- Written by Dredscythe
Welcome to Development Hell #1. I have been in talks with “great minds” of Diablo III for a long time over the last few years. Developer insights, player requests... all of which have great merit, and I want to finally attempt to add some of my own to that long list.
Let’s tackle our first topic - legendary gem system! The gem system has been great ever since its initial introduction in Patch 2.1. They have greatly added more to the build diversity we have in Diablo III: Reaper of Souls, and have gone through iterations since that first release. Some gems have been updated for the soon-to-be Patch 2.4.1 along with being able to augment them. All of this is great, but the management, storage, and usage of the gems has become cumbersome and can use an update itself.
Before we go any further, let’s lay down the ground rules that we need to keep in mind while pursuing solutions. Not going by them will most likely open up new problems – not solutions!
- Let RNG be RNG as much as possible.
- Keep true to the original purpose of the idea.
- No special cases (Softcore vs. Hardcore, Season vs. Non-season).
- Do not take away from the “death penalty” of Hardcore.
- Must not add additional bloat to the game, or alternatively limit that bloat as much as possible (art assets, new NPCs, coding, etc.)
Getting the Gems
Getting the gems will pretty much stay the same. No issue here. You will need to run greater rifts (GRs) to get them as you do now. The change is how you interact with them physically at the end – or lack thereof.
When you complete a GR, you’ll see Urshi as usual. However, where you see your gems at the bottom, you’ll see all possible gems you can obtain greyed out.
When you talk to her (after a successful GR run) a new gem will appear (become normal looking) from the holding area at random. This is fun, adds a little element of surprise like identifying a legendary item is. Also, one stash space is open – WOOT! Note in the picture above Gogok of Swiftness is the last one I can get.
I’m feeling frisky and decide to rank up Gogok of Swiftness. We can select it and upgrade it now like normal. Every GR completed unlocks another gem until your collection is complete.
- Doing this keeps gems out of your inventory, gaining that precious stash space back.
- We maintain the current method of getting and upgrading the gems.
- Make gems account wide, no need for multiple gems and wasted time leveling the same gems for multiple classes.
Doing this brings up minor to major issues that, in the end don’t really revolve around the gems themselves, but other game mechanics. Let’s bring them up one-by-one and see how we can address them, and if they bring up little devils of their own.
Where Do You Select Gems?
An important thing to remember from this point forward is that gems are no longer an item we can move from our inventory to our shared stash, or move from one character to another. They are more place holders than physical items at this point. Think of actually wearing Nemesis Bracers versus having its power via Kanai’s Cube. With that in mind, selecting a gem must not break that new environment we have built.
First thought was to simply add a tab to the Jeweler. It would seemingly be a similar fit. The issue is that the Jeweler is known for crafting jewels, necklaces, and rings. Adding a storage function, plus selection method seems out of the basic function of the three primary crafters (Blacksmith, Mystic, and Jeweler) emphasis on crafting.
Also, the UI interface would be a direct copy of the Kanai’s Cube interface – not very original. Not to mention we would have to make a “jewel box” in the 3D world. Like the anvil for the Blacksmith or those weird wells for the Mystic, we have to keep consistency with the implementation of real world elements. We’re trying to reduce elements – not add more.
Second try could be Kanai’s Cube itself. The Cube is a very powerful item, and already has a UI interface that works for its current purpose. The Cube also has powers you can select from. Once again though, we’re at an impasse. The Cube does two things similar but based off of different methods for what we want.
- The Cube breaks down items to get their properties.
- The Cube manipulates items you put in it for different purposes.
We are not breaking down our gems and we’re not manipulating our gems either. We just need a simple storage and selection method.
Lastly, I arrived at the best overall solution. We already have gems in storage when we rank them up via Urshi. Knowing that, I say add Urshi to the town.
“Hey buddy, what about Rule #5?”
I agree, but only on the bloat end - thinking of you, Act 1! On all other accounts, Urshi is an existing NPC, that already performs a function for gems, and already “stores” gems when you’re picking one to rank it up at the end of a successful GR. She fits the bill wholly, and we could get some interesting conversations between her and Orek.
How to Select Which Gems to Use?
Now that we have selected a method to store our gems, we have to figure out how to actually select them. I think clever use of simple UI elements can do the trick here easily.
All you need to do is go up to Urshi in town and select up to three gems (four with Gem of Ease) like usual and you will inherit the benefits of them. This is not unlike the Cube, but does it in a way that feels right and opens up new possibilities going forward. Before we get to those, let’s address some further development concerns.
How to Check Gem Levels on Character (Away From Town)?
Let’s make this one simple, and it’s so simple, here’s a picture explaining it all.
That’s right, embed the gems you currently have selected via Urshi in town displayed as shown in your inventory. It’s easy and alerts you quickly if you misclicked a gem for your night’s adventure. You can even hover over the gems to get the detailed info from a tooltip. Only thing I had to do is swap where the gold and blood shards were to avoid overlapping UI elements.
Hardcore “Death Penalty” Enforcement?
We want to maintain the “death penalty” for Hardcore players out there. The system we have is pretty good and will work with Hardcore as well. The process of what happens when you die looks like this:
- Player dies (Sorry!)
- Game checks for gems selected from Urshi
- If gems are selected
- The gems selected are greyed out from Urshi. Also, other characters that are using those gems will have a “blank corner” where the gems are shown in the inventory with ranks removed in the image above.
- If no gems are selected
- Nothing happens.
I know this is not perfect for one thing, and one thing only – back-ups! I understand Hardcore players keep backups of gear when they upgrade for such occasion if they die. Gems very much are a part of that too.
However, I call this scenario, “Contradictory Risk”. You are taking on a risk to level up a secondary gem, which might get your character dead, in order to have a back-up gem to use, in the event that character dies. This system, along with the way you loss gems upon death stated, I feel is fair and balanced.
Can I Has Augment Please?
“Yes, you can!” I must admit, the augmentation of armor and jewelry almost killed this idea off. The ever-so-slight change of gems not being physical items anymore forces a different thought perspective. So with that statement, there are a few changes, but all made with trying to respect what is already there.
Firstly, you rank up your armor (yes, your armor) at the end of a Greater Rift. In order to do this, we will need to apply Caldesann's Despair on the armor or jewelry before going into the Greater Rift. This is required because Urshi will now have a second tab for this purpose exclusively. Due to this, Caldesann's Despair recipe had to be tweaked for how it works and gets applied.
Caldesann's Despair now works like this:
You use the same ancient item, three flawless jewels, however, there are two new and different materials on that list to solve two different issues.
Shard of Eternal Power replaces the gem that you would have to use in the old recipe. It’s used only to get rank one on the piece of gear – that’s it. As the text says, it only drops off torment X rift guardians. This is a way of making sure people take a little time before they start getting them and feel pressured to use them on gear that may not be worth it.
Crushed Gem Powder is a material needed out of necessity. When this figurative patch would go live, we would want to give players benefit of the doubt that they didn’t get a chance to use their gems to Caldesann's Despair a piece of gear. This material is essentially a place holder for a gem that was destroyed because there was a duplicate in your inventory, at a lower rank. So, for example:
A few images above I have a rank 50 Gem of Ease. Say I had a second one that was rank 70. Urshi will only hold one version of the gem to select and will always be the highest at the time, again as of this figurative patch. When that patch would hit, the rank 70 Gem of Ease will be available via Urshi and the rank 50 duplicate will become this material as seen above. This will allow me to get an instant rank 50 caldesann's despair on any piece gear, but going forward I have to rank up the armor individually.
“Wait, I barely get all that, so how do I rank up the piece of gear?”
When you complete a Greater Rift successfully, you’ll be able to select a second tab. This is how you’ll be able to rank up your gear. You see all currently equipped gear in a mock stash. This means ONLY currently equipped gear can be ranked up. You select a piece of gear and hit upgrade. The ranking percentage works exactly the same as ranking up gems.
In my opinion, this a better way of doing it:
- It removes the rank requirements per piece (via gems).
- Keeps it the last thing you do by material acquisition and where you get it.
- It’s all cumulative, not worrying about having to override a rank 50 Caldesann's Despair with a 60 and losing all that time and effort of those 50 levels.
Before I touch on the last subject, I want to re-emphasize that last point. While it is nice to start off with a rank 30, 40, or 50 Caldesann's Despair, the process never felt tight. I want to rank up my gear, not a gem to just do a different form of socketing. Also, the starting benefit may seem small, if you have a decent to near-perfect piece of gear, you can start ranking it up ASAP in the hundreds of GRs you do! Lastly, and probably the biggest issue is that you no longer have to worry if you were ranking up a gem that maxes out at 50 or higher. Makes the game easier, not harder.
“The Great Socket Debate” Back With a Vengeance!
As Neinball has been known for talking about a lot on, sockets are pretty much required nowadays. Sockets are required in the helm, chest, pants, weapons, neck, and rings. This wouldn’t be a topic here, but we have to address the last issue lingering from all this development. The neck and rings need sockets for gems to be used. If the new system doesn’t require them, how do we approach this new potential balance issue?
The new loot system in RoS is to have four primary affixes (which sockets are one of) and two secondary affixes.
- Helm: Socket, class stat (Dex, Str, Int) critical hit % with either Vit or % skill damage being the fourth primary
- Chest: Sockets, class stat (Dex, Str, Int), Vit, with resistance to all elements or armor being the four primary
- Pants: Sockets, class Stat (Dex, Str, Int), Vit, with resistance to all elements or armor being the four primary
- Weapon: We got an item to give us a socket beyond the fourth primary, breaking the “4 primary/2 secondary” for crying out loud!
- Neck pieces: Socket, critical hit damage %, and critical hit % with class stat (Dex, Str, Int) or elemental damage % as the fourth primary. Also recent changes and updates to some of these items have guaranteed sockets as part of their rolls now.
- Rings: Socket, critical hit damage %, critical hit %, with one of the following: attack speed %, area damage %, and reduce cooldown %. Just like neck pieces, changes and updates to some of these items have guaranteed sockets as part of their rolls now.
I did the breakouts for everything just as a broad example, but those are the choices you make most of the time. Sockets have become so important in this game they aren’t important anymore. They are required, therefore they are just an additional amount of class stat (in the case of helm/chest/pants) or alternative stat like cooldown reduction % or elemental damage % (helm/neck/rings/weapon). The more we look at them, the more sockets can be seen as a paragon lite than anything else that adds anything substantive to your character. Sockets tend to take away choice, harming build diversity. For now, though, thinking where sockets are no longer needed (neck pieces and rings):
- Neck pieces: Will go old school trifecta (critical hit damage % – critical hit % - attack speed %) with elemental damage % most likely as the fourth primary.
- Rings: Will go old school bifecta (critical hit damage % – critical hit %) with two of the following attack speed %, area damage %, reduce cooldown %, and reduce resource cost % being the third and fourth primary.
This could be a power creep in itself, but I am okay with it. Don’t call me a “power-creeper-lover" though: I have a way to turn this into a solution for a different problem in the game, but that’s a different Development Hell altogether.
Thank you for getting this far, and I hope you got some inspiration for the world of Diablo by reading this.