# #Diablo3 – Where Should I Farm (Numbers!)

This is going to be an analytics discussion, so some math is to be found.

Diablo 3 is a slot machine.  You pull the lever (kill the baddie) and stuff pops out.  Sometimes it’s good stuff but most times it’s crap.  You need to pull that lever a whole bunch of times to get something decent.  And the prize itself, while it might have a nice look, when you get to the meat of it, there are things wrong with it.  Such are the RNG (random number generator) gods!  For the purposes of this article, I’ll only focus on Legendary (or set) items.

In order to sway the odds, Diablo 3 has a whole bunch of number crunching below water. Enemy difficulty (regular, rare, unique, etc…) have different odds of dropping items.  Game difficulty (normal, torment, etc…) have different odds of dropping items.  Rifts and Greater Rifts have different odds of dropping items.  Actually, Greater Rifts are still under debate, so I’ll scratch that for now – in particular because it takes 11:30 minutes to clear one.  Some of these odds are additive, some are multiplicative.  Let’s start with that concept first.

Additive odds are simple enough; you just put the numbers together.  So 25% + 15% + 7% = 47%.  Multiplicative odds are harder to get around.  25% * 15% * 7% = 30.7% and much less obvious.  Sometimes you even add the odds and then multiply.  You get crazy formulas.

Enemy difficulty is also part of this calculation, where non-regular (so Rare, Elite and Unique) seem to have a sliver of a chance to drop even a rare item whereas a pack will drop 3+ items.  The quality of an item is dependent on if that enemy even drops something.  So you can’t say a normal enemy doesn’t drop legendaries, it barely drops anything in the first place.  You’re looking at a solid 100 enemies before seeing something.

Game difficulty and rift difficulty is as follows.  Normal until Master gives a 0% boost outside rifts and 25% in rifts.  Torment 1-6 gives 15% to 131% boost outside rifts and a 44% to 189% boost to drops inside rifts.  So at any difficulty level, it’s clear that you should be in a rift, the increase is noticeable.  Torment 1+ is required for level 70 legendaries.  Torment 2+ has  50%+ odds of dropping a legendary in a bounty.

Game difficulty also increases enemy hit points, where Torment 1-6 go from 819% to 8590%.   That’s a massive increase.  They also hit harder but that’s less important for this point.  You want to kill them fast.

Each build has a “clear on normal” build which is built on efficiency and speed.  Or, 1-hit-kill specs.  The clear builds mean you mow down everything on the screen quickly and get to focus on the elite packs instead.  The bonus from this is the extra experience from the kills, increasing paragon levels which increases your power and makes you kill faster.  So… yeah, killing regular enemies quickly is good.  This brings up the concept of “clear speed” where you can complete an objective in X amount of time – typically this applies to Bounties (5 quests with a chance at a reward) and Rifts.

So that’s a pile of information.  And you’re wondering, what the heck does this actually mean?  Me too!

Depending on your leveling path, you either did the content in order or simply re-ran bounties a bunch of times.  You hit 70, and finally started to use your Blood Shards with Kadala, gambling on gear.  You focus on armor, getting some decent stuff.   Unless you have a really crappy weapon, don’t bother gambling on one.  Find a good clearing build and run a few normal bounties in Act 1 until you have a better weapon.  Find a 1 hit kill build next and increase the difficulty from normal until you find one that is no longer 1 hit kill.  There are great odds that this stays on normal and that’s ok.  You’re going to reach a point where you’re 80% optimal on rare items.  This means you have imperial gems slotted, you have 80% of the maximum roll on your primary stat (plus Critical Hit Damage, Critical Chance), some critical hit and damage as well as a decent (~8K) life on hit.  Your weapon should have a gem slot and it should be an emerald.  You’re now ready for Torment 1.

Actually, maybe you’re not.  This is where the magic really happens is the Time to Clear (TTC, which is really similar to a TTK acronym).  Greater Rifts (GR) have a 11:30 TTC, if you want to increment your rift level by 1 (for more loot).  A TTC that’s lower means you need to leave the GR, so something else, then come back to kill the guardian.  The “something else” should be Act 1 bounties, trying to get a Ring of Royal Grandeur – a legendary ring from the bounty cache.  You should be able to clear all 5 quests in 2 GRs, depending on dungeon layout.  Once you’ve completed the Act 1 bounty and closed the GR, leave the game and restart.  GRs get harder over time, so your TTC will eventually reach and exceed the 11:30 and you’ll be unable to continue but have to restart.  The benefit of GRs is legendary gems (should have them all in ~15 rifts) and a decent chance at a legendary on the boss kill.  But you’re only killing the boss every 11:30 minutes plus. Due to this, greater rifts aren’t usually worth a whole lot until you can clear T6 rifts reliably – you’re not there for the gear but for the challenge and the gems.

The alternative, if you have a decent TTC, are regular rifts.  Once you’re 80% optimal, you need to run Torment 1.  TCC by that point is less gear dependent and more skill based.   The question becomes, “do I move up in difficulty?”  The answer is related to TTC.  Let’s look just at the difference between T1 and T2.

T1 = 819%hp, 44% bonus to legendary

T2 = 1311%hp (60% increase), 65% bonus to legendary (47% increase)

So let’s say your TTC in T1 is 5 minutes.  You get a 47% increase in rewards. The real metric here for choice is that your TCC cannot exceed 47%, or you’re actually falling behind.  That means a new TCC of 7:23 or less.  Other clear times are: T3 (10:13), T4 (13:31), T5 (17:09) and T6 (21:28).  Now the difficulty climbs too, due to the HP increase.  So your damage needs to climb as well.  Let’s say you’re at 200K DPS.  T1 to T2, to clear at the same rate, your damage needs to increase to 320K.  From T1 to T6 you need to reach 2.1 million DPS.  And that’s not even calculating the extra damage enemies will cause.

Given that you only ever get an average of X items in a rift, regardless of quality, you’re better off clearing them faster than raising the difficulty.  I could graph out the optimal place to run rifts, based on your damage output but there are a few other factors at play.  The goal is to clear as fast as possible, unless you can increase the difficulty and still remain below the new clear time.  So!  What you want to do is get a TTC of 5 minutes for a T1 rift first.  Don’t even bother with the other rifts until you can get this one down as it’s very unlikely you’ll get any benefit from harder rifts (exception is playing in groups).  Once you have T1 down to an art, then see if a T2 can fit in your time window (7:23).  If it can’t, then get better at T1 rifts.

That was a really long post that hopefully added some clarity on the “where should I be farming” discussion. The short answer is “T1 rifts until you can clear them in 5 minutes”.  There is very little incentive of moving up in difficulty if you’re aiming for optimal performance.

# #Diablo3 – Progress Report – Level 70 Crusader

So to my last post relating to the changes in Diablo3 indicated that I had spent some time there.  Well I did and in particular I decided to roll a Crusader in the softcore season.  I have never been a fan of the hardcore playstyle as an always-online game + 2 kids = you’re going to die.  Lag or framerate stutters are enough to snuff out the candle – in particular framerate issues where player optimization conflicts with game optimization (mostly movement speed issues).

A seasonal player acts like a fresh character as you don’t have access to previous paragon levels, crafting items or shared stash.  It’s like starting the game with nothing – other than the knowledge of previous plays.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Since I had completed Act V with other characters, I had unlocked adventure mode without the need to do a full game run on the new character.  That saved ~6 hours or so I guess, given the odd balance sections in the game.

Adventure mode allows me to port all over the place and collect bounties, which award a cache with rift tokens and a chance at a legendary.  The legendary ring reward for Act 1, Ring of Royal Grandeur, gives a unique bonus of allowing set benefits with 1 less item (so a bonus of 3 if you only have 2). This allows you to stack multiple benefits with less items.  I did 1 through 70, exclusively on Act 1 bounties, and got 1 ring.  Each run was 2-5 levels worth of experience, depending on what I encountered.

Item collection is much different than before, at least while leveling.  Smart drops means that I had very few super-crap items.  Who needs an DEX sword as a crusader?  I’d guess that less than 20% of the items where things that I would never consider using.  Previously, I would only ever consider 10% of the items that dropped.  I remember my Wizard as the first one that leveled.  When he hit 60, I was still wearing items from level 20 due to poor drops.  When my Crusader hit 70, he has 1 item at 47 and the rest was mid-60s.  Big difference.

Bounties also awarded a bunch of blood shards, used for gambling.  Since I was accruing a decent stream of items while leveling, I played at Master difficulty after level 20 or so.  This gave me a boost to experience (100% I think) and double the blood shards.  I didn’t spend any of them until 70.  When I did hit 70, I gambled on each slot until I got an “optimal” piece per slot.  I think I was around 500 blood shards, so there was plenty of room to gamble and find decent stuff.  Each item costs 5 to gamble, so you can imagine the power jump I went through when I hit cap level.  My DPS went from ~40K to ~150K in 5 minutes.

Actually, this brings up the expansion power jump discussion.  From 1-60, the items are balanced decently enough and gems in particular have a nice scale of power.  61+ the items have a boost in power, significant at that.  Say from 250 stat to 500.  Gems that drop have 100 main stat boost instead of 40.  For example, my monk at 60 had ~200k DPS.  Just by upgrading gems and running blood shards, it went up to 500K.  That’s an insane power curve – (and likely why PvP will never go live).

So what do I do now at max level?  I ran a few rifts at normal, to see if I could get some decent drops.  I got a couple, in particular a nice flail that doubled the duration of my Steed skill (immune to movement control and deals damage).  With a bunch of cooldown reduction items I can use the steed ~50% of the time and kills most enemies in a single shot.  Easy farming for a bit.  Upgrades a couple more pieces then moved on to Torment 1.  Found some more items as pretty much completed all my crafting recipes.  I’m at a point now that there is absolutely nothing I can get that isn’t a set/legendary as an upgrade as I have “optimal” rolls for all my rare gear – you can say that the game is complete at this point.

Now I enter the true end-game, the gear farming space.  I know how this worked before RoS.  A future post will detail the progress.

# Diablo 3 – Revisit

I’ve written a fair bit about Diablo 3 in the past. The two main points were as follows:

• Building an single Auction House for 3 million people in an RNG system means playing the actual game has little value.  Only playing the AH actually accrued any value.  Plus the whole “real money” aspect was flawed.  (Disclaimer – I made enough from the RMAH to buy D3 and a few expansions, so the game was more or less “free” to me)
• Extreme randomness does not align with a a design that focuses on 2-3 optimal stats. A 75%+ perfect roll was needed to even compete at top tier, with a less than 0.01% chance of getting it.  Extreme randomness rarely works at all but for it to have a chance, you need rather exceptional balance to make as much viable as possible.  (e.g Intellect for a Monk is never viable)

So Jay Wilson left (was let go?), they dumped the idea of an Auction House, launched a console version with lessons learned and then released an expansion Reaper of Souls that took that and went a bit further.  Doone got me thinking about it with a recent post on the launch of seasons and I decided to give it a go after nearly a year away.

What’s changed?

Loot 2.0 for starters.  This is a massive design change, where the odds of drops are tipped in your class’ favor.  Monks get monk favored drops (Dex, Crit, uniques, etc…) with a few non-Monk items.  The stats on the drops have reasonable ranges (300-400 instead of 100-700).  The balance against the stats makes sense as well, where mid-difficulty content can be completed pretty soon after you hit level 70 and the gap between the difficulties is solid.  Oh, and there are legendaries all over the place, with unique abilities, and they are much better than other items.  The game still has random spots but it is so much less punishing than before, it’s barely recognizable.

Adventure mode.  Once you finish Act V, any other character can port to any waypoint in any act at any time.  There are still shitty spots in the game (bees in Act 2, goliaths in Act 4) and you can skip them completely!  Combined with bounties, which are 5 mini quests per act that reward gold/xp and blood shards, you have a reason to go all over the place and see things but with options.  Blood shards are used for gambling, which is a nice feature.

Customization.  Transmog is there and that’s fine but the ability to re-roll stats on items is even better.  Have an item that’s perfect except for one roll?  Re-roll it for a better item!  It’ll cost you a pretty penny but hey, good way to get some nice stuff.

Crafting overhaul.  Crafting now is useful.  Sets, uniques and what have you.  It makes sense to make items now and actually use this system.

Balance.  D3 at launch was notorious for cookie cutter builds, which are indicative of poor balance.  When you’re given the choice of ~150 skills and 75% of the population ends up with the same selection – you have a problem.  Today, each class has 4-5 viable builds for max level (Torment 6).  That’s a hell of an achievement.

Paragon.  This was before 2.0 but it’s now across all characters.  You get points for each level past 70 (horizontal progress) to assign to specific fields.  Allows you a level of customization you might not find on gear.  Applies to level 1 characters too!

Seasons.  Well, this is a 2.1 change.  Seasons and ladders allow you to make a single character, apart from the Paragon pool and level them up.  Slightly different rewards, titles, legendaries and what not.  Once the season is over, you go back into the general pool. A wonder why this wasn’t in earlier as there’s competition.

Should I play this?

Most games get better with expansions/DLC.  Few games can reverse massive suckage, or simply poor design.  Marvel Heroes is one.  FF14 is another.  D3 is now on that list.

I have no idea who they hired to do the system redesign.  Whoever it is deserves a medal though.  The game is ultra smooth, has a clear progression path and rewards investment.  It’s responsive, communicates a lot more in what you can do to get better (or compare) and has done significant re-balance.  I’d almost go so far as to call this Diablo 4 since aside from the art, story and classes, this plays like a different game.

Time is short and work is crazy busy making for nights that end quickly.  A few more detailed posts are being worked on but in the meantime I wanted to add a bit to the previous posts.

First though, I wanted to dwell a bit on D3 itemization.  That horse isn’t dead yet!

The above shows a fairly good roll against a fairly bad roll.  Look at the estimated DPS loss (character runs at 102K DPS) from a weapon.  That’s a 96% difference in damage from one item.  Take that horse!

Second item is the defense of subscription.  Gaffney posted some stuff defending WildStar’s decision while Jack Emmert will talk about the opposite in a few weeks.  These are both people with significant experience in the field.  Both have seen F2P on their games (Gaffney was with Turbine and NCSoft) and have seen subscriptions as well.

Perhaps we’re at a point in the hype cycle that subscriptions can become niche again and that the MMO tourist avoids it due to the massive F2P options out there but WildStar doesn’t seem to be aiming for niche.  TESO certainly isn’t.

In regards to the PLEX variant WildStar is aiming for, that only works in a closed and extremely well developed economic system.  It works in EvE because everything is player created, everything required sweat equity and everything is relevant, even at max level.  Taking a cue from any themepark, even the recent GW2, economies from start to max level-1 are completely irrelevant 1 month after launch.  I “beat” WoW’s auction house, making a few million along the way – PLEX would have failed hard in that market. This isn’t apples and oranges.  This is apples and nuclear missiles.

10 weeks on parental leave and back to work now for 2. It’s annoying when you delegate work and nothing at all got done. Now I have 10 weeks of work to do in a few days. Quality!

Suffice it to say I need a mental breather some nights. Lack of time means minimal investment though, so I’ve been giving F2P games a hit.  No RIFT, GW2, WoW, or any game that I can’t simply drop within 2 minutes.

The Mighty Quest For Epic Loot

This one is in open beta and a lot like Dungeon Master and Diablo in that you can set a castle full of traps and run other people’s castles. It has upgrades with timer (where the F2P stuff comes in) which is fine I guess. The gameplay is horribly balanced though where the tanky class can run through anything without batting an eye, even 6-7 levels above them. The other classes have no chance. But it’s beta and the concept is solid. Maybe in a later patch.  The file size is rather small.

Infinite Crisis

I got into the beta, which is beta.  You’re comparing LoL to a game with an admittedly limited character roster.  You might have 4 flavors of Batman but it’s still Batman.  There are technical bugs, some serious balancing issues but overall the game is pretty solid.  Community management is going to be the real kicker here.  Current playerbase is nice enough, since it’s test.  But once you get the crud coming in, there needs to be a way to filter that out.  The learning curve is extremely high but that’s expected in beta.  Oh, and it needs way more maps.

Dragon’s Crown

I don’t play a lot of console games, only when I’m on the bike.  This one is pretty solid, with a link back to the arcade D&D games.  Is it worth 60\$ though?  No.  Maybe once it hits 30\$.

Marvel Heroes

A new patch (1.2) fixed the defensive skills, added a ton of itemization and huge balance changes. This is what the game should have launched with. It even has 3 difficulties making the trek from 25 to 60 different than running the same zone for 20 hours. The itemization and skills are the polar opposite of Diablo3, which is good.

Diablo3

Just a few days in, tried a new Monk build. Cost me about 25 million in gear to make it work due to the way itemization works in game. And this isn’t even for hard stuff, just regular Inferno. What’s the point of upgrading gear if you need to swap nearly all of it to change builds? Maybe 1-2 pieces but not 10.

And of course the AH is going away in 6 months – likely the launch date for the expansion. It annoys me that Loot 2.0, which is what the consoles got, has been getting great reviews but the gamer base has to wait so damn long for it. Anyways, the AH simply focused on Jay Wilson’s poor direction for multiple systems. A loot system that dropped inferior gear even at high difficulty, itemization that drove stats to absurd levels to even compete, the requirement for “perfect” rolls for the item to have any possible value and a difficulty setting that made no sense. All of those systems by the way, have been or will be removed.  The game today is wildly different than launch and the console version is yet another massive leap forward.

Listen, the AH was a good concept to avoid gold farming and scamming. If I knew I could get upgrades while playing (I have never once with my monk past 60), then the AH would just be a slight nudge. When I can see that a single item on the AH can raise my damage by 10% and costs 20 minutes of gold farming time, there is a massive problem in the loot system.  Shutting down the AH is one thing, shutting down the RMAH is another, as that thing certainly brought in a sizeable amount of income.  It takes some pretty large brass to through that away – baby and bathwater.

# Consequences and Challenge

Death in Marvel Heroes is an odd thing.  It happens through mostly lag up until you’re done the main missions, so a lot of people will never really see it – and if they do, people around them have 3 minutes to revive them.  That part makes sense to me.  Neverwinter puts a debuff on you once you get revived that way, the timer is shorter too.

If you play alone however, say in the mission terminals at the end, death is a different beast.  Scaling here reminds me a bit of Rift, where the mechanics of the game prevent you from doing content too far above your level.  3+ and you get an experience, damage intake and damage output penalty, starting at 20%.  You will get 1-shot.  Dying does two things.

First, it brings you back to the last checkpoint.  Sometimes this is the door to the zone, sometimes (like in Castle Doom), it’s invisible markings on the map since the map is so darn big.  Second, if leaves every enemy at the state they were when you died.  Boss at 60% hp when you died?  He will be when you get back.

Doctor Doom last night was 4 levels above me, took 5 minutes to kill and he killed me 8 times.  While I was happy to beat him, there was missing that “perfect run” feel that you get in other ARPGs.  Could I have done him in a clean run?  Maybe not last night due to skill lag but it certainly felt possible.  I remember trying to kill Belial in Diablo 3 for a few days in Inferno.  It was extremely frustrating.  Dying here had a repair cost plus a full reset of the boss himself.  Finally I got lucky and he died and I never wanted to see his face again.  The consequences here were such that I never wanted to play that part again.

I will be trying Doctor Doom again, hoping to improve.  It becomes an analog test with varying degrees of success.  I can improve on that.  Belial on the other hand, I was ready to punch through the screen.  When I beat him, it felt more like a digital switch – either I won or I didn’t.  When I did, I never felt an ounce of challenge in him again nor a desire to even attempt it.

I find it a difficult balance to show people “hey, this is tough but when you get through it’ll be worth it” and “hey this is tough, let’s pull out your hair”.

# Blizzard Design – Lessons Learned

Rohan and Syp got me thinking about how developers are forced to be iterative in terms of addition rather than in terms of subtraction.  What I mean by this is that any given game that expects longevity cannot regress in terms of feature sets.  People have expectations upon purchase and business models are dependent on having clientele – MMOs triply so.

Let’s consider the two main items in the news.  Titan has been restarted (I think this is the 3rd time) and Blizzard has plans on a D3 expansion.  The former isn’t surprising given Blizzard’s track record.  They have released the following games of note: Wacraft (1/2/3), Starcraft (1/2), Diablo (1/2/3) and WoW.  You would be hard pressed to argue that any given game in a series was a departure from the previous – simply an iteration on a given model.   To top it off, Warcraft and Starcraft are nearly direct IP thefts from Warhammer.  So in 18 years, Blizzard has 1 new IP and plenty of experience tweaking the ones they built all that time ago.  Blizzard takes very few risks so that they don’t alienate their massive playerbase.  If Titan ever does come out (they need a new codename for it), I don’t see it as being something completely new, just an iteration of an existing IP and format.  It’s worked for nearly 20 years.

The second news item deals with people’s expectations of Diablo 3’s feature set.  Consider the PS3 version has no online requirements and no AH – the two largest complaints against the PC version – many view this as a sign that those features are going to be removed from the PC proper.  Hold on a sec here.  We’re a year in and the PS3 port still isn’t ready.  We’re not talking about taking a console game with a set configuration and making it work on a bajillion PCs.  We’re talking about the other way around, which usually has more to do with the UI size and controller layout.  If it’s taken a year (arguably longer since this was rumored many years ago) then perhaps this egg is a bit tougher to crack.

In systems design we have disparate systems, integrated systems and synergistic systems.  Disparate ones are completely separate and have next to nothing to do with each other.  /gems in EQ is an example.  Integrated systems have parts that are shared between 2 or more systems.  LFD/LFR systems are here.  Synergistic systems are ones that are separate in terms of mechanics but complement each other in game.  Crafting in most cases fit the bill.

D3 was built with the AH in mind.  Stats play a much larger role here than in any other game I’ve ever played and there were clear benchmarks required for survival in Inferno when the game launched.  I can’t think of a game where 1 item level had such a massive impact on player power.  Because the Diablo model is 99% of the loot you find you can’t use, this requires a sink for the gear.  In the past it was selling/gambling.  With an AH, maybe gear you can’t use (as a Monk) someone else can (say a Wizard).  So you try to sell it.  Let’s say you find one piece of “decent but not great” gear every hour.  4 million other people are playing and doing the same.  Think about that for a second.

If Blizzard wanted to remove the AH, they would have to change the entire mechanics of how loot dropped and how monster power was calculated.  The “floor” of gear suddenly drops by a large factor and people will have a much harder time progressing.  All of a sudden, crafters become attractive (just like gambling was in D2).  Plus you still have millions of players using the AH to progress today and a rather large item gap between the top end and bottom end.  Some people don’t farm Inferno for their gear, they farm for other’s gear to make cash to buy their stuff or use the RMAH.  That and the entire business model of D3 is predicated on the RMAH.  Even if the expansion offered an off-line no-AH mode, then you’d have two similar but different games.

I don’t see an easy fix here.  I do see a lot of lessons learned, lots.

# Today is a Bad Day at Blizzard

First the news that WoW is down 1.3 million subs and only counts 8.3 million.  We never really know how many are playing, given that the Chinese playerbase is so liquid.  That being said, many servers are turning into ghost towns (not Stormrage, that’s for sure) where it seems that open world PvP is the main cause.  Guess that there’s real competition out now for those who want their kicks.

To contrast a bit, no other western game even has 1.3 million subscribers.  At 15\$ a month, that’s about \$20 million lost on a monthly basis.  Still, 8.3 million players after 9 years is something!

The second bit of news is that Diablo 3’s recent patch has destroyed the economy in a fell swoop.  A bug on the RMAH (for real money) caused massive gold duping, to where some people have amassed more money individually than the game had as a whole previously.  That link shows gold that is worth about \$10 million real cash.  Given that the normal AH, that uses gold, had a cap of 2 billion per item, a lot of that money has been spread around to users selling item and caused hyper-inflation.  An item that might sell for a few million a week ago was going for the full 2 billion yesterday.  Not sure how this type of bug got through QA, considering it’s the main cash cow for the game.

And Blizzard isn’t considering a roll-back.

Quite a series of events.