PRETENTIOUS: Diablo III vs. Curiosity

Diablo III vs Curiosity

When you think of pretentiousness, you probably think of failed attempts at being intellectual or profound.  It’s the failed attempts that you think of.  It’s not pretentious to actually be profound or intellectual, but when an artist’s ambition is not matched by his talent, it usually ends up feeling phony.  You might think of a college chick who wants to open up your third eye with a shitty tambourine dance and some pot; or you might think of some indie developer who tries to tackle the sensitive issue of rape with an 8-bit sidescroller.  In both cases, you’re thinking of someone who bites off way more than they can chew.  You think of Peter Molyneux.

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Path of Exile enters Open Beta this week

For those of you who have been interested in playing the ingeniously designed Action RPG but didn’t feel like buying a supporter pack or, like me, were concerned about your carefully customized characters being destroyed once the game is released, have no fear: Path of Exile will wipe its servers one final time this week, marking the beginning of Open Beta!

This is a special game, trust me.  They hired the world’s best Diablo 2 mod-creator to design their rare items; a man who designed 1,500 unique items over the course of a decade for his hugely popular partial conversion, which included everything from new skill trees to new enemies and quests.  Using the knowledge he gained from that, he can calmly explain why Diablo III is just plain boring and why Path of Exile is a more worthy successor to the old classic.   The whole thing is online, so they have well-organized ladder races designed to promote competition and reward everyone who gives it a good shot, along with easy cooperative play, optional player-versus-player deathmatch, and trading.  The economy in this game is masterfully designed and prevents a lot of the problems seen in other Action RPGs.  The gameplay is tactile, balanced, and forceful, allowing for sharp reflexes and tactical thinking.  Abilities for heroes and enemies alike are imaginative, satisfying, and layer themselves beautifully.

I highly recommend you download it now, and play it when it enters Open Beta.

United Nations still moving to control the Internet

I’ve said before that I think the Internet is doomed in the long run, despite the victory over SOPA and other misleading “anti-piracy” censorship schemes.  Right now the FBI, DEA, and the RCMP are roaring because IPv6 will make it more difficult to track what everyone is doing online.  Meanwhile, “Digital Rights Management” is the name of the game in the video game world, where major companies impose ridiculous restrictions on how and when customers can access the content they’ve already bought (Diablo 3 being a perfect example), making people wonder what they’re actually paying for and when the paranoid power-grab will stop.

Well in case you forgot, the United Nations thinks that it should be in charge of policing and the world (big surprise!), and is overseeing a conference on the subject, the World Conference on International Telecommunications.  CNET reports on the secret document leaked to the public from the conference:

Several proposals in the newly leaked document, for example, would authorize governments to inspect incoming Internet traffic for malware or other evidence of “criminal” activity, opening the door to wide scale, authorized censorship.

There are plenty of greedy, power-hungry organizations seeking to have a hand in the rewriting of the treaty, including ones who want to tax content providers, control how new IPv6 addresses will be distributed, and otherwise shut down anything they don’t like at the press of a button.  Will they be successful?  I wouldn’t be surprised.  The La-Li-Lu-Le-Lo would be happy at least, don’t you think?

Diablo 3′s boundless greed will force you to buy Authenticator

Diablo III Lord of Greed

If you don’t have a smart phone capable of running Blizzard’s Authenticator app and want to use Diablo 3‘s upcoming “Real Money Auction House”, you’ll need to purchase one of their physical Authenticators.  This means that on top of the ongoing issues with DRM disconnections and errors, hacking continues to be a massive nuisance — even people with Authenticators are being hacked, as confirmed by many players.  If only players were allowed to have offline games, none of this would be a problem.

As for the Auction House itself, the market for D3 gold is already booming, and thanks to the use of bots some people are making plenty of real money already.  Activision-Blizzard is jealous of this profit, naturally, and wants to stop it.  But much like real enforcement, the illegal side of the equation won’t be affected by authentication, because they’re not using Blizzard’s auction house!  Check out this interview with an anonymous gold farmer:

I hate Diablo III, so here’s some more hate

Diablo III Lord of Greed

Ars Technica has posted a piece on how Diablo III is a sloppy, unfinished game, being obviously “broken” in terms of gameplay balance.  Blizzard is lazily developing the game after they’ve taken people’s money by patching, treating it more like an ongoing beta than a final product.

Blizzard‘s defense is easily predicted (after all, it’s the same excuse for why StarCraft 2 was, and continues to be, so frustratingly imbalanced) which is that their games are so complex that multiplayer develops its own “meta game”, wherein players are blamed for not finding the proper response to apparent imbalances.  After acknowledging the prudence of tweaking things after release, and the history of patching in older games, writer Orland says:

But the ubiquity of the post-release patch has led too many developers to be pretty lax about prerelease balancing, secure in the knowledge that they’ll be able to fix any problems that pop up at a later date.

The “meta game” excuse is tried and true, because it has a deep history with the original StarCraft.  Players (mostly in South Korea) defied Blizzard’s expectations by constantly evolving the strategies of the game in creative new ways, finding solutions through innovative gameplay rather than relying on a patch.

As for my comments about Blizzard being dominated by Activision, I know that Activision doesn’t own Blizzard (they’re both subsidiaries of Vivendi) and that Blizzard is supposedly free to do whatever they want.  It’s a gray area however, because it’s also a fact that Bobby Kotick is the CEO of Activision-Blizzard as a whole, meaning that his greedy, profit-driven, anti-creative, short-sighted and hugely destructive mentality towards game development was chosen to set the vision for the merged company.  His status and his well-known vision automatically sets the tone for everybody below him, including Mike Morhaime, who is the CEO of the Blizzard half of the company.

By saying that Blizzard Entertainment is independent and free to develop as they see fit they have ensured plausible deniability, but don’t the games speak for themselves?  They are uncreative, unfinished, lacking content, and dominated by DRM shackles.  Battle.net 2.0 was, and still is, a downright embarrassment.  Let’s not be naïve.

ALSO CHECK OUT:  Video Games in the Master Plan

Activision-Blizzard’s Diablo III DRM issue isn’t fixed with apologies

Diablo 3′s error woes have been making big waves, and RockPaperShotgun‘s Nathan Grayson has written an excellent editorial explaining why people shouldn’t let Activision-Blizzard off the hook just because they apologized.  Doing so, he says, sends a signal to other developers that players will be forgiving if they decide to follow the same route.  One quote in particular, from id Software’s Tim Willits, is provided as evidence:

“Diablo III will make everyone else accept the fact you have to be connected. If you have a juggernaut, you can make change. I’m all for that. If we could force people to always be connected when you play the game, and then have that be acceptable, awesome. In the end, it’s better for everybody. Imagine picking up a game and it’s automatically updated. Or there’s something new you didn’t know about, and you didn’t have to click away. It’s all automatically there. But it does take juggernauts like [Diablo III] to make change.”

That’s not the kind of change we can believe in, folks, but Diablo 3 probably will change it all anyway.  Here’s another piece discussing the stupidity of the “online single-player” game, on GameInformer.  They say:

So what’s the big deal about asking them to take the next step to be online all the time? For one, it means that we as gamers no longer own the games we play. By purchasing a game like Diablo III, you are no longer buying a product, you are buying the right to use a product at the discretion of its owner.

This much should be obvious, don’t you think?  When you play a multiplayer game which hosted on a company’s servers (see: Metal Gear Online) you know that they might shut down the servers some day, even though you paid full price for it.  You paid for access, yes, but without any promise that there will be something to access a few years from now.  That sucks, but at least it makes sense from a logistics point of view.  If you remember Diablo II’s multiplayer service, any character left inactive was automatically deleted after three months, saving Blizzard’s servers the storage headache.  But why in the hell should a single-player game carry the same fate?  It’s a greedy, short-sighted, and cruel system of control.  Is Activision-Blizzard contractually obligated to provide you anything in return for your dollars?  No, of course not.  They could shut down Diablo 3 tomorrow, if they wanted to.  Or they could just cut you off, for whatever reason.  The ridiculous errors people are encountering drive home the bleak reality of this.

UPDATE: Jim Sterling’s coverage of the MetaCritic backlash is worth looking at.  Although I keep noticing people say that Blizzard has been working on the game since 2001.  Much like StarCraft 2, the game was not actually in serious development for a decade; I’m sure they were tinkering, but the water only started to boil when Activision bought Blizzard, and started promising that a new Blizzard game would be released every year from now on.

OUCH: Leave it to John Walker to take a righteous sword to Diablo III’s many problems like no other.

Path of Exile announces sixth class, the Shadow

A combination of Intelligence and Dexterity, the Shadow is the sixth and final class for Path of Exile, the ingenious action role playing game I’ve been happily beta testing and supporting with my dollars.  You may remember me offering two closed beta keys?  I still have one, if you want to join the fun.

RockPaperShotgun has the exclusive reveal, so go there for all the first impressions.  Shall I reveal the big secret they won’t tell you?  Essentially the Shadow is a more customizable version of the Assassin from Diablo II’s expansion, Lord of Destruction.  Assuming you decide to focus on the most natural setup, you’ll be creating advanced traps, slashing with claw weapons, and dabbling in all the various trickery of magic and speed, not brute power.

RockPaperShotgun

It’s worth saying that Path of Exile is extremely non-linear in its character progression, and that the trap system is built to compliment that ocean of choice.  According to the developers, almost any skill in the game can be “trapified”, so you can convert your boring old fireball spell to an incendiary mine, for example, right after they walk through the trap which curses their elemental resistance.  If you’re clever (and you should be if you play the Shadow) you will surely enjoy the possibilities.

Finally, this Friday there will be a Public Weekend, where you can jump in and try stuff out.  It’s all for testing purposes, so do them a favor and give them feedback on how the Shadow plays, eh?  The game will be free to play when it’s released, and it is very good.