It’s been four years and we’ve come a long way since the launch of Diablo III. From item overhauls to a brand new class and Act, the world of Sanctuary has never looked so good. However, some changes are larger than they may seem, making a tremendous difference in day-to-day gameplay. The inclusion and evolution of item comparison tooltips is one such example, so join me in taking a closer look at the development process behind this feature.
For many Diablo players, it can be a challenge to decide between potential upgrades. Gear can provide all manner of useful stats and the randomized nature of Diablo loot means upgrades come in countless combinations. Knowing which piece to equip takes great game knowledge, and that can be intimidating for the average or new player. As you may know, itemization has undergone a significant overhaul since the launch of Diablo III. In the beginning, Legendary items weren’t always the obvious choice. That evolution is a different story to tell, but it’s important context to keep in mind.
When we were looking to bring Diablo III to console, this presented a unique set of hurdles. Choosing which item to equip can be intensive and, especially where couch co-op was concerned, just didn’t translate well. We didn’t want the fun to stop every time your buddy paused the game to review loot. Keeping the pace of the game smooth was an important goal, and it was important to us that the solution was right for all platforms.
This led us to the basic concept of item comparison tooltips, but the team expressed some concerns. As we were bringing something new to Diablo, we asked ourselves whether it was the right kind of new feature to introduce to the series. Over a decade had passed since the release of Diablo II and the way players approached games had changed drastically. We decided that it was a great opportunity for iteration and providing a tutorial-like element would only help more players enjoy Sanctuary.
More problematic was deciding whether or not it was okay to make some basic decisions on behalf of players. Again, we looked at the new feature as a training tool rather than an instruction manual. Ultimately, we want players to make their own gearing choices and we found that after players had received some guidance through the item comparison tooltips, they began to draw their own conclusions. This basic guidance allowed us to simplify enough to include a fast convenience feature on console in the form of Quick Equip.
To bring together the item comparison system, we condensed an item’s power into three generalized stats: Life, Damage, and Protection. These were the principles most players followed when making gear decisions, so we stuck with known categories in order for the at-a-glance comparison to remain familiar and easy to grasp for new and veteran players alike.
This didn’t hit the mark close enough for us, especially as the game evolved. The information being presented went a little too far in generalization, resulting in stats that were misleading. The advent of Loot 2.0 in Reaper of Souls presented a unique opportunity to fine-tune this feature.
Patch 2.0.1 launched just prior to the release of Reaper of Souls, introducing many new systems to the game in preparation for the expansion. One change was replacing the Life and Protection stats with new and better-defined stats.
Enter Healing and Toughness. Toughness was intended to be an overall calculation of your Effective Health Pool, or EHP. This is a simplified summary of your hero’s survivability based on stats like maximum Life, Armor, Resistances, Dodge, and other types of damage reduction. Similarly, healing was meant to be an average of how quickly you could regain health. This first pass got the basic messages across, but some of the more variable stats (like Life Per Kill) caused confusing inflations and muddled the information given to the player. So in Patch 2.1.2, we made another change.
“Healing” was replaced with “Recovery,” and the name was changed to not only better encompass its purpose, but to clearly highlight that change had occurred. The new stat estimated how much Toughness you would expect to recover in an average encounter, and we changed the weighting of certain healing stats to provide a more accurate picture.
In our current iteration, these stat summaries provide enough information to be useful to the average player and helps shine a light on how each stat contributes to your character’s overall power. This feature was so useful that we received a lot of community requests for a similar overview of follower equipment. In Patch 2.4.0, we fulfilled this request!
Quality of life features are rarely as small as they look. What tweaks to the game have you noticed over the years? What change has made a noticeable impact on the way you play Diablo III? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear which features interest you most!
Diablo III Season 6 is now live in all gameplay regions! To create a Seasonal hero, select your class, gender, and name as usual, then select the "Seasonal Hero" checkbox on the lower left of the screen.
Seasons are an optional, recurring game mode that offers PC players the opportunity to periodically start fresh, leveling new Normal or Hardcore heroes from level 1 without any currency, resources, items, or previously earned Paragon experience. Similar to the separation between Normal and Hardcore game modes, Seasonal heroes will also have their own shared stash and Artisan progression. Any currency, materials, recipes, items, Paragon experience, and Artisan progression earned during a Season will be rolled over to a player's non-Seasonal profile once the Season concludes.
Season 6 will offer unique rewards and new challenges for players, including new cosmetic items, pieces of an exclusive Transmogrification set only available to those who participate in Seasons, and Season-only achievements called Conquests. Progress within a given Season will also be tracked on the Leaderboard system, and in the Seasons Journey interface.
Good luck, nephalem! May Kadala be generous and your deeds of valor always be remembered.
Last updated April 5 @ 4:00 p.m. PT.
Below you'll find the preliminary PTR patch notes for patch 2.4.1. Please note that this isn't the final version of the patch notes and that some changes may not be documented or described in full detail.
To provide feedback on patch 2.4.1, please visit the PTR Feedback forum.
To report any issues you experience while playing, please visit the PTR Bug Report forum.
For additional information about the PTR, click here.
Introduced in Patch 2.1.0, Legendary Gems are one of the many methods by which players can vastly improve their character’s strength through perseverance and dedication. Obtained by defeating Greater Rift Guardians, these socketable facets of raw power grow alongside your nephalem with each new tier of difficulty you conquer.
In Patch 2.4.1, we’ll be making notable changes to a handful of Legendary Gems. Before we get into those changes and the reasoning behind them, we want to take a deep dive into the design structure behind Legendary Gems.
Some gems have much more broadly defined roles than others. For example, gems like Esoteric Alteration or Molten Wildebeest’s Gizzard are meant to buff up your defensive capabilities. These gems might serve the same role, but they each do so in a different way. Overlap isn’t always a bad thing, as we want players to have choices that can suit different needs.
Others serve particular playstyle niches rather than generalized purposes. Enforcer, Boyarsky’s Chip or Zei’s Stone of Vengeance are all gems with clearly defined specializations. These are the gems you think of first when you are pursuing a particular playstyle. If you’re exploring a Thorns build, Boyarsky’s Chip should be a no-brainer. If you like the kite-and-fight style, then Zei’s Stone of Vengeance should be a go-to. Builds should have some reliable choices that reinforce their general gameplay.
Some gems are less focused on overall character power and more on enhancing different gameplay activities. Boon of the Hoarder and Gem of Ease support specific goals, farming gold and leveling characters, respectively. While these aren’t the kinds of gems you’re likely to find on a build that’s pushing high level Greater Rifts, they serve their purposes well.
We also have gems that are considered more utility oriented. These types of gems often provide multiple types of benefits or focus on specific stats, though perhaps at lower values than a gem that is more specialized for damage or defense. Which gems filled these roles was a little muddier in the past than we liked, so in Patch 2.4.1 we’re creating more that fall into this category and making their utility shine through more clearly.
Finally, there are gems that might fall into more than one of the above categories. These are often good everyman’s gems or general options that are great for beginners or those who don’t want to fuss too much over their gem choice. Bane of the Powerful and Wreath of Lightning are prime examples, as they are both reliable, straight forward, and useful in virtually any build.
As we mentioned, some gems simply weren’t falling into one of the above categories or, if they were, weren’t serving their function as well as they could be. While we aren’t updating every Legendary Gem that might need a little help (and it’s possible we’ll re-examine other gems in the future), there are quite a few that stuck out to us as either needing more clearly defined roles or just that layer of new polish to keep them up to date in a Sanctuary that’s evolved over time.
You’ll find more details in our PTR patch notes, including the most recent updates and a more comprehensive list, but we’d like to dig into some specific changes and the philosophy behind them.
We’re making the following changes to Enforcer:
In addition to giving a bump in power to pet builds, we wanted to add more survivability to pets overall. This gem should be the obvious choice to players who run a pet build, but the benefit wasn’t always worth the socket. This should be a much clearer choice now.
You may be wondering why the Rank 25 bonus doesn’t make pets invulnerable. While we’ve seen this suggestion frequently, part of the Diablo experience is a sense of unpredictability and needing to adapt in dire situations. Extremes where your pets are always dead or permanently alive are much less interesting gameplay experiences than making a conscious effort to monitor your pets’ health and re-summon them if they’re in danger.
We’re making the following changes to Gogok of Swiftness:
When we originally designed Gogok of Swiftness, it was built around the assumption that this buff would be constantly dropping on and off. The goal was to have a higher total potential that we knew wouldn’t always be present. Ultimately, we decided against that design and instead opted to tune its values around Swiftness more or less always being up. This assumption allows us more control over number tuning.
Gogok of Swiftness provides very specific buffs and serves as a utility gem. However, it was lacking multi-purpose functionality, so we’ve added a Toughness component in the form of a Dodge bonus. This should make Gogok a more competitive choice for players who are either looking specifically to stack Attack Speed or Cooldown Reduction (or both!) while providing extra Toughness in the process.
We’re making the following changes to Mirinae, Teardrop of the Starweaver:
Like Gogok of Swiftness, Mirinae had a slightly different goal in mind when it was first designed. Its concept was to be the “single-target” gem, ideal for builds who focused more on area of effect abilities and needed a boost on single targets (like Rift Guardians). When we introduced Bane of the Stricken, Mirinae fell to the wayside and needed a tweak to breathe new life into it. So why not make it breathe life into the player?
Rather than have Mirinae compete with Bane of the Stricken (and wind up creating a math problem for players), we added defense to the gem in the form of a bonus heal to create a different incentive to use it. This lands this gem in a more utility-driven area, providing a new and interesting option that may be appealing for builds that need both extra regeneration and single-target damage.
We’re making the following changes to Simplicity’s Strength:
Similar to the changes coming to Enforcer, Simplicity’s Strength should just feel like the right choice for builds that want to focus on primary skills. From the beginning, that’s precisely what this gem was meant to do; it just needed some additional tweaks to ensure it really owned that role.
We’re making the following changes to Taeguk:
As we’ve already discussed, Taeguk too often felt like the right choice no matter which build you were running. It had no particular niche or role and, it was mechanically awkward to use and gain the most benefit. It was meant to work best for builds running channeling skills like Whirlwind or Strafe, and we didn’t want to encourage players to spam skills like Multishot or Hammer of the Ancients into empty space just to maintain the buff.
That said, we recognize a lot of classes feel as though they’ve lost a tool in their kit with the above changes; this is why so many other gems have been revisited and will be gaining similar components to those that made Taeguk so desirable. The goal wasn’t just to create a clearer, more communicated identity for Taeguk, but to also provide many builds a variety of options that represent different strengths and preferences.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into the changes coming to Legendary Gems in Patch 2.4.1. These aren’t the only changes coming, so if you haven’t already, be sure to log into the PTR, try out some (or all) of these changes, and let us know your thoughts. It’s important to us that the community has a chance to get their hands on these shiny baubles and give them a go. Your feedback is some of the most valuable loot we could hope to have drop, and we look forward to hearing what you have to say!
To work in software development, whether it’s for business, entertainment, or your favorite video game company, is to know that simple problems don’t always have simple solutions. Game development is, in a word, complicated. There are thousands of moving parts where the smallest iteration can cause weeks of reversions and backtracking. On the outside looking in, it’s tempting to ask, “Why not just fix it?” That’s a bit like asking a baker why they can’t just substitute sugar for sucralose. The answer is similar across the board; “It’s not that simple.”
In Diablo III, there’s lots of information thrown at the player. Let’s talk numbers. You see them everywhere! They’re on your gear, they’re in your character profile, and they float around your nephalem’s head while you’re in combat. Behind each of those digits is a huge amount of tech that makes them behave the way that they do.
We heard a lot of player feedback that combat numbers were starting to be overwhelming or difficult to comprehend in moment-to-moment gameplay. In the past, large numbers were exciting to see because they stood out above the rest. How do you bring back that emotional appeal without making players feel like they have lost power?
Patch 2.4.0 introduced a couple of new features to address this. First, we’ve introduced a new in-game option to truncate numbers and display them using abbreviations. Second, we’ve added an entirely new feature that highlights some of your largest damage numbers in a new color. Each of these additions presented their own challenges when we went to implement them; some were design issues, others created localization concerns, and at the end of all these decisions, the result needed to look good.
Initially, we had the idea of highlighting the top 5% of numbers you’ve generated in the last few seconds. The first problem with this approach was that every build is different, especially when it comes to how each dishes out damage. Some pump out small bursts of floating numbers over time while others barrage your screen with a constant stream of information. In our first pass, another issue that arose was that the new system didn’t accommodate expected fluctuations in damage dealt. Take a Power Pylon, for example, where your damage is temporarily augmented. After the Pylon ends, you’ll still want to know when you’re dealing notable damage.
We developed our algorithm over time to account for these outliers, settling on the following rules for which numbers appear in orange:
If you’ve played the latest patch, you may have already seen our new damage abbreviations. We’ve seen a lot of questions, primarily from our English-speaking audiences, about why we measure in millions, but skip counting in billions.
There are a few reasons, but one of the most important is localization. Diablo III is a global game, published in 13 different languages, so when we make a design decision that affects the written word (or, in this case, written number), we have to remain cognizant of what that change will mean in every iteration of the game. While you might think numbers would be the easiest thing to translate, that couldn’t be any less true.
Here’s an example where what might look like a simple translation can get complicated. Some languages, like Spanish or French, do not commonly use a unique term for “billion.” They instead refer to that amount as what literally translates to “one thousand million” rather than having their own word. In terms of etymology, this is a result of both American and British English evolving the word “billion” to mean “one thousand million” rather than the “one million million” it originally represented.
It gets even more complex when looking at languages like Korean or Chinese, where large numbers are grouped on a different scale. For instance, in English, the nomenclature of a number changes with every third place, such as thousands, millions, billions and so forth. In Korean, the naming convention of a number instead changes every fourth place, using a method called myriad squared. This is because in Korean, numbers are grouped every ten-thousand fold instead of thousand fold.
This issue is compounded by punctuation use. Not every language uses commas as breaks in numbers. Some use periods instead, which is very common in Europe, and others don’t use any punctuation at all.
As numbers in Diablo III grew and we decided to add in numerical punctuation, we needed a way to elegantly “translate” where—and when—this punctuation would appear for each localization. Our code uses a library called ICU, or International Components for Unicode, which provides a great amount of support for localizing software. ICU can be used in a number of ways, but for this feature, we took advantage of its ability to take a number and a locale (such as United States English, French, or Korean) as input and give back a properly formatted number for that locale as output, complete with any periods or commas. Our Localization team also keeps a table that shows what numbers each region chooses to publish and the end result.
Some localizations opted to abbreviate more or less, mostly out of cultural preferences. There’s a real psychology behind player satisfaction and the actual length of the numbers you’re seeing, and player preference varies on both personal and cultural levels. For example, in English, we opted not to abbreviate in the low millions because seeing “1,000,000” is much more satisfying than “1M.” Skipping the billions place also helped with this, as seeing “1,000M” tells a much more exciting story than “1B.” Of course, number size isn’t the only consideration; the visuals, colors, and movement all play a key role as well.
It’s important to make sure that when a player sees a number, they can quickly understand the implication behind it and what it means to them at that precise instant. In Patch 2.4.0, we aimed to provide even more in-combat information than ever before. This is where those Critical Hit highlight numbers come into play.
Look at that beautiful crit!
Simply changing the color was one of many ways we could have presented this information. We asked ourselves a lot of questions about how was best to communicate these big hits. Do we make these numbers bigger? Have them path differently? Make them flash? Do they hang on the screen longer? Or do we just give them a different color? How do you decide which of these options is the right one?
We gravitated towards color because we could present this new information to our players in a drastically different way that passed other user accessibility concerns. Orange numbers stand out; they’re not something you’ve seen before, so subconsciously you pay close attention to them.
Orange also passes the colorblindness-friendly test. When you’re looking at a color wheel, orange is in a different realm than the other colors we currently use for other information. This way players that are colorblind can tell something’s new, too!
When we look at changing colors in our interface, our artists take a look a three options for variation: Hue, Saturation, and Lightness. This is part of what’s called the HSL color space, a common digital standardization for the color wheel. Each aspect is key to adjusting a different emotion or evoking a new response from the player. Do we want to change the mood? Then we adjust hue. If we’re shifting an image from being juicy to more flat, then saturation becomes key. How about drawing attention or driving it away? Lightness becomes the go-to.
As an example, some of the most critical information in the game is how much healing you’re receiving. Healing is literally your life force, and we want it to be very visible. That’s why that information is some of the brightest in the game. We wanted critical hit information to be extremely visible as well, so we played a lot with its lightness levels to make sure you always know when your next big damage spike occurs.
When we talk about the Diablo III team, it’s easy to first think of our developers who tweak the way a class or an item functions, or put cool, new features in to explore. However, there’s so much more going on beyond what your hero is wearing or wielding, and our artists, engineers, localization experts, and so many more help us ensure everything comes together smoothly for all of our players around the world.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this in-depth peek behind the scenes of a small feature that, under the hood, is deceptively gargantuan! It’s a privilege to come in every day and work on this game, even when it’s on the little details. Thanks for reading!