Before they mysteriously abandoned it in Diablo 3, Blizzard has always used the philosophy “Easy to learn, hard to master” in designing its games. In fact, the phrase itself originates back a long while.
Look at Starcraft 2, for instance. A new player learns the basics of combat quite rapidly, and after reading a few guides and looking at the stats of the units, can already come up with some theory. However, the execution of the theory is extremely tough, requiring insane multitasking and psychological guessing ability. It is remarkably easy to learn, yet almost impossible to master.
Diablo 3 passes the “easy to learn” criterion with flying colors, but fails miserably at “hard to master.” This is due to a couple major design flaws: a oversimplified skill system and an overwhelming gear dependence. These factors mean that becoming “good” at the game is merely a matter of copying someone else’s build (which takes about 10 seconds) and having insane gear, which takes in-game currency or real-life money. There is no skill as there is in Starcraft.
Sure, we’re comparing apples and oranges here, but the point is, even being an ARPG, Diablo 3 should have some semblance of skill.
The first problem, the oversimplified skill system, can be fixed by… complexifying the skill system. Yes, how original! I wrote about the skill system extensively in this post, and outlined a “set-bonus” solution that makes builds much more interesting and complex, while not introducing skill points or permanence. Here is the passive skill system for Path of Exile, in comparison:
And the second problem, the gear dependence, can be fixed in one of two ways. The first is to nerf Inferno to the ground, so that insane gear isn’t required to beat it. The second, which I like much better, is to massively increase the base stats of each character, so that items have less effect.
Diablo 3 needs to be more skill-based at the end game. Some of these changes will help fix it.