Blizzard explains recent Diablo 3 PTR balance changes
The Diablo 3 PTR has been very active as patch 2.6.1 goes through its paces. The most recent build saw some nerfs to some Legendary items and class set bonuses, reducing them from their high water marks in a previous PTR build (but still significantly buffed from their current state on live servers) and players were a touch dismayed. Since one of the classes that saw these nerfs was Barbarian, my current favorite, I understand their reaction. Seeing the Wrath of the Wastes 6 piece set bonus go from 3400% bonus damage to 3000% seems like it drops a class that most players feel needs every ounce of help it can get.
Several players feel like the recent nerf to classes like Barbarians and Witch Doctors is aimed at keeping Necromancers ahead of the pack on Greater Rift clears. Now Blizzard has addressed the reasoning behind these changes and what they actually add up to.
There has a been a lot of discussion about some of the changes in the most recent PTR Patch and I wanted to chime in and hopefully give some insight as to why we made some of the decisions we made.
First I’d like to try and quell some misconceptions that I’ve noticed within the community:
- Big number changes don’t necessarily mean big buffs and/or nerfs. Increasing a damage bonus from 6,100% to 10,100% sounds like a lot, but Greater Rifts scale on an exponential curve. For each successive Greater Rift level, you need roughly 17% more damage than the last to complete it. Going from 6,100% to 10,100% is roughly a 66% increase, which is only about 3 Greater Rift levels.
- The leaderboards aren’t all the data we use. Oftentimes one player will have a really high Greater Rift clear with a specific spec, but also have almost as high Greater Rift clears with other specs. Those almost as high Greater Rift clears aren’t shown on the leaderboards. We have data from every Greater Rift clear to analyze and action upon. This is partly what we mean when we say sometimes things don’t show the whole picture.
- We don’t just look at the Greater Rift level and time cleared. We look at paragon, legendary gems, augments, stats – just a whole slew of data from our Business Intelligence team – and do internal tests of our own. We have a target Greater Rift level with specific paragon, legendary gems, augments, stats, etc. derived from the top clears on Live and PTR and we try to hit that target by tweaking changes over the course of the PTR. Some of the reasons why you saw some specs get buffed, then nerfed, then buffed, then nerf again are because sometimes we don’t hit our target and because the goalpost moved after players cleared higher with the Blood Lancer Necromancer on Live.
- We’re not trying to keep the Necromancer at #1. In addition to the above bullet point, when we look at data on clears from Live vs. from PTR, we consider the amount of effort the Live person put in vs. the one on PTR. Oftentimes PTR players simply don’t put in as many attempts as someone as Live. We also keep in mind that not everyone plays on the PTR, so we aren’t necessarily receiving data from all of the best players for each spec.
The Whirlwind changes have been a hot topic, so I wanted to dig a little deeper and explain those. A couple of PTR Patches ago, we fixed a bug with Battle Rage: Bloodshed that nerfed it’s damage quite a bit. Before we fixed the bug, the top Whirlwind build used Battle Rage: Bloodshed, so the increase on damage from 1700% to 3400% on Wrath of the Wastes was meant to compensate for the nerf on damage on Battle Rage: Bloodshed. However, the recent high Greater Rift clears with Whirlwind started to use Battle Rage: Swords to Ploughshares. We considered the paragon, legendary gems, etc. of the player that cleared Greater Rift 118, but we also considered how fast after the patch the player cleared it. All of the things considered, we decided to decease Whirlwind damage a little bit – roughly 2 Greater Rift levels.
With all of the things we have to consider, sometimes we do get things wrong. The testing, feedback, and discussion we’ve received from the community has helped us tremendously. Hopefully we’ve done some things right during this patch cycle. Thanks again and have a great rest of your weekend!
There’s a lot to unpack here, but I think a few general points need to be made first.
These aren’t actually nerfs. They’re buffs from where the items and classes are on live. Remember, this is the PTR, not live servers — when these changes go live, assuming no further changes, your Wrath of the Wastes set bonus will still go from 800% extra damage on WW to 3000%, and that’s still a buff. Yes, they’re reductions from the highest buff the set saw in a previous PTR patch, but perspective needs to be maintained. PTR changes and adjustments are to be expected and can never be counted on or considered real until they’re on live servers, that’s just good sense.
I won’t pretend I think that these were necessary changes. Frankly I think Barbarians need help, and not just on WW either — non-WW builds definitely need some love. But I at least grasp the basic idea that the 3400% buff was to compensate for loss of a Talent, and a later Talent choice made it less imperative to offer that compensation.
I do find Don’s point about how Leaderboards are overused by the community as the be all and end all of which builds are ‘the best’ and which ones need help to be one worth considering. Blizzard collects an absolute ton of data and we just plain don’t have access to it — when they make adjustments on the PTR it’s often in service of collecting more, in fact. An item, a set, a talent or ability might get buffed or nerfed on the PTR in order to help them determine now another change is working out and it’s one you might not even notice focusing on leaderboards. Remember, a lot of these PTR changes were in the service of trying to make multiple builds closer together in terms of utility. If you’re routinely pushing GR 89 as a WW Barb, going to Seismic Slam shouldn’t send you back down to GR 55.
The idea that dropping buff levels, even by a significant number, isn’t necessarily a huge nerf makes sense even if it is unsatisfying. 3400% is better than 3000%. But when every GR level requires an overall damage output increase of 17% it ends up not being as much of a big deal. I kind of wish there was a less inflationary way of expressing these things — it reminds me of the old days in WoW when we went from flat percentages to ratings for that very reason.
In the end, I’m still pretty excited for patch 2.6.1 — my Barbarian’s WW build is going to get some significant benefits from the changes even as they stand. But I won’t pretend I wouldn’t have liked it better the way it was before the most recent PTR. Do I think Blizzard is trying to keep the Necromancer at number one? No. They want the Necromancer to still feel cool and unique — it’s a pack that people spent money (or Blizzard Battle.net balance, at the least) to acquire, you don’t want it to feel old hat yet. But I sincerely doubt they’d want to tank the balance of the game for that. It feels more to me like right now they’re more focused on balancing within various builds within a class than between classes.
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