Former Diablo 3 dev regrets pushing back against more complex skill system that "would have been probably better than what we have today" for ARPG veterans

A Diablo 3 player walks to an altar in a forest
(Image credit: Blizzard)

Diablo 3 may no longer be the newest ARPG on the block, but that doesn't mean that its fans and developers are done thinking about it. One of its former developers has been discussing the key design decisions that went into it, in fact, and comparing it to 11th Hour Games' Last Epoch, which launched to immediate success back in February, with players quick to point out the similarities between it and the Diablo series. 

This comes from Andrew Chambers, who served as a system designer for the 2012 ARPG. In a new video shared on YouTube, the designer discusses more about the key design decisions behind Diablo 3 that set it apart from Last Epoch, for better or worse. One of these was the choice to keep Diablo 3's skill system more approachable, rather than making it complex like Last Epoch's – something which Chambers believes, in retrospect, would have been better for veteran Diablo fans. 

"Fundamentally, overarching everything, we wanted to aim at a broader audience than just Diablo," he explains. "We didn't just wanna capture the Diablo audience – we wanted to expand upon it. The best way to do that is to create systems that are much more approachable, which usually means trade-offs in that complexity. This wasn't for a lack of trying, I remember the team who was focused on the skill system went back and forth – I think they built out 12 different full iterations on the skill system."

According to Chambers, one of these scrapped systems would have involved players searching out "runes" that would slot into skills to add different properties, with varying affixes and levels, bringing with it an "endless chase game" for players to upgrade their skills. 

"The great irony is I argued hard against that idea. I was like, 'This is way too complicated; people are just going to try and figure out the best solution; they're going to end up with this inventory nightmare; it's not something we can really expect our audience to do.' I regret that, really. I do think that that skill system would have been probably better than what we have today, at least for the more 'pure' Diablo audience," he continues. 

"But I am happy with the skill system that we have. Again, it broadens the audience, it brings more people into the possibility space of playing and exploring action role-playing games."

In the video, Chambers also speaks a lot about Diablo 3's controversial Auction House, and highlighted Last Epoch's trading system as a glowing example of one that's "super robust." He also believes that "most action role-playing games should be looking at Last Epoch's trading system solution and asking themselves, 'Wow, what can we learn from this? How can we pull from this to make ours better?' Because I really think that they nail it."

Ultimately, these are just two factors that contribute to Chambers' overall belief that Blizzard "never could have made a game like Last Epoch." With that said, there's still plenty that he thinks Diablo 3 did better overall, such as its pacing and interesting enemies, so there's still loads for the team to be proud of.

Diablo 4's Season 4 PTR patch notes launched late last month, and they're enormous.

Catherine Lewis
News Writer

I'm one of GamesRadar+'s news writers, who works alongside the rest of the news team to deliver cool gaming stories that we love. After spending more hours than I can count filling The University of Sheffield's student newspaper with Pokemon and indie game content, and picking up a degree in Journalism Studies, I started my career at GAMINGbible where I worked as a journalist for over a year and a half. I then became TechRadar Gaming's news writer, where I sourced stories and wrote about all sorts of intriguing topics. In my spare time, you're sure to find me on my Nintendo Switch or PS5 playing through story-driven RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles and Persona 5 Royal, nuzlocking old Pokemon games, or going for a Victory Royale in Fortnite.