Diablo II

Diablo II at GamersWithJobs.com

I'm sad to admit that I missed out on the Silicon Age of computer gaming, that nebulous timespan between 1985 and 2001 when on-line multiplayer was a tangled web of TCP/IP addresses and the concept of a graphics accelerator card was newfangled futurism. A storied time when games were launched by entering DOS mode and typing something like:
cd:\StarTrek
\StarTrek

Through an unfortunate decision involving an infomercial and the common sense of an 11 year-old, my family decided to purchase a Macintosh Performa as our first home computer. My cousin was battling the villanous forces of the Luftwaffe and squashing robots across the galaxy, and what was I doing? I was stuck playing Spectre Supreme.

I suppose this is why I was so emphatically giddy when, three weeks ago, my roommates knocked on my door and said, “We're going to play Diablo II. Are you in?”

“Ah yes, I too remember 1997”, you might be saying. For someone like myself, who missed out on everyone juking the system and creating an unassailable mountain of duped gold, the invitation my roommates extended was a rare opportunity to catch up on lost time. I'd finally be able to experience the game in a multiplayer environment, with seasoned vets guiding me through the world, showing me the beauty of a game I was a decade late for.

At least, that was the theory.

For my roommates, it was nostalgia that drove them to pick the game up again; Nostalgia and the sudden announcement of Diablo III. They wanted to revisit a world into which they had poured hours and hours worth of slaying and adventuring. A magical pubescent world of Cheetos, Mountain Dew widemouth cans, and neglected physics homework. But I - lacking the rich store of cultural currency they were withdrawing memories from, and without the rose-tint of nostalgia to enhance my vision - had little connection to the universe the game presented. In other words, I had no problem being disappointed by what I saw.

You can ready the pitchforks if you choose. But don't light those torches just yet.

There are a number of things I was struck by when my merry band of D&D archetypes ventured out into the world.

  • The world-map was displayed on top of the action, in a hideously dithered, sprawling mess.
  • Most quests involved wandering around until, through dumb luck alone, we found the bauble that advanced the plot.
  • I was limited to a whopping two combat actions bound to my two mouse buttons.
  • The game relied on a lot of clicking and semi-precise pointer use.
  • It relied on a surprising amount of information from the original, leaving a newbie like me relatively clueless.
  • Playing a Paladin was probably not the wisest choice for me.

Despite my initial quibbles, I soldiered on, determined to protect my allies against the impure undead and to replenish their life whenever the stress of battle seemed too much to handle. My roommates chose a barbarian and a sorcerer. I was their less-useful bastard child. With feeble combat skills and moderately useful (if unspectacular) spellcraft, I could only watch as my teammates decimated armies of supernatural monstrosities. My support role consisted of hanging by the sidelines and cheering them on, basking in the glow of their supernatural brilliance. I was Ringo, in other words.

I was quite surprised to find that most of the game consisted of a complex dance between inventory management, entrepreneurial trading of discarded items, and opportunity-cost assessment. Do I keep the Ring of Shiny that gives me a +2 to Mana Regeneration and increases my light radius by +3, or do I equip the Fabulous Steel Ring of Oiled Muscle that adds +45 to my Attack Rating? Decisions, decisions. I knew that I would later find a ring that would do all of the above (likely to a more impressive degree) and imbue me with the ability to fold origami penguins. At that moment, however, it was the most important decision I would ever make.

The more we played, stumbling around caverns and mercilessly flaying demons, the more I noticed that we were not concerned with the eradication of evil, but rather with the kind of armor their knife-riddled corpses would drop. Dear lord, we were grinding for phat lootz! I was playing some kind of pre-MMOG from the antediluvian age of online gaming! A well-preserved relic from the Era of FeefDisix Cay. What had once existed only as phantom rumors from the domain of Deilap was now my reality. I found myself reverting to a pre-Columbian dialect, a pidgin shorthand of concepts and properties:

“Gldn Rng. +4 to Mana Rgn, +12 to Str, 14% to lghtn res. Ny1?”

It was Barbie Fashion Adventures, only with muddled graphics and a vaguely gothic, feudal theme.

Part of my difficulty in evaluating the game comes from the fact that I'm so far removed from the environment it had debuted in. The concept of playing with other people is downright expected in today's market, to the point that it's somewhat surprising to see something emerge only as a single-player experience [see: Bioshock]. I appreciate a good pathfinding mechanic to weed out unnecessary time spent running down corridors and fields. I like to pepper my keyboard with macros and quickbinds to keep me from running through menus to find my desired attack action. These are the conveniences I have grown accustomed to, and while I can't fault Blizzard for not having magic retroactive vision, my modern expectations did make it a little difficult to really grasp the game's more tender, limb-hacking moments.

I'm not myopic enough to discount battle.net as a huge success, though we certainly jumped through a few router hoops to get the local LAN working. And while I poke fun at the MMOG-like qualities of Diablo II, I certainly recognize that it was one of those early oddities that constructed a devoted, sizable online presence back before DSL or Cable internet were commonplace. There's a lot to say about a game whose basic monetary unit was trashed in favor of a rare ring, after all. Gripe as I may, it's evident that Diablo II laid the groundwork for many of the gaming infrastructure I know and love today.

So while I found Diablo II a bit underwhelming as a game, my Diablo II experience was genuinely fun.

The essence of good multiplayer gaming is the shared experience. Whether you're out to scam someone or trying to complete a 20 man raid, it's just not the same without a human presence. Diablo II delivered that in spades. Coordinated teamwork, complex bartering, and above all else, the pants-wetting horror of entering a room and being confronted with an eldritch creature. These are memories that pop to mind when Diablo II is mentioned. As repetitive as it may have seemed at the time, my fight with that bastard Zerg wurm Duriel became a source of humor as I listened to a housemate issue a guttural cry upon death. The gold we lost could have paid back the American national debt, but the scourge was slain. I can only imagine how thrilling that must have been 10 years ago, when the concept of the internet was so new that we'd be amazed at seeing "www.generalmills.com" appear on our Honey Nut Cheerios boxes.

I'm not going to deny my group's scavenger tendencies. We were rifling through the battlefield's scattered potions and weapons like hungry, hungry hippos. Nor will I disavow the fact that we spent a good 15 minutes chipping away at Diablo's health, only to pause for a second after the win cinematic and say “Let's do that again.” We stared the game down and in the process were forever lost to the allure of the next drop, the promise of better gear, the thrill of being ass-kicking quasigods. In that moment, I knew that Diablo III would consume our household. My roommates had come full circle, and I had glanced at the possibility of a future obsession.

For me, the fun was found in playing with friends. It wasn't a game so much as an excuse for a social experience. I can't envision loading up the game to run through a dungeon or two solo, but I can certainly see the appeal in getting a few people together to slaughter a clan of homicidal cows.

I hear they drop a bitching pair of gloves ... Sometimes.

Diablo II Character Selection
Diablo II at GamersWithJobs.com
Diablo II Inventory Screen

Comments

Diablo II's inventory management system is its own mini-game. It's fantasy-dress-up, with fashion sense replaced by number-crunching. I would even go so far as to argue that it's really the primary game mechanic, because that's where players spend the most time actually making decisions. Sure, there are skill choices and tactical considerations (like target selection and maneuvering), but the big decisions (and rewards) are done through the inventory system.

BUUUURN HIIIIM!!!!11!!!!

Actually I totally agree, while I have fond memories of Diablo 2, my enjoyment of the game comes from chasing the cinematics rather than the actual game-play. Click, right click, f-key, potion spam etc

I played because I thoroughly enjoyed the story and the way it was told. The game was, frankly, boring. That was why I was anti the whole idea of Diablo 3, but it does sound like the story has potential.

I did like the map overlay though.

cd:\StarTrek
\StarTrek

It's:
cd StarTrek
StarTrek

Those whippersnappers...

Great writeup!

I bought Diablo II maybe 6 years after it was released. I can't remember exactly when I bought it but all I know is that I installed it, tried it and never touched it again.

The graphics, by today's standards, are honestly not very good and the fact that I never played it made it impossible for me to get past the oldass graphics.

Perhaps If I'd had somebody to play with... but even then I find point n click dungeon romps to be a tedious and antiquated gameplay mechanic.

I also played the game recently with friend. I agree with the article, it was fun with friends.

There are a number of things I was struck by when my merry band of D&D archetypes ventured out into the world.

# The world-map was displayed on top of the action, in a hideously dithered, sprawling mess.

# Most quests involved wandering around until, through dumb luck alone, we found the bauble that advanced the plot.

# I was limited to a whopping two combat actions bound to my two mouse buttons.

# The game relied on a lot of clicking and semi-precise pointer use.

# It relied on a surprising amount of information from the original, leaving a newbie like me relatively clueless.

# Playing a Paladin was probably not the wisest choice for me.

# I liked the map overlay during play and stopped me having to switch between a secondary screen or peer at a miniscule mini-map in the corner of the screen - though i can see how other people may not like this and its associated difficulty in viewing.

# If you play the game enough you know the area where it will be.

# I've not played a game where there were more than two main attack options on the mouse. Maybe i missed it but you seemed to have missed the fact that you can bind different skills to either mouse button and swap between these using the F1-8 keys for quick access. This makes switching between skills very easy and is a necessary part of the game - especially for a paladin with all those auras (if you had them). Is WOW different to this?*

# Is this different from other games?

# As i've played both games i'm not sure which portions are confusing due to required information from the previous game. You'd have to give an example for me to understand.

# Paladin was my first class choice too and though i played through to the end of the game with him i didn't enjoy it because of the inability to respec your skills.... especially after i'd put one too many points in the multiple attack skill which made it unusable

Not a bad article. Diablo 2 - like all games - was a product of its time and was very well produced.

[edit] *I know that WOW has the hotbar thingy...

The only thing you need to know from the first one is told to you in the first town. A wanderer came through and was possessed by the spirit of Diablo. I think you credit the first game with too much depth, it wasn't until the second one that they expanded the scope of the story.

You can change the map to a mini-map, this stays out of the main focus area while you play but is still there for quick glances.

I like Alex. You aren't one of those bastards that goes out and says "I didn't enjoy this, therefore it sucks." Couple that with someone who hates everything like, say, Rob from the Conferenence Call, and you have a man that will piss me off to no end.

dejanzie wrote:
cd:StarTrek
StarTrek

It's:
cd StarTrek
StarTrek

Those whippersnappers...

You beat me to it!

That was indeed a fabulous era for computer games. Diablo 1, Quake 1 CTF, and Fallout are some of the highlights of my gaming life.

EDIT: Also, waaaaaaay too many RPGs turn into inventory-management games for me. Oblivion for sure. And Fallout did not, once again proving its near-perfection.

Doomed from the start due to the 8 year lag IMO, but great article nonetheless.

You know, Diablo would have worked on your Mac.

Spaz wrote:

Dear lord, we were grinding for phat lootz!

That was Diablo II in a nutshell. My friends used to have Diablo parties at the time, getting together to co-op through the various quests that dropped the best gear. Diablo II, especially MP, seemed to be all about the loot.

You can assign function keys to be able to "hot switch" your skills. And you can use mouse-wheel to scroll through them. Makes things a little less limiting.

Quintin_Stone wrote:
Spaz wrote:

Dear lord, we were grinding for phat lootz!

That was Diablo II in a nutshell. My friends used to have Diablo parties at the time, getting together to co-op through the various quests that dropped the best gear. Diablo II, especially MP, seemed to be all about the loot.

Nah. We just played the entire game. It was Timer that ran meph runs over and over. He had a real problem!

BadMojo wrote:

Nah. We just played the entire game. It was Timer that ran meph runs over and over. He had a real problem!

As with WoW, character power differentials due to varying degrees of playtime made it difficult for everybody to play together with their "mains." I believe we usually just created new characters when doing a D2 orgy, which was a lot of fun. You could run through the whole game in a few hours.

Of course, Timer and I would do 91247842156 Meph runs on bnet with our high level characters after the group play was done. Good times!

I actually only enjoyed D2 when playing solo. I generally despised the bnet interactions I had. Then again, I also didn't have any real-world friends playing D2 so I was stuck with random groups. Wonder if that's why I still play MMO's primarily solo? Hmmm... See doc, it all started with Diablo 2...

Good times. I have the same feelings of playing the game with friends as a social experience. How at the beginning the game was fun just to explore and say "Wow look at that!"
Now it's just "ok let's go after Mephisto again, I need some more uniques."

Spaz: So is there any way to bind my attacks? Am I stuck with L/r?

Roommates: No. That's it.

Oh, I am so kicking their butts for not telling me about F-keys.

Purple_Haze wrote:

I like Alex. You aren't one of those bastards that goes out and says "I didn't enjoy this, therefore it sucks."

I'm not adverse to it (Ninja Gaiden II was bordering on it, and I really, really hated Gears of War), actually. But I did see a lot to love in DII. As ScurvyDog said, I had the deck stacked against me at the start.

interstate78 wrote:

The graphics, by today's standards, are honestly not very good

I actually had something of the opposite reaction. In a recent nostalgia-fest induced by the Diablo 3 announcement, my gaming group engaged in some historical re-enactment as well.

But I tell you that those 800x600 pixels, stretched across at 16:9 widescreen monitor, still looked good.

They didn't look great, but I'd say that, compared to other games released at its time (Counter Strike, Perfect Dark), it holds up pretty well. The trick is to not stand still and examine the graphics, but appreciate them whilst running around like a madman throwing spells willy-nilly and committing sand worm genocide.

In other words, while actually playing the game.

You should have been a Necromancer

Haven't read it yet, not sure if I should.

Ah I guess I will.

Worried :S

There is an alt view for automap.
You can set fkeys or (any key) to switch skills quickly.

Spaz wrote:

I'm not adverse to it (Ninja Gaiden II was bordering on it, and I really, really hated Gears of War), actually. But I did see a lot to love in DII.

OMG! You're like me, reincarnated!!

Diablo II had more to it than just clicking. There were strategies and specific moves that for instance Paladin could switch between on the fly to better deal with the situation. Some monsters were easier dealt with by using Smite, which prevented them from delivering powerful attacks, others, attacking en masse, would be susceptible to Zeal.

Necromancer could seal off monster entrances, dump golems in there, and control the flow of incoming enemies. Thorns and Amp. Magic type spells were also used depending on the situation at hand.

In Act III, for instance, a Necromancer could just focus on having a set of Mages, who countered, to a degree, the annoying distanced attacks by little treemen.

Sure, one could pass the entire game by just spamming one action over and over, but that's because one can't really lose at Diablo.

I like to pepper my keyboard with macros and quickbinds to keep me from running through menus to find my desired attack action.

That was in the game - pressing an F-number key binded it to the currently selected action, and it was the only way to keep your auras/spells/summons in sync with the situation.

Fedaykin98 wrote:
dejanzie wrote:
cd:StarTrek
StarTrek

It's:
cd StarTrek
StarTrek

Those whippersnappers...

You beat me to it!

That was indeed a fabulous era for computer games. Diablo 1, Quake 1 CTF, and Fallout are some of the highlights of my gaming life.

EDIT: Also, waaaaaaay too many RPGs turn into inventory-management games for me. Oblivion for sure. And Fallout did not, once again proving its near-perfection.

C:>cd ultima7 C:\Ultima7>u7

Hey, I'm looking for a way to quickly switch between more than two moves in Diablo 2, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. Does anybody have any idea what I need to do?

buzzvang wrote:

Hey, I'm looking for a way to quickly switch between more than two moves in Diablo 2, but I can't seem to find it anywhere. Does anybody have any idea what I need to do?

Right click on the right hand 'square' that depicts what the RMB action is at that time. It will bring up a selection of your spells/abilities and scrolls.

Hover your mouse over the one you want and press an F-key (1-8) and the appropriate F-number will appear in the corner of that square. You can of course, re-bind by doing the same thing for a different spell using the same key or vice versa.

You can then press the appropriate F-key to switch quickly between the desired abilities. If you want one that's not assigned then you can just right click on that 'action square' and do it manually... it's not as quick though :/

I still play occasionally with a friend as a timewaster. The endgame in D2 is very interesting. One guy, sometimes me, runs as fast as they can straight down to Baal's throneroom, throws up a portal, and the rest of the party spills into the throneroom, killing the minions. The end game "seems" to center around exp and snatching the best loot the quickest as Baal dies. A good run should ideally take 2 minutes, three including killing Baal. Not everyone kills Baal, cause that takes longer and lowers the exp/minute, so many drop and go to the next game. 4 minutes for a run and people will get impatient.

My main is a level 95 Palladin, and I have a dozen alts carrying teh phat lootz. King Tutanhamun himself would be jealous of my storage area.

Dammit, where is that sarcasm tag again?

EDIT: Thanks, duoae. That was very helpful. I'm sorry to have wasted your time.

I got to Diablo II a couple of years late and although it was fun with a friend and my brother on dial-up, I never beat it. I can't really go back to it now for the same reason you stated, and I feel like I missed out. I also missed out on every single Black Isle and Bioware title. Sadly, I just can't get past the aging interfaces and battle mechanics. However, Planescape: Torment is one I may actually be able to finish. It seems like you can just talk your way through that one, and the dialogue is just so entertaining. I had no idea what I was missing while I played poorly translated JRPGs on my Playstation.

Kehama wrote:

I actually only enjoyed D2 when playing solo. I generally despised the bnet interactions I had. Then again, I also didn't have any real-world friends playing D2 so I was stuck with random groups. Wonder if that's why I still play MMO's primarily solo? Hmmm... See doc, it all started with Diablo 2...

I hear ya - I had the same experience. I walked into various Bnet servers, trying to find people of around the same level to just play through the quests with, and the only thing I found was that after wandering outside the encampent, some absurdly powerful barbarian would walk in, murder my poor sorceress with one or two strikes and pick up the cash.
Yay, what FUN!
After getting that a couple of times I just gave up on the MP bit. Tried it with some more familiar online people too, but they were generally too into finding Mephisto's Left Nut of Wisdom or whatnot to complete their set.

Spaz wrote:

Spaz: So is there any way to bind my attacks? Am I stuck with L/r?

Roommates: No. That's it.

Oh, I am so kicking their butts for not telling me about F-keys.

I.. really hate to say it, but..
The options screen did provide some hints that it would be possible though... :\

You all are soulless heathens, and should leave your gamer cards on the table by the door.

Diablo 2 is EXACTLY the same mechanics as World of Warcraft, and most other RPGs that have followed in D2s massive wake.

The mechanics are the same: kill something, collect phat loot, gain xp, level up, rinse and repeat. In terms of multiplayer, the only thing that has changed is how many people you can bring along to kill things.

So maybe you come in to the game jaded by prior RPG experiences...that's a valid criticism. D2 may have been too influential to go back to and get a clean take on.

On the other hand, I find the comments on the game mechanics to be applicable to a bit silly: D2, WoW, Guild Wars, and a bunch of other titles that I could name are point and click, manage your inventory and skills/spells affairs-there has been little innovation in the genre in that sense.

Evolution of the formula, maybe, but nothing that I would call innovation.