Psychological Issues Arising From Diablo 3

Many people are venting on the Diablo 3 forums with various complaints the game, usually in an illogical, emotion-filled manner. Sure Diablo 3 has some gameplay flaws that Blizzard developers are working to fix. But the main reason for so much raging comes from several psychological factors at work.

If people were actually rational (which happens at most one in ten threads), there would be nowhere near as much flaming, trolling, ad hominem attacks, etc. on the forums. But since humans are not rational beings, such things happen. Let’s take a look at what Diablo 3 did psychologically to provoke such outrage.

The Brick Wall

Everybody enjoys a gradual buildup to difficulty. Nobody seems to enjoy a brick wall, the brick wall of Act 2 Inferno.

This graph is what the difficulty level feels like, based on the testimonies of people I know and threads. It seems most people do fine up to Act 1 Inferno (due to AH gear usually), but then have extreme trouble getting into Act 2 and higher. The Act 1 to Act 2 transition is huge, and the Act 2 to Act 3 transition is formidable as well, relative to earlier transitions.

Here is perhaps what the difficulty should have looked like:

Nightmare and Hell should indeed be significantly harder, to lead up to a hard Inferno.

Entitlement From Gradual Buildup In First Three Difficulties

The problem with people being entitled seems to stem from how there’s zero indication within the game that Inferno is so much harder than Hell.

Sure, Blizzard may have said that Inferno is not for everyone, but only a small minority of players actually heard that pre-release. Most people breeze through Normal and Nightmare, struggle a little bit in Hell, and don’t expect Inferno to be much harder because there is no in-game warning of how hard Inferno would be. Based on inductive reasoning, since NM is a little bit harder than Normal, and Hell a bit harder than NM, the logical step would be to expect that Inferno be a little bit harder than Hell. But it’s not a little bit harder. It’s an entire order of magnitude harder.

So the entitlement definitely exists, but it might not be anyone’s fault. It might just be the fault of the game design promoting entitlement.

Possible solutions that Blizzard could have done in order to avoid this Inferno entitlement psychology:

  • Force players to view a message saying that Inferno is very hard when they enter Inferno, similar to how players are forced to see a dialog box saying Hardcore death is permanent and for no reason will they restore a character.
  • Just put up a bunch of dialog boxes warning about the difficulty, right before Inferno, so players would get that Inferno is hard.
  • Change the difficulty scaling of the first three difficulties to lead up gradually, instead of suddenly, to Inferno. Normal remains the same, Nightmare becomes 20% harder, and Hell becomes 50% harder. Inferno was the result of “doubled it” so it is already at 100% harder. That way, people would experience the 0%, 20%, 50%, 100% buildup instead of the 0%, 0%, 0%, 100% brick wall as they do now.

Extreme RNG and Confirmation Bias

When a level 63 item can roll +20 int and vitality on one item, and +200 int and vitality on another, serious issues with the players can arise.

The combat system has a lot of RNG as well, with Dodges and Blocks playing a large part in any battle.

Due to this RNG extremeness, it is very common for players to fall to confirmation bias and believe things that don’t really exist. For example:

  • A player dies to an elite group, for whatever reason. It could be lag, the AI, lack of skill, not being careful, or most likely RNG.
  • Due to the heavy cost of death, the player is emotionally unhappy. The player, being human, thinks it’s not his fault, and so must find something else as an excuse for why he died.
  • Since he didn’t die the previous day (maybe had decent shield blocks and dodges, or just fought easier elites), he jumps to the conclusion that the monster damage must have been buffed.
  • He posts this on the forums.
  • Other forum posters agree with the original poster in droves, claiming they have noticed the same thing, when it just an emotional outlet for dying.

The whole time, the monster damage remained exactly the same, yet a conspiracy was born out of confirmation bias.

The exact same thing happens to item drops. Even with item drops remaining exactly the same, people will go on an unlucky streak with items or goblins (which is bound to happen, given that it is a random system), but want something to blame. The easiest thing to blame a nerf of the drop/spawn rate. When they post this, many people will post in agreement, saying they have experienced the same. And when enough people see this thread and blindly agree with it, it becomes the de facto truth.

Their thought process is basically this. Every time you have a run with bad drops, Blizzard nerfed the drop rates. Every time you don’t get 3 goblins to spawn in 10 attempts, Blizzard nerfed the spawn rate. Every time you die, Blizzard nerfed your resistances. Etc, etc, etc

Finally, the cherry pickers looking for conspiracies just to rage more at Blizzard will pick up on threads like these, the overnight damage increase and the sudden nerfing of drop rates, and add them to their fuel.

The Auction House and Upgrades

A couple of psychological phenomena have arisen from the Auction House.

The first is the competition, which is one of the reasons for entitlement. In Diablo 2, since there was no Auction House, you weren’t constantly reminded of how much better other people’s gear was compared to your own. That’s just probability: it’s almost certain there are many people with much better gear than yourself.

Even in WoW, which has an Auction House, the top gear is not shown, because all the high-end gear is Bind on Pickup. So a casual player in Diablo 2 or WoW isn’t constantly lured by godly items that only the top players have.

In Diablo 3, godly items are put up on the Auction House for millions and even billions of gold, and for some reason, when you begin a search, before you enter any parameters, the Auction House by default lists the most expensive gear for you to look at. This is just evil. People are by nature competitive (even casual players are competitive to some degree), and they want the best items, which are unattainable for most. Putting it there right in front of them seems to worsen the issue.

The second issue is the ease of use. Because trading in Diablo 2 took at least some effort to set up, it was easy to maintain a completely untwinked character.

But in Diablo 3, since the Auction House is so easy to use, I daresay 99% of people who have ventured into Inferno have used the Auction House.

And then they complain about not being able to find upgrades. Well of course you’re not going to find an upgrade if you just purchased an item in the 99.9 percentile from the Auction House. Even if Blizzard made all droprates 10 times higher, people would still complain about never finding an upgrade, since everyone would have just shifted to gear in the 99.99 percentile, and mathematically it would be just as hard to find an upgrade.

The reason you found upgrades in Diablo 2 was because you didn’t buy uber good gear right away. If you just obtained gear that was better than 99.9% of drops in each slot, then you wouldn’t be finding upgrades in Diablo 2 either.

The Auction House thus becomes a vicious positive feedback loop. Once you enter it, it is nearly impossible to exit, because once you buy a 99.9% item on the Auction House, you will probably never find an upgrade for it yourself, thus prompting you to use the Auction House to buy the 99.99% item, etc.

Life On Hit, and Forced Stats

There was a forum post claiming that Life on Hit is a required stat for Act 2 Inferno and higher. This notion likely comes from many of the top players initially going through Inferno with Life on Hit. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessary. It means that when you are on an extremely limited budget, Life on Hit is a cost-effective way to progress. But plenty of people have found creative ways to go through Inferno with zero Life on Hit. Heck, my Monk cleared Inferno Diablo with 5 stack NV, with zero Life on Hit and no more than 4 million gold worth of gear.

People often consider Crit % and Crit damage to be required as well, yet my Barbarian, Monk, Wizard, Witch Doctor, and Demon Hunter have all cleared Act 2 with minimal Crit % and Crit damage from gear. Yep, that’s all five classes. Granted, they were all doing budget builds in Act 2, but with more stats from gear, they should be able to do Act 3 as well.

The only stat that is truly required at the moment is +Resistance to All Elements, for melee characters. It is just mathematically necessary for surviving high-damage attacks. With incredible gear and a proper gimmick build, it may be possible for a Monk or Barbarian to survive Act 2 or Act 3 with less than 100 all resists, but so far, I have not heard of such a case.

Class Balance

Class balance is also a result of psychological issues arising from Inferno. As I wrote in an earlier article:

Class balance is only an issue because people get stuck at some point in Inferno. Since they know that people using other classes have gotten farther than they have, they accuse the other classes of being overpowered.

In the Beta, which had a level cap of 13 and only allowed up to the Skeleton King on Normal mode, nobody complained about class balance. Sure, there were many good threads containing concerns about scaling and viability later in the game, but as far as 1-13 was concerned, nobody cared about class balance because every class could easily clear it.

Future Considerations

Many of the minor and trivial complaints will go away on their own. For example, I predict that in a year, nobody will be asking for the pointless Diablo 2 stat allocation system back in. It’s really similar to some mechanics in Starcraft 1 such as having to tell each new worker to mine or not being able to select multiple buildings at once to build units. When Starcraft 2 was in its earlier stages, people whined so much much about about auto-mining and multiple building select and threatened to quit the game over it; yet today, nobody complains about them, because they relieve the player from pointless, tedious tasks. Similarly, Diablo 3’s auto stat allocation will be accepted, slowly but surely.

As far as other things like prices on the Auction House and class balance, the complaints might never go away. It is human nature to blame others for one’s own problems. There will always be people complaining their class is underpowered while the other classes are overpowered. From each class.

The only things that really needs fixing on Blizzard’s part are the item stat range randomization and the brick wall difficulty curve of Act 2 Inferno. Diablo 3 just needs more time for development.

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