Diablo 3 game designer makes a case for slower combat

Perry Vandell

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In the dark depths of Blizzard's forums , the Senior Technical Game Designer of Diablo III , Wyatt Cheng, suspended his soul-reaping rampage to answer few questions players had regarding Diablo III's soon-to-be slower combat. His main point: A combat system emphasizing shallow health pools and high DPS is toxic to strategy.

“A health pool that quickly goes from full to nearly empty implies that there's not a lot of room for variance in incoming damage,” Cheng wrote in his lengthy forum post. “When incoming damage is that high, a 15% increase in monster damage would result in death. This leads to comments like 'As soon as I turn up the Monster Power I get 1-shot.' I'd like to see a game where a clever player can handle a higher Monster Power by reducing incoming damage through good play.”

Cheng also pointed to lightning-fast health regen as another problem that plagues a game's pacing. He argues that small attacks or negative status attributes that slowly chip away at your health lose their significance when every swing of your dagger returns you to full health. This twitch-based, “winner shoots first” play-style strips tactical thinking from the game, according to Cheng. There's no time or reason to plan when everything can be solved with a few clicks of the right mouse button. Cheng admits there's no easy solution to this problem, though he has a few ideas on how to make things right.

“I will say that the first line of defense is reducing the rate at which players heal,” Cheng said. “After we pull in the rate of healing, next we analyze the patterns in which monsters deal damage. Ultimately, defensive stats will play a role in all of this. If some life regeneration, damage mitigation or (gasp) life on hit lets me play a little more aggressively, that's a good thing.”

Cheng didn't say when we'll see Diablo III's updated combat pace, though I imagine it'll nestle somewhere in the free update that's rolling out with the Reaper of Souls expansion set to come out sometime next year.

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