Seeking Sanctuary: The Definitive Diablo III Preview

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Behind the Scenes (Cont) : Leveling, Experience, and Death

Leveling, Death, and Endgame
It's harder to characterize D3's leveling system given the beta's limited play, but there are some noteworthy differences. In the early versions of Diablo 2, the amount of XP you needed to gain a level increased far more quickly than the amount of XP you gained per kill.



The XP curve becomes exponential at ~lvl 50.
Neither Lord of Destruction or Cold Fusion
changed this curve


Because deaths in Nightmare and Hell difficulty removed 5-10% of your XP and a number of monster abilities were bugged and could result in one-shot kills, walking in range of the wrong named mob could nuke hours of play time.


Cold Fusion vastly increased XP-per-kill (thus decreasing the number of monsters needed per lvl)

Blizzard "fixed" the problem in Lord of Destruction by multiplying the amount of XP monsters awarded in Nightmare mode by a flat 1.71x and 2.54x in Hell difficulty. The curve shown here is a best-fit line; depending on what level you are when you exit Normal and Nightmare, the number of monsters you need to kill to level up will actually *fall* significantly rather than just flattening as we show.

Diablo III retains D2's "Hardcore" mode, in which death is permanent, but jettisons the XP loss at upper difficulty, which we consider a huge improvement.

The current situation is harder to parse.  Either D3's XP-per-kill rate drops off more steeply than D2's, or the beta is poorly scaled as far as monster levels versus character progression. This is likely a not-so-subtle encouragement to group -- D3 is meant to be experienced via cooperative multiplayer, and like D2, players get an XP bonus for playing together.



What's new in D3, is the vast number of ways to earn bonus XP. Rack up a hefty number of back-to-back kills? You get an XP bonus. Lure a bunch of mobs into an area an drop a wall on them? Substantially smaller XP bonus. Kill a bunch of mobs with a single blow? Moderate XP bonus. This linking of XP to achievements can significantly speed leveling and it encourages creative play.

The other new feature is the addition of a "+Additional XP Per Kill" magical suffix. I'm wary of this one, not because its overpowered, but because its presence suggests a sub-optimal, poorly-designed leveling curve. The problem with a static +XP per kill system is that it's a challenge to create value ranges that can't be aggregated to break the system at one end, yet still matter at the other. +6 XP per kill on a single piece of gear might constitute a handy bonus, whereas +54 XP per kill (the same bonus on all gear) creates scaling problems.
 

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