Community manager Lylirra posted on the Battle.net forums a message from Technical Designer Wyatt Cheng on some of the hottest changes coming with 1.0.3. The post covers and justifies some of the techniques implemented to even out the melee vs ranged disparity and more.
I’ll state up front that I do think there’s a disparity between melee and ranged, and I would like to see that closed. I feel like if I talk a lot about thought processes and design philosophy and don’t state this up front people will lose the forest for the trees and conclude we think everything is fine. So I’ll say it again: melee vs. ranged disparity is not fine, changes are being made, and even if you disagree with the approach outlined below we can hopefully have the common ground that the current situation needs improvement.
It may not look like it on the surface, but a large number of the changes in 1.0.3 are actually targeted at closing the melee/ranged gap. Let me go through some of them.
I’m going to use Hardcore as a starting point. In Hardcore, there’s actually a reasonable distribution of classes, and I don’t think the melee vs. ranged disparity is as large. There are a lot of Hardcore players of every class in Inferno without a huge disparity. Why is this important? It’s because a significant portion of the melee/ranged disparity is related to a ranged character’s ability to progress even while dying. A melee player can throw themselves at a monster and die, doing almost no damage to an elite enemy. A ranged player can do a huge amount of damage to an elite enemy, die, respawn, and basically attrition the enemy down with repeated deaths. In the Hardcore environment where a single bad Mortar, Vortex, Jailer, or Reflects Damage will kill a glass cannon-ranged character, the disparity between ranged and melee is an order of magnitude less.
One of the more controversial changes in 1.0.3 is the increased repair costs. The design intent of these increased repair costs is to make death more meaningful. One of the top arguments we see against the increased repair costs is “I’m already dying dozens of times to make any progress in Inferno. Don’t you see this is going to make this impossible?” This concern is most often brought up by ranged glass cannons. Many melee players respond “increased repair costs seem fine” because they haven’t been using death-zerging as a tactic. Melee can’t easily death-zerg an enemy down, but ranged can. I don’t think the answer is to make death-zerging more attractive for melee; I’d rather make death-zerging a less profitable strategy for ranged.
Enemy Health and Damage
We’re also looking to adjust the damage and health of enemies in Inferno Acts II, III, and IV. This is another change that is primarily for melee with secondary benefits for ranged. A lot of ranged are building glass cannon with the mentality “well, I’ll just try not to get hit at all.” So, reducing incoming damage when they weren’t taking any before isn’t significant for them, whereas reducing incoming damage for the melee is a big deal. For the ranged classes, I’m hoping that the incoming damage reduction will make some survival stats more appealing to ranged classes. While before the damage was so large it just felt pointless to try and mitigate any of it at all, after the change hopefully ranged classes will think “well, if I just put on a modest amount of survivability, I don’t get 1-shot, so that’s worth it.” There are some ranged players who are already doing this — stacking survivability so they don’t have to endlessly kite — and it just feels like the minimum amount of survivability to avoid the 1-shot is so large it’s unattainable. That’s one of the things 1.0.3 seeks to address.
Damage Reduction in Co-op
Another change which is targeted at improving life for melee is the reduction in co-op damage. Again, since many ranged players just build glass cannon and avoid damage completely, they didn’t really care if incoming damage went up as other players entered the game, but the melee characters really noticed. It was very easy for your life-on-hit to have you at a steady equilibrium, but as soon as another player entered the game your life-on-hit was no longer covering the incoming damage and death became imminent.
And finally, there are always minor polish adjustments designed to help melee — such as the AI on some monsters (BEES!!!) being tweaked to run away less often, which again helps melee more than ranged. I actually spent some extra time the other day to make sure if a Sand Wasp runs away from you, and you start chasing the wasp, it doesn’t turn and shoot 4 bees in your face (hopefully that makes 1.0.3). I’m also working with one of our gameplay engineers to make it so if you sidestep the Dark Berserker’s power hit (where he brings his giant mace down), he doesn’t turn to track you as he swings (though that change probably won’t make 1.0.3). These kind of AI adjustments are things ranged players don’t even notice, but are huge for melee.
Another adjustment being made is increasing both the maximum range and the dead zone of Mortar. Mortar was specifically designed to be an anti-range affix, but many ranged players would just stand even farther away, whereas melee would sometimes get caught in the cross-fire of two Mortars. Increasing the maximum range and the dead zone helps with both of these.
Patch 1.0.3. is to be the first major patch for Diablo III, which will bring not only the aforementioned changes but also corrected loot chance for Hell Act III/IV and on, tweaked Inferno difficulty, cheaper crafting and class balance.