PRETENTIOUS: Diablo III vs. Curiosity

Obviously Diablo 3 is very different from Curiosity.  Instead of mindlessly tapping on blocks in order to clear the screen and earn coins, you heroically combat monsters by repeatedly clicking on them while collecting the treasure that falls from their corpses.  See how different that is?  (It’s totally different.)  Diablo 3 is not impersonal and shallow like Curiosity, either.  You begin by choosing a valiant character who represents yourself, then travel across blighted lands in order to save sympathetic, needy victims who call upon your mercy and might.  See how meaningful your tasks are?  (They’re totally meaningful.)  And naturally, as you hack-and-slash further into the world, you will face greater demonic forces who will render your current weapons and armor obsolete, making upgrading a constant necessity.  In this sense, equipment functions like costly, temporary power-ups; but this is not at all like Curiosity‘s costly temporary power-ups, because that game sucks and is pretentious.  Peter Molyneux.

I mean, just think about that stupid promise of a life-changing reward.  Curiosity commits a sin by exploiting its test subjects’ covetous urges to fuel a seemingly endless grind!  On the other hand, the ultimate goal of Diablo 3 is as noble and pure as you can imagine: you’re out to murder Satan himself.  It’s just natural that you must first slay all the armies of Hell to get there.  (Oh, not that this has anything to do with covetous urges fueling a seemingly endless grind, but while playing Diablo 3 you may notice your righteous champion of God accumulating stuff valuable to your fellow players, but which isn’t quite useful to you.  If this happens, you should feel free to visit the not-at-all-greedy “Real Money Auction House”, where real people will bid on your stuff using real money, because that’s how much they care about defeating Satan and saving all those innocent people.  (Also incidentally, a small cut of each transaction is pocketed by Activision-Blizzard, which, let’s face it, is just good business sense because it keeps the market honest and stops the Auction House from getting flooded with junk!)  Anyway, the point remains that covetousness does not fuel an endless grind in Diablo 3.  Oh, forgot to mention, Diablo 3 retails for $60, while Curiosity is free. So they’re different in that way too.)  If you doubt the greed of 22Cans and Peter Molyneux, how about the fact that they sell a bunch of their power-ups for real money in the app’s store, allowing lazy and rich gamers to bypass the massive amount of grinding required to earn them otherwise?  Unacceptable.  They could learn a lot from the completely down-to-earth Diablo 3.



Whether it’s deliberate or not, Curiosity ends up being a deconstruction of the exact same design philosophy that Diablo 3 tries so hard to distill.  Curiosity strips away the illusion of meaning, actively trying to raise awareness of what you’re doing and why.  It’s called “Curiosity” for a reason.  Diablo 3 boils the illusion of meaning down to a minimalist form, but can’t get rid of it altogether.  “Kill Diablo?  Sure, we’ll go with that.  Now where’s my squishy enemies full of treasure?”

Nobody pretends to care about the threat of Diablo or feel invested in the game’s boring characters.  To its hardcore fans, that would be ridiculous.  Everyone knows that the story is subordinate to the gameplay, not the other way around.  That means any lore that survived development was designed simply to justify the greater, more real consideration, which is the economy.  As late as four months before the game’s release, two important items — both of which had intriguing mythological ramifications — were being used in beta testing, until a simple shift in the economic structure of the game made them obsolete:

So we’ve decided to remove the Cauldron of Jordan and Nephalem Cube. They were implemented to allow for salvaging and selling items when there was no quick and easy way to return to town. Now that the Stone of Recall exists, we found that keeping the Cauldron and Cube in the game detracted from the benefits of returning to town to sell items, salvage, craft, and interact with the townsfolk. It’s a good idea to break up combat so that players have a moment to evaluate their gear and crafting options before venturing back out. In addition, we’ve decided to just call it what it is and the Stone of Recall is now Town Portal, and is integrated directly onto the skill bar UI.

The Blacksmith artisan will now salvage items. With removal of the Cube we needed some mechanic in town that allowed you to salvage your items, and it just makes sense for the Blacksmith to offer it.

Let me translate.  They assumed, with the utmost cynicism, that players would be so consumed by greed that they would gladly stay alone in bleak battlefields collecting loot endlessly, without interruption or variety, using these mystical tools to pare down their bloated inventories as they reached their limit, which was already expanded many times over from its predecessor in order to allow for longer uninterrupted hoarding sessions.  It turned out, shockingly, that they were wrong.  People wanted variety.  Townsfolk, interaction, and a change of scenery was something people wanted.  In other words, they wanted a better illusion of meaning to help them swallow the mindless grind.  Therefore, the lore-heavy items were removed and the story was changed.

For those interested, the archived wiki page for the Nephalem Cube still contains a “Story Implications” section, where speculation about the item’s secret connection to world events is explored, including a so-called “spoiler” revealed by one of the community moderators.  Four months before release, and into the trash they went, for the admitted reason they only existed to mask and empower Diablo 3‘s endless grind, which is fueled by jealousy.

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