Diablo 3 is just shy of a week away from release. Following this game for so long, many of us have seen from the periphery a lot of the design paths that didn’t make it into the game (especially Maurice!Bastard who played a demo at some Warcraft tournament eons ago and actually read the website from time to time). Here’s a list and why I think each change was made. There is probably an exhaustive list of this somewhere.
Health Potions in addition to the health globes: Originally there were no health potions, just the health drops in the form of the big red globes. Now there are health potions and globes. Why: I think they just couldn’t work this one out with the testers and the game became too dangerous without the player’s ability to heal whenever they wanted. During the beta, any time I died it was because I was trapped by one mob and being shot at by another. I don’t think this matters, but we may see the health globes disappear in the final…
No basic weapon attacks: This one is really odd. You always attack using your skills, rarely the weapon you have. If you equip a bow and are not a character that has archer skills, you will never see an arrow fly from your hands. Yet the weapon will add to your DPS and any other effects. It’s very strange. Why: this has got to be the real money auction house. There’s no other explaination possible. Blizzard wants users to be able to use (and that means buy from them or other users where they get a cut) as many weapons in the game as possible so where it seems like there was a constraint on weapons for characters to make them unique, this is gone.
No weapon animation for skills: This ties into he point above and the monk is the most noticeable character for this. When you have a weapon and your character uses a skill (such as any attack) the weapon disappears. If you are carrying a bow and you want to punch someone as the monk, the bow disappears until the skill animation is over. Why: Again, this looks like the real money auction house. They want all characters to buy all items in the game and since characters can use any weapon (but only attack with skills), they would have to animate all skills with all weapons for all characters. That’s easily done if you started designing the character animation that way like pretty much all the other ARPG’s I’ve played– but if you have to go back and redo all the animation after someone said “hey we need a revenue stream here with the weapons” it will take forever and a day.
Character animations aren’t that great compared to the monsters: This is one that has not changed and probably should have. The monsters look incredible– just awesome incarnate. The characters are sadly, just OK– nothing really special at all and their run animations are bit loopy across the board. The worst is the witchdoctor (male version) with his shaking palsy and hunch–quite inspiring to make one select him right? Why? locked in because of Armor sets. Totally constrained changing or iterating over the character models at some point during development (far too early from the looks of it).
Characters are the same but you can tell they were originally designed to be different: Baurice!mastard complains about this one quite a bit. The characters are all either close or long range DPS generators and though they look different and have some different types of mana, they are essentially the same across the board. Why? It’s suspected that they were trying to balance out the PVP and wow who gives a shit about that at all? I would say the only character that feels different is the Witch Doctor. If you play the Demon Hunter or the Wizard it really does feel like the same character with different animations for stuff.
After the beta, I’m really on the fence with D3. I played D1 for about a month and then picked it up a couple years later because of various LAN’s that destroyed my dwellings from time to time. I played D2 again for about a month and then picked it back up because of the ZYEL mod and well, yes, played a shitload over the years. Instead of being more like ZYEL with it’s insane monster rushes and mentally unstable level of crafting options, D3 is looking to be another play for a month, play it a bit with friends here and there after but with Torchlight 2 swinging out soon after, it may be completely eclipsed. That said, the D3 gameplay is jewel-like in it’s polish and very very fun. If they had abandoned any ideas around monetizing in game items would it be a better game? Signs point to Yes.