The elevator up from hell sure is taking its time. We imagine that Mass Effect’s Shepard -- even with his eternal patience for cramped spaces, boring music, and upward mobility -- would be cursing up a storm by now if he were aboard that infernal machine. So just imagine how poor old Diablo must feel – especially now the not-so-loveable lug may have a “few years” left before he finally surfaces.
A recent Blizzard presentation listed Diablo III as arriving in the “next few years,” along with StarCraft II’s expansions and Blizzard’s next massively multiplayer cash cow. In store for “next year,” meanwhile, are StarCraft II and WoW: Cataclysm. The bottom line? No loot-grabbing and Satan-stabbing until – at the earliest – 2011. Unless, of course, Diablo III goes into full-on beta mode next year, but we’re not getting our hopes up.
Honestly Diablo, at this point, we’re thinking you should’ve taken the stairs.
I had the pleasure of taking a stab (and a hack and a slash) at an obscure little game called Diablo III during last week’s BlizzCon and, well, it was pretty nifty. How nifty, you ask? Well, let’s see, I think I abandoned my infinitely stealable laptop to play the demo, oh, four or five times. (Happily, my laptop remains safe-and-sound. How anyone could refuse the allures of its sexy 900 MHz Celeron processor and cutting-edge integrated graphics card, though, is beyond me.)
So, Diablo III’s shaping up quite nicely. If you were afraid (or… hoping?) Blizzard might finally stain its spotless reputation with a sub-par game, you can put those fears to rest. Now then, without further ado, let’s dive into the specifics of Diablo III’s diabolical brand of fun.
The demo I played opened with my character in a small desert outpost. Other characters told me that leaving the outpost would mean certain doom and all that jazz, so – of course – I completely ignored them and dove headlong into the sandy deathtrap. As I strolled about, clicking on things until other things came out (usually blood, loot, or some combination of the two), I quickly noticed something: the desert was enormous. A departure from Diablo’s usual linear dwellings, it presented a plethora of potential paths, and without that medieval global positioning system sometimes known as a “map,” I would’ve gotten all kinds of lost.
Fortunately, my semi-aimless wanderings were anything but uneventful. When I wasn’t poking and prodding enemies until they erupted into gore geysers (more on that later), I was partaking from a veritable buffet of sidequests.
LAN? You still use that? People gathered together and sat around the old LAN, like, back in the days of vee-see-arrrrs and stuff, right? That’s old news, man. But how about that new thing Blizzard’s got cooking? It lets you play multiplayer games with a blazing connection, as if the Internet isn’t even involved. It’s crazy. What will these developers think of next?
"We are working on solutions with regard to things we can do to maintain connectivity to Battle.net in some way, but also provide a great quality connection between players," said Battle.net developer Greg Canessa.
The plan, it would seem, is for the game to authenticate with Blizzard’s server before switching into LAN mode.
"Something like that," Canessa replied when asked about such a solution. "Maintaining a connection with Battle.net, I don't know if it's once or periodically, but then also having a peer-to-peer connection between players to facilitate a very low-ping, high-bandwidth connection… those are the things that we're working on."
So then, can we never talk about LAN in Blizzard games ever again? With this solution, Blizzard’s happy and you’re happy. Unless, of course, you’re a pirate, in which case, it looks like your luck's finally run out.
Like a down-and-out, washed-up action movie star, Blizzard’s Battle.net service – once a pimp-my-wagon pioneer of online gaming service form and function – is beginning to look a little silly in a world where relative youngsters like Steam and Xbox Live give the Internet the buddy cop treatment. However, instead of stinking up a beloved franchise or wrestling California into submission, Battle.net’s hopping back into the ring with an all-new image.
Most notably, Battle.net’s new groove (or possibly, the proactive reclamation of its old groove) brings with it a single online identity, which will consolidate all of your Blizzard game accounts into one mega-handle. Currently, merging accounts is optional, but you’ll eventually be forced to Brady Bunch your accounts together and experience convenient organization and other such terrifying prospects.
"As we continue to build additional functionality into the new Battle.net, we will eventually require all active World of Warcraft accounts to migrate over to Battle.net Accounts in order to continue playing," read the official Battle.net site.
The new Battle.net also allows you to manage purchases in Blizzard’s online store, which leads us to wonder if the service might eventually try to compete with Steam. After all, World of Warcraft means Battle.net comes equipped with 11 million users right out of the box. The potential’s certainly there.
"Fallout 3, Far Cry 2, Fable 2... uh, LittleBigPlanet," I nonchalantly listed, sliding my scroll bar up and down a ludicrously large list of games that'll begin hogging shelf space next week. Instantly, a deafening shout of "OH! LittleBigPlanet!" flew straight and true, right into my unsuspecting ears, from the other side of a view-obscuring television. "You're so buying LittleBigPlanet!" My friend's voice continued, registering at somewhere around War-crime on the decibel scale.
Yeah, LittleBigPlanet's kind of a big deal around the gaming scene's more console-y bits, but what's it mean for PC gamers? Well, in these parts it's not quite a revolution, but it's pretty damn close.
Over the past couple years, "user-created content" has crept onto many game developers' billowing lists of PR-friendly buzz words, and with good reason. Whether it's Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion's character creation system or Spore's, well, everything, people love to spill their creative frustrations onto videogaming's canvas. (And drawing new Mega Man levels on graph paper is so nineties.)
Now stop! Take your finger off the scroll wheel; the comments section isn't going anywhere. Yes, PC gaming gospel states that we must fling ourselves into Internet forums, kissing the ground, and praising mods -- and games like Oblivion and Spore did not invent user-created content -- but guess what? Mods are old news, no matter how crazy-awesome they might potentially be.
Why? Consoles. Consoles. Consoles. Like it or not, aside from a few shining examples, game design has parked its heart in simpler interfaces and ease-of-use. PC gaming, its cash cow now six feet under for a number of reasons, simply isn't worth the effort these days. As a result, real mod support -- sloppily attempted in only a single console game -- watched its bungee cord snap as it plummeted right off developers' priority lists. After all, mod tools don't just appear out of thin air; they siphon extra time and cash away from other areas of development. When simple user-creation tools can offer a menagerie of similar (but less versatile) powers to a wider range of people, mod tools sadly get kicked to the curb.
Continue reading to find out why this trend might not be as awful as it sounds.
Tom, Dave, Norm, and Andy get together to bring you a dose of tech news to listen to as you head out to celebrate the 4th of July. This week, Dave dresses up as Uncle Sam and discusses Microsoft's PC gaming strategy while Norm steps away from the Maximum PC pie-eating contest to discuss the upcoming iPhone launch.
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are standing by.