Diconstruction #5: You Move Me


The fifth installment of Chris Marks’ Diconstruction is now online. In this column Chris continues to discuss the various strengths and shortcomings of the earlier games in the Diablo series, with his usual blend of humor and scholarship. A quote: click through to read the whole piece.

The first Diablo game was limited by a completely orthogonal layout, like a chessboard turned diagonally.  You could move in any direction you wanted, but your character would only move in 45 degree angles to get there, so if you wanted to go at something like 30 degrees you’d walk up once, then up-right twice, then up once, turning your body every time you change direction.  This got you where you were going, but anyone walking like that in real life would be laughed at and called funny names, and rightfully so because you would look ridiculous.

The orthogonal layout also meant you could only drop 9 items without moving: one on each side, one on each corner, and one that somehow ends up directly under your feet.  That means anything you drop where you are is getting stepped on.  It’s a shame they didn’t institute some kind of penalty for standing on your sword in that game.  And really, who could argue with them for it?  Some Rogue-like games make you keep track of whether your character’s gone to the bathroom recently, so I don’t think making you avoid walking on your equipment is too much of a stretch.

Diconstruction #5: You Move Me

As with most games, the Diablo games have a way to control them.  I wish I could say “as with all games,” but there’s probably some game out there that you just watch and hit the space bar to advance the plot or something.  Also there’s Progress Quest, which is the best RPG ever created.  Seriously, it’s the best one ever; if you disagree, you are wrong.

Anyway, movement in the Diablo games is controlled by the mouse, which allows you to take your character in some number of directions.  You left click to move, right click to cast spells, and you already know all this but I have to include it in this article for completion, so I guess that’s your fault for knowing things about things; shame on you.

As with all good game series, the sequel is a marked improvement on the first installment.  Fans of series that have gotten steadily worse will please notice I said all good game series get better.  Diablo 2 has been out for 10 years and people are still playing it for the first time, so I think Diablo qualifies there.  Of course I’m not going to talk about any ways it’s improved over time in this article because that’s really what the entire column is about, and more importantly it wouldn’t quite fit with the title, so let’s just move on to something else:

It’s Just a Jump to the Left

You should know me better than that by now.  The first Diablo game was limited by a completely orthogonal layout, like a chessboard turned diagonally.  You could move in any direction you wanted, but your character would only move in 45 degree angles to get there, so if you wanted to go at something like 30 degrees you’d walk up once, then up-right twice, then up once, turning your body every time you change direction.  This got you where you were going, but anyone walking like that in real life would be laughed at and called funny names, and rightfully so because you would look ridiculous.

The orthogonal layout also meant you could only drop 9 items without moving: one on each side, one on each corner, and one that somehow ends up directly under your feet.  That means anything you drop where you are is getting stepped on.  It’s a shame they didn’t institute some kind of penalty for standing on your sword in that game.  And really, who could argue with them for it?  Some Rogue-like games make you keep track of whether your character’s gone to the bathroom recently, so I don’t think making you avoid walking on your equipment is too much of a stretch.

Of course, monsters were also restricted by this orthogonal grid, and they tended to line up and approach in single file.  This could be easily taken advantage of by placing a few strategic Fire Walls, and the poor bastards didn’t stand a chance.  Or you could launch a poorly placed Fire Wall and monsters would walk right through it because it could only exist in orthogonal squares regardless of what angle you placed it at, so if you happened to miss by a few pixels that’s just your tough luck.

Also, nothing in the game counted as being in a square unless it had moved entirely in to it, but it could still be hit if it was partly in it.  That meant you could stand in a corner and swing at a monster two squares away, hit it before it was entirely inside the square next to you, and knock it back to where it came from. And you could do this until you’d successfully murdered it.  Do this with a Monk or Barbarian with an extremely good to-hit, in a corner, and you can literally just slaughter the poor things without risking any injury more deadly than a finger cramp.

The exception to this rule are the projectiles, which can only hit something if the projectile and the target are entirely in the same square.  This is why archers in that game were no threat unless in massive numbers: all you had to do was move in any direction other than straight at them, got to watch their arrow go between your torso and your arm with increasing regularity. Thus causing the monsters to regularly engage in that ever so familiar “Nice Shot” – “Thanks, but I was aiming for his testicles” conversation.

And Then a Step to the Right

Diablo 2 fixed the orthogonal problem by replacing it with another grid and movement structure which is a total and complete mystery to all but those who created it.  Basically you can walk in any direction directly, drop lots of items all around you and walk on them, put up Fire Walls at any angle successfully, and yet the floor layouts are still orthogonal.

Seriously, that’s a lack of commitment if ever I’ve seen one.  They overhauled the movement system, but they stuck with the same tired old 45-degree orthogonal layout for structures.  Raise your hand if you honestly think the Sand Maggots would dig entirely at right angles, and perfectly level.  Lower your hand if you’re joking.  If your hand is still up, use it to punch yourself in the mouth.

Diablo 2 fixed most of the problems of the original Diablo, but it introduced some new ones along with all the good they did.  Like… hold on, I’ll think of one… just a second… oh! I’ve got one: In any stages with in-level stairs, the angle you shoot at doesn’t coincide with the angle the projectile actually goes at.  If I shoot a fireball from a plateau it should pass over all the monsters below, rather than apparently sliding down the face of the plateau at a random angle in order to continue moving at a similar angle to that at which it was originally fired!  Take that, Diablo 2 movement engine designers!

Several Pelvic Thrusts Later…

Alright, so Diablo 2 fixed all the movement problems of the first Diablo except the overly rigid restrictions on construction without introducing anything bad of note.  It still has its lingering problems though: it doesn’t penalize you for walking on your bow, you can’t put items on top of other items on the ground, and the physics of projectiles really does suffer from the problem I noted above.  Most of that is rather trivial though, so all that’s left is to hope that by the third game the inhabitants of Sanctuary will have figured out that square rule they’ve been using all this time can be turned.  Until then, 45 degrees or bust!



Diconstruction (Diablo Deconstruction) is written by Chris Marks.  It examines differences between the two (soon to be three)
Diablo games, as well as comparing them to other games, in a hopefully amusing style.  Diconstruction is published on the first and third Tuesday of every month. Leave your comments below, or contact the author directly.

Tagged As: | Categories: Diablo 2, Diabloii.Net Columns, Other Games

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  1. I’m now praying for a chain corpse explosion skill to made.

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