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Act 2: First Blood

As one might rightly assume, I encountered the infamous Infernal Act 2 brick wall.

The best sort of welcoming committee for melee.

To say I was “pwned” by the very first elite pack (Frozen, Molten, Plagued, Desecrator) is to suggest that the Allies merely dropped by Dresden in 1945 for a night on the town. The melee attacks alone were brutal enough to take me out in 3 hits, nevermind all the shit on the ground. As the respawn timer crept ever higher, I thought that those “discretion better form of valor” guys might be on to something. Unfortunately, the FMPD welcoming committee had other plans. No matter how far away I dragged them from the Checkpoint I kept respawning at, at least one was hanging around for his turn to teabag my corpse.

The cherry on top of this injury cake was when the Enrage timer went off. Fun fact: the Enrage timer is actually a debuff that simply kills you in seconds no matter where the fuck the elites are at. As I sat there stunned IRL as to how I can be killed by elites not even on the goddamn screen, I had to further endure the 10-second logoff Wait of Shame before I could scurry back to the AH. After spending something in the neighborhood of 500k (on top of the 300k I talked about last time), my stats ended up looking like this:

A 3 oz bottle of Vaseline doesn’t go as far as one might hope.

I came to the sad conclusion that perhaps I was going to have to alter my Noob Wind spec. So I did… grudgingly. I swapped Mantra of Evasion for Mantra of Healing with the 20% resist runes; I dropped Seven-Sided Strike for Serenity; I switched the rune for Breath of Heaven for the 1.5 second Fear. And… that’s basically it. Bought a 1h weapon + shield combo for when things still get really hairy, but the loss of 7000 paper DPS is almost worse than dying in-game.

I still have issues with many some elites, but at least I have enough time to react to said fact before being ground into a thick paste.

The fact that I am still having occasional issues is somewhat perplexing though, considering the Inferno Act 2 Monk 200k video floating around. If you haven’t see it, the basic premise is a dude went naked to the AH with 200,000g and walked out with enough gear to progress through the entirety of Act 2 Inferno as a Monk… skipping only 3 elite packs along the way. And made a profit with vendor gold alone. I went ahead and did an unbuffed comparison shot of his stats from the video and my own:

Yikes.

I quite literally have 400 more resist than this guy, and I still have issues? The biggest difference – aside from his rather ridiculous amount of Increased Attack Speed – is his spec: Deadly Reach. Ah, yes, the ranged monk. For what it is worth, I did actually try Deadly Reach for a while but couldn’t make it work; without all the extra IAS, you cannot actually kite all that effectively, nor trigger the 3rd punch for the +50% armor bonus.

Then, I noticed something else about his video… the elites he actually faced.

  1. Fast, Illusion, Electric, Plague
  2. Nightmare, Electric, Waller, Health Link
  3. Waller, Fast, Electric, Plague
  4. Frozen, Reflect Damage, Health Link, Waller
  5. Teleport, Jailer, Nightmare, Fire Chain
  6. Fire Chain, Arcane Enchanted, Mortar, Reflect Damage
  7. Molten, Electric, Plague, Fast
  8. Mortar, Waller, Shield, Plague
  9. Plague, Fast, Fire Chain, Vampiric
  10. Mortar, Illusion, Knockback, Waller
  11. [not shown]
  12. Extra Health, Nightmare, Jailer, Fire Chain
  13. Extra Health, Teleport, Vortex, Plague
  14. Electric, Plague, Avenger, Wall
  15. Health Link, Desecrator, Fire Chain, Fast
  16. Desecrator, Teleport, Shield, Molten
  17. Fast, Frozen, Extra Health, Electric
  18. Vampiric, Mortar, Nightmare, Minion
  19. Avenger, Molten, Teleport, Nightmare
  20. Teleport, Avenge, Molten, Electric
  21. Frozen, Vampiric, Jailer, Arcane Enchanted
  22. Molten, Shielding, Arcane Enchanted, Electric, Minion [skip]
  23. Extra Health, Arcane Enchanted, Reflect Damage, Waller [skip]
  24. Molten, Knockback, Illusion, Reflect Damage
  25. Nightmare, Teleport, Illusion, Fire Chain
  26. Knockback, Molten, Reflect Damage, Minion
  27. Fast, Waller, Reflect Damage, Teleport
  28. Arcane Enchanted, Fire Chain, Reflect Damage, Vortex
  29. Frozen, Knockback, Extra Health, Reflect Damage [skip]
  30. Knockback, Mortar, Frozen, Shield

You are goddamn right I wrote them all down. Aside from the four I marked in red above, the elites he faced in the video (barring the occasional enemy type) were a total joke. Could he have faced down my FMPD welcoming committee with his spec? Maybe, maybe not. I have grave doubts.

Sour grapes aside, his video has educated me in various ways. For example, his +631 Life on Hit is obviously doing more for him than my +1027 considering he is getting nearly a full extra attack per second – nevermind all the extra Spirit he generates. The single-minded focus on Dexterity was similarly interesting given how much effect it is having: 229% more damage from his 612 DPS weapons, making them nearly on par with my 1000+ 2H. I am not entirely willing to go Deadly Reach just yet, but I can definitely spend another ~5 hours “playing” Diablo 3’s AH to repair my errors.

And if it sounds like I am enjoying Diablo 3 better overall, you wouldn’t be wrong. The cheeky among you might suggest that it is because of the increased difficulty, and I am inclined to agree – Act 2 has been the only stretch of road I have not been zipping down at 80 mph in a 65 mph zone. Indeed I thought Act 1 Inferno was about as hard as Act 2 Normal in the scheme of things, given the latter’s lack of gold for upgrades and all the locked abilities.

After 38 hours /played, it is about goddamn time some fun was had.

The end is probably nigh however, for all the reasons I have seen in the comments to my own posts (and elsewhere). “Farming” Act 1 Inferno holds about as much appeal as sticking my balls in a toaster, and… well, actually, that is basically the way forward here. Or giving in to the Deadly Reacharound build. While the thought of maybe getting a $200 item drop soothes the chaffing a bit, I already spend more time in the AH than in-game. I don’t know how much longer…

…hold on, I have an email.

Pics or it didn’t… damn.

BRB, grabbing my toaster.

P.S. Congrats to Anderasill, the owner of the above screenshot + $173.40 ($200 minus fees) and a winner of the Diablo Annual Pass Challenge (Hardcore). She actually got Diablo 3 via the Annual Pass, so there’s that too. And she probably could have saved herself the 15% transaction fee since I know damn well she’ll just spend all that money and more buying the new WoW pets.

Diablowed

As you may or may not have noticed, Diablo 3 has clawed its way back onto my Currently Playing sidebar.

Actually, that sentence is not entirely accurate on two counts. First, it has not clawed so much as been exhumed. And second, I am “playing” D3 as one plays daily quests – mechanically, and with iTunes going in the background.

I just completed Act 1 of Hell last night and am past the first boss of Act II, having went through the entirety of Nightmare without a single upgrade off of the ground. The problems I had with the Dervishes appears to have been an isolated incident (or things have been nerfed), insofar as my thoroughly literal faceroll tactic has obliterated every other challenger. A link to my build can be found here. In essensce, I hold down left-click to teleport and pummel mobs while an auto-AoE scoures the bones of my enemies to dust. I have not meaningfully changed my build since level 21.

After defeating Nightmare Diablo, I spent 50,000g on the AH and walked out with this:

The resistance means I take that percent less damage from basically everything.

There is something very specific I want to say about this picture. It is NOT a rumination of the overpoweredness of AH-bought gear. It is NOT an invitation to speculate how it would be expected of players new to Hell to have such stat increases. It is simply this statement, originally posted at Penny-Arcade:

[…] What I’m saying is that getting new shit actually is the game.  For us, anyway.  Getting and, crucially, equipping new loot.  The whole AH thing short-circuits the entire idea: the game is, functionally speaking, a pinata.  Right?  Obviously, you could just go buy candy at the store.  It’s not about having candy.  It’s about getting candy.

The fundamental, crippling gripe I had with Torchlight was how I went the entire 20+ hour campaign wearing the exact same level 4 (legendary) amulet. These games are predicated on the stimulating the slot-machine areas of the brain, and to fail at this task is for the game to be rendered pointless at a conceptual level. Dropped items do not excite beyond the promise that I can extract more than their vendor price on the AH, so as purchase actual upgrades from the cash shop AH.

Upgrades like this one, increasing my DPS by 117% with one, 10,000g item.

As much as RNG has always been a part of the Diablo environment, I nevertheless feel a certain perversion of the formula. There is nothing RNG about Diablo loot anymore. Sell what drops, and equip what you buy. This is by no means a novel, late-breaking concern; people have been speculating on this issue from Day 1 of the announcement of the AH. I am confirming that such people are 100% correct.

Still, I trooper on, for various reasons:

  1. Spite.
  2. To say I did.
  3. Get a better, more equitable understanding of the endgame firsthand.
  4. In the off-chance I stumble across an unspoiled pocket of actual fun.
  5. For the Benjamins.

That last one is not entirely serious, although I know two people – one a commenter, and the other a close guildmate – whom have either sold or came upon an item worth $180 or more. The former said he/she sold a ring for 250 euros, in fact, completing the Diablo Annual Pass Challenge in a single stroke. These are level 60 items, of course, but it still boggles the mind a bit.

Many have predicted the RMAH market would be drying up soon, and maybe they are right. However, I predict a truly ridiculous renaissance once the PvP patch hits. Can you even imagine the volume of sales?

D3-Day

As you slaughter more skeletons and zombies than should technically exist based on historical human population levels, remember this:

Diablo Annual Pass Challenge

Bam!

I never ended up pulling the trigger on the Annual Pass, and the RMAH fees Blizzard settled on are completely ridiculous, but hey. Give it the old college try, and let’s see what happens.

Diablo Annual Pass Challenge

Tobold forced my hand a bit, so without further ado… I formally present:

The Diablo Annual Pass Challenge

Diablo Annual Pass Challenge

For the the visually impaired, the four difficulties are as follows:

  • Inferno – Earn $155.88 within 12 months.
  • Hell – Earn $95.89 within 12 months.
  • Nightmare – Earn $59.99 within 12 months.
  • Normal – Earn $38.97 before you quit.

Completing Inferno will mean you financed both Diablo 3 and a year of WoW (with associated perks) entirely through Diablo 3’s real-money Auction House. The step below that, Hell, means you financed an entire year of WoW through the purchase of a $59.99 game. Meanwhile, Nightmare demonstrates that you got Diablo 3 for free after paying for a year of reduced-price WoW time. Finally, completing the Diablo Annual Pass Challenge on Normal difficulty means you managed to pay for 3 of the 12 required months via Diablo 3 gameplay.

A Hardcore mode can apply to any of the above difficulties, and requires two things: 1) no seed money, e.g. putting $20 on your account to get started, and 2) net profit only counts when cashed out via Paypal.

Death is (unfortunately) permanent in all difficulties and modes. We are working on a hot fix.

For the purpose of this Challenge, “earnings” refers to net profit from the sale of items in Diablo 3’s AH. If you spent $50 and made $160 flipping items, you have only actually achieved Hell difficulty, not Inferno. “Items” refer to anything sellable on the RMAH, whether it is gear, gold, gems, characters, etc. Any money spent in the satisfaction of your Annual Pass obligation, i.e. buying game time, will still “count” as long as it came as a result of AH profit. In other words, you don’t have to just sit on the money until you reach your desired difficulty.

For those Challenge participants not using USD, simply use the relevant cost of two 6-month WoW time cards (Inferno), two 6-month WoW time cards minus the cost of Diablo 3 (Hell), the cost of Diablo 3 (Nightmare), and the cost of three months of the reduced-priced WoW Annual Pass subscription in whatever your local currency happens to be (Normal).

Good luck everyone, and don’t you dare undercut my shit.

Diablo 3… Soon?

There was a bit of excitement over the weekend following a Kotaku article that showed a Diablo 3 game display in a Best Buy whose countdown clock showed the release date being February 1st. Disappointingly, Bashiok replied a few hours later on Twitter with:

Diablo III does not have a release date. Any store or person claiming otherwise is guessing.

While the February 1st date no longer seems likely, I nevertheless was somewhat shocked into realizing “hey, it’s probably coming Sooner™ than Soon™”  – that would have been ~3 weeks away, after all. I have mentioned before that D3 is going to be one of those rare Day 1 game purchases for me, and that puts me in a bit of a bind, decision-wise. I was close to breaking down and buying SWTOR before a price drop after reading four weeks of blogroll posts, but decided that perhaps playing through Mass Effect 1 & 2 first would be a good idea. You know, so I could make informed comparisons. A day later the D3 news broke, and I thought “oh shit, I probably should play Torchlight before it gets ruined, yeah?”

As a 3-year late aside, I am amazed at either the charity of Blizzard’s legal department or the extent to which iconic items are not protected by copyright. Scrolls of Town Portal, with blue ribbons, making blue portals, with their identical stated function? I know Torchlight was made by ex-Blizzard guys, but wow. There are obviously a lot more similarities, but that seemed the most egregious for some reason.

The decision bind is that the WoW Annual Pass “promotion” is still active, and I almost expect it to be indefinitely (in some form or another). Since I am already committing to D3 on launch, and will be interested in MoP once released, at what point does it not seem foolish to sign up? Especially given my predilection towards AH shenanigans, it is entirely possible that I may be able to finance the entire $155.88 Annual Pass damn near exclusively through D3.

…Hell, why not? Let’s call it the Diablo Annual Pass Challenge: pay for the Annual Pass entirely through D3’s real-money AH. Good idea, or brilliant idea? Time will tell!