Let me explain better the difference between deep customisation and shallow customisation, both of which can be equally 'wide'.
Imagine you have a game, lets say Oblivion, and you're building a character... you have all these sliders for their face and you want to slowly tinker with each slider so they look exactly how you want them. This is deep customisation.
Now imagine if someone made a mod for Oblivion that enumerated every single combination of slider setting (the billions of them) into billions of presets for you to scroll through. Now you can make your character look exactly the same, regardless of what settings you had before... but now there is only 1 choice to make. Only 1 tiny bit of gameplay involved in the customisation: Which preset do you want?
Thats the difference. In EVERY other game lauded for it's customisation you are constantly making choices all thoughout the game as to how to build your character, you're slowly building them up to what you want them to be... this is gameplay
; the gameplay of customising your character. D3 does not have this gameplay, even if we ignore the different stat setups that are 'viable' in D2 and we ultimately come to the conclusion that there is the same, or even more setups in D3 than there is in D2... that doesn't change the fact that the customisation gameplay is shallow
Again, since you agree D3 is like CS in it's mechanics, I'll make the comparison. In CS, customising your character isn't a big part of the game, in fact the gameplay of that part of the game is mostly managing your money (a gameplay mechanics not present in D3's customisation) this shows very clearly that there isn't very much, if any, gameplay in the customisation you do. D3 is the same.Lets list just a few games that I can think of off the top of my head with good customisation in them:Skyrim:
Has customisation gameplay in both the aesthetics and building of your character.Oblivion:
Has customisation gameplay in both the aesthetics and building of your character.The Sims 3:
Has customisation gameplay in both the aesthetics, building, lifestyle, and environment of your character.Mass Effect:
Has customisation gameplay in both the aesthetics and building of your character.Diablo 2:
Has customisation gameplay in the building of your character.World of Warcraft:
Has customisation gameplay in the building of your character.Tactics Ogre, Let Us Cling Together:
Has customisation gameplay in the building of your characters and your team.Star Ocean:
Has customisation gameplay in the building of your characters.Dungeons and Dragons:
Has customisation gameplay in the building of your characters.Dragon Age:
Has customisation gameplay in both the aesthetics and building of your character.Saint's Row:
Has customisation gameplay in both the aesthetics and building of your character.
Note how many don't have "skill trees"
and many have no permanence (WoW/D2 have respecs). So it really has nothing to do with the explicit structure of 'trees' nor permanency (although those things could be aftereffects of certain customisation systems). What is common in all these games it that the customisation is actually an intrinsic part of the gameplay, you're constantly making choices about what to build your character in to and what to not build your character into. You're deciding what skills they'll learn and what jobs they'll do and what they look like and who they are.
In D3 you do none of that. You have no control over what your character learns and does and how they slowly build themselves up to being a badass. You don't get to choose "Well my character (and I) like to shoot from range, so they'll concentrate on their ranged combat training and invest their time and energy (and skill points/talents/feats/etc) there as they get better"
. There is no "Do I pick up an extra point in X, or should I advance on to Y?"
there is no "If I put another point in this skill tree, I won't be able to get the special skill in that other skill tree, is that worth it? Do I like the gameplay if I do it this way? Does it suit my character if I do it this way?"
Instead you just have a bunch of different 'guns', with some addons (like scopes and laser targets and grenade launchers and larger mags, rapidfire, whatever) and you just choose which 'guns' you're going to use. Even if the number of 'guns' is comparible, or even more than, the number of skills, it isn't the AMOUNT that makes a customisation system deep... it's the MECHANICS. In D3 you just choose whatever. In D2 you have to make hard choices, sacrifices, you have to plan stuff out and have a goal and sometimes you have to persevere through hardships for a great bounty. All of that is gameplay you can't ever have in D3. I can't choose to do the weird build that is interesting in fun in D3, because D3 only allows me to have standard builds and anything weird is literally forbidden (Ex: 2handed Melee Demon Hunter. I can't use 2handers and the only real build that works with melee hitting which will almost certainly not be viable is anything similar to this
The amount of customisation just makes the lake wide unfortunately you can't immerse yourself in a shallow lake. Only when you have both wide and deep lake can you fully immerse yourself in that world of customisation and building.
I drew up an image to show what I mean.
Note that the 'skill tree' reprisentation used here is only for convenience, you don't need skill trees for depth. D&D while it does have prereqs for some feats and build options, generally doesn't follow the skill tree format. The Sims 3 doesn't either, but has deep customisation. We use the word "broad"
to discuss the amount of customisation options. We use the word "deep"
when we're talking about game mechanics. I thought everyone understood the use of these terms in this type of setting but I guess not. Anyway the point is depth is a mechanics thing, the more gameplay mechanics/choices etc. that are involved in customisation, the deeper that customisation is. The more you can do with the customisation the more "breadth of options"
As for cookiecutter builds, and D3 supposedly not having them. I almost gaurentee they will, in fact I would go as far to say it will be much easier to figure out optimum builds for various situations in D3 because the system is so simple. This is coming from someone who min/maxes the hell out of any online game and not just on the advice of others' math... I've contributed quite a bit to theorycrafting myself.
In D2 there were lots of questions as to how much better putting points into one thing was over putting points into another thing, for instance the 1 point smiter was only a fairly 'recent' discovery in the history of D2, only around about when Ubers came out did people figure out that. Part of this is the, admittedly, terrible paperdoll that D2 had. But the major reason is that the interactions between all the skills, skill requirements, items and stats is a very difficult system to analyse (only made more difficult because of the bad paperdoll).
In D3, however, things are so straightfoward that it'll be easy to choose the highest DPS skill, with the passives that increase it's damage the most for situations like 'single targets' and for 'group targets' and maybe a few other types of targets (but probably not). PvP will probably be more complex due to metagame and mindgames and stuff, but not much more.
Which reminds me, I just remembered another build I did back in D2 that was really fun; my Fist of Heaven Paladin was awesome as hell.