Back to the Drawing Board

Yesterday Mr. Angry Robotics, Jay Wilson, himself dropped a bombshell on the Diablo 3 community: Team Deathmatch wasn’t where they wanted it so until they figure out something up to their standards they’re going to give us dueling in patch 1.0.7 … and that’s it.

Now before I jump off into my rant, let me state that I was not surprised at all by the revelation that PVP arenas are still a long ways off. I knew prior to Jay Wilson’s blog post that the dev team had an insurmountable problem to figure out with itemization as it exists today. There’s zero chance that PVP as it would exist today could be remotely close to being balanced without MASSIVE changes to itemization.

No, I wasn’t blown away by the blog post for that revelation; I was blown away by the lack of anything substantial or useful about the development of PVP arenas.

Instead what we got was a shallow wordy excuse as to where the development of the PVP arenas is. Mr. Wilson even insisted that he was giving us some insight on what’s going on but failed to deliver on that promise leaving us with insightful comments of “it’s not where we want it” and “it falls short of our expectations for a high-quality Blizzard experience.”

Okay. Right. The a-typical Blizzard cop-out when it comes to delivering, the insistence that if it isn’t up to the high-quality Blizzard experience standards, it isn’t ready to go. While I do agree that Blizzard has a proven track-record when it comes to delivering polished experiences, but that’s not always the case as Diablo 3’s rocky development would attest to. Error 37 anyone? Legendaries being worthless prior to 1.0.4?

Alright, I am being somewhat snarky, but needless to say that despite my love of Diablo 3, the game in a few aspects didn’t live up to those high-quality Blizzard experience standards when it launched. Where Diablo 3 is today feels a lot closer to those standards and should have been when it launched, but would I have rather waited until October 16th to be able to play?

HELL NO.

That’s kind of my point with this rant. While Diablo 3 shipped with numerous issues, it was still an exceptionally fun product — except for Inferno prior to the introduction of Monster Power — when it launched back on May 15th. I would argue that the real reason for PVP arenas going back to the drawing board has everything to do with itemization of the game. They haven’t figured out to fix the problem so that PVP isn’t a completely BROKEN disaster when it launches.

Which then brings up the question as to why they’re including dueling at all. Dueling brings no depth or reward to the game other than for epeen bragging rights. So why include it if team deathmatch didn’t live up to their standards for depth and time-investment rewards?

It just doesn’t make sense, or does it?

By including the ability for us to duel, the devs can get a small glimpse into the results and problems with how itemization is today. How could they possibly balance those with massive damage outputs or effective health and damage reduction (or avoidance) against those that don’t? They can’t. They won’t. Or at least not with sweeping changes to itemization itself and that’s a huge undertaking that will be difficult for the community to swallow … unless … those massive itemization changes come packaged with an expansion.

Yes folks, I’m calling it here. PVP arenas will be delayed until the expansion.

By rolling it into an expansion it will be a lot more palatable to spend a huge amount of development time to fix the problem. We saw it in World of Warcraft with old world flying coming with the Cataclysm. On the books it looks a whole hell of a lot better to investors when large amounts of development time directly yield additional revenue.

So does that mean we will absolutely not see PVP arenas before an expansion? Not necessarily. Back in episode 30 of the Shattered Soulstone Breja and I got into a pretty lengthy discussion about PVP and potential ideas on how it could be implemented. Out of this discussion I brain-stormed an idea where PVP could exist without being broken and offer enticing rewards: make PVP a completely separate mode and take gear out of the equation.

By taking gear out of the equation you eliminate the extreme imbalances in the community and put everyone on an even playing-field. This also has the added benefit of PVP not affecting the PVE content of the game. But how do you reward players for the time they invest in PVP content if not through better gear? Well, that’s easy … with gear!

Wait, hold on, I’m not talking about gear that increases player power, I’m talking about better more bad-ass looking gear. Make PVP rewards completely cosmetic and I think you have a system that is rewarding and fun. It works in games like Halo, why not Diablo 3?

Okay, but what about carrying those rewards over to the PVE aspect of the game? A long time ago there were screenshots from the alpha version of Diablo 3 where as you progressed through the game your banner would become more decorated and not just through sigils and accents. What if that were brought back with PVP? (Or heck, even through PVE progression too)

It’d be pretty cool right?

Why stop there though? Let’s bring WoW’s transmogrification system into Diablo 3. I don’t know about you, but I’m beginning to tire of seeing just about everyone I know running around with Vile Ward shoulders — but that’s a problem that can be addressed by other means. It would be pretty amazing to run around showing off your PVP prowess while slaying demons with friends, right?

Sadly I have a feeling that these suggestions won’t become reality. Instead the dev team will insist on tying PVE and PVP together to allow for singular character progression through either system making itemization a crucial problem to fix. At the very least some itemization changes could be for the better, or at least we can hope.

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