Diablo 3

My Vision For A Skill And Itemization System That A Good Diablo 4 Can Be Built On

diablo9 - My Vision For A Skill And Itemization System That A Good Diablo 4 Can Be Built On
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TLDR at the bottom.

Primary Idea: Skill modification and enhancement should be accomplished through the skill tree, not through gear affixes. Each skill should have it's own skill tree, which allows for many skill customization options and can even completely change how the skill functions.

This builds upon the "skill runes" concept in Diablo 3 and the "gem + linked support gems" concept in Path of Exile and takes it to the next level. I'll take an example from the Diablo 4 demo which featured a staff that changed fireball to instead shoot 3 fireballs that do 45% damage each. Such a cool modification! But it feels so bad that it's tied to a single piece of gear. If you want your fireball augmented in that way you are forever tied to using that legendary staff. That's exactly where Diablo 3 went wrong with itemization and it pidgeonholed people into certain items and sets and predetermined your skills and build. Having items modify your skills and skill interactions was a negative consequence of not having any character building or customization built into the game. Imagine if the team designed each skill with it's own skill tree and gave players the power to customize and enhance each of their skills to their liking, choosing between multiple effects, stacking them, or completely changing how the skill functions. That's an insane level of depth and customization that is still intuitive and easy to understand even for new players, unlike some of systems in Path of Exile that require players to "just know" how they work or have a Wiki open every time they play the game.

I'm just going to use a single skill as an example: Frozen Orb. Through Frozen Orb's skill tree you could increase the duration of Frozen Orb. You could increase the speed of frozen orb. These effects can combine with each other (maybe some of them are incompatible with each other though). You could increase the duration and reduce the speed so that it becomes a slow moving Frozen Orb that lasts a few seconds, while you throw out fireballs while it slowly carves a path through monsters before finally expiring, and then you can recast it. You could change it to a stationary Frozen Orb that spawns wherever you choose and it and just radiates death from that point. You could modify it so that when you recast it you teleport to it's location, and then modify it so it explodes and can freeze enemies as well. There's sooo many different ideas the devs could experiment with and add, and this is just a single skill example. It would be so much better to have these things in a skill tree as opposed to being bound to specific items (which seems to be where the Diablo 4 team is headed, unfortunately). The devs could continue to add various skill mods to skills with new content updates and leagues, keeping players coming back for trying out new builds and skill functions, even replaying the same builds and using new effects/mods (similar to Path of Exile releasing new gems and skill with their content updates). THAT is long term replay ability and in-depth customization.

Two characters could be using the exact same skills, and yet each skill on their bar would be functioning completely different, or even look completely different. I feel like this was Diablo 3's goal with skill runes, but it failed pretty badly at actually providing deep customization or depth.

Skill Points and Leveling: I would advocate for a leveling scale similar to Diablo 2, where getting to max level seems like an impossible goal at times, and getting to level 85-90 was an accopmlishment in it's own. Level 85 was a perfectly fine level for doing any content in the game, but you could grind to those really high levels if you really felt like maxing out your build. With skill customization trees I don't even feel like investing points into skills would need to, or even should, increase their damage or numbers. The flat base numbers for ALL of your skills can just increase with your character level and be further increased with +skill level on gear (if they choose to keep +skill level gear in the game). This helps keep all the skills on your skill bar relevant damage-wise instead of just the damage skill you're sinking points into, while also providing more power and incentive to grind out those really high levels, because you gain flat damage and power to ALL of your skills each level. I like having a max level that seems unreachable, but unnecessary to enjoy endgame content and experience the entirety of the game. The points you receive while leveling (or however the devs decide to award them) will go towards your skill customization trees. You can call these points whatever you want: skill points, skill runes, Diablo Farts; doesn't matter (From now on I will refer to these as Diablo Farts). Investing Diablo Farts into your skills just unlocks more customization and skill modifying effects as you advance along in your individual skill trees. I've invested ALL of my Druid's Diablo Farts into Rolling Boulder so that it has a much bigger area of effect, explodes at the end of it's path, leaves a trail of tar that slows enemies, and gives me returned spirit energy for each enemy hit, but my Druids Hurricane skill with zero Diablo Farts is still effective and useable because every one of my skills' base numbers are scaled with my own level.

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Ideas for how you could earn Diablo Farts: They could be awarded each level. As quest rewards and each level? Or maybe each skill on your bar gains experience towards customization points (Diablo Farts) as you gain experience, and grinding out EVERY Diablo Fart for EVERY skill you have is a very LONG end game grind that takes months and rewards you with the satisfaction that you have the ability to fully customize every sorceress skill, and being able to switch between different builds. Or maybe you have a set amount of maximum Diablo Farts that you can earn to assign to your skills, and you have to pick and choose which skills you want to invest in to gain the desired effects you want for each skill. Any of these systems would be interesting and provide depth.

Skill Tree, Talent Tree, and Itemization opinion: Skill tree should be used for customizing skills, Talent Tree for providing class specific bonuses and interactions, and gear should be primarily for optimizing damage and defense. The Skill tree should be for enhancing skills, and I don't really want to see ANY individual skill effects on gear or talent trees. The Talent Tree should be used for customizing your build, providing interactions between your skills and damage types, give unique class-specific bonuses, and changing your playstyle. Like a Sorceress talent that makes enemies you shock have a chance to be stunned by further lightning damage. Or a talent that encourages using multiple elements, like frozen enemies have lowered fire and lightning resistance. There's a Druid item in the demo that gives a stacking damage bonus each time you change shapes. THE TALENT TREE IS A PERFECT PLACE FOR THIS TYPE OF BONUS, not on items. Maybe there's a legendary item that provides you with this bonus, allowing you to put your Talent Point into something else; that's more interesting to me. Barb item that gives bonus crit chance after using a warcry? That should be in the talent tree instead. Barb specific item mod that gives Weapon Mastery skills an additional charge? Talent Tree. I do feel there can be room for class specific mods like this on items, but in general I would like items with cool mods that have usage across multiple classes. Mythic Items would be a perfect spot for very build specific items like this, where you're limited to one of these powerful items and they greatly enhance your build or greatly reward you for a certain play style, much like some of the set bonuses in Diablo 3. The more class or skill specific items there are in the game, the closer we get to Diablo 3 itemization and getting forced into using certain items for certain builds, and I don't feel like that's a good thing. Legendary Items can definitely be interesting and change your build and playstyle, but most of them shouldn't be limited to specific classes, and definitely shouldn't be limited to specific skills! (Apart from increasing damage maybe)

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Scaling and Items: I touched on how I think having all your skills simply scale with your level would be a good thing. I also think all your skills should have a flat base damage or flat number associated with it. Diablo 3 did this backwards, where each skill had a %scaling associated with it, and your weapon's flat damage determined the damage for all your skills. Flat damage on your skills gives your build a base power level associated with it, unlike in diablo 3 where if you didnt have a weapon equipped ALL your skills would do ZERO damage. I would like there to be distinction between attacks and spells, or something that would prevent a giant mace with high damage to be one of the best in slot items for my spellcaster sorceress. Maybe swords don't normally roll caster mods, but I can craft with spell mods if I want to use a sword on my sorceress. Maybe there's hybrid items that are good for druids who want to cast and use shapeshift attacks, like staves or sceptres that can roll good attack damage and spell bonuses, or something. I know it's kind of hard to design items for characters that like to use both spells and attacks when they scale seperately. That was one good thing about Diablo 3 and its simple design, I suppose.

Conclusion: These are all just ideas that I think the majority of players, hardcore or casual, new or old, can find enjoyment in. A skill tree system that offers skill customization through the skill tree rather than through items feels like a much more rewarding and engaging system to me and gives players a sense of owning their build and actually "building" their character. It's complex, yet intuitive, and hardcore players that like theorycrafting and planning their build can find enjoyment in it, as well as casual players who don't want to concern themselves with that type of stuff. I'm sure there are other ways to make a complex and engaging skill and itemization system with depth, this was just my vision of a good system.

TLDR: Skill modification/enhancement should take place through the skill tree, not through items like it currently is in D4. Each skill should have it's own skill tree, which can enhance the skill and even change how it behaves and looks. Huge amounts of customization options for each skill, huge build diversity. These enhancements can be cumulitive and result in drastically altered and customized skills, like having multiple skill runes in Diablo 3, or multiple support gems in Path of Exile. They don't need to increase damage. The actual damage/numbers of all skills could scale with your character level, giving useability to all the skills on your bar, not just the ones you sink points into. Leveling model should be similar to Diablo 2 or PoE, with a seemingly impossible, yet possible to reach max level. Diablo Farts.

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