It seems that no matter how much testing is done or feedback is collected during development, most games are in dire need of some form of patching once released. Even a game like Diablo 3 which had an extremely large and by all accounts successful pre-release beta test, require tweaks and changes to keep the game balanced. The trick isn’t finding what needs to be changed; it is doing so without upsetting the game or the community. As can be seen on their Diablo 3 blog, Blizzard is taking the time to not just list the changes they are making in the next patch, but to also explain their thought process to the community. They’re also using some of the data they have collected to convince the community that some of these changes are necessary, some of which contain interesting information about the first two weeks since release.
Blizzard has released some interesting facts about the game. The first is that only 1.9% of all players have reached the Inferno difficulty level. That’s not a big number considering that Diablo 3 has sold over 6.5 million copies. For this reason the next patch will see changes that will reduce the difficulty level of inferno mode, mainly by reducing the ridiculous damage some of the enemies at that level are able to dish out. Also surprising, the most common level 60 build in the game is only used by .7% of its players, not including the diversity in passive abilities. This means that essentially there are no “cookie cutter” builds, although some abilities are considered “mandatory.”
But, as always, players are generally more concerned about class changes; buffs or nerfs. While the skill system is incredibly varied, capable of producing all kinds of different builds within a class, there are still some strong core abilities that players depend on. That’s ok, according to Blizzard, as players should use builds and abilities they like without the fear of being nerfed, “Part of the enjoyment of Diablo is finding those super-strong builds, and we want players to be excited to use something they discovered that feels overpowered.” Blizzard also said that players who find good builds shouldn’t feel as if “we’re going to swoop in and hotfix it out of existence.”
Finally, Blizzard is also going to make changes to their end game itemization, specifically their end tier legendary items. Many feel as if these items are underpowered, and while Blizzard agrees, they also feel that these items are a bit misunderstood, “One problem we’ve seen — and intend to correct quickly — is players comparing high-level Magic (blue) items to lower-level Legendary items as “proof” of an imbalance.” While the next patch will see some improvements to newly acquired legendary items, they’ve pointed out that sometimes these items aren’t supposed to be better than items from lesser tiers.
It’s nice to see a company take some time to sit and explain future patch changes and collect player feedback in lieu of just releasing a change log on patch day. It seems as if Blizzard is hoping people will forget about Diablo 3’s rocky release by focusing better community service going forward. I’m sure we’ll all forgive them, especially if they’re going to continue asking for community feedback before implementing changes.