A Diablo for All Seasons

Like a few other people in the neighborhood, I have been dabbling again with Diablo III.

I will reiterate what I believe I have said elsewhere, that the re-itemized, post-auction house Diablo III has really shaped up into a very nice game.  The base game was always beautiful, with a world that set a mood and shook or came apart in the face of your wrath, so shaping up the loose ends made it into a winner.  That opinion led me to pick up the Reaper of Souls expansion back around Christmas when it was half off.

Diablo_III_Reaper_of_Souls

It has just been a matter of there always being a couple of games ahead of Diablo III on my list of things to do that has kept me from playing it.  However, as summer has drawn to a close it finally bubbled up the list enough for me to start playing.

I rolled up a crusader… because of course I did, the crusader being the new class in the expansions… and started in with the story again.  I hadn’t gotten very far when Gaff pinged me on IM about playing Diablo III.  He got in game with me with a barbarian of about the same level and we ran through most of Act II together this past weekend.

Gaff and I in some dark tunnel

Gaff and I in some dark tunnel

Barbarian and crusader worked pretty well together, though one of the powers of Diablo III as I understand it is that most classes work well together.  It was fun to play with somebody else again and having another player in game notches difficulty and rewards up a bit as well, so all good there.

However, now that character is my “play with Gaff” character, and I don’t want to run away from him in levels.  So when Gaff had to log off I stopped as well.  The ever present problem of keeping in sync and party progression.

I could have brought out one of my older characters… I have a post-2.0 patch barbarian that should be good, though I wonder about the viability of the pre-2.0 characters in my stable… but Gaff was talking about rolling up a season 4 character, which got me pointed at the whole season thing with Diablo III.

I don’t get it.

Yes, I get the whole special rewards things.  I even took a screen shot of the new season splash screen.

Season 4 specials

Season 4 specials

And I get the concept I guess.  I’ve read the update they posted, with the key quote being:

Seasons are an optional, recurring game mode that offers PC players the opportunity to periodically start fresh, leveling new Normal or Hardcore heroes from level 1 without any currency, resources, items, or previously earned Paragon experience.

A way to start really fresh… I guess.  The problems with sharing between characters, you hate to have to re-do some things, right up until you want to re-do those things.  So that and special prizes and leader board for the competitive and such, I get that.

I guess I am struggling with the why, as in why is Blizzard doing this?

Yes, keeping people interested in the game will sell more boxes.  But they have already sold a lot of boxes, to the point that I have to think they’ve hit the state of diminishing returns.

Meanwhile, with no other income… there are no subscriptions and there was no cash shop the last time I looked… for a game that requires you to be online and logged in to play… and that is my one remaining major complaint about Diablo III, that you have to stay logged in and you get kicked (and lose your progress) if you AFK for too long… it feels like promoting this sort of thing actually costs Blizzard more money with not much in the revenue cards.  Maybe box sales are still strong enough to justify this?  I don’t know.

But it is starting to feel like they are treating Diablo III like an MMO.  Sure, it opened with achievements, but lots of games have those, and the disaster of the auction house.  But now there is the whole cosmetic system so you can customize your character to get the look you want along with the whole season thing, things that are obvious hooks to keep people engaged with a game that, given the historical context of Blizzard and their tradition of one expansion for Diablo games, ought to be done, for lack of a better word.

But is it done?

Can we expect another box… another expansion… with more levels, another act, another class, and whatever at some point?  Or will we just be getting a cash shop at some point to fund the ongoing work on the game?  Patch 2.2.0 opened up a cash shop in Asia, complete with pets, cosmetic items, experience boosts, and the like.  Is that in the future for US/EU players?  Or did the taint of the real money auction house taint that idea forever in the west?

Things to watch for at BlizzCon I suppose.

It isn’t that I am unhappy with Blizzard continuing to work on the game.  Far from it.  But that costs money, which means it needs revenue.

Anyway, I made a demon hunter as a season 4 character to play when Gaff isn’t on.  We’ll see how that progresses.

9 thoughts on “A Diablo for All Seasons

  1. Rohan

    My theory is that they have a team working on an expansion. But that team is primarily art/story people, as the core game is pretty much done. The game balance devs, and maybe a few armor/weapon artists are polishing the non-story experience on the live team, along with the technical team. This keeps the game designers as a resource available for the expansion team, but also gives them something to do.

    It also keeps people interested in D3, and allows for iteration cycles that will improve the expansion experience. That’s my theory, in any case. They may also just be doing it to retain the team before they can task them on a new game.

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  2. Adam D.

    Hi Wilhelm,

    I think the reason why they went with “Seasons” is so they can be closer to their closest competition, Path of Exile. PoE has Seasons for the Softcore and Hardcore characters, but with a twist… each season adds something new… special pack mobs, unique mobs that use skills similar to PC’s that go from really easy to ‘restart the level’ insane, depending on your build… modifiable chests that can drop more treasure (and more risk)… they had a season with a special ‘kill combo’ rewards for being able to chain kill mobs without more than a 5 second break… up to some insane # (450 I think). Each Season had a new flavor, and new rewards (usually unique cosmetic items if you did their challenges).

    D3 is trying to do the same thing, but other than the bling, there’s nothing ‘new’ going from season to season. Pity, because D3 is a decent game… but it shouldn’t be that hard to add new wrinkles in each season.

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  3. Whorhay

    Adam,
    Each new season has so far added something new aside from cosmetics. They add new items with each season. And a couple have come with new maps/tile sets and mob types.

    The reason they added seasons was because there was a pretty vocal group of players begging for it, and it costs little to implement. I wasn’t for seasons when it was being asked for but I do enjoy the fresh starts. I primarily play on seasons so that I can have access to the latest greatest gear.

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Talarian – I remember ladders, but those were mostly just competitive achievement leader board things if I recall right. Something akin to ladders in StarCraft I do recall not caring one whit about ladders back in the day. But then I could play offline and avoid the BNet lag of the time as well, so that might play into things.

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  5. Gaff

    I was actually looking to see what you got the Crusader to so I could catch up :P Great minds or something. My season 4 monk is in the mid 30s.1

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  6. Vitaeus

    Diablo 2 still has ladders, the biggest difference is that there are more Runewords you can create in a ladder versus out of the ladders.

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  7. Thomas

    I’ve been surprised for a long time about how much effort Blizzard put into supporting Starcraft 2 post-release. I guess they were banking on making money on Heart of the Swarm/Legacy of the Void, but it felt like they had almost a full design team working for years on a game which had no way of earning them more money directly except through more sales.

    It was constantly rebalanced, they’d add new maps pools, they’d add huge features to the game…

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