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Featured PC Games

Diablo 3 Is Always On, But I’m Not

Of course, Diablo 3 has yet to actually BE always on, but..

I do not yet own Diablo 3.  There was a time in my life, years ago, when I younger me would’ve been shocked at older me saying that.  I played the heck out of Diablo 2, and it’s one of the few games I can play with my wife where one of us isn’t absolutely destroying the other in some way.  We played it both separately, and together, often when one of us needed some backup against a lesser or prime evil.  It was simple fun that only needed a couple of PCs and a LAN.

But I’m realizing now that Blizzard doesn’t want my money.  I am not their target market.  I like playing solo or just with another person or two I know, not random strangers.  Having all games hosted ‘in the cloud’ is an unneccesary tether.  I don’t want to buy items in an auction house.  I like killing monsters and taking their stuff instead.  So why do I have to play D3 like a pseudo-MMO?  If you don’t want to allow items from local games into the online games, that’s fine.  I never encountered a hacked or duped item myself, but I just played the game for fun, not to break it or make money off of it.  Single player gaming is much more convenient for a good bit of the population, so of course let’s make it hard/impossible.  I know, DRM!  They steal our games!  Read that story about Kingdoms of Amalur’s devs being broke and you can kind of understand that angle.  But you can still have the key requirement for online play, which means MOST buyers of the game will need one, some of the rest of us will buy the game anyway because we like to be legit, and a few jerks will pirate it.

That’s not my problem, though, and I’m being penalized for it.  That is, if I were to buy the game.  I don’t think I am, at least not while it’s $60 for a game that’s only half-working anyway.  It’s obvious from their sales that they don’t need to cater to my interests to keep me as a customer.  That’s fine.  I think the $20 for Torchlight 2 will be money much more well spent for me, as it has LAN play and can be modded.  This is what everybody means when they say ‘vote with your money’, right?

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PC Games

Diablo 3 Open Beta Weekend

I said on my forums that I might be more excited for Torchlight 2 than Diablo 3.  Considering my reaction this morning to news of an open beta weekend for D3, I might have to adjust that a tiny bit.  Heh.  I’ve kept myself out of the loop as far as development goes, hoping that I could be surprised by the game a bit when it actually came out.  And with Blizzard, you never quite know when that will be.

If anyone else will be jumping in this weekend, and I know some of you will, comment here and we’ll try to get in a game.

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Featured PC Games

Vintage Gaming – Diablo

Ah, Diablo.  A game that I came to quite late – after it’s own sequel came out.  In case you are a young punk, or simply have lived under the gaming equivalent of a rock, Diablo tells the story of a town under assault by the forces of Hell itself.  Unbeknownst to the towns folk, the town’s cathedral was built upon the site where one of the three Prime Evils of their world, Diablo the Lord of Terror, was imprisoned.  The King and his son are corrupted, and the town the town quakes in fear until a hero arrives.  Guess who?  Yep.  Diablo basically originated most of the concepts of the ‘Action RPG’, where you still get to customize your character and their skills, but combat can be a frenzied click-click affair.  There are 16 levels, which were randomized for each new playthrough.  Character selection were the standard Warrior (smash-em up melee guy), Rogue (ranged weapon master), Sorcerer (magic user).  Half of the fun for me (both in this game and it’s sequel) was the loot.  Randomly generated items of various strengths could drop, and hours could go by with you killing dudes and frantically checking the ground for a sweet new bow or axe.

I actually played through all of Diablo at work – my old job (at the Pit of Despair, for those in the know) had let us know they no longer required our services, and so many of us started to find things to do that weren’t, shall we say, work related.  A network of our own might’ve been involved, strung over the top of the cubicle walls.  But between games of Unreal Tournament, I played Diablo while still doing approximately 5 times as good of a job as that place deserved.  Fond memories, these.

One interesting note, with Diablo, is that it had an ending that would probably have cause just as much of an uproar as Mass Effect 3 did now, had social media existed in any meaningful way back then.  If you don’t want it spoiled, LOOK AWAY.  At the end of the game, with the Lord of Terror defeated, your character walks up to the Soul Stone that imprisoned his essence…and JAMS IT INTO HIS OWN HEAD.  Yes, Diablo will live on in you, and hello sequel!  I remember some really ticked off folks back then.  Considering there are already people with their dander up over Diablo III, which isn’t even released yet, I can only imagine the meme pictures and Hitler videos and what not that would be created today.  Anyway, if you’ve never played it, you’ve missed out on a bit of gaming history.  If you want to try something newer, I recommend Torchlight.  Or heck, Diablo II.

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Console Games Featured PC Games

Player versus Developer Narratives

David Jaffe, designer of the Twisted Metal series of games, made a splash recently at a DICE summit presentation.  The Ars article linked has a good breakdown of it, and if you want the full talk, go here (he’s a bit obnoxious and vulgar, FYI).  Here’s a pertinent snippet:

My talk is actually a warning, about why we shouldn’t tell stories with our video games. I think it’s a bad idea, I think it’s a waste of resources and time and money, and more importantly I think it actually stunts, and has stunted over the last 10 years or so, the medium of video games. Sort of at our own peril. And to be clear, I’m not talking about player-authored stories, and if you don’t know what that means, it’s kind of a buzzword these days amongst designers, but basically, a player-authored story is something… I mean, the best example these days is… Skyrim and Arkham City are wonderful, but you can also go down the chain of scope to a game like Angry Birds. A player-authored story is basically where the mechanics and the interactive is so compelling and so engaging that the player, by the very act of playing the game, creates a narrative in his mind.

Now, there’s a good bit here to agree with.  I love Skyrim, and if you read the site, you know I’ve actually written an adventure or two I’ve had in it up as a story – a literal player-authored story.  I’m not the only one either.  Other games – MULE jumps to mind – are ripe for this as well, since it’s different every time you play, and can really engage your creativity if you role play it.  But Jaffe’s logic breaks down for me when I think of some of my all-time favorite games, Dragon Age: Origins and Starcraft.  Looking at Starcraft, there was a developer-made story, progressed in a linear fashion, but it HOOKED ME.  I finished that game – I cheated to finish it the first time! – because I HAD to know what happened.  I didn’t create that story, and maybe Jaffe would tell me it would’ve been better as a book or a movie, but I don’t agree.  I felt like *I* did all those things, I was betrayed by Mengsk, I fought the Queen of Blades, it was ME.  Maybe that’s still a player-narrative in his mind, but it doesn’t happen without Blizzard’s story.  Without the story, Starcraft is just a series of skill challenges, which can be plenty of fun, but it’s not the game I love.

I think Dragon Age: Origins is a great example of why a developer driven narrative is still needed.  While I’ve built up quite a player-narrative in my head for the game, often referring to ‘My Warden’ as a unique individual starring in a story of my imagining.  But again, it’s BECAUSE of what we went through.  We killed an Archdemon!  I let out a “Hell YEAH” when she killed that asshole Arl Howe.  How much of that could you strip away, and still inspire me to think of my Warden like that?  To make in-game decisions actually in-character?

It’s worth noting that there are plenty of games I love that work exactly like Jaffe describes, but I don’t know why there can’t be variety.  Just because one set of games works this way, doesn’t mean they all need to or should.

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Life

Guess it was a big storm after all…

We got hit pretty hard this weekend with that snow storm, although there were never really enough winds to call it a blizzard. Some areas got more than 2 feet of snow (at least 14-16 inches in my driveway by my back’s calculations). One of my colleagues got stuck in Cleveland thanks to his car giving out in all this crap, and I was late due to the inevitable snow plug at the end of the driveway thanks to the plows. At least it’s going to warm up for a while this week.