Saturday, May 19, 2012

Critique of RPS way of handling reviews of Diablo 3

As an advocate of Game design, I read quite a few blogs/sites which concern game development. I'm actually pretty disheartened by the way Rock Paper Shotgun actually handled the review of Diablo 3.  I know I should have followed spink's advice to not start flame wars or write inciting stuff, but the way they handled the whole review system got my hackles raised.

2 out of the 4 writers (Jonathan Walker and Nathan Grayson) actually wrote articles pertaining to the gameplay of Diablo 3, and how it felt while playing the game. All 3 articles however groused about the effect of 'DRM' when playing it online. I'll go through each article and list out some of their misconception of the game.

First up would be 'Hack Slashes: 3 hours with Diablo 3'. He starts off describing the little details that make Diablo 3 great. Things such as the inventory window closing when walking away from the store, the little stories that pop up when you walk around the world of sanctuary. Then he comes to the cons of Diablo 3. Which basically sums up to his intense hatred of always on DRM. I understand if you have worries about always having to connect to the internet in order to play your game, but seriously? If you're writing articles on gaming news sites, I kinda expect feelings to like not play such an important part in a review of it >.< A lot of people often grouse about this part of Diablo 3. Look I understand that you feel it's irritating that you have to worry about lag in order to play a game but I honestly think nostalgia is coloring your perceptions a little.

Do you know what I remember about Diablo 2 and Battlenet then?

I remember maphacks and Treasure hacks.
I remember Blizzard having to implement the Uber Bosses in order to help remove inflation in the game
I remember Item duping to such a great extent that people traded in Stone of Jordan's instead of Gold.
I remember people getting hacked and all the items lost, sold on Ebay.
I remember people hacking their characters to ridiculous extents, such as having a level 40 Hydra spell
I remember people copying their Hardcore character files so that if they ever died, they could just continue from the last time they copied the file.

So really, is always online a bad thing? I honestly say no. I would rather have the always online DRM than have constant bots, cheats and other douches ruining my gaming experience. With the need to connect to Battlenet, I won't need to worry about such hacks being in my games so much. Not to say that the exploiters won't be able to exploit Diablo 3. I'm pretty sure they will, but with more eyes on them, it will be easier to spot them this time.

The second article by Nathan Grayson is 'Opinion: why the problem with diablo 3 isn't Diablo'. He writes a better article than Jonathan and he argues that we should be against the always on DRM because we should stay angry at the always on DRM. while it's valid in a way I would actually disagree with the staying angry and unstatisfied. Why should you direct it against a company that is trying it's very best to make the idea work? It's a controversial idea, but Blizzard is committed to trying to make it work. Battle net 2.0 was always meant to be a comparable social network to Steam actually. That was the original vision for it. If you wanted to raise objections, do it against a proper target instead of just directing your resentment against such changes from all game companies. It's not healthy for growth and developement of the gaming sector. It hearkens to mind the days when the Church tried to suppress science in the middle ages.

The last and final article, 'How Diablo 3's solo experience reveals a hollow game'. Again here he talks about the always on DRM and how stupid it is. Look We get that you hate the DRM aspect but can you stop whining about it constantly? Other then that he starts talking about how the gameplay seems hollow and how it doesn't add anything to the genre.

Uhm.... Newsflash Jonathan, it never meant to add to the genre. The Developers never wanted to add anything to it. Let's look at the criticisms you made and i'll direct you to the relevant articles to which you can read to correct your well meaning and erroneous views.

First point of contention: Unable to change camera angle.
Jay Wilson says, "Very early on in the process we had some people who argued that we should not make the game isometric, that it would be better technology, more modern, if we made a third or first-person game," said Wilson. "I really would have nothing of it. For me a camera is not a technology choice, there's more than enough first and third-person games out there." (Linky here)

Second point of contention: You mentioned that it's a very primitive game when taking into account it's failings. It's suppose to be easy and the mechanics simple enough to pick up.

Third point of contention: No more inventory Tetris, which means you just portal back, sell stuff and then go back to killing. There's nothing wrong with that. I actually like that. If you ever really played diablo 2 properly, you would know that inventory Tetris, while fun, detracted from the constant killing. Blizzard has implemented tons of quality of life change in the hope of making the experience more fun for you. So you know you can enjoy the game more fully? I have no idea why you want to make it more troublesome to get to the fun bits but hey I guess everybody has his own fetishes like BDSM.

Fourth point of contention: Monsters don't attack in interesting ways. Nostalgia is coloring your perceptions here. Monsters in Diablo 2 did not attack in interesting ways. They swarmed you, they attacked you with a variety of skills like Charge from the Snakemen, Inferno from the Fetish shamans.

Fifth Point of contention: Skills are made more restrictive because they are simpler. I really disagree with this. It's not really that restrictive. You can actually changed what skills you want to put in the 4 quick action slots. They do not have to be defensive skills in the defensive slots, utility skills in the Utility slots. In the case of the monk, you could even put your 3 spirit generators into the quick action slots and use it together with a passive skill in order to get 24% bonus damage. The complexity is there if you want to look for it. This is not like Diablo 2 where you only had 2 skills, and synergies between various skills were not implemented till patch 1.10 or something. Skills are a bit more complex now compared to Diablo 2.

Sixth point of contention: Died 4 times with 87 potions in your inventory, meaning the game is too simple. Clearly you have not been playing Nightmare or Hell yet. Add the fact that you're playing a monk, the one class in the game with a healing spell. Wow, i'm so totally amazed that you have not used any potions yet. 

Last point of contention: Grouses about the always online DRM. Jay Wilson has you covered as well! He said, "One of the big reasons is if we take a server-client structure and you allow offline play, you have to put the server architecture into the build that you give to players. Once you have that server architecture, it's way easier to hack it." (same link as before)

I would really appreciate it if the writers actually got their facts right first before writing their articles. I really do not like seeing emotions and views color facts that can be easily verified. 

TL;DR : I'm so amazed by the quality of the writing at such an established website.

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