Diablo III – Two Acts and Forty Levels March 11, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment.
1 comment so far
The experience, and the levels, have been flowing quite freely in Diablo III, as various boosts and bonuses stack up.
First, there is the xp boost for playing in Hard mode versus normal. As I recall, that gives you an extra 75% boost in both the xp and gold departments.
Then there is the current community boost, which seems to lay down a 50% boost on top of the Hard mode boost.
That is the gift that will keep on giving until the Reaper of Souls expansion comes out on March 25.
And then I keep running into xp boosting shrines in the game, which appear to give you something akin to a blue bar xp boost in WoW for a specific amount of xp.
All of which got my barbarian to just shy of level 40 by the time I finished up Act II. I suspect that if I carry on apace and finish up before the expansion launches, I should be level 60 by the end of Act IV.
Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing.
When it comes to playing Diablo III, I think I am more interested in the story and the loot progression than I am about levels. Levels do unlock new skills, so it will be nice to have all of those unlocked at the end. But being level 60 won’t inhibit me from playing further and it will set me up for the expansion and Act V. And since the content scales with your levels now, being ahead to the curve on levels doesn’t matter so much.
Meanwhile, Act II is now complete.
As Act I was an echo of the first act of Diablo II, so Act II was an attempt to hearken back to the second act of that game as well. And while Act II has all the elements… encounters in the desert, tombs buried under the sands, and even some time in the sewers of the main city… it doesn’t quite resonate with me in the same way Diablo II did. I do not know why. The graphics are quite good, especially in some of the locations under the desert. I guess the place doesn’t seem as sun drenched as the desert was when searching for Tal-Rasha’s tomb.
It isn’t bad, it just doesn’t evoke as much emotion as the original did.
I also settled down on a set of skills and weapons that carried me pretty well through the whole act. While I keep unlocking new skills, I have kept with an early set that focuses enough on healing to keep me alive while having enough AOE potential to allow my barbarian to wade into masses of lesser foes. For weapons I have been happy enough with a one handed weapon and a shield. Act I ended with an epic orange two handed flail that had good damage and an excellent life-steal on each attack. So I ran with that for quite a bit. But eventually I ran into the same issue I always do, which is that damage and stats from one handed weapon drops quickly caught up to the flail as I went along (no doubt due to leveling up so readily) and while the epic was in a league of its own at level, for the most part two handed weapons tend not to have the stats and damage to make them obviously better than going with a one handed weapon and a shield.
So if damage output and stats are about the same, why not add in a little blocking to mitigate incoming damage? That got me through the final battle in Act II with Belial.
My first time through the game, back at launch, Belial was a tough boss for me. I think it took me three tries to get past him. But I was not optimized so much for self-healing back then. This time around I got him on the first try and was never really in any danger. It wasn’t a faceroll, but hard mode still strikes me as “just hard enough to keep you on your toes” as opposed to being really difficult.
Now I am on to Act III, which departs from following the Diablo II locations in order, being akin to the campaign from the Lord of Destruction expansion. Time to fight on the battlements and in the basements of Bastion’s Keep.
Report from New Tristram March 5, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment, Path of Exile, Torchlight II.
Tags: Reaper of Souls
Wasn’t 2012 going to be the year of the heir to Diablo II?
We had multiple contenders. There was the designated heir, Diablo III and all the weight Blizzard could bring to bear. There was Torchlight II, from a team that included many of the people who actually made Diablo II back in the day. And then there was the dark horse candidate, Path of Exile, planning on a free to play experience and the grandest skill tree ever seen.
Each of them managed to hit a few marks. Diablo III carried on the Diablo story line and was polished in that Blizzard way. Torchlight II clearly had the upper hand on price and play options. And only Path of Exile managed to replicate the dark atmosphere of the past Diablo games.
However, in my opinion, each of them failed in some fundamental way.
Diablo III had always online problems at launch, but the real issue became itemization. Gear drops, ever the life’s blood of a Diablo game, were huge in quantity and very bad in quality. The only way to reliably find some gear close to your level was either via a higher level alt or through the auction house. I didn’t really want to play via the auction house, but felt I pretty much had to when it came to end of act bosses. Tired of being pulled out of the actual game to upgrade gear, I stopped playing.
Torchlight II was better on itemization. It still had huge quantities, but quality wasn’t as universally awful, though without the auction house to fall back on, comparison of at-level gear wasn’t as obvious either. However, colorful and well lit graphics hampered any feeling of atmosphere and the story line felt very weak to me. I can give you a synopsis of the story line in all three Diablo games, but couldn’t begin to tell you what Torchligh II… or Torchlight… was really about. That and the dev team punting on the Mac version of the game… and just about anything else it seems… thus killing off any chance of playing with my daughter, put the game pretty low on my play list and I haven’t been back to it in probably a year.
And then there was Path of Exile, which certainly won on price. It is about a free as free to play can be I suppose, though a friend of mine who played a lot of the game says that there is a point after which
you pretty much have to pay to progress the grind of leveling becomes unbearable. That point is just much farther into the game than I managed to get. While winning on atmosphere, it also had “always online” problems. Basically, melee classes became pretty much unplayable at peak times, and I always play the melee classes and I apparently play at peak hours. That ended that.
So three contenders, all of which I felt I was pretty much done with by the end of last year and none of which I could whole heartedly recommend for one reason or another.
But the dev teams were still working on at least two of the three games. The Blizzard team, while slow to acknowledge that they had a problem, eventually owned up on the itemization front and last week those of us on the PC got Diablo III version 2.0.
It was time for a return to Diablo III. I rolled up a new barbarian and played through act one.
The first thing I was looking at was gear drops. And, hey presto, they did in fact seem to be better in quality and more likely to be relevant to my character. Quest rewards for various stages of the story seemed to be better tuned, mini-bosses along the way seemed much more likely to drop something useful, and even the vendor in town seemed to be stocking a higher quality selection of goods.
In fact, that was going so well that the game started to seem a bit easy. I was blowing through masses of undead or goatmen or whatever without much effort at all. That looked to be the downside of the boost to itemization quality.
But I had another 2.0 feature available to me. I was able to jump directly from Normal to Hard with my character.
This was actually a big win. One of the 2.0 changes was to remove what was effectively level ranges for various areas of the game and, instead, make all of the content scale to your current level. No more out running content and hitting a wall that could only be cured with a serious injection of new gear. (Itemization problem strikes again.) And no more playing through the whole story in normal mode just to get to a higher level of challenge.
While loot quality, experience gained, and gold dropped all went up with this change, difficulty went up enough to more than offset those and made the game much more of a challenge. Rather than cutting through mobs like butter, I actually had to start working for a living. I couldn’t just rush into a room and collect everybody the way you can in a 1-60 dungeon finder group in WoW. I found myself in trouble and in any number of close-run fights if I didn’t take care.
Still, I am not sure that “hard” is really the right term. It is closer to “not easy” in feel. While I got down to the red screen of limited health now and again, I never once died. It is just the right level of resistance to keep the game interesting.
It was also fun rediscovering some of the cool bits of the game after a long absence. While the atmosphere isn’t close to the play of light and shadows that was such a deep part of Diablo II at times… and honestly, none of the three games got all the way there… it isn’t the bright and colorful beast that some people were afraid it would be way back when. The atmosphere is pretty good.
Then there was the dynamics of the game while playing the barbarian. For a full on visceral experience, this is the class. I love how elements of the world react when he is pounding out a big attack. Furniture disintegrates, shelves tumble, tapestries whip and swirl, and corpses fly. Oh, and how corpses fly. Ending on a big pound can send multiple foes dead and sailing through the air, sometimes headed completely off screen. (Note the flying goatmen in the screen shot above.) It never gets old.
And the game itself is as well put together as one would expect from a Blizzard product. And the game is divided up into nice, bite size chunks via the waypoints, so you can get in and play for a bit while making it to the next stage of the story. Of course, this can still lead to the “one more waypoint” urge. Not nearly as strong as “just one more turn” is in a Civilization game, but it is there.
There were a few other small features added. We now have a map for the various waypoints as opposed to the old listing that the game and its predecessor used. I guess this adds a bit of immersion, or a sense of place, though it does also point out that I was traveling in a big circle as well.
I made it through to the final boss and remembered enough of it to get through the fight on the first try.
I had rather optimized myself, my skills, and my companion (the Templar this time) for healing, so it was more a matter of building up fury for big hits and staying out of the fire. I did not end up using either of the health shrines in The Butcher’s room. And then it was through to Tyreal and the wrap up of Act I.
So far, so good. Now it is on to Act II. We shall see how well the game sticks this time around.
I also managed to get quite a few levels in, as there was a pre-expansion experience boost in effect while I was playing.
That wasn’t a big deal to me. I guess it will get me closer to the level cap sooner. Is that a good thing?
And the question remain whether or not I will pick up the Reaper of Souls expansion given what it offers.
I like the idea of Act V, and the Crusader class feels much more like my favorite Diablo II class, the paladin. But is that enough to justify the cost? Has Diablo III version 2.0 changed things up enough that I will make it through Act IV? I have time left to decide. And to play. We shall see.
Diablo III Version 2.0 February 26, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment.
Tags: Reaper of Souls
Blizzard dropped… after a fashion… the 2.0 patch for Diablo III yesterday.
That was the first of the three events planned for the next month or so for Diablo III. There is the patch, the removal of the Auction House on March 18th, and the release of the (first?) expansion for the game, Reaper of Souls, on March 25th.
I am completely in favor of the removal of the auction house which, even by Blizzard’s own admission, hasn’t worked as planned. I feel I know why they put the auction house in, but the way they coded loot drops for the game seemed designed specifically to drive people to it, so I remain a bit skeptical at their protestations that they were surprised by its popularity.
But it is going away, so water under the bridge. It won’t be a problem soon.
And then there is the expansion. More content and a new class, the crusader, that sounds interesting. I am not willing to buy it quite yet, but I wouldn’t rule it out eventually. It depends on the 2.0 patch.
Because the patch, the 2.0 version of Diablo III, is where the meat of the changes are coming. This was the reason I wanted to patch Diablo III last night. And once I was able to log in, Blizzard was keen to let me know what was new. (Patch notes here.)
Of all of that, I think Loot 2.0 is the most important. If they are going to dump the Auction House, they need to make the loot you do get much more viable. Some of it sounds like it came from the loot lessons they implemented in Mists of Pandaria and what they have planned for Warlords of Draenor. “Smart Loot” includes more drops appropriate to your class and no class items with stats that are not important for that class any more.
Of course, they have also made higher quality items bound to your account. No trading, because Blizzard still wants to keep the real money market down. The whole point of the Auction House, to my view, was to eliminate that market by controlling it. With the Auction House gone, other methods were required.
There are a host of other changes. There were changes to classes, to monsters, to difficulty scaling, to bosses, to the paragon system, along with the addition of community items like guilds. I am actually quite happy about that last bit. While I am kind of past having to be in a guild in every game, we had to create our own ad hoc guilds back in Diablo and Diablo II. Nice to see that Blizzard has finally acknowledged that this is a thing.
And, of course, Blizzard also had a splash screen in the game about the wonders of the new expansion as well. Always be closing.
With all of this, I thought it might be time to return to the game and see how these changes feel. I rolled up a new character… best to start from scratch I think, with all the changes… to try it out. I did not actually get very far, but I want to try to find some time this weekend to at least get through the first act to see how it goes.
How about you? Does the 2.0 version of the game have any appeal?
Blizzard Isn’t Giving You a Free Copy of Reaper of Souls January 8, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment.
We have a new Blizzard release coming up. In this case it is the Diablo III expansion, Reaper of Souls, which is due out on March 25 of this year.
And, as seems to happen with all such Blizzard releases, email scams are beginning to show up. I have seen one in particular show up a couple times now, so I thought I would pass it along as both warning and humor.
I think the first hint that this was a scam was the message title.
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls now Invite you to join!
Say what you will about Blizzard, broken English just isn’t one of their faults.
Then there was the come-on part of the pitch, the bait to get you to fall for it. In this case, I must admit they might be on to something, as they gave you a big string of characters and claimed that this code would enable Reaper of Souls on your account.
Usually they just tell you to click the link to get the game. Here they have a code for you that they say you have to redeem on your account. And, of course, a handy bogus link to a Battle.net look-alike site where they will steal your account information and use it to strip your account bare.
As is often the case, all of the other help and support links point to legitimate Blizzard sites, but the key one is a trap.
So be wary.
Blizzard Killing The Diablo III Auction House September 17, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment.
Tags: auction house, RMT
Reality has finally sunk in down in Anaheim I guess. The in-game auction house, both gold and real money sides, will be shut down on March 18, 2014.
When we initially designed and implemented the auction houses, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. But as we’ve mentioned on different occasions, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo’s core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot. With that in mind, we want to let everyone know that we’ve decided to remove the gold and real-money auction house system from Diablo III.
We feel that this move along with the Loot 2.0 system being developed concurrently with Reaper of Souls™ will result in a much more rewarding game experience for our players.
We’re working out the details of how the auction house system will be shut down, but we wanted to share the news as soon as we made the decision in order to give everyone as much advance notice as possible. Please note that the shutdown will occur on March 18, 2014. We will keep everyone informed as we work through this process.
Josh Mosqueira and I wanted to provide everyone with a little more information behind this decision, so please have a look at the video, and stay tuned to this site for further updates in the months ahead.
I was a bit surprised at how long it took them to realize (or at least admit) that the auction house was taking over the game, something that some suggested might happen before the game even launched.
As it turns out, it is better to put up with a bit of this…
…than to kill off the key game play component of your game.
At least Blizzard has recognized the issue and is acting on it. It is painful to come out and admit you have made a mistake. While there is no release date for the Diablo III expansion, Reaper of Souls, I doubt they pulled that March 18, 2014 date out of thin air. At a minimum I suspect that the change will be part of the ramp up to the expansion.
Hopefully with a re-tune of the loot drops and an expansion on the way, Diablo III will be a better game and one more worthy of its lineage.
Now, is doing this almost two years after launch going to be enough?
Diablo III – Now Featuring Hyperinflation May 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment.
Tags: RMAH, RMT
At launch the problem was Error 37 and other related “always online” issues.
Then it was how the gold auction house was killing the game, something I first brought up in May of last year but which Blizzard, in the form of Jay Wilson, was still professing amazement about 10 months later. And then there was the recent auction house burp, which shut it down for several days.
Now, even as Blizzard is patting itself on the back on the one year anniversary of the game, there is an article out there with the title, A Virtual Weimar: Hyperinflation in a Video Game World, which discusses the impact of the the Diablo III real money auction house on the game over the last year.
Being compared as a parallel to Weimar German and the great inflation… that is never a good thing. I think even Greece has only been held up against the Weimar Republic to show that the situation in Greece isn’t as bad as it could be.
And it all seems to fall back to something Edward Castronova said, a while back:
Being an elf doesn’t make you turn off the rational economic calculator part of your brain.
And when real money is part of the mix…
So what else can go wrong, aside from Blizzard having no backup plan and no content expansion ready in the foreseeable future?
Hat tip to Edward Catronova for spotting the story.
So far this week has not bee full of good news for Blizzard.
There was the 1.08 patch for Diablo III, rolled out on US servers the day before yesterday, which was touted as bringing serious improvements to the game, including changes to the surprisingly popular auction house.
Unfortunately, one side effect was the introduction of a bug that allowed players to basically create gold out of thin air… or virtual thin air… thus putting the whole in-game economy in peril. I don’t think that was the auction house fix they were looking for, and continues along with Diablo III’s somewhat hard luck tale.
Blizzard jumped right on this, once they noticed it, shutting down the auction house. They have since reported that the bug has been fixed. However, there remained the question of what to do. There was talk of a complete roll-back to a pre-patch save. However, they chose to do it the hard way, opting to manually fix each account that used the bug. I have not seen any word about people being banned for using what was obviously an exploit, but I suspect there will be some sanctions.
As of this time, the auction house on US servers remains closed, and will stay so until all current auctions expire.
The updated has been fixed and should roll out without the exploit on EU and Asian servers.
Then there was the Activision Blizzard quarterly report where, after a rise in subscribers with the release of Pandaria and then holding steady the next quarter, a drop of 1.3 million subscribers was announced for the past quarter, the subscriber base moving from 9.6 million to 8.3 million players.
As has become a standard part of these sorts of announcements, it was stated that most of the losses were in China, which have a much smaller impact on revenue, it was allowed that there were subscription losses in the west and that the company expected the subscriber base at the end of the year to be smaller than it is now.
Expect nothing new for WoW this year I guess.
Bobby Kotick was quick to point out that WoW remains one of the most successful video game franchises and, no doubt, continues to be insanely profitable.
The quarterly report is available here.
April Fools at Blizzard – 2013 April 1, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment, World of Warcraft.
Tags: April Fools
April Fools at Blizzard this year is either less ambitious or more subtle than before.
Or I am missing something.
He has some new and amusing dialog and I guess is part of the tradition now. And if you go down the right conversational path, the one where you talk about sports, you can watch him try on various hats.
But I have to wonder, how many people even remember Clippy, of which Crabby is a parody.
But other than that, all I could spot was some disagreement as to when the Noblegarden event was taking place, with it either being March 31 through April 6 or April 24 through May 1. That must be funny in some way I am not getting.
The Diablo III site seems to be completely free of April Foolery, unless that thread asking Is This Game Good Yet? is some sort wry commentary. But if it wry commentary you want, there is better to be had, pointed at juicier targets. And then there is the great Diablo III non-joke from GDC.
And over at the StarCraft II site there is a somewhat predictable April Fools joke.
The Warhound was a unit slated to be part of the Terran forces in the Heart of the Swarm expansion for StarCraft II. However, it was found to be too powerful and was removed during beta.
But today’s announcement says it is back, but they have a plan to cure the balance issue.
- The Warhound has been added for Terran because robots are cool and the art is amazing
- The Warhound has been added for Zerg to remain competitive with Terran.
- The Warhound has been added for Protoss to keep Protoss players from whining about them on the forums.
There is also a Dev Q&A page about the Warhound that answers questions like why their isn’t a female Warhound as well as linking to its background story page. But at least they did something. Almost as much fun as a space cockroach.
A check of the European versions of the sites showed similar entries all around.
So did I miss something? Are they holding out for a mid-day US/evening EU reveal? Is this a year of subtle humor? Or did a busy 2012, in which they did not even have time for BlizzCon, keep Blizzard from going as far with April Fools as they have in the past?
The following links will bring you to past coverage of Blizzard April Foolery as a comparison:
Addendum – April Fools in some other online games:
Blizzard Blindsided by Diablo III Auction House Popularity March 29, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Blizzard, Diablo III, entertainment.
Tags: auction house
While the auction houses reduced the fraud and effectively killed grey-market transactions between players and item- and gold-farming companies that hurt the online Diablo II community, Blizzard did not expect players to use them on the scale that they started to as soon as the game launched. Almost every player uses one or the other, according to Wilson, and nearly half use them regularly.
GameInformer article on Jay Wilson’s GDC 2013 Presentation
Two comments on this.
The second is, what do you mean you did not expect it? Have you guys actually played the game?
The itemization that I experienced was such that nearly every single equipment drop I got was not only many levels below being useful for my character, but also many levels below the monsters dropping it. Unlike Diablo and Diablo II, where gear you had to grow into was relatively common, I never got a drop like that in Diablo III.
So I went right to the auction house to sell the useless lower level gear in order to buy gear closer to my level. And I assumed that this was all part of the master plan to make people use the auction house. I got that sense almost right away that low level drops were all part of the scheme to prime the AH pump. He says right there that nearly every player uses the auction house at some point. The strategy totally worked!
Now they are saying that it wasn’t intentional?
I cannot tell if I should be skeptical or flabbergasted.
In the article, he said they are working on a plan to fix the auction house problem.
This I gotta see.
[Related: Green Armadillo and Player Motivation]
Path of Exile Opens Up January 22, 2013Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Diablo III, entertainment, Other PC Games, Path of Exile, Torchlight II.
It looked, for a while, to be the third horse in the “Heir to Diablo II” race last year, but then never quite got there, leaving the field to Diablo III and Torchlight II.
Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
It might have gotten a little more attention going up against one of those at launch, but it likely would have suffered for it as well. So the other two have had their launches and… have gone somewhat quiet since. Diablo III shipped without any post-launch follow up plan it seems, while the team at Runic that did both Torchlight and Torchlight II is reportedly tired of working on that franchise and want to do something different. (Where is my Mac OS version of the game?)
So it is a quiet time in the click-click-click RPG niche, which might be just the right time for Path of Exile to go… well… a little more public with their game. And so open beta has been announced.
According to their latest press release, open beta starts… tomorrow. Not that the previous year of closed beta was tough to get into. You just had to sign up and wait for a few days or a week and eventually you got an invite.
Now though… or tomorrow… you should be able to go to their site, sign up, and get access to the game right away.
This will also be the last wipe of the player base. Or so say the developers. This effectively means that the game launches tomorrow, as any progress you make with your character after that point is yours to keep.
And since this is a free to play, cash shop supported game, the transition from “open beta” to “live” seems to me to be more philosophical than anything; very much in line with every Facebook game being flagged as “beta” for most of their success.
And a year later, after playing Diablo III and Torchlight II, that clip still “feels” a lot more like Diablo II than either of those other games. It might be time to patch up and give Path of Exile another look and see what has changed in the last year.