Quality of Life

qualityoflife1May saw the start of Diablo 3’s sixth season, and the promise of some new shiny things once again drew me back into the game. As I ground out endless procedurally generated hellrifts with my Demon Hunter in service to the gods of random-number generation, I began to reflect on just how much work Blizzard have put into quality of life features for the game and how important they are for keeping me coming back. We all know that at launch Diablo 3 was a clusterfuck but those days are far behind us (four years behind us, it turns out) and ever since the Reaper of Souls expansion things are just easier. Take the simple stuff that other ARPGs still haven’t managed to consistently replicate: how do you quickly tell if an item you’ve picked up is likely to be better than the one you have? You get straightforward colour-coded numbers in three categories that let you compare it at a glance. That item was part of a huge lootsplosion from killing a boss but it’s fine because you can pick up all the crafting materials of a given type with a single click and your “cosmetic” pet will pick up all the gold for you.

After a succession of these drops, you find yourself needing to go back to town to sell your excess gear, so you just hit the Town Portal button and don’t worry about running out of scrolls for no good reason and having to slog all the way back on foot. Want to break down your items for crafting materials? One click for each grade of item. Want to craft something? It’ll take the materials straight from your stash for you.


This isn’t to say Diablo 3 is perfect, there are things it does that are still dumb, like making it basically impossible to play with anyone who isn’t within a level or two of you, a problem that was pretty much solved over ten years ago and still virtually nobody manages to get right. It also lacks Torchlight’s “send my pet to sell all my trash” option, though to be honest gold is so abundant that it’s almost always better to break it down for materials anyway.

All this stuff seems simple and obvious and yet most games still fail at even the most basic quality of life features. Take The Division – sorry, Ubisoft’s Tom Clancy’s The Division, A Tom Clancy Game Featuring Tom Clancy as Tom Clancy: Tom Clancy Edition – which has sold a bajillion copies and is being published by one of the biggest outfits around and yet is almost actively hostile to the player.

qualityoflife3Want to store gear? Well your stash is forty slots, shared across all characters on the account and weapon skins take up a slot each. Want to upgrade crafting materials? You have to do it one piece at a time and it involves holding a button for two seconds and then backing out of a screen every time. Want to do a mission in a group? Sorry, the map only shows the leader’s map icons and there’s no way to tell what you’ve already done. Also, if the leader’s already done the mission you want to do you have to disband the group, make someone who hasn’t done it the leader and then reform the group in their instance.

The list goes on and on, the crafting interface is just balls and doesn’t give you a sensible way to compare items, the stats screen gives values that shift constantly and never really give you a good idea of what your damage output is. Every time you go to the skills or perks screen it pops up a tooltip congratulating you on unlocking them (not really QoL per se, more a bug, but it amounts to the same thing here).


All of these things make me not want to go back to The Division every time a new content update comes out because I just skim the patch notes and think “they still haven’t fixed any of those issues, I just can’t face it”. Even Valve have started to learn this and now have a yearly Spring Cleaning update for Dota 2 which is focused around fixing longstanding bugs and generally improving the user experience. They also regularly take feedback from the dev forums and (more frequently) the Dota 2 subreddit for things that the community think would improve their experience. On occasion the patch turnaround time has been a matter of hours.

qualityoflife5Read what your users are saying; if they’re all bitching about the same things then rather than just dismissing it or sticking it at the bottom of your ToDo list as a minor or cosmetic issue, maybe look at why they think it’s a problem and consider how many people would have a better experience of your game if you fixed it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s important to fix bugs and to add new content, but far too many developers seem to overlook simple quality of life changes that, for a small effort,make a huge difference in how players experience the game and how likely they are to want to come back to it. You can have the best game in the world but if the user experience is balls – especially the initial user experience – then you’re going to put people off playing it.

Last five articles by Adam B


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