Important Stuff!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Getting tired of Diablo 3, or, "Trying to earn enough on the RMAH to buy Torchlight 2"

The horse is basically a pool of red goo at this point, but I find I personally have just hit "that" point when I have more or less stopped booting up Diablo 3 for lack of interest in playing. In the interest of full disclosure: My highest character is 52, I have played every class through Normal at least once, and I have yet to hit a "bump" at which point my keyboard nearly found itself embedded in the drywall. That all said, Diablo 3 is failing to interest me lately....I play it with friends at their request but I do not play it on my own or jump to suggest it. This got me thinking...why did the successor to one of the most beloved games in history only keep my attention (barely) for a matter of weeks and within a year will likely be forgotten.

 "That point" I refer to came when I had just finished Nightmare and was making my way into Hell when I thought to myself "Here I am grinding the same basic I can grind more, tougher things, possibly with friends, for a chance at making money but not likely." The joke between myself and friends became the second title to this post...we'll earn enough money at the RMAH to buy Torchlight 2 and then forget about D3. I don't suggest this to claim that somehow Torchlight 2 is going to be "better" than Diablo 3, it will just be the "next" game. That is part of the problem with Diablo 3; after Normal the content doesn't much change, it just gets harder (and often more obnoxious).

We af"fixed" the problem

This is the big draw of D3...the highest level enemies have half a dozen "Affixes" which are basically just special abilities and the apparent goal of this system is to try and make players adjust their strategy to overcome said challenge. The big irony of this is that the main draw to being level 60, Nephalem Valor (which increases magic find by up to 75%), disappears if you switch your a system that is designed to make switching skills easy and when Blizzard before has SAID that switching skills is meant to be a part of the strategy. Instead, as the system stands, it encourages bashing your head against an enemy to kill them by attrition. This actually reduces how much wiggle room one has to build because one finds themselves in need of a versatile build that can handle as many situations as possible. Niche or interesting builds are often easily shut down by certain affixes.

It is forgivable and actually good for the game to have some of these favor certain classes, but the problem is that in many cases rather than "preferring" certain classes, some combinations of Affixes can be complete stone walls. This discourages creativity in builds and often forces people to favor certain abilities. Force Armor was not popular because it was "more fun" it was popular because it was versatile and protected in most situations, and the same goes for the Hydra spell. Ironically often what is "fun" is not always most effective....being effective is fun, but there is value to feeling like your unique approach or skill is what prevailed.

The Skinner Box isn't Resplendent

Blizzard seems to believe that people played Diablo 2 because it was genuinely fun (despite it being a game that at high level play often involved using 2-4 abilities per class...infinitely). This is wrong but no one wants to admit it. People played Diablo 2 because it was fun TO GET COOL LOOT. Getting those drops, the set pieces, the legendaries...that was fun, people like that tiny, random, conditioned trigger of excitement. We may like to deny it but we were the rats in the cage pushing the (same four) button(s) a million times until we got that tasty pellet of legendary loot. But just because some activity can be boiled down into "simple" terms does not mean it can't be fun....just look at sex.

There is a value to having that loot on a random chance, to have someone repeatedly pressing a lever in hopes of getting a reward at one point. In Diablo 2 a player remembered that time the legendary dropped for them and how they found it. Maybe its the funny story about the legendary hidden in a random urn, or the boss fight that dropped something great the first time...or just off some mob in the world that was carrying that Epic. Those stories form memories, and at least for me and my social group, recounting those experiences is part of the joy of a game...because they did what games are meant to do, they let us share an experience.

Artificial Content had a Purpose

Back in Diablo 2 your build was permanent, it couldn't be changed once created and it lead to many people running into situations where they had to specifically build themselves over their levels, often enduring some frustrating levels prior to their build kicking in. This added content because people had to go back and replay the game half a dozen times to get their builds right. Not only that, each class had a few possible builds within it...Necromancers could build for skeletons, a Golem, to shoot a javelin of bone, or a spirit that would hunt enemies...and those are just the most common. Yet if you ever wanted to try something new you had to make an entirely new character. D3 has removed this because every build is malleable...and yet Blizzard has tried to retain some of that permanency by causing Nephalem Valor to disappear when respeccing, thus encouraging people to try and maintain their builds at least for each play session. In the end that artificial extension of the game's life was effective, but at this point in video game history not something people are going to well receive.

The RMAH is not fun...

There are a few people out there that like playing markets, like playing auction houses and profiting off an economy and I wish more power to them. However I think they are a minority. They are not those I address here, and I hope they are enjoying themselves! That said...the majority of D3 players probably don't much care about an auction house.

Let me tell you a story, it's a story about 90% of the player base: 90% are not Krippi or Athene...they probably aren't even many bloggers. The 90% player Diablo 3...they play Normal, they probably make it through Nightmare with a few hangups...and then they get to Hell and find the jump in difficulty. Some will power through it, struggling until they get gear...others will go to the AH because someone (like Bashiok) told them that their solution is to go to the AH.

Now I don't know about you, but I find there to be a nearly diametric difference between the enjoyment I get from FINDING something versus the joy I get from buying something I need on the AH. I do not engage in Retail Therapy because I need things, I engage in it because I want things. I have no attachment to the items I got on the AH...they are disposable, just things I got that I'll sell when I get to a certain point. If Diablo has always been about adventuring and finding cool stuff...well you just hacked off the second part. I am not even able to get that enthusiastic about items I can sell. Sure, buying myself lunch with an Axe the other day was cool, but that is a rare occurrence and will fade with time. I don't get that same enthusiasm I did when I found a fantastic weapon in D2, equipped it, and started wrecking face.

Instead in D3 you hit a wall, and your options are either: Go back and grind the same content (that barely changes, see below) for a while or go to the AH....path of least resistance leads many people to the AH. The resistant holdouts who want to earn their own gear get to enjoy frustration.

...nor are repetitive walls!

This might be a stretch but if you can, go load up D2 again please. I'll wait....


Back? Ok now start it up with a character in act 2 and leave Lut Gholein...tell me where the dungeons end up showing up and the shape of the level. Then close it without saving, open it again, leave Lut Gholein and tell me what it looks like this time. It will be drastically different. The only random factor in D3 is which dungeons appear and tiny tweaks in some landscapes. Dungeons use 5-6 tiles that are repeated a handful of times...D2's dungeons were random halls that no reasonable architect would have ever designed and yet they FELT right. Each one was different, each was unique...aside from boss rooms, you almost never had the same place twice.

So when I was grinding the first area of Lord of Destruction, or re-visiting Hell many of the areas were different, and while some reused locales, there was a lot of randomization in each. I was never visiting "Old Tristram Road" with its exact same layout a dozen times. Its a thousand times worse when the only reason I am there in the first place is to farm mobs in hopes of finally getting a gear upgrade.

You might think to yourself, "Oh, but at level 60 I get that valor thing, that increases drop rate..." but with every ascending difficulty the needs of your gear has gone up. In Normal if it had your main stat on it, a piece was good. In Nightmare you needed your main stat and at least some complimentary stats, maybe some Vitality. In Hell you need to start seriously considering defensive stats on as many pieces as possible while keeping your damage up. Inferno...well you can guess. Basically the number of stats at a certain value an item must have to be "better" than an older item keeps going up and up...resulting in your chances of getting a replacement as a drop lower and lower.

Nothing new under the sun

The story...I am not going to defend it, but I am not going to sit here and pretend to be a literary scholar denouncing it. Suffice to say the D3 story was alright the first time..."Summer Action Movie" level of alright. I expected more from it though, especially because the two NEW demon lords you fight come off like Saturday morning cartoon villains. Belial couldn't have fooled a blind dog, Azmodan had all the strategic mastery of a 5 year old playing Chess. You can't tell me that Azmodan had "good" strategy because he used fliers and demons and siege tactics. He narrated his every move. But more importantly...if you are AWARE that Superman is coming and you didn't prepare specifically FOR suck at strategy.

The story feels like someone new took the wheel after D2, the dark mood, the feeling of dread from what might be around the corners is gone. Instead the game tells you that you're a super Saiyan from basically the get-go and treats you that way. There is no attempt to spook the player...the Butcher used to be scary, hearing "Mmmmm Fresh Meat..." used to signal impending death, now it signals 1-2 minutes to loot.

This does not feel like the successor to D1 and D2...and because that is the bar by which I will compare, the story fails. I didn't expect a Bioshock level of "Holy shit..." at the climax of the game, but basically every single plot turn or climax could be seen coming miles away...there was no darkness, it was all "cartoon violence" like WoW.

And there you have it...feel free to leave me your opinion as to why you've quit or why you're sticking around in the comments! Or anything else that springs to mind.


  1. I'm new to the game and like you said I got to Hell and got very frustrated, despite AH gear.

    Spending some time with Kripp, however, gave me some insight into the complexity of the endgame. I bought 3 very cheap pieces of gear, and immediately took Act 1 apart. I also index stood how to price my own gear on the AH.

    I farmed a bit, hit 60, and now I'm cruising through Act 3. More importantly, though, I'm having loads of fun. The story is now just a background, the fun is in the rhythm and the action. I'm loving it.

    1. Which class did you get to 60? I am wondering if it is the Monk that has lead to the feeling of excess repetition.

  2. Great analysis. Diablo 1 & 2 were simple and yet great games that nothing else in the genre even came close. There was nothing that could take down the franchise, except...Blizzard themselves. And they managed to do it with Diablo 3.

    I can live with its lame story although a good story would've helped. I like the flexible talent system (although Blizzard shot themselves in the foot by doing this since people don't need to keep making new characters and keep playing). But, the non-random random maps are incredibly boring, not to mention small. You could get lost in some of D2 zones. In D3? Just go North, West, whatever. Exit is always at the same place for same zones.

    Still, the worst offender is AH. As a somewhat hardcore gamer, I feel bound to upgrade my gear whenever I can through AH. However, it cheapens the gearing experience so much and I hate that I'm "forced" to. Oh yeah, and the crappy legendaries don't help either. Yes, Blizzard can upgrade items in a later patch as they said the would. But, didn't they already do that in Diablo 2 (I think when expansion was released)? Didn't they learn anything the first time? It's as if some completely new, clueless people designed D3 instead of the same company that made D2. On top of everything, the game feels rushed. LOL "Act" 4. I'm pretty sure they really worked on the game during past 1-2 years although they'll never admit it.

    1. In regards to your third paragraph, this video is from 2008 and the game does not appear to be dramatically changed since that video was released which concerns me too.

      I can't say for sure, but I don't think much of the original D2 team is still around. The change in story/tone was a big hint for me. I know the D1 team left and formed Runic Games (Torchlight) but I am not sure what the fate of the D2 team was....might be a new pet research project.