Diablo III Balancing & Class Set Design

Posted by DHAdmin on January 29th, 2020 at 1:45 pm

Diablo III Wizard

Blizzard are celebrating 2020 with a relaunch of The Darkening of Tristram; one of its favorite events for Season 19; released for the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.

The Blizzard team have been working on multiple content patches for Diablo III, including Patch 2.6.7. that was made public in November. This release introduced two new class sets, one each for Crusader and Monk, and a reworked Whirlwind gameplay for the Barbarian. According to Blizzard, the end product was pivotal to the endgame meta and an ambitious undertaking that has worked out well even if they acknowledge that there's a lot more work to do!

Table of Contents

Paragon & Greater Rift Levels

Paragon greater rift

Blizzard has a lot of user feedback and stats to consider when tweaking Diablo III. This data comes in many forms, including build guides, gameplay from your favorite streamers, and the Diablo III leaderboards. Paramonth though, Blizzard also tracks its own data internally, which allows them to see a lot more than just the top 1,000 player clears for each category.

None of these stats should be taken in a vacuum though; and the dev team at Blizzard consider the following metrics:

  • Individual performers and their Paragon Level
    • Paragon level directly impacts a player's long-term progress; it's important that this is accounted for when comparing different points of data
  • The intended design and in-practice functionality of each class set
    • For example, one might ask what this set do best? Does it clear a lot of smaller monsters, or is it a good Rift Guardian killer? Does the set serve a support role? Is it better in group play over solo? Does it need to be doing something different? All these questions need to be considered.

Blizzard are also at pains to list what they specifically avoid when considering overall class balance:


  • Seasonal buffs and their impact on overall power
    • Blizzard aims to design fun, engaging Seasonal buffs without worrying about how they might impact class balance
      • Data from non-Seasonal players is especially helpful here
    • Some buffs may be better or worse for different classes, but since Season effects are temporary, Blizzaed say they are relaxed about this.
  • Direct 1:1 class comparison
    • While Blizzard is keen that each class must perform similarly, it is still important that classes retain their unique class fantasy
      • Each class should be able to accomplish similar goals, just in different ways

When balancing, the Blizzard team loos for a point of reference to work around. The "ideal" class set performance for Diablo III is approximately Greater Rift 130, solo, and assumes the character has 5000 Paragon levels. They point out that this might sound high and low to others but they argue that if this is the case, then they have the balance about right.

Leaderboard data

Assuming a player is at 5000 Paragon, here's where all the classes landed, on average, a few weeks into Patch 2.6.7 for non-Seasonal play, aggregated across player leaderboard data world-wide:



Demon Hunter



Witch Doctor


GR Avg.








From the data above Blizzard can be certain which classes are under or over performing.

Just for fun, here's a similar comparison during the same timeframe upscaled in Season (where many players hadn't reached 5000+ paragon):



Demon Hunter



Witch Doctor


GR Avg.








It's interesting to see which classes most likely benefit most from the Seasonal buff - it's also evident which classes are probably not being played as much or pushed as hard as others.

While this Blizzard's main goal, they are also conscious they aren't always going to hit it perfectly. Like many games, Diablo III has substantial number of mechanical details. A single change can have knock-on effects through many other parts of the game, so it's important to be mindful of what each change can affect. To take these factors into account, Blizzard has a scale for error, based on how a class is performing above or below our guideline:

  • +/- 1-2 Greater Rift Levels: Very close. Probably fine, when accounting for random elements (the perfect "fish") or high player skill cap (excellent play and timing).
  • +/- 3-4 Greater Rift Levels: The warning zone. We need to watch for buffs/nerfs in this area, but action may not yet be necessary. Time to keep an eye on it!
  • +/- 5 or more Greater Rift Levels: Warrants significant change. At this range, it's clear that something is over (or under) performing and needs to be addressed.

Blizzard are at pains to point out they are using aggregate data; the above tables only cover overall class performance rather than individual class set performance. Better performing builds may be equalizing out weaker ones when it comes to the broader picture. They make changes at the set and item level, which means that they must additionally parse out data by build performance (whether it's a class set or Legacy of Nightmares-based). The above method is meant to serve as an example of our general approach and informs them which classes most likely need more attention first.

The Greater Rift 150 Cap

It's important to note, especially for those of you who have been looking for this answer: but the dev team has no plans to increase the Greater Rift level cap beyond 150. As to why, the short answer is because it causes more problems than it solves.

The long answer is simply that continuing to expand the end game through additional Greater Rift levels hasn't been the healthiest approach for Diablo III. At this late stage of game development, Blizzard say they would prefer to focus on making the current game the best, and most varied, experience it can possibly be. We hope to accomplish this by (1) continuing to add new builds and (2) improving existing builds that have fallen behind. Maintaining a cap, and even backing away from it a little, will allow us to focus on greater gameplay variety.

Solo vs. Group Design

Solo vs Group design

It's apparently a common misconception that the Diablo III dev team looks for a balance solely around 4-man groups. They say that while they certainly take it into account, group play is not their only focus because not all players enjoy playing in groups. Blizzard wants to ensure that the content they're designing can be enjoyed by the most players, so their design decisions should take both styles into account. They note that to design solely around one style of play, the other would be severely impacted (and likely a lot less fun).

However, there is one notable exception to this. zDPS, or "zero Damage Per Second," builds tend to only thrive in group play. The team debated for a long time as to whether this was a style we should encourage or actively avoid (or possibly even remove). Any Diablo game is, at its heart, about killing monsters and getting loot, so we considered heavily whether this gameplay fit the spirit of the game they had made.

Blizzard notes that zDPS (zero damage per second) is a style of gameplay that some players like, but not all do. Blizzard ultimately decided that it's good that there are unique ways to play Diablo III, and they don't want to take that fun away from those who enjoy it. However, they're also not actively trying to create more zDPS builds. Their intent is rather to design new item powers and sets that either facilitate entirely new builds that can be used solo or in groups, or to give more item support to some of the most requested class skills. Inevitably, regardless of what gets added, they know the community will find combinations Blizzard never anticipated—and they are looking forward to our feedback!

"Creative" Game Mechanics & Animations

There have been a handful of problematic gameplay styles that have emerged over time, largely due to creative use of snapshotting or taking advantage of the ability to cancel skill animations. Blizzard claim that these impede can impede efforts at overall game balance, and it makes it very difficult for them to change skills or items without overly punishing the whole class when these tactics aren't used.

With this in mind, Blizzard is keen to be able to address the balance issues these builds pose, but at the same time they don't want these classes to fall behind as a result of these changes. Blizzard are honest that fixing these problems is going to be a game of whack-a-mole as they make fixes and other issues arise through player experimentation. Their first area of concern will be disabling animation cancellation on certain skills. The Crusader class is the most subject to this (though not alone) and Blizzard say they will ensure no class falls behind as a result of losing this "trick." Once this this specific issue has been addressed, they will continue to review and revisit areas of the game where similar mechanics are having a negative impact and act accordingly.

The Darkening of Tristram 2020

Posted by DHAdmin on January 7th, 2020 at 11:27 am

Season 19: The Darkening of Tristram Returns

Darkening of Tristram

Blizzard are celebrating the new millennium with a relaunch of one of its favorite events for Season 19; The Darkening of Tristram released for the PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.

The Darkening of Tristram has been around since 2016 and has become something of a Blizzard favorite. It's popular with fans alike because it allows players to explore the original cathedral in Diablo III.

With the launch scheduled for Jan 4th the season will be a short-lived one ending on January 31st or Feb 1st depending on where you live.

For those of you who are new to Diablo or for those looking for a refresher, we've compiled this review of the 2020 anniversary dungeon and its unique rewards.

Darkening of Tristram screenshot


Hunt Down the Cultists

cultists is causing trouble in sanctuary

Season 19 starts with the hunt for a group of enigmatic cultists raising hell in Sanctuary. Hunt them down in Adventure Mode and you will pick up vital clues that will lead you to a portal in Tristam's origin and the terrifying darkness that took hold of the town in ancient times. . . .


Explore the Cathedral

Tristam Cathedral

Follow the clues laid for you and once again you will discover the realm of glorious RetroVision &tm;, where an in iconic cathedral await. Explore some more and you'll come across old enemies and iconic items, all brought to life in the Diablo III engine. Ominously, in the catacombs below the cathedral, the Dark Lord himself is ready to destroy anyone who dares to confront him. . . .


Discover Precious Loot

Season 19 items

No Diablo III Season would be complete without polished new loot to grab for yourself. Each activity completed in the Darkening of Tristram event leads to unique transmogrification effects, achievements, portraits, pets, and more.

You'll find that some of these rewards are easy to discover, whereas others will require you to unlock every achievement to seize them. It's up to you to find them all!


Season 19: Your Journey Begins Again…

Relive The Darkening of Tristram in 2020! Unspoiled rewards and formidable enemies are waiting for you, but they won't last forever! The cultists have already started appearing since December 31st but the portal opened on January 4th 2020.

Let us know how you get on and give us your feedback.

Diablo IV preview Part 2

Posted by DHAdmin on December 16th, 2019 at 1:05 pm

A Preview of Diablo IV (Part II)

Barbarian in Dry Steppes

We recently looked at some of the concepts that will be present in Diablo IV and we would recommend you check this article out if you haven't done so already.

What is Itemization in Diablo?

As mentioned already in Part I of this article, Itemization is a huge core part of any Action role playing game (RPG). Before we do anything else we want to explain what Itemization is.

Combat Sorceress

Itemization is the process of creating items, applying modifiers to them in an appropriate manner, getting their damage ranges balanced, and so forth.

Blizzard would be the first to agree that adding depth and customization to your character through itemization is vital to Diablo III. In fact it has been the hottest item of feedback since the concept of Diablo IV was announced and has been cited by Blizzard as one of its top priorities.

Another important philosophy from the Diablo IV team is the idea of "Easy to learn, difficult to master." This core philosophy steered Blizzard fans to become the hardcore gamers they are today, the design team are keen to embrace throughout the Diablo IV development process.

Scenic Hawezar

Another important take out from Zlizzard's request for comments is the idea that Diablo IV shouldn't just mimic the itemization in Diablo III. Their declared aim is to take the best parts of previous versions and improve on them wbut at the same improving them and making Diablo IV unique. Blizzard says it doesn't want to create a verbatim copy of Diablo II Diablo III. That said, Blizzard does acknowledge differing viewpoints in the feedback it received on itemization in Diablo

What are Affixes in Diablo IV?

Affixes superceded prefixes and suffixes that were previously known as Bonuses and Modifiers. Blizzard a great deal of conflicting feedback on affixes from the community, and clain to have spent hours of discussion on them. Blizzard conluded that first, item affixes should be a meaningful part of character power. Second, affixes must offer engaging options when ot comes to deciding which items to equip. Blizzard earlier objective was was to make each affix tailored towards specific builds, so that the "perfect item" would vary depending on the build you were pursuing.

Scosglen combat

What the key differences in Diablo IV?

  • Blizzard are increasing the total number of affixes on items, including Magic (Blue), Rare (Yellow), and Legendary (Orange). This should raise the overall importance of non-Legendary affixes on your character's overall level of power.
  • Blizzard are introducing three new stats in version IV:
    • Angelic Power, which increases the duration of all beneficial effects (like self-buffs or healing)
    • Demonic Power, which increases the duration of all negative effects (like debuffs or damage over time)
    • Ancestral Power, which increases the chance of on-hit effects (aka increased proc chance)

These new stats can appear as affixes, such as +15 Angelic Power. In addition to providing the above-stated benefit, Blizzard wants these new stats to also act as pre-requisites for empowering other established affixes. This will mean that eveb if you do not have enough of a specific power, you can still equip the item, but you may not benefit from an affix linked to that power.

Blizzard cites a couple of work-in-progress examples to explain how affixes might work in Diablo IV but are at pains to point out these could change:

affixes rare amulet

Diablo IV affixes

Each of the three Powers will have a list of affixes that are attuned to it, so depending on which stats you care about, you might want to focus on Angelic, Demonic, or Ancestral Power. In the examples above, you would need 50 Demonic Power to get an additional rank in the Devastation skill, 55 Demonic Power for 25% Fire Resistance, or 60 Demonic power for an additional 2 ranks in the Char to Ash skill. If you wanted to build around Crushing Blow, you'd need to stack at least 55 Ancestral Power instead, while 40 Angelic Power would be required to gain 25% Cold Resistance.

Blizzard believes these changes will address those two main takeaways pretty well. Legendary powers should no longer completely dwarf the strength of your affixes, and the affixes themselves provide more interesting choices because their strength depends on how much of the relevant Powers you've accumulated on the rest of your gear. Blizzard feels that you might find an amulet with the perfect stats for your build, but some of its Affixes may require Demonic Power when you've previously focused on Ancestral. Maybe your current amulet is the primary source of your Ancestral Power, so equipping a new amulet would mean potentially making sacrifices elsewhere.

With this system, it will be easy to identify items with good stats, but it will take some thought and planning to decide whether the item is good for your build. The best items for your character will really depend on what you currently have and how you've built that character, making it more difficult to just look up the right answer online.

At the same time, Blizzard feels that this system keeps items approachable, even if you make suboptimal itemization decisions. You may be weaker, but doing so won't completely break your character. We can also introduce this mechanic gradually and naturally as you level, rather than making it a requirement to understand at the beginning.

What are the Diablo IV Attack/Defense Changes?

Based on player feedback, Blizzard have changed Attack to only be found on weapons, Defense to being only on armor, and we've removed both Attack and Defense from jewelry entirely. The goal here is to better embrace the fantasy of each type of item.

Blizzard is hoping the Attack and Defense stats as a way to convey power progression on items. A core part of any ARPG is the quest for more power. Just as we have skill ranks, talent trees, character levels, and so forth, Attack and Defense allows players to reflect your power growth in items as well.

To be clear, Attack/Defense is not the end of the story of an item's power, but it does fulfill the "easy to learn, difficult to master” design philosophy by giving players a broad sense of whether the item is an upgrade. Players who are optimizing their character will still need to take the additional affixes on an item into account, as their benefit to your build can outweigh the raw Attack or Defense of an item. Solely picking your items based on Attack and Defense will almost never be the optimal way to play, but it does provide a good starting point for newer players.

It's important to reiterate here that items are just one part of a character's overall power. Our goal is to spread out power across different sources, including skill ranks, your character's level, talent trees, items, and the endgame character progression system (which, like everything else, is still in development).

Ancient Legendary Replacement

In our last post, we mentioned that we were looking at some potential changes to Ancient items based on your feedback. We are going to remove Ancient Legendaries from the game in their current form entirely.

Our newest proposal hits a couple different feedback points: addressing the usefulness of Rare (Yellow) items as well as increasing the depth and complexity of player gear choices in the endgame.

We will be introducing a new type of consumable item (which we haven't yet named). This item would be earned by killing monsters, just like other items. It would have one random Legendary affix on it, drops only in the late endgame, and can be used to apply that affix to any non-Legendary item.

This means a few things:

  • We create an "elective mode for items" that is experienced after players have had time to experience Rare and Legendary items normally, as well as familiarized themselves with a variety of affixes
  • This adds a way to introduce new methods of play without adding even more power to endgame items
  • Rare items with the best affixes on them are always useful and retain value

Blizzard Still wants more Player feedback

Blizzard wants gain to remind fans that none of these previews and concepts are final and they haven't even tried most of these ideas in a working build yet! They's love to get constructive feedback on these approaches, as well as the general direction they're headed for itemization and affixes in Diablo IV. David Kims says that they've never shared this level of detail this early before, but they are looking forward to reading what we have to say.

Diablo IV Game Concepts from the Development Team

Posted by DHAdmin on November 29th, 2019 at 12:41 pm

System Concepts in Diablo IV

Diablo IV System design header

David Kim, Lead Developer at the Diablo IV design team has been discussing how he has been drawing from the Diablo player community when designing and developing Diablo IV. In a recent post, he discussing how the latest version is progressing.

Diablo IV Itemization

Lee says he's still going through the feedback he's received on Itemization but he's been busy working out ways to add more depth and complexity to base items, including Rares) and methods to add more variation to item affixes to add a little more spice to these powers and make the choices more meaningful. At the same time the team has been looking at giving players more options on customizing items, so that we can enjoy trying out a wider range of effective Diablo opportunities rather than looking online for the optimal build.

In a Part I article, Lee promises to go into more detail regarding Itemization , but did update on other topics in the meantime.

Elective Mode in Diablo IV

Diablo IV World

Many people who saw the BlizzCon demo interface think that Diablo IV will lock skills to specific slots. Like a lot of features in the demo, the UI is not final and Lee promises to support Elective Mode-style skill selection. Lee promises that skill selection and assignment will always be completely open for all players.

Ancient Items

Diablo IV World turn on darkness

Everyone at Blizzard is backing the community view that Ancients as they are now don't fit in with Diablo IV and need more work. Lee thinks that Blizzard could have communicated the new role of Ancient Items in Diablo IV better. He argues that he was only sharing first draft features, but is revisiting Diablo IV designs with player feedback in mind and is confident he will be able to share more details of Ancient Items in the next update.

Diablo IV Endgame Progression System

Blizzard hasn't decided on a choice the option of character leveling and experience system and whether it should be finite or infinite, and are still reaching out for feedback. Lee acknowledged some concerns around "infinite being worse because it will eventually overshadow all the power granted by other sources". At the end of the day though, players can control for themselved how much power each system gives and whether it's infinite or finite.

Lee also points out that power increase doesn't need to be linear throughout the ranks as it can slow down as players reach higher levels. For the Diablo IV design team, the more important question is what experience feels best for players, and the team can test Endgame variatons and etsablish the power curve that makes the most sense.

We have a couple reasons for having a different experience system in addition to a level cap. A level cap gives us the ability to grant players a sense of completion. But for players who want to go deeper into the game, a second experience system allows us to capture the fun of achieving those really difficult endgame goals and ranks. We can also introduce additional depth through this system, because players will be more experienced with the game at this point. Ultimately, our goal is to create a meaningful system that provides clear choices depending on your preferred playstyle in the endgame. 

Diablo IV Sources of Power

Diablo IV characters

After player feedback on player sources and the design team are reevaluating how much power comes from each source at any given time.

In a strong statement, Leee explained that in Diablo IV, power doesn't come mainly from items. The team wants to have a strong blend of power sources: characters naturally get stronger as they increase their levels, skills have ranks that increase power, talents provide specific playstyle choices and additional character power, and of course items grant power and meaningful choices as well.

Another to bear in mind is that Legendary powers are just one part of an item's power, and that they don't invalidate all other Affixes due to how powerful they are. For example, two to three normal Affixes are currently equivalent in power to a Legendary power on most items.

Diablo IV Keyed Dungeons

A key question that came up in player feedback was exactly how the new Keyed Dungeons in Diablo IV are different from Rifts. Keyed Dungeons will introduce greater challenges as their tiers increase through Dungeon Affixes. The majority of dungeons are real places in the world, and players will learn some information about them including what types of monsters, events, and layouts to expect. With this information, as well as the specific Dungeon Affixes being displayed on the key, players will be able to strategize their strategy before going into the dungeon. Blizzard believes this is the biggest change from Diablo III Rifts: the added planning and strategizing that takes place before you decide to run a Keyed Dungeon.

Blizzard Update Patch 2.6.7 Fixes Issues and Bugs

Posted by DHAdmin on November 24th, 2019 at 11:42 am

Diablo Patch 2.6.7a Launched

Diablo Patch 2.6.7a update

Blizzard have launched a patch update, Patch 2.6.7a. Here are the details.

Patch 2.6.7a Table of Contents:

Note: PLease note that the changes listed here apply to all versions of Diablo III, including PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC unless otherwise indicated.

Items Updates

  • Lamentation
    • This now increases the damage of Rend by [100-150%]
    • Developer's Note: Blizzard have acknowledged in a number of forum posts, that they overshot on Lamentation's original implementation during the 2.6.7 PTR. At the same time they also feel they undershot the overall balance of Rend/Whirlwind's adjustments by removing this bonus completely. After player feedback and completing their own internal testing, they've settled on a middle ground of 100 to 150% that they believe reaches the balance level we were shooting for.
  • Shield of Fury
    • The benefit of this item is now capped at 20
    • Developer's Note: As many noted after the Diabli 2.6.7 update, Blizzard have also overshot on Crusader with the live patch. Blizzard hope that Crusader will perform much better with it's new set, and this cap should rein in damage to a more reasonable level
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Patch 2.6.7 Bugs

  • Wizard
    • Wave of Force (Arcane Attunement)
      • Stacks of Arcane Attunement are now removed upon entering a Greater Rift (PC Only)
      • Note: This change will be coming to Console in a future patch.
  • Patterns of Justice
    • The patch update fixes an issue where the Tempest Rush Flurry rune attack did not benefit from the 6-Piece bonus when cancelling Tempest Rush (PC Only)
      • Developer's Note: Blizzard were unable to resolve this for 2.6.7a for Console; however, it is slated to be fixed on Console in a future patch.
  • Fjord Cutter
    • This patch fixes an issue where Fjord Cutter was increasing all damage to slowed or chilled enemies instead of just Seismic Slam damage
  • Won Khim Lau
    • Here a bug has been fixed where Epiphany would trigger teleporting while channeling Tempest Rush (Electric Field) when Won Khim Lau was equipped
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