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Jay Wilson, the Game Director of Diablo III, has taken to the game’s official blog to explain some of the changes that have delayed the game’s release.
Blizzard is notorious for their iterative approach to game design, and Diablo fans have had to endure a development cycle that has tried the patience of even the most patient gamers. The game was originally slated to be released at the end of last year, but in September, Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime announced that the release window had been pushed back to early 2012.
It turns out that the delay was caused in part by the decision to introduce major changes to some of the game’s core elements. The Nephalem Cube and the Cauldron of Jordan have been removed entirely. The former allowed players to break down items to obtain raw materials for use in crafting, while the latter let them sell goods without visiting a merchant in town.
They were originally introduced because the designers wanted to limit the amount of time players spent in town, but now that players can return to town whenever they want, these items were no longer deemed necessary. “It’s a good idea to break up combat so that players have a moment to evaluate their gear and crafting options before venturing back out,” Wilson said.
Another big change is the removal of the Mystic artisan. Artisans were touted as NPCs who would follow the player from town to town performing various services. Unlike regular NPC merchants, artisans would be able to level up, which in turn would improve the services they could provide. Like everything else in Diablo III, the Mystic changed over the course of development, but she ended up having the power to ‘enhance’ items by a random magical effect.
Ultimately, the designers came to realize that the enhancement system essentially duplicated the effect of the socket/gem system. “It would prolong the release of the game even further to go back to the drawing board and differentiate it, so we’ll revisit the Mystic and enhancements at a later time,” Wilson said. Like the other artisans, the Mystic played a role in the game’s story, which complicated her removal.
Character attributes have also undergone major revision. Attack, Precision, and Defense have been removed, replaced by Strength, Dexterity, and Intellect. Vitality remains untouched. As Wilson explained, “Armor is taking over for what Defense used to provide, Physical Resist will take over for Armor, and Chance to Crit will fill in for Precision.”
Furthermore, certain attributes will provide class-specific bonuses to bonuses. Strength will help the Barbarian, Dexterity will help the Demon Hunter and Monk, and Intellect will help the Wizard and Witch Doctor.
Wilson also announced a host of minor changes:
Fan reaction to Wilson’s announcement has been mixed. The changes themselves are not necessarily controversial, but their timing is. The fact that the designers are still tinkering with core game mechanics has led some fans to accuse them of lacking focus. It certainly did not help that Wilson also indicated that skills and runestones are undergoing revision as well.
Naturally, many fans are wondering what effect these changes will have on Blizzard’s stated goal of releasing Diablo III in “early 2012.” However, it has been confirmed that they have already been implemented in the game, and the vast majority of them will be rolled out to beta testers in a patch expected within the next few days. However, given Blizzard’s track record, this may not be the last word on the subject.