Diablo 3: Blizzard rejects "dumbing down" accusations

Says beta was deliberately "simple and approachable".

Blizzard has rejected accusations that it has dumbed down Diablo 3.

Some players claim Blizzard has reduced character customisation in an attempt to make Diablo 3 "casual friendly".

But in an interview with Eurogamer ahead of Diablo 3's hotly anticipated midnight launch, Blizzard said opinions about the game have been skewed by the recent beta, which showcased early areas of the game and limited the level cap to 13.

"I definitely don't see it as dumbing down," lead technical artist Julian Love said. "One of the disadvantages beta testers have is they only see the early portion of the game. That's the portion of the game that really does need to be simple and approachable in order to live up to our mantra of easy to learn and difficult to master. You only get that experience in the beta, and that's the place where we're really trying to get it to be as dead simple and approachable as we possibly can.

"So it's not that we're dumbing the systems down, so much as we're changing the balance of when systems are introduced and how much information is thrown at the user. A lot of those things are just re-prioritised to flow into the proper portion of the game, where you've already gotton used to the early systems and early combat, and now you're ready for more. That's a big part of the process of just getting it to ramp up properly."

The debate about character customisation has been fuelled by Blizzard's decision to abolish skill trees and change the way players manage their statistics. In Diablo 2, players are able to manually assign attribute points to their characters. In Diablo 3, attribute points are automatically assigned - a design change some are angry about.

According to Love, though, Diablo 2's stat system "wasn't meaningful", whereas Diablo 3's new rune system, which allows players to affect builds by altering skills directly, is.

"[Diablo3 's stats system] is more meaningful," Love said. "If you add them up mathematically, you may find it seems like there are fewer systems. But the big thing is that each system should be meaningful. The old stat system just wasn't. You either didn't know how to use it, in which case you built a terrible character, or somebody did tell you how to use it, and then you used only one solution. That's not really customisation. Especially considering there were only four stats, how many combinations are you going to get?

"You compare that to the rune system, where you've got 700 plus skills in the game and you're able to freely choose them, what you have is billions of combinations for customisation. Then there are some other ones, including item tinting. The only way you could customise your character's look was just by finding the items in the game and living with the way your character looked. Now you can do the same thing with a lot more items available to you, plus you can tint them and customise them in that way.

"What we've got are fewer systems, but those systems are really meaningful and have a dramatic impact. They don't just show up in terms of how survivable my character is against this monster or that. They really give you a chance to have an unique identity within the game world - lead technical artist Julian Love.

"So when you get right down to it, what we've got are fewer systems, but those systems are really meaningful and have a dramatic impact. They don't just show up in terms of how survivable my character is against this monster or that. They really give you a chance to have an unique identity within the game world."

Watch Blizzard's 6 minute Diablo 3 animated short

But what does all this mean for the end game? Some are concerned that Diablo 3's new and revamped systems mean all high level characters of the same class will, essentially, be the same.

Love said this simply won't be the case.

"Instead of thinking, well, did I invest every little point in exactly the right way, and then going out on the internet to find out what might be the better way to do it, you're free to explore the different skill possibilities at that level," Love said.

"That kind of freedom, to test things out and try things out, is what is important. Whereas if you look at Diablo 2, there's a huge penalty for trying out a different stat approach. There's a huge penalty for trying a different way of navigating that tree. That penalty is time. You have to go all the way back to the beginning and re-roll your character and play all the way through.

"Under the new system you can rearrange that stuff a little bit more on the fly. And when you have as many permutations and variations as we provide, you'll still never be able to try them all. But the penalty isn't there. So you'll be able to really explore that space a lot more."

Diablo 3 launches at midnight tonight. In the UK servers go live at 11pm.

Diablo 3 trailer for series newbies

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