Ok I might be wrong but it seems to me like the current direction essentially has the same flaws as D3's design. It looks deeper, but it really isn't, which will probably lead to the same issues with the game.
Take the new stat system for example. It seems to me like break-point effects would always dominate any gains from arbitrary stat acquisitions, as otherwise they would be pretty lack-luster. This means that the actual choice here is which break-point effects do I want for my build? and then just allocating your stats so that you would get them. You are basically choosing 4 passives, but with extra steps that make it feel deep without really adding depth.
The same goes with legendary affixes. They are super-discrete choices (you either have them or not), exactly like the break-point effects on skills. Since they are not item-bound / slot-bound, the real choice is just which legendary affixes do I want for my build? and then farming until you get them. Again, you are choosing 4 passives, but with extra steps that make it feel deep without really adding depth.
Since these two systems cover the skills and items, I think this means your choices for your character basically boils down to choice of like 8 passives or something.
Note that this is NOT an issue on itself. It is just when your choices are so binary / discreet, designing them and balancing them in a way that allows for emergent gameplay becomes much MUCH harder. This is what happened to D3 in the end: they first gave us lots of streamlined discrete choices, but the emergent gameplay, i.e. top builds that the players found on their own, basically broke the game. To mitigate, the devs assumed full control of how the game should be played, leaning towards a pre-designed gameplay style.
And I know this might not be the popular opinion around here, but this was the main flaw of D3. Not lack of character permanence, not lack of stat allocation, even not having a super huge and deep skill-tree. It was that we were pushed to play in particular ways the devs wanted us to, instead of playing the way we liked. This is what takes from replay-ability. Not an illusion of choice (e.g. the proposed stat system) or necessity of long grinds (e.g. farming legendaries with proper affixes).
To re-iterate, I don't think the discrete nature of these choices will inherently lead to a stale meta and therefore lack of replay-ability. I just think its much harder to design a game ripe for emergent gameplay and creative solutions with such systems in place.
The reason is also simple: take a particular affix / effect X. Your only choice with regards to this affix is having it / not having it in a particular build (there is no 20% having it or something). If not having it differs much from having it, this means a great difference between the exactly correct version of a particular build and non-correct ones. If the difference is not that much, and the number of such choices is rather limited, then you don't have that many meaningful choices to begin with. If there is an abundance of such choices, then it already is something akin to +X points to this / +Y% to that rather than discrete binary choices, so it would have been better to design it that way to begin with.
This can be balanced though, if:
- There is a relative abundance of these choices, with all of them being meaningful (for example, each skill having multiple break-point effects for different stats)
- These effects / affixes work physically together and can be mixed and matched as such, so their synergies is not pre-determined.
- There are non-binary choices (e.g. stats) that DO NOT compete with either each other or these affixes, so generally the difference between the perfect build and not-so-perfect-but-cool build is mitigated to some degree and the game can be efficiently designed around both of them being fun to play.
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© Post "Emergent vs Pre-designed Gameplay | Quarterly Update Feedback" for game Diablo 3.
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