to prevent the issues of boss respecs like making sure that bosses respond appropriately to stuns, fears, etc. so they can't be permanently locked down.  This is probably really tricky though because if stuns and fears are useless against bosses then players are really incentivized to dump them and if the boss isn't immune then the boss just keels over dead.  Making bosses immune to crowd control effects but having lots of summoned mobs that aren't immune would provide a happy medium but that isn't always going to be an option either.  Just like in WOW it is extremely difficult to design all fights so that all abilities are useful but not overpowered.

Blizzard could have just as easily have made this a negative instead of a positive thing but it would almost certainly have been badly received.  Instead of having a stacking bonus they could have simply put all skills on a 1 minute cooldown after changing them around to incentivize people to stick to one build within a play session but this would get people really bitter I expect.  All in all I don't love this system but if Blizzard really feels it is important to prevent people from swapping specs and games constantly I think it will do the trick.  They seem to have a really clear vision of how they want games and grouping to go (Not at all like Diablo 2!) and they are willing to do some unorthodox things to make that happen.


  1. This more than anything makes me hope they don't do something stupid with 'diminishing returns' on magic find. Otherwise I can imagine wanting no MF at all on your gear since the buff will give you all you need. Or taken to the extreme you'll build different gear sets for each level of the buff as you become 'allowed' to trade out more MF for killing stats to use against the harder bosses.

  2. I expect that MF will have fairly harsh diminishing returns both based on the immense gear scaling we will likely see and also the fact that they swapped to that system in D2. There won't be a 'cap' so much though so I doubt very much that you will actually find it useful to maintain multiple gearsets based on your current MF status.

    What I *really* hope is that they have the MF from gear which is shared amongst the party and subject to diminishing returns and then the MF from the Nephalem buff that is a flat bonus that is not subject to DR. That would simplify how we view it and prevent any interaction with gear.

  3. I'm not 100% sure why, but I really don't like the nephalem valor buff. It's like they want people to behave a certain way so they are just going to pay them to do so. That can certainly work. It's hard to imagine, though, that it isn't going to create it's own strange incentives.

    The point of this buff is social engineering. If you are playing by yourself and you love to grind bosses then you will grind bosses. If you love to play inferno through from act I to act IV then you'll do that. This buff is so that people who join public games will have a certain kind of experience.

    But the effects that this will have on public games is somewhat unpredictable.

    Do people who join the game get the buff? If not then there might be a lot of people popping in and out of your game once you've got some stacks of it and you are heading for bosses. If so then there might be people hopping from game to game looking for those with the buff to leech off.

    Does the buff have a cap? How long does it take to reach the cap? No matter what the answer, it seems like there will be strife between people with different opinions of when to switch from open world to bosses due to different goals and time constraints.

    I'm emphasizing the bad here, I am not trying to claim to know how this will work out. I just think that no matter how they design the system there will be people grinding it in the optimal way, and it will always be a grind.

    But also, I think I'm really concerned about this not kicking in until level 60. Level cap, inferno difficulty (can you only access this at level 60?), a special buff that changes the way to play the game at level cap... are they creating two different games - a leveling game and a different game that you play at max level? That is a huge concern to me.

    LFM 8 unique + all boss run, min GearScore 2300

  4. The difference between harsh diminishing returns and a hard cap are pretty slim. With harsh diminishing returns there's going to be a number after which additional MF is of very questionable value. Assuming your normal set of gear hits that number this buff won't do anything appreciable unless you switch gear in with better killing stats and less MF.

    If a standard gear set doesn't get close to that number even with a maxed buff then there won't be harsh diminishing returns and I'll be happy.

  5. I think, just based on the way Blizzard tends to do math, that if there is diminishing returns on MF from gear that buffs will add on to the top after diminishing returns (shrines too). That just seems to be how they'd run it.

  6. Yeah, I think that the formula would look something like this:

    Total MF=(100+Gear MF with DR)*(1+Nephalem MF%)

    I would be shocked if they just added the Nephalem buff to regular gear MF and then applied the DR formula. That would completely fail to do what they are trying to do.

    Btw Sthenno, you won't be able to just to 8 uniques and then do bosses. If you enter a game at a particular quest you can only get to bosses by clearing the subsequent quests completely. All the waypoints and gated events beyond your starting point are not completed. You could start up a game, clear 8 uniques and then keep slogging through the entirety of Inferno (in order) if you want though, and that would be optimal I presume.

  7. The way Blizzard tends to do math! You mean not at all? Let's just let people play around with all the Zods they find to see if they can find a runeword! Happy Hallowe'en! Good luck getting 20 unique masks! Ret paladins who can burst pvp opponents dead in seconds... Initial cat form damage...

    I donno. I hope you're right and the buff actually does something productive and I expect even if it doesn't at the start they'll iterate to something useful at some point. But I have no confidence at all that it'll start out anywhere close to reasonable.

  8. When I say "the way they tend to do math" I just mean that I've gotten a feel for the kinds of formulas they use over the years of playing Blizzard games. I might be very wrong. I was quite wrong about some diablo 3 math already. I expect the formula to be:

    100 + DRFormula(Average of Party MF value) + Buffs

    Obviously as this is different than Sky expects above one of us has to be wrong. The math behind the item drop system in Diablo 2 is somewhat insane so I don't want to use it as a basis, but I do think they'll bring in DR on MF to prevent people from getting to levels of MF where only rare drops are possible, or even where rare drops are impossible (as apparently could be done in Diablo 2, though I struggle somewhat to understand how).

    I hope that MF is designed in a more intuitive way in Diablo 3 so that A) the system can work in a more intuitive way (you'd think MF would make you find more always-magic things like rings and jewels, but you'd be wrong); and B) they can have an easier time adjusting it to deal with problems (in Diablo 2 if you wanted to improve the quality of drops from regular monsters in Hell difficulty, for example, you'd have a hell of a time figuring out what to do).