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If not for the contributions of David Brevik, the Schaefer brothers, and Stieg Hedlund in the early days of the Diablo series, the action RPG scene that we've come to know and love would likely be considerably different, if existing at all. So it's interesting to hear what Stieg has to say about the current scene and the future of the action RPG battlefield in this new editorial on Gamasutra:
Variety in Combat Styles
Many different combat styles fall into the ARPG category these days as well. At a high level, I think the idea of player skill in terms of movement, use of abilities, etc. seems to remain what binds these all together. Variety in combat styles is actually going to be a super interesting conversation going forward in RPGs.
Some games like Spirit Lords (I'm guessing due to tech limitations) experimented with limiting the odds in battles rather than the hordes of enemies typically faced, which resulted in some loss of the ARPG game-feel based on this, I'd posit that hordes of enemies are important to the genre.
There are simply ways players like to play, and these systems allow that. The skill trees of D2 have grown, changed, and migrated some even enabled via equipment.
D&D let you effectively hang yourself by making choices that were dead ends, and D2 let us optimize for effectiveness; that feeling of mastery over the systems is a huge plus for players, and it'll be a balancing act to create that sense of mastery without creating choice paralysis or a negative experience for intermediate players.