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  • Diablo III: Why So Many People Hated It

    [01.15.15]
    - Cynthia Zhang
  • Having published some of its most successful franchises including Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft in the last two decades, Blizzard has become one of the most famous game companies in the world. Unfortunately, a game published in 2012, widely criticized shortly after its release, has damaged its reputation: Diablo III. For a long period of time, most comments under new posts on the official sites were criticism towards the game. Players appeared so disappointed by Diablo III that their comments contained absolutely no compliment; even the moderate ones showed some degree of dissatisfaction. Then, the question is: what makes Diablo III such a hated game? Certainly, there were many problems with the game itself: the loots were too randomized, different classes were unbalanced, and there were numerous bugs here and there. Nonetheless, most of these problems exist in many other popular games. In Dungeon and Fighter by Neople, for instance, whenever a new class was introduced, it became the strongest and the most efficient, and would be significantly weakened in later patches. In Bethesda's The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, more glitches existed than possible fixes, but people still loved Skyrim. Therefore, I cannot convince myself that people hated Diablo III just because of the non-essential problems with it, which could be easily fixed. The underlying problem with Diablo III should lie in its problematic MDA design (Hunicke, LeBlanc, & Zubek): Blizzard failed to identify its target consumers and thus could not design the game accordingly to suit these players. In another word, Blizzard assumed a wrong aesthetic experience that they should create for their target players, which lead to a problematic design of Diablo III's mechanic and dynamic.


    French sociologist Roger Caillois, divided games into four non-exclusive types: Agon, or competition; Alea, or chance; Mimicry, or make-believe; and Ilinx, or vertigo (Caillois, 2006, pp. 131-140). Just like any role-playing game, Diablo III very well satisfied the Mimicry category, creating an imaginary world in which one could "[become] an illusory character" (Caillois, 2006, p. 135). Unfortunately, the Agon factor was mostly missing in the initial release. Online games, in general, contain a lot more competition among players than do single-player games, due to its ability to bring so many players together in one world and to allow the players interact (compete) with each other, which can provoke players to devote more time to beat others and to stay interested in the game. However, back in 2012, the only competitive element of the game was the achievement system, which required not much skills and could more or less be done with devotion of time. As British game researcher Richard Bartle explained in his paper which categorized players into achiever, explorer, socializer, and killer, "achievers are proud of their formal status in the game's built-in level hierarchy, and how short a time they took to reach it" (Bartle, 2006, p. 762). In another word, if everyone can get the achievements, achievers naturally lose their interest in the game because they cannot feel their superiority over other players - exactly what happened in Diablo III.

    I mentioned before that there were a lot of criticism towards Diablo III after its release. There was one comment that especially caught my attention and it somewhat explains why socializers and killers might hate the game. It said:

    Blizzard really isn't a good MMORPG game company. Most of its games are strategy games or offline games. The only MMORPG the company has ever made is World of Warcraft, and it had no other experience in designing or developing online games. Even in the case of WOW, it's successful probably just because it was released many years ago when players weren't as demanding on this type of games as now. It was just lucky to make it successful. I don't really understand why Blizzard didn't just copy the model they used for WOW. That would make the game much more like an MMORPG game. [1]

    While I do not agree with most of the points in this comment, for example a good game doesn't result from luck or copycat, it has pointed out a very truthful point: Diablo III is a terrible MMORPG game, even today. In fact, I actually doubted whether the developers intended for it to be an MMORPG at all. There were just too many features lacking in Diablo III for killers or socializers to enjoy the game. There used to have no PVP system, so in general players couldn't kill other players. Although a Brawling system that allowed players to challenge other players in the group was introduced shortly, it made no sense for a killer player. If I were a killer type player (which I'm not), I wouldn't bother befriending the people I wanted to upset or kill before I kill them. While the Brawling system enabled PVP in Diablo III, it also greatly limited killers to produce massive amount of distress, which is the true enjoyment of killer players (Bartle, 2006, p. 759). As for socializers, the only two socializing methods were to join the chat channels and to play through the game as a group. Neither one was a good way to establish lasting friendship with strangers online, and thus failed to attract socializers.

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