I was hoping to post some Diablo III impressions today. Instead, my entire experience with the game can be summed up with a simple meme. Actually, scratch that, I can log in, but my character (a monk) is booted from the server and unable to log back in. The 30 minutes I’ve spent with the game have come over 12-15 different sessions. Frustrating, and I’m not alone (but, unlike some trolls on the Internet, I have many other ways to occupy my time instead of stewing over a videogame.) So, in lieu of my own impressions, here’s a round-up of some of the review of Diablo III from around the web.
Mike Anderiesz, The Guardian:
Once in the game, it’s clear that the new 3D engine has been put to work on rendering a level of detail we haven’t seen in the series before. Superb lighting effects make even Act 1′s formulaic dungeons seem more atmospheric, but once you reach Act 2′s Caldeum and beyond, more spectacular locations and draw distances emerge. Enemies may have a tendency to swarm mindlessly towards you, but they come in large numbers and reasonable variety.
Not every improvement pays off, however; there’s far too little destructible scenery and context-sensitive traps – such as falling chandeliers or rolling logs – sound like a great idea on paper but require such careful lining up of enemies you won’t be troubling with them after the first few attempts.
There’s improvement as well as innovation, particularly with the UI. With a permanent Portal spell to take you back to nearby towns and a much smarter way of choosing and comparing items, you can now focus on the important task of killing things.
So the key question remains, was Diablo 3 worth the 12-year wait? That depends on how you play it – for single players, it’s an entertaining and gorgeous-looking dungeon hack but it’s a bit short, extremely linear and hardly pushing any boundaries. Playing online (and Blizzard isn’t really giving us a choice) makes it a better balanced and more compelling challenge, with all the potential to be the kind of lifestyle substitute that Diablo’s legion of hunter-gatherer fans should relish.
So, last night, like millions of other
cool, socially well-adjusted people nerds, I went out and eagerly purchased Diablo III. And then, like millions of other nerds cool, socially well-adjusted people, I also ran into immense frustration when my single-player experience was halted (in fact, never begun) because of various server issues. That’s a topic for another day, but I did run across a pretty cool bit of trivia while waiting for Diablo III to install. While the installation process was happening, eager gamers can read a short illustrated primer that details about the stories in Diablo and Diablo II. You remember this guy?
Of course you do. His name? Aidan. Yep, that’s right. The Warrior from Diablo, that game that stole hours-upon-hours-upon-hours of my teenage life, had the same name as me. Little did I know that when I created a new character a gave him my name, that I was only following the true canon of the series.
My hidden and tragic past, from the Diablo Wiki:
Aidan lived with his father as he grew up. The earliest information we have about him is that he served in his father’s army and was under the command of Lachdanan when he led the assault against Westmarch prior to the events of Diablo I. Upon returning to Tristram and seeing his father raised from the dead, his younger brother missing and Lazarus gone, he journeyed into the depths of the labyrinth under the Cathedral.
As he journeyed deeper and deeper into it he not only found and killed his own father as the Skeleton King, he also killed Lazarus and his own brother who was at the time possessed by Diablo.
The further down he’d gotten however, the larger Diablo’s influence over him had grown. The Lord of Terror recognized what a fine host Aidan would make, and so slowly crept into his mind. Once Diablo was slain, Aidan had become convinced that in order to contain Diablo he had to shove the soulstone into himself, and so Aidan became the Dark Wanderer.
John Scalzi published an article today on his blog titled “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.” I felt the need to pass it along, without much in the way of comment. It’s not exactly related to the usual topics covered here on A Dribble of Ink, but it’s interesting, important and Scalzi’s a prominent figure in our community. Gender is a hot-topic issue in the SFF community these days (see here, and here, and here) and Scalzi, as he traditionally does, tackles the subject of gender- and race-privilege with an even hand. The “fun” really begins in the comments section, as is wont to happen on the Internet.
Dudes. Imagine life here in the US — or indeed, pretty much anywhere in the Western world — is a massive role playing game, like World of Warcraft except appallingly mundane, where most quests involve the acquisition of money, cell phones and donuts, although not always at the same time. Let’s call it The Real World. You have installed The Real World on your computer and are about to start playing, but first you go to the settings tab to bind your keys, fiddle with your defaults, and choose the difficulty setting for the game. Got it?
Now, once you’ve selected the “Straight White Male” difficulty setting, you still have to create a character, and how many points you get to start — and how they are apportioned — will make a difference. Initially the computer will tell you how many points you get and how they are divided up. If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. Be aware the computer makes it difficult to start with more than 30 points; people on higher difficulty settings generally start with even fewer than that.
You can lose playing on the lowest difficulty setting. The lowest difficulty setting is still the easiest setting to win on. The player who plays on the “Gay Minority Female” setting? Hardcore.
Please, read it and let me know what you think.
This week saw the publication in the U.S. of a massive (Amazon shipping weight for the hardcover: 3.1 pounds!) new anthology of fantastic literature: Ann and Jeff VanderMeer’s The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories. Initially published in the U.K. by Corvus last fall, this book contains 110 stories of fabulous, bizarre, sometimes esoteric weirdness. I read the whole thing at the end of last year, and it has produced a lot of fodder for contemplation. I found it difficult to write a brief, crisp review of it (although a review is in progress), but what really made this book significant to me is that I have been able to turn the stories over and over in my mind and find insights into reading, writing, story, genre, and some tenebrous insights into how I look at life and reality. Even better, some of the stories require you to struggle, to navigate your way through discomfort and perplexity, to really experience their value. I’ve written about it several times, and it has inspired a chapter in the book I’m currently working on. What’s great about The Weird is that you can find all kinds of odd, perplexing, sometimes horrible things in it, and once you take them in they start to worm themselves into your thoughts and ideas.
Well, they do for me at least.
And this is what I want to discuss in this blog post: the idea not just of weird fiction, but of how genre expectations — as reading frameworks — condition our engagement with fantastic literature. We all have our preferred categorizations for the stories we read: some people like SF, others speculative fiction or fantastic fiction. Some readers want to organize stories more precisely, right down to very specific sub-genres like paranormal romance or steampunk. Some people like micro-designations, while others like a big playing field. Myself, I was a rabid, obsessive parser of subgenres as a younger reader, but I found after some years that I was reading the same sort of stuff constantly, and I was getting, well, bored. I came to realize that my problem was with how I looked at genre, how I used genre and how my expectations and assumptions influenced my reading of a story. I have evolved into a big-tent sort of reader of fantastic fiction, to the point where I prefer to use the term fantastika, precisely because it opens doors into stories rather than closing them. It also incites discussions about genre and how we look at the stories we enjoy reading, and I like that. Continue reading
I’m pleased to announce that Stephen Susco, writer of THE GRUDGE, and writer/producer of upcoming films HIGH SCHOOL (June 1st) and THE POSSESSION (Aug 30), has optioned the film and tv rights in Prince of Thorns and the Broken Empire trilogy published by Ace/Berkley in the US and Voyager in the UK.
Great news for Lawrence and fans of The Broken Empire series. I’m always skeptical about announcements like these, because an option being taken on a book series is only the very first, small step in a film or television series being produced, but it’s neat nonetheless. Lawrence’s novel is known for both its nihilistic and brutal world and the dark humour of the protagonist, Jorg, and it will be interesting to see how this transitions to screen, without making audiences squeamish.
If interested, you can read my review of Prince of Thorns from earlier this year.