Blizzard is Abandoning Diablo III’s Team Deathmatch Mode

Game developers have had to apologize for a lot of things over the years, from content to characters to endings, and in the case of the recent “War Z” debacle, pretty much the fact that their game even exists.

Now it’s Blizzard’s turn to taste humble pie, as they are admitting defeat, and yanking the imbalanced and unpopular team deathmatch mode from “Diablo III”. Citing numerous shortcomings, Blizzard admits they just couldn’t find a way to get the mode to work, and will be removing it, ultimately, because it wasn’t really any fun.

However, they are working on a temporary mode that will still allow for player duels which should arrive with the next patch, and are also apparently designing an entirely new mode that will replace, and hopefully surpass, team deathmatch. The only details know about this new mode is that it will be a free addition to the game, available sometime in the new year.

Considering the numerous failures surrounding “Diablo III” at its release, it’s easy to look at this news as a further embarrassment, or a little more dirt on the grave. However, Blizzard is spot on that the mode just didn’t work in any entertaining or creative way, and even though the work on implementing team deathmatch apparently took up a sizeable amount of the development time leading up to “Diablo’s” release, its best that they admit their failures now and improve them, rather than skirt the issue entirely and rest on the laurels of some sizable sales figures. It’ll be exciting to see what they come up with instead, now that they have some more perspective on what works, and what definitely doesn’t.

Scouting Report – The Games of May

After sitting through far too many rounds of the NFL Draft over the weekend, I got to thinking: If sports reporters can analyze players that haven’t gone pro yet, why not try to make an assessment of games that haven’t gone live yet?  So here is my scouting report on some big releases of May, including just how I think they will fare when they hit the big time.

Max Payne 3


Scouting Report

The wait for this game has had many fans feel what it’s like to be stuck in Max’s signature slowdown bullet time mode. Original developer Remedy did an amazing job with the first “Max Payne” when it came to capturing that particular brand of Hong Kong cinema gunplay, popularized by the likes of “Hard Boiled” and “The Killer“, while infusing it with some old fashioned American film noir style. It resulted in one of the most revolutionary and unique shooters ever made. For the sequel, “Max Payne 2“, they managed to blow nearly everyone’s expectations away by retaining the essentially the same gameplay of the first, but then smothering the entire experience with unbelievable amount of style, emphasized by some of the best level design ever in a game and some perfect ragdoll physics, to create what is one of my personal favorite games of all time.

But now it’s Rockstar’s turn to take the reins (and why not as that iconic R logo on the first two led many to believe it was one of their developments anyway), as they attempt to bring Max back into the limelight. So far, from the numerous preview trailers, it looks like the emphasis is on refinement of the system and not starting a revolution….as least in the single player. Yes for the first time ever, Max is going multiplayer in what Rockstar is hoping is going to be a unique attempt at that eternal question. How do you make bullet time work in multiplayer?

Prospects

I have zero doubt this game is going to be good. I have some questions though on whether or not it will be great.

It’s obvious from everything we’ve seen so far that Rockstar is not looking to stray from the established gameplay of the first two, and merely tweak it with some very welcome additions (mostly cosmetic). But at this point, many fans want the game to be more than “just fun”, and to pull that off, Rockstar is going to have to match the numerous little X-factors that Remedy populated the first two games with. As this installment is moving away from its previous Noir style roots, they’re going to have to find a way to make the new “Man on Fire”-style world and plot shine as bright and feel as unique. Failing that, it’s going to come down to the multiplayer to be what makes this game stand out in a busy market (even for a returning legend).

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The boredom the game industry can breed

KoA.

I love video games in a way many people in my life have never understood. My parents never really grasped my fascination with my Nintendo 64, and I can’t remember a girlfriend who looked with more than a passing curiosity on my favorite pastime. As much as I love certain games and certainly gaming as a whole, times like the present are far too familiar.

I’m bored with gaming. Deeply bored. I still play DotA 2 on a regular basis, though mostly because it gives me a chance to connect with my gaming friends. Updates for the game are coming slowly, even on Valve time. With the wide array of heroes yet to be added, the game is a long way from complete, and further still from seeing any kind of evolution on the status quo.

Beyond that, the industry’s recent releases have been half-hearted iterations on the latest classics, and even for those the cost of entry is steep. SWTOR was my gleaming hope for a while there, but the beta was a tragic disappointment, even if it did save me $60. Kingdoms of Amalur had some promise, but my enjoyment would have been short-lived. Games as long on dialogue as Amalur have always bored me, which is why I’ll likely be passing on Mass Effect 3. I certainly will be for the initial cost of the game.

In some ways I think the recent wave of quality indie games has ruined the big publisher model for me. When I can easily get the same or more enjoyment from a $20 alpha investment, it gets difficult to justify spending three times as much for some pretty graphics and a few big names on that expensive box. Seriously, if the likes of R.A. Salvatore and Todd McFarlane can’t pull together an original and compelling world, why pay the premium on their names?

The future doesn’t look much more promising. Diablo 3 is still on the horizon but I can’t help wondering if the grindy style will be interesting enough. Mass Effect 3 is out there, but I’m not a fan of BioWare’s over-valuation of dialogue and dialogue choices. The one bright light remains Guild Wars 2, but that game sounds so ambitious it almost seems like it has already fallen short.

What are you playing? Or is there something you can’t wait to play?

Diablo 3 slated for Q2

Blizzard earnings call.

Oh earnings conference calls, how I love you. You are the one place I can reliably get straightforward, no-bullshit answers about release dates and the success or failure of specific franchises. Blizzard had just such a call this afternoon, which means we finally know something about the release date for Diablo 3. We don’t have a date, but the game is slated for Q2, which is something.

I was really hoping to see the game by this past November, so Q2 feels like a long way off. Blizzard did just give 100,000 more beta invites out, which means more people will have a chance to play through the highly polished first parts of Act I. I was impressed with the beta and really enjoyed myself, but it’s just so damn short.

Some of the other interesting news from the earnings call was that Blizzard will be launching multiple titles in 2012. The safe bet is that they’re talking about Heart of the Swarm, the next Starcraft II xpac, but the hopeful guess is that they’ll launch Blizzard DotA within the year. I’m honestly experiencing a bit of MOBA fatigue, but more options and competition in the industry should mean better games overall, so I’m excited for it. I’m also curious what Blizzard plans to make of this “Blizzard Arcade” business. Trying to pack in a few titles for the casual gaming crowd? I’m sure I could be convinced to spend a couple bucks here and there on Blizzard titles.

Getting pumped for Diablo III

I’ve been on the lookout for a new distraction for quite some time now, but none of the major game releases in the past several months have really captured my attention. Skyrim was good for a time, but while I’m sure I’ll go back to that world on occasion, there’s only so much that I feel truly compelled to do in the game. The Old Republic was an absolute flop for me. Even the DotA 2 beta feels a little lackluster of late. That’s mostly due to the losing streak I’m currently wading through, but also because not all of my gaming buddies have the title and the hero pool remains a bit limited.

I’m not expecting Diablo III to change the gaming industry as we know it. I’m not expecting it to be the best game of 2012. I’m not really expecting anything, which is why I think I will probably enjoy it. Dungeon slashers aren’t particularly interesting games, but they’re usually a lot of fun. I especially like the features of Diablo III aimed at more fun, instead of just min-maxing a character for damage (although that can be a pretty good time, too).

A few videos have recently popped up (like the one above) showing off the effects of different runes on class spells. Though some are a little uninspired (zombie becomes zombie with poison cloud), a lot of the rune effects make significant changes to the way a character feels, which I think is awesome. Personally, I’m most interested in the witch doctor, but the monk is a close second. I’m sure at some point I’ll get into the wizard – I just couldn’t stay away from the sorceress in Diablo II – but I’m guessing that’s a ways off.

Dipping into Diablo 2

The fall release schedule has been pretty underwhelming so far. Most of the big titles have had their release date pushed back, though we will see Battlefield 3 tomorrow. Personally, I’m not much of an FPS fan these days, so I’m holding out for the RPG/ARTS games that are yet to come.

For now, Diablo 3 is my number one pick. I played the hell out of Diablo 2 back in high school and college and I’ve actually picked it back up to get in the mood for the next addition to the franchise. I’m surprised how much enjoyment I can still get out of a game that is nothing more than a gear grind. There’s still something fun about it, despite it’s gross imbalances, too. Why can Hammerdins kill everything in the game with such ease, even with a relatively easy-to-find kit? Why are high runes such a crapshoot? Why do immunities even exist in this kind of grinder?

I’m going to avoid answering those questions and instead offer some advice. If you’re thinking about going back and playing through Diablo 1 and 2, I’d highly recommend checking out the Reddit server, at least for your multiplayer Diablo 2 experiences. I played some Battle.net not too long ago and immediately ran up against the game’s big problems – bots and duping. High-level items are so common it’s silly. With Reddit’s private server, though, the economy is pretty balanced and, more importantly, the players are friendly. It’s been nice to go back through some of my favorite classes and specs, finding help along the way from generous players.

You can find out more about the Diablo 2 Reddit server at the server’s subreddit. I’m playing there under the account “thewuggler” if you happen to join.

Out of this fall’s games, what are you most looking forward to?

Official Blizzcon schedule is up

Blizzcon 2010 schedule of events

Blizzcon’s coming at the end of the month and should bring all sorts of goodies for World of Warcraft and Diablo III fans. The official schedule of events went up last week, and it’s worth taking a look at.

From what I can tell, there isn’t much about the next Starcraft II expansion. Players have been aching for a new campaign to follow the Wings of Liberty release, and though there’s still a chance we might get something, it’s not looking likely.

Then there’s Diablo III. I’m really having trouble deciding whether or not I’m excited about the game. As much fun as I had with the first two titles in the franchise, I’m still having trouble imagining how the playstyle could translate to a fun game in 2011. The classes sound interesting so far, but at its core, the Diablo series turned into little more than a grindfest, to the point it was easily programmable for bots. I’m hoping the gameplay videos give me enough reason to believe the game can be good.

Of course, there’s also WoW news, which will be all Cataclysm, all conference long. We’ll finally get the new content on December 7th, which means Blizzcon will be showing off all the stuff players will soon be having.

Blizzard will return to consoles “at some point”

Diablo 3 character selectionWhen Diablo III was first announced, there was wide speculation that it could be released for the PS3 and Xbox 360. The series screams console development with its simple control scheme and dungeon-mashing playstyle. Blizzard isn’t quite ready to confirm that rumor, but the developer did say it’s thinking about console development in a serious way.

Speaking to Gamasutra, World of Warcraft production director J. Allen Brack said Blizzard will make a return to console gaming. The only thing holding it back is that the company wants to make “the right game for the right platform.”

“We will definitely work on a console game at some point. I have no doubt about that,” said Brack. I still have hopes for a Diablo III port, but I can’t say I’m ready to believe the rumors.

Source: Gamasutra

Blizzard still updating Diablo II

Diablo 2 werebear.While you’re waiting for Diablo III, Blizzard’s been hard at work updating the game’s predecessor. There’s a new patch coming for Diablo II, and it’s available for beta testing right now.

Why patch a nine year-old dungeon masher, you ask? Well, apparently people needed the ability to respec their characters. It’s a nice addition, even if you only get to do it once. Really, spending the 20 minutes it takes to get rushed to Hell is just so much work.

There are also some bug fixes and spell tweaks associated with the patch, pretty run of the mill stuff. Anyone out there still playing this game? I picked it up for about a day a few weeks back and remembered quickly why I quit.

Source: Battle.net

No date for Diablo III means no time soon

Diablo III concept logo.For a while there I was hoping Blizzard would spring a holiday surprise on us and drop Diablo III just before the end of the year. I realize it would have been crazy – this season is already packed with blockbuster titles for every platform and Blizzard likes to be everyone’s primary focus when it launches a new game. It makes sense, then, that we won’t see the game this year. Or next. But probably the one after that.

Speaking with TechLand, Rob Pardo said Blizzard isn’t even approximating a release date yet. “We always announce all of our games too early,” he said. “We realize that and go, ‘You know what? Next time we’re not going to do that.’ And then we always fail at that. But I’d rather fail at that than fail at making the game great. I think it’s safe to say that, yeah, [Diablo III] is not going to be out next year.”

On the one hand you have to respect his position. It’s pointless to claim a release date if you’re just going to push it back again and again. On the other, though, it’s tough to see the point in talking so much about the game when we could be two years from release. The game already feels overdue, and it’s not like the gameplay or the graphics are so earth-shattering as to be considered even excellent in two years or more.

I’d call this the next Duke Nukem if it were anyone but Blizzard and anything but Diablo.

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