500

So this is, apparently, my 500th post here at Shouts From the Couch.  True, some of them are imported from the old Blogger URL, but still – 500 random acts of blathering under one brand name!

I wish I’d known this was coming a bit sooner than I did; it wasn’t until shortly after I finished the last post that I looked at the number in the WordPress dashboard and actually recognized where I was, and I’d have liked to have done something special to mark the occasion.  (It doesn’t help that I was listening to Marc Maron’s 500th episode of WTF at the very same time I made the connection.)

The most popular post I’ve written here is this little thing I wrote earlier this year about collectibles, which blew up only because it was a response to Patrick Klepek’s tumblr, which he happened to retweet.  That post received more traffic than this entire site did in all of 2013, to give you some idea; indeed, the traffic I got the day after his tweet was still larger than anything I’d ever gotten before.

The second most popular post is this one, and I’m guessing that the only reason why it comes up so often is because a lot of people do Google searches for “god mode dark souls”.  This is hilarious, because I’m obviously all for god mode, and yet the whole point of the Souls franchise is their extreme difficulty.  What is the point of playing those games without the challenge?

Still, all the same, I’m thrilled that you’re reading this, that you’ve been here with me for however long you’ve been here, and that you’ve read whatever it is I’ve had to say.  Writing about games – especially as an amateur – is a weird experience, and I’m trying to get better at it, and I’m grateful for your patience as well as your patronage.

Next week I’ll have some expanded thoughts on my Gamemoir column that’ll also be going up on Monday, and I’ll also talk about Wolfenstein: The New Order (which I finished last night), and Watch Dogs (which I’ll hopefully have played a little bit more of).  Watch Dogs made an absolutely horrific first impression on me; now that I’ve seen a little more, I’m getting a better grasp on it – well, rather, I’m recognizing how similar it is to Assassin’s Creed, so I at least have some context with which to explore.  Still, I’m a lot more sour about it than I’d wanted to be, and that’s purely on a mechanical level.  I’ve seen almost nothing of the plot, but if this amazing, absolutely vital Cameron Kunzelman piece is any indication, I’m probably not going to feel much better about it.

Once again:  thank you so much for being here.

EDIT:  yet another milestone fell down today; SFTC has officially crossed 10,000 pageviews.  !!!

Weekend Recap: Killing Nazis on the Moon

(Before I forget, I wrote up a thing over at Gamemoir taking a guess at what Rockstar’s new title is going to be.  It went up yesterday, when most of the USA was away from the internet, so if you’d like to check it out, here it is.)

Here’s something I never expected to say:  I’m far more interested in finishing Wolfenstein than I am in firing up Watch Dogs, which just arrived and which is sitting in my messenger bag at this very moment.  As much of a sucker as I am for open world games, and as much as I succumbed to the insane amount of hype that Watch Dogs had gunning for it, I am thoroughly enjoying Wolfenstein and very well might go back to play it again once I finish it – or, at least, go back chapter by chapter to find all the hidden stuff I missed.

Whenever I talk about “shooter fatigue”, I’m talking about a combination of things:  (1) a lot of the big budget shooters (and there are quite a few of them) basically feel and look the same; (2) those shooters have very flimsy narratives and it’s often a struggle to understand why you’re going where you’re going or why you have to kill so many people beyond those people being “the enemy”; and (3) I’ve grown weary of having the murdering of virtual people as the primary game mechanic.

Wolfy solves a lot of these problems for me, actually, and one of them comes as a complete surprise.  In 2008 I’d complained of how tired I was about shooting Nazis, actually:

Nazis have been the de facto bad guys in popular culture for the last 50 years. They are a perfect enemy; nobody gets offended when you have to kill them. Castle Wolfenstein illustrated this in interactive 3D, and the videogame boom as we know it was born.

I think, however, that we’ve reached a point in our society where the evilness of Nazis has lost a bit of its power. The videogaming generation did not grow up in WW2, and neither did its parents. When you kill Nazis in videogames, you’re not avenging the horrors of the Holocaust anymore, or freeing Europe from the tyrannical grips of a monster; you are killing bad guys in order to make it to the next checkpoint, and Nazis have always been an easy target for game designers because (a) you don’t have to worry about cultural sensitivity issues, and (b) who doesn’t enjoy killing Nazis? It’s just that most WW2 games these days don’t really focus on the why; they focus on the experience of the soldier in the middle of the battle, rather than the reason why the soldier is over there in the first place, and as a result, the enemy Nazi soldier is no longer as capital-E Evil because they all look the same and there’s so damn many of them.

As it happens, that same column was about how zombies were the new Nazis, and how I thought that was kind of great, because we needed a new type of baddie to kill.  Now, of course, zombies are everywhere, and it’s gotten to the point where I actively avoid playing games with zombies – even The Walking Dead Season 2 – because I’m so, so tired of them.

So you can imagine the irony in which I’m now singing the praises of a game that eschews zombies altogether and goes back to killin’ Nazis, and how much goddamned fun it is to be killing all of them.  I feel, at times, like I’m a part of the Inglorious Basterds, and it can feel downright cathartic to mow down wave after wave of them.

And I also can’t say it enough, how impressed I am at how good the game feels.  The shooting is excellent; your arsenal is potent and varied, and I’m always pleased at how I can improvise and change tactics with a different weapon if my preferred gun is low on ammo.  (Also:  dual-wielding automatic shotguns is insane.)  The game is also fantastically paced, especially for my personal tastes; there is plenty of action, to be sure, but there are also welcome lulls (and also dedicated sections in the resistance safehouse) where I can root around and look for hidden items and secrets (of which there are so many, which is delightful).  I’m probably 8 or 9 hours in at this point and there have only been maybe 3 or 4 times where I’ve come across a frustratingly high spike in difficulty (one section in particular drove me bananas, though I did eventually manage to outlast it), and those spikes were often solved simply by remembering that I don’t always have to charge in head-first.

I remain surprised at how much I’m enjoying myself, and part of that may simply be that I never expected a Wolfenstein game to be this good.  The Wolfenstein brand has always been more important than the games themselves, I think; the original game is what started this whole 3D first-person shooter thing in the first place, and while we may have fond memories of playing it way back when, I don’t know anyone who prefers that game to Doom.  I played bits of the last few Wolfenstein sequels on consoles, and they always felt somewhat out of date; or, rather, that each subsequent sequel felt like a desperate attempt to keep the IP relevant.  This game, on the other hand, feels remarkably fresh and alive, and yet it also knows how silly it is.  After wiping out most of a U-Boat’s crew, the captain exasperatedly exclaims – “What’s wrong with you?  He’s just one man!”  B.J. Blazkowicz himself, after infiltrating the Nazi lunar base and radioing back to his resistance HQ, says, “Well, I’m on the fucking moon.”

Re: that silliness – I understand what the critics are talking about w/r/t the game’s wildly divergent tone.  There are opportunities for character development that never quite get maximized, and one can get the impression that the corporate overlords at Bethesda/ZeniMax took the developers aside and said “Hey, enough with the talky-talky, we need more shooty-shooty.”  Still, what’s there can be rich and deep and dark, and I guess I’m just grateful that it’s there at all.  B.J.’s comrades have very different motivations for joining a resistance that they all acknowledge has nearly no chance of succeeding, and even if they’re not given all that much to do, they feel real enough to make you feel like part of something important.

It’s a hell of thing, really, to make a Wolfenstein game in 2014 feel important.  To that end, I tip my cap to Machine Games, who’ve made something quite special indeed.

The First Few Hours: Transistor, Wolfenstein

I’m heading off the grid in a few hours; the wife and I are celebrating our 10-year anniversary and, as such, I will be doing everything I possibly can to not look at the internet for a few days.

Before I go, though, I did want to jot down some thoughts on this week’s big releases.

1.  Transistor, the latest game from Supergiant, certainly appears at first glance to be cut from the same inspirational cloth as their previous release, Bastion: it’s got a remarkable art style, a striking musical backdrop, and a bit of running commentary (from your sword).  The gameplay is quite different than its predecessor, of course; it’s actually got one of the most unique combat systems I’ve ever gotten my hands on.  It’s one part hack/slash, one part turn-based strategy, with both parts happening at the same time.  It sounds complicated, and it sort-of is, at first.  Certainly the special powers you acquire are not all that well explained, and while it’s cool that you can link them together to create unique combinations, it’s not particularly intuitive, and I find myself feeling confused rather than empowered.   I trust that the story will get around to explaining itself a bit more, as the game starts in medias res and hasn’t yet fleshed itself out.  I’m still early on, but I’m feeling a bit put off.

2.  Wolfenstein: The New Order, on the other hand, is something I wasn’t expecting at all – an old-school shooter dressed in next-gen finery, and executed really, really well.  The biggest knock against it from the major sites is that it has a rather inconsistent tone; in one moment you’re surrounded by surprisingly three-dimensional characters that’ve been through hell and back, and in the next moment you’re shooting the crap out of dozens of Nazis and their mechanically-enhanced dogs, all the while scooping up food, ammo and armor like they were candy.  The food in particular makes Bioshock‘s trash-eating look quaint, but it’s also a throwback to the original game, and somehow it works.  I’m happy to turn off my brain for it; the game (and the Dualshock 4) feels quite good in the hands, and the various set pieces I’ve encountered so far are pretty spectacular.  (I’m currently in the London Science Museum, a little bit past the area celebrating the Nazis’ successful moon landing.)  And there’s so many secrets!  So many nooks and crannies!  Oh, man, I know I’ve complained of shooter fatigue but this is very much hitting the spot.

3.  I’ve also been dabbling a bit more in Final Fantasy X on the Vita.  It’s… well, having never played it originally, I’m not really sure what to think about it.  It certainly looks quite nice, and the combat is well-tuned, but the sphere grid is… um… completely insane?  And also the dialogue is mostly ridiculous, and the voice acting is not doing the script any favors?  It’s hard to know how much of it I’m supposed to be taking seriously.  The overall story has a certain momentum that I can stick with, but each moment-to-moment cutscene is just… silly.  I’m rather inexperienced when it comes to Final Fantasy games, having only actually finished 13-1 (before I knew it would have 2 sequels) and having dabbled a bit in a few others, so I have no idea where FFX ranks among the hard-core fans.  I gather it’s mostly notable because it was the first FF game to be fully 3D?  Is that right?  Anyway, the most difficult part for me is finding the time to play it; I’m not thrilled about the idea of pulling it out on the subway, and the Vita is too conspicuous to play at work, and my home-play time is gonna be mostly devoted to Wolfy and Watch Dogs (and Transistor, when I decide to switch it up).

Lastly, I’ll have a piece going up on Monday over at Gamemoir about my guesses for Rockstar’s next title, and I’m also hoping to have this other thing for Videodame that’s turning out to be one of the more difficult and intimidating things I’ve ever written.  I’m a little nervous about it, mostly because it’s me talking about things that I generally don’t talk about, and explaining why I don’t talk about them.  And then I think I’m finally doing something for Unwinnable, and I’m aiming for the first week of June for that one.  It’s weird to be doing more writing about gaming than actually gaming, but that’s also why I’m doing all this in the first place.

Enjoy your weekend, everybody!

Weekend Recap: Fun in the Sun

As with most weekends of late, there wasn’t a lot of gaming done.  Two reasons for this:  (1) I’m not particularly engaged with any specific game right now, and (2) it was an absolutely gorgeous weekend in NYC, and we were out and about for a great deal of it.

I’m still sorta playing Diablo III, though only in quick bursts – which is fine, actually, considering what the new endgame is like.  It’s easy enough to go in to an Act, collect some bounties, enter a rift, and scoop up some nice loot and then hop out after 30 minutes or so.

Did I mention that I formally gave up on Mario Golf: World Tour?  I won the first two tournaments but found the whole thing so empty and shallow that I just wanted it out of my house.  There’s a country club filled with stuff you can’t actually do – including a fully built-out gym, and you’d think you’d be able to hang out in it and do some mini-game exercises to help train your character and improve your stats, but there’s literally nothing to do in there but talk to characters who offer dumb platitudes about hard work – but you still have to walk through it in order to get to the courses.  It makes no sense whatsoever.  And the golf itself is as uninspiring and rote as the rest of the game, which is depressing.

I am now starting to sink my teeth into my Vita, though.  I played enough of my rented copy of God of War Collection to gather that it’s a rather uninspired and bare-boned port of the first two PS2 games, which were much better presented in an HD collection on the PS3.

But I’m also now a few save points into Final Fantasy X, which is, among other things, one of the main reasons why I finally bought the Vita when I did.  Having never played the original game, I can’t really vouch for the Vita experience other than to say that it looks utterly fantastic, even on the Slim’s “inferior” screen (which also, sadly, highlights just how not fantastic the God of War Collection looks).  I am very much looking forward to spending more time with it in the coming weeks, although how much time remains to be seen – Transistor comes out this week, as does Wolfenstein, and then Watch Dogs comes out next week.

And as long as I’m talking about the Vita, I might as well pimp my latest Gamemoir column, “Five Ideas to Help Save the Vita“, which is an admittedly hacky title but comes from a sincere place.  I genuinely dislike those types of SEO-friendly headlines – which is probably why this blog is still pretty small – but in this case, it is what it is.

The Xbox One: What Now?

Even after sleeping on it, I’m still trying to wrap my head around yesterday’s news that Microsoft will start selling the Xbox One without the Kinect in June.  There are so many angles to this story that it’s hard to know where to start.

Well, I suppose I should start with the most obvious question, being that this move seems tailor-made for me in particular*:  Am I now more likely to purchase one?  Well, it’s certainly got my attention, that’s for sure.  I’m still a very happy PS4 owner, even if the games aren’t quite there just yet, but I’m also a long-time Xbox loyalist, and I’m not against owning one – as long as there’s a good reason.  Bringing the price down goes a long way towards making the purchase easier/more justifiable, but it doesn’t solve all the problems the XBO has.

One of those problems – and, indeed, probably one of the biggest reasons why I haven’t bought an XBO yet – is that multiplatform games receive a noticeable, measurable performance boost on the PS4.  With this new, Kinect-less XBO, however, there are reports floating around that the XBO could now theoretically devote extra resources towards game performance, now that it doesn’t have to save those resources for the Kinect.

If this helps to bridge the performance gap with the PS4 as far as multiplatform releases are concerned, that’s also a plus in my book.  But this now reminds me of the early days of the Xbox 360, when it launched without a hard drive.  360s that had hard drives performed better, and games that were designed with the hard drive in mind obviously make life difficult for 360 owners without one.  So, then – what happens to XBO owners who already have the Kinect?  Would they not be able to get these hypothetical performance advantages?  Would the XBO be smart enough to turn the Kinect off if, say, Titanfall 2 or Halo 5 required the extra juice?

That obviously doesn’t concern me, specifically, since I’m not one of those people.  Except that now I can’t help but wonder if it might be better to hold off until Microsoft comes out with a new and improved XBO model in a year or two, with improved specs (and a Kinect-less design philosophy) that can directly compete with the PS4?  This is not unheard of, as both the 360 and PS3 went through a few redesigns, though those were mostly cosmetic.  But in this case, Microsoft – who is clearly trying to right its perceived wrongs as quickly as possible – might very well put out an XBO with specs that could go toe to toe with the PS4, thus ending the performance gap once and for all.

I still maintain that exclusive games are the key to getting my money, and right now the PS4 has the better-looking lineup – especially as far as the indie scene is concerned.  But if Microsoft is making this announcement now, a month before E3, one has to assume that they want their E3 presentation to be as positive, forward-looking and with as much emphasis on games as humanly possible.

So, then:  this looks like it’s going to be yet another really interesting E3.


*  In an interview with Forbes, Yusuf Mehdi, a senior officer at Microsoft, specifically says:

“People have been more satisfied with the Xbox 360 than the PS3, so in that respect people have less of a need to upgrade in the short-term due to regular updates for the Xbox 360…”

This is 100% true.  I still kinda mess around in GTAV on my 360 every once in a while, and I do intend to see that last bit of Mass Effect 3 DLC that I’ve not yet gotten to.  Meanwhile, my PS3 is currently acting as an extra BluRay player for the bedroom TV.  Given that we do not watch BluRays in our bedroom, and also given that we have a Roku in there as well, I literally haven’t turned my PS3 on since I moved it in there to make room for the PS4.

Weekend Recap: Easy Mode

My new piece for Gamemoir just went up:  “There Is No Shame In Easy Mode.”  I feel pretty good about it, though it did go up a few hours before I thought it would, and I would’ve liked one last chance to proof it and make sure it was in tip-top shape.  In any event, it’s too late to take it back now!

Almost no gaming happened this weekend; we were at my mom’s new house for the Mother’s Day weekend, and between the baby and two sets of grandparents and everything else, I barely had the time to finish revising the Gamemoir piece, let alone play anything.

That said, I did finally get a chance to look at Borderlands 2 for my Vita, which took a literal three (3) days to download.  And after all that, it pains me to say that as much as I love Borderlands 2, I’m not sure this port was worth it.  I mean, hey, it’s great, portable Borderlands!  And it’s free, and came with all of the DLC!  But it also kinda looks a little shitty, and the Vita’s controls are just never going to compete with using a real controller.  And yet, because it took 3 days to download, there’s a part of me that would feel stupid to delete it from my memory stick.

I’m also nearly fully soured on Mario Golf World Tour.  I’ve had no desire to play it, or even think about it, and that’s sad; I like golf in videogame form, especially in a portable one.  It’s a rental, and my queue doesn’t get busy for a few more weeks, so I may hold on to it and give it one more real go, but it’s hard to stay excited for it.

No idea what’s happening this week.  I’ve yet to play my rental copy of MLB 14 The Show for PS4; that might be worth checking out, especially since my wife and I just cut the cable cord and no longer have easy access to live sports.  But I’ve always been kinda terrible at the hitting phase of the MLB games, which is (as you might imagine) a rather large part of the gameplay experience.  So I’m not necessarily holding my breath.

In the meantime, check out that Easy Mode column.  I’ve got to start figuring out next week’s pitch, too…

on writing for other people

1.  My living nightmare has come to an apparent end; my new PS Vita Slim arrived yesterday, and it actually appears to work.  I haven’t had a chance to do much of anything with it yet, though, as its download speeds are still as dreadfully slow as they were before – Borderlands 2 is maybe 30% downloaded and I’ve had the thing continually running since last night at 8pm – but I’ve held it in my hands and configured settings and such, and it feels… better, somehow.  My memories of my original Vita are dim, as you might imagine, being that in my 4 weeks of ownership I only actually had it working for 48 hours.  In any event, the new Slim feels nice in the hand; it’s a little light, but that’s probably OK over the long haul.  I look forward to the day when I can actually talk about playing games on it.

(Oh – I did manage to import my PS4 save of Fez over to the Vita, and that’s just a super-cool thing to be able to do.  I also tried using the Vita as the PS4’s second screen, and that kinda looked a little janky – it looked like a very poorly compressed YouTube video.  So I’m not sure how much mileage I’m going to get out of that feature.  But, still, hey.  Maybe I can use it as a BluRay remote for the time being.)

2.  I have a column due on Monday for Gamemoir; it’s a rebuttal to an opinion piece about “The Shame of Playing on Easy Mode” and it ought to be a slam dunk, and yet for some reason I’m having a much more difficult time than I anticipated in making it work.  The most important thing for me is that I don’t want to be mean; I mean, I’m writing a column, I don’t want it to read like it belongs in a comment thread.  But I have very strong feelings on that topic and I’m afraid that I’m going to screw it up somehow by either throwing too much into the post, or else not throwing in enough, or else dwelling on minutia and rushing through the points I actually want to make.

It’s strange, what writing for other sites is doing to my brain.  I mean, I’ve only written 2 pieces for Gamemoir so far (and in the meantime I’ve gone 0-for-2 for pitches to other, bigger sites), but those pieces have reached far bigger audiences than almost anything I’ve written here, and as such I’ve had to craft those pieces a bit differently than how I normally write.  I also get a week to write those pieces, so I have a bit more time to think about them and figure out how to say what I want to say.

The stuff I write here is generally pretty quick; I’ve gotten quite good at not self-censoring myself the way I used to (even on my personal LiveJournal account), but I’m also very informal here, and I have a tendency to fully indulge all the weird linguistic tics and tricks I’ve developed over the years as a writer without a formal editing process.  Like:  this piece is already over 500 words and it’s taken me only about 15 minutes to write.  But it’s also more than likely that this post will be forgotten by everyone (and me, too) about 15 minutes after they’re done with it.  I’m not necessarily crafting anything here; I’m just putting my thoughts up as quickly and as coherently as I can.

If I want to get better as a writer – indeed, if I ever hope to get some freelance work – I need to get better at the craft.  So it’s probably a good thing, then, that I’m struggling with this piece; it means I’m learning something.

3.  There’s not going to be much gaming this weekend; the wife and kid and dogs and I are going out of town for the weekend, to hang out with both of Henry’s grandmothers.  I keep thinking about maybe bringing the Vita along, but I also know that any free time I manage to wrangle will most likely have to be spent in front of my laptop, writing that post.

the rundown

1.  I am beginning to think that the universe does not want me to own a Vita.  After Amazon received my defective unit, I pre-ordered the new Borderlands 2 bundle.  It was supposed to arrive today.  But late last night I received an e-mail from Amazon telling me that it won’t ship until somewhere between mid-May and mid-June.  Honestly, at this point I’d just give up and forget about it… except that I spent nearly $100 on a 32gb memory stick, and it’s loaded with some quality content, and I’d at least like to see some of it one day.

2.  My rental copy of Mario Golf: World Tour for the 3DS arrived last night, and I’m sad to say it’s probably going back to Gamefly relatively soon.  I adored the Mario Golf game for the DS, and played it endlessly, and loved nearly every minute of it.  This… thing, on the other hand, feels so half-baked, utterly bland and devoid of content that one wonders why it kept getting delayed.

3.  A rental copy of MLB 14: The Show will arrive later this week for the PS4.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating:  the MLB games are unparalleled in terms of presentation, gameplay and the overall experience.  And I’m also terrible at them, at least as far as hitting is concerned.  I’m excited for next-gen baseball – especially as I recently cut the cable cord and no longer have access to live sports – but I also know that this is probably a “try one game, be impressed while madly flailing at pitches far out of the strike zone, send back” sort of situation.

4.  It would figure that the day after I sing Diablo 3‘s praises for an unprecedented run of incredible loot drops, I’d spend an hour or two and get nothing but crap.  Still having fun, though!  And having fun is all that matters.

5.  Late yesterday afternoon I pitched a feature article to a site I’d very much like to write for, but I haven’t yet heard back.  This is a little depressing, I guess, but in the meantime I’m going to start getting it into shape, and so if it doesn’t go up there, it’ll most likely end up either here or at Gamemoir.  I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, except I always feel compelled to have 5 things in these numbered posts.

Weekend Recap: Back Into Hell

SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT: my new piece for Gamemoir just went up!  
“What the E.T. Game Taught Me About Life, Criticism, and Self-Doubt”


The short version:  I am utterly surprised to find myself thoroughly re-addicted to Diablo III, after spending nearly 2 years away from it in a self-imposed exile.

The question inspired by the long version:  How do you make the simple, repetitive, monotonous and tedious act of left- and right-clicking a million times compelling?  And when one has spent over 80 hours doing this, thoroughly burning themselves out in the process to the point where the mere idea of playing other, similar games causes mild panic attacks (I again apologize to Torchlight II), how do you get them to come back?


This was a busy and productive weekend as far as non-gaming, family business was concerned – though this is not the proper venue to discuss that (at least not quite yet).   But it’s worth bringing up if only to explain what I found myself doing on Saturday morning.

I was a little nervous about our day-trip activities on Saturday; and so, in need of some sort of distraction, I felt compelled to fix my Blizzard account, which had been broken for quite some time.  [For purposes of clarity, I’m going to lay this out in bullet points, mostly because it’s Monday and when I wrote this as a long paragraph, even I lost the thread.]

  • At the height of my Diablo III addiction, I’d attached an Authenticator to my account in the interest of added security.  As you do.
  • But then, at a certain point long after I’d stopped playing regularly, the iPhone that the Authenticator app was attached to broke and needed to be replaced.
  • When I got my iPhone replaced, and when I got around to re-downloading the Authenticator app, the sync was off and I couldn’t log in.
  • As it happens, this wasn’t necessarily the end of the world – my PC hard drive had crashed around the same time, and when I replaced it, I never bothered to reinstall Diablo III, since I figured I was still done with it.
  • When the Reaper of Souls expansion was announced, I found myself mildly curious, but, of course, my account was still screwed up and when I looked into how to fix it, it seemed like too much work to bother.  (Blizzard is really serious about making sure you want to remove your Authenticator, requiring Government-issued IDs and such.)
  • But now there’s Hearthstone, which I’m kinda wanting to start to engage with, and I felt like I really ought to get off my ass and fix the account, since maybe I have friends who are playing?
  • And so I bit the bullet and dealt with Blizzard security and fixed my account.
  • And then I figured, well, now that I can log in again, why not download Diablo III again while we’re out on our adventure so that I can see what’s up when we came back?

Upon our return, and after the kid went to bed, I saw that Diablo III had, in fact, finished downloading.  And so I fired it up.  And then I found myself accidentally on purpose buying the aforementioned Reaper of Souls expansion, and then I looked up and saw that 4 hours had flown by.

Now, as far as I can tell, this post from August 2012 marks the last time I spent any significant time with Diablo III, and that was really just to check out the 1.0.4 patch, in hopes that the tweaks were enough to keep me invested.  [tl,dr:  It was intriguing, but not enough.]

It’s kinda frightening how quickly it all came back.  My stats bore out that I’d already sunk over 80 hours into it when it first came out – I’d hit the level cap with my female Monk*, and I’d gotten 2 other classes somewhat up to speed, and I’d ultimately burned myself out because the endgame was repetitive and tedious and the loot was hardly worth the time or effort – most of what I’d been equipping was stuff from the Auction House anyway.  Indeed, Blizzard had been aware of this very issue, and if I recall correctly that’s what the 1.0.4 patch was intended to address.  It wasn’t enough for me; I’d seen everything the campaign had to offer 10 times over, and the higher loot drop rate just wasn’t enough of a pull anymore.

But nearly 2 years later, the game feels remarkably fresh and revitalized, and – as far as the new campaign is concerned – I’m totally sucked back in.  I have barely scratched the surface of what’s new and improved, as I’ve only touched the new act of the campaign, but I can at least verify firsthand that kick-ass, equippable loot is dropping for me about every 5-10 minutes or so, even on Normal difficulty.  The mind reels at what will start dropping once I finish this run and start at a higher difficulty level.

In fact, here’s my current build – and I’m nearly positive that everything I’ve equipped is all brand-new stuff I’ve picked up since Saturday night, which is insane.  I mean, it used to take me hours just to find one usable weapon that was markedly improved from what I’d equipped; but now, in just a few hours’ worth of play, nearly every equippable slot has seen at least one incredible new drop.

http://us.battle.net/d3/en/profile/JervoNYC-1540/hero/47756480

So, yeah, I’m totally enjoying the shit out of it,again, which I suppose is the greatest surprise of all.  I suppose I’d sort-of been checking out the PS4 version whenever it came out, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to play through the original campaign again – nor was I sure that I’d have access to my current character roster, and the thought of losing 80+ hours of progress just to play the game on my TV wasn’t particularly appealing.  In any event, this is a moot point now – I prefer playing this game with a mouse and keyboard, in the relative quiet of my office, and my PC runs the game quite well.

I’m not sure I can answer the question I posed above – the one about how Blizzard has managed to make me fall in love all over again with something I’d been thoroughly exhausted by – but goddamn, they totally succeeded.  Even if it’s simply a matter of performance – and I should definitely point out that the game is running much smoother now than it ever did before (which I’m sure is a combination of both Blizzard fixing things on their end, and my securing of a faster internet connection since the last time I’d played), it’d be enough to have a transformative experience.   I’d also wager that having a new campaign to play is helping to keep things fresh.

But I suppose the kick-ass loot has something to do with it too.


* I’m not sure why I took the time to mention that she’s female, except that later this month I’ll be publishing something on Videodame.com about my experiences playing as female characters – whether by the game’s choice or my own – and when I was putting together my research and going through all the times I’ve played as a woman, I guess I’d totally forgotten than I’d rolled a female monk in Diablo III, probably because I’d blocked out Diablo III from my brain.