Diablo III: Itemization Woes (Part 2)

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

In the previous “Itemization Woes” post, I went over some of the issues I have with the way gear is handled in Diablo III. At present, there’s too much randomization built into the current system and there aren’t enough options that give players direct control over making an item worth using. However, there are a great number of options that give players additional chances at crap loot. Blood Shards, for example, are a great way to waste both your time and your hope of acquiring any worthwhile items, and that should be changed. In fact, change is at the very center of this post as I will be listing out the various changes that I believe should be made to Diablo III, and discuss the reasons behind these desired changes. While I do believe more ways of playing the game and acquiring gear are desperately needed, this post will focus on changes needed for itemization – specifically at max level and while progressing through Torment difficulties.

A Little Fixation

Removing some of the randomness with item stats.

The single greatest failure that lies at the core of Diablo III’s itemization is the vast amount of randomization inherent within the system. Too many times I have come across Legendary items with the potential to be great due to the Legendary bonus they carried. However, that potential would instantly be lost due to poor stat composition and/or the strength, or lack thereof, of those stats. Such an occasion occurred very recently; after I had burned a bunch of Blood Shards on mystery mojos (because I have been carrying the same mojo for a really long time now), Kadala decided to be useful for once, or at least that was the hope. She dropped a legendary mojo that I had never seen before: the Homunculus.

The Legendary bonus on the item was pretty awesome. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use the new mojo because it was dramatically weaker than the one I was using. It didn’t matter which stat I rerolled through enchanting, nothing was going to make it better. Using that mojo would have been a great way to remove Summon Zombie Dogs from my action bar so I could supplement my build with an ability that I could actually use. It just sucks that the current state of Diablo III’s itemization is garbage.

To reduce a bit of the randomness that exists, there are a couple changes that I would like to see made to items. First, the stat values on items need a singular value applied to them instead of a random number determined by an internal roll. No longer will players have the capability of holding down the control key to see the Strength or Intelligence on the Legendary boots they just found had a chance to roll as low as 416 or as high as 500, because that roll never would have taken place. Essentially, this change forces the strength of item stats to be fixed to a single value determined by level, quality and the specified equipment type. In those rare occasions when you find a legendary belt that has rolled the same primary stats as a legendary belt you currently have equipped, this change ensures the strength of those stats will be the same.

The next change will be to remove the random internal roll that determines how many stats are rolled on an item and, much like the previous change, forces a fixed number of stats determined by level and quality. For instance, you will still see blue items with a single stat at lower levels, but at max level they will always have a fixed number of five stats. Yellow items (rare) and Legendary items will always have six stats at max level. As you progress through the levels you will notice the number of stats increase, much as they do now, but you won’t see items within the same level range with a different number of stats. This isn’t a particularly major change as max level Legendary items are fixed at six stats anyway, but it doesn’t make sense to see level 70 magic items (blue) with a single stat.

These two changes together ensure max levels items, such as Legendaries, have the same power base and weaker items are only a result of poor stat composition and lower quality. Wait. There’s still some randomness within the system. How do we get around that? The answer lies ahead.

Enhancing Enchanting

Remove the gambling component and give players more control.

Diablo III - Really Bad Stat Roll

Hmmmm. Should I go with Intelligence, Intelligence… or Intelligence…

The overall design of the current Enchanting mechanic has me at a loss. Players are given access to an NPC with the capacity to change a stat on an item into another, but she can’t control what that stat becomes. Upon using this mechanic, players are given the choice to stick with the stat they have deemed worthless or choose from two randomly generated stats (both of which could end up being the same as the one you are attempting to replace). Players could end up doing this multiple times, burning their resources and never see the Enchantress roll the stat they want; or they could get it on the first try. It is all controlled by the fickle whim of RNGesus.

Furthermore, players are only allowed to alter a single stat on an item. That’s right! In those all too often moments when half of the stats on a new Legendary are complete crap, players have to make a choice of which ONE is the absolute crappiest. There is a concept about this feature that I cannot fathom. With all the randomness that players have to deal with in absolutely every other part of the game, why couldn’t Enchanting have been the one feature that gave players a way of circumventing it?

The change that I propose eliminates the gambling involved with rerolling stats and grants players the capacity to change any or all stats on an item whenever they see fit. The downsides are that the cost to change a stat remains the same, and the limitation on what stats can be selected is still present. However, beyond that there will be no more gambling resources in hopes of getting the right stat. This new system allows players to adjust items to whatever build they are currently using or plan on using in the future. It also makes it much more possible for players to carry multiple sets for various builds and types of play.

The goal of this change is to allow players to make items worth keeping. Players can turn newfound items into that missing piece to the puzzle, instead of scavenging through a pile of square pegs for one that is round-ish. This change grants the players one significant method for getting around the vast amount of randomness that exists in Diablo III’s itemization. It is intended to be the most significant quality of life change for players progressing through greater rifts and the torment difficulties.

Separation Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Legendary bonuses and Sockets are no longer considered secondary stats on items.

One facet of itemization that makes little to no sense is the fact Legendary bonuses and Sockets actually take away from the total number of stats an item has applied to it. This isn’t the case with the set bonuses found on Set items, so why is it so for those other two item components? There are already “legendary” items that have a total of six stats to benefit from, but if you find a Legendary item with a Legendary bonus, and want to add a socket to it, you are sacrificing the benefit of two potentially useful stats. Personally, this is poor game design and should be rectified.

The change I propose here is to make it so Legendary bonuses and Sockets remain separate from the other stats rolled on items. This ensures when players replace a “legendary” item with a Legendary item, they’ll still benefit from six stats, plus the Legendary bonus, and have the potential to roll a socket as well. Essentially, Legendary items that include a Legendary bonus have it baked in naturally, but it doesn’t interfere with the six other stats normally rolled on max level items. Additionally, whether an item has a socket or not is determined by a separate internal roll. So, even if you find a “legendary” item, there is a chance it will have rolled a socket.

Wait! There’s still randomness here. Is there an answer to this? Keep on reading.

Socket To Me, Baby!

Making Covetous Shen worth a damn – allowing him to add sockets to items.

Why does the jeweler exist? What purpose does he serve? Do the developers have a definitive answer as to why they put him into the game?

The one thing I understand about the jeweler is he has three features, and two of them are basically worthless. The first feature is the supposed capability of crafting amulets and rings. He’s not particularly good at it because he can’t craft anything worth talking about. Then again, crafting in Diablo III is pretty garbage in general, especially at max level. His worst feature is combining lower tier gems into higher tier gems.

The usefulness of the “gem combining” feature is so situational that spending nearly 10 million gold and 81 Marquise gems to obtain a single Flawless Royal gem doesn’t always feel worth it. For example, if you want to increase your Strength or Intelligence, the Royal Flawless gems will provide +280 to the specified stat, whereas Marquise gems only provide +62. That’s a good boost in power, but not 10 million gold good. On the flip side, if you want to put a Critical Hit Damage gem in your weapon, it will feel like a waste because Royal Flawless gems provide +130% Critical Hit Damage, but you can just as easily use a Marquise gem which provides +110% Critical Hit Damage and save on resources. The choice of how badly you want to waste your resources is heavily dependent on the benefit you receive from the higher tier gems.

The best feature the jeweler has is the capacity to remove gems from items. It is kind of sad to make such a statement, but it’s a true one. This is the only feature the jeweler possesses I bother to use anymore. It is a small, inexpensive feature that can be used as often as you have need for it.

So, again, what purpose does the jeweler serve in Diablo III?

In order to make the jeweler a useful feature, I propose he be given the ability to add sockets to items. Using this feature will have a cost, of course, but being able to add sockets to items that didn’t roll any would allow players to expand the power of any new legendary items they pick up. This feeds into the other changes I have mentioned, too. Sockets have a separate roll from stats on items, and players can no longer reroll a stat on an item for a socket using Enchanting. This change would make Covetous Shen the only viable way to put sockets into an item.

The limitations on this system would be the number of sockets that are allowed per item. However, I think it would be pretty cool if the jeweler had the ability to increase the socket cap of an item by 1 more than can be rolled. For example, chest armor that drops can roll up to 3 gems, but the jeweler can bring the total number of gems up to 4 through the “add socket” feature. This will cause items that couldn’t roll sockets before to be able to have 1 socket. This would also give players a lot more sockets to work with when building their character.

The More the Merrier

Increasing the number of baseline stats on Two-Handers.

I still stand by the notion that two-hand weapons are completely useless. In the February 2015 Tavern Talk, one of the developers mentioned two-handed weapons had a buff in numbers, but I don’t think it is just the strength of the stats that is the issue. I think it also has to do with the number of stats on two-handers. If you compare any two-handed weapon to a one-handed weapon paired with an off-hand, let’s say a mojo, you’ll notice the numbers between the two-hander and the one-hand/mojo combo don’t add up. Two-handed weapons just don’t have the inherent power to compete. I must admit the Wormwood staff weapon looks really cool, especially because of the Legendary bonus, but I’ll never use it because it will dramatically reduce the damage my Witch Doctor does.

I think what two-handers need is an increase in the number of stats they can roll because only being able to roll six stats is not really good enough. However, this doesn’t have to be a massive increase, such as increasing the number to 12 stats, but it could be increased to a value that is more competitive; 8 stats, perhaps. Plus, with Legendary bonuses and Sockets removed from the normal stat roll, this would make for 8 whole stats to benefit from.

Guano Bowls! Collect the Whole Set!

The removal of set items – but not some of the more entertaining bonuses they provide.

While I haven’t had any issues with Set items in the past, I have recently started to notice there is an inherent flaw in their design. Set items, designated by a green color to their name and icons, are a collection of items connected by a specific theme. As players collect, and equip, different pieces from a set they will start to unlock unique set bonuses at different intervals; 2 of a set equipped, 4 of a set equipped, and 6 of a set equipped. The issue stems from the fact most of the useful max level sets require six pieces in order to complete. Additionally, to complete one of these sets players have to sacrifice benefiting from multiple Legendary bonuses. While some completed sets have unique bonuses at each interval that are relatively equivalent to a bonus you’d find on a Legendary item, this is not the case for all completed sets.

Diablo III - Jade Harvester

An in-game screenshot of a Jade Harvester item in my stash; cropped.

To provide an example for why the Set items system is less than ideal, I will be referring to the current Jade Harvester set. The most interesting set bonus available from the Jade Harvester set is the 6-piece set bonus: Soul Harvest consumes your damage over time effects on enemies, instantly dealing their remaining damage. Oh Mah Gurr!! … Sorry! I use Soul Harvest all the time and that just sounds really awesome. What isn’t awesome are the other two bonuses within this set; the 2-piece set bonus increases Intelligence by 500, and the 4-piece set bonus increases Mana Regeneration by 20 per second.

While I do enjoy me some Intelligence and Mana Regeneration, these are not bonuses that are equivalent to what you might find on individual Legendary items. If you peer at the bonuses available on the Marauder set, however, all three set bonuses ARE equivalent to what you might find on a Legendary item. The problem with the Jade Harvester set is the only worthwhile set bonus requires players to have six pieces of the set equipped. However, in order to benefit from this one particular bonus, players are essentially losing the benefit of five Legendary bonuses.

So, the issue that stands is not all sets are created equal, and because of the design of Set items there is a massive inherent loss from equipping them instead of Legendary items. The change that should happen here is to remove the concept of Sets items altogether, and place many of the unique set bonuses into new Legendary items. Through this change players will still have the capacity to access those bonuses without wasting equipment slots on a number of items that don’t provide anything of use on their own.

Blood on Your Hands

Remove the cap on Blood Shards. (TT) (D3Fms)

As it currently stands, there is no benefit to limiting the number of Blood Shards that can be carried on an account. By that same token, there wouldn’t be any benefit to NOT having a limitation on the number of Blood Shards that can be carried on an account. But why is that?

By spending Blood Shards to acquire gear, you are just as likely, if not more so, to wind up with a bag full of worthless items than just running Rifts and Greater Rifts. The drop rate of Legendaries through spending Blood Shards seems dramatically lower than if you went out to kill monsters and destroy environmental objects. Even if you get a Legendary, there is no guaranteeing that it will have rolled strong enough stats, or the right stats, to become your next best-in-slot item. On top of that, you have to concern yourself with finding Ancient versions of each of the items you have spent hundreds of hours collecting. Yay!

So, why remove the Blood Shard cap at all? Since the drop rate of legendary and set items still remains incredibly insignificant (even after the 2.1.1 change), and Magic Find seems to have become a forgotten stat (though it is doubtful it ever affected Kadala in any significant capacity), it stands to reason putting a limitation on a currency that is no more likely to produce worthwhile items than just going out and killing monsters serves little to no purpose other than to force players to spend this currency regularly. An issue I have with this particular facet of Diablo III is currency caps are a common staple among MMORPGs, such as World of Warcraft and WildStar. Diablo III is not an MMORPG. Also, given the focus of Diablo III is to spend hours collecting as much random crap as possible in the hope something good will come of it, putting a cap on one of the various things players collect seems to go against the very basis of the game.

Removing the cap on Blood Shards will allow players to play the game without worrying about how many Blood Shards they’ve collected. Once players have finished a play session, and haven’t become too mentally drained from hours of mindless grinding, they can burn all of their Blood Shards – or not. At present, even if players had the ability to hoard 25,000 Blood Shards, it would not make it any more likely for them to get that one particular Legendary item they are desperately searching for. If that ONE item did happen to drop, you have to worry about what stats are rolled, how well those stats rolled, if it rolled Ancient – all of these tedious things that wouldn’t matter if the Diablo III developers gave players more ways of circumventing all the randomness involved with their itemization.

The only other change that makes sense for Blood Shards would be to dramatically increase the drop rate of legendary and set items. What is the point of having a special currency that doesn’t yield anything of merit? If players received legendary and set items 33% to 75% of the time, as opposed to the apparent 1%, then having a cap on Blood Shards wouldn’t matter as much as it does now. If the developers want the players to feel rewarded by spending Blood Shards, then the resulting rewards need to be worth the time taken to acquire them.

Creating a New Curve

Removing Ancient items and revamping progression at max level.

Allow me to start by saying the addition of Ancient items is, without question, the dumbest idea to be implemented to Diablo 3 (so far). There is nothing particularly special about these “new” items. Ancient items are exactly the same as the Legendary items players have seen drop for ages, with the one caveat being they are 30% stronger.

The biggest issue with the addition of these “new” items is in order to acquire an Ancient item, players simply need to do the same crap they do to acquire standard Legendary items: rifts, greater rifts, bounties, etc. LAME!! So, if players want an Ancient version of any item they are currently using they have to hope they are in the good graces of RNGesus. After the addition of this new “feature” to the game, I am starting to wonder if the developers have completely run out of good ideas. Though, considering the limited scope of the game and the relatively minor additions coming in Patch 2.2.0 (as in no new ways of playing the game beyond more Rifts and GRifts), I’m starting to think that is the case.

The change I would make here is to remove the concept of Ancient items altogether and replace it with a new method of gear progression that, for the purpose of explanation, will be dubbed “Nightmare Progression”. The idea is that players will be able to empower their Legendary items using a special item called a Nightmare Shard, which is found while progressing through the Torment difficulties, running rifts, completing bounties, etc. Empowering a Legendary item increases the power base by 10%, and grants it a new title: Nightmare Legendary Tier 1. The existing Ancient items would be equivalent to a Nightmare Legendary Tier 3. Players can empower items up to 10 times, meaning the power base of a Nightmare Legendary Tier 10 is double that of a base Legendary. So, what do players use to empower their Legendary item?

Introducing the Nightmare Forge! To empower a Legendary item, simply place the item into the Forge (like one might do when using the Enchanting or Transmog features), then place a Nightmare Shard into the Forge (like when placing a Rift token into the Nephalim Obelisk) and hit the Empower (placeholder name) button. Simple, right? Additionally, to reduce the tedium one might usually experience from crafting (pre-2.2.0), players can place up to 10 Nightmare Shards into the Forge to empower an item up to the max limit. Additionally, if a player empowers a Legendary that previously didn’t have a Legendary bonus, the item will automatically gain the new Legendary bonus when empowered.

Here are a few basic rules for how the drop rate of Nightmare Shards might go:

  • Greater Rifts: A chance for 1 Nightmare Shard at the end of the Greater Rift, with an increasing drop rate based on Greater Rift level (by GR25 or GR30 players should see 100% drop rate for 1 Nightmare Shard, and beyond that there would be a tiny increase on the drop rate for additional shards)
  • Standard Rifts: 1 Nightmare Shard from Rift Guardian; the drop rate for additional shards increases with Torment level
  • Horadric Caches: 1 Nightmare Shard, with a small chance for additional shards
  • Killing Mobs: low drop rate increased by the strength of the monster killed and Torment level

The goal of this change is to give players a way of increasing the power of their gear without being subjected to more RNG like with the current Ancient items. If you have a Nightmare Shard, you know you’ll be able to upgrade any of your Legendary items. At present, you don’t know if you’re going to get an Ancient item or not, or if that Ancient item is going to be any good. Through my system, if you already have Legendary items you enjoy using, and that have rolled good stats, you can boost the power of those items using the Nightmare Shard mechanic, instead of Diablo III’s current system which leaves you hoping you’ll find an Ancient version of that Legendary you like so much.

The Last Goodbye

Remove the current team leads and hire some people who will add something of merit to the game.

Now, I wouldn’t have bothered putting this section into the post at all if I didn’t think it would help Diablo III become a better game. That said, I think the current team leads running the direction of Diablo III should be removed from their current positions so people with greater vision can take control and actually do something interesting with the game. This is not to say the guys running the game (such as those seen in the recent Tavern Talk) are bad people. However, it is so apparent they have such a limited scope of what Diablo III can be. I feel it is in the best interest of the players someone else take charge of the game.

Players, like me, want more things to do in the game other just running rifts and greater rifts. We also don’t want another type of Rift mechanic added to the game because that is just lazy-as-fuck game design. I would offer to take the job myself, but do I have any qualifications? Probably not.

  • Gamer for 20+ years: pen and paper rpgs, tabletop games, video games, pc games.
  • I have been closely observing the trends in game design and the various attempted business models.
  • I have written numerous design concepts of various types of video games, tabletop games and pen and paper rpgs.
  • I have an incredible understanding of which elements of gameplay are fun, and which elements of gameplay are tedious and frustrating, and how to keep a game feeling fresh and new.
  • I can easily generate new ideas for any game type and explain how they would interact with other features that already exist.
  • I have also listed out, and explained the reasons behind, numerous changes that could make grinding for gear in Diablo III much less tedious than the current developers have allowed it to become.
  • I don’t give two shits about making one class overpowered, like many non-design minded gamers, I only care about making each class fun, and the entirety of the game more enjoyable than it currently is.

This idea of limited scope of vision reminds me of when I heard the guys at Game Freak, the developers of Pokémon, were quoted saying a Pokémon game would never be released onto home consoles, such as the WiiU. Their reasoning for this, as explained here by Game Freak director Junichi Masuda, was they believe the Nintendo 3DS is better suited for online battling and trading than the WiiU due to its portability. However, in the case of Pokémon X and Y, those games only detect players who are playing the game in the immediate vicinity, as said by Masuda. So, I heartily disagree with his statement that the Nintendo 3DS console is better suited for those TWO features. I stress the word ‘two’ because these are only two small features of the game. What about the rest of the game?

Personally, I could see a fully developed Pokémon adventure released for the WiiU dramatically boosting sales for that console. It could be released with a pair of partner games on the 3DS allowing players to sync Pokedex’s and trade Pokémon between the WiiU and 3DS versions. Granted, the WiiU version would have to be designed with a much grander scope than the 3DS versions and supported with DLC expansions… On second thought, I honestly don’t think the guys at Game Freak can handle all that. Moving on!

At the end of the day, all I want out of Diablo III is a significant reduction of randomness or some meaningful methods of getting around it. I would like to be excited for new Legendary items again, but the current design of Diablo III’s itemization makes it incredibly difficult because all the internal rolls too often morph potentially amazing items into terrible ones. Additionally, I believe the game is suffering from a lack of creative vision and would benefit from some new minds coming up with truly new and interesting content. The last big addition the developers made to the game was Greater Rifts, which, from one perspective, are nothing more than redesigned Rifts given to players as something “new”. This is the extent of the innovative game design these developers have proven they can come up with.

Sure, Greater Rifts provide a unique challenge with the time limit that decreases at higher GR levels. However, I enjoy regular Rifts a bit more because I can explore them even after the Rift Guardian has been killed and find 3 to 4 times as many Legendary items than just finishing a Greater Rift. I want more out of this game than I feel like the developers have been providing. The community has been asking for more ways to play or even more significant additions and meaningful changes than just Ancient items and a new type of Rift. I don’t know anymore. Perhaps, it is time for Blizzard to let the true Lord of Hell rest in peace for good. I still have fun playing my Witch Doctor, but at this point, I’m not expecting anything amazing out of the developers with their current leadership. Maybe the next expansion will blow our minds? Who knows?

What do you guys think of my proposed changes? Which proposed change is your favorite, if there is one? Which proposed change do you wish to send into the Black Soulstone to join the Lords of Hell? And how do you feel about the current direction of Diablo III? Join the discussion below.


About The War Fist

I am an aspiring writer and gamer designer who enjoys the act of creating something from nothing. Typically, my creations are stories, characters, and concepts for game mechanics and/or features. I've been developing my own philosophies of storytelling, game design, and , to an extent, filmmaking, and would eventually like the opportunity to put them into practice.

Posted on February 28, 2015, in Game Design and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m a huge fan of the Diablo series, and Diablo 3 literally broke my heart a bit. I followed the development for 8 years and was very disappointed by the direction the development team took, mainly in regard to character development and loot. You hit on so many things that I’ve thought myself while playing and also introduced ways to fix some problems in a way that wouldn’t break gameplay. People tend to break the game with their proposed solutions, but you’ve put a lot of thought into what would actually enhance the experience. If some of this was implemented I think the game would have a much more rewarding loot system.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the feedback! I’m glad you liked some of my ideas.

      I agree that in a lot of cases people create more problems than they would fix with their proposed changes, which is why I was so careful about how I went about my changes. My purpose was not to change how players acquired gear, but to allow players to have more options to make gear more useful to them, as well as making the hunt for gear fun again.

      I’ve played with the idea of making a post on the Diablo III forums to bring these ideas to the attention of the Blues and the community, but redirecting them to this post instead of copy-pasta-ing this whole post over since the word count is around five thousand words or something. Lawls.

      I think, overall, a lot of these changes would make playing Diablo III fun again. Then again, so would the addition of something other than Rifts and Greater Rifts, but I think I need to make another post for that on its own. Lawls.


  1. Pingback: World of Warcraft: A Reply Gone Awry | The War Fist Blog

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