Patch 1.0.4 Preview: Demon Hunter

Posted by DHAdmin on August 16th, 2012 at 2:02 pm

The fourth class preview has been posted, this time for the Demon Hunter.

Blizzard Quote [source]

Hungering Arrow is currently the best-performing Hatred Generator for demon hunters. With its high theoretical damage output, strong Hatred generation, and straightforward mechanics, it's an easy go-to skill to have on your bar.

As with other classes, when there's a single skill (or set of skills) that is much stronger or more worthwhile to use, it curbs potential build diversity. To help open up some other options, we're taking a look at Hatred Generators and Spenders, as well as some of the demon hunter's more iconic abilities like Rain of Vengeance and Sentry, and will be upping the damage on all of them.

Hatred Generators

Four skills are intended to compete with Hungering Arrow as a Hatred Generator: Entangling Shot, Bola Shot, Evasive Fire, and Grenades.  While each of these skills offer some unique utility options (Entangling Shot slows enemies, Bola Shot has an AoE component, Evasive Fire provides an escape route, and Grenades can bounce off walls), their damage just isn’t competitive enough when compared to the theoretical damage of Hungering Arrow and its rune variants.

In the case of Grenades, the skill has some minor mechanical and control issues that keep its unique ability to bounce off walls from really shining through. It can be difficult to get the grenade projectiles to where you want them, and using the skill doesn’t always feel very smooth. We explored some alternate targeting methods over the course of 1.0.4's development cycle to help improve this, but we weren't happy with anything we came up with. Most often, we found that by introducing targeting that allowed Grenades to bounce off a wall in a satisfying way, it would often make it so you couldn’t hit a monster you directly clicked on. Unfortunately, we haven’t found a great solution yet, so the Grenades skill isn't going to get as much love this patch. However, we do want to revisit the skill in the future.

As for the other three Hatred Generators, rather than nerfing Hungering Arrow to be less powerful, we’re instead bringing up the damage values for all three skills to make them more attractive. To use Bola Shot as an example:

  • Damage to the primary target is being increased from 130% to 160%
  • Damage for Thunder Ball and Acid Strike is also being increased from 130% to 160%
  • Damage for Imminent Doom to the primary target is being increased from 182% to 216%

With these changes, Hungering Arrow will still do more theoretical damage against a single target, but Bola Shot damage will become a viable DPS alternative and it will also do AoE damage. Entangling Shot and Evasive Fire are receiving boosts to their damage as well, so they should be much more compelling choices when it comes to Hatred generation.  Much like Bola Shot, they won't compete directly with Hungering Arrow in terms of raw theoretical damage to a single target, but the DPS loss won’t be as great in order to gain the utility they offer. 

Hatred Spenders

Our general philosophy for resource-spending skills (and this applies across all classes) is if you take the time to spend your resource, we want you to feel like you got a good return for it. Elemental Arrow is currently the most popular Hatred Spender in the demon hunter's arsenal and a good example for what works -- given how quickly you can fire off each arrow, you can deal a lot of damage to nearby enemies. Unfortunately, many of the other Hatred Spenders fail to meet this benchmark in terms of DPS output, so we're buffing them up to match.

To give you an idea of what kind of increases you’ll see in 1.0.4, let's use Chakram and Cluster Arrow as examples.

Chakram:

  • We're increasing its damage from 150% to 170%
  • We're increasing the damage for Twin Chakrams from 100% to 114%
  • We're increasing the damage for Serpentine from 203% to 230%
  • We're increasing the damage for Razor Disk from 165% to 187%
  • We're increasing the damage for Boomerang from 188% to 230%
  • We're increasing the damage for Shuriken Cloud from 30% to 34%

Cluster Arrow:

  • We're increasing the initial bomb damage from 200% to 225%
  • We're increasing damage for Maelstrom from 145% to 165%
  • We're increasing damage for Loaded for Bear from 290% to 304%

Iconic Abilities

Just like Hydra for the wizard, Rain of Vengeance is intended to be a trademark spell for the demon hunter. We want it to be one of those buttons on your bar that you look forward to pushing -- not only because it's visually very fitting for the class, but also because it packs one hell of a punch.

While the skill is where it needs to be visually, mechanically it lacks the "oomph" that most iconic class abilities possess. Its damage is just far too low to compete with other skills available.

To bring Rain of Vengeance up to the level it needs to be, we made some pretty notable changes. Not only did we buff the damage, but Rain of Vengeance is one of the skills being converted to a strict X% weapon damage over Y seconds format, as alluded to in the Systems Preview. As a result, the new base skill is quite potent:

   

Current: 75% weapon damage for 5 seconds
1.0.4: 715% weapon damage over 5 seconds

(Anathema now also uses the "X% weapon damage over Y seconds format." Meanwhile, Dark Cloud, Beastly Bombs, Stampede, and Flying Strike are receiving straight boosts to their damage. )

Sentry is also a very distinctive spell that doesn't get used very often. It's interesting mechanically, and it has some nice potential for team play, so we'd like to make it more attractive. The solution was pretty simple for this one: we took its damage, and then we doubled it

 

Be sure to check out our other class previews for patch 1.0.4:

 

Wyatt Cheng is a Senior Technical Game Designer for Diablo III. While living in Texas, a scorpion once crawled out of his shoe. :(

Patch 1.0.4 Preview: Monk

Posted by DHAdmin on August 16th, 2012 at 9:02 am

The third class preview has been posted, this time for the Monk.

Blizzard Quote [source]

The most important changes for the monk in 1.0.4 are aimed at improving damage-focused Spirit Spenders. We're happy with where Spirit Generators are right now, but unfortunately once you have Spirit, there aren’t very many appealing ways to use it.  In many cases, the most effective use of Spirit has been to recast a Mantra repeatedly for the three-second bonus.  While this is certainly one possibility, it doesn't seem as exciting as using one of the more offensively-focused Spirit Spenders (or at least having that option available).

Spirit Spenders

Exploding Palm:
From a strict usability standpoint, we think the visuals for Exploding Palm can be a little difficult to interpret.  It's hard to tell who's affected by the Bleed and who's being damaged by the resulting explosion.  Our Visual Effects team has made some improvements in 1.0.4 which will make it easier for players to tell who's bleeding and who's getting damaged.

From a mechanics standpoint, the three-second Bleed can make the explosion hard to pull off, and the damage just doesn't seem enough to be worth the Spirit cost.  To help with both of these issues, we’re increasing the duration of the Bleed to nine seconds as well as its damage per second, which should make it more likely that monsters you’ve touched with Exploding Palm will go boom when they die.

  

Current: 220% weapon damage over 3 seconds
1.0.4: 745% weapon damage over 9 seconds

(Don't worry, Impending Doom is also having its duration increased to 15 seconds.)

Seven-Sided Strike:
The original intent for Seven-Sided Strike was for it to be a solid damage dealer that you could use for a quick burst. Where Serenity granted you an amazing period of invulnerability, and your other combat skills could put out some damage, Seven-Sided Strike would ideally exist somewhere in the middle by offering some invulnerability and some damage. Unfortunately, the way it currently plays out, Seven-Sided Strike feels more like a bad version of Serenity, and the damage just doesn’t seem worth it. To address this, we’ll be doing a straight damage increase to Seven-Sided Strike to make it an attractive option for those who are looking for a skill that really packs a punch. 

The damage buff to Seven Sided Strike is significant.  And although players rarely complain when a skill gets buffed, it does leave one wondering why a lower damage existed in the first place. 

The answer is: our initial design was flawed in several ways. To get the skill where it needed to be, we  identified three distinct problems that were plaguing not only Seven-Sided Strike, but other class skills as well, and each problem merited a damage increase.

  • First, we're upping the damage of many skills with longer cooldowns in 1.0.4.  Across all classes, if I can only hit a button once every so often, it needs to dole out some significant damage to justify the spot on my bar.  While some skills, like Archon and Wrath of the Berserker, are significant enough to make the cut, there are a lot of skills that need DPS improvements to make their cooldowns worthwhile.  Indeed, many monks use Seven-Sided Strike for the brief invulnerability, not the damage.
     
  • Second, we're also upping the damage on skills that spend Spirit. As mentioned in the introduction, Spirit Spenders are getting buffed because the Spirit cost needs to be weighed against the benefit of using that Spirit on something else -- such as refreshing your Mantra.
     
  • Third, we're taking a hard look at distinctive, class-defining skills that create better tension on your skill bar. We'd like to promote skills that help to fulfill the fantasy of a class; skills that make you feel happy that you chose the class you did.  Since the fantasy of a monk involves being fast, agile, and hard to hit, Seven-Sided Strike seemed like a natural candidate.

We looked at making these improvements across all skills and all classes, and Seven-Sided Strike benefitted all three times.  As a result, the 1.0.4 version of the skill is incredibly potent (we'll save the details for the patch notes).   

Wave of Light:
Wave of Light is the kind of skill that just needs to do way more damage. It has a big Spirit cost, but it doesn’t seem to pay off based on the amount of Spirit invested into it. In general, we’d like Lashing Tail Kick to be a skill that’s good against a small number of targets and feels relatively "spammable," and for Wave of Light to be a skill that’s more of an investment -- something that you don’t use as frequently, but pays out with bigger damage numbers when you actually do hit the button.

  

Current: 215% weapon damage as Holy + 45% damage as AoE
1.0.4: 390% weapon damage as Holy + 45% damage as AoE

This is just for the base skill. Wall of Light, Explosive Light, and Pillar of the Ancients damage has also been buffed up by a fair amount.

Passives

In terms of passives, it's pretty clear at this point that One With Everything is considered a mandatory passive for all monks.  While "mandatory" passives aren't great, making any major change would do more harm than good, particularly when a) incoming damage is so high and b) monks need the extra durability in order to survive. Additionally, as a result of this passive, monks are more heavily tied to their current gear, so making changes to One With Everything would have very noticeable negative repercussions to the gear monks have invested in.

While we'd prefer that there wasn't an "absolutely mandatory" passive, we're going to let this one ride for now. If we do try to make changes we'll ideally do it in a way that doesn't invalidate the passive, doesn't hurt monk survivability, and doesn't undermine the gear people are currently wearing.

Last but not least, we added the ability for monks to wield two-handed weapons in 1.0.3, along with supporting animations. This has allowed some monks who enjoy two-handers to play this way, but it's not always effective. In the Systems Preview, we mentioned that two-handed melee weapons are getting a buff, and that will help.  As additional support, the Spirit generation bonus granted by The Guardian's Path is going to be increased from 25% to 35%.

Be sure to check out our other class previews for patch 1.0.4:

 

Wyatt Cheng is a Senior Technical Game Designer for Diablo III. He's currently debating whether to level his Shadow priest or "Laser Chicken" to 90 first when Mists of Pandaria comes out.

Patch 1.0.4 Preview: Wizard

Posted by DHAdmin on August 15th, 2012 at 6:06 pm

Wyatt Cheng posted the second class change this time about the Wizard.

Blizzard Quote [source]

Like the other classes, the wizard is also seeing a lot of tuning improvements to help promote build diversity. Rather than focus on those minor adjustments, though (which you'll be able to learn more about in the 1.0.4 patch notes), I'm going focus the majority of this preview on Hydra.

Here are the major points I'll cover:

  • Skill design philosophy for Diablo as a whole
  • What makes Venom Hydra as strong as it is
  • Why, rather than nerfing Venom Hydra, we're simply going to buff all the other Hydra variants

Nature of the Beast

From a development standpoint, we love Hydra and put a lot of effort into its design. In fact, Hydra took many times more development time to create than an average skill. There are more art variants, more spell effects, and more lines of code associated with Hydra than almost any other wizard skill in the game (except potentially Archon). We did this because Hydra is an iconic skill in the wizard's arsenal and we wanted it to stand out. When you're in a multiplayer game and you see that Hydra spawn, it's instantly recognizable. And for those who are familiar with the class, you can also immediately tell which rune variant a wizard is running with.

Our goal for Hydra is to not just have each rune variant be visually distinct, but also for it to be better at something than the others. Specifically:

  • Arcane Hydra: Best at AoE
  • Lightning Hydra: Good against targets that move a lot
  • Venom Hydra: Good against targets that stand still
  • Frost Hydra: Good for snaring
  • Mammoth Hydra: Best in hallways

New Tristram, We Have a Problem

Despite these goals, it doesn’t take long to figure out that Venom Hydra is simply the best Hydra to use, regardless of the situation. This is mostly to do with its very high damage output. Although (technically) against fast-moving targets the Lightning Hydra does slightly more damage, Venom Hydra does three times more damage if you get the target to stand still, and that difference is simply too big to pass up. 

The other rune variants have similar issues. The range on the Frost Hydra is too short to be useful. The DPS loss Arcane Hydra takes for being good at AoE makes it too weak versus single targets (especially when you consider that most of the hard fights are against high health Elites). The niche for Mammoth Hydra is very narrow and, if you can get a target to stand still, Venom Hydra does more damage in hallways than Mammoth Hydra anyways.

Five Heads Are Better Than One

To address these issues, we've decided to boost the damage of Lightning, Frost, Arcane, and Mammoth Hydra. Venom Hydra will remain the best against stationary targets, but if the targets are moving in any way, Lightning should be a clear winner. The range of Frost Hydra has been more than doubled as well, which should allow it to fill the intended role of snaring. Arcane Hydra will do less damage than Venom Hydra versus a single target, but rather than doing approximately 60% less damage, choosing it should only cause about a 15-20% DPS hit against single targets -- and you should be much better against groups.  Mammoth Hydra will be getting a modest bump, but ultimately "good in hallways" just doesn't seem like a very good specialty. We're going to keep an eye on this one for now, but down the road we'd like to find something much cooler for the Mammoth Hydra -- like giving it the ability to move around the battlefield without needing to be recast (just as an example).

Here are some raw numbers:

  • Arcane Hydra: Weapon damage increased from 28% to 60% per Arcane Orb
  • Lightning Hydra: Weapon damage increased from 34% to 64%
  • Frost Hydra: Weapon damage increased from 31% to 36%
  • Mammoth Hydra: Weapon damage increased from 22% to 67%

Frost Hydra's cone width has also been changed from 15 yards with a 60 degree spread to 35 yards with a 30 degree spread.

Skill Diversity

One concern is how this change will affect skill diversity.  If our goal is to promote a large variety of builds, why are we taking one of the most powerful wizard runes and then bumping all of the variants to match it rather than simply nerfing Venom Hydra? 

From our point of view, it's okay for Venom Hydra to be extremely powerful.  One of the trickiest things throughout our design process has been creating lots of appealing skills.  You only have six skill slots, so the more appealing skills we can make, the more significant your choice becomes of which skills earn a spot on your bar.  If a Signature skill is on the strong side, it starts to trump the other Signature skills.  If a Signature skill is way too strong then it starts to trump your Arcane Power spenders as well.  This hurts build diversity.  Similar situations exist for Arcane Power spenders, many defensive skills, and the trio of Armor skills (Ice Armor, Storm Armor, and Energy Armor). 

However, in the case of Hydra, the risk of trumping other skills is much lower.  It’s totally okay for Hydra to be one of the most used skills because there’s still a lot of flexibility beyond making it your only source of DPS.  If you can spare the skill slot, you’ll almost certainly want to combine it with a Signature skill to cast while the Hydra is out.  If you can spare two skill slots, you can do even more damage by adding a secondary Arcane Power spender. 

Trigger-Happy

While patch 1.0.4 has very few nerfs, one of them does affect the wizard. Rather than waiting for players to discover this change in the patch notes or while playing, I wanted to call it out here because it affects a build that I find to be quite cool and enjoy a lot. 

Energy Twister is having its proc coefficient reduced from 0.25 to 0.125.  For players who may not know what proc coefficients are: they affect how effectively a skill triggers procs (or effects that have a small chance to activate).  Many skills (like Magic Missile) have a proc coefficient of 1. Skills that hit multiple targets or pulse multiple times have lower proc coefficients. 

In the case of Energy Twister, specifically Wicked Wind, the 0.25 proc coefficient causes the skill to generate more procs in a given time period than any other skill.  Currently, this is used in combination with Critical Mass to lower the cooldown on skills like Frost Nova and Diamond Skin.  By reducing the proc coefficient from 0.25 to 0.125, the build still works and remains fairly strong, but it won’t be quite as good as it is now.  (For those with extremely high Crit rates, you may not even notice much difference, but I wanted to call it out anyway. )

Originally, we weren’t going to make this change, but 1.0.4 also brings with it a number of new Legendary items, and many of them have phenomenal new proc effects.  If we left high proc coefficients as they were, then a handful of skills with higher coefficients would become the de facto choice to use with these sexy new items.  We were faced with a choice: we could either reduce the proc coefficient, or we could make it so these skills could not trigger the procs on Legendary items at all.  We opted for the former because it seemed like getting a Legendary with a proc effect but never seeing it trigger would be very disappointing.  Regardless, having well-balanced proc coefficients on all skills is not only better for Legendaries, but also for the game in the long term.

Buffs, Buffs, and More Buffs

The reduced proc coefficient is just a drop in the bucket, and overall wizards are seeing their fair share of buffing.

In addition to the Hydra buffs, we're also increasing the damage of some lesser used Signature skill runes.  A few skills are very popular right now such as Seeker (Magic Missile) and Piercing Orb (Shock Pulse), so we’ll be buffing the other runes to match.  We'll be revisiting all of the other Signature skill runes with much the same philosophy as Hydra.

Meteor and Arcane Torrent are both going to get buffs, as well, since neither of those feel strong enough to justify the Arcane Power expenditure. 

Meteor:

  • Base damage increased from 200% + 60% over 3 seconds to 260% + 60% over 3 seconds
  • Molten Impact damage increased from 260% +78% over 3 seconds to 390% + 90% over 3 seconds
  • Meteor Shower damage increased from 80% to 104%  for each smaller Meteor
  • Comet damage (of initial hit) increased from 240% to 312%

Arcane Torrent:

  • Arcane Power cost reduced from 20 to 16
  • Base damage increased from 175% to 210%
  • Arcane Mines damage increased from 150% to 180%
  • Cascade damage increased from 175% to 210%
  • Death Blossom projectiles are now less random


Meteor requires the player to correctly predict enemy movement in order to deal maximum damage, and Arcane Torrent requires you to stand still for extended periods of time to do damage.  Since a player is putting in some extra effort to use these skills, some extra damage seems justified.

Be sure to check out our other class previews for patch1.0.4:

  • Barbarian
  • Monk (Coming Soon)
  • Demon Hunter (Coming Soon)
  • Witch Doctor (Coming Soon)

 

Wyatt Cheng is a Senior Technical Game Designer for Diablo III. He loves all of you. Especially you.

North American Battle.net Account Update

Posted by DHAdmin on August 15th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

North American players should log in to their Battle.net account to update their security information.

Blizzard Quote [source]

As a precaution following our recent security update, players on North American servers please take a moment to visit Battle.net account management, where you will be prompted to change your security question as well as update your Mobile Authenticator. There you'll also find helpful tips and an FAQ, as well as instructions on how to add additional layers of security to your account, including the Battle.net Authenticator or the Mobile Authenticator for those that aren't already using one.

Patch 1.0.4 Preview: Barbarian

Posted by DHAdmin on August 15th, 2012 at 10:30 am

Wyatt Cheng posted the first class change preview starting off with the Barbarian.

Blizzard Quote [source]

One of our primary goals with class changes in patch 1.0.4 is to help improve build diversity. Of course, this has been a goal for the Diablo III development team since launch, but our approach this patch has been a little different. For 1.0.4, we're taking a good look at some of the most unpopular skills for each class, figuring out why they aren't being used in your builds, and then seeing how we can make them better -- either by redesigning how they work or just buffing the hell out of them.

For barbarians, we focused on improving the following areas:

  • Bash and Cleave are not very attractive compared to Frenzy
  • Many of the damage-oriented Fury Spenders don't do enough damage to justify the spot on your bar

Fury Generators

Frenzy:
It’s easy to see why Frenzy is the most popular Fury Generator right now.  It generates a solid amount of Fury, it has the highest single-target damage of any Fury generator, and it has the highest single-target healing using Life on Hit.  The bonus attack speed also provides good combat mobility as well as the option to focus all your damage on a single target or distribute it between multiple targets as needed.  We're going to buff Bash and Cleave to be viable alternatives to Frenzy for people who would like to try a different play style.

Bash:
From a design perspective, Bash should be the definitive choice when it comes to maximizing your Fury generation. That’s not currently the case, and given the current state of the game, this means attacking the problem from two sides. First, we need to make Fury a more attractive resource to build up (which also means making Fury Spenders more attractive, which I talk about below). Second, we’re going to increase the amount of Fury generated by Bash from 6 to 8, as well as the amount of weapon damage done by Bash from 150% to 165%.  The goal is to make Bash not only a very compelling option if you decide you want to focus on Fury generation, but also an appealing single-target alternative to Frenzy if you don’t enjoy its mechanics (like having to manage Frenzy stacks).  Currently, Frenzy surpasses Bash in single-target damage as soon as you have your third stack of Frenzy, and it feels like the breakpoint should be around the fourth stack instead. These changes should help better balance the appeal of the two skills.  

Cleave:
Looking at the three basic Fury Generators (Frenzy, Bash and Cleave), the role of Cleave is fairly straight-forward: it should be the clear winner when there is more than one target to hit. In a single-target situation, however, Cleave will always perform worse than Bash and Frenzy. While this is intended to a degree, the amount of single-target damage you currently have to give up feels too great to make the trade-off worthwhile. At an extreme, if Cleave did almost exactly the same damage as Bash or Frenzy, but had the ability to hit a second target when one was around, Cleave would definitely become that “clear winner.” So, to make it more appealing to some players, our goal is then to find that sweet spot between where Cleave is now and doing the same single-target as Frenzy and Bash.  We’re going to increase both the damage and proc coefficient on Cleave to close the gap when fighting a single target.

Fury Spenders

For many players, using Hammer of the Ancients, Seismic Slam, or Rend just doesn’t seem worth it.  To make these skills more attractive, we're going to straight up buff their damage across the board.  How much?  Well,  we noticed that more players use Battle Rage than any of these other Fury Spenders, but Battle Rage is less exciting to use and doesn’t quite evoke the same visceral joy.  So, we used Battle Rage and Frenzy as our starting point.  We basically asked ourselves the question "How much damage would Hammer of the Ancients have to do in order to make Frenzy + Hammer [of the Ancients] as appealing as Frenzy + Battle Rage?"  Players who really want to go the extra mile for the most damage could go so far as to combine all three skills together, so we kept that in mind as well.  

Hammer of the Ancients vs. Battle Rage was a simple starting point, but we used similar approaches with Seismic Slam, and Rend.  The basic idea was: Fury generation isn’t attractive to players because Fury spending isn’t attractive to players, so what do the numbers need to be to fix that? To continue using Hammer of the Ancients as an example:

  • We're increasing its base damage from 200% to 325%
  • We're increasing the damage for Rolling Thunder from 155% to 275%
  • We’re increasing the damage for Smash from 270% to 406%

And to provide another example, here’s what we’re doing with Rend:

  • Weapon damage increased from 210% over 3 seconds to 700% over 5 seconds
  • Lacerate weapon damage increased from 271% over 3 seconds to 903% over 5 seconds
  • Bloodbath weapon damage increased from 60% over 3 seconds to 100% over 5 second

With these improvements (Whirlwind and Seismic Slam will be receiving similar tweaks to improve their viability), we hope to see Fury Spenders become more appealing for all levels of play.

But What About…

I'll close by adding that there are no changes planned for either Sprint or Battle Rage, so all you crazy double tornado barbarians will still be able to log in after 1.0.4 goes live and continue with your current build. Or, you can try out some of the new toys we’re adding. Either way, we hope you have fun and are looking forward to 1.0.4!

Be sure to check out our other class previews for patch 1.0.4:

  • Wizard
  • Monk (Coming Soon) 
  • Demon Hunter (Coming Soon)
  • Witch Doctor (Coming Soon)

 

Wyatt Cheng is a Senior Technical Game Designer for Diablo III. He is currently trying to convince a friend to make him a baneling plushie doll. (Any takers?)

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