Multi-Consequence Mechanics Are Bad

There are a lot of mechanics that people complain about in Diablo 3, and while each may be justifiable on its own, in combination they can be far too harsh for most players. For an example of what I am talking about, think of death.

Dying in Video Games

Dying is one of the oldest traditions of video games. For a game to work, there has to be a clear way to progress, as well as obstacles to this progression that the player must overcome, through a combination of timing, skill, knowledge, reflexes, or similar abilities. In many games this obstacle is player death. Normally dying cannot actually make you lose progress, at least not in a significant manner. If you die in an arcade game, you just start again immediately to get to where you were, so you could learn and progress.

In Diablo 3, when you die, you must wait a resurrection timer. Then you return and make it back to where you were, which might take 10-30 seconds. On top of that, you lost a ton of durability on your items which means you lost a ton of gold. Add in monsters that deal insane amounts of damage, either on their own, or with certain affixes, and you have a one-shot fest. Now, I’m not saying that a one-shot kill game can’t be fun. Check out the following video of a difficult Mario game, maybe only the first couple minutes of it. [Warning: contains much cursing at deaths.]

Sure there are a lot of cheap deaths in it. But when you die, you learn what killed you and you can near instantly jump into the next attempt in order to progress.

Now imagine if that game made you wait 30 seconds every time you died to be able to start a new run, then another 30 seconds for you to get from some point to the starting position, and on top of that, made you pay some amount of in-game currency that dwindles to zero after a number of attempts.

That would be the worst game ever created. Nobody would possibly want to play it.

Blizzard’s Goals

And that is why a lot of people have major complaints about Diablo 3. There are too many mechanics all reinforcing one another to encourage the player to play in a certain way, when in reality just one of those mechanics would have done it. Let us list out roughly the ways Blizzard wants players to play the game:

  • Farm elites to get better items, either for yourself or to sell to other players.
  • Do the above without dying too much.

This seems pretty innocent. It’s all Blizzard was trying to do. But the mechanics they set in place to encourage the above two points went way too far.

Farming Elites

To encourage someone to do a certain activity, you either reward them for doing that activity, punish them for doing different activities, or both. But Blizzard went so far down this path as to make all other methods so bad that the only way to comfortably play the game for the average player is to farm elites.

Positive reinforcements for farming elites:

  • Nephalem Valor buff to magic and gold find.
  • Guaranteed rare drop if Nephalem Valor is at 5 stacks.

Negative reinforcements from doing other tasks:

  • Bosses do not guarantee rares unless Nephalem Valor is at 4 or 5 stacks.
  • Unique monsters (purples) have really bad loot, other than bosses which are covered above.
  • Vases, Barrels, Pots, Chests, etc. do not benefit from magic/gold find.
  • Quests reward very little gold.

This amounts to 6 different reinforcements, including positive and negative, to the activity of farming elites. This is overkill, and makes the activity itself a chore.

If I wanted you to wash my car, the most logical approach would be for me to offer you a positive reinforcement, such as $50. If I were more sinister, I could threaten with a negative reinforcement, and say that if you don’t wash my car, I will steal $50 from you. But if I wanted to go Diablo 3 style on you, I would give you $50 and a TV (two positive reinforcements) if you washed my car, and take $50 from you, kidnap a relative, make slanderous remarks about you on TV, and then beat you up (four negative reinforcements) if you didn’t.

It may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I hope the point is clear. One reinforcement for killing elites should be enough. Blizzard went way overboard with six.

Note that each reinforcement by itself is actually a nice idea for encouraging elite killing. But all six together is too much. This is why when someone complains on the forums about one individual mechanic, they can be shot down by people rightfully arguing that the mechanic is good. It’s the interaction of all the mechanics that has possibly ruined the game for many people. And yet, it’s not the only thing on which Blizzard made a mistake.

Dying In Diablo 3

Essentially, Blizzard wanted the game to be hard and thus made numbers very high and monster abilities very high strong, and made the famous “you will die” proclamation in Inferno.

In a contradictory manner, Blizzard set so many negative reinforcements on dying that it is not even funny.

Negative Reinforcements from dying:

  • Resurrection timer in which you can do nothing, not even look at your character sheet or profile stats. This lasts up to 30 seconds.
  • Time it takes to walk to where you died.
  • Durability loss, thus a repair bill. The repair bill was massively jacked up in patch 1.0.3.
  • Elites you were fighting gain full hitpoints, thus wasting up to 5 minutes of your time.

That’s four mechanics at work when only one is actually needed. Pick one of them and keep it. They are each pretty aggravating to players, and combining four of them together is just asking for players to start complaining.

That Mario game in the video earlier in the post would be nowhere near as fun if it had all four of these mechanics. The only one it has is the fourth one, where you have to restart the stage on death. The second one doesn’t really count because getting to where you just died was itself challenging in the Mario game. But that didn’t stop the video maker from quitting. It’s the overkill combination of mechanics that makes people quit Diablo 3.

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