One of the big features lacking in Diablo 3 is social interaction. A good or a semi-decent game can be boosted into legendary status with a strong social scene, as chatting and adventuring with your fellow players is one of the reasons to keep coming back to a game. WoW, for instance, obtains much of its longevity through its guild system. Diablo 3 has so far failed to keep strangers—and even friends—together.
Public Games Don’t Work
There are public games, you may say. But the public game system works very differently from the great systems we saw in Starcraft 1, Diablo 2, and Warcraft 3, where you could make your own game, and title it whatever you want in order to convey the purpose or type of game.
In Diablo 3 you are randomly assigned to a public game on the selected quest. This is most akin to the WoW LFD (looking for dungeon) experience, where you are randomly inserted into a dungeon group in one of the dungeons for which you queued.
With this similarity comes all the negative aspects of the WoW LFD system, with almost none of the positives.
The chief issue with the LFD system in WoW was that it was possible for players who had no idea how to play their class to queue up for a dungeon, enter the group, and ruin the experience for others by not contributing sufficiently. Often the good players in the group are strong enough to carry the weaker ones through, but after a run, the weaker player may not realize he got carried, and thus think he should always be able to clear that dungeon. In the next group, when the strong players are absent, the group falls apart, with all of the weak players blaming each other for being bad.
In Diablo 3 public games we see many non-contributors as well. Sometimes they just go AFK for a very long time. Sometimes they have so little DPS that they are contributing nothing (we had a 4.3k dps Wizard party member in an Act 3 run earlier, and we felt forced to kick him because he was hindering our run). And sometimes they have so little survivability that they are dead for 80% of every fight (the common pub Demon Hunter). It’s the WoW heroic dungeon nightmare all over again.
In WoW, at least there was the random-party buff that gave everybody up to +15% to damage, healing, and max hp depending on how many random players there were in the group. So, it amplified the strength of the better players in the group so that they could more easily carry the weak, and it made them feel not as punished by having to carry other players.
In Diablo 3, by contrast, the hitpoints of monsters goes up by 110% when another player joins, which means you are weaker relative to the monsters, instead of stronger.
Private Games Don’t Work Too Great Either
You can’t always expect the same people to be online or to be available for a farm run. Fact is, the 110% hitpoint scaling means that two good players would prefer each running solo than to run together. The only exception is if someone is using a big party damage buff like the Monk’s Mantra of Conviction, with the Overawe rune. Besides this, however, there is little reason to farm in a group.
The only real benefit of a group lies in the ability to combat-resurrect dead players. So when you’re progressing on Belial, and you accidentally get hit by a poison blast and die, you don’t have to start the fight over—you just get resurrected and keep on going. In this respect, a 2-person party is not much better than a solo player, because if one person dies in the 2-person party, the boss or elites will keep chasing the other person, in most cases not giving them enough time to combat-rez. However, in 3- and 4-person parties, the combat-rez becomes super effective.
Based on the above, I propose that the first additional player only grant monsters 100% bonus health, but let additional players after that grant 110% like the system works right now. This way, a 2-person party would encounter monsters with 200% health, but a 3-person party encounters monsters with 310% health and a 4-person party encounters monsters with 420% health, to make up for combat-rezzing.
The current system punishes 2-player games too much. The proposed system would let 2-player games go much better, while still taking into account synergies and combat-rezzing for 3- and 4-player games.
The Lack of Clans/Guilds
WoW has a beautiful social system based on guilds. Guilds are the key bonding tools between players, and Diablo 3 lacks this. We do know, however, that Blizzard is planning to implement this sometime in the future, though knowing Blizzard, I’d say it won’t be soon:
Bashiok (9/1/2011): Chat channels are in, and working. They’re more like the Diablo II IRC style than the individual chat windows like StarCraft II has.
Having ways for friends and acquaintances to create social groups has been in the long term plans of the new Battle.net for some time. Whether they’re called clans or not is a smaller detail. It’s just getting the time to work on adding in those types of want-to-have features. Almost assuredly not for the launch of the game, but hopefully at some point in the future.
A clan/guild system would be a sure way to add longevity to the game.
Magic Find Averaging
In the current system, all party members’ magic find (MF) values are averaged to make a total group value that everyone uses in the run. The good is that it discourages people from joining in full MF-only gear, contributing nothing combat-wise, and then looting the best gear.
However, it is a huge turn-off for people who have have actually found good MF gear, good as in they can fight in it effectively. These people would never want to join a public game, even if the hitpoint scaling was at only 100%, even if there was a party combat buff. They wouldn’t want to lose MF.
A solution that takes both sides into account is to average the MF values of everyone in the group, and then add a party bonus on top of that, of say 15/30/45% in 2/3/4-player groups respectively. In Diablo 2, after all, loot was improved when more players joined, so even if someone joined and went AFK, you at least had some benefit.
Thus, in a 4-person group, say the MF values of the players are 40%, 50%, 60%, and 70%. These average to 55%, and adding the 45% group bonus means every player experiences a 100% MF stat when adventuring together. This way, the person with the 70% innate MF doesn’t feel punished—they feel rewarded.
Issues can still arise when someone’s MF is astronomically higher than everyone else’s. Example is three people in the group have 0% MF while one person has 200% MF. The current system would bring everyone’s MF to 50%, which feels like a slap in the face to the person with 200%. The group bonus would bring it up to 95%, which is a lot better than 50%, but it still doesn’t feel good for the high MF player.
The solution could be to provide a guaranteed percentage of your personal MF to yourself, of say 80%, so that no matter what kind of MF everyone else has, your personal MF will act at least at 80% effectiveness. So in the previous example, the high MF player would have his personal MF boosted up from 95% to 160%, while the rest of the group is at 95%.
- The players have 40%, 50%, 60%, and 70% MF values.
- These average to 55%, and the 4-person party buff increases this by 45%, up to 100%.
- Everyone has 100% MF.
Example 2 (extreme case):
- The players have 0%, 0%, 0%, and 200% MF values.
- These average to 50%, and the 4-person party buff increases this by 45%, up to 95%.
- The first three players have 95% MF.
- The person with 200% innate MF has his 95% boosted to 160%, which is guaranteed.
This system still discourages people from going all-out MF gear, as they only gain 80% of the benefit and would have to face the consequences of the repair bill, while it rewards groups that have similar MF levels. In the extreme case that someone actually has a powerful MF combat set and no one else has any MF at all, the one with the good set is still guaranteed 80% effectiveness for themselves, instead of dropping to 25% effectiveness as the system works today. And perhaps with a party combat buff, they may find it equally efficient to farm an easier run with 80% effective MF than soloing a tougher run with 100%.
The above is thinking of the situation in terms of public games. In private games it becomes even better, because the group will likely know how much MF they each have, and can balance their MF accordingly.
The same applies to Gold Find.
The Diablo 3 social experience could be improved immensely. Possible solutions to encourage grouping, as outlined above, include:
- Implement a party buff to player damage and hitpoints in random public games, in order to make up for weak players. Perhaps this can be 5/10/15% for 1/2/3 random allies. Note this would not affect private parties. It is to make public games more appealing.
- Nerf the hitpoint scaling effect of the 2nd player from 110% to 100%, because a 2-person group cannot benefit very well from combat-rezzing. Leave the effect of the 3rd and 4th player at 110%.
- Implement clans, or guilds, or whatever you call them.
- Implement a party buff to MF and GF, of 15/30/45% for 2/3/4-player parties, on top of averaging. Also guarantee 80% of each player’s individual MF and GF to themselves. This way, a high-MF/GF player does not feel as punished.
Encouraging group play means a more prominent social experience, which in turn adds to the longevity and status of the game.