Diablo III engages massive gameplay overhaul

Just when you thought the Diablo III beta was merely a way for certain lucky so-and-sos to get their hands on a demo version of the game before the rest of the world, Blizzard turns around and announces a significant number of changes for the game. They’re all based on player feedback after the beta – so your feedback really has done something!

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Generally, a game is pretty much figured out by the time it hits beta – sure, some tweaks, tidies and other minor adjustments are in the works, but the game itself is largely done. Not so for Diablo III, with game director Jay Wilson announcing changes to gameplay elements and systems that seemed to be set in stone.

Wilson’s put pen to paper in a detailed post simply titled “Systems Changes”:

Our job isn’t just to put out a game, it’s to release the next Diablo game. No one will remember if the game is late, only if it’s great. We trust in our ability to put out a great game, but we’re not quite there yet. In addition to finishing and polishing the content of the game we’re continuing to iterate on some of the core game systems. So all that said, I’d like to provide everyone an update on some of the systems we’re currently working on.

…and Wilson’s being more than a little coy there: The changes made are rather on the hefty side.

Here are some of the highlights:

Scrolls of Identification have been scrapped – instead, you’ll now need to study your item for a brief moment and you will identify its properties. One less thing to carry around, and it illustrates just how badass your character really is.

After some to-ing and fro-ing, the team has decided to make the fifth quick-slot button a dedicated potion button – keeping potions easily available for “emergency situations”.

The Mystic artisan has been removed. Looking at the big picture, the dev team decided she wasn’t really bringing anything to the party at this stage, so rather than go all the way back and fix it from scratch, it’s been excised. “We’ll revisit the Mystic and enhancements at a later time,” says Wilson, who hopes she’ll make a comeback in the future.

There’s also a lovely circular move giving a little insight into how game dev works: Originally, with the exclusion of Town Portals, the Cauldron of Jordan and Nephalem Cube were added to make for a quick and easy way to salvage or sell items when away from a town.

…but then the team implemented the Stone of Recall, which means that you can return to town at any stage, making the Cauldron and the Cube a little superfluous. The Stone also looked remarkably similar to something else we’d seen in previous Diablo titles, so the next move wasn’t really surprising: Make a few changes to salvageable items, before axing both the Cauldron of Jordan and the Nephalem Cube, and renaming the Stone of Recall as the Town Portal.

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Even these changes fade a little in the shadow of the Big One: Core character attributes are changing to Strength, Dexterity, Intellect and Vitality – scrapping Defense, Attack and Precision.

All of these changes will be rolled out in the next patch for Diablo III – and on top of that, there’s still a bunch of tweaks in the works for core skills and runes. Finally, once all of that is complete, then we can start talking release dates. Or so we’re told.

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