One of the most fascinating aspects about the Diablo franchise is the emergence of a thriving trading economy among players. It’s the only gameplay completely generated by the players, organic and in flux from day-to-day. I’m going to give a brief rundown of the various overarching movements in a video game economy.
Drop Your Weapons and Walk Towards Me Slowly
Trading items (magical weapons, armor, etc.) among players has been a pillar of Diablo gameplay since the original. It was exciting in a Wild West kind of way. Either Blizzard didn’t anticipate or didn’t have the resources to implement a trading system into the UI, so the players made do. Often this meant each player dropped their item on the ground at opposite ends of town and walked forward towards each other hoping the other player wasn’t ripping you off. It worked because all characters walked at the same speed so it was impossible to get both items on the ground without trickery (blocking the other player somehow, your friend jumping in the game and taking the item, etc.). I tried to find video of this but it seems nobody has youtubed this excitement. Trust me, it’s as primitive and stupid as it sounds. Luckily things changed in Diablo 2.
I was going to avoid mentioning that I’ve never played Diablo or Diablo II, but the cat’s out of the bag. I like a good hack and slash as much as the next girl, but, in my earlier years, I was a lost little gamer. After the SNES stopped releasing great RPGs, I spent countless hours playing popular sims like Roller Coaster Tycoon and SimAnt, which were only interrupted when Blinky would walk into my room and place a new game between my face and my killer amusement park. I was never presented with the Diablo series, so I never played it.
I’m about to conclude the first act, and, every time I sit down to play, I’m reminded of my brief stint with WoW. Man, did I jump on that bandwagon too late. Diablo II is what I was hankering for by the time I stopped playing: solo grinding. In WoW, apparently there are these things called “instances,” and I managed to make it to Level 30-something without entering one. As you can imagine, when I did start instancing, I was a mess: I was known to die while typing things like, “Stop yelling at me!” and, “We’re supposed to work together, guys!”
I don’t have to worry about defending my ignorance to anyone in Diablo II. There’s no one to make fun of me because I don’t know how the way points work or to laugh at me when I try to use my bow for the first time and realize I didn’t put the arrows in the right slot. Like Baldur’s Gate, you learn by doing–with less dying. It helps that I’m a druid; once I learned that I could summon multiple wolves, my PC stopped fighting and became the party scout and leader. That’s the other thing: my party is entirely automated. I don’t have to fight with archaic game mechanics to control multiple characters or deal with that impatient, hardcore player that, as soon as I pick up Item A, is pissed that I don’t know to go to Area 5 because I haven’t put in 349,678,912 hours.
I should confess that we are playing Diablo 2 at my insistence. Diablo 3 is a little more than a month away and I wanted to take one last nostalgia trip through a game I consider a classic, gaming milestone, and personal favorite. As you can see, my opinion about this game is fully formed so I won’t be reviewing it like the other games we’ve done. Instead, I’ll be making sure the other Gaming Graveyard players are enjoying themselves.
I’ve put more hours into Diablo 2 than any other game in my life. I won’t even ballpark the number because it would be embarrassingly high. Suffice it to say this game has been with me through four girlfriends, high school, college, and graduate school, three presidents, six apartments, and seven pets. I have worn out MANY mice. When I started playing my jeans were three sizes too big, I painted my fingernails black and I played drums in the school marching band. Now I wear a tie to work, am engaged, and trying to buy a condo. Even now my heart still skips a beat when I hear the ping of a ring hitting the ground. Basically, Diablo and I go way back.
Dear Gaming Graveyard,
I want you to know that I am leaving the video-game-book-club-Gaming-Graveyard thing, effective IMMEDIATELY. Between my actual book club, my D&D game, kickboxing, my boyfriend, my dogs, volunteering, and actual college class, I don’t have the time for you.
Plus you guys are elitest gaming snobs.
Kinoub (who still isn’t a gamer)
I was born in 1991, what’s a Diablo?
Back in the roaring 90’s, before World of Warcraft was a glimmer in Blizzard Entertainment’s eye, they were known for two things, Starcraft (real-time strategy) and the Diablo series (hack and slash). Selling millions of copies, creating millions more Diablo-widows, and singlehandedly doubling Frito-Lay’s stock, Diablo is truly a gaming hall-of-famer.
What makes the Diablo series great is the setting (gothic horror, not Tolkien high fantasy), online co-op (Battle.net hosting was revolutionary), loot (seriously, every monster is a walking piñata), and replayability (each time you enter the world, the level layout and the monsters inhabiting them randomize). Those four are pretty simple, but goddamn if they don’t pack a punch together.
When Diablo 3 is released May 15, it will be 12 years (!) since Diablo 2 came out. We will be playing it and its expansion, Diablo 2: The Lord of Destruction, to see if it still makes us want to skip class to run Pindleskin one more time. Some of us will be playing for the first time (tiamonster) and some of us the *sniff* last *sniff* time (Stylist), so join us as we prepare for the gaming event of the year (sorry Mass Effect 3).
April 1, 2012
Where You Can Get It
Diablo 2 and its expansion, The Lord of Destruction, can be downloaded from the Blizzard Store.
It only took three games to get Mama and Papa GG fighting. There were words and fists and …
Ten years of research into the realm of nerds produced these results.
Mrs. Stylist provided “nerd fuel” for our Saturday morning meeting, so things didn’t get too out of hand. The Mountain Dew and Cheetos made us quite nostalgic, so we played a little Tetris to start, but we soon dove into Ico.
Most of our discussion centered around Yorda and her place in the game. Was she an actual character or a misogynistic tool? We analyzed everything from the bridge scene to Agro the Horse but still couldn’t agree:
Tiamonster: “If you didn’t get choked up at the end, you’re not human!”
Stylist: “You’re an Uncle Tom.”
- No one can deny the aesthetic beauty of this game. When the camera rolls away from Ico and reveals the surrounding water and forest, it pulls you into the environment.
- The silent gameplay. Ico doesn’t scream at you or bash trash can lids together to keep your attention. Its mild-mannered nature invites you to sit back, relax, and watch a story unfold.
- The simplicity of the game, which we’ve already discussed.
- Ico suffers from the awful mechanics of early 3D platform games. Controlling Ico during the aesthetic camera movements becomes frustrating, and it’s hard to get Yorda to sit down at the save points or to finish her ascent on a ladder.
- Sirmikeofross thought the monsters looked like Cookie Monster.
- We were reminded of A Boy and His Blob.
- Microsoft unjustifiably took sirmike’s original Xbox Live handle away from him for breaching terms of service, and he spent a week calling them to get it back. (Also, his wife knows nothing about this.)
- Stylist justified the fan outrage over Mass Effect 3 by comparing it to Froyo.
- Ico and Shadow of the Colossus are damn near the exact same game.
Does It Suck?
No, but it wasn’t a favorite.
Ico is a great game about the harmony of theme and mechanics.
The theme in Ico exists as story of a boy falling in love with a girl and trying to help her escape. These are also the goals of the player.
We discover Yorda as Ico does, and we are forced to drag her along if we are to proceed at all, with the motivation of, “What kind of heartless bastard wants to leave the poor girl sitting on the cold, stone floor to be accosted by shadowy things, etc.” Through the mechanics of pulling her arm and running ahead and catching and lifting her up, we are repeatedly tasked with helping Yorda where she cannot help herself. This endears us to her and helps develop feelings of empathy, which, ideally, grow to love.
You’ve read Tiamonster’s run-through of the game, so I won’t elaborate on how we mechanically achieve the other goal, freedom.
That’s really all there is. It’s a very well-made game. The devs set up the pins, and we knock ’em down. There’s no arbitrary gamification, as there would be in, oh, let’s just say, a Bioware title. We don’t need any gamified motives, because we automatically empathize with a suffering girl. There aren’t any numbers or dice, because we are either holding her hand or we aren’t. There aren’t any meters or plus/minus moral value assignments, because a game cannot tell you how you feel.