Tag - diablo 3

Diablo III Game Director Steps Down

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Diablo III game director, Jay Wilson, has announced that he is leaving his position as Diablo III game director and will be “transitioning elsewhere within Blizzard”. Does this mean he is moving on to their upcoming MMO code-named “Titan” or some other, unannounced title? Time will tell. As an aside, I should mention we got to briefly talk with Jay Wilson at last year’s Spike Video Game Awards.

Letter from Jay Wilson

Hey everyone, 

I wanted all of you to be some of the first to know that I’ve made an important decision about my future, and how that decision will affect the future of Diablo.

I recently celebrated my seven-year anniversary working on Diablo III, and while it’s been one of the most challenging and rewarding periods of my life, I’ve reached a point creatively where I’m looking forward to working on something new. The powers that be at Blizzard have been gracious enough to give me that opportunity. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will be moving off of the Diablo III project and transitioning elsewhere within Blizzard. This decision was not an easy one for me, and not one I made quickly, but ultimately it’s what I feel is right.

The first thing I want to assure you all is that this will not negatively impact our ongoing support of Diablo III. The game was not made by one person, far from it, and the team that poured their passion and considerable talent into it isn’t going anywhere. We have lots of things planned for the future, and those plans will carry forward as normal. I also won’t be abandoning the team, and will remain available to them during the transition period while we determine who will take over duties as game director.

To that point, you shouldn’t be surprised if you see a job posting for a game director on Diablo III, as we want to make sure we explore every opportunity to find the best possible leadership for the project. We’re looking forward to finding this person and hearing what kind of fresh ideas they can bring to the table.

I’m proud of Diablo III, and despite our differences at times I will miss the community that has formed around it. I feel I have made many mistakes in managing that relationship, but my intent was always to provide a great gaming experience, and be as open and receptive as possible, while still sticking true to the vision the Diablo team has for the game.

I know some of you feel we fell short of our promise to release the game “when it’s ready.” While we’re not perfect, we try to make the best decisions we can with the information and knowledge we have at the time. That doesn’t mean we always make the right decisions, but if we made a mistake then I feel we’ve made an exceptional effort to correct it. 

This is what you can always count on from Blizzard: that we will stand by our games and make every effort to continually improve them over time. We heard the feedback and suggestions from the community. For example, we agreed that Diablo III’s itemization at launch was not good enough, so the team made numerous changes, including changing drop rates, re-tuning legendaries, and adding scores of new items to the game. We also agreed that the end game needed more depth, so the team added new events, and new systems like Monster Power and Paragon levels. 

Our commitment to making our games as good as they can be is what has always defined Blizzard as a game studio, and that commitment never ends for us at a ship date. With your help, we’ll continue to play, debate, and improve Diablo III, as we’ve done with every Blizzard game.

To that end, patch 1.0.7 is underway, the PTR is live, and there are many other great things brewing for Diablo in 2013. I’m leaving Diablo III in good hands, and my departure will not jeopardize the progress of the game as we continue to do what we do: listen, play, and improve.

You are the most passionate, dedicated group of gamers a designer could hope to have. I wish you all the best, and want to thank you for making this an amazing experience for me. Keep your axes sharp, your spell books handy, and that crafty devil in check.

–Jay

Diablo III Free Starter Edition Now Available

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The demonically-besieged world of Sanctuary needs heroes. Now you can join in the apocalyptic battle for FREE via the all-new Diablo III Starter Edition.  Available exclusively via Battle.net, the Starter Edition allows you to fight your way up to the Skeleton King boss in Act I, and advance all the way to level 13, without having to purchase a copy of Diablo III.

You can get the FREE Starter Edition in any of the following ways:

· Log in to your existing Battle.net account at http://www.battle.net, and sign up for the Diablo III Starter Edition through the “Your Game Accounts” section.

· Create a new Battle.net account here and the Diablo III Starter Edition license will be added to your account automatically.

· Grab the Diablo III game disc from a friend, install the game, and then log in with your Battle.net account. The Diablo III Starter Edition will be added to your account automatically.

Note that certain game features are restricted on Starter Edition accounts. Any progress and achievements you earn while playing the Starter Edition will automatically carry over if you decide to upgrade to the full version of Diablo III, and the Starter Edition restrictions will be removed.

Krater: Shadows Over Solside Review (PC/Steam)

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Krater: Shadows Over Solside is a game I have sat down to review several times now – each time playing it some more, restarting it and taking a break and playing other games then coming back to repeat the cycle.  The temptation to describe the game in one simplified sentence is very high but, at the same time, doesn’t do the game near the justice it deserves.  So, I will begin with a very simplified statement and then explain why it isn’t so simple.

At its surface, it is a top down RTS RPG with almost identical controls to D3 that is themed in a post-apocalyptic Sweden where survivors scrape together what the can from the old world in eccentric designs presented in concept art design just like in Borderlands.  If you just watch the trailers or play a quick demo this may seem like that all there is to this game and, to be honest, I LOVE both of those games. I have spent immense numbers of hours in them and would welcome a game that combined the two.  This game does so much more than that though so I am going to break it down into features.

Building A Better World:

Crafting in this game includes not only weapons but implants to body parts that add not just to stats but also abilities.  You can craft just about everything you need for this game and the few things you can’t can be bought, such as new units for your group.  The result is an extremely customizable experience in the game nearly from the start so that your really feel like you are creating the game as you go.  In many ways you are – there are few restrictions put on movement and most quests don’t required a linear path.  A good example of this is when I left a town and went to a location following a certain path.  The path was set with random seeding just like Diablo 3 so that when I played it again later I had an entirely different experience and, by choosing this path, I completely missed an interaction which would have solved a quest for me and given me a new one.  I was also given an item intended to be passed on to another individual and didn’t do it.  The result was that I didn’t get the experience or reward for the quest’s completion instead I just had something sitting in my inventory I could sell if I want.  So, in some ways, it is a very open world and not set on quest-rails. Also, Fatshark has promised to have weekly updates, adding new elements long-after release and this is actually considered the first of a three part story that will be revealed to us over the next couple years.

World Of Colors:

The graphics look very much like Borderlands, which is a very distinct style, and looks in many respects identical to the concept artwork used in creating most games.  One of the few things I would say is different is that this game uses color and shadows everywhere, the same amount of detail given to a wall that is 6 inches on the screen in Borderlands is given to one that is only 1/2 that in Krater.  The result is amazing contrast and detail that unless you have a strong system and a good monitor might be lost on a player.  Cutscenes are much more like Borderlands since they are at ground level but gameplay is so detailed you need a strong system to due it justice and in some cases just to play it.  It does bring up the question of whether or not developers should have pushed the envelope of graphics so that not everyone can play it but it makes it so that those who have nicer systems definitely feel like they are getting their money’s worth out of their rig.

It’s My Party:

In most of these dungeon crawler games you control your lead character and your other party members do their thing at the same time such as mercenaries in Diablo 3.  In this game though you control a party of three consisting of four possible classes and all characters in your party are replaceable.  You basically have a tank, a healer, a ranged dps and a melee dps to choose from to create your parties but your control over the characters doesn’t end there, you also work the talents of each member of your party at the same time!  You have six buttons at the bottom of your screen for combat, two each for the classes you choose.  So for your tank to do taunt you have to select the skill that does that, then hit the healer’s buttons choosing the type of heal you want and hit your ranged dps or melee’s special attacks.  They are standard key-bound to 1-6 which means on my Razer Naga Expert MMO gaming mouse they are assigned to six thumb buttons so just like D3 can be played entirely with the mouse.  It takes a bit of getting used to doing the tank attacks, melee specials then healing your party so no one falls because falling is another unusual aspect of this game.

Drop Dead:

So one of your party gets his rear beat down, it definitely happens when you are getting used to the game.  If it happens too often in this game the character takes permanent damage.  After a few knockdowns one of the character’s arm might get crushed and it will have permanent 20% drop in strength.  If it gets knocked down a few more times it might get a leg permanently mutilated lowering the character’s stamina.  If the character takes too much permanent damage it simply drops dead and you have to get a new member for you team.  Depending on how bad the damage is you might be able to use weapons or implants to balance the character’s damage or you might just replace them.  Replacing them though brings a new member to the team and the more time a member experiences with a team the better they work as part of the team!  So experience and injury can be permanent on a character and effect the team as a whole.  Also just like weapons and implants their are varying colors of strength and rarity to the mercenaries so some might not be such an upgrade in the short run but after maturity will be far superior.

Game Over Man, Game Over?:

The game is designed to actually have no end, much like many other games it is designed with end game play that should provide countless hours of struggling deeper underground into the mineshaft.  Also this game is never the same twice due to seeding so if you get bored with end game you can restart it, build your team differently, take different paths and basically play a whole new game with whole new characters.

Multi-Pass… Err.. Multiplayer:

Another way the game keeps going is the planned implementation of multiplayer.  At release there is a button on the front page for multiplayer but for now it is only offline.  The nice thing is that when multiplayer starts up you can use your same characters online and any advancement of your characters online or offline accumulate together and count toward each other.

Last Call:

Krater is a game that plays a bit like Diablo 3 with theming just like Borderlands but has excellent depth that is all it’s own.  The game is constantly evolving now and the plans are for that to continue.  Playing it week by week and with different team setup and character builds should make it a different game every time.  Seeding makes it so that even if you take the same path each time it should always be different with different random rewards resulting in different builds.  All this on Steam so no server subscriptions and the price is an insanely affordable $14.99 for the core game or $19.99 for the game, soundtrack and Dr. Cerebro Pack (first DLC).  If you still aren’t convinced here is a gameplay video and a cutscene music video.

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Diablo III Review (PC)

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Diablo 3 is a title that has been in the works at Blizzard for quite some time now, with Diablo 2, and particularly the first Diablo, stretching back into the distant and fond memories of my childhood. One of the originators of top-down hack and slash RPG combat, Diablo 3 enters with big shoes to fill for the millions of fans who likely have elevated expectations for this title. I will begin by saying that I am generally a fan of what Blizzard does, as all of their titles over the years have ranged from “amazing” to meerly “good”, and pretty much no failures under their belt. This is partially due to staying very true to what they do (while polishing and itterating like mad-men).

Right out the gate, Diablo 3 feels like an extremely polished version of Diablo 2, much in the way that Starcraft 2 became a highly polished Starcraft. The menus are some of the slickest I have seen in PC gaming, with smooth and accurate functionality that is as easy to learn as tying ones shoelace. The music is moody and drives immediate nostalgia of my time with Diablo 2. It keeps a dark yet colorful visual style, and animations, cinematics, and art blend into a visual feast, that really no one can argue is not an amazing work of art and beauty.

The story begins in the old town of Tristram – with a strange meteor striking the town, and takes the player through both familiar and unfamiliar settings as the plot unfolds and twists in uprising ways. Blizzard has done an excellent job of making the story elements minimal enough that players with little interest can skip through fairly easily and get back to the action, while players that are enjoying it get short but manageable breaks in the action to view interesting dialog, hand drawn pages of Deckard Cain’s notebook, and cinematics between acts (some of the best I have seen from Blizzard, and that is saying a lot given their history of great cinematic work).

Gameplay is fast and exciting and, even though Blizzard has given players very minimal ability to adjust characters stats this time around (the lack of placing points is a bit sad), the skill system is varied and the player is always being presented with new skill options as they progress through the experience levels (by level 30 you gain all base skills, and by 60 you have all skill “variations”). The normal difficulty seemed to be aimed more at presenting the story, and had a very low level of difficulty – allowing all players of varying skills to experience it all. Nightmare and, in particular, Hell difficulty ramp up quite a bit – and players may become frustrated at times with the kiting and trickery required to defeat some rare mobs with particularly annoying combinations of abilities. As of writing this I am almost 60, and so cannot review the “end game” or Inferno difficulty, but I don’t really consider that required to review this particular game, as I can easily predict that if you are already enjoying the game all the way to cap, you will likely spend some time farming Inferno with friends for gear.

Itemization seems varied, and follows traditional Diablo patterns (prefixes, suffixes, and various other stat modifiers generated randomly on rare, and even rarer gear). As of level 55, I have not yet personally found a Unique or Set item, though some people I know have found a few uniques. Either the drop rates are very low, or I am simply very unlucky. Some items have unusual mods such as bleed damage, fear chance, stun chance, and the like, but I have not encountered anything outrageous as of yet. Gear aimed at specific classes can have modifiers unique to that class, such as a bonus to that classes resource generation, or specific abilities.

As of launch, the PvP is not included (said to be small arena matches), so I cannot review that aspect of the game, but I will say balance will become difficult with the introduction of supported PvP, and currently balance feels somewhat off (fine for a PvE setting, but Blizzard will have to monitor this closely for PvP to have any purpose at all). Hardcore mode is also something I have not tried yet (and I remember playing 8-9 months of hardcore fondly in Diablo 2 – ending with a highlight of a mid 80s hardcore Necromancer). I can say that Dying is pretty common at the moment in Nightmare and particularly Hell, so players will likely have to build very “tanky” to even have a shot at not dying. Hardcore will likely be much harder in this outing of Diablo than ever before.

The biggest problems with Diablo 3 are two-fold: First, the addition of an auction house which trivializes the social interaction and trading that takes place within games – also making twinking FAR too easy given how cheap people sell overpowering items for. Secondly the game suffers from a lack of REAL innovation. This second one I will need to explain a bit, as it has to do with playing it safe on Blizzard’s part. This game feels more like Diablo 2.5 than Diablo 3. Diablo 2 was a huge innovation over Diablo, and went from a small town with a single randomized dungeon to a huge world spanning multiple acts and storylines. Diablo 3 feels very much like Diablo 2 in every way (other than the game technology, of course). Systems are much the same, gameplay is very similar, and all of this adds up to a very “safe” iteration, without anything new that makes the game pop in the way Diablo 2 did. This same mentality applies to Starcraft 2, and it feeling more like a Starcraft 1.5. I can’t say whether this shortcoming came along by accident or was very intentionally thought out to cater to the established market/brand.

Given all of the above, and my time with the game, Diablo III is a very worthy purchase for fans of this genre. You will get anywhere from 10 to 20 hours out of the initial play-through (depending on how much story you skip and how much optional exploration / farming you do). Beyond this, you will likely get many more hours out of nightmare and hell play-throughs (with or without buddies), and if you are still enjoying the game potentially endless farming out of Inferno. With the coming additions of PvP and likely more items over time, there should be more to do. I’m not sure if Blizzard’s more recent outings into Diablo and Starcraft will have the same lasting impact that the prior editions have (gigantic shoes to fill), but Diablo 3 is certainly a beautiful and enjoyable game that will be worth the price of admission for most people that pick it up.

Diablo III Beta First Impressions (Preview)

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I was one of the lucky folks who was able to get to go to last year’s BlizzCon and see the information about Diablo III beginning to seep out.  Goosebumps shot across my flesh as I got to see the video on the giant screen of the new class: Demon Hunter.  Now fast forward to almost a year later and I am sitting at my home computer firing up the beta test.  I was surprised when word went around that there was no NDA on the game anymore but after a bit of play I got the point.  Having beta tested many games I have seen what a beta looks and behaves like and this game is more of an elongated demo.  Is that a bad thing?  Nope!  I would have been more than happy to help test environments and collision issues but this very polished game gives a good idea of what we can expect when the game comes out.  It was just enough of a taste to keep a person playing it over and over to see how the experience changes, even after hitting the level cap.

The game is incredible looking with excellent animations and rich environments.  Periodically I stopped and just looked at how nice thing were and how clean and crisp every single aspect of the game is.  It is a polished look that even in this demo mode looks better than a lot of games out there.  It was also nice seeing “the seed” system at work.  Every time you play when you walk through an area or into a dungeon there are a bunch of possibilities that can happen at the location, the spot has a seed for an event or dungeon to grow from and it will randomly do that.  This system with the seeds planted all over the game means the game should in theory never be the same twice, only the storyline will remain the same.

The storyline is already going along nicely to the point in the game it lets you go to.  Without spoiling it, familiar names make themselves known in this game that is a real treat if, like me, you played the last game for years online while at the same time being a fun play for new entries to the series.  This isn’t a surprise since a lot of the interface for the new game was borrowed from World of Warcraft to allow new players just there for the hack and slash or trying to get into the system for the first time can have some familiar controls.  Just about every change that is made in the gameplay is towards the WoW format with one odd exception which I am not sure how much I like.  In both WoW and Diablo II players had a bank/chest in which to store their favorite items or items they want to pass onto another character.  In the case of Diablo III the chest is shared between all of your characters which means no logging in and out to pass items from one character to another but limits the amount of storage you have.  More storage can be purchased with in game money but it isn’t cheap.

There are new character classes as well as a revamp of the old ones and in the current demo game they are all very over powered, my guess is so that players can experience the game without a lot of deaths getting in their way.  I talked to players who took magic classes and meleed with them doing massive amounts of damage, in some cases more than the melee classes themselves.  As I mentioned though it is probably so that you can experience all the classes and skills the game has to offer.  One of the skills that will be more familiar to WoW players is armor crafting which, until a player is able to start finding legendary gear for themselves, is a really good way to start getting decent and more class efficient armor.

Last Call:

This demo is definitely too polished to feel like the beta it is presented as, but is a terrific way to get a feeling for what we can expect in the future.  This game will feel a lot like Diablo II with a more WoW style interface that combined with its own innovations should make it a huge hit with a wide variety of players.  I look forward to the next piece of the game!