Intentionally avoided talking about the monetization system, because I want to focus on what is important for you: the game(s); and because… “you know what they did this summer”. This is a mix of issues and optional solutions. I talk about diablo immortal, diablo 4, warcraft and the overall direction of activision blizzard and microsoft game-development. These are opinions, but I will try to provide solid arguments along the way.
Overall, Diablo Immortal is a complete disappointment. I did not notice any improvements regarding: we-are-doing-better-games; or we-are-getting-better.
- I already cleared the basics with the previous 3 posts for: battleground, rifts and gameplay feedback. Feel free to check those in higher detail.
- You are still making static/unchangeable worlds/games/dungeons (nothing is modified over time, through player interaction or AI NPC interaction, because everything is scripted and unidirectional). In other words, the entire game is a cinematic/movie/book/story where it doesn’t really matter what players do, the outcome is always the same… To be clear, this is the approach taken to make single-player games, for more than 20 years… And it shouldn’t be applied on online games (EVE and Albion at least got that part right, player driven games far surpass any kind of content devs script/create). You stopped creating tools, options and freedom, and instead created strange-things like DI.
Everything is still static/hollow/lifeless… And every time I hear someone advertise their game as: players can be who ever they want to be, and do what ever they want to be… I just… sights! nvm
Another example is SC NPCs and economy (theory they are working): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8VFw1F-olQ
- Online-game/social-game. Then you add players and expect them to make-content and socialize within the limited world you sold and forgot/stopped-updating, but: (1) you provide your services in different servers (if I meet someone in RL and ask him/her to play with me, the probability is that I am playing in a different server); (2) tools to create content such as maps, events, missions, etc… are no longer delivered by you (last tools were from warcraft 3 map creation); (3) you then demand constant payment to deliver new content, when in truth, you were the ones who designed it in a way that the community cannot create/help anything.
Create a problem, so you can sell the solution. Common practice in software development outside of the game-industry. Nothing new here… It leads the customer away in search of a new service provider…
The dungeons continue to be a repetitive story that the player do over-and-over. They should have an option/alternative where the map is re-purposed with RNG NPCs and RNG Bosses inside, as if factions/hordes actually took over the instance, after you wiped out the initial threat (similar to Division factions). It eliminates the idea of static/reset-instance (because a wow dungeon and a DI dungeon is an event that is frozen in time “the evil is always there, and always needs to be eliminated by the heroes…”). Conceptually, the rifts make more sense than dungeons at this point, the dungeon is an antiquated notion. Not saying it shouldn’t exist, but it needs an alternative because you lock set-items behind them…which leads to burn-out very quickly. If you don’t understand my argument… just watch an episode of any series, over-and-over again… the exact same episode, on repeat… forever…
Bounties, secondary quests or side quests… The same thing: poor bastard NPCs get killed multiple times, every day, by the same player (as well others)! Where is the living world? Where is the innovation with dynamic events and automatically generated quests? Damn Cadeus (NPC) vomits worms bigger than his head, every day!! Amer gets eaten every day… This is a copy-past of the recipe from wow-dailies and pasted in here! Which will lead to burnout, again… It is a boring chore to unlock some kind of reward disguised as an adventure. Blizzard is advertising D4 as a non-linear open-world game, and oh boy, this is exactly what I expect it will contain: repetitive scripted bounties, repetitive quests, never-changing/static-world, limited world bosses, and fixed entrances/dungeons that players will have to travel to (which is basically a recycled rift-idea).
Open-world map. (1) no seasons/weather in game; (2) no degradation/aging of buildings, NPCs or any kind of asset; (3) no global or server time-line; (4) no cascade events generated by player actions; (5) no NPC factions that interact with the world and players, or take control of zones autonomously; (6) no guild/player housing; (7) there are no patrols/groups that travel through the map as invaders or activate to defend something; (8) and all cities/villages are meaningless/hollow filled with static NPCs; (9) players/guilds cannot create/open quests, which disconnects/destroys a multi-directional flow of actions between NPCs and players. In this point, notice that this isn’t just DI. All of your games suffer from these symptoms. I strongly advise you to review your D4 open-world. I am not arguing/asking for bottom-up AI, I am asking for something better than what you have done so far (which hasn’t changed since 2004).
Here is an example: Westmarch capital should have guards that patrol the entire city and major roads that connect to it. Those guards should have routines/actions, such as eat, sleep, interact with vendors, collect taxes, uphold the law, patrol the roads, substitute their brothers-in-arms on shifts, kill lost/wondering NPCs near roads and even issue patrols/raids on players who could have committed some kind of crime. This could emulate one of the factions: the army of Westmarch. Which would completely change the way people see NPCs/guards in game.
Alternatively, if you would apply a similar concept to bandits, they would act also as a faction. Which could even take control, even if momentarily, dungeons or open-world-zones that may contain resources. And if unchecked/undisputed, a faction could grow in number and generate a server-wide event like: a defense of Westmarch because they will try to attack the capital and raid its citizens…
Instead, you made a game with more in-game currencies than maps to explore (a small never changing world, like Peter Pan world, versioned in wall street…). I depleted the content in less than a week, the game is hollow. And unfortunately, I think it goes beyond DI… Because wow content/systems have been recycled over-and-over, W3 was a nostalgia stunt, overwatch 2 is the same game, and D4 will be a recycled game full of content/ideas from competition: other games that exist since 2017 POE, 2019 Lost ark and 2020 Torchlight 3. I have an honest question for every single individual of the team who is working/worked in Diablo Immortal and 4: what are you doing/done that is actually innovating/new that no other game in the world has done? Cause if there isn’t, what is the point. The people that supported you, are old, they seen it all… Innovation is the only path forward, cause nostalgia, remakes and streamers/influencers won’t save you forever. Even acquisition of new (younger) customers won’t solve your problem, cause you won’t be able to retain them due to lack of quality and high variety of alternatives to your products. Dungeon Siege 1 (when played in a server), was a far better product than DI… Today, you can play it in a Windows tablet… so… What kind of innovation do you think you have done?! The monetization part?
Are you sure influencers will remain as an option to increase sales? Eventually, (some) people will realise they are the product on those free streams/entertainment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IdU1xygm2Io
Legacy of the Horadrim: (and here we go again…) Deconstructed the old Paragon system from Diablo 3, and created a new system to grind/farm/buy (Aspirant keys). Cause none of us players noticed the recycling of the systems in WOW, so now you going to do it in Diablo franchise… How can you not learn from your mistakes? Spend time expanding the skills, and classes, and leave those systems alone… It’s just stats, hidden behind a chore, than no one wants to do. This is something done to increase the player-interaction-metrics and player-base-metrics, that someone thought it was a good idea to show their shareholders. But long-term it will always lead to burn-out, and it is always bad to the players and game health.
Existing events like world bosses. Don’t understand why they are there… If the only thing they drop is the stones for Legacy of the Horadrim… Even orange mobs have a better chance of getting loot than those bosses… This is a perfect example of an event that players will do a couple of times, and never touch it again. Cause the loot-drops are irrelevant, and the mechanics are meaningless. You spent time creating something, that has no reusability long-term. As a comparison, they are the same as wow-world-bosses that drop unique-items: after the player gets the item, that content has no longer any purpose… The best thing D3 had, was that everything you kill, has a chance of dropping something useful, and probably almost everything is in the drop-table… You even managed to mess that up, by putting set-items behind dungeons.
If you have that much time in your hands, explore the possibility of an unspecialised-class (like in king’s avatar anime series). Research POE skill tree that is not dependent on any class and keeps growing way faster than any of your games. Research the things that made Dungeon Siege 1 such an amazing game (no classes, and the grinding was collection of skills/spells and gear only). Research Albion Online and Ascension wow classless. Iterate you internal processes so you can change/provide your services faster and with higher quality. Stop creating systems that will disappear, have no real purpose besides quantity or will-become-redundante in any time-period (e.g. of what-not-to-do, WOD garrison; low-level materials; low level legendary recipes; static-dungeons that tell one-story of a specific/locked time-frame; campaign/story that belongs in single player games; NPCs that might as well be trees cause they never move and the only thing they do is provide shade(quest); power-systems that require grinding that are the exact same system from the previous expansion but the developer wasted 2y to-try and make it feel different; meaningful choices: marrying to one class, and one spec cause I need to grind points to be relevant; and altoholic mechanics disguised as content. I probably missed, many more… feel free to add more in comments)
It might be a biased opinion, but I think classes are an antiquated design that provide little freedom to a player. What kind of excuse are you going to give when D4 launches without Witch Doctor, Crusader and Monk? How is a competitive-person’s-time respected when he has to level up multiple characters in order to understand and compete in PvP? Why are we dependent on devs/class-designers choice of spells and gameplay for each of the classes?: e.g., Demon Hunter replacement is probably rogue: “The Rogue is an adaptable, agile warrior who can specialize in ranged or close quarters combat”. Does this mean I have to choose between melee or range? Why can’t I make use of both like ranger from neverwinter, which is what you should have done to hunters in wow? the ability to use daggers and bow, in the same build, with stances! Even league of legends has champions like this: nidalee and shyvana.
Neverwinter ranger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wUyHG4xiOY
- The new Paragon system: so many stats… Most people won’t even unlock the first column (100)… It could be promising if it wasn’t behind an infinite and endless grind for points. Diablo Immortal does not have enough content or community engagement to “hook” players into playing this. It suffers from an unsolved problem haunting the game industry: game-engines/tools/devs cannot create fresh content at a fast-rate that satisfies the players, and keep them engaged. After a couple of days, it is like watching the same movie over-and-over again. Also, I explored this further in the previous post: Anything that requires endless grinding based on some kind of activity creates an incentive to use bots. xP farm to acquire/unlock power, is a lazy design to lock people from content/skills and artificially create content or buy-time for devs to create additional content. You will not be able to prevent AI-third party bots, so I don’t understand why u keep making the same mistake, and lock power/stats behind grinding mechanics. The only people that might enjoy this kind of stuff, are streamers, so they don’t have to overthink what will they stream… Cause it is always the same thing, they are going to grind power/stats…
Here is an example of how far aim-bots have gone, so I am not accused of providing third-party bots for Diablo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=revk5r5vqxA
Servers. You still haven’t solved the multiple servers problem! I won’t even go as far as ask for one server like EVE online… But the ability to play what ever, where ever server I want, with who ever I want, I think it is not a far-fetched idea.
New content cycles. It did not improve. Actually, I think it got worse… Initially, games allowed the community to create and modify their initial release (e.g., half-life lead to CS; warcraft 3 lead to LOL, DOTA, defense maps; Freelancer mod games; wow lead to ascension, etc…) Today… We probably get sued if change/mod a game and make it available on a server! So we have to wait, months, usually two years I would say, to have like a new expansion, or patch, or something significantly different. Oh… I almost forgot, do not confuse grinding/farm with content, cause they are very different things… Or even Paragon systems, or 100 character levels… What is that? Levels were designed as tutorials and limiters to not overwhelm new players with everything at once, because they had no contact with computers in the 90s… They were not designed/implemented to be used as content or walls to stop progression and extend the amount of hours required to achieve something, that should be given for free… almost instantly! The first dungeon siege made this remarkably well: players collect spells/items while playing the game through loot or gold/vendors, at their own pace.
It is obviously arguable, but cycles/sprints tend to have a duration between 2 weeks and rarely exceed 2 months (this does not mean everything can be done in 2 months, but instead the partition of the big picture/goal/task should never be anything that lasts longer than 2months). If it surpasses that, an internal issue (technical or organizational) is almost a guarantee. So if nothing changes in a game for a period longer than 2 months, the organization/company is at fault here.
In my opinion, new content include but are not limited to: new spells; new type of auto-attacks or combo-attacks; new weapons; new maps; new bosses; new mechanics and attacks on existing bosses/NPCs; improved AI NPCs; improvements in the existing world and economy; new battlegrounds/arenas; new ways to play the game (e.g., I always thought wow would give an option of a closer-third-person or even a first person game when I discovered the action camera; or even transit some specs from tab target to action combat; or even allow the same character to have multiple classes like final fantasy); make your old content relevant (e.g., use the maps of old dungeons and environments and RNG NPCs and bosses; like factions take over old dungeons); implement new tech (e.g, VR gameplay; tools to allow players to create new content, like their houses, defense maps, dungeons with RNG NPCs); or anything that is considered innovating compared to everything that exists in the game-industry…
Action Camera for wow. Used internally for cinematics, not for player use/game-play: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC2nzmN1M-4
- In-game economy, trading, grinding, and items worth. Lets talk quality now. What is your strategy to prevent hacks and exploits to the economy, item duplication, item creation out of thin air, use of bots to grind power, third-party aim—bots/gameplay, gold-sellers and excessive admin privileges? The very first week, there were already people spamming exchange of platinum for RL currency in DI… so… as a customer, I would like to know how are you tackling this issues in your games! (1) bots have free reign to grind power/stats and in-game-currency; (2) spamming in chat the site to obtain-in-game currency are a constant in most of your games; (3) some streamers and some competitive players are somewhat pressured to these practices in order to stay relevant/competitive; (4) there is no limit in how long can an account be log-in (an acc can be logged-in 24h/7d, forever…; (5) duplication of items and gold, unsure which of your games still have these exploits, because the videos only pop-up after the problems are fixed, so they can maximize/capitalize as much as possible. And the issue is because you cannot trace the items, there is no ledger that prevents exploits; (6) game-exploits and excessive admin privileges that allow advantages are hard to track for us players, and hard-to-prevent-first-time by devs, but are there punishments and tracing tools to eradicate this? Or did you just, gave up?
In-game, digital assets, have value? time and/or money?: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhKfnVcVHSk
Conclusion, questions and final notes regarding D4 and other future games/projects
Where are the AI NPCs that emulate habits and routines?
Where is the world that is already a working economy without any players? Supply and demand with only NPCs.
Where is the dynamic control of zones on the open-world-map by NPC factions? Which, if the server is run in isolation, without any players, would still change over time? (with no action needed by admins)
Where is the protected economy inside the game that is completely disconnected from the real-world? No gold-sellers, no duplication, no bots, no p2w.
Where is weather/climate/seasons? (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter). This alone, have the potential to change your content/maps 4 times per year, and with it change the NPCs population.
Are you making progress towards technologies that have potential/future? You are playing the wrong game… You don’t win by winning the competition playing their strategy, you win by outliving them long-term.
Are the avatars created a reflection of the person who is behind the device? Or is it a predefined template created by the class-designer due to very limited options/features?
I think you need to let-go of the existing IPs, pick-up a small but dedicated number of devs that hunger for change/innovation, and start something new, from scratch! You are completely stuck in nostalgia and player-expectations that limit your potential. The Microsoft and Activision Blizzard merge is under-way, so just take advantage of it. Propose a new project that could advance cross-play of VR, pc and consoles. Microsoft have products and services in all of these areas, and it is in their interest that they continue to innovate, and take profits on all of them.
One of many suggestions/projects:
(a) something simple, easy to iterate and expand-upon by both devs and community; the community will help you build, if you make the tools accessible. The foundation is the most important, so create something that any one can pick-up and improve even if you all quit the company. Leave a legacy so others can build upon.
(b) a classless game (I am biased towards this). Classes are not a defining trait in an mmo, it is the opposite. In some cases, it can destroy the idea of freedom-of-choice in the creation/customization of a character. Not to mention you are forcing a decision on character creation, you are marrying that avatar/player/account to that class without the person knowing anything about it… Eliminating suspense and the spirit-of-discovery and exploration within the game.
(c) physics in combat. The ability to dodge, parry, block, character thrown into a wall cause the enemy-ogre is 10x the character size and the player did not dodge its auto-attack, throw weapons and in-game-assets to enemy, push friendly targets, fist-fight and use of enemy weight against them, pick-up/disarm enemy weapon and use it against him, etc… I am dying to see any improvement (no matter how small it is) in-any-game, regarding combat that is slightly more realistic! I am not talking about graphics, blood or gore, I am talking physics and what our brains expect to happen when compared to reality.
(d) camera. Third-person camera appears to be the popular one among your community, but always consider first-person-camera too. Cause the theorised-future is within VR (or better), so provide at least these two options. You can go even further and include mobile (if you must -_-) and provide portions of your gameplay with isometric gameplay (like re-arranging furniture on your guild or house, or pick up apples from the garden, access to AH).
(e) real-world-use of VR and games. Access to in-game libraries with RL books, papers, news, etc… Ability to have meetings, manage-teams, strategize, draw and write documents or maps, create 3D models with blender/autocad/librecad, make use of Microsoft-teams and skype, etc… Microsoft is a buffet of opportunities if you play your cards right. Yes, you will be making a game, but yes: you will also improve/innovate other industries.
(f) technology or magic? my opinion, both. Teal’c (stargate universe) staff can shoot fire-balls; exoskeleton suits could allow us to fly; etc… So, don’t choose, keep the option open.
Even if you do (a) and (e) alone, it is progress, you will help the (merged) company with tooling that can be used in both games and other-industries/teams that work remotely. But I do hope you can go even beyond these points: medium-long term. Just make a good foundation that is easy to build-upon and maintain, and don’t create technical-debt due to pressure. Learn to say no early on, without creating friction.
I would wish you luck, but you don’t need it. Cause you always had everything you need within you.
Razor D. Myth