The more I read about, think about, and play Diablo 3 at high levels, the more baffled I am by some of developer Blizzard Entertainment’s decisions. An examination of the design of Diablo 3, when combined with the company’s public statements on the project, indicate confusion over the goals of Diablo 3, as if there was no conceptual development of Diablo 3 as an overall experience. Not having been present when decisions were made, I can’t speak to the reasons behind Blizzard’s choices. But however they were made, those choices have manifested in distinct, negative ways, which should have been easily predicted, yet oddly weren’t.
Earlier this month, a Blizzard community manager made news by publicly admitting that Diablo 3 current “endgame” was unsustainable.The term “endgame” has become popular with subscription-based massively multiplayer role-playing games, like World of Warcraft. In that particular genre, the term makes sense. Blizzard doesn’t want people to let their World of Warcraft subscription lapse, so it has more difficult or repetitive goals available once the characters hit the level ceiling, usually consisting of raiding or player-versus-player combat. Diablo 3 doesn’t have PVP yet, so raiding is the best, albeit inappropriate, comparison. In World of Warcraft, raiding requires larger groups of people than Diablo 3′s four.
Raiding is also more tightly constrained in World of Warcraft. You can only kill major raid bosses once per week, only a handful of items drop after each boss, and those potential items are known in advance (unless you’re a bleeding edge raid guild). This is a design which is guaranteed to take a certain amount of time. One does not simply walk into Deathwing’s boss fight. It requires weeks and months of raiding earlier dungeons, slowly improving your gear. In Diablo 3, the only constraint is your own time. It’s an action-RPG, and this is normal in that genre, whereas it’s normal for MMORPGs to have time constraints so that player progression can be controlled. Diablo 3 is fast, with lots of combat and lots of death. World of Warcraft is slow and methodical.