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.