Tue. May 30th, 2023
If only all the groundbreaking problems of Diablo III were so easy to spot.

If only all the groundbreaking problems of Diablo III were so easy to spot.

If you were one of the 6.5 million buyers who did Diablo III the fastest-selling PC game of all time last week, you should know that Blizzard is now admitting that the game you were playing was broken in some major ways. I don’t just mean broken in a way that prevents you from playing the game (although the company is still fixing many server and programming issues that continue to cause connectivity issues), but broken in a way that made certain character abilities unintentionally powerful.

Blizzard has now posted a list of hotfixes applied to the game yesterday, and aside from a few obvious usability bugs, they all significantly reduce the power of certain key class abilities. Basically, if you used any of these skills before the patch, you inadvertently benefited from skills that made the game much easier than Blizzard apparently intended.

Take the Monk class Boon of Protection rune, which allows a player’s party to absorb a lot of damage for ten seconds. Community Manager Bashiok admits on the forums that this ability “was about ten times over its budget for the benefits it provided” and has now been “brought to the point of obsolescence until we can deploy a new rune in its place in a future patches.

“We don’t plan to take these quick and drastic measures often, but given the seriousness of the problem, we felt it was important to fix it quickly,” he continued.

Players on the forums have been quick to complain that the recently downgraded abilities make it practically impossible to beat the game on the highest difficulty settings, where the enemies are downright ferocious. I can’t comment on the substance of those complaints, as I’m still slowly working my way through the Normal difficulty and find it almost insultingly easy on my Demon Hunter.

Gamers deserve better than this

What I can say, though, is that the dedicated players who have already used these skills to fight through to the game’s highest difficulty levels deserve better than being told, essentially, “you were playing an incorrect and incomplete version of the game. ” Such players should now look back on their in-game performance with some suspicion, wondering if their performance would hold up if they played the rebalanced, “corrected” version of the game that went live yesterday.

Of course, post-release patching is nothing new, especially in the PC realm. Diablo II, for example, was still being rebalanced through patches as late as March 2010, nearly a decade after its initial release. I also understand that any game with as many moving parts as Diablo III will likely have a few unresolved issues upon release, and that it’s better to fix those issues with a hotfix than let them ruin the game forever.

But the ubiquity of the post-release patch has led too many developers to be rather lax about balancing pre-releases, knowing that they can fix any issues that crop up at a later date. For a good example of this point of view, check out Bashiok’s response to complaints from forum visitors that ranged attack classes are significantly more powerful than the Monk and Barbarian, who are forced to fight at close quarters:

Overall, class balance is an ongoing study, and we by no means believe the game is perfect now, but we’re also seeing evidence that supports (with a few nerfs for wizard and demon hunter) that the Monk and Barbarian aren’t as bad as they are seem,” he writes. “Our intent is to fine-tune lessons, verify that these hotfixes aren’t introducing new issues, and then considering all factors, we’ll look at the content,” he writes in a later post . “It’s not a preferred method, I’d say, but just because the game is so new, we don’t think making quick decisions about overall balance is the right approach when the metagame is still shifting.

“The game is young, there were some skills that threw things out of control, and we expect the landscape to level out a bit,” he continues in yet another post.

I’m sorry, but I’m not sure why it would take an “ongoing research” to help perfect a game that needs to “run a little more evenly” weeks after it’s released.

Bashiok cites a shifting “metagame” in what is still a “new” release, implying real-world conditions and playstyle messing with what seemed like a carefully balanced testing experience. That argument works well for competitive games, where the community can often discover previously unknown strategies and combos that even diligent testers might have missed (check out this demonstration of just how powerful the now-banned Akuma was in competitive games). Super Street Fighter II Turbo, For example). But it seems to me that the problems broke the first Diablo III experience would have been present and evident in the version that Blizzard presumably tested for balancing issues long before its oft-delayed release.

The only thing that’s changed since those pre-release tests is that Blizzard belatedly realized it had made some major balancing mistakes Diablo IIIcharacter classes and skills. As the “ongoing investigation” into these balancing issues continues into the future, players can rest assured that the game they are playing now is far from perfect and is still subject to significant, regular tweaks. Maybe they’ll finally get it done in a decade or so…

By akfire1

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