Yesterday saw the release (and the subsequent launch problems) of Diablo III. Now that your body has forced you to surface for bathroom, food, and sleep, we’d like to entertain you with an oral history of how the Diablo franchise turned role-playing into a respectable activity–or a remorseless addiction. It’s a matter of perspective, really.
Video games have had a consistent, if not odd, evolution through the years. First there were the arcade games, like Asteroids and Pac-Man, where beating levels really just meant the screen changing colors and the geometric shapes and ghosts moving a hell of a lot faster, until you eventually lost all of your lives. The point of the games was amassing an unbeatable score so that your initials would stay at the top of the leaderboard forever, or until the machine was unplugged.
Then console games began their reign. Scores were barely thought about. Most games, like The Legend of Zelda, didn’t even keep any sort of score. Like Capt. Obvious of football Herman Edwards once said, “You play to win the game,” or in this case, to save the princess (in just about every single video game, even ones involving plumbers), watch the ending cinematics, and shut the game off before the credits are done rolling. This made sense. You don’t want to have to keep saving the princess over and over again. Eventually you’d have to give up on her and cross her off in your black book.
Then came the era of Final Fantasy 7. Beating the game wasn’t enough. Instead, you had to gather 4 of every single weapon, piece of armor, and spell in the game in order to launch an attack that goes on for about one and a half minutes. Unless you have Mimic. Then you can see it multiple times in a row! Probably enough time to grab a beer and a bathroom break at the same time.
Finally, the Diablo franchise emerged, a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game that synchronized this love of collecting game items and possessing enough power to win the game in the press of one button into both an addiction, and later a side job. With the release of Diablo 3, we will dissect each of the Diablo games to figure out how we became so insane.
The game that jump-started popular MMORPGs was probably the purest game in the Diablo franchise. Using three different characters (warrior, rogue, and sorcerer), a player could literally use any item and cast any spell, provided they screwed up their character attributes enough to make it work. The game itself was straightforward in regards to “winning”. Levels never looked the same or even used all of the same quests each time you would play through, but there was an end. You kill Diablo, you win the game.
That wasn’t enough for most gamers, so the idea of gathering stronger items in the game, which would drop at random, was made a part of the game’s re-playability. Oh, you didn’t collect your Windforce bow and Royal Circlet? Well, play again noob.
Another game perk that helped re-playability was being able to kill other online players within the game as well as monsters. This led to players spending weeks trying to get their characters maxed out at level 50 to give them just enough edge to kill a player with the same junk as you equipped.
That wasn’t enough, however, as pirate programs called trainers were invented, and used to max out characters past their respective attribute caps, create weapons that dealt hundreds of thousands of damage points, and officially ended Diablo’s reign as the supreme online game when people got bored when two hacked rogues lined up to battle based on the luck of whose Blood Star spell hit first.
Diablo 2 and Diablo: Lord of Destruction
I’m sure that Blizzard entertainment could have fixed classic Diablo if they had wanted to, but they were already working on a new project: Diablo 2. With it came more characters, more items, and a new age in gaming: buying and selling items and even characters for real money, thanks to Ebay.
Initially, hacks were created that helped dupe the more powerful items, like Silks of the Victor, the Windforce bow (again), Gull daggers to help with the new magic-find attribute to help you find even more good stuff, and the Stone of Jordan ring, a level-increasing ring that became a form of currency in the online community of Diablo. Blizzard did its best to stop the corruption of the game with these hacks but not before the duping of godly items, rare weapons, armors, and rings that were insanely powerful.
These items became so powerful that they were sold on eBay for actual money, some for as high as $20 at times, as well as character accounts that were already at level 99. The point of actually playing the game in order to achieve online godliness came to an end, as any schmo with a credit card could easily become an elite character in the game. Play the game? Who needs to waste all that time?
And what did people do when they achieved these levels? They repeatedly entered Cow Runs in order to get even more items, and once in a while killed a PVP character solo or in a guild war. Sure, you killed Diablo or Baal once in a while, but only because they dropped some bad-ass loot. The game became secondary to the collecting.
It’s hard to say where Diablo 3 will take its fans, but Blizzard is already doing what individual gamers did in Diablo 2, and what the company did in its other hit sensation, World of Warcraft. They have set up an auction house so players can buy and sell their loot for real money. AGAIN.
While the idea is not as sketchy as buying an item from a random person on the internet, then waiting for them in a Battlenet region to make the real trade and hoping that they don’t just say, “Yeah, I just gave it to you. Your online connection may be screwy,” thus screwing you over for $10.00 (not that this has EVER happened to me), it still makes a gamer wonder how great the game really has to be if the end result will be about the same as Diablo 2. How many people are actually going to play through the game instead of having friends help them get up to the level cap so they can press that button so they automatically win the game? Will Windforce return?
I’ll let you know. Of course I’m going to play it. You know…for research.
Patrick Emmel is a mediocre gamer who plays better with a bottle of Lagavulin and always blames his bad gaming performances on lag. You can see some of his work at www.theineptowl.com or heckle him on Twitter @Patrick_AE.
Patrick previously deciphered which alcohol your favorite Archer characters are. –>