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Developer Hell #2 – Paragon: “A Tale of Two Cities”

by - 8 months ago

 

“Your lungs gasp for air, your body hunched over. The deep burning in your legs leaving you barely able to hold yourself upright. After a moment you come to, a moment to comprehend what had transpired. You right yourself by pushing against the sign post. You’re just out of the town, now engulfed in flames.

‘How quickly man turns on each other.’ You say still one arm holding your still heaving chest. The inevitable ashes of this town just another mark of the fight of the “haves” and “have nots”. Our eternal struggle of the poor and rich, the commoners and the elite. A tale as old as time for man as the Eternal Conflict is for the Angels and Demons…

Welcome back traveler, to this small corner of Development Hell, the article series where I try to look at problem systems and come up with interesting solutions. They may not be perfect or most fleshed out, but you’ll get a better sense of how to approach the problems at hand. Today’s Development Hell topic is the good ol’ Paragon System.

Keep in mind, when I come to solutions I do so while also holding to a few principles to keep solutions in check and not go into crazy town.

  1. Let RNG be RNG as much as possible.
  2. Keep true to the original purpose of the idea.
  3. No special cases (Softcore vs. Hardcore, Season vs. Non-season).
  4. Do not take away from the “death penalty” of Hardcore.
  5. Must not add additional bloat to the game, or alternatively limit that bloat as much as possible (art assets, new NPCs, coding, etc.)

Paragon – “A Brief Look Back”

Before we go forward, I feel we must take a look back. Sorry, yes, another retrospective is required. Back in August 20, 2012 (By Akarat, it has been 4 years!) the Paragon System was revealed for the upcoming Patch 1.0.4. It was brought into the game originally to solve a few major problems.

  • Give you a long-term goal while grinding for gear.
  • Help fill in small amounts of gear disparity by giving a permanent stat boosts to your character as if you were leveling regularly from levels 1-100.
  • Give a permanent 3% Magic Find and Gold Find from levels 1-100.

Paragon was a grind! I remember doing Fields of Misery and prepped Defiled Crypt runs non-stop for hours a day with a good friend for a few months to get both of us to 100. It was a real accomplishment back then if not purely for the time investment. Once you were there, you could breathe though. You were getting more drops. Gold did come a little more. Your character was a little, but not too much stronger than people at say paragon 10 or 20. However, big changes were coming!

Paragon 2.0 – “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls introduced Paragon 2.0. It was an advanced version of the base system with a few more additions.

  • It was now infinite; the level 100 cap was gone.
  • Paragon is now shared account wide, not just per character.
  • The permanent stat and MF/GF adjustments per level were gone. However, you would now be able to assign points. These points could go into one of four choices per one of four categories at a time.
  • Those choices went beyond the just the main stat and MF/GF to include such things as Cooldown Reduction, Critical Hit Chance, Max Resource, % Life, just to name a few.
  • After level 800, you could only place points into main stat or vitality.

At release and many months after this system was great. Torment VI was still a good goal to achieve. The XP disparity hadn’t ballooned out of control. Greater Rifts were only being pushed to lower 30s by a majority of the player base and weren’t seen as an main source of XP. Paragon had gone back to being a secondary goal.

Cut from Season 1 to Season 6 and we see dramatic changes have accrued. Reaching Paragon 800 became mandatory to do most “endgame” material, not a long-term goal. Top Leaderboard pushers would gain easily 1K paragon within the first weeks of a Season, not months. That extra main stat fed a positive feedback loop allowing them to push ever higher. This, while creating an ever-growing negative feedback loop pushing players that are more casual and couldn’t keep up the same XP acquisition rates further down the Leaderboards due to sheer Paragon progression the other players achieved.

The Actual Problem With Paragon – “The Way to Hell is Paved With Good Intentions”

The problem with Paragon as it stands has been cumulative over the years. I have always said that D3 is a tight web where plucking at one part can ripple across and affect many others on the opposing side.

The fact that in both D3 and D3:RoS Paragon become the end game when it was not intended . The fact it is an XP based system rather than quest or by some other means closed system with an end. The fact other systems that have since been added have exacerbated the problem – Regular and Greater Rifts being prime example. The addition of Augments (more on this later) that literally became a “Rich Get Richer” system. All these combined with the many revisions of class sets that have become exponentially more powerful along with the successive nerfs to monster health and damage numbers have borked the system beyond repair in my opinion.

We can look back now and probably list off a few things that could have been good solutions already. Cap the system at level 800. Just make it longer to get to level 800. Greater Rifts don’t give XP. All these, along with others could have come in before the 2.0 system went live. The Developers did not foresee us ever getting this high and had to raise the formula to go from 2,500 to 10,000! These are some major problems we need to tackle that will require a few steps to revert Paragon back to its intended purpose and be fair from the get go.

Paragon 3.0 – “Third Times A Charm…Yeah, About that!”

My best solution I can come up with is one that takes apart the current system into its individual parts and replaces them or repurposes them with other aspects of the game. Those parts are The Stat System, The Progression System and The Reward System.

The Stat System – “Let RNG be RNG!”

I want to preface this section with a little phrase, “If only a few people have it, it’s special. If most people have it, it’s standard.” This is how I feel about Paragon 2.0 as it stands now. In the beginning of D3:RoS, it was still seen as how would you ever get to 800 (that magically Soft Cap), but now players can get to it in just a few short weeks at the beginning of each season, not to mention the Non-Seasonal roll-over stack up at the end of a Season. With that in mind, the first part of the solution goes like this,

“If it’s only a matter of time, break it down, put it back on the gear, and let RNG be RNG.”

Yes, I mean exactly what I just said. Get rid of the point system all together and put the stats back on the gear! Now before you go all pitchfork here let’s think about this. When we look the max stat point in the current Paragon System you get the equivalent of around 2-3 extra pieces of gear (abiding by the 4 primary 2 secondary affix rule). Continue to look deeper at those values and the ranges of those values on gear. When compared to how many places they appear, the amount those ranges would go up is minimal.

An example could be Critical Hit Damage (Max Paragon 50% at 50 Points):

Typical places to see CHD are on Both Rings (up to 50% each), Necklaces (up to 100%) and Gloves (up to 10%). We come up with a ratio using these percentages (10% = 1) to come up with how much more each range gets, as well as the less common pieces of gear like a Witch Hour (Belt) or any Off-Hand item. When we do that, we get the following:

Gloves (10% = 1) + Rings (50% = 5 x 2 = 10) + Necklace (100% = 10) = 21

50 / 21 = 2.3~ range increase per 10% of CHD. If we take this and apply it to the current values:

Gloves (10% to 12%), Rings ( 50% to 62%) and Necklaces (100% to 123%).

The new values are not nice “round numbers” but they can shift a few points from one spot to another to achieve that. This is but one example, but the logic can be applied to ALL the stats that are range based (which is pretty much all of them) and get the stats where they should be, on the gear we work hard to grind.

Now before we move on, to those that think this would be too hard, or break your current gear, you’re in luck! Something like this has happen before, with a ranged stat, that affected many different types of gear. In the forum post linked (going back to patch 1.0.2 to 1.0.3) Attack Speed was running amok. If I remember the correctly they flat out nerfed the range value by 30% which was huge! It affected a lot of builds and classes. This does however show they could change the ranges relatively easily if wanted too.

“Wait, hold up, all this sounds great, but what about, you know the main problem here, Main Stat?”

I am so glad you asked. While part of me wants to yell, part of me is just frustrated that the Devs had a perfect chance to nip this in the bud (kinda) and make one simple change. The opportunity was missed and we’re still here talking about it. I am referring to Augmentation.

The simple fix that could have been done, and frankly can still be done is this. You place a hard cap of 800 – that’s it folks. If you want to increase your Main Stat you go through the work of Augmentation with the caveat that you double the values. This also make it not so painful to use a lower level gem on a piece of gear too. This could have been great, but instead both systems feed each other, only making the problem worst.

So, the fix (to go along with the ranges) would be as stated before of just doubling the values for Augmentation – easy enough.

The Progression System – “Hard Work Shows!”

You may be thinking, what’s the point to gaining XP now at end game if we’ve moved the stats back to their rightful place on the gear? Well that’s just it and also to do something completely different with Paragon too. If Paragon was meant to be a long-term goal, it should not be seen as a requirement to play the game at any level. In effect, by stripping out the tie to stats we have completely reversed course and can do interesting things.

First step to fixing the Progression System is leaving a legacy! For the current players, whether you are Paragon Level 1 or 3000 that achievement needs to be recognized. We do this a few ways. The current avatars (from 1-800) are no longer available to be obtained, but if you have them can use them. The next thing we do is make a Paragon Leaderboard and make one for the pre 3.0 system so a record is held for all time. Lastly (taking in mind the implementations from The Stat System rework above) we strip the Paragon points from your characters to start anew. The next is to set up the new Progression System.

The new Leaderboard will track Paragon gained by players Seasonal and Non-Seasonal alike. It will show whole numbers, but consider partial levels when people are tied. Also, Paragon will not be infinite in a sense of you can reach level 3,517 but more like a Prestige. You will go until you reach 100 again (XP curve to be determined) to which you’ll have the option to stay there, or reset and do it again, and again, and again. To those that know the XP curve well in D3:RoS, you are essentially doing this anyways so it’s not a big leap. With that we quickly jump to how we show off that Prestige.

The Reward System – “No More Avatars Please…Okay?”

The basic reward structure will go like this. The first time you hit Paragon 100 in the new system, you unlock an exclusive pendant to wear. This pendant will have a single Bone sigil on it signifying you have reach 100 once. If you choose to reset and reach it again, a second Bone sigil will appear. If you manage to get to five times, you will see Crossed Bones sigil now. Get up to eight times and you’ll have one (1) Crossed Bones sigil and three (3) Bone sigils. Get up to ten times, you’ll see a spiffy Skull sigil.

Carry this to the end of an Era for both Seasonal and Non-Seasonal, the top 1,000 players will get a more elaborate pendant to display their Prestige. The Top 100 get in addition to the new pendent an alternative banner with different colors. Lastly, the Top 10 get everything and an exclusive sigil. First on comes to mind is a Diablo Skull sigil.

The system would go on like this resetting, dishing out rewards and giving Paragon a new fresh purpose that doesn’t come at the expense of “need to vs. want to”. More could be done, but I feel they fall outside what the game is set up to handle as a whole and would require too much to be done. One of those thoughts was choosing to level or “dump” XP into items like Charms to get new and unique abilities. However, Legendary Gems are essentially that system so I didn’t go down that route.

This took a while to think about, and more so to write. I hope you understood most of it, enjoyed it and at the very least open you up to the problem at hand. Thanks for joining me here in Development Hell!

Dredscythe

Twitter: @dredscythe


Robert G.

Robert, otherwise known as Dredscythe has been in the Diablo 3 scene since Closed Beta 5+ years now. Seen a lot of the ups and downs and offers a unique, conceptual take on the issues at hand within the Diablo community. Creator of graphics and the offbeat article time ti time here on BlizzPro.