Friday, February 6, 2015

Competition Breeds Dullness

Friday! Now normally I would sit back and introduce how today being Friday leads to a Reader Post and so on and so forth. Instead of doing that I am going to talk a little about the post Jaetch has submitted. Now it is about the change over in seasons and how Diablo III is looked at currently. While I completely see many of his points why these points exist is why I have been against Leaderboards in the game like Diablo III. Everything isn't going to be fair and any point and you don't want to be forced to play a specific way just to compete. Diablo should be about playing how you want slaying demons and making your style worth it an interesting. This is why Blizzard has "Play Your Way Thursday". With Leaderboards it just makes people who play the game extensively play the way which is most optimal and not the way they have the most fun. With all of that in mind here is Jaetch's post.

In the crudest form, I think most people can consider hardcore players (not the mode, which I usually stylize as Hardcore with a capital H) those who dedicate hours upon hours of efficient grindy gameplay to maximize their character’s potential. These players are always on top of the latest trends, whether it involves gearing strategy, gameplay strategy, game format, exploits, whatever it may be—and they capitalize on all of them while they can, as soon as they can.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are casual players. Also in the crudest form, I think casual players as those who really aren’t concerned about what’s going on around them. This isn’t a bad thing. Casual players will play when they want, how they want, and for as long as they deem necessary to be entertained.

But I guess I should mention one more, which is the “semi-casual.” I consider these players those who are willing to take part in hardcore gaming activities, such as grinding for long hours, but also take the time to just do whatever they want without fearing that they’re falling behind other players, or perhaps more importantly, their peers.

The first Season and Era have been a roller coaster ride. Unfortunately, at least for me, it’s come to the point where I’m on my umpteenth time on the ride and the roller coaster lost momentum and is now stuck. The engineers are nowhere to be found and those currently on the ride are left stranded. I’ve had great experiences with the ride; else I wouldn’t have climbed back on over and over. But the ride’s current state kind of ruined it and the memories of past rides aren’t enough to let me say, “Ah, it’s okay. I’ll just wait until everything is fixed and ready to go.”

Mind you, I’m not burned out. I still play for a few hours every single day—barring real life obligations. I don’t try nor force myself to play. I want to.

However, I cannot consider keeping my hardcore player mentality. Why? Because of the state of the game. This roller coaster ride is broken and continues to deteriorate. That’s as blunt as I can be.

I get that the first Season and Era were more or less experimental. That’s fine. It’s great to try something out live and learn how players react and interact with the content. Totally fine. I’m okay with testing things out and being a guinea pig. I’m sure many players are totally fine with it, too. Those who aren’t can just ignore it and move along to do what they want to do. But there comes a point when it’s just too much, too long, and there comes a major disconnect.

I don’t know when this major disconnect happened, but I guess it’s just something that’s been wearing on me for the last couple months. The more I learn about the game, the more problems I see. And the more problems I see that remain unsolved, unaddressed, with little hope to be solved or addressed anytime soon, the more I grow dispirited.

And I think that’s a curse that befalls many hardcore players. We know and understand too much about the game, its mechanics and limits, that we end up depriving ourselves of content. And no, I don’t buy any excuses that may or may not come from developer standpoints (not necessarily those from Blizzard), that “the players don’t know what they want.” I hear that fairly frequently from various sources. Hell, where I work right now, we have designers and tech leads who try their best to balance what the company wants to do versus what users and clients want to see. It’s tough, I know.

Regardless, there are so many things that just demands addressing that plague gameplay now and very likely the near future. These are things that negatively impact the experience and also jeopardize the integrity of the game in the long haul. In no particular order:

Power creep: More set items pigeon-holing players. Sets are powerful. Great. They dictate what you play. Not great. And the vast power gap that continues to grow between different classes as players become more powerful just makes the experience absolutely terrible. Introducing ancient items just made it worse.

And in the near future? Introduce more 6-piece sets. I get that the intent is likely to have multiple class sets to choose from and players can say, “Hey! I’m a Firebird wizard!” “Hey! I’m a Vyr-Archon wizard!” “Hey! I’m a Delsere wizard!” “Hey! I’m a Tal Rasha wizard!” …and I’m excited about that. In a class-specific vacuum. But what about in comparison to other classes?

Demon hunters may hate me for saying this, but what’s with the power gap there? If making classes more balanced with each other is important, how on earth did M6 DHs go from ahead of the curve to further ahead of the curve? Highest leaderboard placement? I pray that’s not the case. I don’t understand how this happens. If sets are being designed for players to strive for in terms of end-game gearing, how did no one forecast this?

Difficulty scaling: This is tied to the power creep issues. Players get stronger! Content gets more trivial! Players reach a new difficulty ceiling! Players cannot progress further! Introduce more gear! Players get stronger! Old content gets even more trivial! Players reach yet another new difficulty ceiling! Players again cannot progress further! …Introduce more gear and repeat? How long can this go on for?

Why must difficulty simply be a gear check? Why must difficulty simply revolve around players taking more damage and monsters growing fatter and fatter with each level increase? This has been a questionable feature since classic/vanilla D3. Each higher difficulty setting simply meant monsters dealt more damage and took longer to kill. That’s it. So instead of firing off three Cluster Arrows, I have to fire off ten. Great. Is that supposed to be harder?

Can it instead be something like… limited visibility? Trap doors and guillotines threatening to shred your character around every corner? Smarter monster AI? Faster monsters? More elaborate dungeons? A combination of all of these with maybe a minor upscaling to monster damage and health?

ZDPS support WD: For those who don’t know what it’s like to play in group Greater Rifts in the high 50s or low 60s, you need a witch doctor. More specifically, you need a WD that runs Tiklandian Visage with high cooldown reduction to permanently Horrify nearby enemies. These enemies can get permanently locked down with Fear and rooting effects. When properly executed, these enemies are simply high-HP statues that DPS characters in the party gun down over time. Sounds familiar? Think of the CM wizard in classic/vanilla D3, except the WD doesn’t do any damage.

So it’s pretty fair that the spec continues to exist because alone, it can’t really do much. But what if you throw on legacy gear such as Skull Grasp, Stone of Jordan, and Homunculus? The legacy versions of these items can come with flat cooldown reductions to Zombie Dogs, allowing the WD to incessantly summon Zombie Dogs, specifically with the Final Gift rune, to spawn infinite health globes. What happens when you have infinite health globes? Characters that run Reaper’s Wraps have infinite resources. Having infinite healing is just a bonus at this point. Now you combine all these perks with the WD’s perma-lock ability with Horrify and Tiklandian Visage… you get the idea.

What if you took out the WD’s role in this group composition? Just imagine the gameplay. Just imagine it. It would be a little different, wouldn’t it? It would be a little more action-packed, wouldn’t it?

I run the WD spec pretty often in a group composition. I know its strengths and weaknesses and I have to say, hands down, the pros outweigh the cons. It’s not even comparable. But the spec is a necessity at high levels because of how difficulty scaling works in this game.

Exploits: I’m not going to list all of them, past and present, but there are too many. I understand that it’s probably impossible to detect or predict all exploits, but something should be done to speed up how they get addressed. Many of them were left running for far too long that the damage cannot be undone. Largely because of exploits, I’m strongly leaning toward completely avoiding anything related to leaderboards from this point forward. In order to keep up or stay ahead, you have to find as many existing exploits as possible and—for the lack of a better word—“cheat” your way through. Otherwise, it is literally impossible to keep up or stay ahead.

Again, something hardcore players have to deal with. Once you start keeping up with news and trends, it’s just… absolutely dispiriting.

Bots: I’ve debated about talking about this. I would like to keep all hush-hush about it because I’d like to prevent every possible opportunity of more players learning about it, but honestly, I don’t even know whether more people know about it or more people are playing in blissful ignorance.

There are too many bots, especially amongst hardcore players. I even see more and more “semi-casual” players hopping on board with botting lately. In my clan alone, we’ve caught five people botting in less than a year. Two people reformed and stopped. Two people were more or less forced to walk away. One was straightup kicked because he was botting as our officers were trying to talk to him.

I see and I know people who bot seven days a week for hours at a time. I have people tell me personally that they bot and leave names of numerous others who also bot. I’ve reported several people for botting with blatant evidence. To this day, none have been caught. Zero. Every single one of them has gotten away with botting. So what’s preventing other players from doing the same? Who wouldn’t want free loot and experience while they’re away from their computer? A simple message in the EULA that says (paraphrased), “don’t use third party programs or risk getting your account banned”? Where are the bans?

Not to justify botting, but at least amongst some of the hardcore players that I’ve heard from, many are botting simply because there’s nothing left for them to do other than to acquire some more of the same gear for that 0.1% upgrade so they can maybe attempt to tackle the leaderboard one more time. And you know what? I can somewhat relate to that, except I prefer to physically be there when I do find that upgrade. Ancient items don’t help. They’re the same items. Same types of stats. You’re playing the same builds.

…that’s just some of the issues that I see and just don’t want to deal with anymore. I’d love to stop considering myself a hardcore or even a “semi-casual” player and just stop caring. But how do you unlearn nearly three years of information regarding this game? I can’t. And no matter how much I’d like to try, I’ll probably still continue to stay up-to-date on all the trends within the game.

Unless there are sweeping changes, I cannot escape any of the issues either. It doesn’t matter if I go to Seasons or Hardcore. If exploits exist in one format, it’ll exist in another. I can avoid legacy gear in Seasons, but the same concept of a ZDPS support WD will continue to be applied there. Perhaps I can run Seasonal Hardcore and see if there are fewer rampant bots. Who knows.

I do not know how the game will evolve in the coming months or how it’ll be like on this day in 2016. I hope there will be improvements and if so, I look forward to them. I just have no idea what’s going on right now nor what to expect. This roller coaster I enjoy riding is stuck and I can’t see the engineers fixing it and making it better.

There you have it some food for thought for your weekend!

1 comment:

  1. I agree. When a truly single player game or 4 player for that matter focuses on competition just for the sake of it it will lead everyone into a style of play away from the reason they started playing the game in the first place. People should just sit back and enjoy the game. This is the reason why I believe they never wanted Leaderboards in the first place, but everyone asked for them, and they gave them to them and now they complain they are forced to play a specific class and a specific build to compete.