Gamespy has a feature called Abandon Ware, in which the authors revisit old MMORPGs and see how their current playabilty compares to what they once were, back in their prime. Diablo II was the subject of the most recent entry, and the author, who was quite a hardcore player back in the day, came away disappointed.
When I recently returned to Diablo II (nearly a decade later!), I learned that the same unquenchable player greed that we preyed upon had ultimately caused the game’s downfall. Hop into any game, and the chat area is immediately flooded bots spamming for sites that offer the sale of “everything you would ever need for your Diablo II chars,” “INCREDIBLE PRICE DROPS in FULL EQUIPMENTS, RUNEWORDS and UNIQUE ITEMS,” and “delivery in 10 minutes.” Thanks to all this, communicating with other warm bodies is difficult. And even though thousands of people still play Diablo II (usually some 50,000 at any given time, according to Battle.net), the human interaction that my friends and I experienced seems to have vanished.
…At first, I imagined myself continuing on with Diablo II long after wrapping up this article. Now, I’m not so sure. What struck me, though, was the player base’s perseverance. Everyone “legit” is annoyed by the ads, sure—but they quietly march on, playing through the entire game again and again much like a golfer would perfect their slice or putt. Most hardcore players I encountered were not chatty, preferring instead to focus their attention strictly on the ritual of hacking, slashing, and leveling up. When I asked another group of players whether they’ve beaten Diablo II before, and what keeps them coming back, MRSSTFUOK replied simply, “Shh just play.” No one else said another word.
My first instinct was to snark on him for expecting to find decent play in public games, and say he should have looked into an activeto find some good players. On second thought, that wouldn’t be a fair criticism. Why should a player have to seek out a third party site to find people worth playing with?
The criticism has to be of Blizzard. If they’re not going to put the resources into making D2 playable over B.net, or provide links to active Diablo II community sites where “new” players could find decent conversation and friends to play with in private games, we can’t blame anyone for thinking the game’s online experience is crap. Since it is… if you must rely on public games.