Diablo III – Giving Blizzard the thumbs down

I still remember around 11 to 12 years ago, me in my school uniform, skipping my choir lesson just to queue up for a box of Diablo II. Man, I had so much fun with the game, the items, the challenging buy possible Hell mode… Well, that was the past. Fast forward till today, the much anticipated sequel left a really bad taste in my mouth. Diablo III itself is a 7/10 for me, but let us look at the problems besieging the game which frustrated gamers from all over the world. This is a borderline rant post, and definitely not a “professional” paid-to-write article, so spare me your criticisms.

1. Server capacity, Error 37

Yes, Blizzard, with 10 years of experience hosting World of Warcraft, couldn’t predict “near” accurately the number of gamers logging in on launch day. Seriously? The last I know, they ought to have numbers of how many physical copies were shipped out to stores and how many digital copies were already paid for. I am no analyst expert myself, but as a multimillion company with the resources, how could Error 37 even happen in the first place, and for a few days at that. Although I did not apply for annual leave, various of my gaming buddies did.

Over at the Asian server, the same thing happened. With Taiwan and Korea supposed to be under the Asian region, queues begun to form after the server capacity reached its limits. And Blizzard’s comment? The maximum bandwidth has been hit, and players are encouraged to switch to either to The Americas or the Europe server, although characters are not able to go cross-servers. I mean, seriously? The good folks spent money, most probably just wanted to play LAN with their friends and offline single player modes, why must they, or rather, we, agree to this crap? Before you go “Blizzard did stated that the game was online only”, people bought the game assuming the servers are stable and safe, which Blizzard touted.

To add salt to the wound, Taiwanese gamers found out that once they change their own IP to a Korean one, they can log into the Asian server, located in South Korea, with ease. What kind of gamers does Blizzard think the modern day ones are? Tech green horns? Subsequently, Blizzard blocked Taiwanese IPs from the Asian server, although I am not sure of the situation now. All in all, this situation should never have had happened in the first place if proper estimations were made. Or did Blizzard even kept track of how many copies of Diablo III they sold?

Finally, this just happened a few minutes ago. I got banned for 24 hours from the Blizzard forums for “advertising”. Let me get this straight, everyone is so pissed about the auction house errors, the hacking and whatsoever, I thought posting something which I feel is a novelty might perhaps bring a smile to those wry faces. It is actually an image of a shirt from an online T-shirt store, which I mentioned the shop’s name.

The shop is actually a partner of IGN, a games website where Diablo III is heavily advertised. I would be happy if I get a warning, but no, the easy way out, like how Funcom almost got my YouTube account banned, is to just swing the axe. No wonder the community and customer service folks are always on the chopping block first when there is a retrenchment exercise.

2. Items and equipments

I will have to admit, I was expecting a much improved Diablo II, something like a true sequel and not a total remake. Remake is fine, only if the changes are really convincing. What I got was instead a pile of ego lumped together in a much beloved franchise. Hear me out.

First, set items. When I was playing Diablo II, me and my friends actually took the initiative to collect all the set items, equip them and took screenshots signalling our successful “farming”. That took place even before we hit level 99, had tons of fun. Now, set items in Diablo III are so rare, I have only seen 2 or 3 different sets before the level 60 ones. There is a serious lack of set items in the game, why so? Is it another easy way out?

End-act bosses, such as Azmodan and Diablo, will not drop as many yellow, rare goodies after the first time. It means the end of boss farming for drops. Blizzard argued that this is to prevent, well, boss farming continuously. So, at level 60, players who kill elite monsters and group mobs (which are often stronger than the final act bosses) will gain 1 buff, improving magic/rare items’ drop rate. It can be stacked up 5 times. So now, players will have to run around maps finding these mobs to kill before teleporting straight to the final boss.

From the looks of it, it sound pretty novel. But in actual game implementation, it makes no sense to me at all. While Blizzard touted there will be many builds players can switch to according to different situation, the buff actually cancels when players change skills. Certain gamers have a set of skills for mass mobs, another set for single target bosses, so where the hell is the link to what Blizzard said?

Final note about the drop rate buff. Blizzard implemented this system to make sure players enjoy the full game content without traveling straight to the boss. If you happen to meet elite mobs which you are geared to kill, good for you. If you happen to meet those which are impossible to solo, such as enchanted with insane arcane lasers, walls, invulnerability minions etc, you will have to spend time finding others (buff ends in 30minutes, resets every time an elite mob is killed) or log out, which will cancel all buffs gathered.

I understand this new system is implemented as a time sink in order not for players to rush through the game. But let’s face it, this is 2012, gamers’ mentality has changed, they want some fast, engaging action without having to repeat procedures too often. This only happens mainly in MMOs, yet Blizzard claim Diablo III is just an online game, not a MMO. What?

3. Game was not fully tested before shipping, game design based on “assumption”

I was directed to this thread by another overseas Diablo fan, and was amazed to even read what was posted by Blizzard’s community manager. He claimed that they, Blizzard, “purposely launched the game with Inferno being far more difficult than what we were able to progress in ourselves, assuming people would find it as difficult but with a few skilled players able to pull it off“. In other words, the team was not able to clear the original Inferno difficulty themselves, yet shipped the game out with Inferno even harder and hope some skilled players are able to do so. What kind of excuse is this?

I understand that Blizzard wanted Inferno to be hard, but the least they could do is to ensure the right equipments drop time to time. I, having farmed Hell mode’s Azmodan and Diablo a couple of nights with the drop rate buff at full, only found a couple of equipments which are a little better than what we were wearing, but no where near to ensure we will not be “1 hit KO” in Inferno’s Act 2.The item stats are so random, we could be farming for the next 2 years to get something useful for Inferno. Yeah, the auction house. Don;t even get me started on that game breaking feature.

The thing is, gamers do want something challenging, not near impossible. I am looking at gradual scaling in terms of difficulty, not just bump up the mobs to ridiculous stats and say “go ahead and try it, even though we as developers couldn’t complete it ourselves”. What kind of game design philosophy is this? Based on assumption?

Too many negatives overshadowing an otherwise great game

I could just go on and on and on, but still, Diablo III is a good game, minus the non-stop technical hiccups since launch and flawed game design mechanics. The combat is fun, I love the fact Diablo is back, graphics is looking awesome and certainly unique classes such as the Witch Doctor. There are many issues to be solved right now, including a buggy auction house and accounts being hacked left and right. Given the promises of the game being safer, more stable etc in an online-only environment, it is not too much to say the game is a major letdown as well.