Tuesday, May 10, 2011

El Diablo the second

I played Diablo 2 for a long, long time.  Back in undergrad we had a houseful of people playing constantly and I remember clearly when we discovered a technique of rapidly farming up SoJs.  By rapidly I mean about 2/hour, but given that they were selling briskly for $20 each that looked like pretty great money!  Of course eventually the hackers and botters figured out ways to duplicate items and set up enormous shops online to sell their ill gotten gains and any prospect of a student in Canada farming up gear to make real profits evaporated in a cloud of 'get real'.  Back then there were plenty of people trying to sell things but the play experience wasn't much touched by their exploits unless you were stupid enough to give your password to an anonymous dude on Battle.net with a name of OfficialBlizzardBot1.  Recently I reacquired my D2 keys from one Iolo Longstaff and I set out to see what has changed in the world of Sanctuary.

Turns out Blizzard has continued their trend of continuing to support old games and the hackers have continued their trend of making everybody's life worse.  In the last patch notes I found a few gems:  First, each character now gets a few chances to reset their skills and talent points.  In a mod I used awhile ago every character had unlimited resets but that actually had some negative ramifications while giving a few limited chances to reset seems awesome.  Now I can just play without worrying about perfection at low levels and test things out and if I don't like what I get I have a chance to change it without starting again from the beginning.  I also don't have to stare at a point misspent accidentally and know that it will be there forever.  Second, Blizzard is still tweaking game mechanics here and there to improve things.  They made small but positive changes to lots of skills and mechanics in ways I approved of.  This is pretty encouraging for a game that is ~12 years old.

The downside to the new D2 is that hacking is completely out of control.  I started a new game and for the first 15 minutes of the game the screen was utterly flooded with characters entering the game, spamming advertisements for sites selling gear and then leaving again.  Unfortunately the prevalence of gear selling sites is not limited to mere annoyance in chat because they still have found ways to duplicate and bot up unlimited gear so if I actually wanted to duel people competitively I would either have to play for 100,000 hours or pay 30 bucks to the hackers to get me kitted out.  Obviously I can just play my own game and ignore everyone else but it feels somehow silly to start playing a multiplayer game where the only way to be remotely competitive with anyone else is to hand a bunch of crooks a pile of money.  The whole community is utterly warped by the presence of these sites and I suspect irretrievably so... Blizzard just isn't going to spend the time and effort required to clean house in D2 when D3 is likely to come out later this year.

On the other hand the game is as much fun as it ever was.  I love blowing up monsters and finding treasure and slowly working my way towards a perfect gearset.  I love poring over websites hunting for the perfect item for my needs and going out and making it.  As Sthenno so aptly put it, I love watching numbers get bigger.  Somehow that most silly of pursuits continues to draw me in year after year, game after game.  Not just that of course but the game is just a boatload of *fun*.  Figuring out angles of attack, evaluating monster tactics and those blind moments of panic when everything goes absolutely wrong never get old.  This time of course D2 doesn't have to keep me occupied for years... just long enough for the newest, shiniest, most addictive installment to arrive.


  1. I'm playing offline. At this point, I can't see any advantage to interacting with other people in the game.

  2. I have trouble imagining that many people would pay $30 for gear from hackers in a game that is 12 years old and that is full people with hacked items. Though maybe I have just always been too poor that I don't understand paying $30 to have a better character in a video game. Shouldn't the number of buyers dry up so that Spambot characters selling hacked items would not be worth the spammers time?

  3. You might think that Dave, but the sites are still up there and the bots are still constantly spamming. They wouldn't bother doing it if there wasn't money to be made.

  4. That the game is full of people with hacked items is more incentive for people to buy hacked gear, not less. It's very unlikely Blizzard would ban you for having it so there's little risk of losing your money. You get to have fun with awesome stuff in the meantime. I paid $50 for a copy of D2 a couple years ago. Is it actually that unreasonable to pay another $30 to save months or years of farming time to get some good gear?

    Personally I wouldn't because I think allowing money spent to be an influence on success in a game is terrible and don't want to do anything to encourage that practice. (Makes you wonder about playing M:tG though, huh?)

  5. Sky's previous post was about "Gaming Achievements". I can't respect an achievement such as "spent the most $$$ on this game" (there are many online games where spending $1,000 is winning). For me it is fun to work at a game and watch numbers get bigger... but it would not bring me any satisfaction to pay $$$ to see my numbers in the game get a big jump,because then the game becomes about who is willing to spend the most.

  6. The thing is that D2 has two things that really encourage spending money on it: First, there is a serious price ceiling. Once you buy a full set of the best gear you can't go up from there and the full set isn't that expensive. It isn't like if you spend $100 on gear and I spent $1000 on gear that I will just crush you - I would have almost no advantage.

    The second thing is that there are really interesting, hard parts of the game that are out of reach without buying gear. You can't make any serious attempt at Uber Tristram without buying gear most likely - you are stuck doing the normal game. When certain content is locked out until you spend enough money there is a big incentive to spend that money to see the whole game.