Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Diablo 3: 320 Hours /Played

Note:  I wrote this for the official Blizzard forums and posted it thereupon.  Since the official forums are a cesspool of stupid, though, I doubt it will ever see the light of day, or the eyes of any moderator.  I'm reposting it here because I like the bit about the monkey.

Having /played Diablo 3 for 321 hours, I would like to provide some feedback on my gameplay experience so far.

My overall opinion of the game is this: I fundamentally disagree with the current design philosophy. I think the move from Baal, Mephisto, and Pindleskin runs to the current system of farming NV stacks to kill elite packs or bosses is an atrocious mistake that completely ignores the reasons for which Diablo 2 continues to be played 12 years after its release. Rather than simply rant incoherently, though, I would like to provide some reasons for this opinion that resonate with my gameplay experience.

First, I think this quote from Bashiok correctly indicates the point of a Diablo game:

"The point of the game is efficiency... Killing monsters as quickly as possible to maximize your time to find the drops you want. That is the game." - Bashiok

Source: http://www.diablofans.com/blizz-tracker/topic/222192-lets-talk-about-enrage-timers

One plays Diablo to farm gear; that is the game. Once we accept this as the purpose of Diablo, the next question is what the ideal setting is for amassing gear. The answer to that question is one word: Efficiency. As one invests time in the game and learns its structure, one discerns the optimal farming nodes that provide the greatest gold/gear per hour. This is why, after 1.0.3, we see videos on youtube that define the most efficient farming paths for each act in Inferno. This phenomenon needs to be contrasted with the following quote from Lylirra:

"In general, random content (i.e. Champion packs) tends to be more enjoyable over the long-haul because it helps to ease off some of the repetition -- not just in terms of what you're fighting and how you're fighting it, but also in terms of seeing different environments, dungeons, and events." - Lylirra

Source: http://www.diablofans.com/blizz-tracker/topic/227899-13-questions-for-community-managers/

The sentiment seems to be that killing Baal, Mephisto, or Pindleskin 50 times in a row is boring, but farming Act 1 Champion packs 50 times in a row is not. I think this sentiment is both disingenuous and demonstrably false.

Think of it this way:

Farming method one:
New game -> Baal -> New Game -> Baal -> ...

Farming method two:
New Game -> Festering Woods -> Leoric's Manor -> Cemetary of the Forsaken -> Halls of Agony LvL 2 -> Butcher -> New Game -> ...

Both systems are repetative. The difference is that method one repeats a shorter pattern than method two. Lylirra's quote seems to indicate that the longer repetative pattern is more enjoyable than the shorter repetative pattern. Fortunately, we can provide psychological evidence that argues against Lylirra's claim.

This article (http://www.alexc.me/a-scientific-explanation-why-diablo-3-is-less-addictive-than-diablo-2/417/) explains the appeal of Diablo 2 in terms of the Cue-Routine-Reward system. According to the site, Jay Wilson has read the article. So, I don't feel a need to elaborately repeat something of which Blizzard is already aware. Suffice it to say that I agree with the article's assessment of the situation.

Diablo 2 provided a very simple system:
1) Monkey kills Baal.
2) Monkey gets a treat.

Since Monkey wants treats, Monkey is happy to repeat the simple task of killing Baal.

Diablo 3 provides a far more elaborate system:
1) Monkey kills an elite pack.
2) Monkey kills an elite pack.
3) Monkey kills an elite pack.
4) Monkey kills an elite pack.
5) Monkey kills an elite pack.
6) Monkey kills a boss.
7) Monkey maybe gets a lvl 55 blue treat.

Where monkey found Diablo 2 to be an appealing system of tasks and rewards, Monkey can find Diablo 3 to be a frustrating system of inefficiency and needless complication.

The mistaken assumption Blizzard has made, in my estimation, is that people actually enjoy the process of killing monsters, rather than the process of obtaining gear. When presented with these two options:

1: I kill monsters to get gear.
2: I get gear to kill monsters.

Blizzard seems to think that players favor option 2, and so have manfiested a farming scenario in which killing monsters is priviledged over amassing loot. They maintain this opinion despite the fact that the farming scenario of Diablo 2 (kill baal, kill baal, kill baal) continues to be popular 11 years after LoD was released. I sincerely doubt that people will continue to farm elite packs to amass NV stacks 11 years from now.

In conclusion, I think Blizzard has made a terrible mistake. They have abandoned a functional system of loot acquisition in favor of a newer, more complicated system of monster battles. This new system completely ignores the reasons for which Diablo 2 was a successful game that people still play, I repeat, 12 years after its release. Blizzard seems to want to priviledge the actual gameplay experience over the meta-gaming experience of discerning the shortest optimal farming pattern and efficiently executing that pattern.

I can understand why a game designer would want to think that people want to play the game. Despite that yearning, however, I think most serious Diablo players actually want to play the meta-game, and then execute the strategies discerned in that meta-game within the game proper.

I realize that different people enjoy different things. What is fun for one person is not necessarily enjoyable for another. But when you make a Diablo game, you need to market it, first and foremost, to Diablo fans. It's akin to a political campaign: First you solidify your base, then you go after the Independents.

I'm not saying that elite farming should be removed from the game, or that NV stacks are a fundamentally stupid idea. If people like farming champion packs then it is entirely sensible to provide that option.

But Blizzard also needs to provide options for those of us who conceived of Diablo as a Skinner Box. You need to provide non-nerfed treasure goblins, or some boss akin to Pindleskin, who can provide that simple system of task-reward-repeat.

I've been a loyal Blizzard customer for years. I've purchased multiple copies of Diablo 2 and LoD, I've purchased the WoW expansions and paid my montly dues. I waited for this game for years. All I wanted from this game was an updated version of the Skinner Box that was Diablo 2 Mephisto / Baal / Pindleskin runs.

I don't think it's too much to ask for one mob that I can kill, over and over again, after stacking MF gear, who can provide the task-reward-repeat experience I enjoy.

Because, after all, that's the point of the game: Repetative Efficiency.


MA17 said...

If monkey doesn't like the way he's getting his treats, there's always medical experiments for monkey.

Sublimely efficient medical experiments.

kylebrown said...

Also, there needs to be a turn off story option. After completing it once, I don't want to watch anymore cut scenes, I don't want to be held up while Tyreal complains about this or that, I just want to move on to the next thing to kill.

Caleb said...


MA17 said...

You know that point in Atomic Age Cinema when people would go out for a smoke break and maybe ditch on the evening and Dr. Calamari would be like "we already have your money!"

Blizzard is Dr. Calamari.

kylebrown said...

Solid metaphor.

_J_ said...

"Blizzard is Dr. Calamari."

That, or they are the guy in charge of Mass Effect.