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Brother Laz Explains What’s Wrong with Diablo III’s Legendaries

Posted 5 Jun 2012 by

With most fans expressing dissatisfaction with the quality and quantity of legendary and set items in Diablo III, I thought it would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who, unlike any current Blizzard employees, has actually designed full suites of Set and Unique items for Diablo II. No, not Erich Schaefer, but a mod maker and author of our one-time column, Dead Fish.

Brother Laz created the Median XL mod, and while updating it over the years he created thousands of unique and set items, and was always in direct contact with the players, learning exactly what they liked and didn’t like, and used and didn’t use. Laz is also an analytical and clever guy, and writes entertaining columns, so long as you like sarcasm and aren’t the one he’s pointing his barbs at.

True to my hopes, Laz had plenty of observations on where the Diablo III legendaries went wrong, and he’s got a whole three-category ranking system for types of unique items and the players that they appeal to. By his measurement, Diablo III’s only hit one of those types. I’m overcomplicating things in this summary, so check out the following quote and then click through to read the whole article. I guarantee it will give you a new way to think about unique items and will make very clear why they are so lackluster, as currently presented in Diablo III.

The Spike – Plays to win, no matter what it takes or how boring the path to victory may be. This is the guy who is perfectly fine with the fact that his D3 wizard wields an axe and his D2 sorc wears a green potato bag on her head. This is the dickwad who picks Tryndamere in 3v3 blind pick and after banging your *** for 20 minutes goes GG EASY NOOOBS in all chat.

The Johnny - Sees games as a means of self-expression. This is the guy who builds a Molten Boulder druid, intentionally wears tier 2 paladin gear in WoW when not actively fighting and picks Orianna. Usually he gets trampled by Spike but sometimes it works and then he feels great.

The Timmy - Likes big stuff. Uses the rocket launcher because it makes big explosions. Goes all offense in every build because it makes big damage numbers. Picks Garen and screams DEMACIAAA every time he spins2win from the bush. Plays for fun where fun is defined as smashing stuff but is not willing to get bored out of his skull to maximise his success rate.

Diablo 2’s uniques appeal to each of these groups, whereas Diablo 3’s legendaries (aside from being the victim of a typical Blizzard overnerf) are boring and therefore only appeal to Spikes. In fact, between legendaries being the equivalent of a Mercedes SL350 Blue Efficiency in terms of passion stirred up and the lack of fun and viable wizard spells not named after the company or a Starcraft unit and similar problems for other classes, Diablo 3 seems to appeal only to Spike players.

Click through for the full guest article, which includes illustrative items of all three types, plus fix-it proscriptions for Diablo III going forward.

Uniques, monkeys and typewriters

Uniques. Or legendaries for you whippersnappers. The whole reason anyone played Diablo II, other than the potential to make imbalanced overpowered builds, was the potential to find imbalanced overpowered uniques.

So naturally the community complained that uniques were too powerful and everything was better during those golden days before LoD when rares were the best items, by which they meant rares were the best items if you played the best class (barb) and sorcs were restricted to very specific uniques and sets with +skills and FCR on them, and by community I mean the few people above 10 years of age who actually cared about balance instead of jerking off at their EZ BOT’D EBOTDZ.

Anyway, from a game design point of view making rares the best makes total sense. They are Random and this is a game built on Randomness so if we put more Randomness into your Random then you can farm while you farm and enjoy the gift of Randomness. Plus, Enigma was overpowered.

……

Time to confess: I was one of those hippies too. My Diablo 2 mod Median XL (you may have heard of it, perhaps when it became #3 Overall Mod of the Year at ModDB or from that interview with the Blizzard employee who admitted to playing MXL instead of working on inferno class balance [based on a true story]) started out highly idealistic and with no uniques at all because rares were meant to be the best.

The overwhelming community response was that there was no community because shockingly noone wanted to play the mod. In a strange coincidence, the popularity of the mod increased linearly with the power of the characters, compensated by an arms race on the part of the monsters. Enter a bunch of uniques. Enter sacred items, basically Diablo 2 elite items but only in uberlevels and with their own uniques. Enter a second set of sacred uniques. Today there is a broken OP unique for everyone and rares are useless. The community likes it that way and claims the item system is amazing.

Take that, yellowbugs.

Player Classifications

Why? If you ask a professional game designer (a guy who can use the word “conveyance” to describe progression) he will claim there are three types of players.

The Spike – Plays to win, no matter what it takes or how boring the path to victory may be. This is the guy who is perfectly fine with the fact that his D3 wizard wields an axe and his D2 sorc wears a green potato bag on her head. This is the dickwad who picks Tryndamere in 3v3 blind pick and after banging your *** for 20 minutes goes GG EASY NOOOBS in all chat.

The Johnny – Sees games as a means of self-expression. This is the guy who builds a Molten Boulder druid, intentionally wears tier 2 paladin gear in WoW when not actively fighting and picks Orianna. Usually he gets trampled by Spike but sometimes it works and then he feels great.

The Timmy – Likes big stuff. Uses the rocket launcher because it makes big explosions. Goes all offense in every build because it makes big damage numbers. Picks Garen and screams DEMACIAAA every time he spins2win from the bush. Plays for fun where fun is defined as smashing stuff but is not willing to get bored out of his skull to maximise his success rate.

……

Diablo 2’s uniques appeal to each of these groups, whereas Diablo 3’s legendaries (aside from being the victim of a typical Blizzard overnerf) are boring and therefore only appeal to Spikes. In fact, between legendaries being the equivalent of a Mercedes SL350 Blue Efficiency in terms of passion stirred up and the lack of fun and viable wizard spells not named after the company or a Starcraft unit and similar problems for other classes, Diablo 3 seems to appeal only to Spike players.

These are the people who first cleared inferno difficulty by skipping inferno difficulty because winning is what matters and not taking part in the actual game. Because there are no builds and therefore no real way to lose the game they get no satisfaction from making a good build in Diablo 3, so they are now playing the auction house. And they don’t actually give a damn about legendaries because they found some blue in a garbage bin behind whatever-is-his-name’s stand (how did I forget the name of this amazingly indepth NPC who contributes to the incredible storyline of Diablo 3) and it deals 6 more dps. Oops.


Johnny Items

Diablo 2:

DiabloWikiWitchwild String — Short Siege Bow

  • Two-Hand Damage: (32) to (75-81)
  • Required Level: 39
  • Required Strength: 65
  • Required Dexterity: 80
  • Bow Class – Normal Attack Speed
  • +150-170% Enhanced Damage
  • Fires Magic Arrows [Level 20]
  • 2% Chance To Cast Level 5 Amplify Damage On Striking
  • +1-99 % Deadly Strike (+1 Per Character Level)
  • All Resistances +40
  • Socketed (2)
  • Cool name, neat Amplify Damage proc and magic arrows and an alternate way to inflict damage and a big resist bonus. It is sort of viable, if you assume spending more than 2 seconds to kill a cow pack is viable in this game. This is one of the best designed uniques in D2 because it has a consistent theme without giving up usability and is good enough to spawn its own build. <3


    Median XL:

    Freakshow — Scythe (Sacred)

  • Two-Hand Damage: (675-727) to (1335-1407)
  • Durability: 74
  • Required Strength: 466
  • Required Dexterity: 466
  • Required Level: 100
  • +(10 to 12) to Necromancer Skill Levels
  • +(301 to 350)% Enhanced damage
  • Adds 250-750 damage
  • +(3 to 5)% to Spell Damage
  • +4 to Maximum Necromancer Minions
  • Random Resistance Bonus (-25 to +75, changes every 2 seconds)
  • 10% Reanimate as: Ratfink
  • 15% Reanimate as: Slain Soul
  • 15% Reanimate as: Slain Soul
  • Socketed: 6
  • I discovered pretty quickly that the only way to make “not the best” uniques popular was to make them crazy in some way. Usually it took the form of a chance to cast a weird skill or reanimate a cool monster. This proved so popular than 90% of the sacred unique weapons has a CtC of some kind, giving the player the satisfaction of flashy visuals that explode the screen and may even change gameplay in interesting ways.


    Diablo 3:

    None, unless their idea of a Johnny item is a legendary with a smattering of random stats and 2.1% chance to knock back.


    Timmy items

    Diablo 2:
    DiabloWikiWindforce — Hydra Bow

  • Two-Hand Damage: 35 to (241-547)
  • Required Level: 73
  • Required Strength: 135
  • Required Dexterity: 167
  • Bow Class – Slow Attack Speed
  • +250% Enhanced Damage
  • +3-309 To Maximum Damage (+3.125 Per Character Level)
  • 20% Increased Attack Speed
  • 6-8% Mana Stolen Per Hit
  • Heal Stamina Plus 30%
  • +10 To Strength
  • +5 To Dexterity
  • Knockback
  • Big bow, big damage, knockback for extra trololol power. Gets beaten by a few other items, notably every runeword melee weapon in the game but back in its day this was the brute power item. Diablo 2 has a number of these: generally every item you remember because it is LOL OP was a Timmy item.

    Median XL:

    Danmaku — Athulua’s Hand (Sacred)

  • Defense: (2666-3339)
  • Durability: 29
  • (Amazon Only)
  • Required Dexterity: 349
  • Required Level: 100
  • 10% Chance to cast level 15 Javelin Nova when you Kill an Enemy
  • 1% Chance to cast level 45 Fire Bolt Nova on Striking
  • 25% Chance to cast level 5 Javelin on Striking
  • +(2 to 3) to Amazon Skill Levels
  • 35% Increased Attack Speed
  • 25% Faster Block Rate
  • 1% Increased Chance of Blocking
  • Adds 50-100 damage
  • +(41 to 50)% to Fire Spell Damage
  • +(201 to 250)% Enhanced Defense
  • Socketed: 4
  • It’s a javazon shield with 25% chance to trigger a javelin that deals weapon-based damage and therefore has 25% chance to trigger another javelin which triggers a javelin and so on until the universe collapses. Also has 10% chance to shoot a lot of javelins on kill which trigger more javelins on hit. Javelins? Javelins. Javelins! Javelins javelins javelins. Javelins? Javelins!

    Diablo 3:
    Timmy appeal is greatly reduced by the lack of big numbers and spectacle. No one likes 1.9% chance to stun one target or +30% enhanced damage. That’s, like, totally, like, lame.


    Spike items

    Diablo 2

    DiabloWikiArreat’s Face — Slayer Guard

  • Defense: 302-363
  • Required Level: 42
  • Required Strength: 118
  • Durability: 55
  • (Barbarian Only)
  • +150-200% Enhanced Defense
  • 30% Faster Hit Recovery
  • 20% Bonus To Attack Rating
  • +2 To Barbarian Skill Levels
  • 3-6% Life Stolen Per Hit
  • All Resistances +30
  • +20 To Strength
  • +20 To Dexterity
  • +2 To Combat Skills (Barbarian Only)
  • I hope you noticed all of the pre-1.10 exceptional class uniques have essentially the same stats and shared the same property of being the best items in their slot until 1.10. Lovelessly designed through copy/paste and intentionally overpowered – the ultimate Spike item.


    Median XL:

    Scales of the Serpent — Gothic Plate (Sacred)

  • Defense: (7012-9696)
  • Durability: 99
  • Required Strength: 614
  • Required Level: 100
  • 15% Chance to cast level 40 Carpet of Spiders on Attack
  • 8% Chance to cast level 12 Time Strike on Striking
  • +150% Damage to Undead
  • Adds 400-600 poison damage over 2 seconds
  • -50% to Enemy Poison Resistance
  • 10% Chance of Crushing Blow
  • Enhanced Weapon Damage +(41 to 50)%
  • +(251 to 300)% Enhanced Defense
  • +100 to Strength
  • +50 Life on Striking in Melee
  • (31 to 40)% Chance of Uninterruptable Attack
  • Socketed: 6
  • The ‘SotS’, repeatedly nerfed to no avail and es still #1 in Brazil. Read a build guide (especially one that lists every uberquest as Easy, Easy, Easy, Easy, Easy and Astrogha as Easy-Medium) and among the incomprehensible acronyms you’ll probably find ‘SotS’ somewhere. This is intentional, because the bright lights at Blizzard cracked down on ‘overpowered items’ and the result is:


    Diablo 3:

    Remember when I said every uni– sorry, lamedreary in Diablo 3 was aimed at Spikes? Unfortunately the Spikes don’t want them because they do less damage than the above mentioned dumpster blue. A big fat zero again.


    Verdict

    Diablo 3 lamedrearies are aimed at Spike players at the intentional expense of Johnny and Timmy (and still manage to fail because they are too weak). Therefore buffing them won’t achieve anything unless they become the best items in the game or Spike will still ignore them, and won’t make them any more tactically interesting or bigger so the Johnny and Spike aren’t satisfied either.

    This may explain why people NOW claim uniques should be the best, despite advocating the opposite in the past 11.5 years. Only the Spikes want them to be literally the best – the Johnnies and Timmies simply don’t care anymore and have given up on the game after the Great Death Blossom Disillusion and the Why Is My Hero So Weak Disillusion respectively. Their dreams crushed, all that is left is normal difficulty and the rose coloured binoculars pointed at Guild Wars 2. And of course Teemo in your ranked game. Thanks, Blizzard.

    So there’s Laz’s semi-professional opinion. Hard to argue with his conclusions, as far as I can see. What do you guys think? Is he right? Can Blizzard resuscitate the legendary and set items in their game, and what could they have been thinking, launching with an array of green and orange items that so many fans realized at a glance were underpowered and uninteresting?


    Tagged As: | Categories: Dead Fish, Guest Articles, Item Sets, Items, Legendary Items