Diablo Immortal Technical Alpha In-Depth Developer Feedback

Image for post
Image for post
Diablo Immortal “Starting game” screen

Forward: Dear reader, I’ve now spent many hours (hundreds?) playing the Diablo Immortal technical alpha. I love all things Diablo. It’s been a life defining game for the last two decades. I have thousands of hours spent in Diablo 3, achieving rank 1 on leaderboards many times, and recently, becoming the 2nd person ever to reach 4K SSF Hardcore seasonal paragon. Diablo Immortal, by my account, is the best mobile game ever made. What follows is not a review, but a big list of flaws, bugs, and requests to expand and flesh out existing features. And even though this is a very long feedback piece, please understand that it is not exhaustive. There’s even more to Diablo Immortal than what I’ve highlighted with this post. So please reader, understand that while this might read negative at times, it is not a scathing review, it is laser-focused-sniper-shot feedback to the Diablo Immortal Development team. Finally, you should know that my perspective on this subject comes from three eyes. One: The eye of a Diablo player. Two: The eye of a software engineer. Three: The eye of a Twitch streamer. By three they come.

Please consider following me and supporting my work.

Twitch: twitch.tv/echohack
Twitter: twitter.com/echohack
YouTube: youtube.com/echohack
Github: github.com/echohack

Overall

Diablo Immortal might become the best mobile game ever made, by my analysis. The core systems and gameplay are rock solid. In fact, it does many things better than its older brother, Diablo 3. The Bounties, Events, and Lair systems are better than similar systems in D3. Legendary drop rates are toned down, avoiding the “pinata loot” effect. Skill modification has been toned down, leaving room and design space for Legendary effects and paragon trees to be more impactful. Still: It’s clear that this is an alpha. Bluetooth controller support is not available (yet?). While there are some randomized game modes (Lairs / Elder Rifts), there are only a handful tilesets and monster families. There’s some concerns with how monetization will effect the game, particularly with legendary crests and legendary gems. And even though the alpha exposed many early and mid game systems, the end-game systems are unknown.

The movement and buttons feel very, very good (mobile controls). The main reason this is true is because the left joystick will reposition when you lift your thumb off the screen.

There is a “quest log” on the left side of the screen. This takes up a significant amount of space, and often gets in the way of the left control stick. You can minimize it to get it out of the way, but overall it’s poorly placed. This “quest log” will be replaced by the timer in Elder and Challenge Rifts, and similarly it takes up a large amount of space in those cases too. In general, I’d appreciate it if the quest log was a completely separate screen buried behind the hamburger button — This will clean up the HUD quite a bit.

The problem with the quest system is deeper than just a bit of hud cleanup. The quest system holds your hand way, way too much. Outside of dungeons there is always feet on the ground and dots on the mini map showing you exactly where to go at all times. This really ruins in the immersion and sense of exploration. I think the mini map dots telling you where to go are OK, but the feet on the screen is really bothersome. While in dungeons, an arrow will often appear right on your character telling you exactly where to go. Not only is this really annoying, but it gets in the way of gameplay. The combination of the dungeon arrow, the mini map dots, and the feet telling me where to go feels like I’m being micromanaged, not allowed to explore, and overall being nagged into going to the next objective.

The quests after you reach Westmarch were very confusing. It starts out with a number of quests that give you a tour of the city — why not just give all of the objectives at once and allow the player to explore? This part felt very railroaded when I should be able to explore the city on my own.

After exploring Westmarch, the world opens up quite a bit, but it’s never clear what you really should be doing. Nobody has done a bounty yet, and they probably don’t know what they are. Nobody knows what an Elder Rift is. Nobody has spent several hundred hours in the game trying to optimize XP in 2m30s dungeon runs between 5 minute internal cooldowns on event timers, and juggling Ashwold Pizza Delivery Carriages in-between. I think simply directing players to complete a set of bounties, do an Elder Rift, and so on before moving forward can fix this problem, by demonstrating to players the unique rewards available.

Overall, I think the quest system is fine and it gets the job done. But some extra tuning and study of players who are new to the game will go a long way into cleaning up the quest system. Of course, that’s primarily what this alpha is about, so hopefully some of these sticky points get cleaned up.

Menus in menus at times, brilliant at times.

There’s hamburger menu items, there’s menus in menus, there’s waypoints, but also instant teleport buttons in the “activities” menu. While I’ve heard from others that mobile games are usually a confusing jumble of menus, this isn’t what Blizzard games are known for. Even spending several hundred hours with the game had me wondering why all this stuff wasn’t just say, all like the Bounties board, which is probably the best designed UI in the game.

Image for post
Image for post
The brilliant bounties UI
Image for post
Image for post
The brilliant bounties UI (complete)

There needs to be a central place where all the objectives, quests, UI, and so on, appears. Hearthstone does this brilliantly with its “Box” metaphor. Maybe, for Diablo Immortal, Westmarch itself can become the central place all this stuff lives. But right now, it’s scattered all over the place.

The bounties board is brilliant. It’s focused, clear, readable, and easy. It’s in-tune, and in-line with the fantasy. Pulling up some goddamn hamburger menu to teleport somewhere is really strange, especially for a Diablo game. Just make all these silly UIs and menus-in-menus real vendors and locations in Westmarch. Get these quests off my HUD — and give me a mysterious witch character (Akara?) who will give me that endearing-yet-pavlovian voice line “Yes?” when I’m checking out what activities I want to do next.

ow my thumbs hurt.

Playing using mobile controls for more than 4 hours starts to enter “ow my thumbs hurt” territory. I was playing at my desk with my elbows resting on my chair’s arm rests and my elbows hurt quite a bit after my 7 hour game session. As for ow-thumbs-problems, this problem would only be fixed by something like bluetooth controller support, which is not available in the technical alpha.

There is an absolute need for bluetooth and mobile controller support. Playing this game for many hours is an absolute wreck on my wrists, neck, and elbows due to the ergonomics. I personally put 650+ hours during season 21 of Diablo 3 playing GoD DH (where you have to press the hungering arrow button roughly once per second for optimal gameplay) and that was less harmful to my body than this. I’d much rather play this game for short periods while on the go, or at a friend’s house, but settling down at home really requires a setup where I’m mirroring my phone’s screen to a larger screen, and a wireless controller.

As a gamer who tends to play a very limited pool of games for many hours, if bluetooth controller support doesn’t exist for this game, I will skip it for other experiences that allow me to play egonomically.

Exploration is already the strongest part of Diablo Immortal

Once you’re 20 hours into Diablo Immortal, it’s clear that this game is really an open world RPG. This feels closest to a StarCraft 1 UMS map I played around 2001 called Legends Open RPG (This is a very obscure reference, I know, but I encourage you to go play it for an hour or so to see). It really has this nice flow of allowing you to just roam the open map, find cool stuff to smash, get loot, and move on to the next thing.

There’s five systems to talk about in the open world, and all of them need some extra investment. To be clear, Exploration is already the strongest part of Diablo Immortal. These systems are Bounties, Lairs, Legendary Monsters, Events, and Zone Events.

Bounties

Bounties are daily quests. Go kill 20 bears, collected 10 wolf claws, do a dungeon and kill a boss. You have a limit of 12 bounties per day, with a reward chest every 4 bounties completed. While these feel similar to doing bounties in Diablo 3, this is a complete revamp — I loathe bounties in Diablo 3, but in Diablo Immortal these had me coming back every day.

Bounties are easily the best XP rewards in the entire game, so it’s a good thing you can only do 12 of them. Furthermore, the first bounty chest of the game always drops a charm, and is the only place in the game (besides Battlepass rewards) that you can get charms. The other two chests drop gems (which can also come from Lairs, but are still hard to get), so bounties are damn good rewards.

Bounties feel very much like Hearthstone quests. In fact, just like Hearthstone, you can reroll your quests up to three times a day.

One thing Raxxtanterax and I discovered together was a method of cheesing the bounty reroll system. You can pass party lead to try to get a dungeon bounty (roughly 3x the XP) off your initial set of bounties, and use everyone’s reroll independently. This gives you a total of 12 rerolls, plus the 16 different “initial rolls”. With a bit of theorycrafting, we realized the potential problem could be larger than this at release. You can use these same mechanics to infinitely reroll bounties with smurf accounts. While I don’t think the time investment was worth organizing around this particular cheese, it’s something to keep an eye on.

The only major problem I see with Bounties at this time is the frustrating and unnecessary progress bars on opening containers during bounties. When you’re opening a container you get a progress bar, sometimes as long as 3 seconds, which can be interrupted by any nearby monsters. So monsters can spawn on top of you while you’re opening a container, interrupt you, then you kill them, then you start opening the container again, then some ranged mob offscreen interrupts you, then you run offscreen to kill it, then you have to kill a bunch of other stuff offscreen because it aggro’d on you, then you have to FINALLY go open the container.

Lairs

The best feature in the entire game

Lairs is by far the best feature in the entire game. These are set-location-yet-randomly-spawning dungeons in the world. The rewards for lairs are unique — you cannot farm any other content in the game to receive the rewards you get from lairs. (You get gems as rewards, but if it was some other unique reward, I suspect the rewarding feeling would be similar).

The unique rewards and exploration behavior required to get more lairs is the core reason they feel good. Because Lairs are “randomly-spawning”, it leads players to naturally roam the map searching for them, or better yet, to stumble upon them while doing other tasks. At least, on the surface, the “oh, shiny!” design of the spawn mechanics of Lairs do a good job here. However, these particular mechanics aren’t quite right, and are going to lead to some serious problems. It only took a few days for players to quickly figure out how Lairs spawn.

To be clear, it still isn’t quite understood how exactly these spawn, but I would like to assert (for the sake of feedback) that we fully understand the spawn mechanics.

The spawn mechanics for Lairs in the alpha are:
- Lairs spawn globally — as in, they are available to all players on the server, with no personal internal cooldown or personal, instanced loot
- Lairs, when closed, set a random timer (perhaps, 5m — 60m) for respawn.

In short, if you want to find a unique reward (gems), you need to roam the map and check lair spawn locations, before quickly zoning in and smashing your way through the dungeon. That’s the intended design, at least.

While Lairs are by far the best feature in the game, there are several problems the team needs to solve to make Lairs incredible. These problems are: lair spawn mechanics, lair grouping, and expansion of lairs beyond two levels.

The current Lair spawn mechanics may quickly lead to servers dominated by bots or even players with many phones, camping spawn locations with spoof accounts. This is akin to players in WoW Classic bot-camping certain vendor recipes and always reselling them on the auction house. In other words, it’s a form of resource-hogging. In essence, this allows anyone to circumvent the good-exploration feeling that players can get by hunting Lairs or other content, because Lairs will be camped, forever.

Instead, I propose Lair spawns be changed to be an monster-on-kill event. In other words, Lairs will drop much like loot. This not only preserves the rarity of Lairs, the immediacy and sense of urgency to do the lair (use-it-or-lose-it), and also fixes global-availability-resource-hogging behaviors by making it personal loot. Diablo 3 has a similar idea, where treasure goblins can sometimes “drop” a portal to a Vault. That alone might not be “enough” however, because globally spawning lairs also serves to artificially limit or gate the number of globally available gems in the game / marketplace. (Whether intended or not, globally spawning resources always set some artificial limit). So there may be a need to implement an additional (but hidden from players) zone-based globally available limit of “Lair spawns”. This way, players who deeply understand the game’s mechanics can’t just grind a particular spot for a Lair spawn (or set up a bot to do so), but instead need to roam and explore.

You must gather your party before venturing forth.

One of the most frustrating parts of the Lair experience right now is grouping for a Lair. Since Lairs are such a rare and valuable find, it’s useful to form a group to share the rewards. Eventually my guild settled on a system where people roaming the map would type “L” into guild chat, and folks who wanted to join would respond and get invited to the group. But there’s several problems here that make getting the group together very, very clunky.

Image for post
Image for post
You must gather your party before venturing forth.
  • If you find a Lair and are ready to enter, you can’t enter the instance until everyone teleports to the same zone you are in. So you have to wait to zone in.
  • Lairs will despawn while you are right next to them, or someone can “take” a lair away from you, while you are waiting for your party members to gather.
  • While you are in a Lair, and someone requests to join your party, and you accept, it will remove you and everyone else in your group from the Lair immediately and destroy the Lair. But if you (the party leader) invite other people to the group, they can enter the Lair without problems.
  • If you are invited to a group that is already in a Lair, you need to teleport to the zone, then run to the Lair. The entire time, if the group isn’t waiting for you, you’re missing out on drops in the Lair. You feel like you have to play catch up.
  • Notifying friends and guild members that you found a Lair requires bringing up the mobile keyboard to type “L” (there were many times where people typed “P” or “O” by accident). Instead, there should be an easy way to send a stock notification when you enter the Lair. “<Player Name> is entering a lair. Join party? [Button]”. To be clear, I don’t want to find a PUG. I never want to find a PUG. I want to share rewards with my friends and guildies.

I think these problems can be mostly fixed by a rework of Lair join dialog.

Image for post
Image for post
The hidden lair join dialog

I want to dissect this dialog, because it’s got a few things I like, and some things that are deeply flawed.

  • “Dungeon Details”: Well, it’s not technically a “Dungeon” in Diablo Immortal parlance. Just saying “Details” here would be fine, but this label isn’t required at all.
  • Hell 1 + Difficulty: The difficulty here is Hell 1. This is confusing. “Difficulty” is simply telling you how the difficulty scales based on the number of players. So changing this label to “Players” would work, but also removing the label entirely would be fine, as players are smart enough to figure out that content scales with players, and there’s already a list of players on the left side. The failure of this label is encapsulated entirely in the need for the little circle (i) next to the difficulty label.
  • Minimum Level: This is good to call out, because some players might not be able to join.
  • Rewards: Strictly speaking, this is correct. You get additional “event rewards” for completing the Lair. But the ACTUAL reward is getting gems, which is why Lairs are so damn desirable in the first place. But gem drops aren’t mentioned anywhere here!
  • Art: The art on this dialog is my favorite in the entire game, and up there we some of my favorite Diablo art entirely. My wall is already covered in Blizzard art, but if there’s a print of this, or charity auction, I’d have to deeply think about adding it to the collection. Not only that, but this art does it great job communicating what the player wants to do. There’s some crazy monster who’s made this place, this lair, their home, and you’re here to destroy that monster.
  • Find Party button: This is a “randomly match me with a pick up group” button. Nobody wants this. What we want is a “Invite” button, to quick-invite people from friends and guild lists, and hop right in. I also want this button to send out a one-time canned message to my guild chat: “<Player Name> is entering a lair. Join party? [Button]” If I found this Lair, I do not want to wait more than 60 seconds for people.
  • Enter: This feels good.
  • Left side chat / player list: This feels good.

The unique rewards and exploration behavior required to get lairs is the core reason they feel good, but two other factors give them an extra bit of polish.

Image for post
Image for post
Lairs have an (estimated) 50% chance to give you a 2nd floor
  • When you kill the boss in a lair, he has a chance (roughly 50%) to open a portal to another lair (or well, floor 2 of this same lair, however you want to think about it). Essentially this is an extra reward because you don’t have to hunt down yet another lair to continue getting the unique reward you’re seeking.
  • When you do get a floor 2 lair, a blacksmith spawns at the warp-in point, allowing you to salvage all your equipment. I was immediately reminded of how valuable repair bots in long vanilla World of Warcraft raids were for keeping 40 players organized. This is the same value as a repair bot. It’s a good value for keeping the “flow” of grinding in the open world going even though I could always just teleport to town to salvage!
  • One thing I really like about lairs is that they drop you and spawn you in at an unknown location. So even though right now there are only a limited number of tilesets, it’s always a bit of an exploration, because unlike a GR, you’re not a set “entrance / exit” area.
  • I also really like that there are no minimap dots, arrows, etc, that are leading you to the tasks, and that you have to be quite close to them to discover them. That’s really nice and keeps it fresh.

Lairs also have tasks that require you explore the Lair map to find. Tasks seem randomly distributed, which leads good players to “split” upon entering the Lair to explore for these tasks. Tasks can sometimes reward a gem, making them important to find, and not just skip over. Overall, the random distribution of tasks, and the rewards for doing them feels good.

However, tasks are deeply problematic because they often require you to click on an object, and watch a progress bar, before continuing with the dungeon. (Some of the tasks did not have the “click and watch a progress bar” behavior, and just spawned in a group of monsters to kill, which was good). The “watch a progress bar” behavior interrupted the flow of the lair tremendously. I’d rather see tasks directly related to my ability-to-smash-things rather than watching a progress bar. For example, if I need to open a coffin to release a ghost, why not just attack the coffin to smash it instead?

Lairs are currently only capable of a maximum of 2 floors. Instead, Lairs should be able to continue all the way up to 5 floors, with each next floor drop-chance becoming lower and lower. A first thought is just to allow you to get floor 3 more rarely than floor 2 (25% chance instead of 50% chance), and so on, allowing you a to get more and more floors in a row if you are particularly lucky. Diablo has always created these magical, 1 in 100,000 kind of moments with itemization, and I think Lairs is an opportunity to allow some of that feeling to come into the gameplay, without it necessarily impacting itemization.

Legendary Monsters

Legendary Monsters are more rare than your typical champion monster pack, elite monster pack, or event-spawned purple monster. These Legendary Monsters also have a dramatically increased legendary drop rate. (I would guess around 20%). Unlike Lairs, these feel like truly random world spawns, although if they aren’t, they may eventually suffer from similar spawn mechanic issues as Lairs, since they are global spawns.

Image for post
Image for post

Overall, I’m pretty happy with Legendary Monsters as a quick “oh shiny!” find. I think if that’s the intent, it’s good for them to stay there. Unfortunately, due to tagging mechanics, I don’t think these can ever be done well in a group. While my guild initially tried to announce legendary monsters so we could group up for the benefit, eventually most legendary monster announcements stopped.

Legendary monsters “feel” random enough that it’s fairly impossible to farm them, which doesn’t leave much room for discussion. My feedback here to developers is to inspect how Legendary monsters spawn in detail to ensure they remain *very* random to retain their current properties.

Events

Events are mini-quests that pop up in pre-defined spots. When you complete an event, you get a chest that drop 3 yellow salvage materials. Events feel good in the alpha because yellow drops are rare enough that exploring the open world for event spawns is significantly faster than dungeons or other content for farming yellow salvage materials (and salvage is almost as important as paragon levels). There are a few different types of events:

  • A purple monster spawn, the most common event
  • An NPC with a blue exclamation mark above their head, with a mini-quest
  • A cursed-chest (which rewards 2, or 4 yellow materials if you kill the monsters until the time limit)
  • Set-piece mini quests that spawn when you enter the area

Because Events are so rewarding, I set out to discover the exact spawn mechanics behind how they work. What I found was fascinating, and the details here are why event hunting and exploration is so fun in Diablo Immortal.

First, to be clear, I didn’t collect nearly enough data to 100% confirm these findings. These findings are a “best-fit” theory, rather than an exact understanding of what’s going on under the hood of the event system. What’s interesting here is that even discovering the mechanics of the event system felt like a game unto itself. I’d compare this kind of mechanic research to something like Shiny hunting in Pokemon or what the Silph Road does for Pokemon GO. That said, let me assert what I think on how the event system works:

  • Event spawns have an internal cooldown of 5 minutes. This means you can’t ever get back-to-back events, and your time in-between event spawns is best done doing something else besides event hunting.
  • Event spawns are global. This means even though you have an internal cooldown, they are still a global resource. If someone else kills a purple mob, it won’t be available for anyone else for some time.
  • Event spawns seem to respawn on a somewhat random timer. The fastest I saw the same event twice on my routes was around 15 minutes.
  • Doing a dungeon, lair, or other instance (like Elder Rift) seems to reset your internal cooldown event timer. I was able to circumvent the 5 minute timer (which was the mechanic I’m most certain of on this list) by completing a 2m30s dungeon many times.

There’s more research to be done here (can you spawn events individually to circumvent the internal cooldown in a group?) but I think this is a good start.

Whether I’m correct or not about the internal cooldown on events, whatever behavior leads to the internal cooldown is a good thing. This keeps players hunting the open map for that next event spawn, hitting all known locations in a sort of travelling-salesman-problem-best-fit route.

Diablo 3 has a very similar route piece of gameplay, and that’s hunting pools of reflection. I think studying how players have optimizing pools of reflection routes in Diablo 3 might be insightful for research into why Event spawn mechanics are so good.

Zone Events

Zone events are continuously available events that are globally available in each zone. Completing the event gives 6(!) yellow salvage materials, making them extremely valuable. In the alpha, there are 5 zone events available. Each one has some issues.

Ashwold: Every 30 minutes, a carriage will make its way through the zone. At the end of the route, it will spawn a purple boss. (Many players have dubbed the Ashwold Carriage the “Ashwold Pizza Cart” or “Ashwold Pizza Delivery”, because of how valuable the rewards are from this particular event, compared to the relative investment.)

  • The purple boss (The Tax Collector) is the only thing that really matters on the Carriage route. While the route itself does a good job of gathering together players for the boss kill, there’s no reason for players to show up early. Players that show up early are just kind of sitting on their thumbs, waiting for their pizza to cook.
  • The purple boss himself is very, very easy. Towards the end of the alpha he was melting almost before you saw his health bar by AoE damage alone.
  • In order to get the rewards for killing the boss, you have to “hit” the boss at least once. To be clear, if the boss is a “shielded” monster (like the Tax Collector is), hitting the shield does not count.
  • The timed nature of the pizza cart made it the most rewarding event in the entire game. Literally everyone on the server would show up for this event.

Dark Woods: As you kill monsters, you fill up a meter. When it’s at 100%, go to the tree of Infuis, kill a purple boss.

  • The boss isn’t particularly difficult.
  • The boss has a “will disappear in X seconds” timer above their head, which felt kind of out of place.
  • The monster density in Dark Woods isn’t very good, so grinding out the particular zone event didn’t feel very rewarding.
  • You keep progress on the zone event if you leave the zone entirely. This felt nice.

Shazzar: A mysterious scroll will drop off a random monster. When you pick it up, you run to an area in the zone to do a treasure hunt, which consists of clicking a bunch of urns. Then you go back to town to turn in.

  • The mysterious scroll is a blue (magic) item so it’s easily lost on the ground if you’re rolling through mobs quickly.
  • The mysterious scroll does not autopickup, even though it’s technically a blue (magic) item.
  • Going back to town to turn in at the treasure hunter felt kind of weird.
  • The first time I did this I had no idea I was supposed to find these urns. I had no idea what to do and gave up to go do something else.
  • Finding urns and tapping them wasn’t great. It kind of feels like an eyesight test because the urn doodad is so small, especially on a phone.

ZK’s Library: You pick up pages. Once you have 5 pages, you can open a mini-dungeon, or spawn a global boss.

  • The pages themselves are shiny (sparkle), which is good because it makes them easier to find when you come across them.
  • The shiny (sparkle) will sometimes not work at all? So it’s sometimes difficult to find these, and the inconsistency is frustrating.
  • Watching a progress bar to pick up pages is really annoying.
  • When using a portal tome, there’s a particular dungeon that just rewards a small amount of gold by smashing pots. This one not only was very confusing (especially the first time I got it), but the rewards for it were incredibly bad. (Every other portal tome rewarded yellow mats).
  • The world bosses in ZK’s Library were challenging and felt very good. (Why is the Tax Collector so easy in comparison?)

Bilefen: There’s a PvP arena, much like the Gurubashi arena in World of Warcraft. It’s incredibly competitive, but clearly PvP in Diablo Immortal is nowhere near balanced (and even if it’s more balance than now, it’s clear that it will never be balanced.) Personally, I don’t have too many thoughts around PvP here in general, aside from one. Please, please do not let PvP balance, arenas, or other PvP considerations ever be more important than the design of PvE in Diablo Immortal. I think the dev team is already heading down this route, but I think it’s important to keep it this way.

Legendary Items

Legendary items feel good and impactful. Mostly, this is because of a difficult design decision — customization of skills is limited, which opens the design space of Diablo Immortal’s legendaries. I think in general, the current legendary approach is in a good place, and the current path is how it should continue to be done. I think for this topic, it’s useful to do acceptance-by-example, rather than drill down into details and analysis. So, here is my best farming build from the alpha. The Helm, Main Hand, and Offhand are the most important slots. (The helm is particularly good!) The pants slot (sadly) was not useful at all, so I just ended up using the biggest stat-stick I had.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post

Salvage & Reforge

In Diablo Immortal, you’re encouraged to auto-pickup nearly all the loot you come across and salvage it at a blacksmith. This salvage can then be turned into incremental stat upgrades. Legendary items at rank 6, 11, and 16 can get additional stats that can be reforged. Once you have all 3 reforge stats, you can get a reforge family bonus, which is an extra bonus if all 3 of your reforges are from the same type.

  • You can upgrade your main slots to rank 5 for cheaper if you are upgrading a yellow item instead of a legendary item. This seems like a bug, because you can just swap out a yellow to upgrade the slot until you hit rank 5.
  • It feels very weird to “transfer” upgrades, since you always do it for free. Either upgrades should be on a slot (don’t annoy me with this transfer dialog), or there should be some cost to transfer. Overall, I’d be in favor of upgrading the slot so players can swap between equipment without consequence.
  • It feels correct to be limited on “higher level” salvage. In Diablo Immortal alpha, the balance of salvage limits yellow items tremendously, making them yellow salvage particularly valuable. Since yellow items are the more rare item type, this feels correct. (This is backwards in Diablo 3, where you’ll typically run out of white/blue salvage before yellow/legendary salvage types).
  • Currently there is no “convert salvage” feature like in Diablo 3. If a feature like this is ever added, I recommend only being able to convert down (rarest salvage → least rare salvage), and not have the ability to convert up.
  • The reforge family bonuses don’t feel impactful, which is especially troublesome because reforging is so expensive. So right now it seems better to just roll the best stats (strength / fortitude anyone?) than really try to hyper-optimize. At the same time, keep in mind that even getting to Rank 16 on an item was extremely difficult in the alpha, so very few players got to test this feature. On top of that, we’re unsure how the endgame will develop, so this can change.

Gems

Gems in Diablo Immortal are items that you slot in to socketed items for a quick stat boost. You can level up these gems at the gem vendor. What’s notable here vs other Diablo games is that gems are extremely rare. They can only be farmed from Lairs. You can get two gems per day from bounties, and you can buy 3 gems per type from the honor vendor (assuming you have that much honor). The relative difficulty to find gems makes the gem system notably different from the salvage system, and requires a different game focus to acquire. There are gems that allow you to boost any stat, and every gem was valuable (except ruby, because life / vitality was not as valuable due to not alot of mechanics scaling from life / life %). Overall, I really enjoy the way this is implemented.

Image for post
Image for post
Upgrade gem dialog
Image for post
Image for post
Making a level 6 gem is incredibly difficult
  • The upgrade gem dialog is a bit strange, as it says it requires “x/2” gems. But in reality, it requires 3 total gems, including the one you are upgrading. Diablo games have always required 3 total gems to upgrade. Simply changing this dialog to include the gem you’re upgrading as part of the requirements would make this less confusing.
  • It takes 5 echo crystals to upgrade a gem from level 5 to 6. Despite grinding the alpha for hundreds(?) of hours I was unable to get a level 6 gem. I think this might need some consideration on balance, but I guess overall I do enjoy how difficult it is to upgrade gems.
  • Only rank 1 gems ever dropped in the game. I’m not sure if this is intentional, but this means that players need to get (by my math) (243 gem drops * distribution of number of gem types) to get a rank 6 gem. That seems pretty crazy, but maybe that’s good crazy? Without knowing more about the endgame, it’s hard to judge.
  • Since normal and magic items produce the same salvage, grouping these under the same selector button in the salvage dialog would make sense to me.

Legendary Gems

In Diablo Immortal, Legendary Gems are large gems that you can slot in to any primary slot. With six primary slots, this makes legendary gems pretty important. So far, there aren’t any legendary gems that are insanely impactful — even some of the most powerful ones would increase your damage output around 10–15%, or provide a 7–10% heal on kill effect. More than anything, the unknowns around legendary crests and how pay-to-win monetization impacts legendary gems are what has most people nervous about them. I’d like to avoid talking about those unknowns, since they’re well, unknown, and instead talk about how the upgrade system works.

One thing that’s great about legendary gems is the upgrade system, because mobile game players will feel at home. There are two components to leveling up a legendary gem. The first, is a gatcha-style mechanic where you use other legendary gems to level up your existing one. The second, is a drop-chance mechanic, where legendary gems can drop with a different number of stars. More stars means that legendary gem is more powerful, and also contributes more XP when you use it to level up another legendary gem. Conveniently, if you use a higher star level gem to level up another gem, it will transfer the maximum star rating as well. This means you don’t have to worry about leveling up the “wrong legendary gem”, and you can happy dumb your gems into one mega-powerful legendary gem without future problems.

  • When swapping equipment, it was necessary to go to the gem vendor to unsocket, then resocket your legendary gems. This is tedious and unnecessary. Just like salvage, legendary gems should be considered slotted to the slot, and not to the equipment itself. No transfer should be necessary.
  • Crafting legendary gems requires the player-trade currency, Platinum. I honestly don’t know why this is required, when Runes are damn hard enough to get in the first place.

Elder Rifts & Crests & Fading Embers

Elder Rifts is the only place in the game where Legendary Gems can drop. Really though, this is the game’s closest feature to something like Greater Rifts in Diablo 3, but really it feels like a fascade for the monetization system. These rifts were very easy (taking around 3 minutes), but almost offered no rewards. The boss at the end would pinata loot (much like Greater Rifts in Diablo 3), but the amount of loot offered, and quality offered was paltry to any other system in the game. While I did not spend countless hours in Elder Rifts like I did with Events and exploration, I’d estimate that the Legendary Gem drop chance is around 1–4%. If my math’s correct, that means I could spend several hours without a gem drop doing Elder Rifts. (Or more likely, I’d give up and just go do something else more rewarding). Meanwhile, if you have a Legendary Crest, your drop chance of a Legendary Gem goes to 100%. So ultimately, the only time anyone would do a ER is if that had crests to spend.

There’s another currency you receive from using crests called Fading Embers. This currency is also given to your party members when you use a crest. Fading Embers let you buy runes. Runes let you craft more legendary crests. However, it costs an insane amount of Fading Embers to buy even ONE rune, with some legendary gems requiring hundreds and hundreds of Ati (very common) and 15 Tir (extremely rare). In total, I acquired around 3000 Fading Embers for the entire playthrough of Diablo Immortal (this includes the fact that I was rank 1 on the barbarian leaderboards, and got many free legendary crests). Overall, Fading Embers just feel entirely worthless, and easily ignorable — and because they are so worthless, any incentive to group up with other players when I have no crests to spend goes out the window. Finally, I feel like it ruins the value of certain runes (like Tir) to have everything craftable at a vendor. There are some things that should be left to chance alone.

On the positive side, I was happy to see that the gameplay for Diablo Immortal was not doing endless amounts of rifts. But doing it by making the rewards for rifts abysmal did not feel like the right move. Instead, I’d consider allowing your first X number of rifts you do per day to have dramatically increased rewards, so players at least aren’t grinding an empty game mode for nothing.

Dungeons

Dungeons are small, instanced areas of the game that are typically story-oriented. Towards the end of the alpha we realized that these are some of the best XP in the game, because they’re easy to speedrun, and also because monsters inside have inflated XP values. Strangely, Hell 2 did not offer more XP or rewards than Hell 1, so doing Hell 2 in the alpha was only about guild achievements.

Countess: This dungeon has you kill a boss before having a timed event to reach the countess herself. This time pressure felt really good (especially on my first few plays of this dungeon, before learning speedrun strats).

Some suggestions for improving the Countess dungeon:

  • The grate to go into the left side of the dungeon after the first boss is really annoying. It should immediately bust open on finishing the first boss. Furthermore, if two people try to open it at the same time, they will interrupt each other.
  • The blades hitbox is really unclear and is so not-punishing that’s it’s kind of ends up being dumb. Instead, make it a small spinning blade that shoots out from the wall with a big red square hitbox on the ground, and give players the option to destroy the device that shoots the spinning blade out (or something like this)
  • After you kill the countess, and if you get the 5 extra bonus chests, automatically open them when the main chest is opened.
  • The countess’s blood-raven attack where she shoots blood raven things in a big circle is really punishing (good) but hard to determine where the hitbox is for melee.
  • There is a skip where a monk or wizard can jump into the Countess’s chamber before you finish killing 100 enemies for the timer quest. While this was a cute skip we discovered, it also can lead to locking the dungeon entirely if you kill the Countess early. (Thankfully you can reset by exiting and re-entering).

Mad King: This dungeon felt the most polished of all of them. The effect where the second boss is crawling under the floor, and having the skeleton king mount up at 50% health are particularly notably for their cool value.

Fahir: This dungeon felt good from a story telling perspective, but I wouldn’t want to run it very much due to the layout and many, many forced dialog situations. The final boss also has some transistions between phases which take up a ton of time. Also, for some strange reason, the monsters in this dungeon were worth more XP than anywhere else in the game.

Temple of Namani: This dungeon is essentially a boss rush dungeon, and again, felt cool from a story telling perspective. Many of the forced dialog options prevented me from running it for XP purposes, however.

Kukuri Rapids: I really liked the tileset of this dungeon. Although from a story perspective it didn’t have much to offer. The forced raft section was cool the first couple of times, but became annoying for any sort of dungeon grinding.

ZK’s and Tal Rasha’s magical time warp party aka Destruction’s End: While this was — by far — the coolest dungeon in the game from a story perspective, waiting on ZK to get rid of fire and killing waves of enemies is also makes this the most anonying dungeon in the entire game. To my knowledge, this is the first gameplay featuring Tal Rasha ever.

Battle Pass

The battle pass is a track of rewards you receive for doing stuff in the game. You get battle point from almost any source, from dungeons, quests, and so on. If you’ve seen Hearthstone’s new reward system, then you’ve seen the Diablo Immortal Battle Pass. It’s practically the same thing.

Image for post
Image for post
Hearthstone’s Reward Track

You can (possibly) buy a Battle Pass to get more rewards, but at the time in the alpha, the “extra rewards” were non-cosmetic items, like they are in Hearthstone. I hope that we see this to be a closer mirror of Hearthstone’s system (I’m personally a fan of Hearthstone’s reward system).

  • It’s quite annoying to be nagged all the time in the quest log about new rewards in the Battle Pass. Please remove all Battle Pass notifications, or give me an option to, for goodness sake.
  • There’s a weekly cap on the amount of rewards you can get from the battlepass. This was confusing at first (why am I not getting points?). Overall it’s fine that there’s a cap, as the Battlepass is not the main form of progression (unlike in Hearthstone’s situation, where it IS — Although I should note that Hearthstone still has a cap, it’s just much, much higher playtime-wise).

Other Stuff

Inventory — If I could wave a magic wand, I’d make it so that all secondary armor items take up one slot in the inventory, and primary armor items take up two. Overall, this didn’t bother me that much, but it would make filtering through yellow items for secondary slots much easier. (In the alpha, there are no legendary items in secondary slots, so it’s necessary to filter through them before salvaging for optimizing character slots).

Charms — Currently there’s no way to farm charms, and that seems intentional. I think the idea here to to force you to use the marketplace. I was only able to extract one charm and reroll one affix, which gives this “roulette” effect. This seems…good? It’s hard to know with touching this system so little.

Item Rating — Sockets seem to be undervalued in the item rating. I think during the AMA someone said they were valued at “45”, but I’d bump that up a bit, to around 70.

Image for post
Image for post

Quest Log — Useful for finally being able to understand how much XP I was getting. Having gold and items in the quest log seems unnecessary, but especially gold is log spam.

Emotes — I wish there was a simple emote system (something like hearthstone?) to talk to people, especially when you meet them in the world.

Tutorials off option — There needs to be an option to turn off all tutorials in the settings. It’s quite annoying on the second playthrough!

Subzone Transition sound —When walking around Westmarch it is weird how the “subzone transistion” sound is. It feels strange to get this sound when I am just going to different locations in the same area. Particularly, around Charsi’s blacksmith, you can hear the sound popup several times in a row when switching subzones.

Image for post
Image for post

Content Creator server — Playing with so many content creators was wholesome and amazing. I don’t know if we can recapture that through guilds later on, but this was a very different experience, than say, StarCraft 2 general chat.

Guild 150 member limit — This seems too restrictive. A 1000 person limit might be a better size.

Music+Game sound — I can play music from the Apple Music app and Diablo Immortal’s game sounds at the same time. This is great.

Mobile Payment — I used Apple Pay to pay for something while the game was running and came right back with no problem. In other words, playing while in line at the grocery store is 100% seemless.

White-haired monk — I was sad to not see the white-haired monk from D3 available as a choice. Was hoping to eventually get that 2B / 9S Nier Automata look (You can do this in D3 by getting a transmog of the Shadow helm on a monk, it gives you a blindfold.)

Image for post
Image for post

Loading animation — Progress bars are a particularly hard thing to get right, and I think this is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.

Funny voice lines suggestion— Talking to vendors many times in a row should trigger some funny voice lines where they get annoyed (like clicking on units in Starcraft).

Stash — There’s nowhere near enough stash space. (Is there ever?)

Minimap state lost — When you disconnect in a dungeon or lair, and reconnect, you lose your minimap progress. Would be nice to keep it!

Image for post
Image for post

Challenge rift reward dialog — This dialog felt pretty clunky, especially when scrolling all the way from the left.

Bestiary — First, the bestiary needs to be moved to Westmarch and out of all the little hub towns. It’s also confusing why the bestiary tells me I have duplicate pages on my “3 turn ins per day” when I clearly have monsters and pages that are empty. While I now understand this is a sort of “monster page routlette”, this was confusing for quite a while, especially for competionists who are trying to 100% each zone in the Exploration tab of Codex.

Bestiary Animation — This is a bug: The bestiary animation appears laggy on some devices.

Image for post
Image for post

Invite button UI — Please, make the “invite to party” button the biggest button on all the sub menus and hide all of the other buttons behind the “…”. There are so many times where I accidently have invited a player to guild or some other action that I never intended, and would rarely do.

Guild Achievements — They… exist, I guess? I honestly didn’t know what to do with guild achievements yet. We mostly got these while doing other things. I’m a bit of a completionist gamer but didn’t feel the need during alpha to hit these at any time.

Services button — The “Services” button on vendors needs to be bigger. Pretty much the only thing I want to do when I talk to a vendor is hit that button and it’s really easy to miss, then you got to talk to the vendor again on a mis-click.

Image for post
Image for post

Diablo Streamer/Community Manager/Developer elite named mobs — Thank you for continuing to include folks and recognizing the community in this way.

Thank You

I want to thank Blizzard and the Diablo team for considering me for the technical alpha for Diablo Immortal. I hope this extensive feedback is helpful. I want to thank my community for their support on Twitch, and the wider Diablo community. Most of you, like us, were extremely surprised and happy to see a full-fledged, Blizzard quality, Diablo mobile game.

Please consider following me and supporting my work.

Twitch: twitch.tv/echohack
Twitter: twitter.com/echohack
YouTube: youtube.com/echohack
Github: github.com/echohack

Written by

Automation Engineer | Video Producer

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store