This latest patch will bring more nerfs to crowd control. Obviously, the issue Blizzard is attempting to resolve is perma-cc situations, which usually are part of the group meta as they seem to want people just playing pure damage builds rather than support builds. There’s been quite a number of nerfs over time to CC effects by players but this one almost shuts down the usefulness of any CC capability at this stage. Has the nerfhammer come down too far this time?
Obviously, crowd control in a game like this is pretty important since it allows players to pop an ability to prevent monsters from touching them in clutch situations. A lot of crowd control abilities are on some kind of cooldown like Black Hole, Piranhas, Leap: Call of Arreat, etc. So it’s hard achieving perma-CC outside for solo players. With the current situation, you’re looking at a lot more diminishing returns, even sheer immunity by some monsters to CC. This is a huge change and it honestly doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
My issue is that the real aim in nerfing Crowd Control effects really was to target 4 man meta situations where support revolved around 1 DPS and three other utility builds. That situation seems to not really have been rectified since the end game meta still ends up being which build has enough survivability and DPS output as well as some other effect to buff up those aspects in group play. The sacrifice made ends up being towards solo players, even though many buffs were lowered or flat out removed in this patch.
The part that makes no sense to me is just keeping any CC abilities in the game at this stage if the intent is to just have people hit things and pop defensive cooldowns at the appropriate moment. That part really removes any room for creative dimensions in playing the game and shoots down the idea of fantasy altogether.
My feeling is that the real culprit in all of this ultimately is the inability to scale Greater Rifts appropriately. I like the idea of infinite scaling in a game but when you have no ceiling, it’s impossible to test where that upper boundary lies. In the practical world, players compensate through creative uses of abilities that foil boundary testing since realistically the QA department most likely are testing with very specific scenarios. You can’t really fault anyone here because in reality everything is going according to design.
What isn’t going to plan is the wishes of players. I never really saw any harm with the metas even though the ideas were pretty silly. In fact, I thought that having support builds was kinda cool in that it gave different ways to play the game. This is a GREAT thing. However, the issue seems to be that certain vocal members of the community hate the meta. But that hate is tied to leaderboards because those are the people being affected the most.
So here, we’ve identified three issues: 1) scaling Greater Rifts; 2) leaderboards; 3) a competitive vocal community. In my opinion, 3) is the largest issue and it won’t matter what Blizzard does because the competitive vocal community never learns to shut up. In short, you can’t fix stupid.
But scaling Greater Rifts and its ties to the leaderboards and competitive vocal community is the thing that needs to be examined the most. Right now, the problem with Greater Rift scaling is balancing as many builds with all the permutations of abilities and gear. Infinite scaling is simply impossible to test given the sheer number of permutations needed to ensure fair play. That’s just a straight fact. The developers have an impossible task right now because there is no set boundary so they’ll just be as frustrated as the community at large.
Yet the only time leaderboards actually matter are in seasons. Non-seasonal leaderboards have no meaning because they are a function of time and commitment. Since seasons are set periods of time, it seems to make sense, at least for me, to put a set boundary around them. In short, set a limit to Greater Rifts and perhaps even paragon points during seasons. Doing this makes a lot more sense overall to me as opposed to making abilities meaningless.
A lot of the problems are scaling problems at the end of the day. Energy Twister was a scaling issue, CC is a scaling issue, paragon points are a scaling issue, etc. Right now, the solution has been to nerf the abilities rather than the source of the issue which is putting a cap on Greater Rifts. Set a flat out limit on the highest Greater Rifts in seasons that can be done and make sure every major build (i.e. set) can perform at that level. That creates a very fair playing field. You could also put a cap on paragon points in seasons or make it unlimited to see who can hit the highest at the end of the season.
Of course, people want to see power creep. I do. I like seeing new sets, new ways to improve my abilities come up. However, the ultimate fear, I feel from the developers’ viewpoint, has been the inability to manage the power creep to create balanced game play. All of this is straight out math. But let’s say that you want to add power creep. In my suggestion, you can increase the ceiling on Greater Rifts for that season. That way, you can mathematically determine if a set can hit a number (e.g. a satisfying damage/defense within a time limit.
I suppose the counter argument for putting the ceiling on Greater Rifts is that people entering a season late in the game won’t have a chance to get on the leaderboards as the leaderboards will be determined more by first completed as opposed to highest number of achieved. I honestly don’t see any harm done by that design goal. Raiding in World of Warcraft at the moment is determined by first kills of a boss on the highest difficulty level, so there’s not much difference here.
Also, the only time seasons is actually “fun” is the first week, especially the weekend it premiers. After the first weekend, seasons becomes an unbalanced field because it boils down to sheer time commitment, especially for leaderboard progress. The most interesting game play is the first week anyway. Perhaps, what should happen is that leaderboards are frozen and wiped each week during the season so that people have a fair shot over the course of the season. That keeps the season fresh and if Blizzard uses my philosophy on Greater Rift limits, then it works well because the goal here is hitting that limit first each week. You wouldn’t have to re-level a character each week, but the goal would be taking what you have and seeing if you can hit that limit as fast as you can with whatever you have on you. I think that’s fair.
Blizzard can still “infinitely” scale Greater Rifts by making non-seasonal be unlimited in paragon and Greater Rift limits. In seasonal, they can still continue to scale Greater Rifts just with a little more control on a per season basis where they can increase the limit whenever a new power creep feature comes into play. But the ceiling would exist such that the leaderboards will be more meaningful and the overall worries about build diversity, etc. won’t be as bad as they are now.