Blizzard announced a new Diablo expansion in May 2018. The game’s development has been plagued by controversy and delays, which is the first for Blizzard since 2002. How do developers balance scale with player feedback? Will this be an indicator of bigger problems ahead for gaming on the platform?
The “diablo 4 loot” is a topic that has been circulating around the Diablo community for quite some time. Blizzard has yet to confirm anything, but if they do release Diablo 4, it will likely have big numbers and scaling.
Big Numbers & Scaling in Diablo 4
A recent Diablo 4 blog post has sparked a fresh controversy about numbers exceeding a thousand. A vociferous segment of this group despises numerals with more than three or four digits. Clearly, the developers should reduce everything to the point where characters only do a few thousand damage at most. Why aren’t they doing it?
The Origins of the Big Numbers
Before we begin, I’d want everyone to consider the following question and come up with an answer for themselves: Let’s pretend we’re playing a non-specific yet well-designed ARPG with two (melee) characters: A level 10 and a level 20 – the same class, both with good gear for their levels, a good build, adequate pots, and so on. We’re going to have them all battle the same level 15 Elite mob now. The makers of the game clearly want the level 20 to kill that adversary faster than the level 10. That, I believe, is what we all agree should happen. But how much faster is it? What is an acceptable price to aim for in this situation? Give it some consideration and come up with a number that you believe is appropriate to represent the character’s increased power as a result of these 10 more levels.
Do you have a phone number? Good. I obviously have no idea what it is, so I’ll provide an example that appeals to me: Let’s say the level 10 took two minutes to grind down the level 15 opponent — after all, it’s a difficult struggle against a higher level Elite. What would be appropriate for a level 20 to do in the same situation? Perhaps 20 seconds? It’s still a struggle, but it’s very one-sided in the end. I hope these two figures are reasonable to you. Okay, so the exact amount I requested is 120 seconds / 20 seconds = 6. 6 is our scaling factor over 10 levels — a character should do around 6 times more damage after progressing 10 levels. If we apply this number to all levels, a character’s damage should rise by a factor of 61/10 = 1.19623, or around 20%, at each level. As a result, damage should grow by a factor of 1.1962343 = 2,218.358 = 2,200 from level 1 to 44 (the level for which we’ve seen objects in the latest blog article). So, if a level 1 weapon does 3-6 damage on average (D2 Hand Axe, avg 4.5), a level 44 weapon should deliver 4.5 * 2,218.358 = 9,982 = 10,000 damage every hit. This is around four times the amount we observed on
In the blog article, you can see a level 44 two-handed (!) axe.
And it’s from there that the huge statistics come. Outside of the scale we decided early on, I haven’t utilized any assumptions. All of the other figures were calculated by converting 120 seconds to 20 seconds after scaling each level by ten levels. Outside of weapon damage, there are additional aspects that go into determining how much damage a character does. We did, however, overshoot by a ratio of four (or more for a one-handed weapon). That leaves a lot of space for development in other areas.
Why Is Strong Scaling Necessary?
You may argue that if 20 percent power scaling each level resulted in such large numbers, then 20 percent is certainly too much. Is that true, though? Many of the comments don’t go much farther than “I don’t like huge numbers, ergo they’re terrible.” That is hardly constructive criticism. What exactly is the issue? One of the most common arguments against big numbers is because floating damage values in the millions are more difficult to understand in the heat of combat. And I agree wholeheartedly. For starters, you may just turn them off. There are no floating damage values in Diablo 2. They aren’t necessary for having fun with the game, or any game. In fact, I’m not sure what advantage they truly give in the first place. It doesn’t matter how difficult they are to interpret if you get rid of them. Let’s assume you decide to keep them on. In this situation, smaller, more legible numbers would be preferable. Agreed.
But what is the cost of doing so? To be honest, the whole game’s scale and advancement feel.
The creators chose a strength gain every level that resulted in such large numbers for a reason: to make your character’s progress visible. You should be able to tell when you level up. Not simply because a cool animation is playing, but also because you’ve gained some new abilities. Of course, there will be levels when you earn a snazzy new talent that you would notice even if the scaling wasn’t in place. However, there are certain stages when nothing new or intriguing is unlocked. Even so, you should see a significant improvement.
When a side note, your character won’t feel much stronger as you level up since you’ll be fighting harder adversaries organically. You don’t kill anything quicker or endure more attacks by doing so. Because the foes you’re up against have become more powerful. So having visibly larger numbers is a wonderful method to help gamers genuinely feel that gain in power.
But item scaling, not character-per-level-up scaling, was the real beginning point for this entire process. So, what exactly is the problem here? Low-level objects will stay relevant for longer if they do not scale appreciably. That seems to be something the designers do not desire. Why? Because it’s exciting to discover a new, better thing. It is, after all, what the genre is all about. If item power hardly scales, you may be able to discover a reasonably rolled rare at level 20 and keep it for hours until you reach level 35. Simply because the affixes on everything in between aren’t quite correct, and the inferior ones don’t have enough punch to compensate, despite the things’ greater level. As a result, that slot is effectively dead for the next 15 levels. There will be no enjoyment if no improvements are discovered. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, but hopefully you get the idea.
Because item strength per level scaling is stronger, you’ll discover improvements to your gear much more often as you advance. Even a mediocrely rolled item will be preferable than a well-rolled one a few levels down. Is this a positive or negative thing? The game’s focus is once again on collecting upgrades for your gear. The act of doing so on a regular basis is what keeps gamers interested. That is unquestionably a design objective, and strong scaling accomplishes it.
Yes, the late-game trade-off is higher numbers. In game design, everything is a trade-off. And that’s the one the Diablo IV developers have decided to go with. And I agree with that choice. You may not think so. That isn’t to say that one of those alternatives is objectively incorrect or that the developers are clueless.
The actual affixes that show on objects and how fascinating they are vs. how straightforward they are to analyze are a whole separate topic. Another compromise the designers must make, or rather strike a balance for, is this. The ideal here for die-hard fans is considerably different from the ideal for a casual gamer. But, as I just said, it is a very separate topic.
Edit: I got my first downvote in less time than it took me to read the post. Classic.
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