Daily Archives: July 2, 2020

Reflecting on Diablo II at Twenty

Despite my writing what might be accurately called a video game oriented blog, I can be remarkably narrow in focus when it comes to the breadth of video games out there… except maybe when I am complaining about how much crap there is on Steam.

But there are some games that I am just into, that mean something to me, and that I will carry a torch for long past when said games have faded from the mainstream.  Diablo II is definitely on that list, and the 20 year anniversary is this past Monday, which means it is time to reflect.

Blizzard has their own set of celebrations to commemorate the anniversary, but we’re still missing the Diablo II remaster.  It could still be coming.  Some news has leaked, but the problems facing such a remaster loom still as well.

The last time I checked Diablo II still ran on current machines.  That was a while ago, but there is still a good chance I could install it and play.  The problem is that 20 years back monitor sizes were much smaller.  The game shipped with 640×480 as its maximum resolution, though that was bumped up to e 800 x 600 with the Lord of Destruction expansion.

My current main monitor runs as 1,920 x 1200, which means I could fit four screens of Diablo II on it, with some space left over.  And if I go full screen , the graphics get almost Minecraft blocky and the image is distorted as we’ve gone from 4:3 as the standard screen ratio to 16:9 or 16:10.

So Diablo II today does not deliver the best experience.

And why am I so interested in Diablo II?  As noted above, it is one of those games that I was just really into back in the day.

The original Diablo set the stage.  That was amazing in its time, and I enjoyed player the GoG.com remaster when that came out last year.

So when Blizzard announced Diablo II back in the late 90s, I was all over that.  It was one of the few games I paid attention to before it shipped.  I remember staring at their web site.  I recall the original specs, which included the requirement to have a 3dfx Interactive video card if you wanted the full graphical effects.

That was later dropped as a requirement, but it caused some serious discussions with my friends.  Were we going to have to get a Voodoo 2 card just for this game? (One friend got himself setup with dual Voodoo 2 cards… early SLI… which worked out well when EverQuest hit, though hardware was changing so much back then that I am sure we were all running GeForce TNT cards not long after that. It was a crazy market for video cards back then with several competing brands rather than the two we have now.)

The wait was long… at least it felt long at the time… and there were delays… but when it did ship, it lived up to our expectations.  Rare for me is a sequel that outshines an original I really enjoyed.  My attempt at an objective measure on that front is, once the sequel shipped, did I ever feel like going back and playing the original?

For example, when Civilization II shipped, I never played Civilization again.

And when it came to Diablo II, I never had the urge to go back to the original until GoG.com released their version last year in conjunction with Blizzard.  And by that point Diablo II wasn’t all that interesting, it being in such need of a rework itself.

But back in 2000 we played a lot of it.  People dropped out of EverQuest and TorilMUD to devote time to the game.  I ended up owning two copies because we would play it at the office after hours together and you only have to forget your disk and miss a game night once to feel the need to have a second copy.  It was, for its time, so engaging.  I still marvel at the use of lighting, something that the games successors have really never matched.

In the end, I have enjoyed Diablo III, it official successor, and have played pretty much every other claimants to its ARPG mantle, from Titan Quest to the recent Minecraft Dungeons, but I have never enjoyed or been as into any of them as much as I did Diablo II at its peak.

There are a lot of nit-picky reasons why that might be the case, related to game play, graphics, story, and that always online thing.

But I wonder if Diablo II just happened along at the right moment for me.

I still want a remaster though.  I’ll buy it.  I might not end up liking it as much as I did back in the day, but there is enough memories there to make it a must have.