So, as always, Blizzard is top notch when it comes to the art and animation of their games. The crusader looks good, the moves look awesome and as always, the character model and moves are very well done. I really enjoyed seeing their creative process when it came to polishing the character and the upcoming zones in Reaper of Souls.
When the panel switched to talking about "Loot 2.0" is where I started to really be disappointed.
Still the same old song
I am really disappointed that the team did not take this opportunity to fix the core problem of the game. Loot 2.0 is not going to fix the game just by adding more numbers. I agree that wide roll ranges was one of the problems, but when you amplify the numbers the gap is still there, and still significant enough that players will still want the high end rolls. Sure, you can enchant and re-roll the stats with the mystic, but that is not adding enough depth. Items are still bound by how much stats it has, and no matter what interesting affix you add to the item, the basic damage output formula still has not changed.
Weapon DPS + Stat = Damage = Boring
Until this formula changes, then people will always gravitate towards the bigger numbers first. Having legendary items roll main stat PLUS the unique affix only exacerbates the problem and does not actually make the game more interesting. The only way to get away from this is to have certain skills offer flat damage, and actually have a system of leveling up such skills to increase its damage output. This option would open up the itemization options for the blizzard team and make things really interesting. The game would then actually have a decent amount of depth by having this flexibility. We need to be free from the handcuffs of "more stats". Also, when the quantity of main stats you can collect on the higher level gear becomes so high, I feel that the stats become meaningless. Perhaps that is the idea, to give us so much main stat, that we won't care anymore?
On the other hand, if an item can roll 750-1000 main stat, that's still too big of a gap. I think they should at the very least for some items, have fixed rolls on the stat. Sure, the item is still usable, but these days, at least for me, I like to have the max stats to maximize my output and therefore efficiency at killing things. Missing out on 200 stats on a few items does add up to an extra item. So in the end, I think that loot 2.0 will not get me back into the game. The targeted drops are nice, but no amount of tweaking to a drop table will make the game any more interesting.
Here's a quote from the Q&A:
Q:"Currently damage comes primarily from the weapon. Why was that done? Are you keeping this system in Reaper of Souls?"
A:"We're pretty happy with it. In Diablo II for example you might not care about your weapon at all. We had to make some trade-offs, it wasn't an easy decision."
This really is where the thing falls apart for me. There are 12 other slots of gear for me to "care" about. Blizzard has now done the complete opposite, where we only care about the weapon, and nothing else.
How I would fix the game?
I'd do it POE style. Skills that are actual attacks can still scale on weapons, but spells and some abilities have their own flat damage bases that only scale through leveling that particular skill. Sure, you don't have to completely copy the system, but this can be implemented by letting the skill damage get multiplied through the base stat of the character. Then you can easier make adjustments if some skills become way too overpowered. You can then scale things accordingly and make easy adjustments to balance the skills.
This would also open up the characters to have some hybrid abilities by having some skills scale on multiple stats. An example could be the Demon Hunter's elemental arrow scales with intelligence as well as dexterity. Where the dexterity can scale the initial hit, and the intelligence would increase the elemental effect and its duration. If Blizzard wanted to, they can even strip it back further, where dexterity only effects attack speed and crit chance; strength would effect the actual damage of the initial hit, and finally, intelligence would effect elemental and status effects scaling.
I would also introduce stat requirements for items as well, and players would be allowed to allocate points to whatever they want, so they can really customize their character. They can play a tank demon hunter with a lot of strength, or an elemental based one with lots of intelligence.
So, lets say, for each level, you get five points to assign to stats. Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence and Vitality. Aside from stats, there would also be a separate skill point system, where each skill can be leveled up to increase its effectiveness, and you can even go as far as adding in a system where you can augment skills in different ways to really cater to your own play style. Things like cooldown reduction for certain skills can be increased and tweaked on each skill with these points would open up the build possibilities.
Imagine the Barbarian Bash skill can be augmented to do more damage, but at the cost of increased knockback, or you can remove the knockback, but take a slight decrease in damage output. The demon hunter's multishot skill can be augmented for a wider spread or add a chance to pierce. Lightning skills can be augmented to either chain shock enemies or increase the shock duration and/or chance.
Now, with this system in place, you can have a lot more fun with items. Where the item could bump these skills beyond a capped level, or add an augmentation to a skill for free. Would this be balanced? Not at first, but does that really matter in an action RPG game? But at least this system would have the flexibility to be balanced with enough time.
Still no PVP, and no ladder info
This is not really something that I am really into, but I know a lot of players are. At this point, I think the team at Blizzard is over thinking things and want to create some sort of structured PVP system in Diablo, and I think that by narrowing their scope, they miss out on a simple solution. Just allow players to go hostile like Diablo 2 style, and there you go. Let the players do whatever they want, and don't worry about balance, because it will never be balanced. If players want a balanced PVP, play a MOBA. Players who want PVP in Diablo just want to beat up on each other anywhere in the game. Not in some buggy map with hiding spots that make your characters disappear. I don't even understand why they attempted to make a separate map when they had a few perfectly laid out maps to begin with; i.e. Magda's boss fight area? or Diablo's boss room? Again, they over think and under deliver.
As for ladders, all they need to do is just setup a new realm so that everyone can at least start with a fresh economy. One thing I really enjoy about Path of Exile is the first week of a new league. Everyone has the same starting point, and you can either build a familiar character, or try something new. I personally enjoy "crafting" (*cough* gambling) items for my own character just because the item pool is not that big yet. So I really don't get what Blizzard really needs to "experiment" with. Just a fresh economy alone is enough to get people playing again. If you want to do interesting things like ladder only items, and such, you can patch those in later.
So its kind of a sad thing. I was looking forward to playing D3 again, but playing other games lately have made me realize how uninteresting the game really was, and the team at blizzard really seems to have not identified the core problem, and is instead just using a short term solution as an attempt to band-aid the problem. Players, like myself who can sink thousands of hours into the game don't really need much to get us back in the game, but Blizzard needs to actually do things, instead of "thinking" of things. I appreciate the process and the constant evolution of a game, but I'm tired of being let down with all the ambiguous talk of "thinking". Show me what you were thinking, let me play it on PTR, and let me tell you if its "fun" or not.