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Gameplanet: Do you think it’s ever going to be possible to get away from the concept of optimal builds?

Wilson: No, probably not completely. When you’re dealing with a game as complex as Diablo III, with so many different components, the notion that you’re going to mathematically balance every possible option against every other possible option – and then weigh in other elements like ease of play, and player perception, and the general feel. If you’ve got a build that uses every Ice ability on the Wizard, that’s just cool. So, even if it’s only 0.1 percent better, it might actually become super-popular due to the cool factor. There are so many factors, and some of them you just can’t control.

So I don’t think it’ll ever go away, but the goal with Diablo III is, as with the previous games, making it OK for you to not have to be optimal. A lot of games, like MMOs, you have to be optimal: there’s a lot of social pressure, you’re trying to perform in a raid, or for your guild, you’re in highly competitive player vs. player environments. Diablo is meant to be a more casual environment where if you’re playing with other people, you don’t have to be perfectly optimal, because it’s not like everyone is depending on you. You don’t have to play with other people if you don’t feel like it. The PvP is not nearly as competitive. All of these things make it a game where while you can be optimal, you’re not required to be.

Diablo III: Paragons and Legendaries

Cheng: I think that there’s also an enormous amount of content out there. Optimal and viable aren’t the same thing, but what’s optimal for a Butcher run in Act 1 may not be optimal for a Maghda run in Act 2, or a Siegebreaker run in Act 3. So there’s that, and on top of that, there’s changes as your gear changes. Some people have theorycrafted out: “When do I switch to Cyclone-Sweeping Wind on the Monk?” And the reply is: “Well it depends on what your attack speed is, and when your attack speed is a certain amount, your crit percentage is a certain amount, then cyclone is better.” So there’s a lot of that, and for some players, for some percentage of the audience, they really like getting into that math and chasing what’s optimal, but most players just want to put together a build that works. I think a lot of players are excited about being able to say that they came up with a build on their own, that they didn’t have to consult the Internet. They’ve picked skills based on what they think is cool, and as long as they’re able to kill monsters and progress, loot items, gain experience and Paragon levels, they’re happy.

Gameplanet: Moving on to the Paragon system: the idea is to pull back the importance of magic-find and the necessity to swap out gear half way through a fight. I’ve always found that finding a quality magic-find item can be as rewarding in itself as finding the items you stack magic-find to find. Is there any concern that removing magic-find in favour of the Paragon system will make the game more predictable and perhaps, therefore, less exciting and surprising?

Diablo III: Paragons and Legendaries

Wilson: It’s kind of a moving target problem. The short answer is, yeah, that could happen, but it’s not like we’re gone either. If it does happen, it’s very possible for us to add new and highly appealing affixes. I think that, a lot of the time, when you look at something and you decide that it’s bad for your game, you just have to decide that it’s bad, and recognise that nothing is 100 percent bad. Everything we put in has a good side, but it probably has a dark side as well.

With magic-find, we wrestled with it all through development, we got it live, and once we were there, we learned that what we were worried about are just as bad, if not worse. It really encouraged a lot of this gear swapping mentality, which we think is not a fun way to play the game. It makes players make choices between current power and future power, which is one of those things that sounds really cool in theory, but in actuality, it’s not a fun choice. What you’re basically doing is saying, “I’m going to nerf myself now, so that I’ll be awesome later.” The truth is that you’re always going to have that bit of nerf so that you can be awesome later, and the later never comes.

It’s one of those things that, when you really logic it out, we felt it didn’t add as much to the game as it took away. Phasing it out absolutely takes something away from the game, but we feel like overall, it’s a positive change. What we could lose is something we can look at and say, “What [other things] can we add to items now to gain that back?”

Diablo III: Paragons and Legendaries

Gameplanet: Naturally, you guys will have been thinking about this with regard to any theoretical future expansions: will Paragon be reset at that time, or will characters simply carry it over?

Cheng: It’s planned to be a permanent part of your character.

Wilson: One of the reasons that we make it a system that progresses your character separately to the levelling system was very intentional, so that if we raise the level cap in the future, your Paragon levels would stay untouched and would still benefit.

Gameplanet: If the level cap was raised, would Paragon still begin a level 60, or would it kick off at the new level cap?

Wilson: It would kick off at the new level cap. So if you were Paragon level 53 and we raised the level cap, you would start getting normal levels until you were capped, and then you begin getting Paragon levels again.

Gameplanet: Gotcha. So the incentive is there to get as many Paragon levels as soon as possible! What other changes have been made to the Auction House?

Diablo III: Paragons and Legendaries

Cheng: Lots of little changes. It’s not really any one huge change, just a lot of quality of life features that we’ve seen come up over and over. The ability to see the stats on an item that you’ve sold: we’ve done that. The ability to search, but not take gem properties into account: a lot of people got frustrated because they want to find [for example] a helm that has a socket and magic-find, but they end up finding a helm that is socketed for magic-find. That can make it very frustrating to search for something that could have even more magic-find and an empty socket.

The ability to search – and this works really well with the legendaries that are going in – properties on legendary items. There’s a whole laundry list of little features like that. No single, huge feature, but you put them all together and I think it addresses 90 percent of what we’ve seen players ask for.

Gameplanet: Where are you guys at in the patch cycle now? How are you getting on with 1.1 and PvP?

Cheng: Yeah, I don’t want to focus too much on that because the focus is on 1.04, but progress is going well! The two [patches] were in simultaneous development at certain points.

Wilson: Before we shipped the game, we had a schedule for patches. So this patch was scheduled. We didn’t know what was going to be in it, we just assumed, “Oh, we’ll have a couple of really quick patches for stability, and another for really bad exploits. We’ll have a general tuning patch – which was 1.03 – and we’ll probably have a more major tuning patch, which is 1.04, then the PvP patch. So all our patches are more or less on schedule.