Fresh off the 1.0.3 patch and continuing security issues for Battle.net following ever more reports of user accounts being hacked, Blizzard released details of the upcoming 1.0.4 update on the official "Diablo III" blog. The next patch for the popular and controversial hack-and-slash action RPG promises to continue to tweak balance issues such as class characteristics, stat formulas, drop rates, and other significant parts of "Diablo III's" endgame content.
Some details from the 1.0.4 systems preview:
The change we made back in 1.0.3 to remove the bonus monster damage per additional player was a great start, but we can clearly go a bit further. The first change we're making in 1.0.4 for co-op is to remove averaging in multiplayer games of Magic Find and Gold Find. You'll benefit from your full Magic Find stat, independent of other players in the game. We originally added Magic Find averaging so optimal play did not involve people stacking what we call "adventure stats" to the detriment of their party. While this may re-emerge as a problem, we think the current solution feels like too much of a penalty, and is doing more harm than good.
Along the same lines as the change in 1.0.3, we're going to be lowering the health multiplier for monsters per additional player in co-op games. It's going to be a flat 75% in 1.0.4 for all difficulty levels, as opposed to the scaling 75/85/95/110% it is now. This makes enemies far more manageable in co-op games, and rewards a co-ordinated group with a higher farming efficiency than playing alone.
We know there are a lot of you out there that are really frustrated by the difficulty of some of the champion and rare packs, so in 1.0.4 we're going to shrink the gap between normal monsters and Elite packs (Champions and Rares). The design intent of Champion and Rare packs is to provide a spike of challenge, but in general we feel like the gap is too big. Normal monsters die quickly and are usually just fodder, and Champions and Rares can feel like a brick wall. In general we're looking to bring normal enemies up a smidge, and Champions and Rares down.
So, in 1.0.4 we're increasing the health of normal monsters by approximately 5%-10% in Inferno, but also increasing the likelihood they drop magic or rare items by a factor of four. We're correspondingly lowering the health of Champions and Rares by 10-25% and editing specific affixes to shrink the difficulty gap. We're still working on those numbers, but that's approximately what we're shooting for.
To further reduce the gap between normal and Elite monsters, we're adjusting some of the more frustrating monster affixes, such as Fire Chains and Shielding.* Of course there are some normal monsters that are massive spikes in difficulty too, and we'll be making polish adjustments to a few of those as well, like reducing the damage of two-handed skeletons like Skull Cleavers.
Weapon damage is the most important stat on a weapon. It can be disheartening to get a lot of weapon drops and you know before even looking at them that they have no chance of being good. To help give weapons a fighting chance, the raw damage value on all level 61 and 62 weapons will be able to roll damage that extends all the way to the top end of level 63.
Rather than focus on whether or not you can beat an enemy, many players would rather figure out how fast they can beat them. We're removing Enrage Timers and the "heal back to full" behavior from Champion and Rare monster packs. We don't think they fit well into the general philosophy of the game, which is more about trying to farm as efficiently as possible. You're already incentivized to kill things quickly, if a pack happens to take you a long time it can just feel unfair to have the pack enrage, kill you, and then heal back to full. The original intent behind Enrage Timers was to have a few encounters that served as a "DPS check" that also add tension and excitement. Due to the randomness of Champion and Rare monsters, combined with a general philosophy of efficient farming, this was simply the wrong approach for us to take. The Enrage Timers feel more appropriate on bosses, where the setup, predictability and mechanics of the fight add the required context for the time limit.
We can't get away from the Efficiency vs Challenge discussion without talking about death penalties. When we increased repair costs in 1.0.3 it was to make death meaningful. Efficiency is not only about how fast you kill things, but what efforts you're putting into doing so. Dying should cut into efficiency, and that creates a meaningful challenge to stay alive in not only how you play, but the importance of how you're designing your character. That said, we think repair costs are just a bit too high, so in 1.0.4 we're going to be reducing repair costs of high-end items by 25%.
The developer also promises additional information on improving Legendary items and class skills in a future blog post.
In addition to detailing forthcoming updates, Blizzard also announced a series of developer blogs-most likely as an effort to increase developer transparency following the game's frequent controversies. Though acknowledging the list is still provisional, Blizzard detailed the following:
System Changes, by Wyatt Cheng
Senior Technical Game Designer Wyatt Cheng is preparing a high-level summary of some of the system changes planned for 1.0.4.
Legendary Item Improvements, by Andrew Chambers
Senior Game Designer Andrew Chambers is working on a blog detailing all the ways we're making Legendary items stand out.
Magic Find Update, by Jay Wilson
Following up on earlier discussions, Game Director Jay Wilson will be providing an update on how Magic Find is evolving in patch 1.0.4.
Class Changes, by Wyatt Cheng
Wyatt will also be providing a preview of the changes we'll be making for each class in 1.0.4 (and the philosophy behind those changes).
The developers promise additional information in the coming weeks, setting the prospective release in the fourth week of August.