Tag Archives: Diablo

Waiting for the Darkening of Tristram

Am I the only one who logged into the Blizzard launcher on January 2nd (I allowed them the first, a Sunday, off) wondering where the 20th Anniversary event was?

I knew it wasn’t likely to be there, but I was keen to check just in case.  Then the news came yesterday that the 20th Anniversary event update was in the 2.4.3 patch and was going live in Diablo III at midnight.  We would at last be able to play the throw back to the original Diablo that was being put in the Diablo III.

Back when 640x480 was a desktop screen size

Back when 640×480 was a desktop screen size

Of course, on a work/school night, midnight was too late for me… midnight was frankly too late for me on New Year’s Eve… so I will have to wait until after work today to check the event out.

I am actually looking forward to this enough that I even attempted to give the event a whirl while it was on the Diablo III Public Test Realm, only to find that trying load PTR build crashed for me every single time I launched it.  So I have been waiting.

This is, of course, a risky nostalgia venture, attempting to recreate the old game within the new.  It could be quite the event or it could be soundly rejected by fans.  Until I get home though I will have had to content myself with Blizzard’s anniversary retrospective video.

 

Five Games I Want to See Revamped

The announcement that Hidden Path is doing a revamp of Age of Empires II, along with such refreshes as Baldur’s Gate Enhanced Edition, naturally made me think about what other games ought to get cleaned up and brought forward into the current age.

Here are the five that I want to see.

1 – Civilization II

Civilization II remains my favorite version of Civilization.  I have continued playing this through all the follow up versions.  There is a simplicity to it that gets lost in the later games that I find quite endearing.  And by reports I am not alone in continuing to play.  One of the most popular posts on the blog is about how to get Civ II to run on Windows 7 64-bit.

Which, of course, brings up the question of why it even needs an update if it runs already.  It doesn’t even look horrible and thanks to the Microsoft programming doctrines of the time, it runs in a window that resizes to whatever screen resolution you need.

A simpler time...

A simpler time…

Well, it runs, but not without difficulty at times.  You have to get the right version of the game and use somebody’s home grown patch to get it to run on 64-bit.  And you still need the CD in the drive to play, and I’ll admit right now that I managed to lose mine… again.  And there are a number of long standing AI issues that could be cleared up along the way.

Basically, I would like to buy a fresh copy that works on my machine.  I don’t care if it comes from Steam or GOG.com, I will make that purchase.

Why It Won’t Happen

The game was published back when Sid Meier was doing games for the now defunct MicroProse, so I am not even sure who owns the rights to the code itself, though Sid did manage to wrest the Civ name from them.  Sort of.  There were issues.  And even if Sid and Firaxis owned the rights free and clear, they would much rather you buy Civilization V and some of their DLC than some code that is going on 20 years old here.

2 – Diablo

Again, back to a simpler time.  My first thought was Diablo II, but that actually runs on my system okay and doesn’t look that bad.  So no work to be done there.  But the first game in the series?

I can almost get the original Diablo running on my machine.  There are a couple of tricks to getting the palettes to load correctly.  The game loads, you can play for a bit, but it is about as happy as a summoned demon about the whole thing.  The palettes are muddy, the lighting clearly has another agenda, and things lock up at inopportune moments.  And the whole thing is presented in a very chunky 640×480 on my big monitor.

A simpler time... in HELL

A simpler time… in HELL

But it is nearly there.  You can just get a taste.  You can hear the sound effects.  You get a sense for a moment how dark and moody the caverns under Tristam were.  I think a rework of this would do well.  And, of course, Blizzard owns it all and could roll a fresh version is the desired.  I would subscribe to another year of WoW to get it.

Why It Won’t Happen

I see a vision of Mike Morhaime explaining how Diablo III is really the superior product while dismissing the idea of a rework of the original.  Blizzard never moves backwards.  Old products get some support, but once a new version is out, the old one is pretty much dead to them.  This is why there will never be an official version of the WoW Emerald Dream server.  Blizzard just doesn’t do that.

Plus, I am not sure I would trust Blizzard with this.  They didn’t even make the original.  That was the long-gone team at Blizzard North.

3 – Bolo

At this point I suspect that most of you are going, “Huh?  What is Bolo?”

Bolo was a fun little networked tank game on the Mac back when adding network capabilities to your typical DOS box took an expensive package from Novell.  Created by brilliant networking programmer Stuart Cheshire, we used to play this for hours on Friday nights at the office.  There was an interface that allowed people to create AIs to drive players, and we would set up a series of AI boxes in the lab and have horrible, bloody, never ending battles.  Great stuff.

WinBolo

WinBolo

Why It Won’t Happen

Nobody could make any money from it.  Mr. Cheshire said he was done with it ages ago, but I don’t think that means he’ll let other people take it over.  And, honestly, as a game, it had some issues with coming to a final resolution.  It was hard to win.  Basically, one team generally grew tired first and gave up.  And if it was AIs versus humans, well, the AIs never got tired.

4 – Auto Duel

Autoduel was the great mid-80s computer game manifestation of Car Wars from Steve Jackson Games.  It took the vehicular combat game and forced it into the computer RPG mold quite successfully.  There was an unfolding story and goals and side tasks and character development and buying new crap to bolt onto your car all wrapped into one game.

Autoduel

Autoduel

I spent hours sitting in front of my Apple II playing this game.  It was great.  What could possibly go wrong.

Why It Won’t Happen

Well, to start with, it was an Apple ][ game. (Along with other such now defunct 80s computer platforms.)  You cannot, would not, should not literally translate it to a version that runs on today’s machines.  Which means that you would need to re-imagine it in the way that the Wasteland 2 group is trying to redo Wasteland.  But I have my doubts on that.  It might be that this (and Wasteland) were only great in the context of the limited computer hardware we had at the time.  And… you know… Auto Assault.

Plus, if that weren’t enough, Steve Jackson Games owns the rights and doesn’t seem to have any interest in such a venture, seeming content to work on their own board game nostalgia instead.

5 – EverQuest

This one is probably the least realistic as well as being the one to which people are most likely to take offense.

Here we are, the day before EverQuest’s 14th birthday.  The game has a huge amount of content added in over 19 different expansions.  It has grown, expanded, and adapted over time, first setting trends and later following them.  It has gone free to play, so money isn’t even a barrier to playing the game.

SOE has worked to remove many barriers to getting people to play one of the great MMORPGs of the 20th century.  But one huge barrier still remains.

The client.

I don’t mind the bad linoleum textures, the primitive animations, the intermittent sounds, the decrepit character models, or some of the crazy, grindy game play.

Never an immersion breaking name in EQ!

Textures gone wild

But every time I go back to play the game, wrestling with the damn client is a royal pain.  They have tried to bring it up to date or to adhere to conventions that came into fashion for MMOs after it shipped.  Things like WASD movement keys as a default.

And they have managed it quite well.  But the client feels like it has too many features stuffed into it, while still showing some of the flaws it had back in 1999.  For example, how frickin’ big does the contact area around my character need to be.  I am constantly trying to click on something off to one side of him and ending up with him as the selection.

So I dream of an all new client, designed and built from scratch that delivers a smooth and modern user experience.  And it pains me to say that, as the cardinal sin of every young, and many old, programmers is the heartfelt need to reject anybody elses code, opting to rewrite things from scratch.  But I cannot get to my desired state by continuing to pile on to the old code base.  A fresh start is needed.

In my mind, I see what is essentially EQ running with WoW’s client.

But I would accept the EverQuest II client frankly.

Why It Won’t Happen

There is no money in it.  Having gone free to play, if it doesn’t come from the cash shop, it doesn’t bring in any money.  The only exceptions are subscriptions and expansions.  The client is free to download.

And, of course, even if there were money in it, it would be a huge operation and many a company has gone under rewriting code rather than pushing forward with new features on top of old spaghetti.  See Netscape.   The costs would be huge, and the benefits likely marginal at best.  And I may want a better EQ client, but I suspect I am in a slim minority.  Plus, how well did such revamps serve other games in the past?

Other Games

Of course, there were other games that came to mind.  I was tempted to list any version of SimCity besides the current one, just becauseGetFudgedPopulation FTW!  But we already have SimCity 4 on Steam.

I was also wondering about Ultima III and the original Wizardry.  But I suspect that neither would make good games today.  Or they might make fine iOS/Android games, but not something that would compare favorably to what we have available now on our desktops.  Basically, almost anything from the pre-Macintosh or pre-Windows era is likely mired in the time before GUI and has to be re-imagined to be brought forward.  Only dedicated hobbyists are likely to show any interest in games from that time.

Still, that does leave a good gap in time, and a whole pile of games that do adhere to at least some of the standards to which we have become accustomed and which could be reworked, polished up, and re-released.

What else should be on the list?  What would you like to see reworked and brought up to date?

Diablo! I mean Torchlight!

Diablo ships today!

erm…

I mean Torchlight ships today!

Or whatever the electronic distribution equivalent term is, since they don’t appear to be shipping physical boxes.

Torchlight!  It was done by those guys who did Diablo!

I mean Mythos!

Wait, Mythos was done by some people who did Diablo.

And the same guy did that did the music for Diablo did the music for Torchlight!

But you get my point, which is that whenever we speak of Torchlight, we must also mention Diablo.

Diablo! Diablo! Diablo!

And in my view of the world, comparing it to Diablo, and bringing up the connections with Diablo, is saying something good about the game.

But I really liked Diablo.

And Torchlight does appear to have that Diablo feel to it, at least in the screen shots I have seen.

Torchlight

Screen shot from the Torchlight web site

It has been a PC game drought for me this year.  The only new title I purchased so far in 2009 has been Peggle.  (Yay for being totally behind the curve on that one!)

So Torchlight, with all its Diablo connections, may be my second PC game purchase this year.

If they will let me purchase it.  It is being sold through Perfect World, a Chinese MMO company with some ports in the US (Jade Dynasty, Ether Saga and Perfect World), and they seem to have an issue with my billing information.

They sent me an email telling me that they were sending me another email regarding a billing issue.

I never received that second email which had a key link I need to follow in order to solve this problem.  Or so they said in the first email.

I did, however, receive a third email (which was right in the spam folder that I was watching just in case the second email showed up there) which told me that since I did not respond to the second email (which I am going to guess had some time limit associated with it) my transaction was being canceled and my money refunded.

They took my money, had a problem with it, and are now sending it back.

So Torchlight may not end up being my second PC game purchase this year.

And this billing snafu certainly does not bode well for me looking into the Torchlight MMO franchise that the team at Runic Games, the Diablo pedigreed developers of Torchlight, is talking about.

It does, however, give the publisher’s name, Perfect World, something of an ironic twist for the moment.

Anyway, I’ll see about trying to buy the game again this weekend.  Perhaps they are suffering from the first day rush.

In the mean time, I’ll just watch the game play video over at Game Bunny.

Diablo!

Back to Battle.net

I noticed on the World of Warcraft start page that Blizzard was letting people opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.

BNetOptIn

For a long period StarCraft was THE game at the office and so while I have not played much in the RTS genre for quite some time (the genre being somewhat stagnant in my opinion) I thought I would like to go back to StarCraft.  In fact, if the original StarCraft played in a resolution higher than 640×480 I might consider loading up the original again.  But it is painful to look at the game blown up on a 1600×1200 LCD monitor.  So on to the beta.

But to opt-in for a chance to be in the beta I had to go create an account on the latest version of Blizzard’s Battle.net.

Battle.net has been around for almost 12 years, coming out in conjunction with Diablo.  I have made a number of accounts on the service over the years, but they used to expire if left inactive for a set duration, so they were all long gone.

With Blizzard not shipping a new game besides World of Warcraft in almost seven years, and with WoW not requiring Battle.net, it seemed to me that the service was set to wither away eventually. (Though with StarCraft, Diablo II, and Warcraft III all showing up regularly on the X-Fire monthly stats, that eventuality might have been pretty distant.)

But now with two new games announced, StarCraft II and Diablo III (okay, new sequels as opposed to new games I suppose), Battle.net seems to be getting a new lease on life.  Blizzard wants it to become the unified logon for its games, including World of Warcraft.

So I headed to Battle.net site to create an account.

One of the first things I noticed was that your account name has to be an email address.  I have mixed feelings about this.  An email address is probably something people will remember.  On the other hand, and email address is also something other people are likely to know, so there is a bit of a security concern.

Myself, I have enough email addresses that I could pick out an obscure one that I use only to deflect spam for my logon, which was actually an improvement for me from the aspect of security.  When I made my WoW account I didn’t think I would stick with the game, so used a rather easy to guess (if you know me) user name.  Now that is gone.  And, in an experiment, I saw that Blizzard lets you change your email address… and thus your logon… relatively easily.  Perhaps a bit too easily.

And Blizzard has their authenticator option available if security is a concern.  I may look into that.

Still, with that in mind, an unified account for Blizzard products still seemed like a good idea to me.  I created the Battle.net account then merged my WoW account with it, which changed the logon for WoW immediately.

Then I noticed that I could add more games to the unified account.  So I grabbed some CDs off the shelf an added Diablo II, the Diablo II expansion, and StarCraft.

The Games

The Games

Akin to how SOE handles games with their  Station Launcher (which has been in beta long enough for me to think that Google must have created it) and somewhat reminiscent of Steam, Battle.net keeps all your game keys so you can access them online at any time as well as download the associated game if you need.

Now if it would just keep me from having to stick the physical CD in the PC I would be happy.  Of course, I would think that would be the case if they are letting your download the software.  It doesn’t make much sense to let you download and then require you to find the physical disk.  Maybe I should give it a try.

And, after all that, I went to the beta profile settings to opt-in for the StarCraft II beta.  You actually have to download and run a little utility that profiles you system.  I did that, checked the appropriate boxes, and went on my way.

Of course, the actual likelyhood of my getting into the StarCraft II beta is microscopic, but we shall see.  Maybe I will download StarCraft from Battle.net, just to see if I need the CD.