Upon Closer Inspection: Remember Item Types?Posted 29 July 2012by
Talking to various Diablo 3 playing friends lately, I’ve been asking a simple question. “Do you know the name of the item type of a single item one of your characters is using?” Thus far not a single person has said “yes.” and I’m certainly not the one to break my own combo. I’ve got three level 60 characters and I know their equipment pretty well, in terms of, “What in the Hells do I have to kill to get some damn boots with Dex, faster run, and MF for my Demon Hunter?.” But as for the base item types? I couldn’t tell you a single one.
I think this is a shame, since a lot of the item types are quite interesting and funny in name. For instance, my Demon Hunter was greeted by this item drop the other night in the Den of the Fallen, and I actually eloeled at the sight.
Most likely I’d found an Unspeakable Thing before, and not just on the living room carpet after a frat party, but if so I didn’t remember the name. I certainly will now, since it was so attention-grabbing, lying there in glowing yellow text. I picked it up, of course, but in the inventory the tooltip just said, “Rare Mojo,” and then once I identified it the item became an “Echo Surge” with the “Rare Mojo” identification down below in the item box. Booooooooooring.This is how it works for all rare, set, and legendary items in Diablo III. You only see the base item type when you first find the item and it’s lying on the ground. Once you pick it up, those cool, weird, thesaurus-busting item types are never seen again and you just see the specific item name, plus a very functional “Rare belt” or “Legendary dagger” description below.
Though I lament this, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m sure some players like not having to see the extra info or the confusing/weird item type name. It’s certainly not an accident on the part of the game developers, since they chose to implement a system where rare, set, and legendary items never display the base item type once they are identified. This is convenient and easy for new players, but I think it’s sort of a shame and a loss of potential coolness, long term.
Click through for why, a big reminder of what glory Gear Sets were going to rise to, and how this whole item system could easily be tweaked for improvement.
Because Words Are Confusing
The developers obviously put a lot of time into coming up with all those weird names for every type of armor, and the names always display on white items and magical items. So they could certainly be set to display for rares+, much as items now show the ilvl in the tooltip, after Blizzard enabled that due to fan complaints about level 60+ gear being too hard to find.
I’d wager that during development, item types did display in the identified rare/set/legendary item text in Diablo III, but that as part of their efforts to make the game more “accessible,” these were disabled. Too much text. Words are confusing. Etc. Some focus/strike group of testers (likely composed of elderly relatives and/or WoW developers) said that all the item type names in Diablo III were cool and inventive, but really confusing and extraneous in the hover box. So away they went!
Personally, I’d like them to come back.
Anticipation and Expectation
One reason that item types are irrelevant/forgotten in Diablo III is related to the extreme scarcity of sets and uniques. Not only do such items not show the item type once they’re identified, but they’re so seldom found and so generally undesirable (though you still like to find them on Inferno, given what Fiery Brimstone sells for) that no one knows or cares what type of item they are. This was not the case to the 10000th percent in Diablo 2, where every serious fan knew all (or certainly most of) the item types for the best set and unique items, since we all desperately hoped to find them.
Everyone know that a Windforce was a golden Hydra Bow, and thus every time you saw a Hydra Bow drop, of any quality, you had a twinge of “OMG that could have been it.” And when you found a rare Hydra bow you were doubly vexed, since you knew how close you’d come. I used to joke that rares of desired Elite item types were Diablo 2′s way of saying “your Magic Find sucks.”
It was funny because it was true!
I suppose the same is still true in Diablo III… but no one knows since no one knows the names of the item types of top legendaries, and not just because there aren’t any top legendaries. I don’t want the entire Diablo 2 item system back, and I expect that item types will begin to matter more at some point in Diablo III, as the expansion(s) add complexity and depth to the simplistic D3C system, but I think players today could handle a bit more info than “Rare item type” in the tooltips. Remember that the invaluable item level display was only added in a patch post-release, so we had even less to go on initially.
Item Type Upgrades
The other big difference in item types in Diablo 2 was that they actually mattered, thanks to Imbues, crafting recipes, item upgrade recipes, and runewords. These features originated in Diablo II and were much expanded upon in D2X and its many patches, to the point that it was often more desirable to find a white item, or even a low quality item of many elite item types (the proverbial cracked sash) than a magical/rare/unique of that item type, since the low quality one could be Horadric Cubed up to a normal one, and then cubed again to socket it, in hopes of getting the correct number of sockets to turn it into a Runeword.
Even aside from that, weapon and armor base item types mattered since they all had different armor or damage or attack speed values, different numbers of possible sockets, and most notably, different str/dex/level requirements. If you look at something like the sword comparison section in my old D2 Barbarian Magic Find guide, you’ll get an idea of the importance of item types back in D2. And that guide was for v1.09, before Runewords became so powerful in the v1.10 and v1.11 patches, which added even more importance to selecting the correct item type.
Remember Gear Sets?
Another downside to the invisibility of item type in Diablo III is that no one knows what level Gear Set they’re wearing. If you were following D3 during development, you’re nodding right now. If you picked up the game and joined the community around the time of launch, you’ve probably never even heard the term before.
Gear Sets were introduced as a concept back in 2010, and during the lead up to that year’s Blizzcon, Blizzard released six preview images, each showing a male and female of the three known classes decked out in different levels of gear sets. Another batch of gear sets were revealed during a panel at Blizzcon 2010, and much fan debate ensued. Here are three of the initial gear set images from July 2010.
When I saw there was much debate, I’m not kidding. It’s a pity all of our older news posts lost their comments when we upgraded the news script, since most of those older ones on Gear Sets had 100+ replies with fans going back and forth on how the sets looked, if the Diablo 3 kit was too colorful or fanciful in design, if it was true to the fantasy universe, etc.Every new gear set prompted fan remixes and photoshop improvements, and we even had mini-controversies over the male wizard looking wimpy, and several posts debating his unfortunate starfish hat. I eventually had to write an article comparing the D3 gear sets to their D2 equivalents, to provide some perspective for newer fans.
We even had long debates about just how many sets there were, if every type of item appeared in every set, and especially about how they would look on your character. Check out multiple Blue comments trying to explain the topic just in this one post from early 2011.
They’re visual tiers of gear, not actual specific items by name and stat. It’s the same as Diablo II, but more and better. —Diablo
To clarify, there are 18 complete tier looks. Complete. 18 individual looks for each item slot. —Diablo
Fans were passionately concerned about how their characters would look in each gear set, and how the sets would mix and match. People wanted the cool Witch Doctor “waving tentacle” set, which was known to be high level, and we wondered what would happen if you wore the helm and shoulders from that gear set, but the body armor from another gear set. Would you still get the cool tentacle look? Would players be hunting their end game gear based on the gear set, since their Monk simply had to have everything from gear set 17 to look good?
Honestly, I know this sounds like insanity at this point, but all these issues were hotly debated for well over a year.
What happened to all that gear set passion? It vanished in the final game since there’s no easy way to know what gear set your particular item is from. The names and numbers of the gear sets aren’t shown in any way so there’s nothing to encourage you to get gear all from the same set to give your character a unified look. Some players have achieved that simply because ilvl 63 stuff has the best potential stats, but that’s purely a function of Diablo III’s system weighting the highest level items to always be the best items.
Displaying the item type on rares/sets/legendaries wouldn’t change this, but when I remember how interested we all were in the look of our characters and the levels of gear sets, and it makes me sad that this whole system is invisible in the finished product.
Part of the Item System Upgrades?
We’ve been promised many improvements to the items in v1.0.4, including revamped Sets and Legendaries. That’s great, and essential for the quality of the game, but now that you guys have been reminded or learned about all the Gear Set stuff, do you miss it? Do you share my interest in seeing item types and having a reason for them to matter in Diablo III?
The D2 system wasn’t perfect, but it was nice to actually care about item types and know which ones you wanted by names, rather than just hoping for “item level 63″ when you looked at a tool tip. If the legendaries and sets are improved to the point that fans start to covet them, that’ll help a bit, but showing the names, and maybe even the gear set tiers, could also help. I don’t pay much attention to how my character looks, but RisingRed and Elly put in hours of work to create an awesome gallery of every gear set in the game for every class/gender, and when I look at it I get inspired to see how my characters would look if I ever kitted them out in organized fashion.