Diablo 4: Season 4 Current Progress

This probably has been my personal most anticipated version of the Diablo 4 release since launch. The loot aspect effectively almost reworks enough of the core game mechanics where it almost would feel like a new game. And with all the meta builds being tossed into the air due to the rework, it wouldn’t be that obvious (outside of Minion Necromancer) what would be the clear winners on that end. So how are things going so far especially compared to my last assessment/guestimate on how things would turn out?

From reading reddit posts, my expectations were met. Players are easily satisfied with quick power gains, novel game play/changes and enough initial activities to satiate their craving for something new. With a little over a week through the start of the patch/season, people are starting to drop off. Not as bad as Season 3 where the Vault mechanic simply pissed off the majority of the player base into quitting. But I would say that the skeptics moved on in a few days while the core Diablo 4 players are still into it. Nonetheless, at least for the early stage grind, I would say most people are happy.

Then the real wall hits: The Pit.

My take on The Pit was that it would impose dissatisfying tactics through shitty one shot mechanics that would discourage most players. Worse yet the real problem is that the rewards aren’t good enough for the average player once they hit that wall to make it worth the effort. And there is an actual logic that occurs here where the end game becomes Uber Bosses and high end Pits. But the only reason to do the Pits themselves is to gather Masterworking material. However, most people probably look at the Pit as something you just keep pushing without realizing that you need a good set of base gear and a min/maxed character to make it worth doing.

The thing about the Pit (and I’ve done a few) is that the rewards suck. The effort to reward ratio isn’t great and I think high end players will mostly view this system as something to compete with each other since you can judge builds and a person’s “skill” through seeing how high that player progresses. Unlike the Gauntlet though, there’s a clear reason to do the Pit where it sets the stage for perfecting your character. But to get to that spot, you can’t just keep pushing.

Then it hit me where the analogy between the Pit and Greater Rifts from Diablo 3 occurred: they’re simply the new augments. The main differences between Masterworking and Augmentation is that Masterworking isn’t just +mainstat. Instead, it’s a shitty randomized boost on a key Affix every 4 levels. Yes, you can reroll that boost but at the cost of all your progress. So for those min/maxers this might seem good because it creates a forcing function to repeat the Pits but again the issue to me is respecting a player’s time.

Respecting player’s time as opposed to internal KPIs of player retention is where Blizzard currently is jammed in terms of why their games end up failing once things become clearer. Now, I understand the system in place but we return the bozosort/player as the hamster on the wheel scenario because Blizzard cannot stop their obsession over gambling/randomization as the perfect content tool. I’ve always had a personal issue with this notion because it’s a cheap method to substitute for actual content.

And if more players stop dropping in the coming week, it’s directly correlated to the RNG burnout in conjunction with their ever present problem of content dearth. I’ve said it before that Blizzard needs to stop treating seasons as experimental content but a way to move more content into the core product once a season is tuned. The game simply needs more activities to do. And even if they face a balance problem where Blizzard fears OP players will consume content in a few hours due to their inability to create challenging content because of power creep, then they still risk losing players in a few days which does not solve their core problem of making the game interesting for longer periods of time.

My argument is that RNG can only go so far to substitute for content starvation. I would risk the complaints of players saying that the game is too easy or this class or that build is OP in introducing past seasons and their powers into the core game if it meant making the game more interesting. If anything, you can always just boost damage and health of end game mobs. But you can’t get back players that quit because they’re bored or find out that their favorite build gets nerfed due to ineptitude on people who can’t figure out how cross systems work to perform simple math (which should be done through a damage ceiling/limit)

Now, I’m not going to complain about what I got with this season/patch. The season itself is bleh. The only real appeal of doing a seasonal character is the Iron Wolf rewards where you can effectively grind out Resplending Sparks for an uber unique. And that’s fine if you just want to get say a Shako or Godfather deterministically. But as you can see, I think there’s a better sentiment of not relying on RNG based activities like Duriel farming compared to a guaranteed path like rep grinding.

I am liking that more of my friends are playing this season. Last night, I helped my bud get his first Uber Unique (heck the new one!). So that made me happy. Also, I am enjoying the new builds like Minion Necromancer and Double Swing/Dust Devil barbarian. My goal this season will be to create at least 4 new characters to try and rep grind for an Uber Unique (probably a Shako). I definitely want to try the new Frozen Orb build (although I won’t use that to push The Pit) and maybe a Tornado Druid (since I have yet to try that). I might try to push my gear if I can find decent Greater Affixes. If time permits, I might do more characters. Like I saw a fun looking Thorns Barbarian build on DatModz’s stream. Or I might switch Frozen Orb to something else. Either way, there’s more things to do with the changes that I’m eager to experiment with.

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