Diablo 4 – Itemization

Part 2 of the dev watercooler discussions is up, and it deals with thoughts on itemization.  Since ARPGs are typically driven by the desire for better items, it’s worth a read.  First though, some history.

Diablo 2’s character power structure was a combination of items and skills.  The point investments in skills has a generally larger impact on gameplay than items did, yet there was still a lot of value in grinding for that perfect drop.  I won’t even get into the insanity of Runes.

Diablo 3’s character power is entirely driven by items, and the scale of randomness on rolls made some drops “god tier”.  Legendary items were eventually buffed to apply skill bonuses that impacted gameplay, and some bad luck protection with Kunai’s Cube.

Diablo 4 appears to be aiming more towards D2’s model, with skill point investment and items making up the power levels.  They are planning to eliminate the RNG on top of RNG (Ancient drops) from D3, yet still maintain some element of greater power structure.

The addition of horizontal stats to grant additional skills is an interesting touch.  Get 50 Demonic Power total across all items and get +2 Fireball sounds interesting.  Clearly they want to keep the zero DPS (ZPDS) support roles as viable, and there’s some diversity here in the choice between +proc and +damage.  Balancing those two seems a near impossible task mind you.

There’s also some drive to make rare (yellow) items viable, by having a random drop provide legendary affixes to non-legendary items.  Which, I guess is ok.  But that would require the difference between Rare and Legendary items to only be affixes.  If they have the same stat ranges, then this is reasonable.  If legendaries can roll say 20% better stats, then this is a useless system.

I’ve made a point recently that added complexity does not necessarily make for more interesting gameplay.  There’s a benefit of doubt here since the D3 live team has done some solid work.

This does beg the question relating to player progression, which is still a bit mysterious to me.  I think I understand the intent, but the devil is certainly in the details.  I guess another month before more clarity is provided.

In the larger lens, these types of conversations show that D4 is long ways off.  These are not minor questions, they are the fundamental to the game.  The sort of questions that Anthem should have asked themselves and avoided a horribad launch.  So both a yay in the fact that D4 is taking the planning seriously, but also a oooh in that Path of Exile 2 is most definitely going to launch prior.  Should be an interesting 2021.

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