Blizzard acknowledges Diablo 3 struggles, promises improvements

In a lengthy letter, Blizzard's Mike Morhaime acknowledges some criticism of Diablo 3, explains plans for the future, and defends the company's decision to use an always-online requirement.

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Diablo 3 has been out for a full two months now, and Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime is taking a look back at the game's launch. In a lengthy note, he cops to some struggles, makes promises about the future, and sticks by the company's decision to have an always-online requirement.

"We know that it isn't perfect," he says. "Our teams are working hard to improve the game balance, build on our design, and listen to what players are saying to make it the best game it can be."

For example, Morhaime offered yet another explanation for the game's always-on requirement. He says that it does stem the problem of cracks, even if it doesn't eliminate it completely, and the always-online requirement is the easiest way to support its connected game design. "The effectiveness of the online elements - including the friends list and cross-game communication; co-op matchmaking; persistent characters that you can use by yourself, with others, and in PvP; and some of our customer support, service, and security components -- is tied directly to the online nature of the game," he said on the Diablo forums. "While there are some downsides to the online-only approach, I still believe this was the best long-term decision for the game."

Going forward, patch 1.0.4 will include buffs to underused abilities, and more diverse Legendary items to encourage people to keep grinding for new loot. Future updates on the docket, though not necessarily 1.0.4, will also include improvements to viewing friends' achievements, quickly joining games, and auction house functionality updates. Patch 1.1 will add PvP, and the team is working on giving high-powered characters new goals to deal with the recent admission that the game ends.

Editor-In-Chief
From The Chatty
  • reply
    July 19, 2012 10:15 AM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Blizzard acknowledges Diablo 3 struggles, promises improvements.

    In a lengthy letter, Blizzard's Mike Morhaime acknowledges some criticism of Diablo 3, explains plans for the future, and defends the company's decision to use an always-online requirement.

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      July 19, 2012 11:41 AM

      SC:Brood War is the last Blizzard game that I actually enjoyed playing. Could be I'm just getting old though.

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        July 19, 2012 12:39 PM

        Did you play SC2 though? SC2 is better in every way than SC1, which is not an easy thing to do. Blizz really hit the nail on the head with SC2, but I'll agree not so with D3.

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          July 19, 2012 2:09 PM

          Blizzard games have lacked since the collapse of Blizzard North, and the massive success with WoW. They're too large, and everything is so worked over by so many people that real charm is impossible. They're attractive games, and well executed, but they lack the real edge that the best games have.

          Valve suffers from the same issues. Too many people working over one thing results in all the interesting bumps and edges getting worn off.

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            July 19, 2012 2:45 PM

            They all just seem like very sterile affairs, devoid of any real charm.

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          July 19, 2012 2:11 PM

          I agree. SC2 is phenomenal, and the mutiplayer balancing they've done for it is fucking cake.

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          July 19, 2012 2:13 PM

          disagree entirely. I don't like SC2 at all. Opinion obviously, but I can easily see how someone would find BW to be the last enjoyable one, cause I'm right there with him

          • Zek
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            July 19, 2012 2:29 PM

            Are you talking singleplayer or multiplayer? I can understand not liking SC2's plot but it's pretty much better than SC1 in every other way IMO.

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              July 19, 2012 2:55 PM

              MP. and it's obviously IMHO. Just saying you'll hear both ways

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                July 19, 2012 6:59 PM

                though I should clarify: I don't think SC2 is bad, or even mediocre. It's pretty great

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          July 19, 2012 2:58 PM

          I really dislike SC2 compared to SC1. Probably because the map editor for SC2 is fucking impossible to use without a programming degree, but I made a couple of fun maps for SC1.

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            July 19, 2012 10:59 PM

            huh? my 8 year old son makes pretty awesome maps

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          July 19, 2012 6:40 PM

          SC2 was an infinitely better sequel to Brood War than Diablo 3 was to Diablo 2: LOD

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            July 19, 2012 6:48 PM

            I agree SC2 was and is excellent. But totally disagree that Diablo 3 was somehow worse than Diablo 2. If any complaint can really be leveled at Diablo 3 it is that it's TOO much the same as it's predecessors.

            But really, it entertained me for a month or so. Every bit as much as long as Diablo 2 did. And I'm sure I'll pick it up and play through it again someday, just like I did many times with Diablo 2.

            I think people maybe just have this instinct after WoW that a good Blizzard game = playing it constantly for 4+ years?

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              July 19, 2012 7:39 PM

              I think many people's preferences for games have changed and they don't even realize it. Eight years ago I played through 5 MGS2 difficulty levels to get all the dog tags and got the VR missions to 100%. Yesterday I finished Batman: Arkham City and I highly doubt I'm ever going to click NG+ or bother getting the rest of the Riddler trophies or challenge missions. Same thing for D2/D3. My patience/preferences are just different now.

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              July 19, 2012 11:42 PM

              I know people that played D2:LoD every ladder reset and also logged years and years of WC3 so I think people expect that from blizzard games period.

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          July 19, 2012 6:58 PM

          I think the stories and the writing have significantly declined in Blizzard games. Starcraft 2 was just terrible and diablo 3 was hilariously bad. Maybe im looking at the old games with rose colored glasses, but i don't remember the dialogue being so awful.

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          July 19, 2012 8:04 PM

          Mechanically? Absolutely. Storytelling and plot? Nope.

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        July 19, 2012 6:39 PM

        It feels like all of our favorite developers from the late 90's are falling off, in their own way.

        Id Software leaving out multiplayer for car combat, and then announcing a Doom 3 HD remake (okay, but...)

        Epic doing 5 years of Gears, making People Can Fly do a console port GFWL shooter, and then Minecraft meets TF2 with always-on DRM and threats of microtransactions galore.

        Valve releasing a WarCraft 3 mod spiritual sequel, and not having announced HL2EP3 / HL3.

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          July 19, 2012 7:51 PM

          lol at the Valve remark

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            July 19, 2012 8:09 PM

            I know, that's splitting hairs. They've been doing the best, by far, but as an FPS fan, a fan of Half-Life, and someone who does not enjoy WarCraft 3, RTSes, or MOBAs, I'm completely baffled this year, because all they're doing for releases is DOTA 2.

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              July 19, 2012 8:14 PM

              Man just be thankful they're still down with hardcore competitive gaming and LAN options! :p

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              July 19, 2012 10:43 PM

              Doing DOTA 2 may be one of the best things Valve could have done. They nearly perfected the directed single player game with Portal 2 and diluted the hardcore competitive aspect of their multiplayer games. L4D is super casual, CS:S isn't as good as 1.6, and competitive balance with TF2 went out the window with the introduction of the Mann Store.

              I'm not saying that any of the above is bad, with the exception of CS:S I really love all of Valve's games.

              Curating such a deep and interesting and hardcore game like they are with DOTA 2 without diluting it is a serious left turn for Valve given everything they've released over the last couple years, and it is great.

              Releasing DOTA 2 is probably the most interesting move they could have made, plus it will probably be their most popular game ever. Even in limited beta the number of active players blows away everything else.

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                July 19, 2012 10:45 PM

                And I know that this is a highly unpopular opinion, but Half Life is probably the least interesting thing they could be doing right now. I LOVE the entire series and Episode 2 in particular, but in the face of 10000 other "serious" and directed shooters out there, I'm really happy that Valve has been doing other things.

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                July 20, 2012 12:26 AM

                The only thing I would point out is that L4D versus mode is crazy fun and a developer could release an entire game based just around that kind of first person asymmetrical team based model. Natural selection kind of does a similar thing (with more strategy elements) , but with l4d versus it just feels so deliciously naughty to take someone out of the game.

                I don't think TF2 was ever intended to be a competitive multiplayer game. It's a fun pseudo-competitive game and most of the time mann store items give players different and potentially cooler ways to play a class, but are not clearly better than the default weapons.

                And as good as Portal 2 is, I really hope they don't see that as the ceiling for a linear single player first person game. I think they can and will do massively better experiences in that genre.

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      July 19, 2012 6:31 PM

      To me, it feels like it's too little, too late.

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      July 19, 2012 6:51 PM

      Blizzard has gone to shit in the last little while ..... they force mechanics down player's throats instead of listening to feedback from top players. Then again, I think they did a pretty good job with SC2 in terms of balance and living up to SC1, so I am not sure why they flopped so bad with Diablo 3.

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        July 19, 2012 7:38 PM

        TOP PLAYERS

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          July 19, 2012 9:41 PM

          Dr Jones: "who?"

          CIA Man: "TOP. Players."

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        July 19, 2012 7:44 PM

        What mechanics are they forcing down player's throats?

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        July 19, 2012 9:48 PM

        Did they flop with Diablo 3? I thought I read that it did pretty well. Like the fastest selling PC game of all time or something.

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          July 19, 2012 9:52 PM

          Diablo 3 sold well on the force of the name. Once people actually got in and found out how poorly the game was thought out, they left in droves.

          Sure, some people still play, but look at the loot system. It's a treadmill. And it's World of Diablocraft in it's loot structure. (where's my "7% to cast when attacking"procs dammit!)

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            July 19, 2012 10:20 PM

            But, it's not an MMO, so what exactly are Blizzard losing by people leaving? Just the auction house transaction fees?

            I'm sure a lot of people just played through the story and moved on to other games.

            Also, I've never actually played Diablo 3 besides the stress test beta before release. So I don't really know much about the game, just looking at it from an outsider's perspective.

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              July 19, 2012 10:28 PM

              Blizzard used to be one of my favorite developers. I would have, and did, buy just about anything based on the goodwill they engendered for a long time being a quality gaming developer that cared about their fans. In my opinion, they made so many poor decisions with Diablo 3 that they have destroyed nearly all the goodwill they'd generated over the years. I will not purchase things from blizzard day one and I will think twice before purchasing at all. Maybe I'm not enough to matter alone, but I know from voices here and on other forums that I'm not, in fact, alone. Time will tell if they soured enough people to their brand to make a significant difference.

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                July 19, 2012 10:59 PM

                Seems pretty harsh to come to that conclusion based off of one game, but I can see that WoW (and maybe Activision) has changed Blizzard as a developer. I just wasn't that impressed by what I played during the stress test, so I didn't buy it. But I've never been a fan of Diablo in the first place, the clicking gets old fast for me.

                Honestly though, I highly doubt that this will hurt them that much. I know a lot of people that absolutely adore Diablo 3. Actually, the only complaints I've seen have been on the internet. Everybody I know personally has said nothing but good things about it (and have tried on several occasions to get me to buy it).

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                July 19, 2012 11:51 PM

                This is basically where I'm at. I was disappointed enough in many of the design decisions that I skipped Diablo 3 altogether. Path of Exile is pretty much exactly the game I wanted D3 to be, so I'm happy I get to play that at least.

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                July 20, 2012 12:06 AM

                yeah, pretty much this. I'm not saying I won't buy their next game, hell I probably will, but I won't be pre-ordering or buying it on day one like before. I'll wait to see what people think first. another developer who I am like this with now is id. I fucking loved everything they made (including Doom 3) but Rage just didn't live up to my expectations. I liked it, but it wasn't full price day one good unfortunately, so I'll probably be waiting when doom 4 hits. :(

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      July 19, 2012 7:16 PM

      I hate to say this buy always online was the least of blizzard's shortcomings for diablo 3.

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        July 19, 2012 7:34 PM

        it's probably the biggest one for me, no AU servers means the hardest mode is near unplayable.

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          July 19, 2012 8:05 PM

          I don't think the same, it's just more frustration added on to the pile. I've had a handful of occasions where the server has dropped connection for no reason which has generally annoyed me more than the lag, simply for having to re-gain 5 NV stacks. One occasion was with loot from a boss scattered around me. Fortunately each time it just makes me close D3, and go elsewhere.

          dkrulz is right. The loot scaling and gear checks, with no content and no draw to the game is much greater an issue than online-only or connection drops. It's just broken. Nothing towards the end makes sense, from mob damage to effects and elite spawns with bad skill rolls, and the loot itself which has no interesting combinations or possible varied random bonuses. It's +150 str is better than +120 str, that's it. PVP will be far worse for this if nothing changes. The guy with the highest class stat will win, and that can even be bought now from the auction hall.

          They should divide all gear bonuses /10 and multiply all leveling bonuses *10 then allow us to assign them. Add in multiple levels of the same skill set we have now, and allow us to assign points to those levels. It allows for much more interesting combinations, and variation without the need for "the right gear".

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            July 19, 2012 8:16 PM

            It'll be interesting to see how the do PvP without pissing everybody off. Personnaly, I'd rather see co-op mp modes and ladders for stuff like last man standing and such.

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              July 19, 2012 9:39 PM

              Path of Exile is planning to run some oddball ladders, I'm excited there atleast.

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            July 19, 2012 11:48 PM

            I was walking through the auction hall the other day, and I felt nothing but disappointment so I walked out of there.

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      July 19, 2012 8:25 PM

      this is the only game i know of where millions of people spent 100's of hours playing and still bitch about how terrible it is.

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        July 19, 2012 8:40 PM

        It really is a spiritual sucessor to Diablo 2 in that sense.

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        July 19, 2012 10:48 PM

        The thing is lot of the problems with Diablo 3 for some people don't manifest until your that far in to the game on the higher difficulty modes.

        You will find this in any game franchise and especially in ones that patch a lot. Read the World of Warcraft or Battlelog forums to see other examples.

      • reply
        July 19, 2012 10:49 PM

        you may have heard of a game called world of warcraft

    • reply
      July 19, 2012 8:54 PM

      So, let's be real here. It's a great game, phenomenal game even, but what it isn't is Diablo 2. It doesn't have those legs, that end game, or that level of engagement and depth at top levels.

      They shouldn't be surprised about that....there's no ladder, they gimped legendaries, difficulty, and simplified shit down enough to the point where there was no end game except iterating your gear upward in small, short fashion. The game just feels boring now...which is not me saying it's a bad game - it's not, hell I sunk 120 hours into it. But they shouldn't be surprised people start moving on

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        July 19, 2012 9:07 PM

        Yea, let's be real, good point. Blizz continues to commit harakiri. That is all...

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      July 19, 2012 9:43 PM

      Torchlight 2 can't come fast enough.

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        July 20, 2012 2:47 PM

        No kidding. I have no interest in 'always on'. I'm looking for something to do when I DON"T have access to the internet (and away from the family)!

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          July 20, 2012 2:48 PM

          Oh. And I really enjoyed Torchlight 1!!

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      July 19, 2012 10:51 PM

      We'll all be back playing when the expansion pack comes out.

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      July 19, 2012 11:22 PM

      Besides being a total drugding bore, Diablo 3 looks way too cartoony, with all its soft colours and neon glowing lighting. And the writing is crap, like usual Blizzard fare. Blizzard downright suck and storytelling.

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      July 20, 2012 12:25 AM

      After some thought, I think I know why I don't find myself playing D3. It has very little to do with the core gameplay itself -- combat is fun and engaging, the randomness is (mostly) fine, and the fact that it's usually best played in short bursts allows it to fit into most schedules.

      No, the problem for me is that while the core game is fun, the Auction House is not. The interface is clunky and could use far more streamlining. Intelligently selling the loot you acquire means doing comparative searches with specific criteria, which ends up being time-consuming and tedious. Every hour of adventuring "play" necessitates X minutes of AH "work". And since success in the AH is by far the surest and most efficient path to character progression, ignoring it isn't really an option.

      There's also that nagging knowledge that if I wanted to be even more efficient, it would mean not playing the game at all. Buying low and selling high in the AH, performing searches every few seconds could probably net me millions of gold in a few days. It really kills the drive to kill mobs and play the loot lottery.

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      July 20, 2012 7:59 AM

      The real problem with Diablo 3:

      Its not the RMAH, not the AH, not drop rates, not Elite affixes, not enrage timers.
      It’s not botters, gold selling, hackers, or dupers.

      All these things are just symptoms of the root cause.
      The real problem with Diablo 3 comes down to one thing:

      People are idiots.

      It all happened when some moron decided that a bunch of pixels within a game were worth more than the entire game itself.
      Many times over.
      This happened back in Diablo 2, when, for example a single sword sold on eBay for over $700.

      At that time, we were doomed.

      Blizzard is a publically-listed company, and as such is legally obliged to be profitable, and its shareholders expect it to be exceedingly profitable.

      Put these two facts together, and you are left with the design decisions that ended with Diablo 3.

      By incorporating real money into the very game, Blizzard simultaneously made the game excessively designed to steer players to the AH, and ultimately the RMAH, as well as making the game a massive target for botters and farmers, who can, and are, profiting from the game.

      Let me put it this way, what if Blizzard set the maximum price to sell on the RMAH at $2.50.

      I'll edit this line in here->
      I'm not suggesting Blizzard should actually do this, I know that the market forces would simply drive the item sales to the black market anyway.
      No this suggestion is by way of a living in a wonderful fantasy land, where unicorns and teddy bears frolic in green fields...wait a second!

      (Sorry, but some people took this to mean I was suggesting Blizzard should lower the maximum price to $2.50, and tried to tell my why that wouldn't work, despite my having preceded this scenario by explaining what the root-cause problem was in the first place...oh dear)

      OK, back to my alternative-universe fantasy.

      Low end items sell for 2c, with Blizzard getting 1c per transaction.
      Suddenly the game is far less interesting to botters.
      End game “godly” items are now purchasable for pocket money, a true “micro-transaction” economy.
      Gold is only of value in game, as a million gold is now worth only a few cents. No one will farm and sell gold for such a small amount of money.

      And that would have happened, except for the idiots, who pay many times the cost of the entire game for a single item.
      An item that at any time can be reclaimed by Blizzard, changed, nerfed, or made totally useless by a patch.

      Don’t blame Blizzard, unless you want to take on the whole, money-centric approach of every modern business in this economy.
      All companies operate for profit, Disney don’t run theme parks to make people happy, they run theme parks to make money, making people happy is just the way they sell their business.

      No, sorry, go find those people who actually cough up $250 for a collection of pixels, smack them across the back of their head, and say to them:

      “Thanks moron, without people like you, this might be an enjoyable game”

      You may counter with:
      "people are able to spend their money on whatever they want"

      True, but that doesn't change the fact that their decisions have ruined this game.
      However you slice it, it takes a devastating lack of life-priorities to spend a large sum of money on a virtual commodity totally contained within the confines of another commodity that cost far less. An item explicitly stated as never actually belonging to you, to which you have no rights, except as grudgingly granted by the game publishers.

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        July 20, 2012 8:50 AM

        Wall of text.

        If Diablo 2 also had idiots in it, how come the game is so much better? Wah?

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          July 20, 2012 10:00 AM

          Lots of patches and an expansion.

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          July 20, 2012 2:58 PM

          Because D2 had years of patches and an expansion, where the expansion added really good items. Most of my friends had all but stopped playing D2 1-2 months after it launched. The exact same as D3. Of course, they all came back for LoD.