Every now and then a veteran realm player will drop into the Single Player forum here at Diabloii.net and ask about the merits of single player gaming. Like the good forum community that they are, the SP forum members do their best to win the realm player back from “the dark side” (I’m kidding). The reasons for playing single player are about as diverse as the gamers who choose to play the game. The following are just a few of the reasons that I choose to play SP and some of the unique aspects of SP gaming. Keep in mind that most aspects of DII are the same regardless if you are on the realms or playing SP. Many of the differences are really due to the amount of choices available or tendencies that are usually apparent in the particular environment.
Internet Speed and Lag
Playing on the realms with anything less than high-speed internet access quickly becomes more of an exercise in frustration, futility and a testing of your patience. Thus, the ever present “Lag Monster” who is faster than a speeding built, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to smoke your level 99 Iron Barb faster than you can yell “@#$* LAG” while attempting to disconnect from the game. Sometimes the lag is real, but other times it is just an excuse to cover up poor game play ability, or all out brain-cramp mistakes. Nobody, and I mean nobody, ever gets killed on the realms due to their own incompetence or accidental mouse click. Right? You know the people that I am referring too. The player who storms into a pack of monsters with “amp damage” hovering over their head and yet they still go ahead and smack that MSLE super unique anyway. All the while you are thinking to yourself “that was brilliant” while you’re trying to get your character out of the kill zone from the remaining MS lightning bolts. SP pretty much eliminates the lag monster excuse if your processor is up to snuff.
Sometimes the decision to play SP is really due to the fact that living with a 56K connection just isn’t a viable option. I pretty much live out in the sticks and my only other internet option is to get service via my satellite dish (which still is only half as fast as a cable modem) and pay more for it than my car payment each month. Thus, until my local telephone company upgrades the lines, high-speed connectivity won’t be in my area any time soon. Additionally, in SP you don’t have to get into the b-net queue and wait just to get into a game – especially if MF runs are your thing.
12 Year Olds’ Driving Lamborghinis
Anybody who has played on the realms regularly understands the “12 year olds’ driving Lamborghini’s” phenomenon. This really has nothing to do with the physical age of the player (in most cases), but rather the length of time that they have been playing the game. Most of these players haven’t really explored the various aspects of each character type and they haven’t put in the game time necessary to pick up on the finesse of playing each character. Like many people in the world today, that want everything now, they don’t want to wait, and they don’t want to put in the requisite effort to earn it. Thus, they created a character and then leeched experience and equipment off from everyone that would listen to them whine (or were given an account by somebody who stopped playing). Before long they are level 90+ and really don’t understand how to play the character that they have but the uber hacked equipment does a pretty good job of making up for their lack of experience. To me, this is akin to giving a twelve year old a Lamborghini and telling them that it is ok to take her for a spin. They have no clue how to really drive it but they sure look cool and feel like they have something “up” on everybody else. If another character shows up in your SP game and you’re NOT connected to the internet or a network, shut the game off and promptly remove your possessed computer from your home!
Earning What You Get
At the opposite end of the “I Want It All Right Now” spectrum is “Earning What You Get”. Now, this can also be done on the realms obviously, so realm players please don’t be offended. Playing in SP means that there isn’t an economy to speak of. If you want that elite unique or class specific item then you have no choice other than to start killing en masse and hope that you come across one. The real issue here is that it has a drastic effect on how you build your character. Building equipment dependent characters in SP can be very risky. If you absolutely need to use Stormshield at level 73 then you had better have already found it with another character or be willing to park your character until you can find it (See SP trading and muling). In case you are curious, yes, there are SP gamers who have found every set and unique item in the game without any help. So, it can be done but you have to pay your dues.
Another aspect of earning what you get is the inability to leech experience off from other players. You are just not going to “Turbo” in SP (well technically there are two ways that you could if you wanted too bad enough but they are really non-realm multiplayer game variations). The inability to gain experience was actually the bane of SP gamers everywhere until v1.08 came out (maybe it was v1.07, I don’t recall exactly). Prior to v1.08 there wasn’t anyway to increase the difficulty and experience in the game, thus getting to clvl 50 seemed like a huge accomplishment. For those of you who are not aware of it, v1.08 introduced the “players X” feature where “X” is the amount of players that you would like to simulate in your SP game. So, by pressing “enter” and typing “players 8” and hitting enter again the SP monsters will spawn with the same degree of difficulty and experience that you would see on an 8 player realm game. This has made it possible to get your SP characters into the 80’s and 90’s although level 99 characters are still few and far between. As you realm players who play on your own already know, there is just something special about making it to the end on your own.
No Hacks, Dupes, Or Cheats
There are actually two ways of looking at this. On the surface it is true that there are no hacks, dupes, or cheats in the game if you are playing normal SP. On the other hand, since all the game files are on your PC and not on a server, it is easy to manipulate the coding and change the game, thus Mods are created but those aren’t really cheats – more on Mods next. If there are any hacked or duped items in your game then you only have yourself to blame. The real point to be made here is that you don’t have to worry about other players being legitimate or trading for suspect equipment.
Mods and “What If” Exploration
Mods, and the ability to explore “what if” situations, are not available on the realms (unless you are one whale of a hacker). These are two aspects that bring a renewed freshness to the game from time to time if you enjoy SP. Think of it as creating your own V1.10 whenever you want it. It takes some basic skill but it can be fun and rewarding and isn’t too hard if you just want to do some basic changes like activating the constriction ring. Creating your mod “from the ground up” requires that you actually know what you are doing but there are some great websites available to teach you. One nice thing about Mods is that they are containable in their own file, thus you can have short cuts created to run as many mods as you want while still having a short cut to run the normal game whenever you want to revert back.
I suppose that I should also add the ability to run old versions of the game to this section since they are similar in nature to mods. Personally, I run v1.04 and v 1.09b both on my machine. Assuming that you have the hard drive space, all you have to do is load up DII classic to a new folder with a different name and install whichever patch you want to play. As I have said before, finding items in SP is much more difficult on your own, but you do get the benefit of going back to previous versions of the game to find items that are either no longer available in the current version, or have had their stats changed. Speaking of finding items, if the patch 10 info holds true, the ladder only items on the realms with also be available to SP players.
Trading and Muling
Probably the biggest nuisance in SP play is the issue of trading and/or muling. Finding an Oculus or Tal’s amulet with your barbarian just isn’t that useful unless you can somehow get that equipment to your sorceress. It is also one of the hotly contested issues debated by SP gamers everywhere because some of the methods used to mule violate the user agreement made to Blizzard when you installed the game. Purists will tell you that you have just two choices: 1) only use what you find and don’t trade or mule, or 2) create a non-realm multiplayer game and find somebody who can hold your items while you trade. The former of these choices isn’t too appealing to most people and the latter requires finding a trustworthy companion to help you or owning two computers on some sort of network. I call these the purist choices because they don’t allow the person to cheat in any way and these choices don’t break the user agreement.
The next step up from the non-purists usually uses a special .dll file that allows you to run multiple copies of your game on a single PC. You can then use the alt-tab feature (on a PC, I don’t know what Mac uses) to switch back and forth and trade with yourself. Again, this method doesn’t allow for cheating (providing you are not copying your .d2s files). However, it does violate the user agreement with Blizzard that you agreed too. So, if that fact tugs on your personal integrity then you know not to do it.
The last group of trading and muling SP gamers uses 3rd party programs to trade. Usually, these programs allow you to open the character file and export the item and save it. You can then import that item to another character file or e-mail the item to another SP gamer if you are trade. Using 3rd party programs to trade and self-mule makes it easy to dupe your items however and some programs corrupt your items. Obviously any hack and dupe issues that you have on the realms would also apply to this form of trading. I’m not condoning any particular method of trading or self-muling but rather just letting you know what forms are available.
Overall SP gaming has been a pretty rewarding experience. Sure there are things that can only be done, or experienced on the realms, but it makes a great alternative if you have become fed-up with realm issues.
Disclaimer: Fortuitous Ephiphaneia is written by Drandimere (Paul J. Darling) and hosted by Diii.net. The views expressed in this column are those of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of Diii.net.