Monday, May 14, 2012

Diablo III: Zero Hour

We are a matter of HOURS away from the release of Diablo III.  This is the moment that many of us have been waiting for.  Some of us have been waiting since beta was released last year.  Some of us have been waiting since the announcement of Diablo III a few years ago.  Many others (like myself) have been waiting a good 11-12 years for this day to come.  The release is so close you can taste it, minutes feel like hours and hours feel like days. 

To jump right into the action remember to update your client today.  Also, take some time to set up a paypal account if you plan on using the RMAH when it is released.  Gather your ax and your snacks and gear up for battle!!!

I will not begin my play session until about 15 hours post release.  However, I do plan on playing for 36 hours over the 3 days after that.  My guess is that I will be well into nightmare by the weekend (hopefully).

There is a little community that I am taking part in forming over at:

Sign up and meet some new people, make connections, discuss/debate different builds and battle the forces of hell together.  There are even some resources that are being made available for use to forum goers.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fellow Bloggers: Beware of Spoilers!!!

My fellow bloggers, I know many of you are big fans of Diablo 3 and browse the fansites for information.  I was doing so last night and I stepped in the spoiler trap.  I was made aware of a BIG spoiler to the story that I wish I hadn't seen till I saw it in game.  If you are browsing the fan sites, especially the forums, be very careful of spoilers.

5 more days!!!

Monday, May 7, 2012

D3: Coop centric?.....Sorta.

Jay Wilson, and other folks from Blizzard have been promoting Diablo III as a coop-centric game.   A great deal of development time has been working towards this end.  I like this idea, but I think Blizzard could have done a much better job at implementing robust tools to facilitate this type of play.

Currently I am envisioning a Diablo 3 where you enter into an inferno game and begin working together with your teammates.  Before venturing out to kill demons and starting to build up Nephalem Valor charges, you must set up your skills, since changing your skills mid-game will remove the buff.  Who you are playing with and what skills they are using will determine what skills you are going to use.  If your teammates are already using abilities that snare enemies you might be inclined to use abilites that increase your teammate's damage since getting another snare ability would make your group too defensive without any strong offensive abilities.

This brings up a lot of questions.  Are these options going to be discussed through typing messages in chat?  One can image how cumbersome this would be.  No voice communication closes so many doors towards cooperative play.  You can't call out for help, or request a heal from another player very easily.  And you cant discuss skill planning strategy prior to venturing out of town. 

Outlets for the average player to form connections with other players are there, but very limited and/or inconvenient to use.  Things like Guild Support, and Voice Communication would go a long way to helping players establish communities, partnerships, and friendships in-game.  This would make Diablo III a truly "coop-centric" game.

Update:  Shortly after writing this article, Blizzard announced a Clan system to be released for at the same time as StarCraft 2: Heart of the Swarm, which will be later this year.  This is good news for the Diablo III community.  Even if it will come months after release. =)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Clutter on the Battlefield

In Diablo II there were so many things that could drop off of a pack of mobs.

Healing Potion, Mana Potion, Antidote Potion, Stamina Potion, Thawing Potion, Scroll of Identify, Scroll of Town Portal, Armor/weaps/jewelery, Charms, Runes, Gems, Gold, variety of different attack potions, arrows/bolts, etc...

One good item littered amongst so much "Junk"

Most of this stuff was "crap" and was never picked up.  Players would pick up the uniques, some rares, sets, runes, and gems.  The rest was left to sit there strewn about the field.  This became especially annoying since monsters were often killed in "packs".  Huge heaps of "stuff" would drop to the ground, of which, a very small percentage of it was actually picked up by players.  The vast majority was waste.

Now, lets take a look at items that can drop in Diablo III.

Gold, Health Potions, Armor/weaps/jewelry, Gems, Crafting pages, and Crafting recipies,....did I miss anything?

Less than half as many item types, and most of which are valuable to you or at least valuable to someone else on the AH.  The only thing I havent been picking up in the Beta were white items and the occasional health pot if I had too many.  Also, the number of items on screen will be rated for 1 player (you).  Not for all the players in game. 

No more scanning through the piles of items with your eyes trying to see if there is anything valuable hidden in there, later wondering if you missed something that you should have picked up.  Gold pickups will not require clicking anymore, so they will be cleaned up like a vacuum as you walk by, assuming you have a decent pickup radius.  That means more playing/fighting and less scanning and clicking to loot.

The down side is that there is something to be said for having some "stuff" strewn about the battlefield,  it is evidence that a great battle took place and adds to the overall feeling of the game.

Monday, April 30, 2012

"The Delay" Retrospect

It was last September, I remember the feeling of excitement after hearing the D3 beta announcement.  "The decade long wait was over, Diablo III would soon be in my hands" I thought.  From then till now, my interest in the game waxed and waned several times.  An eight month beta will do that to you.  With the beta coming to an end and the game only two weeks away from release (feels great to say that), I thought it was a good time to write about these last eight months.

One of the biggest controversies of the Diablo III beta was its unfortunate delay.  Many became furious at the announcement that the game would be delayed by a further few months.  "When its done" was the last thing that fans wanted to hear from Blizzard at the time.  However, now we are on the cusp of the release and we have the advantage of looking at the events in hindsight. 

Many of us have different opinions about the decisions made by Blizzard during the Beta. Was the delay worth it?, are the game systems, and overall game, better now than it was months ago?  Jay Wilson, continues to argue the end the players and the community will not care whether or not the game was late,  they will care whether or not the game was great.

I tend to agree with this sentiment as Blizzard games normally score very high marks on my personal evaluation and their development process is very long and thorough.  Considering all the systems and other in game changes made due to the delay, I think that the final product is in much better shape than it was orginally presented in the beta.  The systems are cleaner and less cumbersome to use, and seems to fit with the "Easy to learn, hard to master" feel that we have come to expect from Blizzard games.  There are always elements of a game that we would have done differently, but on the whole I think they did an excellent job and I give a hat tip to the dev team and the rest of the staff for their great work.

In the comments below, let me know what you think about the delay.  Was it worth it?  Is the game in better shape now than without it?  Did it change your perspective on the game and/or Blizzard's development process?  I would love to hear your thoughts/comments.

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Diablo III Beta Impressions

I first played the D3 Beta well over a month ago, but I never wrote much about it because, well, its a beta.  Now that we are much closer to release date, much of the beta is as concrete as it is going to get before release.  Most of the differences between the current beta and the release version lay in the numerous bug fixes that have been implemented.

My impressions...

Note:  Many of my comments will be related to my extensive experience with D2.  Rightly so, since the Devs themselves were likely most heavily influenced by D2 and even D1.

The game feels very natural and very easy to play.  Coming from a WOW background, having 6 skills and a potion button is a far cry from the dozens of bound keys that my orc Warrior had.  The style of the game is very "pick up" like, which I think is great as I no longer have the time for extreme play sessions or "raid times".  From the time you load up the game to the time you are in the action is less than 30 seconds.  The banner teleports and infinite town portal are fantastic additions to the game. 

Once you reach your 4th skill slot (level 9)  your character begins to play very dynamically.  As a monk I was dashing towards targets and throwing out blinding flash while utilizing my primary and secondary attack skills.  It really felt like my character was coming together and I was developing a skill rotation that really worked.  I couldn't wait to open up my 5th and 6th skills to see how well they would work with the rest.  Too bad they are not available in beta.

This is of course the down side to games with long development times, the graphics are fantastic when you start a game, but by the time you are done with development, the graphics are just ok.  The detail in the artwork is fantastic however, and softens the blow of having outdated graphics.

The overall nature of the classes are similar to D2 (magic user, summoner/magic, ranged bow user, brute melee, etc)  but they are styled differently enough and play differently enough from D2 classes that they become a totally different experience for the player.  The skills for the most part require the player to play the game with quite a bit more finesse and forethought than other ARPGs.  Elements of resource management and monsters with dynamic abilities cause the player to use a much more tactical approach to the game.

I am loving this feature as it makes every rare or legendary that you find potentially useful.  You can either use it, sell it, or salvage it.  This is perfect, since every magic, legendary, or rare item is at least slightly useful towards creating a worthwhile item, rather than being vendored.  This will become extremely important when it comes to endgame economy and the overall longetivity of the game.

I think next I may write about my thoughts regarding the endgame of Diablo 3.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The FPS genre has a come a long way.

Today is the start of the BattleField 3 open beta, for those who preordered at least.  Otherwise you need to wait another 2 days to download and play it.  Reading about it and watching the preview videos/trailers has been very impressive to say the least.  The Frostbite 2 engine is quite amazing with the new smoke effects and building damage.  Everything looks sharper and more "real" looking than ever before.

Seeing a game like this reminds me of the old days.  I remember playing Wolfenstein-3D, Rise of the Triad, Doom, or the very memorable Duke3d.  The graphics were all pixelated and a far cry from BF3.  However, these games were hours of fun even though the graphics, by today's standards, were a joke.  Fifteen years from now I bet we will look back at today's new games like BF3 in much the same way.  Saying things like, "Remember how fun that game was?  The graphics are terrible but we had a great time playing it!".