The last 48 hours of Diablo IV has been a little chaotic following wildly controversial changes to player power level in the game’s first pre-season patch. Now, developer Blizzard is doing a bit of damage control, taking to a livestream on July 21 to try and explain its decision-making process, as well as what changes it’s making in response to the overwhelmingly negative feedback.
Diablo IV’s latest patch, 1.1.0, dramatically reduced player power across the board. Changes include reductions to XP earned for various activities, as well as a diminished role to status effects like Vulnerability that have played a central role in class builds. It was a tumultuous set of changes to say the least, all documented in an exhaustive list of alterations via the official patch notes. As promised, Blizzard held a livestream today to address these changes, as well as provide some updates on future changes to the game—particularly in response to the negative feedback on the previous patch. You can watch the whole stream here:
Reducing player power: ’We know it is bad. We know it is not fun.’
On the stream, Blizzard’s associate director of community management, Adam Fletcher, immediately responded to the overwhelmingly negative feedback in response to the patch, acknowledging that missteps were made and that the reduction to player power has wrecked the fun of the game for some players.
While Fletcher stated that Blizzard had specific goals in mind with the most recent patch and that it wanted an opportunity to explain why it made these changes, some good news is that the team doesn’t “plan on doing a patch like this ever again.”
Blizzard plans on ‘always providing patch notes well beforehand’
While the most recent patch did dramatically reduce player power and strike at the heart of the developing meta, one of the most chaotic elements of it all was how suddenly the patch notes arrived, how lengthy they were, and how it felt like there was absolutely no heads up as to what was going to happen going into the game’s first season, which started on July 20.
As a way to get ahead of future issues like that, Blizzard has promised to provide patch notes “well beforehand,” estimating that notes will hit about a week before a new update. The game’s next patch, version 1.1.1, is expected to arrive sometime soon, and Blizzard will discuss the specific details of that patch in another livestream chat next Friday, July 28.
Changes to player power explained
Though some may find Blizzard’s explanations for the dramatic, across-the-board nerfs lacking, associate game director Joe Piepiora explained that the reductions to player attributes like cooldown rates and status effects like Vulnerability were done to try and amplify player choice. On the cooldown rates specifically, Piepiora said:
[Cooldown reduction (CDR) is the most powerful stat] in Diablo IV, and the reason for it is obvious: When you’re able to get CDR to a certain point when using certain class mechanisms, you’re able to get effectively instantaneous active skills. That can give you unlimited resources, can give you unlimited movement speed, can give you unlimited damage resistance, and it begins to dwarf the effectiveness of other options when you start trying to take these things into account.
During the stream both Piepiora and game director Joe Shely recognized that overpowered builds and mowing down tons of enemies is core to the action-RPG power fantasy. However, the team is presently concerned that player choice in builds is dying in favor of go-to metas, meaning that if you don’t emphasize cooldown reduction, or optimize builds to send foes into Vulnerable status, you’re operating at a disadvantage.
Vulnerability, which saw its damage modifier reduced significantly in patch 1.1.0, according to Piepiora, became the only way to really start dealing damage to enemies at certain levels of play. This, the team said, is not in line with their vision of the game, and in many ways they believe it’s the result of the outsized influence of high-level Nightmare Dungeons, which Piepiora said is one of the areas of endgame content that tends to demand very specific builds without much room for customization and choice.
The reality is that Nightmare Dungeons are dramatically overtuned from where they actually need to be based upon the role they fill in the game itself. So Tier 100 Nightmare Dungeons are excruciatingly difficult for most classes to be able to actually get through and as a result it begins to winnow the opportunities and options that players have when they begin to engage with content at that Tier. You need to lean on very, very specific builds, very specific setups with access to things like near-instantaneous cooldowns for some skills in an effort to actually make it through those spaces. And that was never really the intent of that content.
Apparently Nightmare Dungeons will see changes on at least two fronts: The density of hordes will be increased to play into the power fantasy of destroying vast amounts of enemies and, in respect to Piepiora’s statement that the crushing level of difficulty they pose is having too much of an effect on build choice, difficulty will be reduced, bringing Tier 100 Nightmare Dungeons down to about the current difficulty level of Tier 70 Nightmare Dungeons.
Patch 1.1.1 is expected to address some of the concerns
During the stream the team stressed that the goal was not, in fact, to reduce the speed of the game and slow progress, though many have felt that changes to game systems like an increase in the amount of time it takes to teleport out of dungeons seems to suggest otherwise. Commenting on that very change, Shely said the team will continue to evaluate changes like this, but stopped shy of saying why, exactly, that specific change was instituted in the first place.
The next patch, 1.1.1, is expected to address a wide variety of the issues present in the current build of the game. Blizzard revealed some such changes, like an extra tab in stash size to mitigate concerns over inventory management, and a 40 percent reduction in respec costs so players can more adequately respond to changes in the game’s meta while also having more choice over build variety as the game progresses. Other specific details, such as changes that have wildly reduced the power level and strength of certain classes more so than others, will be explored more in depth in next week’s livestream.
The team stressed that it doesn’t want to take powerful skills and items away as abruptly as it did with the most recent patch, and pledges to offer more alternatives when potentially sweeping changes come about in the future. A hotfix is scheduled to arrive later today (July 21), with patch notes expected to hit Diablo IV’s website shortly before it goes live.
It’s not uncommon for live-service games to make sudden changes like Diablo IV did here, but community frustration over poorly communicated and executed changes can easily build up over time to create burnout and resentment. Time will tell how quickly Diablo IV recovers from this latest kerfuffle.