Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Grim Christmas

I woke up this morning at 5:30 am.  Not intentionally.  It's spring - allergy season - and I suffer as a result.  So my allergies had me up, but my normal wake up time is 6:00 am, so this wasn't too much different than that.  As I lay there, wondering if I should try to go back to sleep or not, I suddenly remembered - Diablo III is ready!  And I sat up, crept downstairs without turning on a light, and logged in.

Two of my friends were already on, and one waved a cheery hello!  "It's like Christmas Morning!" he said.  And he was exactly right.  It really was like Christmas morning as a kid.

This isn't a first impressions kind of post, or a review of the game itself in any way.  The time for Diablo III first impressions came and went months ago.  But as I created my first character - Demon Hunter, natch - and stepped back into the world I left twelve years ago, savoring every screen, the music, the sound - literally every brush stroke of this gorgeous game that has such an incredibly hand-crafted feel to it - what I was most struck with was the thought of the broad wealth of experiences people are having right now with this game.

There are people that have been playing Diablo III for months.  People for whom the art, the atmosphere, and the game itself are already old-hat, whom are unconcerned with the lavish attention to detail the game exhibits, and whom were cruising through the game with the same sense of familiarity as they would their local shopping mall.  There are already complex, elaborate schemes drawn up and entire communities formed around attempting to make  money - real money - off of the RMT auction house the game offers.  People for whom the game itself is even secondary to the very serious business-like process of farming, buying, and trading virtual goods for real money.  My G+ stream this morning had screenshots from people that had completed Act I a scant few hours after the game launched at midnight.  Before the week has ended - quite likely before the day has ended - people will have completed the entire game on Normal mode, and will be building their Nightmare mode characters.  And people whom are feverishly farming resources and hoarding Magic Find Gear to put up on the AH while the prices are exorbitantly high, before the market settles down.

And then there are people like me, at the opposite end of the spectrum.  People whom hold the entire franchise in an almost ridiculous sense of reverence.  But we were there in 1995, playing computer games, and we remember that amazing sense of dread and dark ambiance that first game gave us.  Of being literally terrified as we crept through the caves, or dismayed at dying, knowing that we had to put on the set of spare gear we kept in our stash, so that we could make it back to our death pile, to retrieve the incredibly valuable gear that still lay on the ground where we had fallen.  And gawd forbid, don't exit the game!  We are the ones that, to this day, still have our collector's edition box on our bookshelf, unwilling to part with it, defending it fiercely against careless movers and spousal disapproval alike.  For us, we will move through this game with a sense of awe that borders on adulation.  We will relish every step, savor every dialogue.  It may take us months to complete the game through a single pass, but we will drink each step with measured patience, swill the colors and flavors around in our mouths allowing every sense to partake in the game's heady atmosphere, before moving on, palette cleansed, to the next act.

And then there are the millions of the rest of the gaming public.  People whom know the game is important, but aren't really sure why.  For them, it's just another, perhaps overly hyped - game only for the PC.  They see little difference between Diablo III, and Torchlight II - and for many - and I say this with no small amount of sadness in my soul - it is Diablo that feels like the pretender to them.  They don't understand, know about, or even care about what came before in the Diablo franchise.  I don't speak of the lore here, but Diablo's historically curious notions about singleplayer, multiplayer, battle.net, and playing singleplayer online.  They gnash their teeth about the problems with the Blizzard servers, and perhaps they rant online about how dare Blizzard force them to connect to their servers just to play a game that for them has little significance beyond any other game they've played.

But their experience is no less valid than my own, or even than the would be gold farmers.  They will buy the game, play it, perhaps enjoy a few multiplayer sessions with their friends, and move on.  Because for right now, in the same way that Skyrim was a few months ago - this is the game to play.  But they do so with neither nostalgia nor anticipation.  They shall enjoy the game (or not) based on its own merits alone.  And who knows, perhaps in 12 years they'll have come to love the franchise as some of us have, and will wait with the same level of anticipation for Diablo IV.

So that's what I was thinking about as I returned once again to Tristram.  But only for a little while.  For their are undead and worse before me.  And it is time, once again, to save Sanctuary.

And Merry Christmas!

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