Monday, August 20, 2012

Diablo III's Paragon System Misses the Point

I just saw Diablo III's new Paragon system and it's basically just doubling down on a fundamentally flawed idea. People are complaining that there's not much to do once they hit level 60 and instead of adding meaningful gameplay they just add another level meter, except this one is beneath your portrait. But are Paragon levels different or interesting? No. "Every Paragon level will reward you with: Core stats [...] in amounts similar to what you’d gain from a normal level and 3% Magic Find and 3% Gold Find." Why bother having two separate but identical meters? Just raise the level cap.

The new Paragon System seems like an idea cribbed off of World of Warcraft instead of a novel system that works for Diablo. WoW has a reputation system that comes into play when you hit the level cap. They even let you select a particular factions reputation to use instead of your XP bar. All it did was replace mindlessly killing monsters in order to get to the skill based end game to mindlessly killing monsters for exclusive items. Why not create content that people actually want to play instead of relying on psychological tricks  to keep people addicted? Does anyone out there find leveling fun besides those with OCD?

Fortunately for D3, Diablo II had a much better leveling system to crib from. It had a hard cap (arbitrarily) at level 99 paired with an XP curve that got ridiculously steep at the end and an XP penalty for dying. The end result of  this is a soft cap around level 85. Going past that didn't get you much other than bragging rights. Even most character guides were designed around a level 85 character. Leveling in D2 was just a pacing mechanism. This allowed players to focus on what they really enjoy: killing monsters and getting loot.
D2 was successful not because of its leveling curve, but because it minimized the importance of it. Leveling is just a crutch for game designers and is unnecessary for a good game. Hopefully some day Blizzard fixes D3 the game instead of optimizing D3 the grind.