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.
The Diablo 3 RMAH is now selling gold:
After clearing Act 2 Inferno with an average elite group success rate of 76%, I found my Nephalem stacks falling off as I repeatedly lured elites away from the exits to stages in Act 3. Any semblance of self-respect vanished after I spent more than an hour and 120,000g in repairs just making my way across The Keep Depths Level 2. Yes, a single, nondescript floor. The “Checkpoint!” pop-up honestly felt like a level-up or Achievement. And I suppose it was both.
I have heard grumbling about stealth buffs to elemental damage in one of the 1.03 hotfixes, but given I was already running around with 900+ resistance – way above the recommended level that people who kill Inferno Diablo use – and the fact that Ghom was physically impossible (a friend cheese-Barb’d it for me), I decided to book it back to Act 1. Let me tell you: after my experiences in Act 2 & 3, Act 1 was clown shoes. Even after stacking 150% Magic Find, the only things that kill me are the Arcane beams and unfortunate Freezes when I am not paying attention.
I bring all this up as a way of saying that I have been farming Act 1 basically once a night for the past week or so. The route I take is TryHard‘s, completing it in about ~40 minutes and netting ~140,000g in gold drops and vendor loot. There are usually about a half-dozen rares that are sellable in addition to that, although until recently I was not particularly successful. Now that I have a firmer grasp on which combinations/stats are more valuable…
…but today all of this has changed for me.
That 722,500g is no longer a means of purchasing a better weapon with more Life on Hit for progression… it’s $2.24. Nor is the 900+ DPS 1H weapon I snagged for a 1.5 million gold bid (a true steal) actually 1.5 million gold – it’s a somewhat ludicrous $4.65 cash shop transaction. That I did not whip out my credit card is irrelevant; like most AH goblins, I have preached the opportunity cost hymn too much to ever look at such things differently. Given that I could use the weapon to help clear Act 3 and then resell it for 3 million, perhaps it is more like a loan. Or a Vegas gamble at the nickle slots.
One final thing I want to mention, is the somewhat bizarre realization I had earlier tonight when examining the RMAH for signs of weakness. The minimum buyout price over on the cash side of the AH is $1.25. That means, on the low-end, every single item over there is the equivalent of at least 403,225g. I can assure you that the vast, vast majority of items over there are not worth 403,225g. Nor is the 300k-400k gold Blizzard transaction fee.
I almost wonder if opening up gold purchases will (ironically) kill the cash part of the RMAH.
As one might rightly assume, I encountered the infamous Infernal Act 2 brick wall.
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:
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:
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.
- Fast, Illusion, Electric, Plague
- Nightmare, Electric, Waller, Health Link
- Waller, Fast, Electric, Plague
- Frozen, Reflect Damage, Health Link, Waller
- Teleport, Jailer, Nightmare, Fire Chain
- Fire Chain, Arcane Enchanted, Mortar, Reflect Damage
- Molten, Electric, Plague, Fast
- Mortar, Waller, Shield, Plague
- Plague, Fast, Fire Chain, Vampiric
- Mortar, Illusion, Knockback, Waller
- [not shown]
- Extra Health, Nightmare, Jailer, Fire Chain
- Extra Health, Teleport, Vortex, Plague
- Electric, Plague, Avenger, Wall
- Health Link, Desecrator, Fire Chain, Fast
- Desecrator, Teleport, Shield, Molten
- Fast, Frozen, Extra Health, Electric
- Vampiric, Mortar, Nightmare, Minion
- Avenger, Molten, Teleport, Nightmare
- Teleport, Avenge, Molten, Electric
- Frozen, Vampiric, Jailer, Arcane Enchanted
- Molten, Shielding, Arcane Enchanted, Electric, Minion [skip]
- Extra Health, Arcane Enchanted, Reflect Damage, Waller [skip]
- Molten, Knockback, Illusion, Reflect Damage
- Nightmare, Teleport, Illusion, Fire Chain
- Knockback, Molten, Reflect Damage, Minion
- Fast, Waller, Reflect Damage, Teleport
- Arcane Enchanted, Fire Chain, Reflect Damage, Vortex
- Frozen, Knockback, Extra Health, Reflect Damage [skip]
- 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 Reach
around 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.
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.
My very first Rare drop in Act 1 – Inferno:
I would write more of my Inferno experiences, but the power was knocked out for ~5 hours or so up here in Ohio. Once the lights came back up, I managed to play enough to get just past the point where you meet Cain. There was only one “real” elite pack on the way – Health Link, Mortar, Reflects Damage, Fire Chains – and they fell relatively quickly to my Noob Wind (working title) spec. Obviously it is Act 1, obviously that combination isn’t anything, and obviously (?) I spent 300k gold upgrading my gear before I started out.
But, hey, endgame! Who would have thought it? Certainly not I.
From the latest Dev Blog:
That said, we also wanted to let you know we’re keeping a close eye on Inferno. The intent of incoming damage is that it should be a very consistent drain on your health, and mitigating that drain is a major part of what makes Inferno mode difficult. Right now, there’s a lot more damage “spikiness” occurring than feels right, and that’s one major area we’re looking to adjust in patch 1.0.3. While we don’t have any specifics yet, our design goals are to support and promote build diversity; continue to ensure that a mix of champion packs, rare packs, and boss fights are the most efficient way to acquire the best items in the game; and ensure that all classes are viable in Inferno.
We’ve also seen some people saying our intention with Inferno is just one-shot you to make it difficult. While damage is a bit spikier than we’d like, we’re actually seeing a pretty significant number of people attempting Inferno without sufficient gear. There’s a good chance that returning to the previous Act to farm upgrades will do the most to help you survive. That said, we’d like to shift some of the focus away from survival and more toward using a variety of offensive tactics to succeed. Survival will still be important, but finding ways to maximize your damage while staying alive is more exciting. We’re not particularly concerned with whether or not a boss is “beatable,” though it should feel epic and challenging to defeat it. We’re more concerned with ensuring that acquiring 5 stacks of Nephalem Valor and taking on as many Champions and Rares as you can remains the most challenging and rewarding way to play.
And then there is this bit about the crafting:
Other areas of concern have been both the gem combination system and Blacksmith leveling and crafting costs. The intent, especially with the Blacksmith, is that he’s leveling with you, you’re able to use him as an alternate source for upgrades. Our design goal is that once you get to level 60, his recipes are actually good enough to help fill a character’s potential itemization gaps. To correct these issues, we’re looking to adjust the Blacksmith costs for training (gold and pages) and crafting from levels 1-59, and reduce the cost of combining gems so that it only requires two gems instead of three (up to Flawless Square). Both of these changes are scheduled for patch 1.0.3.
I had been avoiding crafting altogether because A) what’s the point when you have access to the AH, and B) what’s the point when vendoring magic items is more profitable than Salvaging them? Then again, the Commodities portion of the AH has been down since launch (I believe) and I am somewhat convinced it was precisely to get people to do their own crafting/salvaging.
In any case, after hearing the news that maybe the endgame isn’t supposed to be about endlessly kiting mobs around, I leveled up the Monk up to 17 to get Seven-Sided Strike. Decently fun ability. While I was moving talents around, I decided to give Crippling Wave another try as my left-click ability now that I unlocked a Rune for it. As soon as I did this, I ran into a pack of the flying wasp creatures and proceeded to get kited the fuck around. I cannot imagine a worse feeling than getting kited around by a mob in a hack-n-slash game.
So I logged back onto the Witch Doctor, looking for that cave with the first piece of the sword. As I was walking around, I encountered one of those bull-like creatures with the charge attack. That one move by an otherwise unremarkable mob one-shot my Zombie Dogs.
All of them.
While on the level 6 Wizard, it occurred to me that I have no particular desire to kite things. If a bunch of zombie torsos leap (!) out of the bushes, I do not want my first instinct to be to Frost Nova and left-click myself away. Nor do I want to wait for however many levels it takes to get the spells necessary to actually deal what feels like some legitimate damage.
So I did the only thing left of me. I
uninstalled rolled Barbarian.
Now, this? This feels good.
P.S. And this doesn’t look bad either.
I am about five hours into Diablo 3, and I think I am done with the game.
What’s wrong? Two words: “baby WoW.”
Issue 3: “Baby WoW”
As I was playing co-op with an ex-WoW friend, he uttered “baby WoW” as the description of what these sort of games made him feel like he was playing. And you know what? I’m starting to feel the same. That is kind of the whole schtick of hack-n-slash, of course, the mowing down of corridors of mobs while you mop up the loot debris field in the wake of your passing. It is also tough to criticize spam-clicking in a world of rote ability rotations and the common “strategy” you develop for the execution of the average MMO mob.
At the same time, while I was going through Diablo 3 I could not help but feel somewhat patronized. This Skinner Box lever is completely unadorned. Of course, if you prefer yours fast and loose, then get ready to go to town; I may just turn in for the night instead, if its all the same to you.
That was written about a month ago in my Diablo 3 Beta preview. I am not sure what exactly I was expecting to be different between then and now… perhaps that my perspective would change? As I mentioned in that article, I am a storied veteran of the hack-n-slash genre, so my present disposition towards the gameplay is somewhat surprising. Or maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, given that the bulk of my H&S resume was pre-MMO.
What really drove the point home though, was when I decided to look into the crystal ball and see what my level 16 monk had to look forward to in Inferno difficulty. First, came the forum posts which lamented a blunt non-viability. Then came the Youtube videos.
Part 2 (of 4) Monk killing one elite pack in Act 4. It takes him over 10 minutes of kiting.
Witch Doctor in Act 2. Sure looks fun.
Wizard in Act 2.
The reoccurring theme here is kiting. Lots and lots of kiting. Now, I am not here to denigrate the skill it takes to kite properly. I am simply saying: kiting is not my idea of compelling gameplay. Kiting to allow your abilities to come off cooldown is worse. Kiting in a game where by default left-clicking an area could root you in place and attack the very mob you are trying to get away from is worse still. Diablo 3 is not a movement game. This is not an MMO like Guild Wars 2 or (presumably) TERA wherein you have Dodge buttons and position is important.
There appears to be only two distances in Diablo 3: Immune in Melee or Running Away.
You may rightly ask “Why let this bother you?” After all, I just zoned into Act II and am only level 16. It could very well be that I beat Normal mode once and then uninstall. And the answer I would give would be “I’m not having fun right now.” The abilities so far on the Monk are boring to me. Fists of Thunder + Thunderclap Rune was great when I got it… at level 6. Since that time, I am still waiting for something new to “change” my gameplay in a comparable way. And it is looking as though if such a skill exists, I won’t be getting it until well past the end of the game.
For now, I started a Witch Doctor in the hopes I will have enough fun summoning zombie dogs and spiders and such to last me until the end of the game. I would have started out with the Witch Doctor originally, but when the Skeleton King one-shot my 60 second cooldown in the Beta, I sort of figured that that play-style would not be viable later on. If that is still the case, well, I will be jumping off that bridge when I get to it.