Saturday Morning Gaming: Capturing Magic

Mattel He-Man Power Sword Ad – 1989

You may or may not have heard that there was recently a Big Corporate Thingamabob at “Blizzcon” where Blizzard announced that there would be a new Diablo game.

Oh, and the new Diablo game was not Diablo IV or an update to Diablo III.
Oh, and the new Diablo game would be mobile only.
Oh, and it would be a reskin of an existing mobile game rather than a new property entirely.

Well, the public responded with a response best summarized as “what the heck?” And not just a “what the heck?” response. A “Is this an out-of-season April Fools’ Joke?” response.

I mean, seriously. There was a *BACKLASH* to this. A backlash that wasn’t even foreseen by the back office. When the back office responded to the pushback of the most fervent fans (I mean, they went to Blizzcon) by asking “Don’t you guys have phones?”, the internet went downright *NUTS*. As the internet tends to.

Well, the game that had the magic that everybody is trying to capture is that of Diablo 2. The perfect little ARPG.

The idea was great. You had five Character Classes that were pretty well balanced (with an additional 2 added in the expansion) and you had a bunch of beautifully designed enemies on beautifully designed random maps and, periodically, the player would encounter beautifully designed loot. And the loot would show up *JUST* in time to get you to fight another fight. Just one more map. Just one more level. Just one more really awesome piece of loot…

And, here’s the thing, they somehow managed to tap into something absolutely wonderful. It wasn’t just the proverbial Skinner Box. It was an awesome game in its own right.

Which makes discovering a game that reminds me of that old game something special. I’ve played about an hour of Grim Dawn (available on the Steam Store) and, golly, it reminds me of Diablo 2.

You start out with a level 1 player. Could be male, could be female (your choice) and you start out at the absolutely worst point of your life so far. When you come to, you go out and get a mission to deal with the zombies attacking the city. And the game takes off from there. If you’ve played Diablo 2 and you miss it, you should check out Grim Dawn. If you’ve played Diablo III and wished it were more like Diablo 2, you should check out Grim Dawn. If you haven’t touched an ARPG since Diablo and think about maybe coming back… well, wait until the Christmas/Winter sale and pick up Grim Dawn.

It’s really good. It reminds me of Diablo 2.

So… what are you playing?

(Image is “A nice green plate” by Lottie. Used under a creative commons license.)


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Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to AskJaybird-at-gmail.com

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21 thoughts on “Saturday Morning Gaming: Capturing Magic

  1. I think I like the idea of Diablo more than Diablo itself. I never really got into the original, though my friends were all playing it. I invested quite a bit of time into II. I played a bit of Sacred. I’ve got Grim Dawn in my Steam library but it is currently uninstalled. The thing that always kills me is the grind. The endless, necessary, unending grind. And also the “mash the left mouse button forever” nature of the combat. Heck, I even built a new gaming rig when Diablo III came out just so I could play it. No kidding, I installed it and played it for about 18 minutes before remembering what I didn’t like about Diablo.

    But hey! Northgard is still fun! And, based on your reco maybe I’ll reinstall Grim Dawn and give it another chance, too.

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    • Oh, I totally understand that it’s not everybody’s bag.

      I remember reading an essay from someone who talked about buying cheap used mice without scrollwheels just for Diablo. There was so much clicking that they broke their mice. So they bought Diablo mice.

      Grim Dawn isn’t likely to change your mind about Diablo clones, I tell you what… but if you enjoy playing slot machines, it’s nice to switch slot machines from time to time and Grim Dawn is a fine, fine one.

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  2. Another good option for something Diablo 2 like is Path of Exile, which is free to play, but with a non-awful monetisation model.

    Stellaris 2.2 is out on Friday, so I’m just killing time in the meanwhile. I’m working on building a Lego model of the Saturn V rocket. I’ve also been playing Seedship, a light browser game about trying to save the last vestige of humanity.

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  3. You can’t bring up Diablo 2 without discussing the patches. I’ve never played a game that varied so much patch-to-patch. D2 had no balance between builds, and each update that came along attempted to fix the situation, but made most of the older characters unplayable. And over time, the game gradually became impossible to beat solo. Each new patch made the game harder without certain items – the builds became so specific that you needed the exact right stats, skills, and even equipment. So you pretty much had to tag along with a team of farmers at really high levels in order to boost your experience and find the items you needed. Either that or, if you were playing solo, you could “edit” your character into something usable.

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    • Oh jeez! I forgot the patches. It’s like they made the game for single players then realized that PVP was the user base and offloaded *EVERYTHING* into that.

      And then they saw how much money was being exchanged hand over fist on Ebay and they (rightly!) thought that they should be getting a piece of that. And then, next thing you know, you’ve got the Diablo III marketplace.

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      • Yeah, those patches. That’s the kind of thing your brain forgets about in order to protect your sanity. You had to specialize your primary attack, pour every point into each synergy, to be able to defeat something at Hell difficulty, because the game catered to PvP type builds. So if you were soloing, you’d claw your way through Normal and Nightmare, only to find that half the monsters in Hell difficulty were immune to your primary attack, and you didn’t have a secondary. So many amazons that needed 15 arrows to kill the lowest Act 1 zombie. So many zealot paladins who would run up and whack-whack-whack-whack-whack for practically no damage. As for the sorceresses, I could barely get them through Nightmare.

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  4. Hoo boy.

    There was drama for the Fallout 76 Power Armor Edition (the $200 version of the game) because it came with a nylon bag (that was kinda crappy) instead of a canvas bag like it was advertised as including.

    Last week, Bethesda did the thing where they said something to the effect of “look, we’re sorry if you’re disappointed, but it was too expensive to include canvas bags and so we included nylon bags instead. If you’re upset about that, we can give you 500 Atoms in the Fallout 76 Online Store.”

    This, of course, enraged people. This was further exacerbated by someone digging up that “influencers” were sent (free) Power Armor Editions of the game and *THOSE* versions came with canvas bags. So, like, the “influencer” did an unboxing and they showed off the canvas bag and said stuff like “Wow! This is a cool canvas bag!”

    Bethesda Support has just tweeted:

    We are finalizing manufacturing plans for replacement canvas bags for the Fallout 76: Power Armor Edition. If you purchased the CE, please visit https://t.co/S5ClEZuQrx and submit a ticket by Jan. 31, 2019. We’ll arrange to send you a replacement as soon as the bags are ready.— Bethesda Support (@BethesdaSupport) December 3, 2018

    This strikes me as a good sign.
    Like, there is someone in authority there who said “I don’t care, we’re doing more damage to ourselves by denying that anything went wrong than by actually listening to the concerns of the people who were clawing over each other trying to give us money.”

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    • Glad to see Bethseda is (finally) doing the right thing. I didn’t order the game (any edition), but you’re right: they were antagonizing their most rabid customers, the people willing to spend several hundred dollars for the game and some tchotchkes. That’s a good way to lose a lot more money than the canvas cost. I hadn’t heard that influencers received the canvas bags. That’s bad.

      My concerns are selfish: I want the next Elder Scrolls and that sci-fi game they’re making. (but not special editions)

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          • I only just played Starcraft 2 for the first time this year… got burned out on RTS’s around Age of Empires. (Doesn’t mean I wouldn’t buy a new AoE). I’ll probably buy the reskin of Warcraft… its been so long that I can’t even remember the game, so it will be like new. (I can, however, recall the voice of the workers perfectly).

            I wonder who buys Blizzard games anymore… not my sons… is it really just 40-50 yr old men?

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    • Wow.

      Let’s be petty about two dollars worth of material each on a product we’re selling for $200 to our most rabid fans that we’re going to turn around and re-sell for $50 to the general public without the two dollar doodad in it.

      Gonna give bean counters a bad name is what that’s gonna do.

      It would be fun to have a patched adventure in the game where you’re promised, say, a rare piece of awesome power armor, and you have to quest a long way to a vendor, Beth Esda, who’s supposed to have it for sale for the “worthy few” who can complete the quest. Then, after beating the quest boss and after she takes your money, she says, “Sorry, it was too hard to get one of those so here’s some raider leathers instead.”

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      • As awful as what you described was, it struck me as being par for the course.

        The people who were complaining about having bought the $200 version and getting a crappy bag struck me as being most likely to have Important Gaming Journalists write essays about Entitled Gamers about them. “These People Are No Longer Your Audience”, the headline could read.

        Then the PR people could show the essay to their management (who had never played a game) and say “Look at how many clicks this essay got! Look at the numbers for engagement! Give me a raise! Give yourself one, too!”

        The fact that *SOMEBODY* over there said “we’re treating our best customers like this? No. This has to stop. I will spend a portion of my budget making this right!” indicates that there might be *SOME* health over there.

        If that person is able to tell the dev team to remember the #saveplayer1 hashtag and put together some content for the game worthy of that hashtag… Fallout 76 might, someday, be worth buying for dorks like me. Oh, and whatever the game is that comes out after that might be worth switching to “worth buying” in my head rather than “wait for three weeks of Metacritic information first”.

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      • It was worse than that, because the 500 Atoms they offered as “recompense” was insufficient to buy an actual in game canvas bag.

        They offered you fake internet money which was only useful at their store for this particular game, in which you couldn’t buy a simple outfit that included a canvas bag.

        For a game that is, bluntly, pretty crappy to begin with.

        (That doesn’t get into the fact that their store is selling a ton of cosmetic stuff — outfits, hats, accesories, etc — that were all actually in Fallout 4, and thus were existing art assets for that engine. Which included the canvas bag postman skin, IIRC).

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    • As it turns out, this might not be a good indicator.

      I learned on the twitters that advertising that you’d sell a canvas bag and then actually selling a nylon bag is technically illegal. Like, “false advertising” kinda illegal and these sales took place in multiple states which makes it potentially a federal crime.

      So someone in legal talked to someone and said “this isn’t merely a PR mess at this point.”

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      • As it turns out, people have been submitting tickets requesting the new bag and the tickets contain their information including their credit card info and this info was visible to everybody who had opened a ticket.

        Good news, though. A Bethesda representative posted on the Bethesda forums that the issue has been resolved.

        Here, let me give the exact quotation:

        Hi guys, we’ve resolved this issue.

        So this is one heck of a crapstorm and the game hasn’t been out for 3 weeks yet.

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