Brother Laz has returned with another installment of his Mad Prophecies, and this time he’s hurling accusations and feeling feisty. Player skill is a lie, a character’s skills and items are destiny, respecs will lead to endless identical builds and are basically a sop for people too lazy to reroll… those arguments and others are advanced with wit and verve in this column. Click through to read it all.

    What is skill in Diablo 2?

    After the previous column, I was pretty much told I was a fossil because I mod Diablo 2 and obviously Diablo 3 was going to magically avoid all of the pitfalls of its predecessor. Despite it currently looking like the exact same game but with World of Warcraft talent trees and destructible walls that will totally be a viable way to kill enemies.

    So I suppose I’ll need to lace this column with words like ‘some’ and ‘many’, when I really mean “95% of the players, just not you because you’re special, proud and noble.”

    The column.
    How about the many ways in which people will defend variety and balance when they really mean they want the imba builds for themselves?

    Diablo 2 is a solar race

    Combat in Diablo 2 is decided before you even leave the rogue encampment. All that really matters is your build; there is very little you can do on the battlefield to salvage a bad build, and it really takes a failed lobotomy to screw up with a good build. Tactical gameplay is considered something for lower levels before your character is strong enough to ignore it.

    If you don’t believe that Diablo 2 does not have much of a player skill element to combat, try and tell your character to go to a specific square on the ground. Come on, just try it, click on a point and watch what happens.

    Or put some single target melee skill on the left button and try to actually click on an onrushing enemy when you are approaching each other at relativistic speeds. What you’re supposed to do with your melee skills is put them under the right mouse button and just keep it jammed down and crash into monsters. Caesar would glow with pride.

    Skill does not mean what you think it means

    Being good at Diablo 2 is defined as knowing which items and skills are the best and how to get said items the easiest. The hallmark of a skilled Diablo 2 player is that he has the best and most powerful character (except for a few jaded people gloating about their items by loading them onto a weak build like a melee sorc and beating Hell).

    This is a game, you’re supposed to try and win, and in a game where the win condition is defined as steamrolling monsters easily, it is not surprising that there is a right choice and many wrong choices in character builds, instead of an actual decision based on player preferences.

    So then why is the variety in items and skills seen as a strong point of Diablo 2 when the majority of them are a bad choice and most people don’t actually use any of them after their first character? Because it gives the illusion of choice and of making the right choice when presented with lots of ways to build a weak character.

    You know that scene in Indiana Jones where the bad guy stands in front of wall to wall cups in all sizes and shapes and only one of them will not kill you? It’s like that. The entire game of Diablo 2 is only about picking the right cup.

    To hell with balance for fun and profit

    Bonus points if choosing the right skill results in an insanely strong character. This is where Diablo 2 shines again. It isn’t fun to have the best build if it is only 5% better and if you can still die if you’re an incompetent chimp. You discovered the best build and therefore you won at your class, so the game should reward you with cake and the corpses of your enemies.

    In Median I actually recently implemented some obviously imbalanced skills on purpose to appeal to the ‘wow factor’ of being overpowered. Yes, that means Dragonforce.

    Stat points

    Why do people cry over the loss of player-allocated stat points? Because of the hypothetical possibility that one could make a viable all-energy build that doesn’t completely suck? Because you claim that melee sorcs need to crank strength… as opposed to just getting a Might merc, I guess. Forget it, if you actually ever made one of those characters, you’re a vanishingly small minority. Most people just do the usual reqs-block-rest-into-vita dance.

    Hell, being stubborn about doing stat points your way doesn’t even unlock new and interesting gameplay possibilities. You have the exact same necro as everyone else, except yours has lower life and consequently sucks more. Whoo.

    Is this a problem? No, because everyone knows that if you properly spend your points the mathematically correct way, it means you’re good at the game and if you put a point into energy you’re an idiot noob and your build is completely useless. This gives you a little bit of extra satisfaction at doing the right thing.

    Proponents of manual stat point allocation should put their accounts where their mouth is and prove that they made some sort of melee sorc or singer barb and made it a viable farmer solely thanks to their strategic genius in skill point allocation (and not because they have Beast). Until then, I rest my case.

    Why is respec a problem?

    I used to be against respecs too, back when I was a little kid and thought people played games to adapt and overcome challenges.

    Anyway, aside from the bleeding obvious issues with respecs like the crickets in every Act except the last one and the fact that every successful game with respecs so far has either a huge amount of class variety through multiclassing anyway or a leveling curve of 3 months, there is another issue with respecs that pains the soul of the old school Diablo 2 players: your actions no longer have consequences. Which can be translated as ‘I know how to spend my points properly because I’m GOOD at the game, and if you ruin your character by putting your points into volcano, it means you SUCK at the game, you LITTLE NOOB. I’m BETTER than you’.

    Respecs would be a huge minus point for this crowd, much like stat points, because newbies can no longer ruin their character and the veterans can no longer stand tall and proud and laugh at the newbie who rerolls and puts points into energy AGAIN, the pathetic little fool. Sucker.

    Respecs are good, but only because they cut the crap and make-believe and allow people to just make the best build, which is what they wanted to do all along except they didn’t know what the best build actually was. You’ll hear all sorts of grand arguments to support respecs, though. More variety, you say? More incentives to create oddball characters, you claim?  More different builds, you shriek? Show me your twister druid in Diablo 2 and we’ll talk about variant builds. Don’t kid yourself. It’s about ditching zeal and getting hammer, nothing more.

    Epic conclusion

    Cram D3 full of choices, but don’t actually attempt to balance them. It is mostly unnecessary. What counts is how many bad options you have and how imba the best option is.

    Mad Prophecies are written by Brother Laz, creator of the Median XL mod. Opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and not necessarily Diii.net.

    Writers wanted! If you’re interested in writing your own guest articles or other regular features for Diii.net, get in touch with Flux.

    You may also like