Blue Balls

I debated titling this “Diablo’s Blue Balls,” but [spoiler] Diablo doesn’t have balls.

To the ongoing amazement of all (including myself), I have continued to play Diablo 3. You know, the game that I quit twice? In fairness, “playing” consists of 40-60 minute circuits of Act 1 Inferno with 177% Magic Find as I farm random items to sell on the AH for gold to purchase actual items, so that some semblance of progression can be squeezed from the rock that is Act 3 Inferno.

After three days of putting off another progression attempt like one does a dental appointment or a particularly difficult bowel movement, I finally sat on the chair and grit my teeth while awaiting the verdict. It was worse than I imagined. The “awesome” 1.5 million gold weapon I purchased actually decreased my DPS and survivability. In a panic, I scoured the AH for other upgrades… upgrades which helped in the sense of elongating the amount of time it took my face to collapse from the champion pack curb-stomp.

Up until now, I have been treating Diablo 3 as I treated daily quests in WoW: a not entirely joyless task in service of the greater goal of progression. The allure of rare items netting real money certainly added spice to the stew, but the endpoint always was taking down the titular Diablo on Inferno. As has become increasingly clear, that goal is no longer entirely reasonable.

Mike Morhaime has some words to say about Diablo 3 at this two-month mark, although you have to swim through six paragraphs of PR bullshit to find any:

You’ve seen some of that work already in patch 1.0.3, and you’ll see additional improvements with patch 1.0.4. On the game balance front, this update will contain changes designed to further deliver on the team’s goal of promoting “build diversity,” with buffs to many rarely used, underpowered class abilities. Another topic we’ve seen actively discussed is the fact that better, more distinct Legendary items are needed. We agree. Patch 1.0.4 will also include new and improved Legendary items that are more interesting, more powerful, and more epic in ways you probably won’t be expecting.

[…] On the flipside, we are also committed to ensuring you have a great experience with Diablo III without feeling like the auction house is mandatory, which was never our intention. Thank you for all the feedback about that.

[…] We’re also working on a gameplay system that will provide players who have max-level, high-powered characters new goals to strive for as an alternative to the “item hunt.” We’re not ready to get into specifics just yet, but I can say that we’re actively taking your feedback into account as we plan out the future of the game.

After thoroughly washing my hands, what I got from all that was: nothing.

To suggest that the designers never intended the AH to be mandatory is simply ludicrous. I do not mean that in a “greedy corporation cash shop” sense, I mean that in a “did these morons ever do any projection analysis of what the hardest difficulties require in their own goddamn game” sense. It matters not that a pro player can cheaply gear themselves well enough to go through Act 2 when all that budget gear came from other players. Was the design really that a player would spend 2+ months farming an Act for upgrades to progress to the next one when that is eight times as long as it took to get there in the first place? And, please, spare me the Diablo 2 anecdotes unless it involves the necessity of specific gear to finish the final boss.

…that is kind of the rub though, right?

As a player, I want both the fun to never end and the satisfaction of a completed experience. Meanwhile, the designers of MMOs and cash shop games want to delay the gratification for as long as possible while still retaining player interest. If the tacit tension between both parties is maintained successfully, both profit. After all, a game that abruptly ends before the player wants it to is just as bad as an unfinished game drained down to the curdled dregs at the bottom of an otherwise bone-dry barrel of fun.

…except that is wrong. The latter is worse than the former, and you do not even really need balls to appreciate that fact. Simply examine every unsatisfying ending to any game you have played – the one quality they will all have in common is lack of closure. Of release.

If Inferno was easier, there is little doubt that I would have completed it and shelved Diablo weeks ago. Many could argue that Blizzard was doing me a favor by setting forth this Sisyphean task, as those are (presumably) weeks of fun I would not have otherwise had. But that is not what happens. What happens is I sit here, without even the satisfaction of a logical endpoint, miserably looking back on those weeks of “fun” with a jaundiced eye and two blue balls.

And what I see is time spent playing Diablo 3 when I could have had more fun playing damn near anything else.

Posted on July 20, 2012, in Diablo, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. “Was the design really that a player would spend 2+ months farming an Act for upgrades to progress to the next one when that is eight times as long as it took to get there in the first place?”

    Yes. Yes, it was. All pre-release announcements indicate that Inferno was intended to be extremely brutal and unforgivable.

    Other difficulties can be rushed through, but Inferno can only be slowly conquered – pack by pack, waypoint by waypoint, checkpoint by checkpoint, upgrade by upgrade. It will fight you relentlessly for every inch of bloodstained ground.


    • And I could appreciate that design, had it started in Inferno Act 1. But it didn’t. The face-plant at the beginning of Act 2 was something I could work around, and seemed legitimate: get more resists. Act 3 though?


      Had I known where I would have ended up, I would have stopped playing weeks ago.


  2. “Was the design really that a player would spend 2+ months farming an Act for upgrades to progress to the next one when that is eight times as long as it took to get there in the first place?”

    By all accounts, yes. This is what they mean by not intending the AH to be required. But the problem with this becomes apparent immediately…D3 is simply not long enough to support this level of commitment. Farming is great, but it isn’t very exciting, and has to have some kind of reasonable end point.

    The way I see it, Morhaime posting indicates that things are really quite bad there at Blizzard…


  3. For your entertainment and since you seem to agree that Mike Morhaime’s post was 99% PR bullshit, here’s a post parodying his message:

    It was posted on the D3 official forum last night and has been deleted and reposted several times there by others. I may or may not have been the person who originally wrote it. ;)


  4. At least you have the one thing that truly counts: the respect of faceless Internet tossers like ourselves. No longer shall it be said that Azuriel gives up at the first sign of trouble on questing areas, Acts, and so on.

    I’ll give the game props for confounding some of the early napkin math. Total gold in the system seems to have risen much more quickly than the total number of useful items in the system, despite the sales of characters’ hand-me-downs – mostly because it’s easy to underestimate just how good an item has to be to support latter-Inferno play. Which leaves the fresh 60 in a pretty awful position compared to a few weeks ago.

    Also, as I’m currently playing a mid-Inferno witch doctor, I stopped reading Morhaime at ‘build diversity’. Unless that’s a brand new design goal, the loathsome yet optimal VQ/bears/soul harvest want a word with the good gentleman. The ‘five, maybe six per class’ from the satire would actually be a great step forward.


    • The funny thing is, the gold-to-item ratio problem probably has less to do with underestimation on players’ parts, and more to do with the asinine (albeit slightly understandable) 10-item limit. My Stash has two full pages of gear waiting to be sold, but will likely be vendored instead simply because I’m running out of room and am tired of looking at it.

      I almost wonder how much of the gold crisis would be solved by upping the limit to 20 items – more items should lead to depressed item prices, at least on non-top tier gear.


      • The ten item limit is intended to prevent there being a glut of items. Since they don’t decay or bind to a character, eventually there would just be tons of great items and no one could sell anything.

        It worked…too well. Now, like Sullas said, the fresh 60 is pretty much out of luck for buying anything of consequence. I gave up when upgrades started getting into the 1/3-of-my-total-gold price range.

        Blizzard should do away with the 10 item limit and implement a ladder, ala D2, to renew the market every once in a while.


      • Yeah, I get the rationale behind the ten item limit. It is great (too great, as Matt wrote) for curbing AH goblinery and mudflation. You’d think, though, that it would be a wash as far as the effect on prices: yes, more items enter the system, but the incentive to lower prices to get a successful sale (because most of us have overflowing stashes and do not want to hog limited sell spots) would lessen.

        At this rate, I wonder if crafting isn’t worth another look. A slight nerf to the costs and perhaps introduction of ilvl 63 recipes might make it an attractive way to gamble for good rolls and it might make farming feel rewarding in a manner more intelligent than vendor-clicks.


  5. If you killed Diablo on Inferno it depends what your next goals are. If this is the only goal you’ve set and are unable (or not wish to) set more, sure, you have completed the game. Likewise, if your goal was “to see the content” you completed the game after killing Diablo on normal (!!!)

    There are alternatives though:

    1) Various forms of hardcore progress
    2) Achievements
    3) (RM)AH / trading game
    4) Alts

    Just to name a few.

    Kripp et al went for #1. My cousin went for #3 and earned a lot of of EUR with (RM)AH.

    I gave up, pre-nerf (post wizard nerf tho). Playing the same content over and over again is not my cup of tea. I expected more RNG in map creation and such, and more freedom in spec development. Tobold has an interesting post of a game called Path of Exile the other day which supposedly is hack ‘n slash with the RNG I expected in Diablo.


    • This is exactly how I assessed the situation. And ultimately decided any of the alternate goals I could think up could be more enjoyably pursued in the context of another game(s). Given the vast array of other compelling games on the market, both old and new, I have a hard time justifying the time spent on a mediocre offering. An irrational sense of spite may have been sufficient motivation for completing inferno, but it has its limits.


    • My goal was Inferno Diablo so that I can say to myself that I have experienced all this game has to offer and can move on. Despite “quitting” for a third time, I still get a nagging feeling of “well… maybe there is an obscenely underpriced weapon on the AH right now, and it will help me get to the end” or “maybe things would be better with a slightly different talent build/with a shield/stacked Vitality/etc”.

      If Act 1 Inferno had just roflstomped me like Act 3 is currently, I could have came to the conclusion this mode isn’t for me and (emotionally) moved on. But I’m more than halfway through it now; stopping here is just painful.


  6. Nothing I’ve seen in coverage of D3 makes me regret my decision to not buy it. It doesn’t sound like fun at all.


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