The Rune: Wrap Up Musings/Links

Last week I finished my Rune short story, and before I transition back to the third Shadow Wolf Tale I would like to share a few thoughts.

Here are links to the collected chapters of the Rune

Rune One, Rune Two, Rune Three, Rune Four, Rune Five, Rune Six, Rune Six part 2 , Rune Seven, Rune Eight, and Rune Nine.

My first comment is an oops. As you can see from the list above I used 1.6 twice… so sloppy.

In no particular order:

  • I’m getting better at writing in first person. I think it is fair to say that these little exercises are paying off.
  • I like the ending to The Rune. I felt having him return to the cell, rewound, worked very well. It should leave most readers wondering. For bonus points. it is a flexible ending: I could pick it up from there as a longer story or I could leave it as is.
  • I like the nomenclature of ‘Amy with the Gun’, it is an interesting way to delineate a character and conveys a lot of personality.
  • My modern action scenes need a little bit of work. I wonder if it comes from the way early RPGs treated guns, which caused me to shy away from them most of the time and then mess up with them when gaming. Come to think of it, the action in my Shadowrun game might suffer from the same problem. Regardless, I think I need to work on gunplay descriptions. I write a decent action scene with other forms of weaponry, but I may need to sit down and really research guns or invent my own gun analogue.

Overall, I enjoyed writing the story, but I think it needs work, especially in the middle.

Stay tuned for The Shadow Wolf Sagas next week.

 

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Battle Tactics: The Battle of the Bastards (TV version)

(SPOILERS for Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire)

I am not a huge fan of the later books in GRRM’s A song of ice and fire, so I have not really delved into the TV show, with the exception of when there is a major battle to watch. This most recent season had the famous battle of the Bastards which was one of the most visually spectacular and exciting battles out there. I loved it.

Mostly.

I have a serious problem with the way that Bolton’s spear wall is portrayed. Take a look at the following pictures:

BoB 1

Big shields and a wall of spears… a strong shield wall ha turned back many a barbarian horde hasn’t it? Note that men can easily fit between the spears and despite the length of the weapon it is only braced by two men.

BoB 3

Some unlucky Wilding gets too close to the shield wall and gets an ugly surprise. Note the long length of exposed wood on these spears.

BoB 2

The size of the forces involved. What happens if all of the Wildlings, fearing death, push in one direction?

.

BoB 4

Another view showing the relative size of the forces involved. The reaction of any force being squeezed like this is to push back at some point in a desperate attempt to survive.

So the Bolton Spearwall is an odd duck.

  • The shields are enormous individually, but do not gain the strength that a smaller shield overlapping with a neighbors shield would.
  • The spears are a long as some pikes but only have one set of extra hands bracing them and absolutely no support from spears further back in the formation. The main deterrent from pushing into a phalanx is that one is always exposed to more rows of spears, there is no safe channel for men to flow through to get to the shields.
  • Several of the Wildlings are shown making it to the shields. One opens up and delivers a swords thrust to keep the man back. This is great TV, but terrible tactics for a spearwall where it would be far better to ward the front rank with more spears. The sword thrust appears to come from the man in the second rank, which is a pretty long lunge, and that oversize shield looks awful clumsyand hard to get back into place.

I would argue that the Wildlinsg would push back against the shields of the Bolton men. The spear density is just too sparse to stop them and the enemy ranks are too thin to prevent a breakout. Once the mass of bodies is pushing against the shields (which is inevitable, one way or another) it is very hard for the front man to move his shield aside for the man behind him to thrust with a blade. The Romans used shorter, wider shields that they could thrust over.

Some would argue that the Bolton spearwall bears some similarities to medieval spear units, the Roman Legion, or even that the Bolton men are so good or the Wildlings are so unused to formation fighting that they could not get up to the shields to push back.

Fine. What then stops the Wildlings from doing exactly the first thing that leaps to mind when I look at that spearwall: What stops the Wildings from grabbing the spears or hacing the points off? In a true Phalanx the secondary spears could thrust out to prevent this. Nothing at all prevents it in the battle of the bastards. No matter how stupid and fearful the Wildlings are eventually someone is going to hack the head off of one of those spears, or, worse yet, grab them and pull. It would only take three men pulling to overpower the two men holding the spear in the Bolton formation.

The Macedonian Phalanx

The Macedonean Phalanx. One of the pinnacles of formation warfare. The pikes are braced by numerous men and defended by row after row of spear tips that could thrust forward to ward off anyone pushing into the formation. 

Even then a true fanboy could argue that I am wrong and it does not have to turn out that way. A particularly cynical chap might say that they were overawed or low on morale, ready to be slaughtered like animals.

Ok. So what then happens when those spears start pushing into the mass of men and getting weighed down by bodies. Each of those spears would rapidly become useless as it pushes into the packed Wildlings. After it impales a few it becomes a liability as the rest can easily surge over the encumbered weapon and get into the Bolton line before it reforms. In a true spearwall the additional spears could be used to push bodies off, but more importantly they provide immediate replacements when the front spear gets broken, pulled away, or becomes unwieldy due to impaled bodies, there are immediate replacements already in place.

I admit I am being picky. Fans loved the Battle of the Bastards. The problem is many of those fans, like my own stepson, will go on to write their own fantasy tales/shows/games and I do not want to see them compound on this error.

Reading and Reviews

This has been an eventful week for me, and I wanted to share some of the good stuff.

First up, popping my cherry at the Chi Series Guelph. Public reading has been low on my list as an indy author. Hell, public anything rarely rates high on my priorities, unless it involves politics or written discussion.

Nonetheless, a friend invited me to read at a local event in Guelph, held at the Red Brick Cafe, just down the street from the apartment where I wrote my first two books.

I have to say that while I was nervous, the experience turned out to be very positive, with the added bonus of meeting some lovely people and talking with other authors, face to face. The experienced convinced me that I should stop acting like a hermit and attend a few more events.

And now for a common complaint you hear from authors: that most dreaded of subjects, the Amazon Review.

This week Amazon saw fit to take down my mother’s review of my first book (in which she identified herself as my mother and gave it a less that perfect 3/5). I have no problem with that — Amazon does say in the TOS that relatives should not be reviewing each other’s works, but it does annoy me that a small group of them took the time to mock her before taking down the review.

Mom, it was an honour to have your review.

That aside, the issue did get me to sit down and take a look at my amazon reviews. I have sold a fair number of books, but have very few reviews on Amazon — almost an order of magnitude less than the reviews that I have on Goodreads. This hinders sales a little, I think, but mostly it seems that the review system needs to be reworked and properly incentived. Amazon should do more to solicit reviews from readers or take a page from Steam and post the book’s Goodreads score as a secondary indicator, which Steam does with Metacritic. Amazon owns Goodreads, after all.

I also think that all of a book’s reviews should show up on its page, instead of being divided by region of purchase. More information is better, especially if it is well organized. Extra review scores would help authors and readers and an increased number of reviews helps weed out fakers and reviewers for hire.

Just some thoughts, cheer!

Ruminations on Intellectual Property: Stranded Worlds

Last week, while writing about how I was playing so many games based on Warhammer Fantasy, I stumbled across the fact that Games Workshop had destroyed the Old World, a setting with over two decades of history and development as a prelude to their new game Age of Sigmar. This fact has been occupying my mind and keeping me up late into the night.

First off, I am neither for, nor against Age of Sigmar here. It certainly has its fans, and some of the ideas within it could prove revolutionary. The mechanics seem weak to me, but I can see how they would appeal to a certain kind of enthusiast.

On the other hand I am deeply offended by the idea that Games Workshop crumpled up a wonderful, deeply developed world just because a competitor knocked Warhammer Fantasy out of the second spot in the list of top ten wargames. I get the need to retool your games lineup when faced with serious competition, especially in a publicly traded company where shareholders have serious performance expectations. That makes sense, even if it may be an unpalatable decision. What I do not get is burning the bridge that got you there. While winding down Warhammer Fantasy for a while may have been a good business decision, even a necessary one, nothing on earth will convince me that the destruction of the Old World setting is a good idea. Let me break that down.

  1. The value of settled IP: The warhammer was and is a valuable piece of intellectual property above and beyond the Warhammer Fantasy game. Books, Background Fluff, Magazine Articles, and Computer Games all contributed greatly to the many editions of the game, gradually turning what was a stock fantasy world into some thing that felt like a living, breathing universe. That kind of IP has incredible value, and harming it by destroying the world just seems senseless.
  2. You don’t need to destroy Warhammer Fantasy or The Old World to create Age of Sigmar: Age of Sigmar is meant to replace Warhammer Fantasy, but there is no real reason that GW can’t just sit on Warhammer Fantasy and promote Age of Sigmar as a different product, instead of a direct replacement. Their goal was not to reinvigorate an old setting, but rather to attract new people to the hobby. Age of Sigmar borrows lore and characters, but really has little to do with the older game. They can easily co-exist.
  3. Even if Warhammer Fantasy is not working, The Old World IP is still very valuable: Even now, while computer game developers and others are in a frenzy making games based on the old world, GW seems to be holding its nose while farming out this valuable IP. So far, that has not hurt, but it is only a matter of time before it is degraded. Put in a fashion that even a biz-dev can grok, the Old World IP is an asset, one which has tremendous potential and value, and it should be treated as such.
  4. A Grimdark Fantasy World with Strong Urban Themes: I wish I had the millions lying around to buy this thing just as computer games and fantasy fiction in general are exploring these themes. While Warhammer Fantasy may or may not have needed shelving, the IP is more relevant than ever.

Currently, I feel that the Old World has a chance of becoming what I am going to call a Stranded World. The IP is still valuable, but that value will decrease over time without new official material and new promotions. The current crop of computer games will offer a short term boost to that IP, but without management and new material that is considered cannon, it will wilt and die. This would be a tragedy, and not just to the players and developers of that world, but to the people who might enjoy experiencing it in new games and novels.

By tossing a valuable IP in the garbage can, Games Workshop management has shown that they are not respectful of the assets that have been created for the company that they run. Age of Sigmar could be a tremendous, smash hit, but ruining the Old World Warhammer Fantasy setting was not necessary and degrades the value of a real, tangible asset that was carefully grown for decades and is still in demand. It is a bad decision all around. You don’t have to burn your bridges to start something new.

PS: Total War Warhammer ended up being the fastest selling Total War game ever, bringing a lot of players to the series. Overall it ended up being pretty stellar, and with a strong modding community (hundreds of mods three weeks after release) it seems to be a good replacement for the lost awesome of the old Warhammer tabletop. See my review.

The Two Diablos: D&D, Game Mechanics, and Design Philosophy PART FOUR

The first two articles in this series dealt with the differences between Diablo II and Diablo III, two of my favourite computer Action RPGs. The third post discussed how the systems clash between the Damage and Primary Attribute systems and the Itemization system and how Blizzard had to work hard to fix the gameplay contract, namely a game based exciting loot drops that provide the primary means of customization.

In this post I talk about another gameplay contract: namely that of the sequel. D3 is the sequel to D2 in the franchise, but many players point to other games as spiritual successors, and some even feel that the story line in D3 does not mesh at all with D2. But that is jumping ahead of myself. There is an even more basic question that must be answered here:

How much does a sequel owe to the original?

I will admit that I was pissed off that D2 did not have the same classes as the first iteration of the game. My initial complaints, however, were drowned in a Tsunami of awesome new features, combined with reverence for the original game that I knew and loved. D2 was more or less everything I loved about D1, but with better systems and a sweet skill tree to boot. Once I understood the new classes, I saw why they did away with the old. It was pure evolution.

Many people feel that a sequel to a beloved game should stick to improvements on existing systems and save the real innovation for new things (like the skill trees, set items, and sockets added in D2) and not rock the boat too much.

Others are obsessed with originality, and feel that every iteration of a game, even a sequel should strive to be new and different. These critics fear the stagnation that comes with sticking to a tried and true formula.

Both sides have a point, of course. If a sequel strays too far from the original it risks offending fans, on the other hand stagnation seems to be the order of the day with AAA games like Call of Duty and Assassins Creed turning out very, very similar games at a yearly rate.

In the end, a sequel should strive to stay true to the original but it must also try to make improvements in the series.

Is Diablo III a true sequel to Diablo II and why do I keep referencing D&D?

While I love D3, it is not a true sequel to D2, and I feel it breaks the gameplay contract by straying too far afield. D3 changed too many core systems and has an entirely different feel to character creation, leveling, story, and even the role that items play. While it doesn’t bother me, I can see why it upset a large number of people who loved the older games.

I am a huge fan of Dungeons and Dragons. I don’t play the game much anymore, I prefer homebrew systems, although I still own books from every edition. Nonetheless, D&D opened up the world of role-playing games for me, and kindled my interest in fantasy, so I love the game. (For the record, I think 5th ed D&D is a great edition for new players and nostalgia driven fans, but that is a different tale.)

Most of the editions of D&D follow a very similar evolutionary pattern, with relatively changes with each new version of the system. Obviously some players preferred the older editions, but as a whole each one felt like a natural progression from the last; even if you did not like where that progression went, you could still see where it came from.

Not so with 4th edition D&D. 4th was a major departure, leaving behind tried and true systems in favour of radical new ideas like encounter and daily powers, healing surges, and so on. Gone were the days when the fighter was defined by being the guy with the high attack value and multiple swings. Interestingly 4th ed also introduced the idea of each class having a primary attribute that mattered more than anything else on all their powers.

Sound familiar? There is no direct connection between D3 and D&D 4th but the design philosophy is very similar. Let me break it down:

  1. Fear of sub-optimal character builds: Both D&D 4th and D3 are afraid that a player might gimp their character by building it wrong. This is where the primary attribute and damage mechanics prevalent in these games come from: they are meant to prevent a player from playing a barbarian who puts all his points in charisma and is not as effective as a strength based barbarian.
  2. A desire for “smooth” gameplay experience and power curves: the statistical analysis that goes into both game is pretty impressive — it has to be because bucking the curve in either one results in a character that is either too weak or game-breakingly powerful. In D3 this is handled by allowing the player to shift difficulties, while in D&D 4th it is up to the DM to be aware of it. Because these systems are so tightly wound around having a certain character efficiency at a certain level they require special systems to cope with outliers. A good example is in D&D 4th where campaigns without magic items must compensate characters with special bonuses to hit and damage so that they can keep up with the expected curve. In D3 they replaced the old normal/nightmare/hell difficulty progression with player selected difficulty, which gives an entirely different feel to the game. When I say replaced, I mean it: D3 originally had a normal/nightmare/hell progression system (with a new level, inferno tacked on… badly) but it scrapped this in favour of a player controlled system, partly to compensate for outliers. In D2 players who bucked the power curve could simply progress at their own pace, but this is a less effective control in a game where DPS is so rigidly defined.
  3. Rigidity of Design: This is the real kicker. Both D&D 4th and D3 are rigidly designed games. Their basic systems are not flexible at all. In creating a polished, balanced experience they have filed off some rough edges that actually had real design purpose in their predecessors. A good example of this is levels in D2 versus levels in D3. In D3 Levels mostly act as a control — unlocking new powers and determining what level of gear you can equip. In D2 Levels were a core framework, directly determining how powerful a character was by offering precious skill levels and attribute points. As a core system levels advanced beyond the difficult of most areas in the game, allowing even the most casual of players to eventually conquer a difficult area by leveling up. A corresponding example would be hit chances in D&D 4th. Prior to 4th the fighter classes enjoyed a much higher attack bonus than other classes, allowing them to reliably land melee attacks, even on higher level creatures. Mages and Rogues were compensated with other abilities such as massive damage spells or exceptional skills and positional attacks. In 4th everyone has very similar damage potentials, hit chances, skill levels, and the general utility of spells just disappears. Most of the flavour and a lot of the flexibility are ground off in order to satisfy design goals of smooth play, balance, and safe builds.

The Gameplay Contract of Sequels

Ultimately a player expects a sequel to be faithful to the original. IP aside, D3 is as guilty of being unfaithful to the original design as 4th edition is. Both games are good in their own right (yes, some people like 4th, get over it), but just play differently than their predecessors. The design philosophy is simply too different. Both D&D 4th edition and Diablo III were influenced by the reigning king of fantasy games at the time: World of Warcraft which needs the systems that they embrace (builds, smoothness, rigidity) to handle the needs of a very different player base.

D2 and D3 are both Isometric Action RPGs with cool randomized loot, but that basically describes the genre that Diablo built. Many games that have been created since are evolutions of D2 while if I took away the name and the visuals I doubt you would recognize D3’s pedigree. The game’s systems are radically different and thus it is easy to see why some people who truly love D2 just feel betrayed by the sequel, even though it is a really fun game. It just isn’t faithful to the original, is it?

The Two Diablos: D&D, Game Mechanics, and Design Philosophy PART TWO

This week I am continuing my breakdown of the main mechanical differences between Diablo 2 and Diablo 3 [Click here to read the first part]

Before I delve into the the major differences again, I think that it is important to point out that there is a huge disparity of time between the two releases. Diablo 2 was released in 2000 and Diablo 3 was released in 2012. Interestingly the editions of D&D in publication at the time if release were 3rd and 4th edition respectively: I find that significant for several reasons, and I will write about that after I break down the major feature differences, likely next week.

  • Skills
    • D2: Diablo 2 was an early pioneer of skill tree systems, and certainly the most dominant game of the time to use them. The skill trees offered both active, passive, and uniquely flavoured class skills like paladin auras or barbarian shouts. Each class had around 30 different skills once everything was unlocked. Each skill could take up to 20 skill points to maximize (excluding items, which could push the total up to 30 or more IIRC) in effectiveness.
      • A maximum level character could have up to 110 skill points at level 99, spread out over 30 skills with up to 20 levels this made for a large potential variety in builds.
        • Some skills were weaker than others or just did not fit into popular build strategies. Thus, despite the high potential variety, it was argued that actual variety was fairly small in top tier character builds. This was something they tried to address in D3.
      • Some skills had “sweet spots” other than maxing the skill out, while the main skills used by most builds generally desired a full 20 levels at level cap.
        • As a counterpoint, viable builds did have some variety within each build beyond just the core of that build.
        • Mana costs often increased as the skill went up in level. This could result in an odd situation or sweet spot where the player would not want to increase a skill just because the increased cost to effect ratio did not work out. Some skills would decrease in mana cost at higher skill levels as well, which was inconsistent.
      • Skill trees followed a set pattern to get to higher level branches on the tree. This led to characters having to take points in skills that they would not always use. It was fairly minor, but aggravating to some players.
    • D3: Diablo 3 moved away from the skill tree and followed an entirely different skill system. Skills are divided into active skills and passive skills. Each active skill has six runes that can alter the effects of the base skill, often radically. The idea behind this was that there would be a higher variety of builds in D3, since every skill is viable. In practice, however, the variety is limited in the same way as D2 since some skill/rune combos simply work better with the build you want. D3 makes it very easy to switch skills, runes, and passives which create a sense of fluidity in the character.
      • Instead of mana each class has its own unique power pool which helps create a unique flavour for the class.
        • Honestly, aside from different names and different colours the different resources do not really change playstyle too much. If you notice them at all, it is usually because you have run dry…
      • Runes often alter the damage type of the skill. This allows every class to build around certain damage types without limiting their endgame. On the other hand, given the way DPS scaling works in practice you want your skill damage types to match up with any weapon bonuses as much as possible, which can be limiting.
      • Skills in D3 do not have levels. This follows in the same vein as attributes. The way to make your skill more powerful is not to put skill points into it but rather to level your prime attribute, mostly through items, and increase the DPS of your weapon.
      • Items can radically alter some skills, often in very powerful ways.
  • Damage
    • D2: In Diablo 2 damage can come from multiple places. Spells had their own base damage determined by skill level. Strength added to melee weapon damage, while dexterity added ranged weapon damage. A mage character could viably use a weak weapon with desirable bonuses instead of having to max their DPS so long as they had a decent level of skill in their spells.
    • D3: In Diablo 3 all attacks use the same DPS, determined by the weapon the character wields and their primary attribute level. This same DPS level determines the characters base damage for all attacks. Thus your wizard had better well be really well armed.
      • I cannot emphasize how much this makes the two systems play differently, especially in conjunction with the primary attribute system. Weapons in D3 are ridiculously important and weapon damage, along with the bonuses accrued by equipment to your character`s primary stat take the place of skill levels as a provider of damage and even advancement. Shoehorning everything into one stat seems to reduce the variety of play in the game, which seems greatly at odds with the desire to promote variety.
      • The DPS system in D3 was the first indication to me that the game was overdesigned. I will discuss what I mean by that later, but basically it is a level of polish in a system that smooths the game out but makes it rather bland at the same time.
      • Oddly monsters in D3 mostly kill the player with ground effects.
  • Scaling
    • D2: In Diablo 2 monsters had a set power level based on what act on what difficulty level you encountered them on. Damage scaled based on weapon wielded, attributes, and to a huge extent the level of the skill being used. If an area was too tough the player could level up and keep trying until they overcame the enemy.
    • D3: In Diablo 3 difficulty scales with the player and player choices. If an area is too tough, which is unlikely given how smooth the game is, the player can change the difficulty (this is different than when it was first released, when it followed a similar system to d2). You cannot overcome content by outleveling it in the same way that you could in D2.
      • On the other hand you have the ability to start the game on a higher difficulty with new characters, which is nice.
      • The addition of paragon levels to D3 did add some customization to the game, although it is still limited by the game`s inflexible approach to stats.
  • Gear
    • D2: Gear is very important in Diablo 2. Items can make a huge difference in power level. Gear is randomized and is one of the major rewards of playing, beyond simply gaining levels. The Gear system in D2 influences a huge number of modern games.
      • Gear in D2 did scale, but that scaling was not nearly as regimented and the most powerful gear could be found and equipped long before reaching level 99.
    • D3: Gear in Diablo 3 follows the same scaling patterns as World of Warcraft and other MMOs, increasing greatly in power from level to level.
      • Until you reach maximum level in D3 your gear, especially your weapon is disposable. Find an awesome artifact? well it will be good for a few levels at least. This is because the whole game was designed around gear advancement and then balanced to perfection and beyond.
      • Gear in D3 is the main method of mechanical customization. I would go so far as to say that what to equip is the only meaningful choice beyond class that a D3 player must consider.
      • Gear in D3 has a large variety of properties, however, many of these properties are less desirable as others. DPS, Primary attributes, Vitality, and regeneration are of supreme importance. Given that character advancement is so dependent on gear desirable stats become must haves and the variety in gear is actually reduced to better or worse and a few rare abilities that only occur on artifacts.

Ultimately The gear system in D3 is where all of the overdesign problems came home to roost and I think it is at the root of why so many people feel the game was not better than its predecessor, despite a much bigger budget. I will tackle that next week!

The Two Diablos: D&D, Game Mechanics, and Design Philosophy PART ONE

This is an article about game systems, using one of my favourite game series to illustrate some comments about game theory.

I love both Diablo II and Diablo III, having put hundreds of hours into both. Recently I started playing III again with my girlfriend after work, just as a way of winding down. Luckily for us little Ronan is not offended by this past-time and seems content to feed, sleep, or coo at us from his play-mat as long as we don’t run too long.

Alpha gamers are very vocal about how much they like D2 over D3, and Blizzard has been very forthcoming lately about mistakes and theorycraft around the game. Fans have deconstructed the game as well, but Blizzard’s analysis is very metric driven, which makes it interesting to me.

In both Diablos the player takes control of a single character and runs them through a series of procedurally generated levels. The view is isometric (top down — action figure view if you will) and the main action has the player using various powers to mow down huge hordes of enemies and collect loot: money, modifiers, junk, and powerful magical items. The story in both games is about the player and their allies stopping the lords of hell, usually led by Diablo, and other forces from destroying the world. It is seriously epic stuff, but the story is somewhat convoluted to accommodate game length.

While the story, user interface, and basic elements of both games are very similar there is a deep divide between game mechanics and the driving philosophies behind them. This is why many players hate Diablo III with a passion; if those mechanical changes take away what you loved about D2, very little will make you love D3 — the games are just too different to gamers with an eye for mechanics.

Interestingly, this phenomena reminds me of the fragmentation of the D&D audience with the release of 4th Edition, which was an enormous departure from previous editions of the game. Even more interestingly, some of the major shifts in Diablo III are also present in D&D 4th, especially structuring characters around an all-important primary attribute and the role of loot.

Let’s break down some of the major differences between the two games.

  • Levels
    • D2: Diablo II had a level cap of 99. Each time you leveled up you were given a skill point and a few attribute points. The skill tree had a great deal of breadth, as well as serious depth with 20 base levels in most skills. It could take you some time to max out the few skills used by your build.
      • Monster and item levels did not progress as far as player levels for the most part. Once you reached the final act on hell difficulty monsters rarely got more difficult. This allowed players to outlevel content that might be otherwise hard for their build to overcome.
      • Reaching level 99 and finishing your skill build was a huge deal. Quests often added extra skills and attribute points, ensuring that players wanted to finish all of them on every level.
    • D3: Diablo III has a level cap of 70 (although it has paragon levels, you don’t get new skills beyond 70). Each time you level up your stats increase and you get a new rune, skill, or skill slot. You don’t have any permanent choices to make, and you can switch your skills out with ease.
      • Level in D3 serves an entirely different purpose than it does in D2. It mostly serves as a throttle for gear and a way to slowly distribute skills and powers over the early parts of the game so the player does not drown in choice and has some sense of progression.
      • There is less sense of building a character in D3 because of the way level is used. You certainly would not see people rolling different types of Paladins — you can just change skills whenever you want, which is both good and bad (also very much like D&D 4th)
  • Attributes
    • D2: In Diablo II each attribute functioned more or less the same for every character. While you could gimp your barbarian by maxing INT instead of STR, you sure had more mana. This could actually be useful for some builds. This was compounded by the fact that not all sources of damage depended on a prime attribute, often the level of the skill made the largest difference in damage done.
      • The balance between player choice in attributes was measure against the chance of making mistakes or just confusion as to what each build required.
      • Attributes offered a minimal, but impactful point of customization, both on gear and on leveling up. Sadly, like much of D2 they were not explained well enough for casual players to get it.
    • D3: Diablo III has a very rigid sense of character attributes. Players want to maximize the primary attribute for their class and vitality for hit points, and can safely ignore the other two beyond minimal levels.
      • Attributes are mostly increased through items, increasing the importance of gear.
      • Attribute customization is minimal. You want as much in your primary and vitality as possible and can only really get it from gear.
      • There is no common resource pool — each class has its own way of powering effects, removing the need for balancing mana for your build.
      • The Primary Attribute Mechanic when combined with the Damage Per Second system are what I consider to be one of the cardinal flaw of Diablo III, which I will have to explain in a later post. Just keep in mind how rigid the system is — there really is no choice here, beyond optimizing gear. What is the point in having four attributes when my character is really ever going to use two?

As you can see, there is a huge difference in just two basic systems. In next week’s post I will cover Gear, Damage, Scaling, and Abilities, before delving into the differences in reasoning and where they come from.