Maybe CM diary #29 - 05/01/2022

Hello there.

Does this count as a diary? Well let’s go with “probably”, as I don’t know when the next proper diary will be – as outlined last time.

So, with the introduction of our first Easter event and the new Elite encounter came new items, which somehow received much less favorable receptions from upstanding London survivors than we expected. Now, normally, this is purely a matter of taste; everyone can like or dislike any item they see fit. Surely this shouldn’t warrant much discussion then.

Except, in this case, there was a very visible clash of perspectives; we found most of these items overtuned for their intended purpose, whereas some seem to find them severely undertuned. Not everyone, of course, but enough upstanding people for us to notice.

To address this in due length then, here I’d like to explain where their design came from, what purposes they serve, and why these specific design choices were made.

Without further ado, let’s.

What should event items be?

Here we should begin with our definitions. Of course, an item that needs to compare with the lv50 endgame meta should take a vastly different form than one that doesn’t. So the question of what an event item should measure up to will inform one’s perspective.

To do so, let’s examine our precedents; All Hallows’ Visage and Fawkes’ Flameguards.

Both of these items share some unique characteristics, namely:

  • Both are early-game friendly in their levels, and don’t scale to lv50.
  • Both provide something completely or rather unique; the former +toxic damage, the latter +ignite.
  • On its own, neither measures up to established meta items, even ones of their own days.

So this should set the scene; both primarily offer fun early conveniences, and both offer some (debatable) endgame viability via proper augments, while following their event’s theme.

Why they do so is debatable, and perspectives can vary wildly here. For my part, this serves a very specific purpose. That is, to keep them fun, rather unique, and rather viable, but to not occupy a meta slot – which stands to reason, considering they’re limited items. Put differently, items players can only get once a year should best not be irreplaceable or extremely valuable – in my books anyway, can’t speak of Flagship’s books beyond making assumptions.

What did these Easter items do?

So, this is the concept our own Easter items followed; they needed to be useful for early players, somewhat unique, theme-appropriate, and ultimately fun but replaceable.

Let’s examine how they did so to explain this, alongside their exact design choices.

#1 Boots

In order, let’s start with the boots. Regardless of faction, each of these has the following affixes:

  • Physical thorns (which scale to level)
  • Movement speed (fixed range)
  • Luck (fixed range)

Their two notable additional characteristics are that 1) those affixes can stack with identical augments, and that 2) all such boots scale to character level – starting at lv1. So we’ll have to break their forms down to their two possible uses; early-game and late-game.

Early-game use

So what do these boots offer to lv1 players?

Well, Luck is largely inconsequential early on, when low amounts of it can be acquired. Still, a lv1 player can get +speed which is always useful. Then, they can stack it with an augment, hitting ~35 +speed on average. Augment costs depend on item level, so that’s ~8k palladium per augment for lv5 boots (still wearable by lv1 characters).

Second, thorns were also specifically selected for their early use; BMs can have this affix proc Surges for them, Summoners can have it proc Dark Lord, both Cabalists can proc Brom’s, and so on. At worst, it’s a source of physical damage for the minigame without the need to carry a physical gun – which early characters also mind more.

Late-game use

Then what about lv50 players?

Here they lose some luster, as a primary design concept was to not overshadow meta-relevant items for the same slot. But they still need to be unique and somewhat valuable, which purpose they also serve through similar means.

First, their Luck roll by itself does not match that of Mythic +Luck affixes. However, it can stack with an augment to actually surpass it in total. So the first use comes in offering a Luck set piece.

Second, their +speed can also stack. So, following the above, it can be a decent Luck piece because of that – or at worst a runner piece, offering +speed caps very few items currently do.

And third, thorns actually scale to ~18 at lv50. This is definitely not much, but it still serves the same purposes as early on, by removing the need to get thorns through other pieces to facilitate specific skill procs. As it does, it’s a unique slot for thorns too, increasing the caps of thorn builds (which yes, are primarily Guardians).

But why such hoops?

Finally, all those uses (except for simply crafting lv1 boots as “new game+” items) presuppose some luck and some augments. Why is that?

Well, for one the theme they had to follow was Luck – which does require bad rolls to make good ones valuable. And second, they’d be the most disposable item being crafted – so they had to be worth crafting and augging multiples of to roll those preferable values/augments.

#2 Hopper’s Ring

On to the ring then, which you’ll notice ticks very similar boxes. Hopper’s Ring also scales to character level, but as a ring it has some different behaviors. Its affixes and inherent stats are:

  • Shields (which scale to level)
  • Hp regen (fixed, 120/min)
  • Stamina (fixed, +15)

So first, affix values don’t scale; hp regen, +Stamina, and (Strength) feeds (15) will always be the same. It is only shield values that do scale, as an inherent property.

Then what use does this have?

Early-game use

The precedent we had to follow here was that rings can be crafted at lv1; therefore it had to compare with all existing rings as regards early-game value. As it did, it had to not overshadow them, in line with the concept set by its predecessors.

For an early ring, its shields are admittedly horrid; 10 at lv1, which is truly lackluster at best. At 10 (character lv6) it gets slightly better at 64, but is still not much. Still, it’s a unique benefit for the slot, so it might benefit some builds – especially ones that replenish shields.

Its true value comes in the other affixes, however, which are identical between lv1 and lv50; hp regen and Stamina. 120/min regen early on is absolutely massive, especially for melee classes/builds, and especially since it doesn’t mind max hp. As it does, it also offers 15 Stamina, the universal feed cost, at the cost of Strength, a stat most classes should either have free or not mind pumping anyway. In this regard it serves a pseudo-Existential Core function, where it can help with feeds while also granting a considerable (for new characters) 75 hp.

Now, is it the best ring to wear at lv1-10? Likely not, but that was never its purpose. By design, it should be an item that’s fun to have, potentially useful, but ultimately replaceable - because it’s limited in its acquisition to once a year.

Late-game use

This will be a harder case to make, of course – but again, its purpose was never to truly compete with lv50 meta rings.

So what does it offer to lv50 players?

One, additional hp regen. Where +hp % is covered by Fulcrum’s Masterwork Scale, this one provides passive regen to stack on top of other sources. 120/min is certainly not massive for these levels, but for those seeking to push their caps it’s a new unique source for it.

Two, Stamina. Dreadnaught’s Masterwork Band does cover this too, as do regular Dreadnaught rings – but this one comes with an equal exchange between set +stat benefits and feeds. So, while far from the best for this purpose, it can also push hp alongside its defensive benefits.

And three, shields. At lv50 those shields scale up to ~300, which is again not massive – but is useful to shield-based builds nonetheless, as an additional source of shields.

So yes, it’s not quite incredible for lv50 players. Most will probably not wear it when there are some great endgame rings and even +All Skills rings to choose from. But, it shouldn’t be incredible – as outlined above. It should have its unique niche, and serve as a fun option for those who do get it, just like the legacy event items largely are.

#3 KungFu Bunny

And here comes the worst offender; some people even asked why this item was created at all. It’s an old dye, to which we added plain +punch damage (alongside an appropriate Monty Python quote).

So why on earth was this made this way?

For fun. Literally, this was the concept; fun. We were sitting on this unused dye for a long time, with its +punch affix already decided upon, and were waiting for a proper event to release it through. It fit the theme, as even the name suggests, and nothing says “melee” and “kungfu” as much as punches do.

Still, why? What’s the use?

The use really is fun. We’ve had complaints over dye stats forcing cosmetics on players, and very few of those who had seen this dye back in Alpha liked its aesthetic. We also had to make this somewhat non-meta, for the same reason as all else, so 1 + 1 + 1 = punch damage.

The other, more serious reason is punch support. Yes, punch builds are extremely niche, but they’ve always been there. There’s an achievement for them, and there have been consistent requests to provide more to make these fun builds more viable. So the stars aligned, and we chose the dye for this purpose.

That said, an unfortunate circumstance likely obscured this purpose. We did mean to add more punch support alongside the dye, but didn’t have time to perfect it for release. So seeing the sole dye in isolation likely didn’t communicate our full intent for this niche use – although we did hope it would hint at it.

What was the Peg Leg?

On to the Peg Leg upgrades then, what was the original Peg Leg?

…you tell me.

This Common quest reward item was, of course, a huge allusion to Wirt. You can see the parallels there, including the flavor text that mentions 50 palladium, so I won’t take up your time with that part.

But functionally, as an item, what did it do?

Uh, little. This sword came with:

  • Very slow attack speed
  • Direct physical damage with no stun strength
  • Unique armor for the slot – or nearly unique anyway
  • No slots for customization
  • Usability by a single faction – and Drones

So, with little usability offensively, this item primarily served as a defense booster through its (rather) unique armor. Over time, even that role was gradually taken over by other items, and its usability faded out almost entirely.

What should Peg Leg upgrades be (and not be)?

First, let’s answer why Peg Leg upgrades should even exist.

The primary reasons are largely 3:

  • Faction availability; the original was only useful to Templars (and Drones).
  • Using a unique asset; nothing looks quite like the Leg, and it felt severely underused.
  • Further homage to Flagship; one can never pay enough tribute to the Architects, whose game we still play a decade and a half later.

Still, there are also things these upgrades should NOT be. Namely:

  • Meta-defining, “forced” BiS items; as effectively guaranteed items, these should not oppressively overshadow the gifts of RNG or hard-earned boss Uniques.
  • Excellent damage-dealers; dealing some damage is by all means fine, as those are weapons – but the original purpose of the Peg Leg was never damage, but defense.
  • Highly versatile; while they should have various “sufficient” uses, or enough general viability for their chosen levels anyway, they should not be stellar Swiss army knives – for the reason above.

But this is half of the subject here. The other half is acquisition means, which will be explained after the following section.

What did those Peg Leg upgrades do?

So with our bullet lists in order, let’s examine the Peg Leg upgrades themselves.

While slightly different in actual execution, all 3 came with the following:

  • Scaling; these can be used from lv1 to lv50.
  • Physical damage, inherent stun attack strength, and slots (except for the sword).
  • Defensive properties that scale to level; armor for the sword, shields for the guns.
  • Base type modifications so they better serve their purpose.

Then, affix-wise, all 3 came with the following standard affixes:

  • A movement speed bonus
  • A (hefty) damage bonus versus demons
  • 296 Luck

The exception here is the sword, which also comes with hefty shield overload.

So what does this blueprint serve as?

#1 Allusions everywhere

First, all 3 served to push the Flagship/Diablo tribute further:

  • The recipe of all 3 (requiring 50 “pieces of gold”) heavily tributes Wirt and continues the original’s flavor text allusion.
  • The enemy who carries said materials references the Butcher, a name other tributes to this character also used – who was, not coincidentally, a demon.
  • The Luck value of all 3 references Diablo 2’s NA release date (29/6).
  • The flavor text of all 3 is a Wirt quote.
  • The sword bestows legendary status to the original Peg Leg, alongside a matching rarity – like Diablo 3 did.
  • The two guns are named after Wart’s appropriate voice lines.

So that’s the first purpose, but homage alone only does so much. What’s the actual use, which the original failed to provide?

#2 Design consistency and midgame use

Next, let’s begin with consistency before examining the actual use. All 3 continue the original’s theme, while enriching it, in the following ways:

  • Physical damage; the non-physical guns were modified toward it (and had their base attacks facilitate damage/stun better), while the sword retained it (and got an attack speed bonus for added usability).
  • Stun; all 3 come with inherent stun to push the sfx benefit of physical damage, while the guns also come with slots to push it further (which the sword could not do, due to the model’s limitations, so it acquired massive shield overload instead).
  • Defense; the sword still comes with armor, to contend with the likes of Yahtel’s Fist, while the guns come with shields that synergize with the other factions’ skillsets.

So, can these be used at lv1? Absolutely; they’re very decent standalone weapons with massive extra damage against demons (Imps, anyone?), come with unique defense for the slot (Hardcores, mayhaps?), and provide a decent movement speed bonus. And they provide Luck, which to be fair isn’t extremely valuable early – but they still provide massive amounts of it, especially for lv1 items and for this slot.

But their primary use was intended to be a midgame+ one, as their acquisition source might suggest, where a ~lv30 weapon could follow one to the endgame via upgrades. It’s there where scaling makes them more potent, where mods begin to become more available for customization, and where palladium is more abundant for augments.

And it’s also where Luck becomes more valuable, which brings us to…

#3 A dedicated Luck set

And here comes their primary use for midgame+ players; Luck weapons. In this regard, consider the alternatives for the slot across factions:

  • Templars: the most blessed faction before the new Peg Leg, this one has such options as Fisher’s Fiery Cast (300-400 plus slots) and Trakt’s Illumination (200-320 plus slots) that actually surpass it. But this faction got speed and armor in return for lower caps, which they arguably need the most.
  • Hunters: a faction with pretty much nothing Luck-wise; Hotshot (45-50 and 3 slots)? Lowber’s Lucky Lobber (60-65 plus 2 slots)? That’s an average of ~200 extra Luck per hand after slots (of which Affirmatron has 2), plus probably the best gun of the batch offensively.
  • Cabalists: similarly low options here; Cat’s Paw (45-50, no slots)? Axis of the Reaper (45-50, 2 slots)? This faction got the best treatment Luck-wise, with 4 slots and field damage for easier Luck runs. Yes, it’s not a focus item, but how much more should my brethren get?

Now again, for absolute transparency, I don’t much like Luck as a mechanic myself. It’s not really my thing. However, it’s there, the game is built around it, and it does introduce a useful trade between better drop rates and more player power. It’s also a Diablo remnant, so I can only accept it – and note that these items are quite great for it, if not excessively so.

Why an Elite encounter, and what did it achieve?

Finally, the second part of this subject is their specific means of acquisition. So here, knowing why these specific design choices were made, we can outline why we chose Elite encounters for it and how the two relate.

Adding these items in for their own sake might or might not have sufficed; we could indeed have other sources for them. But:

  • Like the quest reward before them, these items needed to be “guaranteed” while requiring some work.
  • Elite Passageways notoriously lacked a distinct purpose.
  • With our ill-received loot buff reversal, early-to-midgame loot acquisition was lacking – even after our partial re-reversal.

So, that’s the other bird this stone was meant to hit. Players will always find Elite Passageways as they play the game, and assigning them to this source encouraged exploration. As they do, acquisition will take a while – as these items have more use later than earlier, while endgamers can still craft them on early new characters for the early boost. And, they will always find an easy enemy with boss-level loot there, making Elite Passageways useful – and giving these Luck-based items another use in the process.

And hey, with Elite Passageways now useful in this sense (and Treasure ones eternally useful for their… treasure), Passageway farming on the whole should now be more appealing, no? That was also a consistent piece of feedback we got when Hidden ones became all the rage for their fragment drops, which this change just so happened to partially address (alongside more fragment acquisition sources).

In brief, Wart’s new items were never meant to be the only reason to seek Elite Passageways. They were an additional benefit players could work toward through them, while getting some easy boss-grade loot that would make these Passageways appealing in the process. They’re a strictly optional Luck set, at the end of the day, full of references and fun potential uses as the flavor text implies – not the intended main event.

Hopping away

So there we go, that’s the long-winded explanation I felt those items needed. “Needed”, because it truly seems a portion of the playerbase had an entirely different perspective on them than we did – which is fine in itself, but seemed to produce criticism based on criteria these items were never meant to fulfill.

With all that said, this piece does not intend to change anyone’s mind. It only seeks to share our perspective and design philosophy behind them, so that at least the deeper “why” questions now have an “official” explanation.

As always, thank you for your time. If you feel I’ve missed anything or want to chime in, be it for the items themselves, the event on the whole for next year, the new Elite encounter, or anything under London’s sun, feel free to comment below.

3 Likes

the Dedicated Luck Set part sounds like you intend to add luck guns to Hunters and Cabalists :smirk:

also, thanks for linking one of an appropriate lore post from Heroes of the Storm subreddit - it’s a fun place, always been :slightly_smiling_face:

1 Like

Oh we did, that’s the Peg Leg items we introduced :slight_smile:

Certainly seems to be, agreed.