Monday, May 19, 2014

[D3/D&D/WoW] Garbage Legendaries

With the legendary drop rate in Diablo III doubled, I’ve found myself playing a lot of the game. It’s pretty satisfying to run through a rift and get anywhere from three to five legendaries per run, and I’m not even running through them that quickly, to be honest.

How Diablo III handles loot gives rise to the concept of “garbage legendaries”. When even your most awesome of items are largely random, you’ll get versions that aren’t salvageable for wearing, and only useful for salvaging, even with the ability to tweak on of the stats on it. Compare that to a game like D&D where the equivalent (an “artifact”) is something the players may only ever see once in their entire 20 – 30 level career and has to be AWESOME, or even WoW, where you may only see one an expansion and it’s guaranteed to make your character that much better.

I’ve written on the concept of using gear as a type of alternate advancement before, but Diablo III takes the opposite approach from WoW today: each item can have 1 stat changed, and may have gems. There’s no hit cap to manage, the gems are reusable (you can even salvage the item and you get the gems back!), and other than rerolling a single stat, there’s nothing else to really customize the gear from a gameplay perspective. Replacing gear, especially in the early stages of the game, is a simple matter of dropping in the new stuff when you think it’s more powerful than the old. This makes going for those incremental jumps in the power curve easy to do, and satisfying. Seeing it in practice in Diablo III makes me feel that much better about what they’re doing for WoW.

As you get closer to the pinnacle of your character, you’re often looking for (random) drops that have slightly better rolls for the same stats, or just one stat that rolls slightly different. On top of that, trying to get set items and the like takes a long time. The amount of effort to get those last few percent of power is disproportionately large compared to the initial investment. I’m pretty okay with that, as it makes it extremely difficult to “complete” the game.

The strangest thing about the setup, though, is that garbage legendaries are not only expected, but required. To reroll stats, or to craft other legendaries or set items, you need materials that drop when you salvage (destroy) the item. The entire item economy demands this. On the bright side, it means that even garbage legendaries are worth something. But on the other hand, the idea of getting an item that is supposedly relatively unique and just going, “Oh, well!” and destroying it for components feels a bit odd.

That’s also an artifact of how quickly you get “legendary” items. D&D, one item for years upon years of work—or if you go with “super-rare”, you’re still only talking one every couple of levels for the entire party. WoW, one item per expansion (so two years). Diablo III? Three to five an hour. But since you have nearly totally random stats, you have to get a lot of the items to even be likely to find one that’s remotely worth it.

Perhaps “legendary” is a poor term for the item type, and it’s really just “super-rare” instead of rare? But that clearly doesn’t have the same ring to it. Perhaps they should just color them purple and call them epics instead?

When you look at a (normal) raid in WoW, you’re getting about 0.2 to 0.24 items per person per boss kill, but the loot tables are pretty well known and not nearly as random, as stats on each item are generally static. You’re almost guaranteed that someone will be able to use the item as an upgrade for the first few weeks. Perhaps you’re capable of downing 4 bosses in an hour (which is a pretty brisk pace all things considered), and you’ve almost hit an item per person for the hour—ignoring the fact that there are some repeats for slots already filled, and sometimes you just don’t have anyone who can use the item that dropped, which all gets worse the more you run the raid as a team.

But with WoW’s model, you don’t have room for garbage items to drop nearly as often. WoW’s economy demands it as much as or more than Diablo III, with enchanting shards coming from destroyed equipment, as well as materials to craft other items equal in power. However, since the game has an Auction House, the materials from garbage items can be pooled across the entire server population so the system already can correct for that disparity.

I like loot. I like getting drops in Diablo III, though the closer to “complete” my character gets, the less exciting non-legendary drops get—which means that once the buff is gone I’ll be back to getting 1 or 2 items per hour, which is only slightly more than the drop rate in a WoW raid as far as time investment is concerned, but at least the drop table is small and known so I can anticipate specific drops. With the sheer randomness of Diablo III’s entire system, I’m not really sure it will be worth my time to play the game on my primary character anymore given how slow the incoming possibilities will be, let alone the fact that most of the drops may be terrible and need to be salvaged.
#GameDesign, #DiabloIII, #WoW, #DnD


  1. Yea its a little disconcerting to think about the drop rate going back to normal. Im not sure at this point that a 100% increase was a great idea. I have 5 new set plans since sunday and many legendary crafting components/weaps/armor items. Going back to 'normal' is not going to be easy.

    1. Funny, turns out the Legendary drop rate buff will be permanent:

      Ask and ye shall receive.

  2. Keep increasing the difficulty. I think the game weights toward the lower end of the legendary scale the lower your difficulty is. So if you consistently increase the difficulty, you are not only increasing the challenge, but increasing the chances of getting useful loot.

    1. Hm, interesting. I know that increasing the difficulty increases your Magic Find by 100% per Torment level according to the UI, which I suppose means more loot, which means more chances at useful loot.

      I can solo Torment III, but it's slow going and dangerous for me. Is it really better to go above Torment I, where I can chew through mobs much, much faster, therefore making up the difference? Or is there actually an internal value that says, "Higher Torment, Better stats" ?

    2. Ah, misspoke, it's not a flat 100%, it's an exponential increase based on Torment level. Still, my final question stands.

    3. Well, I don't know. It could be random, but I upped the difficulty from T1 to T2, and almost immediately I replaced a few pieces. When you hold down ALT to see the ranges, all my T1 pieces seem to fall nearer the bottom of the scale.

      But I'm not 100% sure, though.

    4. Hmm, I bumped mine up to T2 for about 5 hours and have replaced no pieces at all. Random loot is random, however, which makes it really hard to tell. The diablo wiki suggests that the Legendary Drop rate is what goes up behind the scenes, but nothing else really.

  3. This is one of the reasons I just never really cared about D3. Chasing after those last few percent of character power in WoW is done because you're working on a new boss after farm or spending time with friends in a raid.

    But in D3? The only reason I'd play is with friends, but I didn't bother picking up RoS. Just doesn't appeal to me -- what's the point of getting better loot? It quickly hit the point where the "OOH SHINY < what's the point?"

    1. True. D3 is basically character progression for its own sake. I suppose one could say if you can beat Diablo/Malthael on the hardest difficulty, that counts as a goal, right? But for the most part, it really is all about just getting loot to beat harder monsters to get more loot.

      However, there's a joy there for some folks. I admit that I'll get bored soon with it, but I like getting bigger numbers just because bigger numbers. Have you ever played cookie clicker? Same sort of concept. Progression is the point of the game, rather than progression in pursuit of another goal.

      Not saying you have to like it; I can definitely understand why people wouldn't. If character progression is a means to an end to you, Diablo III is most definitely not going to be an enjoyable game once you've beaten the story.

    2. "If character progression is a means to an end to you, Diablo III is most definitely not going to be an enjoyable game once you've beaten the story."


      And a large part of it is that tangential curve you mentioned. Leveling a character in Diablo was fun. Getting lots of upgrades was fun. Getting Paragon levels quickly was fun.

      But then you hit max level, and Paragon levels start to slow down, and pretty much the only gear upgrades you need are legendaries...and it slows down so much that the entertainment is lessened to the point where you'd rather do something else.

      There's just no reason to chase after that last 5% of character power -- it's certainly not what's stopping you from killing Malthael on Torment VI either.