Core Attribute Changes

by Bashiok | 20/12/2010 22:15:24

Bashiok

Not too long ago we decided to make some changes to how our core player character attributes work. We wanted to share with all of you what problems we ran into, how we want to fix them, and what our new attributes are.

This is a fairly info-heavy write up and takes into account that you're well versed in core attributes of Diablo II, as well as what has been previously shown in Diablo III. If you're not, you'll still get some good information, just keep in mind that this isn't intended as a comprehensive guide, but a design-heavy explanation for those already following the game very closely. (And if you're one of those people you just got real excited.)

Attribute problems:

Damage increase confusion: Willpower increased damage for casters (wizard, witch doctor), and Strength increased damage for weapon users (monk, barb, demon hunter). This is inherently confusing, because many monk abilities, and some barb abilities, look like spells, and the demon hunter seems like she should be affected by Dexterity instead of Strength - - at least logically.

Build diversity: It’s always been our goal that the core attributes were valuable for all classes in an effort to encourage a broad set of builds. The method we used for this, and the attributes we chose, accomplished this goal under the hood (more or less), but perception was that certain attributes were much more desirable depending on your class. Ultimately the split of damage between willpower and strength meant that despite those abilities having secondary functions that were useful, most ignored the stat that did not apply to their class for damage purposes. This meant each class really only had three attributes they cared about, at best, which was a bit narrow.

Resource (Fury/Mana/Spirit/etc.) tuning and progression: Diablo is a progression focused game, all about getting more powerful. This makes us want to design systems like resources to scale over time. However, we had no resource attribute. So as a player if you are frustrated by the amount of resource available to you, there wasn't an obvious enough and analog enough method for making your situation better. Regardless of Diablo II balance issues (i.e. energy not being effective relative to other stats, mostly due to mana steal), if you wanted more mana you knew that energy was the place to fix this. Without something like this resources are difficult to tune, especially given that our goal is to tune them so that it's a nice progression from start to end.

So, to solve these issues we’re changing our core attributes from Strength, Dexterity, Vitality, and Willpower to:

Attack: Increases damage
- This stat will be a universal damage increasing stat for all classes to prevent confusion about what you should increase to do more damage.
- We realize that ‘Attack’ is less flavorful than ‘Strength’ and ‘Willpower’, but we feel the pros of understanding clearly how to build your character outweigh that con.
- This stat has no secondary effects.

Precision: Increases crit chance
- This will be tuned to be comparable in power to Attack increases for the most part.
- So why have Precision? Mainly so we can play into it with affixes, runes, and traits. Linking effects to crits gives us another hook for designing skills and gives the player options to create ‘crit builds’ that play different than normal attack builds. Examples of the kind of crit effects we 'could' do (not saying we are, these are examples):
- - Cleave crits cause monsters to explode and do damage to those around them.
- - Lifesteal could be an ‘on crit only’ affix.
- This is a more finesse stat, and we’re fine with that. Most people will want Attack by default, but they won’t mind getting precision.
- This stat has no secondary effect.

Vitality: Increases health
- And it's staying that way!
- This stat has no secondary effect (seeing the pattern here?).

Defense: Decreases all damage taken
- This stat is separate from armor and resistances, each of which effects different damage types. This stat effects ‘all’ damage.
- This stat will allow players to control incoming damage rather than increasing health capacity, which is useful to reduce the need for health globes and pots, and allows players to double down on defense for survival focused builds.
- This stat is also useful for PVP, and likely will be valued in the arenas, but isn't tuned to be a 'PVP' only stat.
- This stat has no secondary effects.

Willpower: Affects resource in class-specific ways
- The effects of this stat will change from class to class. It will be our goal to make it roughly equivalently valuable across classes and versus other attributes.
- Basically this stat will give you more access to whatever restricts your resource by default: capacity, regen rate, degeneration rate, generation rate, etc.

This will change and affect several item affixes, but specifically we’ll be making the following changes to address issues with casters under-valuing gear (more below in Q&A), and to clear out attributes that are going away:
- Removing +spell damage affixes
- Adding Bonus % damage for wizard skills (wizard only)
- Adding Bonus % damage for witch doctor skills (witch doctor only)
- Removing Strength
- Removing Dexterity

Q&A

Q: Why do none of the core stats have secondary effects?
A: To focus their intent, making them simple and straightforward to understand. Your core attributes boil down to: damage, crit, health, damage mitigation, and resource.

Q: Since the attributes mostly only have one effect why not name them for that effect? Why not have ‘Damage’, ‘Crit Chance’, ‘Health’, etc.?
A: The main reason is so that we can value the attributes against one another. If you see one item with +15 health and another item with +3 Damage, and those are both core attributes, the general assumption is that the health is the better choice, because the number is bigger. But that may not be the case. By having representational core attributes we can play with the math under the hood so that +3 Vitality is roughly equal to +3 Attack, which makes assessing loot more straight forward.

Also, because common terms like ‘damage’ and ‘health’ are used in a variety of ways, re-using them for core attributes is potentially more confusing than going with symbolic attributes.

And finally, it sounds cooler to make a ‘Vitality’ barbarian than a ‘Health’ barbarian. ;)

Q: Why is +spell damage going away as an affix?
A: Same reason we combined Strength and Willpower into Attack, it was inherently confusing as an attribute.

Q: Why add wizard and witch doctor only damage increase affixes?
A: Casters who don’t rely on weapons need a reason to care about their weapons. The monk, barb, and demon hunter all have the DPS stat that has a big impact on their damage. This was the purpose of +spell damage, so without it the wizard and witch doctor will be missing a damage modifier stat to make up for their lack of need for weapon DPS. We’re adding these stats as weapon focused affixes that will make wizard’s and witch doctor’s care about their weapons. This specifically addresses issues that Diablo II had where some classes could more effectively stack magic find gear than others without hurting their damage output or survivability.

This is one of many, many possible solutions we considered. This one ultimately felt the cleanest and most straightforward.

Q: How will items work that get these new wizard and witch doctor affixes? Will only class specific items get them? In general what’s the philosophy behind class specific items?
A: It is not our intent that classes always use their class specific items, specifically in the weapon department. But, class specific items will be predictable sources for stats good for your class, as we’ll restrict them to only carry affixes your class could want.

However, all affixes you could want will still appear on any weapon your class can use. So Wizards can get swords with '+% to Wizard Skills'. Such items will be more rare, so more melee oriented classes aren’t always getting their weapons ruined by wizard only stats, but it will happen.

Q: But I hate getting items that say ‘Wizard Only’, or ‘Witch Doctor Only’ on them when I could have used them otherwise!
A: Please re-phrase in the form of a question. ;)

Nobody likes getting items that aren’t for them, but it’s the core of the game. Lots of class specific, weird, or flat out crappy items drop in Diablo. That’s part of what makes the really good items, good. Yes, seeing ‘this item is not for you’ effectively written on an item sucks, but it’s a con worth the pro of the class balance it promotes.

Q: Isn’t this a big scary change to make so late in development?
A: It’s not as scary as it sounds, assuming you, gentle reader, aren't frightened. :) The core of game balance is going to happen approaching the final stages of development. Most of this is a re-structuring of how things work, not a reinvention, so impact is somewhat predictable. Many of these changes actually make the balance process easier and more straightforward. We had also already been planning to go over, tune, or improve many of the parts and pieces that this change affects.

Don't misunderstand, this is a fairly big change, but it’s work worth doing for the most important reason of all: we believe it will make the game better.

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