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While we'd love to think that Diablo III is completely done and polished to a spit-shine, the fact is that Blizzard is still tweaking the game. Today they announced a host of changes to some of the game's basic mechanics.
"While working on Diablo III we've been called out for messing around with systems too much, that the game is good as-is and we should just release it," said D3 game director Jay Wilson. "I think that's a fair argument to make, but I also think it's incorrect. Our job isn't just to put out a game, it's to release the next Diablo game. No one will remember if the game is late, only if it's great."
For starters, Blizzard is cleaning up the inventory. There are no more Scrolls of Identification in the game. Now players can simply right-click an unidentified item to discover its properties. The Stone of Recall has likewise been removed from the game. In order to return to town, players will now use a button at the bottom of the screen called "Town Portal." Potions are here to stay but they're becoming easier to use; the fifth quick slot button is being changed to a dedicated potion button.
Blizzard has also eliminated the Cauldron of Jordan and Nephalem Cube artifacts because they're now redundant. The Cauldron would've allowed players to turn items in their inventory into gold, which is unnecessary if players can use Town Portal and sell their loot to a shopkeeper. The function of the Nephalem Cube - breaking down unwanted items into crafting materials - is now fulfilled by the Blacksmith.
The Blacksmith, meanwhile, has one less colleague in town. Blizzard has decided to remove the Mystic artisan from the game. The Mystic cast enhancement on players' items - a type of customization that Wilson felt didn't add anything to the game.
"Enhancement was really just the socket and gem system with a different name, and it would prolong the release of the game even further to go back to the drawing board and differentiate it, so we’ll revisit the Mystic and enhancements at a later time. Removing her from the game took some time, but it’s nowhere near the efforts that would be required to flesh out a better customization system. We hope she’ll be able to join your caravan in the future, but for now we’re going to focus on the extensive customization options the game already offers."
Blizzard trimmed the number of player stats as well. There are now four core attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Intellect, and Vitality. The eliminated attributes - Defense, Attack, and Precision - are being replaced by existing secondary stats. The developers believe these changes will make the stats easier to understand. To make sure you see how each item affects your character, the game will also now show stats directly on the inventory UI.
Wilson adds that there's a "lot of work left to be done" with D3. They're adding Battle.net features, making balance changes, and filling out the game with new items and recipes. Furthermore, they have "large systems changes" in the works for the skill and rune systems. Additional details will be provided in the near future.
Considering that some retailers had pegged Diablo III for a February 1st release, it's disappointing to hear that the development team's "to do" list is still so long. Wilson said this extra work is necessary to ensure that D3 is a lasting hit, though.
"We want Diablo III to be the best game it can be when it launches. To get there, we're going to be iterating on designs we've had in place for a long time, making changes to systems you've spent a lot of time theorycrafting, and removing features you may have come to associate with the core of the experience. Our hope is that by embracing our iterative design process in which we question ourselves and our decisions, Diablo III won't just live up to our expectations, but will continue to do so a decade after it's released."