Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taking my time with Diablo III

As many as 300,000 people played Diablo III simultaneously this weekend during the open beta event Blizzard held. For many of those players, it was the first opportunity they’ve had with the game. I’ve played it in small chunks at past BlizzCons, but sitting down and playing a genre that I had no familiarity with for a short amount of time hardly feels like a hands-on experience. Despite that, I too felt like I was sitting down to play it for the first time this past weekend.

In a sense, it was my first time playing a Diablo game. Though the series has a long history (the first game released in 1996), I never played any of the previous games. Back then, the RPG genre wasn’t on my radar. In fact, looking back at the releases that year, the stand-out game I remember playing was Tomb Raider.

As someone new coming to the series, there was one main mechanic that stood out to me: Everything is bound to left-click on the mouse. Move to a different spot, attack an enemy, talk to a merchant, talk to a quest-giver – all executed with the left-click function. It didn’t affect me nearly as much playing a melee class, but as a Wizard attacking a group of undead with magic missile, rapid-fire clicks would move my character right into the pack as soon as the one I was attacking died.

To me this just seems like an archaic design. We had keyboards and mice back in 1996, yes, but designers were still figuring out ways to layout control schemes for intuitive play. Twenty years later we have mice with almost 20 buttons and LCD screens in our keyboards; sticking to an antiquated control scheme seems like a way to alienate a new audience. How long has WASD been an industry standard? At least providing an option to move around using WASD instead of click would be way to cater to both the core fans and newcomers to a series that hasn’t had a major release in over 10 years.

The Diablo formula is still present and works just as it did before. The loot treadmill so many enjoyed in previous games is still there, and with the new auction house methods of selling and trading items, it opens up the market to different types of players. My only question left at this point is how long this game last would for me. I’ve played several MMO games in the past, so I’m familiar to the cycle of defeating monsters and acquiring loot, but I only have time for one game of that type. Diablo III may become more of a short fun jog for me instead of the marathon it’s intended to be. Diablo III releases excusively for the PC on May 15.

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