So I did actually get a copy of Diablo III launch night, thanks to a friend at Blizzard whom will remain nameless to whom I am eternally grateful. I have been playing pretty regularly since launch and I have to say that all things are not well with the game.
I know, I know pretty much all you have read about Diablo III since launch has been people complaining about one thing or another. I am sure you have read it all and probably are as sick of it as I am. But it doesn’t mean the game is not a mess at the moment and I think I have figured out why.
Diablo and Diablo II were both Action Role Playing Games, hell they basically invented and perfected the genre. They are both easy games to learn to play and are rewarding for nearly any type of player if they have 10 minutes to play or 10 hours. The ARPG genre is wonderful in that respect as you can sit down, discover new ways to play it, get rewarded and most importantly have fun.
Fun… you know the whole reason why you play a game. That thing where you do something for no reason other than enjoyment; see also anything that is not a chore or work.
Diablo III on the other hand seems to have not been designed for this thing called “fun”. Seemingly the design of the game seems to be radically different than what most players want or expect to be able to do. See the massive nerfs to pretty much anything but doing what the developers want you to do; which is start a game, progress through the entire Act/Storyline, kill Elite mobs, get the buffs from them and hopefully get some loot from things you kill, if you can actually kill them. Sadly this design philosophy contradicts pretty much the entire reason why people play these types of games and how they play them.
In a MMO like World of Warcraft one takes on quests and follows a loose storyline to gain loot, IE items and money. In such a open type of game it is a needed element as you need some structure to allow people to play and to lead them to where you want them to ultimately go. It works quite well as Blizzard themselves learned after you reached the level cap many people who were not interested in either end game raiding or PVP had nothing to do anymore. They then created daily quests to do to try to appease that playerbase to various levels of success.
In Diablo III it seems they tried to do much the same thing, which is give a questline and much handholding through the entire game. Ultimately this is done less for a narrative reasoning but more to attempt to keep the playerbase to play the game as they designed. What the problem is that which works for a MMO like WoW does not work for a ARPG like Diablo. Diablo is about one thing and one thing only: loot. The game is effect a giant casino game with pretty colors. You farm various things over and over again to attempt to get that jackpot of loot. You kill things>you get loot>you have fun.
Right now all three of these things are in short supply. First off whomever is in charge of the class ability decisions right now needs to have their head examined. I will come out and say it, ALL THE CLASSES ARE SCREWED RIGHT NOW. The design philosophy oh “If something is working too well or is too good it must be nerfed.” is not only short sighted but ultimately dumb. This is not a MMO, we have no need for class balance. I understand that they want all abilities and builds to be viable but perhaps instead of nerfing the stuff that is obviously working, how about you focus on the things that are not working and instead perhaps bring them in line with the things that are working. Wizards, Demon Hunters and Monks have all been utterly devastated by the recent nerfs and poor Witch Doctors can barely play right now. Diablo is not a game about balance. At a certain point you want to be able to get to a point where you are powerful so the mobs that used to give you trouble eventually become a joke. This brings in reward and fun.
Secondly the design philosophy of playing through the Acts to kill Champion packs and Elites to be able to get gear and the only way is frankly dumb. Instead of effectively forcing people to play the game as they want or envision perhaps the best idea would be to perhaps embrace the new ways people have found to do things. Things like stacking Gold Find to break Pots is a brilliant idea and if someone is having fun doing that then it should be embraced instead of killed. Blizzard is acting like the little kid on the playground when they don’t get their way they take their ball and go home. Many of the “fixes” in the last several patches have tried to punish the people who don’t want or don’t enjoy playing the game as Blizzard designed it. This is ultimately only hurting Blizzard as they turn more and more people off from being able to play and enjoy the game there will be less people playing it.
Which ultimately leads too…
Thirdly, the Auction House… I am actually a fan of the auction house. Well, at least the Gold Auction House. I think it was one of the few things missing from Diablo II and may have stopped the proliferation of the shady third party sites. The problem with it in Diablo III is that they did it all about as bad as they possibly could have. First off I am level 60, I haven’t had a single item drop for me that I could personally use since the teens. For a game that is ultimately about loot, there is a major problem here. I don’t want to use the Auction House solely as my option for gearing up my character. It is much more satisfying to fight and earn something on your own. As it stands I know of no one that is or even can do this. This is a problem. The Auction House should be a resource of last resort or convenience.Â It should not be factored into the drop rates of anything. But here in lays the problem with this, the Real Money Auction House. Blizzard can’t make their 15% if people can earn (yes I said EARN) the gear they want, especially on the end game gear. While I understand how and why the design choices were and are made it doesn’t mean I agree with them or that they are right. There will always be a market for people that will spend real money on perfect items, however small that is. That is what the RMAH should be for and if Blizzard wants a cut of that more power to them. But a majority of the player base wants to be able to earn their items mainly by playing the game or if their luck is incredibly bad by the gold they earned by playing the game on the Auction House. As it stands right now none of these things are happening and in turn people are not getting rewarded and having fun.
So what have we ultimately learned by this long winded article? Mainly that the developers right now have the wrong mindset to how to properly design the game. They have taken too many of their design choices from MMOs which does not ultimately work in a ARPG. The game is just not very fun to play at the moment for a multitude of reasons not just what I have wrote about here. I have hope that in time the game will someday become what we all want it to be, but I fear that the bullheadedness of the developers will continue for some time due to recent postings about upcoming changes and patches.
Personally I am likely done playing for awhile. I, like many people, am just not having any fun playing it. I can see a fun, good game lurking underneath the surface and when it finally comes around I will happily come back to play. Until then there are plenty of games for me to play where the goal is to actually enjoy myself.