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.

Job Hunt and Writing Women

A brief update today. My day is not as productive as I hoped. I needed a few moments to write this out as to help me focus.

On the job hunt, I’ve got a really good one tomorrow. It’s a phone interview plus an assessment test I have to take. My Java studying has not been successful as I had hoped. I study but screwed up an assessment test last week that really ruined my Friday.

I’m determined, however, to finish everything on my “to do” list this week. And it is a very long list. Some of it is day-to-day, including working out, writing and studying. I’ve added cooking at home to cut back on expenses and to eat better. Besides this, I also have a number of other chores that need doing, such as getting my passport and doing my taxes.

I made time to do some writing this week. Or rather, I’ve set aside five sections of my list with 1,000 words a piece. What’s made this new piece more difficult is that it is:

1) More political, focused on the issues of a kingdom.
2) Takes place in an Arabian fantasy theme.
3) The main character is a woman warrior.

Now, that last one throws me. Anyone who claims to know what is going on in a woman’s head is absolutely lying, even if they are another woman. They don’t want you to know. And many will tell you they don’t like the thought of someone to have “cracked the code” on the mind of women.

The Yoga Master 5000.

Robo-Ripley, rip!

So I ask, why bother? Don’t get in her head. Let her have her secrets and just look at the action, at what they do. Besides, what people do is what really defines them anyway.

For every awesome strong female lead, there are probably a handful of bad ones. It’s pretty hard to do a great action heroine, but I can still think of a few examples. Sigourney Weaver in Alien and Aliens certainly was. Sometimes, certain actresses do well in that strong support role, like Lena Headey who played Leonidas’ wife in 300.

I can list off bad heroines, but why bother? In scientific theory, one can learn more from mistakes and failed theories than one can from a theory that is proven correct. But in engineering it’s the other way around, as those successful theories are widened and improved upon, expanded and further uses and applications are found.

Considering that I’m drawing inspiration from games like Diablo and stories like Berserk and 1001 Arabian Nights, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not pioneering a new frontier. So I’d rather figure out a character that works drawn from successful and interesting heroine, rather than try to devise a new archetype.

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.

10 Musical Selections for Writing

Gary Moore. April 4th, 1952-February 6th, 2011.

Gary Moore. April 4th, 1952 to February 6th, 2011.

Okay, so my eye is feeling a bit better but I’m still going to hold off on the review. So instead, here are 10 more music pieces for writing. 10 more, you may ask? If you have not seen it, then allow me to direct you to the original 20 musical pieces post.

However, this post is a bit melancholy because I had just discovered that Gary Moore, a talented guitarist and singer from the UK, died of a heart attack earlier this year. Many people have not heard of the skilled musician and his amazing blues, but I had been listening to his music since before his death in February, 2011. For a lyrical taste of his work, check out Over the Hills and Far Away.

A quick note. This particular set of songs takes more from games than before. It’s easier to pick music from game sound tracks than it is from movies. The downside is that game sound tracks rarely show up on sites like Pandora.

  1. Cloud’s Theme, Final Fantasy VII Orchestral Soundtrack.
    It’s a strange theme that mixes hope with hopeless, and something on the lighter side with darker undertones. This song could work well for a overture of your piece.
  2. Doom 3 Theme, by Tweaker.
    Explosive piece that threatens something menacing until it just bursts into combative guitar and drumming, mixed with eerie vocal sound effects.
  3. Pandora’s Music Box, by Nox Arcana.
    Nox Arcana is an incredibly reliable source of subtle, creepy music sans vocals. Adding this music to any scene instantly turns it into horror material just because of its gentle yet eldritch nature.
  4. Underworld Domain, by Dargaard.
    A piece that is so pure, it was perfectly named. Unfortunately, this piece breaks the no lyrics rule, but given how well the singer blends her voice with the music, I’m making an exception.
  5. Wilderness, Diablo II OST.
    I love the Diablo series, and despite becoming slightly more cartoonish than it’s previous incarnations, I am still looking forward to Diablo III.  Here’s a piece from the second installment. Stay a while and listen!
  6. Arkham Bridge, Mechwarrior 2 OST.
    I used to be a huge, huge Mechwarrior and Battletech fan. As I got older however, I grew out of it. It wasn’t deep enough for me, just a constant mix of politics and warfare. That and I met one of the authors and wasn’t impressed with their attitude. If you don’t care for your fans, they’ll soon not care about you. Still, good music. You may also want to check out Umber Wall.
  7. Bloody Tears, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night OC Remix.
    Okay, I seriously believe that ‘Bloody Tears’ may just be the single most remixed game music of all time. There are dozens of versions, from classical pieces to piano solos, heavy metal jams to DJ dance mixes. The original piece started from the NES game Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, and was updated in later titles. Here’s an acoustic guitar version, a violin version and the version from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
  8. Theology/Civilization, by Basil Poledorius.
    Straight from the original (as in, 1982) Conan the Barbarian, this ponderous piece is slow and mixes renaissance touches with classical music.  I admit that this is not one of my favorite pieces of music, but I suspect that others will enjoy this for its lighter notations. It can’t rain all the time.

    Explaining exactly what Berserk is about is... you know what? Find out yourself.

    Explaining exactly what Berserk is about is... you know what? I'm not responsible for what will happen to your sanity. Find out yourself.

  9. Murder, by Susumu Hirasawa.
    I honestly don’t watch much anime or read much manga anymore. But there is still one series I go out of my way to read, and that is Berserk by Kentaro Miura. Beautifully animated, beautifully told, I cannot stress how amazing is Berserk. This piece just keeps growing and growing in madness…
  10. The Loner, by Gary Moore.
    A non-lyrical piece by Moore, the original version of The Loner is 6 minutes long and takes a minute to warm up appropriately. However, compared to other versions, the guitar isn’t as distracting, but communicates its sorrowful melody well. To be honest, a chance to apply this to writing would be very difficult because it’s sad but also not slow. It may work well if a character is fondly recalling a person who has passed on. Rest in peace, Mr. Moore. You will be missed.


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!