Diablo 3 – Inferno Act 1 Farming

I’m still playing Diablo 3 off and on, though my time with it has been severely shortened by the release of The Secret World.  I’ve progressed with my demon hunter up to act 3 but haven’t had much inclination to beat my head against that wall.  For me, I enjoy the game more as something I can do without really paying attention while watching TV or listening to the radio.  And that’s why my main activity in the game is to farm Act 1 of Inferno.  Because it’s easy and relaxing.  My system is simple:  I wear as much magic find gear as possible to get a passive MF of 229.  I run with a ‘tanking’ mitigation build and pretty much stand still until elite packs are dead.  And I don’t take more than 10 minutes in a run if possible – easy in, easy out.

My farming locations are Cemetary of the Forsaken -> Festering Woods -> Leoric’s Manor as detailed in the video above.  If I’m feeling bored with this short rotation I keep going onward to kill the Butcher, but experience has shown I get more loot in less time by just running these few areas over and over again.  I’m still waiting to find that nice piece I can sell for 50 million and finally buy the gear to start tackling Act 3.

And so I run Inferno Act 1.  Forever and Anon, so mote it be.

Diablo III – progressive racism at its finest

Blizzard must have been messing with us, that’s all I can think to say. They made the iconic hero of Diablo black and the iconic villain ‘feminine’. They had to know what was coming – every internet racist/sexist on earth came out to complain that Blizzard had ruined the characters, the lore, and the game. Meanwhile white knights took to the forums to disparage these backward thinking individuals and point out how progressive Blizzard was in its choices and how the game would appeal to the black community. I agree with this sentiment, I was very pleased with all of the character models in the game – well, aside from Azmodan’s nipple rings. I’m a prude.

But then you look at the actual game. Blizzard goes out of its way to create a new race to be discriminated against – Goatmen. NPC’s refer to them as ‘beasts’ not worthy of human consideration, despite the fact they obviously possess a rudimentary civilization and are an indigenous people. The Templar espouses capital punishment, brainwashing, and unflinching moral absolutism. The scoundrel is a womanizer at best. And the main character is a loveless killing machine.

Bravo, Blizzard. Some of us got it.

Diablo III – Inferno Insanity

For the past two weeks I’ve been playing the MMO Single Player RPG that everyone loves to hate – Diablo III.  After logging about 50 hours on my Demon Hunter and getting to Act II in Inferno difficulty I’ve come to understand the game a bit more.

I had criticized the game’s story and presentation recently, but only after playing the game do I see that it was an irrelevant criticism.  The game isn’t about story, it’s about grind.  It’s about feeding your OCD to get the best of the best loot so you can get the best of the best loot.  Why didn’t I get it before now?  Well, back when Diablo II was running I was on a fabulous 14.4K modem with ancient phone lines, so Diablo II was a single player affair to me.  The multiplayer loot grind never really came into it – and why would it?  I could just use a hex editor to get whatever loot I wanted back then.  But Diablo III….well I can say it’s opened my eyes to what the franchise is and was.

I can’t say I’m entirely upset by what I found either.  Granted it’s a mind numbing grinding experience, but at the same time it’s quick and accessible.  There is no subscription fee.  I can log on for 20 minutes and breeze through hell difficulty or spend a longer amount of time (and many deaths!) for inferno loot, and I can play the auction house game to wind down.   It’s not perfect.  It’s extremely frustrating at times.  But it’s also a game that’s both fun casually and rewarding if you make the investment.  And it gives me an excuse to play with my old guildmates from WoW.

We’ll see if I feel so positive once I hit Act III/IV in inferno!

Diablo III

After countless years of development Blizzard finally released Diablo III on May 15.  I haven’t played it yet myself but I’ve a few things to say about it.

As someone who has played World of Warcraft since shortly after it launched I know a lot of people who have been frothing for this game.  And why not?  It’s part of the holy trinity of Blizzard’s famous IPs and (to me) was arguably their most successful brand back in the days of Diablo II.  Since those days Blizzard has focused elsewhere.  With the astounding success of Warcraft III and World of Warcraft we saw much of Blizzard’s creative focus shifting toward that brand.  Or perhaps it was just due to a brain drain in Blizzard North, who were supposedly working on Diablo III back in 2003.  Regardless, the Diablo and Starcraft franchises sat on the back burner for years and years while Blizzard rode upon their good fortunes with Warcraft.  In that time, the company has changed.  And I don’t mean to say that in a bad way, all things must change.  However, I fear much of what made Diablo II so special was lost during this time.

And what made Diablo II great?  In many ways, it was one of the most mindless dungeon clickers to ever gain mass acceptance.  There have been countless similar games since then, many reveling in their derivativeness, but none has gained a player base the likes of which Diablo II saw.  I would argue that the spark which let Diablo II shine more brightly than many of the similar titles of its time and since was its story and the sheer weight of effort put into presenting that story to the player through music, text, and cinematics.  And while Diablo II’s cinematics haven’t held up so well from a modeling or animation standpoint, nonetheless they still have a lyrical quality of genuine narration that is hard to dismiss.  When one looks at this type of storytelling and considers its use in Diablo II, Warcraft 3 (and especially the Frozen Throne), and Starcraft its easy to understand how gamers form attachments to the worlds and narratives Blizzard has created for us.

But over the years Blizzard has begun to turn away from these qualities.  Over the years they have reduced their cinematic teams and turned to creating more visceral, action oriented cinematics.  It is much the same as we see in modern cinema – lots of action, camera movement, and explosions but with less substance.  And I find these new cinematics, and the narratives they spin, hold far less charm as a result.  A cutscene should not be merely a maddening din of extreme actions.  There needs to be an emotional aspect, a building to what needs to be seen, and a poignant move to action at the proper time to gain the full effect and to create the kind of engrossing stories we’ve come to expect of blizzard.  So we’ve seen countless times – The slow reveal of Mannoroth, the brief struggle, the death of Hellscream.  The slow contemplative climb to the Frozen Throne, the freeing of Ner’zhul, Arthas fate at the peak of Icecrown.  More recently, Zeratul considering the appearance of the Xel’naga, a confrontation with the Queen of Blades, and a lament of prophecy.

With Diablo III Blizzard has set new standards for both their modeling and animation.  Yet they have somehow failed to provide the same emotional impact that their other narratives have elicited.  The buildups are often not engaging to the player, the action sequences are  skewed towards anime style action, and there is little to contemplate at their denoument.

Act 1:  This was created as a teaser trailer – it has no particular emotional worth.  No real introductions.  Basically it just shows off how pretty the work of  Blizzard’s cinematic team can be.

Act 2:  The high watermark of the game, if only they could all be this good.  As impressive as the conflict between Tyrael and Imperius is, it is the exposition that stands out.  As Leah picks up her Uncle’s work and Tyrael slowly lowers the torch to his fire there is such a simple grace and beauty to the framing of the scene – it’s a true work of art.

Act 3 : Again, this cinematic was created to be used in trailers.  While it does show some impressive imagery, it suffers from a lack of emotional impact as the first cinematic did.

Act 4:  A battle between Imperius and Diablo.  This mostly relies on being loud and gaudy, but ultimately even the fight itself seems weak due to poor choreography.

So I haven’t played Diablo III, but I have looked into it a bit.  And it just doesn’t seem like it will be able to live up to Diablo II.  Considering I’m a solo player and I’ve heard you can beat the game in 10 hours I’m not in any hurry to buy this one, either.  It seems clear from what’s available that Blizzard didn’t put the care into the storyline that I value in most of their games.