Way back when, in 2012, D3 launched to some fanfare. The core gameplay (combat, movement, art) was good but the underlying mechanics needed a lot of work. The auction house in particular highlighted the issues with the core mechanics.
It’s a simple fact that people, en masse, will take the shortest route to their goals, often without regards for that path’s difficulty. If it takes 30 minutes of farming, or 2 days of questing, I’m going to farm, even if my eyes bleed. Blizz learned this rather quickly with WoW, which was why it was so strange to see the same types of errors at launch. So, while the “max level game” was balanced around a set of specific numbers for player statistics, players needed to find gear to meet those requirements.
Problem 1. Gear drops were completely randomized, with massive scales. You could get a bow with intelligence, or a legendary dagger that was worse than what you were using 10 levels beforehand. There’s a rule in gambling, where you have to let the player think he can win. Streaks make them put more money on the table. Because D3 had such massive swings of RNG, you ended up looking for less than a fraction of a percent of all gear.
Problem 2. Scaling of content was inverted and had plateaus. Typically, you have a scale that increased as you move farther into difficult content, requiring progressively more and more gear to get to the next rank (i.e. torment). Not so at first, where just getting to the starting line was a massive effort, and the climb from that point was rather small.
As both problems were number problems, people started doing math. If 1 person farming gets 1 decent item every day, then 1000 people farming get 1000. The Auction House circumvented all farming, and with a little luck, you could go up exponentially in power in a few hours of scanning the AH. The downside was that if you did that, then you were at max gear and didn’t really have a reason to keep playing – gear was the only goal. You could either farm it through eye-bleeding runs of Act 3 (cause screw Act 2 &4, and Act 1 dropped lower quality items), or farm the AH. That was about it.
Different story today. Gear itself is still a goal, but it’s not the only one. Seasons are here, ladders, sets that provide very different build options, transmog and achievements.
The original problem of gear drops has been mostly solved through “smart drops”. About 80% of what you find is gear specifically designed for your class with stats you can use. The stat ranges themselves are much more narrow. Legendary items impact playstyle with interesting effects. Legendary items can also roll as “ancient”, providing a ~10-20% boost in power. You can craft meaningful gear, farm rings and amulets through uberbosses, run bounties for crafting materials/unqiues (of which most have interesting rewards), or run rifts for an increased chance at legendaries and sets. Kunai’s Cube and Kadala even let you gamble specific materials for a chance at something better. There are MANY paths to increasing your power now.
The second problem of scaling is also fixed, where there are many levels of difficulty and moving through the first few is rather quick. A few crafted items and drops and you can move up 2-3 levels in a shot. A few hours later of decent drops, or gambled set and you are in the mid-game. A week or 2 later, you’re in the later difficulties.
Session So Far
Given I am running an S4 monk, and I want to run a U6 build, I have a particular gear plan in mind. I needed specific items to complete that set. When I hit level 70, my path was as follows:
- Craft a set of rare equipment
- Increase difficulty slightly
- Run regular rifts & gamble with Kadala for Uliana’s set until I have 6 pieces (including duplicates)
- Use Kunai’s Cube to transform duplicate Uliana items to the ones I need
- Continue to gamble on belts and bracers for specific items
- Collect rare Fist Weapons and upgrade to legendary, hoping to get 2 specific items
- Complete basic set, and continue to gamble/upgrade for Kunai Cube support items
- Re-roll some stats for improved power
- Collect/upgrade legendary gems to rank 25
That part took a few hours, enough to get Paragon level 200 or so.
Given that I have the basic set required for this playstyle (and 4 bank stashes of stuff) I can now do Torment 8 at a good level of comfort. To continue to move up, I now need to optimize and collect some final pieces of gear.
- Craft a better Hellfire Amulet
- Upgrade set items to Ancient (mainly through Kadala Gambling)
- Find a better Restraint/Focus combo
- Upgrade legendary items to ancient through Kunai Cube
- Re-roll stats as appropriate
- Farm Death’s Breath with second gear set to help with Kunai’s Cube work (current gear set for that)
That list seems simple, I know. Each step in the previous section was minutes long, or a few hours. I didn’t care about the numbers as much as the item itself. Now, I need better numbers. Example: Uliana’s Pants. They are the most common drop and I’ve had ~20 or so thusfar. Only 1 was ancient mind you, but it has decent stats. So that means that each individual step in this list is likely to be measured in days.
It’s a long tail but every session I make some progress. And that progress is what keeps people coming back.