Diablo 4 head says Blizzard will "embrace," not insta-nerf, busted stuff like Ball Lightning Sorcerers: "Just let 'em have fun, we'll deal with it later"

Diablo 4 female Sorcerer Blizzard image
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

The general reception surrounding Diablo 4 has had many ups and downs in its first six months since release. Currently, Diablo 4 is in a far better state than it was earlier this year. Evidently, the developers learned some valuable insights on carefully tuning this massive action RPG to meet community expectations. 

In an interview with the Electronic Playground Network, Diablo general manager Rod Fergusson took some time to reflect on the first six months of Diablo 4. He also talked about the rough patches -- both the actual patches and the resulting community backlash -- and stated that upcoming updates would instead go for more thoughtful changes. According to Fergusson, a big lesson that Blizzard learned is that sometimes it's OK for things to "feel" broken to keep the fun.

"[As developers] sometimes you focus on balance, and not fun," said the Diablo general manager while explaining the thought process for patching games. "Like, you can be like 'everything has to be on the same level' and that you're really striving for fairness, but the thing about a Diablo game is that those overpowered moments that when you feel like you're cheating or that you feel like you fooled the development team by taking advantage of some exploit, it can feel really, really fun. So that's what we've tried to embrace, and now in Season 2, the Ball-Lightning Sorc' [build] is ridiculous, but we're just like "let them have their fun, we'll deal with it later.'"

These comments are a surprising and refreshing turnaround from the early months of Diablo 4, given how quick Blizzard was to make tweaks and remove popular quirks with the game.

Fergusson's also comments hit at one of the most defining aspects of the Diablo community: they love to dive deep into the game's mechanics to optimize class best builds. This level of character tuning dates back to Diablo 2, especially, and it's been a mainstay for the sub-genre of loot-focused action RPGs. Unfortunately, this enjoyment aspect conflicted with Blizzard's approach to updating D4 during its early months, which was rapid and sweeping with the patches.

Things came to a head early on with the many patches ahead of Diablo 4's first season. Along with changing experience points needed to reach higher levels, several nerfs came to popular class builds that players came to like, including the Sorceress. The changes were so unpopular with the community that Blizzard devs held a sudden community livestream to address the changes and vowed to do better with future patches.

As of the end of 2023, Diablo 4 is in much better shape than last summer's darker periods. Along with the ongoing Season of Blood event, it has been making regular tweaks to drop rates for bosses and making the familiar Diablo end-game grind less of a hassle. So far, both changes have gone over well with the community.

Along with Fergusson's recent comments, the developers have consistently reaffirmed a more consistent vision for how Diablo 4 patches will turn out. Furthermore, Diablo community director Adam Fletcher has stated that D4 will not add any pay-to-win options in the future.

As stated in the interview with EPN, allowing for player agency is a satisfying way for the community to find their fun and engagement, and it's reassuring that Diablo 4's updates will be going forward with this in mind for players.

For more on Diablo 4, check out our current list of guides, which includes a quick walkthrough on how to use the current vampire abilities in the Season of Blood event.

Alessandro Fillari

Alessandro is a freelance writer and editor based in the San Francisco Bay Area who has covered the games, tech, and entertainment industries for more than 13 years. Having previously worked at GameSpot, CNET, and various other outlets writing features and coordinating event coverage, Alessandro enjoys playing games on PC, but also gives plenty of time to his Nintendo Switch. You can find him on various socials at @afillari.