Right now health pools going from "full to nearly empty" in the blink of an eye is hurting the game, he says, as death becomes "very binary." Rapid healing ruins just as much.
At 95% health you should feel safe, while 5% should feel very threatening but that's "not at all true" as it stands right now because of 'one-shot' hits and crazy heals.
"From a big picture standpoint, 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," 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." The Blizzard Senior Technical Game Designer breaks down the areas where this system proves a negative impact on Diablo III's gameplay.
Here are Wyatt Cheng's gripes with combat pacing:
1. A health pool that quickly goes from full to nearly empty implies that there's not a lot of room for variance in incoming damage. When incoming damage is that high, a 15% increase in monster damage would result in death. This leads to comments like "As soon as I turn up the Monster Power I get 1-shot". I'd like to see a game where a clever player can handle a higher Monster Power by reducing incoming damage through good play. Unfortunately, if the combat pacing and dominant builds are such that all players are geared to survive the biggest possible hit from a monster and instantly heal to full then there's no room for that differentiation.
Let's use mortar as a simple example. If a wave of mortar hits takes me from full to nearly dead, and then I instantly heal back to full, then mortars don't pose a realistic threat to me. In this state, there's no way for a clever player (who wants to dodge mortars) to differentiate themselves from somebody who doesn't care (and just decides to get hit). In both cases you're healing instantly to full and surviving through the damage no matter what, and in both cases turning up the monster power results in you dying no matter what if you take a single mortar wave. It becomes a pure gear check.
2. For players who push the MP up anyways, it makes the game feel like it was designed around one-shots. In my previous example with mortar, some of you may be thinking "There's room for turning up the Monster Power, just don't get hit at all!". This isn't great either. It means my death feels very binary. One moment I'm at full health, the next instant I'm dead. It also means that once you decide you are going to accept being one-shot, you don't care about your health at all. Who cares if you have 20K or 40K health if you're going to die either way? We'd be in a better place if the mortar-dodger was allowed to take the occasional hit, but can handle a higher monster power as long as a majority of them are dodged.
3. 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. Plagued is a great example of this. We don't want Plagued to be something that kills you quickly, but it also shouldn't be something you ignore forever. Standing in a pool of poison should be something that adds tension to the fight. You know you're not going to die now, but you can see the threat looming. When healing rates are very high, there is no room for the slow drain damage sources - they become insignificant.
4. My current health loses meaning. Being at 95% health should mean you're relatively safe. Being at 5% health should mean you're almost dead. Being at 50% health should mean you're somewhat in danger and you should play it safe, but as long as you do you should be fine. These are all concepts that make intuitive sense. Unfortunately, they are not at all true in the current Diablo environment. When health pools are rapidly going from empty to full and back again, these health values all blur together.
5. You lose a lot of tactical combat opportunities. Tactical combat requires that the player can properly assess the situation and react accordingly. When your health pool moves up and down rapidly you are no longer reacting to dangers. 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.
He admits there are no specific solutions right now for the problem but it's something "we're actively working on," and acknowledges it will take Blizzard some time to iron out the kinks on any applied overhauls. However the first "line of defense is reducing the rate at which players heal." Then along comes the tweaks to monster 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."