Gameplanet: Could you please begin with an overview of what's been delivered in patch 1.04?
Wyatt Cheng: Patch 1.04 includes a bunch of stuff. Skill buffs are a big thing for us: we’ve been looking at the skills of all the classes and making changes. In particular, we’re looking at resource spenders and generators, and looking at which ones are popular, and which ones aren’t, and then looking at the numbers ourselves and deciding if there’s anything we can do to make the less frequently used ones more popular.
We’ve also been looking at what would cause people to want – or not want – to use a skill. Sometimes it’s not just a matter of damage, sometimes, for example with the Witch Doctor’s Zombie Dogs, they just don’t live long enough. Sometimes it’s a cooldown issue, or an animation issue, or a visual effects issue. So basically we’ve tried to look at all the skills and say, “Can we improve this skill to make it more appealing?”
Of course, the other big feature is the legendary items. That’s been in the works, and we’ve been talking about that a lot, and this is the one, this is the patch where we’re going to have a lot of new legendary items. Andrew Chambers posted a preview of the legendary items last week and it was very well received. People seem very excited. The thing I really like about the legendary items is that they have a lot of character and flavour to them. Every legendary item has something special and unique about it. That helps a lot. They don’t feel like randomly generated yellows or rare items, they feel like items that have a personality to them.
Of course, lots of Auction House updates coming, and a lot of this is based on community feedback. We’ve looked at what people like and don’t like about the Auction House, and we’ve made changes as appropriate. Two of the big features that I call out is the [new] ability to search for up to six different properties, that’s been requested a lot, and we’ve said sure. Then of course, the ability to cancel on an auction: it can be very demoralising to list an item and then realise you’ve lifted it too high, and now you’re stuck with that auction for 36 hours.
We’re also looking at co-op play and making co-op more attractive. This is through no longer averaging magic-find, and now the monsters no longer gain as much health as players enter the game. They used to gain 110 percent health per player, and now that’s down to 75 percent.
And the big system announced today was the Paragon system.
Cheng: The way it works is, if you’re level 60, you continue to earn experience the same as you were up to level 60 for killing monsters. The experience will now go towards your Paragon experience. As you accumulate Paragon experience, you earn Paragon levels. Every Paragon level increases your core stats – strength, dexterity, intelligence and vitality – as well as granting 3 percent magic-find, and 3 percent gold-find per Paragon level. It gives players something as a reward, for example if you’re playing for an evening and you don’t get any sweet drops, you can at least know you made progress on your Paragon.
Gameplanet: You’ve said in your blogs that playing solo appears to be the “clear choice”, and you’ve mentioned that monster damage is one aspect of it. Do you think it’s the key factor?
Jay Wilson: I think there are two factors. One is the monster health increase. We did timed tests, and discovered that it took X amount longer to do some runs in co-op than it does when playing solo. If you can do a run faster in singleplayer than in co-op, you’re going to do it singleplayer. Add into that magic-find averaging [across the party] – it almost doesn’t matter if it’s real or not. The concern with that is that if magic-find is averaged, then there’s a chance that your magic-find would get reduced if you have a large amount of it, so you don’t want to play with other people [who could drag you down]. It doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not. We could say, “that’s not the case”, but the fact that it’s a potential is enough. We got a lot of anecdotal evidence internally of players who would not play with their friends – they wanted to play with their friends, but they’d say, “Well, you know, I think that my magic-find will go down, so I’m not going to take the chance.”
Those two things combined together were definitely impacting players’ desires to play with others. It’s not that we want to require people to play with others, we want them both to be viable, so that if you want to play with other people you can.
Gameplanet: A big part of the legendaries overhaul also seems to be about enticing players to mess around with different builds. What other changes are you making elsewhere to coax players to experiment?
Cheng: The skill changes themselves should cause a bit of experimentation. I think every class has received some good buffs that should encourage new skills. Personally, I’m very excited about the Witch Doctor buffs, and the ability to play with my Zombie Dogs. But even the barbarian, Whirlwind is better, Hammer of the Ancients has been improved, Seismic Slam – so a lot of the Fury spenders have been improved. You’re basically looking at new skills for all the classes – or at least, they’ll feel like new!
Gameplanet: Do you think it’s ever going to be possible to get away from the concept of optimal builds?