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Mike Millaire

About the D2EE Approach to Skills

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Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the project's approach to and understanding of the skill system.
The following is a series of excerpts from the Enhanced Edition broader design document with some additional commentary.

The D2EE skill design methodology is deeply rooted in and derived from the principles of experience gamification theory.

Skill tiers and levels infographic from the D2EE design documentSkills with no level requirement, i.e. those occupying the very top row and available right from the start, are basically seen as a character class' way of gently saying "hello" to you, the player. Their primary purpose is to introduce you to key concepts and mechanics specific to a class as you set your first steps in the world of Sanctuary.

The D2EE design document divides skills that do have a level requirements into 4 distinct tiers, each of them denoting a phase of your character development journey in linear progression.

Tier 1 skills, unlocked at levels 6, 12 and 18, are relevant to the "discovery" phase of your character's development, and their main purpose is to help you learn the basic playstyles available to your character class. Between levels 12 and 18 you will have identified some, if not all, playstyles your class could excel at. At some point around or past level 18, you will have chosen your basic playstyle. This is why level 18 is marked as a major turning point in your character's development, and why it roughly coincides with the finale of Act 1 (which is, of course, deliberate).

Tier 2 skills, unlocked at levels 18, 24 and 30, are relevant to the "onboarding" phase of your character's development, and their main purpose is to allow you to refine, expand and gradually master your chosen playstyle, so that you can (deservedly) feel smart and accomplished. Between levels 18 and 24, you will have precisely defined your character's favoured skill types, and you will have become adept at using them by level 30. The advancement past level 30 will, in many cases, add the "icing on the cake" to your character build. If your skill choices were sound, you will be able to defeat the Prime Evils and your build will be considered a successful one. Congratulations!

This is the point where Blizzard North said something in the lines of: yeah, we're done here, let's go grab some beer.
And that would probably be all okay if there were no other difficulty modes or character level progression past Normal.
The thing is that there are difficulty modes past Normal. Two of them! And an ability to advance at least up to level 99, which is three times as many levels as the original game design anticipates.
To properly address this, D2EE will (eventually) introduce two further skill tiers and make your character development journey truly complete.

Tier 3 skills, unlocked at levels 36, 42 and 48, are relevant to the "midgame" phase of your character's development, and their main purpose is to enable you to fine-tune the character build you mastered during Normal mode to your liking, and in a way such that allows you to better tackle the challenges of Nightmare mode. At some point around or past level 48, you will become confident that your character build is fully evolved, "ready for everything" and future-proof. This is why level 48 is marked as another major turning point in your character's development. Also worth noting is that level 48 is an approximate half-way point in progression towards level 99.

Tier 4 skills, unlocked at levels 48, 54 and 60, are relevant to the "endgame" phase of your character's development, and their main purpose is to reward your dedication by enabling you to personalize your playstyle and your character in ways not possible before, and to employ new creative gameplay strategies. Advancing to and past level 60 will unlock creative capabilities empowering you, the player, to influence the very workings of your ultimate skills, in a way such that allows you to craft a truly unique identity and flair for your character.

If you have any thoughts after reading through the above information, feel free to post them in the project discussion forum.

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