The Many Faces of Diablo III
The debates keep coming over the state of Diablo 3, it’s plagued with server outings and dissapointed fans. Why is it such a polarized debate? In my opinion it is because Diablo 3 itself is a polarized game. It tries to be a hack and slash game but it’s not, there is tons of kiting and cooldowns holding back the massive brainless onslaught that was prevalent in the older games. It is a single player/coop game forcing itself into the MMO style jacket.All of these things create a game that you like playing but feels artificial while you play it.
I am thinking that the following design goals were created when they discussed the making of Diablo 3:
1) Create a new game based on the Diablo IP.
2) Capture as much of the retiring World of Warcraft crowd into the Diablo franchise.
3) Create a new consistent revenue stream with the Auction House.
Now these goals are aimed at very different audiences. Each have their own demands and requirements that need to be met. But they are in direct conflict with each other. The requirements for the Diablo franchise: It has to be a hack and slash game, there is no endgame and it’s single player/coop. Because that is the direct opposite of wow they were probably afraid that the World of Warcraft fanbase would not really sign on for this game so they started to mediate between the games. Bring in recognizable elements from Wow so that these players would feel more at home. Item naming and colors, game mechanics and other elements that make up the core gameplay from world of warcraft.
Now that brings us to Inferno. The essence of inferno is to give players a way to ‘beat’ the game and to keep the game alive for very long time. Because the gameplay is very limited in Diablo in contrary to MMO’s they had find a mechanic that would allow people to keep grinding for better gear. Inferno’s act difficulty increments into unbelievable numbers requiring you to gear up/grind for each act to improve your stats so you can progress. (Well that was the plan anyways, they did forget that Diablo players do not fight fair and will exploit the hell out of the game to get their loot). This was a means to add longevity to the game, extending the grind for end game loot. This was needed if they wanted to have recurring revenue streams for longer than a week.
In comes the Auction House, the means to generate revenue by Blizzard by allowing players to buy/sell items to other players. This is the basis for the World of Warcraft economy while Diablo’s economy was based on one on one trading with runes/gems and other crap that they farmed/duped. A black market, very social and time consuming but very enjoyable if you were into trading. This of course adds another schizm to the schizofrenia that is Diablo 3, the AH is fast and anonymous while the black market is the opposite. But the AH is also a direct opposite of one of Diablo’s core game elements and that is farming loot.
They had to adapt the drop rates for items to accommodate for the existence of the Auction House. If they didn’t do this the game economy would explode and everything and everyone could get end game gear for a nickle. The problem is that the only reason to play through the same content over and over for years is to find more loot. This creates several problems.
At present the carrot on the stick is rather meager and while you are still running after it, the nagging feeling in the back of your mind keeps asking you why the @#!@ you are doing this. Diablo 2 had this effect as well except for the fact that the carrot was much bigger, pushing away any doubts and keeps you running after it like a salivating idiot. When you finally get the carrot it pales in comparison with the carrots in the Auction House. Which you could get at anytime for much less effort than farming the crap out of things. And finally if you have bags filled with godly carrots, why would you want another one?
That in itself is enough to mangle the core mechanic of item hunting, it breaks the psychological obsessiveness and limits game play to essentially ‘beating’ the game. Which was actually never the point of Diablo to begin with. Well to be fair, It wasnt really the point for me. At present i am still ambiguous about the game, I like playing it but I don’t really farming it.
All this is based on my observations in the game, it’s an opinionated article and should be taken as such.