Let me preface that this is a pure opinion piece based on growing frustration and what I feel was a waste of a good $70 that could’ve gone to various meals at Del Taco. Yes, that’s how angry I’ve become over Diablo 4. I feel like I’ve wasted my time, energy and resources on a game that has little to no innovation but is just a prototypical Blizzard time sink. Quite frankly, my view of Diablo 4 has sunk so low that it might be on par for Ultima 9 as the worst game of all time. But let me quantify all these statements.
To me Diablo 4 is pretty much Blizzard’s last true hurrah in the gaming industry. People who have grown up with Blizzard and stayed faithful over time probably have lost their emotional connection to what once was a great game company that slowly was infested by the worms of greed and numerous mergers. Many of the original people are long gone and whether the current crop share the same level of passion or integrity (if you want to throw that type of word around) is questionable at best. But I like to use that word just based on what has been produced, which, if you read between the lines, is nothing more than mandates coming from the Satan of game marketing companies (because god forbid they’re still considered a real gaming company), Activision.
I could travel down the historical awful ideas that were gradually implemented into the Blizzard ecosphere, but I just want to focus on Diablo 4 (and possibly Diablo: Immortal) for the sake of this conversation. First, let’s address just how massive this game is. Maybe at this point, games are becoming bloated behemoths as old school 80gb hard drives just aren’t enough anymore to store these masses of extraneous gluttonous byte fat on disk anymore. I had to move the game to a separate partition just because of how unwieldy it was. But the real question is why?
In comparison, the last game that I played on this scale of bloat was Lost Ark. Some of their patches were massive and you would have to question why that was. Later, I learned that a good chunk of the disk space was being devoted to language packs. Any sane developer should automatically realize that downloading ALL language packs is a stupid idea. The better solution has always been to detect the locale and ask the user to confirm before loading up a specific version to shrink down the size. Your office of the CIO will thank you because you’re saving them on network and possibly storage cost. But is that the real part that is killing the size of Diablo 4?
I can’t affirm whether or not that is true. Obviously, Diablo 4 is very graphics intensive and you can up the ante. Even with the various cut scenes, there’s probably better ways around all of that. But let me get to my next point where the game becomes infuriatingly bad: unending, unskippable bad voice acting clips. While there are scenes you can skip past (with a great deal of pain inserted), there are numerous basic in game scenes where you have no option to skip past a lengthy, pointless dialog that could’ve been better served through flavor text. I’m guessing that Blizzard has zero desire to allow players EVER to skip these scenes, no matter how many times in the future they’ll be forced to endure over and over again these nasally individuals. But the real reason that’s probably implemented in that manner is that Blizzard was stupid enough to probably overpay a bunch of knuckle heads who are part of a union (unlike the developers) and want to make sure they get their credit with all their “hard work.”
Well, I’ve got an idea for you Blizzard on how to save on cost: JUST DON’T HIRE VOICE ACTORS! No one asked for these people in the game. No one wanted to hear voices in an ACTION RPG. We just want to do our killings and move on to the next thing. What truly infuriates me the most is how much time you’re forced to waste because Blizzard wrote a terrible script and hired awful voice actors. Did anyone on the design side actually go and play this game end to end on multiple alts and go, “Yeah, this feature really engages the player!” I doubt it.
But my doubts increase with the product because I read how 9000 individuals were involved in this game. NINE-FUCKING THOUSAND. Many companies are smaller than that number. There are cities/towns that are smaller than that number. Yet even with this number, Activision/Blizzard’s backing, at least 10 years of development and they still couldn’t get some basic stuff right. Let me provide a concrete example where all these things tie together.
Today, I tried a quest that I’ve done on alts that has bugged out for me on multiple occasions. It’s a simple quest. You talk to someone, hit a mini dungeon, talk to someone else and then beat down a barrier after some dialog before doing an encounter. Guess what? The barrier has infinite hit points because the game developer wanted to force players to endure ear rape dialog where I’d prefer having a bullet fly through my skull than be subjected to ever listening to that crap yet again. What? So the whole point of that barrier is to prevent a trigger for a player to immediately move forward to engage in the next aspect of that quest. But the developers couldn’t even get the basics to work. Do these idiots test their code? There is a workaround that I tried a few times but could not get around this bug because it’s stupid.
That was pretty much the last bug that broke the camel’s back for me. But why it’s so trivial. That’s the issue. A simple, game breaking bug that prevents progression. And this hasn’t been the first. This game is horribly bug laden and because of how poorly designed it is, you can lose your progress to simple issues (especially if you’re dumbcore). I mentioned a while back about the Lilith fight and how my rogue pushed her into a corner and disabled her effectively. The game kicked me out, said my account was locked and I had to wait to redo the whole thing. Because of the way that stupid quest is designed, there’s no waypoints and I was lucky that the game bothered saving my progress at all. I wanted to be done with that horrible campaign mode because all my other friends were ahead of me. I didn’t intentionally cause that bug to happen but because these genius developers keep having this idiot boss teleport and flit around like some tart on fairy dust, I backed her into the corner and caused that to happen.
But it keeps going on. The worst for me is the constant lag and pauses while my computer and/or internet catch up. I know it’s not just me. This is an issue that a lot of people complain about. You can barely play the game because these morons didn’t start by designing for low end. You don’t even have a Mac option anymore because Blizzard decided to allow console players the priority. So either I’m forced to upgrade my computer (which thankfully I didn’t) or I can just fuck off and quit the game. Guess which one I did (I did provide a hint)
I haven’t even started about the dumb ass item hunt with terrible affixes, the inability to trade and boring end game loop that forces players into the same problems you encountered in Diablo 3. Except that Diablo 3 actually became a good game. A lot of the basic problems that were introduced in Diablo 4 already had been solved to a degree with Diablo 3. Didn’t the developers look at their past mistakes and do a retro to see why Diablo 3 went through the whole Itemization 2.0 exercise? The issue that they’re experiencing is a fundamental flaw in Blizzard’s design strategy that has dated back with WoW and the whole carrot on the stick game model: we’ll make itemization random for you so you’ll want to continue playing our game. No, I’ll simply quit and write a scathing review.
Then let’s talk about the item hunt just with Uniques. Some of these items are build defining and you don’t get to see the full extent of what can be done until you assemble the right pieces. Sounds fine except when the drop rate is set so low you can’t find those build defining uniques. I read on a reddit post that the drop rate were set low to once again force players to continue playing until they find the right ones. The majority of my friends already quit playing and won’t start again until Seasons start. What does that tell you? It has nothing to do with the item hunt. You’ve created an artificial forced function of making people stay in the game by randomizing gambling. Outside of people with addictive personalities, this strategy does not work. It’s a terrible method and actually leads to burn out. So those that want to go through these exercises are simply going to wait until the new season.
But let’s talk about what the expected length of a player being engaged in Diablo 4 is from an ideal level. Blizzard probably wants players hooked and playing night and day. Yeah, one developer said something about go outside and see the sun so he’s probably fired. But Blizzard’s MO has always been about the vanity stats. And it really doesn’t make sense from a business model perspective because engagement doesn’t really equate into money. With Diablo 4, there’s even less incentive for players to stay in the game. The only thing that the people at Blizzard can rationalize is that players might over time want to buy transmog by staying in the game. Yet that’s an asinine assumption for monetization. The way the characters are displayed doesn’t really offer any incentive for gross spending for appearance. I couldn’t care less what horse you’re using. So trying to force players to stay in a game with a one time purpose has zero logic.
Realistically, the way this game is built, especially with seasons coming up, the maximum time a player probably will be spending on this game will be no more than 2 weeks. Possibly a month at best if they try to min/max their characters and have plenty of time. But it’s the same game loop and the end game loop isn’t interesting enough to truly hook anyone except the hardcore crack addicts.
ARPGs in particular have always been about the progression of a character. You do things to upgrade your character and gain power to squash the world. This game stagnates very quickly. The mechanics of most of the systems are either too simple or overly complex that they almost become antithetical to one another. Blizzard’s formula for progression is based on Bozosort; you randomize how sorting can be done rather than using something efficient. So they’ve equated the players to a bunch of bozos that are willing to put up with Blizzard’s horse shit. Eventually, even the bozo realizes that abuse is bad.
But this was it. Blizzard had their last chance to impress the player base and demonstrate why they are the top company. Instead, they created a subpar game that was a copy of another company’s badly executed copy on the genre of ARPGs combined with the MMORPG. I knew that this game had 2 months to live. It barely made it through 1 month. With the justice department approving the Activision-Blizzard takeover by Microsoft, I once would have felt threatened. Now, I just feel apathy because there is no fight in a dead entity. Blizzard of old is dead. Long live software as a thing that pulls money into its coffers rather than creating joy for people. That’s the reality of the situation.