Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Not a nerf, promise

Diablo 3 has been all about Demon Hunters for a while now.  The thing about the game is that right now the endgame is utterly dominated by insane set bonuses.  You know things have gotten a big nutty when people say "So, how about a make a build that casts big spells at the enemies?" and everybody laughs at them.  The idea that anyone can accomplish anything of note by just attacking the enemies is a joke.  Demon Hunters have a set that lets them drop several invincible pets that each spam the best Demon Hunter attack spells.  Once the pets are down the player doesn't even have to be on the screen and they can go hang out in another room while their ludicrous pets mow down the enemies like grass.

Blizzard has decided that this playstyle is both overpowered and boring.  I tend to agree on both counts, and the fact that Demon Hunters are obviously crushing other classes in achievement and popularity supports that hypothesis.  However, Blizzard doesn't want to just say "We are nerfing you guys TO THE GROUND" because people will scream.  Instead the latest patch notes try to claim that they are changing the offending set bonus to something else without it being a nerf.  Essentially the change is that the pets only fire when the Demon Hunter fires, forcing Demon Hunters to actually attack and manage resources and such instead of just hiding.

As they are currently listed it seems completely clear that the changes are a huge nerf to Demon Hunters.  Not because their numbers will go down in the land of spreadsheets but because in practice the enemies actually attack you.  Having pets that do all the work while you hide is insanely powerful because it lets you ignore defensive stats and go pure beatdown.  In the new model Demon Hunters are going to have to spend a lot of time attacking and being in line of sight of the enemies and that liability is crushing.

All this is a good thing in general because it will make the Demon Hunter playstyle actually respect the enemies a bit and bring them back into line with other classes.  The interesting thing to me is how Blizzard is trying to present this as a neutral change and avoid the perception that it is a big nerf to Demon Hunter power.  There is a huge amount of politics involved in this sort of thing because players do appreciate it when their favourite class is competitive but once they have switched to the flavour of the month they get pissed if it gets nerfed TO THE GROUND.  I think Blizzard's strategy is a good one though ultimately I don't know if it will work, or indeed if anything would.

You can claim that their changes are neutral when the opponents are trivial but everyone knows that after this happens there will be a mass swap away from Demon Hunters to other classes because their absolute dominance will be at an end.  Toughness and mobility matter and when a change suddenly destroys your ability to stay alive it doesn't matter if your theoretical damage is the same.  The conclusion that this is a nerf is inescapable.

Sometimes though you have to do the best you can even when you know you can't win.  I suspect Blizzard is in that boat right now and they know it.  They will claim these changes aren't a nerf to preserve plausible deniability and go ahead and do it because it is the right thing to do.


  1. I feel like they've chosen a route that is very hard to argue against, though. I mean, people can say, "this is a nerf" but they basically have to stand on a pedestal and say, "I think I should be able to beat anything without actually attacking it. That is perfectly reasonable."

    On the other hand, I find Blizzard rich with their "overpowered and boring" thing. They have nerfed so many different things over the time D3 has been out all in the name, apparently, of having people run featureless random dungeons over and over. They even eliminated the monster hunting feature they brought in the expansion (admittedly, a poorly implemented encouragement to hunt, but at least it was another thing to do). They filled the expansion overworld with events and side dungeons and rifts are just killing monsters to fill a bar. Then they tier entry to endgame with ridiculous set bonuses and legendary gems as the only upgradeable gear.

    If they don't want the game to be boring, they should do something to make it not boring.

    1. They are actually introducing Ancient gear, which is even better versions of current legendaries. More things to grind up!

      I completely agree though, they should totally have fixed monster hunting by having stuff drop from regular mobs as well as specific named mobs. Make it so you want to clear zones with the right monster types rather than constantly reload games.

    2. That's more of the tiered approach. Get your legendaries then grind up your ancients. When D3 came out there were will people playing D2 despite the fact that it had no novel new tiers of gear in a decade. I think this every-few-months-release-better-shinies ploy is an excuse for a game that just doesn't have that much replay value.

  2. "because its the right thing to do" Dude they basically FORCED anyone who wanted to play a DH to play sentry style...why? because there is no other option!!! yes no other options..every other set for DH is a DEFENSIVE set exept NATs which has been a broken game mechanic since Diablo 3 DAY ONE!!! Heres th real message they are saying for any adults that know how to read between the lines of politics------ We consider the DH accidentally too strong of a class because we only gave them one play style to use effectively, We are going to improve (nerf) the DH and because we are too lazy to fix any of its other game mechanics it will therefore become the most usless class