Stillman’s Slab #19: The Rogue


This week’s Slab subject cannot seem to use a bow properly. I must admit, though, she is a little tied up right now. Although I am discussing the Diablo 1 Rogue, her problems expand much deeper into the Diabloverse which calls for an all out dissection of archery in every Diablo game. We might even get a peek of our favorite target: a bearded someone who is fat and jolly…but with the strange initials of JW. Be sure to read to the very end and learn more about Stillman’s personal past, his Holliday Hell,  and his path to complete madness. The first paragraph is below. Click through to read the rest. 

The Rogue

No more messing around. We are talking about Diablo archery today. This is not to be confused with archeology, even though both involve broken tools and buried mysteries. Yes, archery in Diablo games has always been very problematic, beginning with the Rogue’s neglected and broken bow use. But who else is going to bring you a broken arrow? The Amazon, that’s who. Both of these famous archers have been plagued with more problems than, well, Plague Javelin (the poison trail cloud on Plague Javelin still does not do any damage, just so you know). No matter who is working on Diablo missile weapons, whether it is old Blizzard, Blizzard North, or Jay Wilson, you can be sure of one thing: our little archer characters will get neglected while melee and caster characters hog the center stage. Even though mankind has been expert at shooting pointy things at furry things for thousands of years, no one can ever seem to get it right in a video game.

Speaking of pointy thingies, I will get right to the point: the Diablo 1 Rogue is full of bugs, and some of her diagonal arrow shots seem to always miss. She is still very fun to play, but it makes us wonder: can you imagine a Diablo game being released where the melee character misses every third weapon swing or his shield block mechanic is completely broken and useless if he stands at the wrong angle? Of course not. Apparently, it is OK to have ranged classes that completely miss their mark when using a basic attack while the melee classes are insured far better treatment.

Why is that? My first column discussed how Blizzard has always favored the Barbarian, giving him ten times more lore than other classes, an entire act based on his culture, overpowered ubber skills, and so on. While I sense another Barbarism (part III) coming on in the near future, this column strikes back by asking: what about us poor old archer class fans? Why does Blizzard view the Rogues as complete sissies and utter pieces of jet trash?

Don’t believe me? Well if we look at any aspect of the Rogue in the Diablo story we discover nothing but turmoil. Not only did she fail to beat Diablo in the first game, but she is later described as being nothing more than low down scum who only sought the cathedral labyrinth to loot the place. I wonder if the Rogue most likely served chiefly as a beautiful woman who’s purpose is to get slaughtered, something we see in many horror movies. She closely resembles Danielle from The Flight of Dragons who also got killed.

The plight of the Rogues continues in Diablo 2, where the they suck and need a level 1 hero to help save their existence. Most of the Rogues have easily succumbed to evil and transformed into demons who also suck and are easy to kill. The Diablo 1 Rogue even became Blood Raven, an easy, early game boss. Man, she got it bad.  Noob advisor Flavie is quite a useless shooter for someone who is immortal, and we see countless Rogues nailed and impaled throughout Act 1.  The Rogue’s Bow unique razor bow sucks, by the way.

But most of the worst suckage has little to do with lore and more to do with mechanics. The favoritism shown to melee characters is evident as far back as Diablo 1 where the monsters all have melee-designed death animations. Cause of death by arrow simply copies the Warrior induced bashing death. Sure, it looks neat to see a skeleton exploding when hit with an arrow, but wouldn’t it be even better if it got pinned to a wall instead? Diablo 2 was no better. Once again, the death animations are based on melee with some popping frozen bodies to help make cold magics look good. The Amazon gets nothing. An axe swing looks realistic, but arrows are fixed in one plane and simply disappear at a rather short range without even obeying projectile motion paths. We do not even see her grab a new arrow from her quiver. It is almost as though Blizzard just wants Diablo archery to suck in every way possible: lore, glory, imagery, mechanics, balance, you name it.

Is the design of archery mechanics so hard? It is a bowstring, not String Theory. I recall after buying Lord of Destruction the Amazon’s elemental bow skills had ?Always Hits? tacked on to them. Let me just say: ???? ??? ???? In all fairness, however, some aspects of the Rogue are pretty nice. When she kills Zhar the Mad, she says ?I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration?? Heh, sassy.  We do not quite hear her when she opens the door to the Butcher’s room, but I think she says, ?Come on! Get da people out! Get da people out!? And when she knocks an arm off certain undead monsters she says ?See you at the party, Richtor!!? She also fires at a faster rate than the Warrior, and her strength points are employed in drawing back the bow to increase her damage. Of course, this nice feature was removed from Diablo 2.

Archery will almost certainly improve in Diablo 3, but will it be enough? At the 2009 Blizzcon Q&A Panel, a fan asked the best question of all time:
?My question was about projectiles. A lot of people are pretty certain that the last class may or may not have something to do with like bows or javelins. And the thing is in Diablo 2 stuff like that was like so slow and inaccurate, the fact that mobs wondered made your attacks almost completely useless in many occasions. So I was wondering if you’re going to do a new system for how projectiles move either by a possible new class, NPCs or even with Wizard spells. Because in the similar Diablo 2, I remember, the Sorceress skill?I think it was like static discharge or something?which released a whole bunch of static which was uncoordinated, was basically completely useless unless you were completely surrounded.? Even though he recalled the skill name incorrectly, his point was probably to show that projectiles in Diablo 2 are about as slow and uncoordinated as those wobbly charged bolts, and you have to be surrounded by monsters to hit anything.

Jay Wilson’s response:
?So, I think the skill you’re talking about is Charged Bolt. Um, does everyone else here think Charged Bolt was completely useless, ‘cus I think, um…? [The kid rubs his face and rolls his eyes at this filibuster.] Jay continues, ?I’m just curious because I actually thought when you level it up pretty high it was pretty awesome.? [Yeah, but you have to shot gun 20 bolts or else most of the bolts miss unless you are completely surrounded like the guy just said. Charged Bolt, by the way, does 1144 damage at level 50 (with synergies and mastery maxed) while level 50 Fireball does 25,021 damage…so you would have to hit about 21 monsters with Charged Bolt to do as much damage as a Fireball. Hmmm…] Jay goes on, ?But no, we don’t really intend to have any kind of specialty system for projectiles. Um, the weakness of projectiles is that they don’t always hit, um, and that’s part of their design…By the way, I like pop tarts. My dashboard is stacked high with pop tart wrappers and it is occluding my vision on my drive to work.?

Ok, the pop tarts is just something I added. But I am sure archer fans’ reaction to Jay’s mega let down was widespread. Sigh. Jay, if the projectiles don’t hit, it should be from low Attack Rating (AR), not a drunk looking ‘bow expert’. The questioner was pointing out how we need to run up nose to nose with Diablo (who is the size of a barn) just to use our AR.  Arrows in Diablo 2 move by slower than Jay Wilson at a buffet. Really, an act end boss should soak up the sling and arrow abuse like Jay’s arterial walls getting hit with cholesterol. If they do not want the arrows to hit so often, they should make AR more demanding, not slow down the arrows! A Frenzy Barbarian can study those slow motion arrows and get a PhD in arrows before they hit anything. Arrows are simply too easy to dodge by mindless meandering. In game, it looks something like this:

 

 
This makes no sense at all for an archer who survives in the jungle regions by shooting game at a distance. The terribly slow arrow flight necessitated Multiple Shot use as a normal attack, like the guy above said. This is equivalent to a supposed expert sniper having to use three shot guns tied together just to hit one slowly moving target. I thought Amazons were supposed to be great hunters. In Diablo 2, archers using single shot attacks have to suicidally run up close to enemies making us look more like the Deer Hunter.

As of now, it is not the archer who is being neglected, but rather archer fans. Diablo 3 is on its way, and for over a year, Barbarian fans have gotten loads of gameplay information from Blizzard while archer fans have absolutely nothing. Here is what we know about archery in Diablo 3: A) Archer mercenaries suck. Hard. And B) There is a short bow (the crappiest, weakest bow) that dropped in the gameplay video. Far out. We also know there will be unlimited ammunition, but what kind of ammunition is it? Quarrels? Arrows? Darts? Knives? Snowballs? Pop Tarts? I guess we ranger class fans are scum and do not deserve to know anything on this issue. We have yet to see a glimpse of the Diablo 3 ranged class, her skills, her gear, not even an arrowhead or a fin. As usual, all we get is the shaft.

So let’s hope Blizzard is saving the best class for last this time. They have had ideas for the unknown fifth Diablo 3 class for a long time now, so there is chance his and her lore and gameplay will be up to par with the Barbarian’s. They should at least let us whack stuff with the bow itself if the arrows are continuing to travel in slow motion. At long last, Blizzard has one more chance to get it right. Hopefully they can stop obsessing with cool dude melee classes like the Barbarian and Monk, taking their eyes off them for a while to fully develop a ranged class worthy for us dedicated (and neglected) fans. 

Ah, that reminds me. I recall growing up back on the farmhouse when my older brother got the best of everything. He was allowed to stay up later than I, and all I could do was watch as only he was allowed to use the three wheeler, dirt bike, skidoo, tractor, family cars, work trucks (which he ditched and totaled along with the dirt bike and lawn mower), beer making kit, and numerous firearms. Where the hell were my outdoor toys? So on this very day, I do the family Christmas get-together where, as usual, I sit there white knuckled and glaring, trying my best not to punch everyone square in the nose. Well the Rogue is much like the younger sibling. It also seems big brother Barbarian gets the best of everything while the unfortunate Amazon is undervalued. Even the Diablo 3 ranged class is being born last. All you can do is either hope she wins the lottery, or you can become a disgruntled hermit like Stillman here.


Opinions expressed in columns and guest articles are those of their authors, and not necessarily those of Diii.net.

Stillman’s Slab is where all Diablo characters are dissected and examined piece by piece. It is written by Nicholas Stillman to reintroduce Diablo series topics in a new light or put forth novel themes that have not been fully explored in the forums. Slurry collected from the centrifuge will always contain something new and unheard of at the time of publication. Post your comments below or directly.

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