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.