Who Wants a Realm Maintenance Blizzcon 2013 T-Shirt?

 

This is what the 2013 Blizzcon Realm Maintenance shirt may look like.
This is what the 2013 Blizzcon Realm Maintenance shirt may look like.

Blizzcon is a pretty special event. For some it could very well be a once in a lifetime kind of thing. This year I plan to show my appreciation and thanks to a number of the people in the WoW community at Blizzcon by giving them a shirt similar to what you see above. The final design may change, and your opinion and feedback on the design is absolutely appreciated.

At this time, the cost of the shirts is coming entirely out of my pocket, which means a very limited number of these shirts will be made. Right now I’m looking at somewhere between 40-50 shirts.

This limited number means that likely not everyone that I’d like to give a shirt to will get one, but I’ll be doing the best I can!

Right now, I can say I know of four people for sure who will be getting a shirt, and those are the four people who have each donated at least $20 towards the World of Podcasts event through this site so far. You too can also join this list if you donate at least $20 toward World of Podcasts by using the PayPal button on realm-maintenance.com between now and the end of the month. Ideally it would help if you’re going to Blizzcon so I can give you the shirt in person, but shipping isn’t out of the question… just keep in mind that shipping costs will also be coming out of my pocket and international shipping can be pricey.

Don’t be surprised if I ask some of you Blizzcon attending podcasters between now and next week what size shirt you wear!

Of course, if you’d like to outright guarantee that you get a Realm Maintenance Blizzcon shirt by buying one that can be arranged too, but right now that only applies if you will be attending Blizzcon (whether you have a ticket or will simply be in the area.) Please contact me via Twitter or email if you’d like to do that and I’ll give you the details on cost. I won’t be asking for more than the cost to make the shirt. This is entirely non-profit and just something fun I’d like to do to commemorate Blizzcon.

Obviously any shirts that are “bought” won’t count against the number of shirts I plan to have made to be given away at Blizzcon.

Blizzcon is close. I’m terribly excited and I can’t wait to see some of you and give you a memory of this special gathering!

 

A Blizzcon Request (But Not For Donations)

UPDATE: I will be going to Blizzcon. Thank you for everyone who offered their support! 

 

With Blizzcon ticket sales dates rapidly approaching, I’m as ready as I can be.

Hotel room is reserved. I’ve scouted flight info. I have the funds for the hotel, airfare, and the tickets.

That said, I’m writing this because I am looking for help in getting to Blizzcon… just not in the way you may have expected.

I will say this again: THIS IS NOT A POST ASKING FOR DONATIONS.

While personally I don’t care if other people ask for donations or do fundraising for Blizzcon, ultimately I decided that’s not going to be how I do things. Finances for the trip will be tight, but its doable. Doable enough that if it comes to it I may even consider the charity dinner Blizzcon ticket if April 24th and 27th don’t pan out.

But with your help, I’m hoping it doesn’t get to that last chance point.

 

This request is going out to any of you out there whom I’ve had some connection with in the past. In other words, I’m specifically looking for podcasters from other shows or people in the community that I’ve talked to a decent bit. If you’re an everyday listener and we’ve never had a dialogue before, don’t worry about this request. Reason for that being I’d like this to go down with someone who I know I can put some degree of trust in, and vice versa.

Like many of you I will be at my computer frantically hitting F5 and praying to the internet and RNG gods to be fortunate enough in the queue. The problem is… right now I just have me, myself, and I in terms of getting in the queue. I don’t have many connections outside of the community that are able to be at a computer to also try to get in line to claim a ticket.

If you are already planning to purchase Blizzcon tickets on April 24th (and Apr 27th should I not get one on the 24th) and have the capability to buy one more than you need for yourself and your friends, I would appreciate it if you could purchase an extra ticket for which I can promptly pay you for.

A couple of caveats about this though should be made clear:

  1. There is a reasonable chance that multiple people may end up being able to buy an extra ticket. I’m only looking for a ticket for myself so should more than one person have a ticket available, I’m basically going to make arrangements with whomever I speak to first, so long as I know that person well enough. That said, don’t attempt to buy an extra ticket for this unless you know of others you might be able to sell/give the ticket to should I no longer need one. I don’t want you to be stuck with a spare ticket and out of $175. 
  2. I’d appreciate it if you contact me via Twitter or email beforehand to let me know if you plan to try to get this extra ticket. This way I know who I’m dealing with potentially in advance and I can make sure we follow one another on Twitter (or have each other’s Skype info) so that I can communicate with you during the time of the sale itself.

It’s been a dream of mine for several years to go to Blizzcon. In the past, finances simply weren’t there for it. This is the first year that I know I can afford it and plan a budget for it.

My motives and reasons for going to Blizzcon are admittedly selfish ones. It’s Blizzcon! I’m not going to make any claims or promises that the primary reason for going is “for the community.” Don’t get me wrong, I definitely plan to meet as many of you as I can, and should I be able to get press privileges at Blizzcon I’ll put that to good use… but I want to go this Blizzcon for myself first, and the rest of you after that.

That may turn some of you off from helping, but I believe in being honest and real about this. I won’t think any less of anyone who just chuckles at this post and moves on.

In reality, I’m guessing that a very small handful of you will be contacting me about this out of all those who read this post. That’s okay and I expect that. I’m simply looking to improve my odds. Nothing more, nothing less.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate your support as always, whether you’re a podcaster or a podcastee.

It’s Stoppies Time

I’ve mentioned them briefly before, and now that the time is upon us, let’s talk about the Stoppies.

The Stoppies is at its core an awards show for WoW podcasts created and run by the crew of Stopcast.

There’s a large number of categories for these awards. While a good number of them are comical in nature, the first bunch of the awards covers categories such as Best Podcast, Best Guest, Best Production, and so on.

As a fan of WoW podcasts in general I’m a strong supporter of these awards. There’s no prize behind them. No trophies. Just some recognition and e-props to the podcasts out there putting out some great content.

I encourage all of you to send in your nominations over the next two weeks. While many of the categories could be considered explicit or satirical, I’m going to ask you guys to at the very least focus on the first eight categories.

The page with all of the categories can be found HERE (warning: some explicit content)

If you just want to participate in the “Best of” part for nominations, that’s fine too.

Here’s what you do:

Copy this list, put the name of the podcast or person you’re nominating next to it, and email the nominations to stopcast@gmail.com

  • Best Podcast
  • Best Ensemble Cast
  • Best Solo Podcaster
  • Best Supporting Podcaster
  • Best Format
  • Best Guest
  • Best Production
  • Best Live Show

Remember, send these nominations to stopcast@gmail.com, not to me.

Nominate who you feel deserves it. Of course, I’ll be happy if myself or any of my work is nominated, but I’m not begging for it. I’m still a new kid on the block here folks.

Nominations will be accepted for two weeks, followed by one week of voting. The Stoppies Awards show will be recorded on Dec. 17th.

Please show your support for these awards and the WoW podcasting community by participating, even if it’s just in the eight categories I mentioned here. And hey, if you want to nominate for every category, go for it! Who knows, maybe I’ll win the award for Sexiest Voice….!

… nah.

 

Diablo III 1.0.4 : A Step in the Right Direction

It’s official, the Diablo III beta is over! I know, I know… you’ve probably heard that one a million times by now.

While I’m not playing the game anywhere near as much as I was in its first week of release, I’ve found my return to the world of Sanctuary to be a mostly pleasant one.

When I knew the patch was days away, I did something drastic with my one and only Level 60 character.

I didn’t delete her, but I did sell off and give away almost every piece of gear I had on her and in my stash. The only things I kept were gems, crafting materials, and her bow. Everything else? Gone at blowout prices. Items I paid a pretty penny for were listed for 1,000 gold and sold for various amounts of cash.

The release of 1.0.4 to me feels almost like a reboot to the game at the endgame level. My demon hunter Elisa started 1.0.4 all the way back at New Tristram on Hell Difficulty and with nothing at first but the bow on her back slaughtered her way to Act 4. At that point I had to spend a while finding some suitable pieces of gear before moving back to the lovely difficulty of Inferno.

My dps at this point is far down from where it was before my self-imposed reset of sorts, but I have to say I’m having more fun in Inferno Act 1 than I did previously. Some elements have been made a bit more forgiving. I’m using abilities I wouldn’t have bothered to try in the past. I’m not dying anywhere near as much as I used to, although I still have to play smart to keep the repair bills reasonable.

Oh, and no more enrage or heal to full for elites? Thank you Blizzard.

No more Invulnerable Minions? I love you.

Improved Auction House? Thank the High Heavens!

My lore rantings aside, I’ve always felt Diablo 3 isn’t a bad game, and with the release of this patch they’ve taken a large step in the right direction to make it far better. I do admit I’m concerned if this is too little too late for the majority of players that bought the game though. A friend of mine in one of my guilds on WoW is determined not to install or play Diablo III ever again, and I know she’s not alone.

Diablo 3 won’t be going anywhere though. Heck, they’re still supporting Diablo 2 after all these years, so even if the number of players for D3 is much smaller than they originally hoped for, you can expect it will still be there to play years from now.

The next content patch will bring us PvP content, more AH improvements, and perhaps even some more endgame content. In the meantime, I’ll be grinding paragon levels now and again when I need a break from WoW (though with MoP coming out in a few weeks who knows how often that will be).

Since I’ve shifted my blog to follow the WoW podcasting community, I might as well send a shout out to a Diablo 3 podcast called Shattered Soulstone. I’ve listened to them since Episode #1, and the hosts are a fun bunch to listen to. Just don’t believe Nevik if he ever sings high praise of Maghda.

Never Maghda. Never.

The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Epilogue

If you’ve made it this far in my series about the story of Diablo 3, then there really isn’t anything left to spoil.

Rather than spend a few hundred words on describing the last cinematic, let’s do something different. I’ll meet you back here below the video.

Ohhhh boy. Where do I begin?

Whose bright idea was it to pick up Diablo’s corpse and toss him/her/it overboard? If any of you watched the animated short that Blizzard released just before D3 came out, you might remember there was supposedly something significant about the blood of Diablo ending up on the archangels when Imperius decided to slay him. I’m pretty sure tossing Diablo off the arch couldn’t have been all too clean an act. For that matter, Diablo’s blood is probably all over the Nephalem too from the fight.

Why did they just let the Black Soulstone fall without destroying it? Back in Diablo 2 you had to destroy the soulstones of Mephisto and Diablo to truly be rid of them, or so we thought.

The Black Soulstone over the course of the game collects the souls of all the demon lords. The whole plan was to contain every one of them in the stone then destroy the soulstone to ultimately be rid of them all. How the hell (pun intended) is Diablo, the Prime Evil, cast down forever?

Whoa, wait a minute. Back up. Notice those words? Listen to the video again for those first 25 seconds. Diablo was cast down. That’s a bit different from saying Diablo is utterly destroyed forever. Now that’s a bit interesting, though I’m not sure what it means.

I digress though. I don’t believe Tyrael, the player character, or the others of the Angiris Council are ignorant enough to just let the soulstone go. Are we to assume that not a single one of them thought the soulstone wouldn’t rematerialize upon Diablo’s death? That seems like a stretch to me.

Where does the Black Soulstone end up? I have to imagine this is an obvious plot thread to be picked up on in the expansion. More about that shortly.

If Tyrael remains mortal, what happens when he dies? Some questions will likely forever go unanswered and left to us to ponder. This is one of them. If and when there is more content in the Diablo universe, it is likely that Tyrael will be the most likely candidate to be the “Deckard Cain” for the hero character.

If Tyrael now stands as the mortal Archangel of Wisdom, who represents Justice? Justice may have been met this day, but I’m not one to believe that the world of Sanctuary no longer needs an avatar of justice. When Auriel the archangel of Hope was in jeopardy it was made clear that the High Heavens wouldn’t be the same without her. Justice needs to be filled by someone. Is that the future of the player character? Time will tell, possibly.

If Angels and men will stand together, what does Imperius have to say about that? Imperius was not too fond of Nephalem. I doubt he’s all too ready to forgive them even after the fall of Diablo. Many members of the High Heavens were lost during Act IV, a horrid battle which Imperius directly lays the blame on the Nephalem. Will Imperius go rogue, like Malthael before him?

… has Malthael gone rogue? The former Archangel of Wisdom broke off from the Angiris Council following the destruction of the worldstone in Diablo 2. According to what lore there exists on him, Malthael was able to see all things when he sat on the Council. If he still retains this power, that could prove interesting for what lies ahead.

But what exactly is coming next? You can bet on an expansion. Though they have not outright announced that an expansion will be coming out, Blizzard release history and some vague words from Blizzard devs and executive pretty much place the odds of an expansion at 99%. The story has several loose ends that haven’t been touched on.

We currently don’t know the whereabout of Adria, the Black Soulstone, or Malthael. Adria and Malthael could both be potential antagonists in the story to come.

There’s the possibility, albeit slim, that the spirits of Leah and Deckard Cain still have a role to play. Will there be redemption and peace for Leah? She wasn’t like her father who became corrupted by Diablo over time. Her body was violated and forcefully taken as the host of the Prime Evil. This didn’t sit well with some people, and perhaps this point will be revisited.

As I mentioned before, I doubt Imperius has forgiven the Nephalem. For those of you who, like me, wanted a chance to go toe to toe with the Archangel of Valor, there may still be hope.

Who would the final boss of Diablo 3’s expansion be? If you’re well read on the lore, you could probably draw the same conclusion I did. While Diablo attempted to take his place as the Prime Evil, it should be noted that the Greater and Lesser Evils at one point were all part of one being. The absolute embodiment of all evil. The seven-headed dragon known as Tathamet. It was Tathamet that birthed the Great Evils while his body became the foundation for the Burning Hells.

How do you take things up a notch after defeating the Prime Evil? You go after the First Evil. I have a feeling this is where the Black Soulstone’s continued existence will come into play. A series of events, likely including action from Adria, Malthael, and/or Imperius, will lead way to a rebirth of Tathamet in some new form.

Until then, this series and my opinions on the story have reached an end. I’ve said this before and I’ll continue to say it… Diablo 3 was a fun game. It had its flaws, but the game itself was an above average piece of work and I enjoyed grinding from 1 to 60.

The endgame needs work, and Blizzard knows this. Inferno and itemization need tweaks, and Blizzard is also aware of that. For the game to have the shelf life of its predecessor, much work will need to be done.

The journey in the story was frustrating for me. Loopholes, gaps in logic, wacky portal magic, weak motives, unnecessary motives, and poorly presented antagonists lurked at every corner. It was as much of a challenge putting those things aside to get to the end as it was to defeat the minions of the Burning Hells themselves.

I’m not giving up hope for the expansion. The story could still be redeemed through what happens next.

To Be Continued… “when it’s ready.”

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com.

The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Act 4

“And you, nephalem! Look below and see what your kind has wrought!”

– Imperius, Archangel of Valor, Act IV

Indeed, what has been wrought? We’ve slain ghosts and ghouls, banished hellish demonic brutes to parts unknown, all in the cause of being rid of the lords of the Burning Hells once and for all.

However, to borrow from World of Warcraft a moment, in Act IV we find that the events of Diablo II were “merely a setback.” Is it a surprise that Diablo returns in Diablo 3? Of course not. If anything I was surprised it took until the very end of Act III for the big reveal.

We begin the final chapter of this journey in a realm we haven’t seen before. The High Heavens itself was a perfect setting for the climax of the game. The corruption that pervades the realm is communicated well. You feel like the primal forces of light and darkness are battling one another with every step you take in your quest to hunt down the Lord of Terror, now the Prime Evil.

After dispatching Diablo’s first henchdemon, Iskatu, the Big Bad shows his inner Azmodan and reveals to us that henchdemon number two has the Archangel of Hope. We shortly meet Ithereal, the Archangel of Fate who tells us the exact same thing. So… why did Diablo have to say anything? Was that there to subtly communicate to us that the tendencies of Azmodan are now his own as well? It’s as good an explanation as any I suppose.

Ithereal explains that while he is the keeper of the Scroll of Fate, the nephalem is not in the scroll. Thus, it’s possible that the nephalem can change fate. I have to admit, after having finished Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning shortly before Diablo III’s release, this plot point made me shake my head. For those of you who haven’t played it, the hero in that game is known as the Fateless One, and while the fates of everyone in the land are known to those who can read fate, the Fateless One is the exception to the rule. It was odd to see this aspect brought up in two games released so close together.

No time for chit chat though, it’s off to rescue the damsel in distress archangel since freeing her will give the forces of the High Heavens hope again, figuratively and literally.

Rakanoth is eventually dealt with (that boss is such a $#@!ing cheater, but I digress) and Auriel is released from her shadowy bonds. Diablo warned Rakanoth that if he failed that his fate would be the same as Iskatu and his brothers’. Huh? Isn’t Diablo one and the same as his brothers right now? Don’t get me wrong, I think we know what he meant… it’s just that dialogue was unnecessary and confusing.

I don’t think the primary antagonist in a story has to be overly wordy or provide so much exposition. It’s a common trait for “big bads” and while it works for stories directed at a younger audience, I think the audience this game is intended for deserved an Azmodan and Diablo (and Belial) that were more cerebral.

Our next step is sealing two Hell Rifts… because those are the only portals through which everything in the Burning Hells is pouring through to invade the High Heavens. More portal magic, and this portal magic is confusing for exactly the opposite reason as Act 1. If Diablo has the power to open direct portals into Heaven and Hell now, how would sealing off two of them stop him from opening future ones. Yes, Auriel mentions her blessing will help the nephalem to seal the rifts, but is her blessing more powerful than the combined might of seven demon lords in one form? It certainly wasn’t the case when she got captured.

Our journey continues onward and upward, when we’re stopped once again by Imperius. At this point I figured there was no avoiding having to fight Imperius if we were to face Diablo. Imperius is an overzealous representative of one side of the eternal war, and it would have been amazing to fight both Heaven and Hell to reach the end of the game.

That wouldn’t be the case though. After a brief how do you do to Diablo 2 boss Izual, we meet Imperius one final time. I was ready to take him on. I was the nephalem, and he was in the way. Imperius had to be put in his place for the greater good.

Thus, seconds later Imperius is put in his place by Diablo Ex Machina corrupting the Crystal Arch, causing all angels to fall to their knees powerless.

What? Did that really happen? This act is blazing by compared to the three acts before it. Heck, we face our first sub-boss before killing hardly anything else in Act IV. So here we get to Imperius, ready for an epic boss battle and just like that it’s time to go straight to Diablo. Do not pass Go. Do not collect 200 gold.

This one part of Act IV left me feeling more cheated and upset than anything else in the whole entire story. It was the figurative straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I had put up with so much poor storytelling up to this point to reach some sort of payoff. The battle with Imperius would have been a great payoff. It never happened.

I closed my eyes a moment, took a breath, and proceeded to the Crystal Arch to fight Diablo. Oh look, the Templar is conveniently trapped. Of course he is.

Three attempts later, Diablo is defeated. That’s it. Game over. I win. Yay… I guess.

Of course we know it’s not as simple as that. There are all matters of loose ends, and the epilogue of Diablo 3 itself to talk about. Next week I’ll wrap up my thoughts on Diablo 3 by talking about the end of the beginning, and what might await us in the inevitable expansion pack(s) to come.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes on the blog next week for the conclusion to this series!

The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Act 3

“Be extremely subtle, even to the point of formlessness. Be extremely mysterious, even to the point of soundlessness. Thereby you can be the director of the opponent’s fate.”

-Sun Tzu, The Art of War

After defeating Belial, The Lord of Lies who couldn’t lie his way out of a paper bag, the player character and caravan head to the cold, battle-worn landscape of Arreat Crater.

Tyrael requests the hero to light the signal fires to rally the troops and let them know that salvation has arrived. Huh? Did these soldiers get a memo saying “If the fires are lit, then the slayer of Belial is here?” That seems a bit of a stretch, but alright.

I get that this quest is an indirect homage to the lighting of the beacons in Return of the King. I just feel like there’s one or two lines of dialogue missing to convey the importance of lighting the beacons. Am I being too picky? Probably. More than anything though I feel I’m ranting about this small point because it shows that while the artwork and background of Arreat Crater is highly detailed and conveys the atmosphere of war, the story feels like it lacks that same kind of attention to detail.

Meanwhile, Leah is struggling with containing the six lords of the Burning Hells trapped inside the Black Soulstone. Hello Foreshadowing, nice to meet you. I’m Rho. Foreshadowing isn’t bad, but I don’t think this much of it was necessary. I mean, if she has trouble containing six… what will the struggle of seven demon lords do to her?

Speaking of Demon Lord #7… Azmodan decides to show his face to us right away. Yes, apparently he has the power to see anywhere he wants to see. Nice demon magic for sure. Such a power should give Azmodan an amazing tactical advantage, being the superior general that he is right?

Nope. Not so much. If I had Azmodan’s “sight beyond sight” I would have sent everything I had against the Nephalem right then and there. Why doesn’t he do this? The only mildly reasonable answer I can think of can be summed up in one word.

Pride.

Azmodan is the Lord of Sin, and perhaps he was meant to be the embodiment of Pride more than anything. We see other creatures representing other deadly sins throughout Act 3, predominately with Ghom representing Gluttony and Cydea representing Lust. Is Azmodan so proud and overconfident that he wouldn’t even bother using his abilities of foresight to tip the scales in his favor? That’s what I’m forced to believe if I’m going to accept Azmodan to be the villain the game wants us to believe he is.

So the signal fires are lit, the catapults are raised. What’s next? Oh no… there’s a breach in the keep!

I’m really scratching my head about this one. Bastion Keep looks like it must surely have several breaches, not just one. Further, we known Azmodan has winged servants of his that are carrying soldiers to their doom. We’ve seen enormous demons the size of big rig trucks spew out more demonic soldiers from their gaping maws.

My point is… what the heck has kept Bastion Keep so well defended that it only has one troubling breach, and even then, why haven’t Azmodan’s forces just focused their assault on the front gates, or even the side of the keep? The forces of the Burning Hells far outweigh the thousand soldiers stationed here. The math and the logic don’t add up.

I know, I know… it’s fantasy. It’s a game. It’s fun. Stop being a party pooper, right? Like I said when I started this series, I think the game mechanically is decent and fun (auction house woes aside of course.) Perhaps my expectations for the story were too high. I wasn’t expecting a Shakespearean masterpiece, but I was hoping for a story that didn’t feel like some random episode of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

Fast forward to the death of the Siegebreaker. Oh, hello Adria. Fancy portal magic you got there. Did you learn that trick with Maghda in Witch School? As convenient as the Town Portal is for players, the story sure likes to use portals for the other characters as well. Is there anything inherently wrong with this? I guess not, though it begs the question of why much of the travelling in the game is done on foot if portal magic is apparently available and convenient enough to make it unnecessary.

Cydea was an amusing sub boss. She had a little personality. Nothing too deep, just enough to make you remember her, and that’s fine. Cydea was perhaps the best part about Act 3’s story. I don’t know how something so wrong could feel so right, but it did.

I’m not going to talk about Azmodan’s defeat in detail, because there isn’t anything to tell. He was a baddie. He taunted. He boasted. He got angry. He died. It’s a close call in trying to figure out which demon lord in this game was the best developed one, or the most compelling. Perhaps because neither Belial or Azmodan felt developed or compelling at all.

And so my readers we arrive at the climax to Act 3. The betrayal. The big reveal. The “oh S#!%” moment of the game when the big D makes his… her… its entrance on stage.

I so wanted Adria to be the host for Diablo. I was really praying it wasn’t Leah. I had seen pictures before the game released of a “feminine” structured Lord of Terror, so a small portion of Diablo’s identity was spoiled. Many players predicted Leah would be the host. I was counting on Blizzard to surprise us, to show us suckers that we were dead wrong…

… and I was disappointed again. Instead, Adria is whisked away to be a plot device in the expansion. How convenient.

Leah’s death and change into Diablo felt so wrong. She wasn’t a corrupted soul like her father before her or the Dark Wanderer. She was an innocent, trying to do the right thing. She was following the path of a noble and dedicated follower of the forces of light in Deckard Cain. If the writers’ intent was to disgust me with the way Leah’s body and soul were taken advantage of, then they succeeded.

I didn’t find Leah being Diablo interesting, exciting, or surprising. I just found it disgusting.

Thus I chased after the Prime Evil through the hellgate into the High Heavens…. not because I wanted to slay Diablo “once and for all.”

I just wanted to end this awful story, praying for a miracle in Act 4 that somehow my thoughts and feelings would be changed when it was all over.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes on the blog next week for more.

The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Act 2

Last week I mentioned Deckard Cain’s death was too soon, Maghda’s presence was too Disney, and the Coven have their hands on some amazing teleport and portal magic.

“I had to follow him. From that moment we travelled… east. Always… into the east.” -Marius, Diablo 2

Act 2 takes place in Lut Gholein. Wait, what? Didn’t we do this before? Oh, it’s called Caldeum now. Got it.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m asking for too much, but can’t we try a little harder to not have Diablo 3 flow like its predecessor? Diablo 2 goes from Tristram, to the desert in the East, to the jungle, to Hell, and finally to Mount Arreat. Diablo 3 goes from Tristram, to the desert in the East (and the adjoining jungle), to a Hell–ish Arreat, and lastly the High Heavens.

With the exception of the final act, the environments and the path in which we encounter them just feels annoyingly repetitive. I’m not looking for Demons in Space, mind you. I get the feeling that this chain of scenery was very intentional. While also a continuation of a story, Diablo 3 feels like a retelling of a story for the current generation of gamer. Given the much larger and broader player base for the game, I understand why they would feel the need to tell the story this way. It’s just a personal annoyance.

Act 2 begins with seeking revenge on Maghda, the architect of Deckard Cain’s demise. The chase isn’t woven with any real twists or turns. Just… lots of hidden footprints.

So then we get to fight Maghda and end her reign of evil. Fight begins. Fight ends. Butterfly lady is toast. That’s it kids. Nothing else to see here. Deckard Cain is avenged… I guess.

Something about the chase, the buildup, and the defeat of Maghda doesn’t feel great. This part of Act 2 felt too flat. What I think might have been missing here is some more interaction between Leah and Maghda prior to her demise. Planting seeds of the fate to come for Leah… or perhaps more exposition about where Adria has been before we actually encounter here. This is an awkward part of the story because there’s just not a lot of story presented in the early chapters of the act.

Things get far more interesting after the first encounter with the child Emperor followed by the discovery and rescue of Adria. What’s great about Adria is you can discover she’s probably not all you think she is if you engage in some extra conversation with her. The Templar certainly doesn’t trust her. I feel that there should have been a bit more tension shown between the player character and Adria though. Here we are allying ourselves with a witch, and not one of the butterfly kind either. Not everything here adds up, and that’s apparent from fairly early on…

… just like it’s apparent that the child emperor is Belial.

This is the Lord of Lies? I mean, was anyone… anyone surpised that the Emperor was Belial? The player character wasn’t, and neither was I. I’m pretty sure you weren’t either.

Then there’s Zoltun Kulle. A dark Horadric mage gone wrong, brought back to life by our exploits, only to be killed again a few minutes after rebirth. Um… okay. So, here was yet another potential spot to introduce an adversary for later in the story and the book is closed on him before you can get the echo of his incessant laughter out of your ears. As annoying as his laugh was, Kulle was a far more interesting character than Maghda, and deserved more exposure and development in the story. After all, he was the creator of the Black Soulstone itself. He showed that there existed a darker side to the arts of the Horadrim, and this had so much potential and room to be explored.

Nah, let’s just kick him to the side and move on to the next loot pinata, good Ol’ Honest Belial.

I can’t take credit for this next bit. I read a forum thread several weeks ago about how the plot of Diablo 3 could have been improved. One poster suggested that Belial’s illusions of the child Emperor could have been just as cheesy and transparent… leading the player character to the inevitable confrontation at the palace. However, when the player character kills Belial, it would then be revealed that the past few minutes had been an illusion… a hallucination of sorts, and now the dead body of the young, very mortal, Emperor lies at the player character’s feet. Belial succeeds in learning about the Black Soulstone, and has turned a nation of Sanctuary against the player character in the process. The actual confrontation with Belial could then be saved for later in the game, or even the expansion.

That would have been a very intriguing twist and one I wished had been canon. Like it or not though, Belial is just a very bad liar in Diablo 3. I’ve been told both Belial and Azmodan are nothing like the way they’re portrayed in the novel “The Order,” and I really need to get my hands on that book sometime soon.

The three primary adversaries in Act 2 were as shallow as the desert wastes of the east that we travelled through. Yet, there could have been so much more done with Maghda, Kulle, and Belial. Had either of these three been given more time, development, and care in Act 2 they could have been great villains. Instead, they’re just boxes we’ve checked off as we make our way to Arreat Crater, and the forces of the Lord of Sin.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes on the blog next week for more.

The Sad Story of Diablo 3 : Act 1

As I’ve mentioned before, my biggest gripe with Diablo 3 had nothing to do with the game and everything to do with the story. Before we go on let me just say that I thought the game as a whole was fine. It has its flaws, sure. It’s not Diablo 2, obviously. Diablo 3 is a product of years of development and it shows especially in the visual presentation. I’d personally rate the game an 8 out of 10.

The following blog articles over the next couple of weeks contain my opinion and commentary on the plot of the storyline. Feel free to disagree. In fact, any comments you have are more than appreciated. You might be able to shed some light on something I’m not seeing from my point of view.

So in the words of Deckard Cain (1996-2012) … stay a while, and listen.

The opening cinematic is a feast for the eyes and sets the stage well. In retrospect, Deckard Cain’s survivability in the face of certain doom seems amazing at the very start of the game. Something large and fiery falls from the heavens and leaps a gaping hole of flame and rubble in its wake, descending into depth of the old cathedral. Leah, who was right next to Cain, survives. Cain’s whereabouts are unknown…

Wait, unknown? I’m sorry, if I turned around and saw a huge fiery pit of doom that was left behind by a freaking meteor, I would naturally think Cain didn’t survive. Leah tells your player that Cain was blasted into the depths of the cathedral.

Now, I understand that rescuing Deckard Cain is motivation for questing forward, but each of the heroes came to Tristram to investigate the falling star to begin with. I would argue that it wasn’t even necessary to put Cain in jeopardy at this part of the story, especially when you contrast it to his eventual demise.

Leah is an interesting character, and I find she is interpreted a dozen ways when people critique the story. Some people seem to think she flip-flops, or changes her attitude and opinion on the dark times before them too quickly. Let’s be clear about something. Leah believes in skeletons. She believes in zombies. She even believes in demons from the very get go. What confuses people is that she simply refuses to believe that the “end days” are upon the world, based on the fact that horrific things have occurred before and the people of Sanctuary have endured. The failing in the story here is that I think this point isn’t made clear enough for people to understand.

I do think that having Leah talk about opening an inn someday was… way off topic. I’ll chalk it up to her trying to distract herself from the gloom and doom of her journey.

The Stranger’s identity wasn’t much of a mystery to me from the moment I discovered him, but that’s simply because I caught the hint from the opening cinematic. “Justice shall fall from the heavens.” I thought this was actually rather clever to plant that hint so early.

The leader of the Coven, Maghda, was one of the first elements of the story that really didn’t sit right with me. This is a witch in the world of Sanctuary? Someone dressed up in purple and green, looking like the cousin of insert Disney villain here? The Dark Faerie Queen of the Butterflies is not the kind of image I envision when thinking of a witch in Sanctuary. Compare Maghda to Adria later in the story and you see two entirely different interpretations of a Sanctuary witch. If there had been some more lore or background on Maghda that explained her rise to power, her magics, her ties to Belial, and more then I think I would have a different opinion of her. As it is, she’s an overly colorful yet generic villain that gets way too much screen time in the story.

Moving on… we’re about to recover the third shard of the Stranger’s sword when all of a sudden… wait, what the heck just happened here?

So Maghda and some of her cronies magically travelled to New Tristram without being spotted by the guards or anyone else. They had a way to teleport directly into Deckard Cain’s house and lucked out that both Cain and the Stranger were there. Leah getting trapped herself isn’t as big a deal. New Tristram is not in flames or under siege. Everyone outside is clueless of the coven’s presence in the dead center of the town. Mind you, this is a town that has fended off hundreds of walking dead from within and without for weeks. Meh…

If you’ve followed my advice, from Twitter or earlier posts you may have checked out the most recent episode of Shattered Soulstone. At the end, the hosts go over an email I sent them regarding several points in the story, including the death of Deckard Cain. Nevik made an interesting point that it may have not been Maghda’s magic that killed Cain, but rather the power that surged from Leah in her outburst. That’s a fair point I hadn’t considered. Maghda wanted Cain to reforge the sword, and she wouldn’t have tried to kill him before that act was done. Once Maghda and those left in the room have taken the fury of Leah’s chaotic power, she concedes Cain and decides to take the Stranger with her by dragging him down some dark portal.

Here’s where I’m lost though. If Maghda has this amazing teleport and portal magic that could let her cronies get where they need to go… why did she not take Cain and the Stranger with her before Leah even showed up. Heck, why not send Leah somewhere else where she can be held captive and the potential for her unleashed rage can be kept in check far away from Maghda and her current plans?

In my opinion, Cain’s death was executed poorly. It does drive the plot further. It gives a reason for the hero to continue on into Act 2 beyond just fighting the forces of Belial. But shouldn’t fighting the forces of Belial be enough?

The beginning and the end of Act 1 uses Deckard Cain as motivation when it wasn’t necessary. Cain’s end was at hand. I knew this would likely happen when I first started playing Diablo 3. I just feel that it came too soon in the story, and at a time where its impact is not needed to push the forces of light further into their conflict with the last lords of the Burning Hells.

What do you think? Leave a comment here or email me at RhoWoW@gmail.com. Thanks for reading and keep your eyes on the blog for the next article on Act 2’s story woes.

Diablo 3 : Worth Every Penny I Paid For It

 

For the past several weeks I’ve been lost in the realm of Sanctuary, hunting demons with a bow and arrow. With the help of my bat companion and the strong will of Kormac the Templar, I’ve defeated the forces of the Burning Hells multiple times. I’ve encountered treasure unimaginable, a whimsical land of ponies and rainbows, and creatures with abilities and powers that made the Lord of Terror seem like child’s play.

It’s been mostly fun. Mostly. It’s almost time to move on though, and it’s bittersweet. I thought I would be playing this game for much, much longer than I’ll end up playing it. Am I rage quitting due to all the changes from the last patch? Not really. I’ve just reached that point where I’m ready to move on. Diablo 3 did not ensnare me like its predecessor did so many years ago. I’m older, maybe a bit more mature (big maybe), and my taste in gaming I think has evolved more than I realized. But it’s not only that. Diablo 3 is both everything and nothing like the legendary game before it.

I’ve had fun playing the game, there’s no doubt about it. It’s been a nice change of pace from other games.

The always online bit didn’t sit well with me for one reason only; hardcore mode. With gameplay being subject to possible lag spikes at any corner it becomes entirely undesirable to play Hardcore mode. You can’t kill what you can’t see. In a game where fast reactions can make the difference between life and death you just can not have lag spikes added to the mix. With Hardcore items and economy being entirely separate from the normal mode economy I have to wonder why they couldn’t just make Hardcore an offline only mode.

Oh, right. The hardcore auction house.

The skill system in Diablo 3 is at first glance rich and diverse. You could go with “optimal” builds or if you’re feeling up to something a little crazy you could go with an aberrant build. For instance, I went through a good part of the game without using a ranged weapon on my Demon Hunter. I wanted her to be more a master of traps and devices, and there were skills and runes that made it work. My demon hunter played through all of Hell throwing grenades while setting down spike traps and caltrops. Should I get cornered, my Grenadier ability let me go out with a satisfying bang that took out my foes with them. My aberrant build was full of finesse, flavor, and fun…

…until Inferno.

Inferno punishes aberrant builds harshly, and that was disappointing. I found that if I didn’t have Smoke Screen available I wouldn’t have a chance. Not only that… sometimes two or three smoke screens in a row weren’t enough. That led to me using Preparation to get more discipline. Goodbye caltrops, goodbye Sentry. My crafty trapper had to take up a bow and arrow and kite her way to victory.

I was still failing hard in my first few days in Inferno. I spent about a week farming Act 3 & 4 in Hell difficulty only to find upgrades were practically nowhere to be found. It was frustrating. What was I going to do?

Oh, right. The auction house.

With the help of the auction house I got the gear needed to kill them before they killed me. I didn’t stack attack speed like most demon hunters did, and I’m glad I didn’t. To me it was as simple as this; would I rather kill things in two to three fast shots or one stronger shot? I guess that’s why the IAS nerf didn’t bother me too much.

Speaking of which, 1.03 didn’t bother me as much as it did the majority of the community. Did I die a lot? Sure. Did I lose dps? Some, but not a ton. Did the higher repair costs bug me? A little, but I had some luck on my side by finding a few legendary pieces of gear which sold altogether for about seven million gold…

… on the auction house.

Do you kind of see where I’m going here? Diablo 3 is everything and nothing like Diablo 2 because of the existence of the auction house. I’m not even talking about the real money one. The auction house has had a more profound impact on the game than any other element.

Did I use crafters much? Nope. The auction house had items that were effective and cheaper than random gambles made at the blacksmith. Gems were cheaper to buy than they were to make all the way up to Inferno, and the only way to progress beyond Star quality gems was to be extremely lucky or use the Auction House to buy the expensive gem pattern you wanted.

Gearing up my character was not a slow, steady climb like it was in Diablo 2. The auction house gave me access to instant upgrades in the stats I specifically sought after. While I needed that gear to do as well as I did in Inferno, I have to admit that the access to instant upgrades like that is a huge factor in why I feel like I’ve played enough of the game for now. My progression has stopped at Act 2, and I’ll tell you what… it’s not due to gear. Inferno Act 2 requires skill and reflexes that I don’t think I have… and the repair costs in the land of 1.03 don’t do anything to encourage me to work harder on it.

I would have reached this point eventually… but without the auction house I think it would have taken much longer to reach this point.

We were told not too long ago that you would have the same chance to find a legendary item in a barrel or on a monster. The devs felt this was important to the experience, and they’re right.

So, 1.03 happened and all of those words got stepped on and covered in dirt. Chests don’t get the benefits of magic find? Really? I understand barrels, pots, logs and such… but treasure chests? Why is this happening? It’s happening because everyone has quick and easy access to magic find gear sets that would have taken much longer to put together had the auction house not existed. We are creatures of habit, and one of our greatest habits is to find the path of least resistance. If someone can use the Auction House to stack their magic find to improve their chances to find treasures on objects that won’t kill them, then they’ll do it.

As a result, the 1.03 changes to finding loot off of objects kills one of the fundamental parts of this style of game. Why take the time to explore every nook and cranny when there’s far less incentive to?

You know what though? All said, I still had fun playing this game, and I imagine I’ll revisit it every now and then to see if the iteration from the devs has done anything to improve the experience. I thought I would stay in Sanctuary longer but it’s not the end of the world. I see Mists of Pandaria raid testing is coming up after all.

Diablo 3 was worth every penny I paid for it. Yep. Every penny. Zero. By enrolling in the WoW Annual Pass program I got Diablo 3 for free. In retrospect I’m glad it worked out that way. I think I’d be a bit more irritated with the game if I paid sixty dollars for it. As a “free” game I don’t feel too angry or betrayed by how the gameplay turned out far different from my expectations.

If there’s anything I’m angry about in regards to Diablo 3 it’s not the auction house. It’s the… topic of the email I’m about to write to a certain dazed and confused wizard.

In the wake of patch 1.03 to Diablo 3, the host of the Shattered Soulstone podcast posted a blog on his personal experiences in Inferno. Check out his blog at neviksnotebook.com. Be sure to check out the Shattered Soulstone podcast also on iTunes or shatteredsoulstone.com. Who knows, in a future podcast you may even find out what I hated most about Diablo 3. If the email doesn’t pop up there you’ll get to see it here soon. What I hate most about Diablo 3 really deserves its own post.