A Few Things MMOs Could Learn From Diablo 3

Enter Leoric's Passage

Every game should have a quest entitled "Enter Leoric's Passage".

Like a lot of people I’m currently engrossed in Diablo 3, shunning my MMO activities for the past week in favour of battling the demons of hell throughout the realm of Sanctuary. It’s a good game and I’m having a lot of fun although I daresay it’s not quite as tremendously incredible as I somehow expected. To be fair though, that’s probably more due to the fact that nothing could have possibly lived up the excessive amount of hype that Diablo 3 had heaped upon its shoulders, a grand accumulation of 12 years of nostalgia, impatience and seductive teasing.

But whilst D3 hasn’t herald the dawning of a new age for mankind, it is a leap forward in terms of balancing excitement, convenience and pure fluidity of gameplay. Blizzard have done what they do best and refined existing game mechanics into a beautifully streamlined experience which is both captivating and addictive. Given that Diablo 3 straddles the single-player and multi-player genres (with all the warts and pimples that comes with it, I might add), I thought it would be appropriate to list some of the features that the game offers that I think would really improve MMOs. There certainly is a lot they could learn from Diablo 3.

Give us lots of playstyle choice and customisation

One of the things I really love about Diablo 3 is the Rune system and Passive skills. They’re both a great way of letting me customise my character and style of play without forcing me down fixed specialisations or giving me talent trees that, in actuality, contain very little variety or freedom of choice. The new talent system coming in MoP for WoW is a start but, personally, I think we can do even better.

Limit the number of active spells and abilities we can use

Maybe I’m getting old and maybe my finger dexterity isn’t what it used to be but there’s only so many abilities one can feasibly squeeze onto their numerous hot bars at a time let alone process the pressing of during combat. I don’t need 40 spells and abilities available to use at any one time so why not limit the number I can use (six is fine, maybe eight would be better) and force me to think about my desired playstyle beforehand instead.

Classes should have unique resources

To give credit where it’s due, World of Warcraft is one the few MMOs that works hard to give classes resource systems unique to each of them and Diablo 3 just compounds how much sense it makes. Fury of Barbarians, Hatred and Discipline for Demon Hunters, Arcane Power for Wizards… it’s really is nice that each class has it’s own individual style of play. So c’mon MMOs, stop giving melee classes mana or every class the same boring ‘energy’ system – spend some more time coming up with resources that make sense for each class and mix it up a bit.

Individual loot

Whilst I’d agree that making all loot individual to players in MMOs would remove part of the social aspect of them, I can’t help but think it would solve a lot of the petty squabbling and arguments that occur after fight bosses in dungeons and raids. If I hear another person complain about someone else rolling for item they don’t ‘need’, I think I’ll scream.

Random items are fun

I love the random item system in Diablo 3 and simply can’t fathom why more games don’t do it. Sure, make epic or legendary items fixed but surely having a bit of randomness in items would make MMOs far more interesting?

Every MMO should have a Witch Doctor

‘Nuff said.


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  1. ArcherAvatar says:

    “Every MMO should have a Witch Doctor.”

    Totally buried the lead! ;-)

    Ya gots ta break out wit da VuDu Kung Fu man!

  2. Targeter says:

    “To give credit where it’s due, World of Warcraft is one the few MMOs that works hard to give classes resource systems unique to each of them … ”

    The Old Republic says hi. Classes in WoW share a resourse bar; Druids/Rogues, Priests/Shaman/Mages/Warlocks, etc etc.

    Each class has a unique resource: Agents/Smugglers have Energy that depletes on ability use and must recharge, Warriors/Knights have a Force Bar they build up and expend on use for abilities, Consulars/Inquisitors have a Force bar that operates like a mana bar, and Soldiers/Bounty Hunters have a heat bar that builds up and must be manually purged in order for abilities to work.

    I think it’s one of the better resource management systems in MMOs today, but then again, I’m biased! :)

  3. Tesh says:

    Guild Wars understood the power of a small set of skills on the “active” bar. It’s still one of my favorite systems.

  4. SlothBear says:

    Guild Wars 2 does pretty much all of these :) …except the Witch Doctor. :(

  5. Imakulata says:

    “Every MMO should have a Witch Doctor.”

    Not sure why but the only thing that was on my mind after reading this was “Ooo Eee Ooo Ah Ah Ting Tong Walla Walla Bang Bang”.

    “Limit the number of active spells and abilities we can use”

    I like this although for me it might be the “first MMO game” syndrome too. Ragnarok Online didn’t have many skills and while the ability to switch equipment freely (even in combat) meant people had hotkeys for that too, it was pure click-to-move unlike most other MMOs which feature either WASD or WASD with an optional click-to-move so the keyboard hand was free to push buttons – adjusting to WoW wasn’t easy. Also, I like having a single spell for a single task although healers in WoW (or in general) often seem to be like this too.

    @SlothBear, I don’t really think GW2 has unique resources with the exception of thieves and several professions’ mechanics (e. g. warrior). As far as I can tell, most of the skills do not use any resources besides an individual CD.

  6. Very good read.

    Right now the industry is seeing a shift in the way MMOs work. Instead of pressing an ability and having an invisible dice roll dictate whether you hit or not an emphasis is being put on positioning and timing. The industry has dabbled with the idea before. Tabula Rasa was one of the first ones to try to mix it up with a pseudo action battle system. Age of Conan and DC Universe made a valiant efforts. More recently Vindictus and Tera have taken the concept to the next level and Guild Wars 2, with combat leaning heavily on action, looms on the horizon. Even single player MMOs are following this trend. Skyrim (to a degree), Demon Souls, Dragon’s Dogma and Kingdom of Amalur all showed that a good action based battle system in an RPG is not only possible but also adds immensely to the experience. The success of Diablo III will probably steer all rpgs further in this direction.

  7. Spen says:

    If you read about the Skinner Box, you might understand better why D3 is so ‘engrossing’. Might put Blizzard’s ‘brilliance’ into perspective.


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