“It’s not healthy for the game when a player’s health pool goes from full to nearly empty and back to full on a regular basis very quickly, over and over, during regular play,” writes senior technical designer Wyatt Cheng. “I know not every character build plays this way – but I would assert that it’s not good for the game when this is a dominant or even common way to play.”
So begins the developer’s breakdown of Diablo III’s combat and the problems Blizzard want to fix.
Cheng points out problems with fast heal damage. For instance, if players are faced with mortar waves, where a hit takes them to near death, and they can simply heal themselves back up to full, then the mortars don’t offer a genuine threat. A player could simply take the hit and heal instead of dodging the attack.
If the mortar’s damage was increased to become an instant kill then, again, it makes health mean nothing. Death is binary over whether you’re hit or not. “Who cares if you have 20K or 40K health if you’re going to die either way?”
Another issue is that “Healing very rapidly back to full also loses all the fidelity of small attacks. If players are regularly going from full to nearly empty and back to full again on a regular basis, then there’s no room for mechanics which act as a slow drain on your health.”
The health meter loses meaning, too, because you’re always flipping between different percentages of health 5% doesn’t make you feel in danger and 95% doesn’t have you feeling safe.
Finally, “A rapidly changing health globe means you are playing in a predictable pattern and crossing your fingers hoping that you live through it. You are playing in a way that avoids situations that will instantly kill you, but there’s no tension associated with being low on health that would cause you to make a tactical decision to change your play pattern.”
These are all the problems Cheng sees. Though he doesn’t currently have a solution to the problem. It’s an out loud thought that suggests a direction future updates will be taking. More specifically he says “I will say that the first line of defense is reducing the rate at which players heal. After we pull in the rate of healing, next we analyze the patterns in which monsters deal damage. Ultimately, defensive stats will play a role in all of this. If some life regeneration, damage mitigation or (gasp) life on hit lets me play a little more aggressively, that’s a good thing.”