Daily Poo-Stirring: No Skill Trees In Diablo?

So says Blizzard’s official tweeterer, anyway. Sounds as though it’s more about substituting the age-old system with a new one rather than the wholesale removal of it, but a follow-up fan interview (also containing a bunch of questions that very much go into the fine/finer/finest points of the game) with Jay Wilson sheds a little more light. “We’ve decided to remove the tree-type architecture and we are moving into a purely skill-based system. This new system is still in the development stages and if it does not work, we still have plenty of options to fall back on… It differs from the World of Warcraft/Diablo II type hierarchical styles and is more of a skill pool/path than a tree per se.” On top of last month’s reveal that each class would have its own resource rather than all using the rather generic ‘mana’ it’s increasingly clear this isn’t just Diablo II in 3D. It’s Diablo II in 3D with some changes. Yes!

So does that mean that, rather than consigning yourself to a specific build based on what powers you pick early on, you can instead pick any power from any pool so long as you’re high enough level (as Torchlight did, rather pleasingly)? Or that you just get the powers you’re given? Or something else entirely? Buggered if I know. I’m sure it’ll raise a few hackles, though – Blizzard are displaying an almost bloody-minded determination to rile up Diablo fans at the moment. It’s essentially impossible to bring about financial disaster on their game at this point (even, say, revealing that Cooking Mama was in there as a bonus character would probably only heighten interest), so perhaps it’s a reaction to this unassailable position. Or perhaps it’s a sign that they’re taking real risks with the age-old Diablo formula.

Yeah, as if. What it is a sign of is that this will be an impossibly streamlined game, which is very much Blizzard doing what Blizzard do best. More details on the new skill system sometime in 2017.

55 Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Yeah, as you say – this is going to be a well-tuned game. It’d be stupid to write off any decision they make now on the basis of what it sounds like.

    Although the “each class has their own resource” thing is sure to draw WoW comparisons.

  2. JKjoker says:

    i hope these “not-generic-mana” work differently to each other unlike dragon age “not-mana” stamina that works just like mana

    • Sam Bigos says:

      Warrior’s rage and rogue’s energy(?) are non-mana and work differently to mana.

    • Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

      In Dragon Age, Warden Commander boots say they boost Stamina but also boost Mana as well. From this, and the fact that the only thing stopping Stamina and Mana from being completely identical being the fact that lyrium potions are locked to Mage characters only, one can determine that they’re the same stat, just with a different name and bar color for Magi.

      This is what he was talking about.

    • Carra says:

      Their own World of Warcraft does it fine.

      Rage for warriors, energy for rogues, mana for casters and a double rune system for deathknights all feel very different. I’m sure they’ll find something for Diablo 3.

  3. WilPal says:

    They are just doing this because they know Torchlight has everyones Diablo needs covered, so they want to make Diablo 3 seem more interesting by changing things.

    • Tei says:

      Torchlight has the benefice that you can be simple and perfect. This new Diablo is aiming at much more than that.

  4. Thants says:

    Good! The skill system in Diablo II is deeply flawed. There’s no reason at all that they shouldn’t be able to come up with something much better by now. I think Torchlight really suffers from using basically that same system.

    • Arathain says:

      The system is earning points and choosing skills to invest them in? Why is that bad? What would you replace that with? The original Diablo’s random spellbook drops?

    • Thants says:

      Well, I was thinking the same as you say below. The lower level skills in D2 always made me feel like I was wasting my skill points. The synergies they added did help though.

    • mrmud says:

      Yep, Diablo 2 and Torchlight both suffer badly from the munchkin phenomenon where people save all their skillpoints until they can dump everything into the most desirable skills at the top of the trees.

    • Vinraith says:

      Odd, I actually thought some of the “low level” skills in Torchlight were considerably more valuable than the higher level ones. I certainly felt that skills like Adventurer, the weapon buffs, the spell buffs, the crit buffs, and the like were all 1) worthwhile and 2) worth taking as soon as possible.

    • mrmud says:

      That many of the most desirable skills in Torchlight are passives is more indicative of the complete lack of interesting skills than it is of great game design.

    • Vinraith says:

      It really didn’t bother me. I certainly felt like I had enough stuff to manage and enough neat things to be doing without needing to juggle more than a handful of active skills. You have spells, fish, and potions to manage too, after all.

    • Count Zero says:

      It’s been some time since I played Diablo II, but from what I remember one of the later patches added passive effects to skills meaning that a low level skill that became useless later on would still be useful later because of its effects. For example the druid’s wolves would be too weak to fight the high level creatures but the skill brought a passive bonus to all other, more powerful summons. I’m surprised I don’t see more of that in other games.

    • Arathain says:

      It’s definitely true that the lower level skills in Torchlight are just as useful as the higher level ones, which tend to be more specialised anyway. There were a couple of characters that wanted to hold a skill point back for a single level, but for the rest of the time there were plenty of useful passives to invest in at all points of levelling. Anyway, since it’s only really practical to work with a smaller number of active skills (just from a control standpoint, anyway) I thought the general design worked brilliantly- a diverse but not over numerous group of skills, and a range of powerful passives.

  5. luphisto says:

    i consider myself a massive diablo fan, but cant say im that bothered by anything that blizzard has released about the game. only thing that annoys me is no release dates. other than that the game looks like its going to be the polished game i expect from blizzard

  6. Arathain says:

    Skill trees are OK. But it tends to encourage skillsets where weaker skills are replaced by more powerful versions later on down the tree, which makes levelling awkward.

    Torchlight demonstrated nicely why this doesn’t have to be the case; more skills are useful, even the ones available at low levels, and interesting hybrid builds can be consrutucted by picking from multiple branches.

  7. Jeremy says:

    I’m glad they’re going to maybe try and mix things up. It would be nice where skills are actually useful all around the board. I agree about Torchlight as well, I chose my skills all across the trees to try and fill in areas where I needed some help. Generally, I felt that all the skills in Torchlight are potentially useful to anyone, rather than needing specific builds to be successful. Although, I don’t like to crunch the numbers to make the most efficient killing machine, sort of takes away the joy from the game.

    • Lord_Mordja says:

      Did you ever get to play Mythos by any chance? I really liked their system. See, while it was still a tree, instead of replacing low level attacks with simply better ones, you could put points into additional effects, furthering customization and reducing redundancy.

  8. Pijama says:

    Well, if there is one company that sets the pc gaming conventions, it’s them. Better Blizzard than others.

    Really curious and hopeful now. Seems like they have been thinking some interesting stuff. :)

  9. Wulf says:

    Wot does this say to me?

    I shall have to give this to you in a mock-up of what someone at Blizzard must have said to spur this, except in a rather jocular and ludicrous what-the-Americans-think-the-English-are-like mock up, for no reason other than I want to.

    “Oh, I do say, chaps, that there Torchlight has a bit of a tasty skills system, wot! Why yes, it’s really quite brilliant, quite brilliant, a marvel of modern gaming engineering, stupendous, superlative… truly quite, quite smashing! A jolly good show! You see, old bean, instead of our system where if you decide to take a bit of a dip into the other trees, you have to begin anew, their system only limits what you pick by level, and you can hop from tree to tree like a jolly cute little monkey, to put it in the vernacular, wot! Why, I t hink we should feel threatened by this, chaps, as it makes our system look all outmoded and utterly archaic, and we aren’t anything if we aren’t modern, so let’s jolly well nick it, eh? Yes? Jolly good!”

    In other words, it just looks like they saw how Torchlight only limits one’s skill selection by level and they realised just how bloody old-fashioned they were and decided to steal more ideas, and what’s Blizzard about if they aren’t about stealing things, eh?

    Guffaw.

    • Scandalon says:

      Thank you for that. I have nothing to say/think about the content, just that it entertained me. :P

    • WilPal says:

      This literature made for a truly spectacular read old chap.
      Tally ho!

    • mrmud says:

      Torchlights system is worse than that of diablo 2. The only way to have a system like that function is to separate skills from talents (as in WoW) because otherwise it leads to excessive skillpoint hoarding and everyone just saving all their points until they can dump it into the top tier skills.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Blizzard polishing up someone elses idea? Never.

    • Hmm says:

      Diablo is to Torchlight, what Torchlight is to Diablo?

    • The Hammer says:

      Well, isn’t one of the reasons why Torchlight is popular is because it’s a lot like Diablo, one of Blizzard’s games? In that, it wouldn’t exist if there was no Diablo?

      That was my impression, anyway.

  10. cyrenic says:

    I’m guessing this will be a test run for their skill system that will be used in the next MMO they make. Similar to how the Orc Campaign for the Warcraft III expansion had a lot of ideas they used in World of Warcraft.

  11. spinks says:

    Well, you did have to wonder what they could possibly be doing with D3 that was going to take over a year from now to be ready (I mean, unless you’re the cynical type and thiink they’re delaying it deliberately).

    • Hmm says:

      I thought they could be splitting the game up into separate games per class. Cleverly, it’s randomly generated, therefore different content for each!

  12. Alexander Norris says:

    The skill-cherry-picking in Torchlight sort of took away from the game for me. Half of what was so fun with Diablo II was the synergy between various skills and the fact that you had to plan ahead and stick to one build. Sure, a respec option would have been nice, but I don’t think letting the player pick any skill he wants is necessarily a good thing.

    Still, it’ll at least make sure that every skill is balanced against all other possible skill choices, hopefully. Wait and see what Blizzard comes out with, I guess.

  13. Count Zero says:

    It almost makes me wonder if it will be similar to something like Guild Wars where there are a lot of individual skills that are grouped in categories, not skill trees and you can just pick and choose among them. It worked well for Guild Wars and might make sense in with something like Diablo, especially if you could pick and choose among the skills at all times. I loved Diablo II and played it to bits, but one of the things that always bothered me was that I was too affraid to try different builds since a mistake could mean lost skill points that I spent hours to gather. You could always start the game over with a new build but that would have taken more time than I had for the game, and as a result I tended to stick to a few skills for each character and not experiment that much. If Diablo 3 would let players respec at all times (or resonably often) from a large pool it would encourage them to try many versions on a character and have more fun with the game.

  14. Yargh says:

    I would totally choose the Cooking Mama character…

  15. Lack_26 says:

    They’re clear just trying to be different from Torchlight ;)

  16. subedii says:

    So, anyone here actually raging and truly upset with this move by Blizzard? No?

    Honestly, I’d say the headline and angle on the article is needlessly antagonistic. I mean, whilst I’m certain there will be people in the official Blizzard forums who will lament that this is the END TIMES with a move like this, I haven’t actually seen that in the other forums I’ve been reading. There’ll be a few disaffected voices, but there always are. I don’t see how Blizzard are needlessly trying to “rile up” the fanbase, they’re experimenting to get things right. And if this doesn’t work out, there are other approaches they can try or return to.

    Anyway, I like the fact that Blizzard are willing to completely rework how the gameplay is designed. They’re in that position where they can iterate to their hearts content and try completely different styles of levelling and skill implementation, so that’s what they’re doing. With Starcraft 2 it’s a bit more of a problem. The fanbase is heavily entrenched, probably a lot more than D3 because of the intense amount of dedication that the game’s gotten, with professional leagues in particular. They can change units and they can change (and add) tactics, but the core gameplay HAS to remain as close to the original as possible. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing, SC2’s gameplay is popular and classic for a reason, I’m just thinking they’ve got more room to innovate with D3, so why not take it and see where it leads? They can always come back later if it doesn’t work out.

    And now that I’ve said nobody’s really upset by this, It’s likely someone’s going to reply and prove me wrong by talking about how evil and stupid a move this is.

  17. Turin Turambar says:

    I like this possible change, as a rpg diablo was always mediocre, but the spirit of the game is more suited for an action (skill based) game.

  18. Skill games says:

    And now that I’ve said nobody’s really upset by this, It’s likely someone’s going to reply and prove me wrong by talking about how evil and stupid a move this is.Playing skill games up against other users for cash has become very popular lately. The uniqueness of a skill game is that the game’s outcome is predominantly determined by players

  19. hoff says:

    WE BRING GREAT CHANGES AND INNOVATION TO COMMERCIAL GAME DEVELOPMENT:

    BEHOLD THE CUTTING OF FEATURE 3! (And wait for the coming weeks to see how many more innovative feature-cuttings we will use to revolutionize the medium of “experience products”!)

    • Psychopomp says:

      If feature 3 is holding back the game, fucking good.

      See:TF2 and grenades. Best decision Valve ever made.

  20. Ninga says:

    Test

  21. Lysander Gray says:

    2017 LOL

    when it’s done

  22. Horrid Troll says:

    Latest news is Blizzard will only the release the game with the warrior class, all the other characters will be expansion packs costing 1/2 the price of the base game.

    • cullnean says:

      blizz internal memo

      SC2’s price plan is both new and interesting, and should be applied to diablo 3.
      also wheres my new money hat.

  23. Vandell says:

    So it’s going the Warhammer route then?

  24. Pappy13 says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    “Oh, I do say, chaps, that there Torchlight has a bit of a tasty skills system, wot! Why yes, it’s really quite brilliant, quite brilliant, a marvel of modern gaming engineering, stupendous, superlative… truly quite, quite smashing! A jolly good show! You see, old bean, instead of our system where if you decide to take a bit of a dip into the other trees, you have to begin anew, their system only limits what you pick by level, and you can hop from tree to tree like a jolly cute little monkey, to put it in the vernacular, wot! Why, I t hink we should feel threatened by this, chaps, as it makes our system look all outmoded and utterly archaic, and we aren’t anything if we aren’t modern, so let’s jolly well nick it, eh? Yes? Jolly good!”

    I’m pretty sure this was the conversation verbatim. Another reason to like Torchlight. :)

  25. Flint says:

    I’m still waiting this game like a raving fanboy but damn, there is something bizarrely enjoyable in climbing up the skill trees :(.

  26. Steven Hutton says:

    All I want is Diablo’s gameplay with Eve online’s skill system.

    And 500,000 concurrent players.

  27. We Fly Spitfires says:

    Sounds interesting. I trust Blizzard so no doubt they will do a good job. Kinda concerning that they are changing things so radically now when the game looks so finished… still, we’ve got about 2 years before it comes out so it’s not like they’re in a rush…

  28. Tye The Czar says:

    I wonder what Blizzard’s going to do to counter Torchlight’s pet seller? In fact, I wonder if there’s any modders who could put that sort of mechanic into Diablo II?

  29. Pappy13 says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I wonder what Blizzard’s going to do to counter Torchlight’s pet seller? In fact, I wonder if there’s any modders who could put that sort of mechanic into Diablo II?

    I thought that Torchlight offered a solution there as well…vendor NPC’s in the dungeons themselves. Perhaps rather than a town portal spell you could have a town vendor spell that simply warps in a vendor at the current location or perhaps summons a carrier pidgeon that you can offload what you don’t want and takes it to the vendors. What the pidgeon can’t carry enough for you? Ok maybe a carrier pterodactyl.

  30. Fenix says:

    This is rather hilariously foolish, considering Torchlight is essentially a stripped down clone of the Diablo games.