The game is simply too hard.
It is not really that the game is too hard in the generic all around sense, it is that the game is too hard in specific ways that are simply NOT what I would expect from a Diablo sequel. Let me explain this some more:
Some games are hard because they require an immense amount of time (think currency from 5man dungeons in WOW). We will call this 'Time-suck hard'. No, its not hard to log onto your WOW account and clear a 5man for a few tokens and do this every day. In fact, it is easy. It is hard because it becomes monotonous and makes you feel constrained to play the game according to some master plan in such a way that it drains your soul - i.e. only allowing you to be rewarded after 'doing your time.' It is hard (for me at least) because I have to force myself to do it (or had to until I quit WOW). This kind of hard, in the long run, makes one suspect that the game is playing them instead of the other way around.
Some games are hard because they require an immense amount of mechanics memorization to complete or else you die. We will call this 'Simon says hard'. In the end, its about how well you memorize how to respond to certain things in order to win a fight.
Some games are hard because they require you to have only certain builds to be able to effectively play them. Its all about doing the math and making sure you have an optimal build. I would call this 'Chess hard' - after the game of chess which requires thinking ahead and analysis of many options.
Then there was Diablo and Diablo 2. These games are what I like to call 'Icarus hard'. Icarus was the old greek legend of a boy with wax wings who flew too close to the sun (ignoring his fathers warnings) and thus lost his wings and died. This is the kind of hard Diablo 2 specialized in. What I mean to say by this, is the game only got hard when you tried to kill too much too fast. THIS was the fun of Diablo 2. THIS was the challenge, and THIS is what kept me coming back over and over again. Diablo 2, was not very hard of a game to 'clear'. Killing monsters was somewhat easy, gearing was not overly complicated for the most part. Additionally, your choice of game play became simply a matter of preference for most (do you like to smash enemies into pieces with an iceblink whirlwind barb, or pop them like popcorn with a frozen orb sorc?). The diversity was increased because in the end the players did not care whether their build was a little suboptimal in DPS vs another build because it was fun for them to play that way. In the end, they had the luxury of NOT caring because of the fact that the difference might only be how fast you can clear, not whether you can clear at all. Because the game was easy in this way, and only really got hard when you decided to 'bite of more than you can chew', the skills and spells simply became an extension what kind of killer you liked to be (this is what the 'R' in RPG stands for, remember?). The customization made everyone feel 'cool' and 'special' and the open diversity kept us hooked when we, perfectly content with our barb say, played with some random amazon or sorc and saw them kill in some new and fun way and then said 'wow...that looks cool. I think ill go roll a sorc/amazon'. This is the real innovation that Diablo 2 really brought to the mainstream market. A game with RPG elements and a random item system that was 'Icarus hard' in a quasi MMO environment.
Diablo2 was 'Icarus hard'. It was not 'Time-suck hard'. The time suck just happened because they just loved the friggin game so much and all the different ways they could play it. They had the game way beat before they decided to just 'Keep playing it'. They did not keep playing it because they wanted to 'beat it', they kept playing it BECAUSE IT WAS FUN AND THEY LOVED IT!! It was not 'Simon says hard'. There were no 'enrage timers', auto healing mobs(if I remember right) or any other such garbage. Diablo2 was also not 'Chess hard'. The strategies you picked were not TOO terribly important. Sure, there were optimal builds perhaps, but no one cared because it did not prevent you from enjoying the game just because you had a 'non-max dps' build or whatever. You could still kill, you could still have fun, so the builds became a way to express yourself. In fact, I remember being just utterly amused to see some player use some utterly ridiculous build and still 'make it work'. I thought THAT was awesome.
This brings us to Diablo3. Sigh. Long, drawn out sigh.
Diablo 3 is NOT 'Icarus hard'. And by Diablo 3, or course, I mean Inferno. Normal, Nightmare and Hell are 'Icarus hard' but inferno is not. I know many might like to cite that 'you can just go play in hell mode', let me point out as has already been so eloquently pointed out in other threads on this forum: 'Inferno IS THE GAME'. You cannot take a game that is so gear dependent, create a level where the gear is better and expect the gamers to not treat this level as 'The game'. Sorry, in the end we are gamers, we are just not built that way. We want to play where the best reward is since gear is a big part of the game. So PLEASE for the love of God, do NOT give us this crap. If you need proof, go find out how many people in WOW play in the persistent world vs running dungeons all day long. Or better yet, if you want proof, imagine that the drops in hell where the same as Inferno. Would you play inferno just 'cuz i like the challenge and its hard!'. Yeah, I didn't think so.
Diablo 3 is 'Time-suck hard'. I find myself clearing act I over and over again just to either make a little money or find items that are maybe marginally better than what I have but not good enough to be able to play Act 2 the way I want to ('Icarus hard'). I am at the point where Act 1 is almost 'Icarus hard' for me but not quite yet. I have to stick within a few narrow builds if i want to be able to play it easy. Frankly, its getting old. The only reason I keep playing is because I have this small hope that the game designers have accounted for an 'Icarus hard' for all of inferno mode, i just have to grind to get there. Honestly though, I am beginning to believe that this will not be the case and you will still have barbs kiting like cowards and RDPS classes getting one or two shotted in inferno no matter what gear they have. If I knew this for a fact, I would not even be playing anymore. I would just uninstall and see what other games are out there that dont suck (not many unfortunately). When I see blizz trying to make the drops better and scrambling with patches for this and that, I laugh. The drops rates dont really need to get better. The game needs to get easier so that when we get that yellow with ordinary stats except some weird 'attackers take 4000 damage on hit' we actually feel adventurous and curious enough to say 'Hey, I wonder if this would be fun to try??'.
To add to that point, BECAUSE the game is so hard, D3 is also 'Chess hard'. I cannot deviate from a few core defensive strategies and not get owned. I am pigeonholed into a few strats because its about survival. Jay Wilson mentioned the old system was flawed because no one would 'do the math' they would just 'dump some points into this skill' or another. Thats right, Jay, you are very astute in making that observation. We did just dump into that skill or the other without doing the math. Why? Because WE DID NOT CARE ABOUT THE OPTIMAL BUILD. we didnt HAVE to! That was PART OF THE FUN!!! Please, for the love of god, get THAT through your head if nothing else. Instead, we have Blizzard so worried about 'balancing' that DHs are getting nerfed for IAS while we try to find the perfect Utopia where the game is perfectly balanced. The thing is, you can make a game balanced so that every class is no better than any other but that RUINS the game. It makes every class feel hokey, and nobody feels special. The funny thing is, the only reason the players are SOOO upset about DHs being OP or barbs now being OP is because THEY CANNOT PLAY THEIR CLASS THE WAY THEY want to so they lash out. What they are really saying is 'Make my class OP' so I can do some cool stuff too! Again, a game that is 'Icarus hard' does not worry and tie itself up in knots about balance. It favors diversity. Just like the argument "whats the solution to 'bad' free speech? More free speech".
So, in closing, If you are a player and agree with my positions, please bump, like,whatever this thread so it gets attention.
For Blizzard, I am not so naive to believe that all these issues I have raised could not have been understood and carefully considered before you launched this game. However, since this is not the game I would like to have seen, I would only ask that you would be so kind to answer the following questions and give me some peace of mind/closure:
1.- Did you understand the 'Icarus hard' nature of Diablo2 when you designed Diablo3 but decide instead to scrap that in favor of the game you have now?
2.- Would you be willing to consider making the game a more 'Icarus hard' type of game if you received enough criticism, and what would that take?