We're taking a close look at defensive skills vs. incoming monster damage in 1.0.5. We’re going to be changing a few defensive skills for each class, including some direct nerfs to skills like wizard Energy Armor and barbarian War Cry - Impunity. However, we're also reducing incoming damage in Inferno, so players will actually come out ahead. In short the plan is:
Reduce the effectiveness of select defensive skills
Reduce monster damage by more than the mitigation lost by these skills
Putting both changes together, players actually take less damage than before
Why We're Making This Change
Why are we doing this? The reason is not complicated. High incoming monster damage combined with extremely powerful defensive skills make those skills and runes feel mandatory. Our goal is that by simultaneously nerfing defensive skills and reducing incoming damage, players who choose to continue using these defensive skills will take less damage overall, and players who choose to forego these "mandatory" skills will find themselves more survivable than what you would currently experience on live. Overall, these changes result in a huge buff in the player’s favor. Just how mandatory are these skills?
As it is now, Energy Armor is used by 83% of level 60 wizards. Also, take a look at the distribution of the War Cry skill on level 60 barbarians:
In developing Diablo III, defensive skills were made potent because we wanted to ensure they would be attractive. In some regards, we were too successful. Many players feel compelled to grab every defensive skill available to them, which can take away from some flexibility in using different build options.
This also creates problems for a class that may have less defensive skills. When one class has massive defensive buffs, abilities like Mortar, Arcane Enchanted, and Plagued can feel pretty modest, and at the same time feel overly punishing to a class without them. We’re all in favor of people being able to build their character for survivability, but there needs to be a balance.
How Much is Enough?
So the stated goal is to make sure the combination of the defensive skill nerf combined with the reduced damage from monsters still results in an overall buff to players. Let's bust out some math! As previously mentioned, Energy Armor is one of the skills being impacted. The exact change is the base armor provided by Energy Armor is being reduced from 65% to 35%, and the resistance increase provided by Prismatic Armor is being reduced from 40% to 25%.
The benefit of these skills is greater at higher levels of Armor and Resistance, so let’s assume very high numbers of each. Suppose a wizard has 6000 Armor and 800 Resist before Prismatic Armor. Assuming a level 63 enemy:
In 1.0.4 this translates to 9900 Armor (75.86% mitigation) and 1120 Resist (78.05% mitigation) with Prismatic Armor, for a total mitigation of 94.70%
In 1.0.5 this will be 8100 Armor (72.00% mitigation) and 1000 Resist (76.05% mitigation) with Prismatic Armor, for a total mitigation of 93.29%
If a monster hits for 50,000 damage, then the damage taken by the wizard will go from 2650 damage to 3355 damage.
This means incoming damage would have to be less than 79% of the current value (2650 /3355) in order for it to feel the same after 1.0.5.
Based on this it’s clear that in order to ensure 1.0.5 is a net buff for all wizards we’d have to reduce incoming monster damage by at least 21%. Prismatic Armor still provides a significant boost to survivability, but it should no longer feel mandatory, opening up other options such as a more offensively minded Storm Armor (which is getting buffed in 1.0.5).
Let’s do another example with the barbarian. War Cry Impunity is being reduced from 50% resistances to 20%.
A barbarian with 800 resist before War Cry against a level 63 enemy translates to 1200 Resist (79.21% mitigation) with Impunity in 1.0.4
In 1.0.5 this will be 960 Resist (75.29% mitigation) with Impunity
If a monster hits for 20,000 damage after Armor, then the damage taken by the Barbarian will go from 4158 damage to 4942 damage
This means incoming damage would have to be less than 84% of the current value on live (4158/4942) in order for the game to feel the same.
As it happens, we’re going to reduce all damage in Inferno by at least 25%. Players who want to be the toughest damage mitigators in the game can continue to use defensive skills and get a sizable bonus for doing so. Players who want to use other skills can do so without sacrificing such a massive amount of survivability. Class builds that don't currently use heavy mitigation skills such as Smoke Screen-focused demon hunters or Gargantuan-tanking witch doctors will find their survivability has gone up considerably due to reduced incoming monster damage.
Class by Class
Here's a quick rundown of what's changing in terms of defensive skills in 1.0.5.
War Cry - Impunity: Bonus resistance reduced from 50% to 20%.
Leap - Iron Impact: We’re adjusting the design of this skill. Rather than providing 300% armor for 4 seconds, it’s going to provide 100% armor per target hit for 3 seconds. So if you don't hit any targets, you won't get any armor. If you hit 5 targets, you'll actually get 500% armor. We are making this change because the intended fantasy of Iron Impact is a barbarian who leaps into the thick of battle and is super tough. The way the skill plays out on live it is essentially an Ignore Pain that can also move you. For the most part it is better than Ignore Pain, making not only Ignore Pain unattractive, but also the other Leap Attack runes. In 1.0.5, if you want a defensive cooldown - grab Ignore Pain. If you want to leap into the thick of battle and be super tough, take Iron Impact.
In the case of the demon hunter, the class is a bit too binary. If you're playing a glass cannon Smoke Screen build, then you're invulnerable most of the time, and when you make a mistake, you die instantly. If you're using Shadow Power - Gloom with a legacy Natalya's set, then you have near constant uptime of 65% damage reduction, but if you're not using the legacy Natalya's set, Shadow Power - Gloom is a luxury.
Independent of the general defensive skill nerf, we had already decided to buff Shadow Power to last longer. The primary purpose of Shadow Power is to give you a short window of time during which you can unload some damage to recoup some Life. Unfortunately the 3-second duration makes this awkward to use. We are changing Shadow Power from 20% Life Steal for 3 seconds to 15% Life Steal for 5 seconds. This should be a modest buff to the skill as well as making it a lot more pleasant to use. All of the runes are scheduled to see similar changes, such as Blood Moon going from 30% Life Steal for 3 seconds to 25% Life Steal for 5 seconds. Each rune effect is slightly smaller, but for 5 seconds instead of 3 seconds, resulting in an overall buff over the duration of the effect.
Taking into account the across-the-board nerf to defensive skills, Gloom will become 35% damage reduction for 5 seconds.
This developer journal is focused primarily on defensive skill changes, but because the change to Gloom is significant, I want to mention that we are looking at concrete mechanics changes to the demon hunter to introduce new play styles. Many players have mentioned that outside of Gloom, demon hunters seem to lack defensive options. More importantly, demon hunters would like some different play styles, and we agree! Here are a few changes we are adding for demon hunters in 1.0.5 to open up new ways to play:
We are adjusting some runes and passives to provide ways to increase survivability that scales with your Life, Armor, and resistances.
We are changing the Spider, Boar, and Wolf companion pets to be actual pets that can tank for you like a Gargantuan or Zombie Dog.
We are putting a short cooldown on Sentry, but you can have two out simultaneously. On top of that, the Custom Engineering passive will let you have a third Sentry turret! This opens up a whole new play style for the Demon Hunter of establishing a "nest" that you can draw enemies into.
The strongest monk defensive skill is One With Everything. We've mentioned it before and it bears repeating - this is something we would like to fix someday, but we're going to take our time. Changes to One With Everything heavily impact existing monk gear. We still plan on addressing this in the future but will do so in a way that does not invalidate the gear monks have invested in.
Resolve: Damage reduction reduced from 25% to 20%.
Seize the Initiative: Changed to grant 50% of your Dexterity as Armor. This will result in anywhere from 750 to 1250 armor for most monks (depending on your Dex) which is comparable to the mitigation lost by other classes. The reduction to Resolve and Seize the Initiative should mean if you want to be a “super-tanky monk” you can still take all three defensive skills, but it should be a lot easier to pick some other passives without feeling like you’re going to blow up at the first Elite pack you encounter.
Jungle Fortitude is being reduced from 20% to 15% damage reduction.
Energy Armor: Armor increase reduced from 65% to 35%.
Energy Armor - Prismatic Armor: Resistance increase reduced from 40% to 25%.
It’s worth noting that we’re going to provide additional alternative defensive options for the wizard such as adding flat melee damage reduction to Ice Armor and creating a Familiar variant that provides passive Life regeneration.
Why You Nerf Inferno?
Alright, so let's recap. Defensive skills are taking a hit in 1.0.5, but incoming damage from monsters is also being reduced. Taken together, the changes mean Inferno is going to be easier. For some of you this is totally cool; you welcome an easier Inferno because it’s about efficiency and not difficulty. For others, you may be skeptical but you're at least intrigued at the possibility that you'll be able to drop some defensive skills and discover some new builds. However, for others, Inferno is currently already too easy. Maybe you don't use any defensive skills; maybe your gear is so good you dropped War Cry - Impunity weeks ago. For this last group you may be wondering "Another Inferno nerf? But I crave more of a challenge, not less!"
For people in this last group, 1.0.5 is bringing the "Monster Power" system. The details of this system will be outlined as we get closer to 1.0.5, but in short this is a callback to the Diablo II ”players X” option, allowing you to increase the level of challenge for increased rewards. Our hope is that we can make Inferno easier while simultaneously providing new ways for top-end players to gauge their increasing power in tangible ways.
We’re going to lock comments here, and ask that you instead head to this forum thread to let us know what you think.
Wyatt Cheng is a Senior Technical Game Designer for Diablo III, and he’s annoyingly excited about Netrunner being re-released as a Living Card Game. It’s really starting to get on everyone’s nerves.