The State of Entertainment

Reading: The Vampire Genevieve by Jack Yeovil (real name Kim Newman)
Playing: Portal by Valve / Diablo III by Blizzard
Watching: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Sure, I could and have gotten more eclectic mixes of entertainment before. But as far as my current RPW, this is pretty strange. Let’s do it from top to bottom.

So far, I’m well over five hundred pages into The Vampire Genevieve. The anthology is a few short stories and at least three novels (Based on the anthology’s structure, this isn’t exactly clear to me yet). The first two novels were quite good but were started to create a predictable pattern: Stage manager Detlef throws a play. His lover, reasonably good natured vampire Genevieve, happens to be around and lend a hand when some evil rears its head. The third book is a murder mystery that I’ve not finished yet.

One thing of interest is that the name, Genevieve Dieudonne, has been used multiple times by the author in other writing with many traits maintained. This unusual aspect makes Genevieve less of a written character and more a fictional actor.

I admired how Newman dived into the cultural aspects of Warhammer, creating a lot of background fluff amongst the fictional writers and plays in the fantasy universe. The names of plays and artists thrown out create some details that can be mentioned in future work, as to both create a greater sense of connectivity within Warhammer fiction and to “tip one’s hat” at a senior writer.

Diablo III has slowed down for me. I still play, but my Barbarian reached something of a dead end for now. I do not have the cash to purchase the goods he needs to really hack it in Hell difficulty, nor am I having much luck with my drops. My Demon Hunter however, is excelling considerably. So I’ve decided to stick with him for the time being.

Portal has received almost two hours of my time, and I suspect that I’m nearly finished playing. For me, it’s only a matter of catching up with the popular culture I’ve skipped out at. It was available for $5 thanks to Steam’s summer sale, so I grabbed it.

I think the most amusing aspect of Portal is how it challenges the player’s perception of narration. The last few years, many players have been sucked into being “told what to do” at all times by the games themselves. Come here. Do this. Do that. I would imagine dropping $50 to be told what to do is… rather lacking.

Being given an objective is fine. Being told with detailed instructions is not. I think a metric Steam should have captured was how many players failed to act when they saw the fire pit nearing them after the first part of the game. It would have greatly begged the question of just how many players are thinking for themselves. I’m all for breaking the fourth wall to make people think and act, and not just do what they’re told.

I’ll let you know if I finish watched Audrey Hepburn’s flippant mannerisms.

Diablo 3

"I want to dip my head in oil, and rub it all over your body." -George Costanza

“I want to dip my head in oil, and rub it all over your body.” -George Costanza

I am pleased.

I’m the guy who remembers Diablo and Diablo II with considerable clarity. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of hype to live up to. It’s not even just the game, but the memories of playing alongside my brother and college buddies. Having a blast, adventuring together.

Thanks to Blizzard’s socially networked system, I got a taste of even that yesterday. My buddy Lincoln and I powered through Act I together. I caught up with an old chum, Paul, for the first time in years. And I teased Lahna about her newfound birth control pants. She pointed out that all pants are technically birth control.

…Touché, Lahna. Well played.

Part of me always worries that a new game based on an old franchise, untouched for a decade, will abandon its roots. But those gaming traditions are alive and intact. The same, simple gameplay. The satisfying murder of mass minions. The looting system that feels like a slot machine. The crafting system offers some interesting depth that I look forward to exploring.

I at first disliked the skill system, prefering the character-design approach of Diablo II. But it won me over when I got to level 10 and recognized some of the complexity of the runes and passive skills. It also eliminates the fear of creating “dead-end” skilled characters who cannot survive the higher difficulties. “Respecing” did not exist back in the day. I liked how each class handled their skill power (not always mana this time) in differing ways. Sometimes it regenerates over time. Sometimes, you build it by using your basic attacks. This gave each class a degree of variety akin to Warhammer Online.

A number of complaints have been made about Diablo III‘s online restrictions, in that it must be online. Cracked.com has already written a great article about the issue (language alert). Not just about the current problems but some likely future ones as well. How obnoxious is this problem going to become? I can’t say. I played for a few hours yesterday before my ISP decided to fail on me during my single player games.

Technically, not Blizzard’s fault. Indirectly, a design failure for sure.

But in Blizzard’s defense, I think people forget how bad cheating and abuse became in the previous games. I assure you, it got horrible. And I’m not talking about the player killing of the original Diablo. Or the ol’ “Gimme 10,000 gold and an item and I’ll imbue it for you” scam of Diablo II. I fell for that once, never again.

What I’m talking about were the mods. The mods that gave characters powerful equipment both immediately and for free. Or even created new, otherwise impossible gear. Or the fully maxed out, level 99 (despite a cap of 20, discluding item boosts) for every skill, and 999 stats. Every reason to even play the game went out the window with these mods.

With one glaring exception (Tommy, I’m talking about you), my college buddies pretty much gave up on playing with strangers for these reasons. And given that Blizzard now gets a cut of any real cash auction trades, they have every incentive to keep players honest.

But there are other reasons for forcing Diablo III to be online.

Part of this really goes back to SOPA and beyond. Tons of people (including yours truly) came out against the bill. I didn’t think about it at that time, but a lot of search results suggested that Blizzard (or at least parent company Activision) supported SOPA

If I’m wrong about this, give me your source and I will correct it. I hate spreading false info.

We wisely rejected SOPA. But this in turn also means that the industry has to find ways on its own to protect their IP. I feel that game piracy ironically threatens to kill its own host, especially given the very high costs of producing these blockbuster games. I’m sure others feel differently, but let’s not lie to ourselves that stolen games don’t hurt the industry. Businesses are not immortal. If you want to know more, you can check out the debate here and decide for yourself.

This is why SOPA got support in the first place.

No matter what, the piracy issue has to be dealt with somehow. Sure, I miss the freedom from the internet as much as the next single player. Make no mistake Blizzard, you are absolutely welcome to come up with a better way that keeps single player offline and protects your stuff. But for now, if it keeps the mod abusers* out and the gaming industry alive, I’ll bare it just to have a good, honest game.

*-I changed this from user to abuser. Technically, not every mod is a full blown abuse of the game system. Some actually fix or improve the game elements. So I’ll give the more honest, non-cheating mod developers a break.

Stay a while and listen…

"Adriaaaaaaaaaaaan!"

"Adriaaaaaaaaaaaan!"

Just a minor update for those casual Blizzard fans like myself, as opposed to the hard core ones who already know. The Diablo III website has recently gotten a revamp and is now integrated with Battle.net services. Still no word about the release date, but beta testing is underway. Given Blizzard’s long QA times and the Starcraft expansion, it could still be a long while.

While Warcraft lost me a long while back and Starcraft is entertaining but not something I want to play more than occasionally, Diablo remains my favorite of the Blizzard line up. I have heard rumours of a Diablo MMORPG in the works, but they’re nothing but hearsay.

I have heard that Blizzard is implementing some sort of pay-for-items plan similar to Team Fortress 2 and has partnered with PayPal for that reason.

Although I was initially skeptical of the cartoony graphics, I’m looking forward to it.

My Eye…

This makes me so happy...

This randomly makes me so happy...

The review for Nemesis is 80% complete. Sadly, I scratched my eye a touch too hard. It hurts and is sensitive to light, so I got to give it a rest. All I’ve got for you is a short update today.

If you haven’t heard this month old news, Dawn of War III is on the way and according to a few sources, they’re looking to make it somewhat MMO-ish as well as allowing the player to collect and build their own armies. The developers are looking for something to make it vastly different from Starcraft II, whose expansions will make new content appear for the next 3 to 4 years at this rate.

Blizzard and Games Workshop have some history, if I’ve heard correctly. Supposedly, Blizzard originally wanted to do games for Games Workshop but after the dealings fell through, they ventured out to do their own thing. Thus, there are similarities between the two, especially early on. But since then, Blizzard has apparently moved away from visual similarities between GW’s intellectual property.

Me? I have no animosity towards either company. I enjoy most of their products. Blizzard’s lore is interesting, but the reason I buy their games is simply because they’re fun. When I say most however, it may surprise you to learn that I don’t like World of Warcraft or Warcraft in general. Sure, I loved Warcraft II. But the third installment got a touch too cartoony for me. I am much more a Starcraft and Diablo fan, Diablo especially for its dark tones.

I’ll probably write a more sourced article on it later this week, or next pending how long it takes my eye to heal. That’s all for now. Post tomorrow.

Gaming

Just a fast update. A new trailer for Space Marine is out, which seems to confirm that the Chaos Legion will be the Iron Warriors. Eight pointed star, representin’!

Not much game play footage here, but it’s nice to see some jet pack action. I’m actually a little surprised at how many trailers there have been. THQ has done a great job generating buzz about this title. A few years back, fights would probably break out in front of game stores as fans rush to get a copy. Now thanks to Steam, the chances of that are probably reduced.

Also, in case you haven’t seen it, THQ unveiled a new trailer for Dark Millennium Online last month.

This trailer doesn’t mention anything new or any details of the game. Basically just takes some new game play footage and scratches it around with a sepia background to give it a horror film look. THQ is just stoking fan interest for a game that’s not due until 2013 at the earliest. But thus far, it looks like they’ve got a good amount of the game built while still trying to figure out some of the “game rules” and structure.

It’s way too early to claim with any certainty, but DMO could be the World of Warcraft game killer that has been due for sometime. Warhammer Online tried and made Blizzard push out the WoW expansion Wrath of the Lich King. But WAR ultimately sank back into a niche market of realm versus realm combat.

Still, given Warhammer 40,000’s huge fan following and the fact that WoW will be nearly 10 years old by the time DMO comes out, I suspect Blizzard will try countering with a new MMORPG. A Diablo one, maybe. Usurping WoW‘s throne is going to happen sometime!