Blizzard have effectively just added another 100 levels to Diablo 3, in easily the biggest, most far-reaching change made to the ARPG since launch. By their measure, to reach this new level cap will require a similar amount of playtime to that of reaching level 99 in Diablo 2. That's a very long time indeed - Blizzard have just punted Diablo 3's end-game into the stratosphere. Patch 1.0.4, which is due to arrive this week, will introduce the Paragon system for the players who've hit level 60 and found themselves with nowhere else to go: it's a separate levelling system that starts once you've hit the level cap, progressing from 1 to 100 as you continue to earn XP. And it does cool stuff.
Lead designer Jay Wilson detailed the new Paragon system on the Diablo 3 blog. Here's how it works. Every kill while at level 60 earns XP that counts towards your Paragon level, much like how you'd normally progress through levels before hitting the cap. Every Paragon level will reward you with increases to your base stats, similar to what you'd gain from a normal level. Crucially, you'll also earn 3% Magic Find and 3% Gold Find.
This fixes the problem Blizzard had with players swapping out all their normal gear for Magic Find boosting gear just before the ends of boss fights. Not that it was a problem, rather it felt like a clumsy solution to a design oddity that should never have existed.
So, Magic/Gold Find is now capped at 300% (base, meaning Nephalem Valour will still stack on top of that). Once players reach Paragon level 100, they'll reach that 300% cap without needing any extra gear. Instead of fiddling with gear to maximise loot, maximum level players can instead just focus on equipping themselves with the most powerful gear they can, comfortable in the knowledge that their MF isn't getting any higher. Meanwhile, anybody yet to reach Paragon level 100 can continue to fiddle with their MF gear as much as they deem fit.
As your Paragon level increases, your character portrait will become more ornate to reflect your achievement. And it will be an achievement, as simply reaching Paragon level 1 will take as long as it took most players to get from level 59 to 60. "The time to reach the upper Paragon levels approximates the long-term time investment required to get a level 99 character in Diablo II," writes Jay Wilson.
This is huge, extending the life of the game massively by adding a sense of progression that until now was missing from the end-game. Alongside the updates to legendary items, Diablo 3 is about to get significantly more interesting as soon as patch 1.0.4 launches.
This morning, Jay Wilson swore at a man.