Monday, 10 March 2014

Talking About Video Games Again, Sort of

Diablo 3 is ready for release for real.  I'm ready to accept Blizzard's apology and enjoy the game.

I'm not sure they actually apologized, but getting rid of the auction house is hard to take any other way.  I never got a beta invite so I don't know much about adventure mode, but have some kind of mode designed with infinite playability in mind is the right idea.  Hey, and no level cap.  If only they had listened to me back in the original beta.

It's tough to know whether the general anger with Diablo 3 helped or hindered this process.  I'd imagine what made them decide to change direction with the game was a dwindling number of people playing it rather than any complaint anyone made in the forums.  I'm not saying the complaint didn't matter at all.  I'm sure that when they wanted to make some changes the things that people had complained about shaped those changes.

I don't think that the people on the original Diablo 3 design team were morons.  Making a game like this is complicated.  I'll use the example of the auction house.

It is easy to blame the auction house for the game's problems, and I went ahead and did so on numerous occasions, but having played the game in its current state, I think it is fairly obvious that the auction house wasn't ruining the game all on its own.  If you sit down and play a character through to level 60 right now, you wouldn't even think to go to the auction house when you got there because there is no brick wall where you feel like you can no longer progress.  Instead, an auction house for this game would be what they probably wanted it to be - a way to facilitate item trading.  Basically, I think if they had done loot better in the first place, the auction house might have been fine.

What the auction house did, though, was provide an awkward patch over a fundamentally flawed game.  If it were not for the auction house, some of the changes that came in patch 2.0 might have been made within weeks or months rather than waiting for the expansion.

Despite a lot of pre-release complaints about always online requirements and the real money auction house the game sold a staggering number of copies immediately.  Despite the screaming in the forums about how broken everything was, a lot of people played the game for a very long time.  Even though complaints are a very useful source of information - even though we should all consider what the haters have to say - picking the signal from the noise in complaints is exceedingly difficult.

It is much easier to figure out if someone has a valid complaint than to imagine every problem on your own, but it still isn't easy.

So for a synthesis of these complaints and the worthwhile ideas of the original developers to take two years seems fairly reasonable to me.  We can't expect much better from the world.

On the other hand, the writing is still insanely terrible, and I can only imagine there will be more where that came from in the expansion.