This week I am making a big splash into the cows. But I must brand you with the truth by asking: who are the real fat cows? Maybe players themselves become corrupt to the core after too much Diablo (or cowing). Maybe we become herded along by Blizzard into doing things their way as we try to maximize our own profits like MacDonald’s. Today we are talking about co-op (not the Co-op store where you buy your steak, but co-op play in Diablo 2). The first ?paragraph? of Udder Madness is below; click through to read the rest.

    Udder Madness


    Even with the above potential of zod drops, however, the problem is getting 8 players to be there and not mess it up. That is, they must remain in your game, taking their meds as prescribed by their doctors, not taking your rune when it drops, and for god sakes, not killing the Cow King. They must do this without so much as wasting seconds chatting about who gets what trinkets or veering off to identify the eleventh Soulflay that drops. The odds of this all coming together are like trying to host a class trip to a farm without any kids ever stepping in a cow paddy. It seems inevitable that one or all of the team will pull away from the herd (I am talking about the players). The point of this zod example is that cooperative play is highly rewarding?even making the impossible become reality. But it seems like Blizzard made cooperative gameplay practically forbidden. Diablo 2 discourages teamwork of any kind! No place spells out this game-wide phenomenon quite like The Secret Cow Level.

    Today we dissect just one Hell Bovine and hork the stomach contents. If you’ve killed one cow, you’ve killed them all because they really are identical clones. You would think fighting the same monster a million times over would drive you crazy. The real insanity, though, is that we can only maximize our rewards by playing cooperatively…and Blizzard enforces strict laws in Diablo 2 against any such action. The one-click Battle Orders and easy auras provide a cheap illusion of cooperativeness while the greatest friends turn cutthroat for that manald ring which had a one in a sextillion chance of being an soj!

    But first, let us simply enjoy the acrid air emanating from the carcasses on this maze of meat hooks I had installed here. The Hell Bovines, or cows as most players call them, share an uncanny resemblance to Gary Larson’s The Far Side cartoons. Not only did Larson predict the obesity epidemic in humans, but he also got all deep and philosophical about cows’ ability to wield tools.

    How they clutch halberds with hooves is one issue; how they hold up in a prostate exam is an even stranger ordeal. Did anyone notice that the cows have udders which makes them female, but they also have horns which makes them male? Their pasture is called the Secret Cow Level and not the Secret Bull Level, so they are female…right? Otherwise, we would be spamming 1.09 games called ?u make bull? and ?bull game? and ?this is bull.? So if they are female, why do they all have male voices? I wonder if they are also transsexual vampires…with diabetes and Restless Legs Syndrome? 

    One thing is for sure: they drop a whole lot of moolah. Hell cows are a good source of elite items like Grand Matron bows. They don’t seem to drop many halberds, though, which is Ok because this level is not about reality so much as it is about fun…in theory. In practice, it is all business like. With so many players milking the Cow Level, we soon find that people do not get along so well when crammed into games like wall to wall beef.

    First, someone has to go fetch Wirt’s leg. Before the cow flophouse is even opened to the public, people actually debate over who must pay for the tomb of town portal required to cube with the leg. Sometimes they foreshadow their astounding greed by scolding you for putting 20 scrolls in it when one scroll is sufficient and cheaper. So much for playing cooperatively.

    All kinds of tension erupts in the group while they waddle around lazily (like cattle) waiting for buddy the savior to teleport back with the tea, I mean Wirt’s leg. But the savior turns to sinner, you see. For what better time to smile wryly and clear out Hell Tristram alone than when a bunch of suckers are sitting there in town increasing your magic finding possibilities? They all think you are hurrying to get the leg so everyone will gain cow loot really soon. You know, for the greater good of everyone. THE FOOLS!! Ah ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    Die, Griswold, diiiiieeeee!! [Hmmm…he’s taking 5 minutes. Oh well. My desire for a million to one shot at a level 4 rare ring outweighs seven people’s hopes and Internet fees.]

    ?No tp, lol. I got to tele back with leg now? [Phew. They bought it. The herd is getting restless. Still gotta pawn this stuff to Akara before I make the Cow Level when I am ready. Me!! Me!! Meeeeee!!]

    Others are guilty too, so do not feel bad. Of course, the ninja looting potential that Blizzard made and the experience leeching (which Blizzard also made) attract players who really should not be there. Their job is to get dry humped by the cows unless they can retreat by luring a stadium sized mob of cows to all the escape portals. The best part is that all this is possible because of glitch rushing to Hell mode and millions of non-biased Baal games available to get naked players to the Hell Cow arena. Never has being so useless been so thoroughly encouraged! But the fun is just beginning.
    It reminds me of those ?party lines? we had with the phone company long ago. Some of you older hicks, er, formal rural guys like me may recall trying to call the cops or your friends only to find your elderly neighbor across the street is using the line to talk about what kind of corn product makes a good remedy for her bowel problems. No, no, what you want is the ?private line? which is awesome! You pick up the phone, it’s your own line just for you and your other family members! Diablo 2 is like this; except they are called ?party games? and ?private games.? The private games are just so much better.

    The ultimate example of the uncooperative shenanigans lies with the Cow King’s item drops. The Cow King is the only monster in the game who drops items of a particular set: The Cow King’s Leathers. Discounting keys and organs, no other monster houses items specific to him, and no other monster will ruin your progress upon its death. I know this low-end set is not particularly coveted, but in a way it is because noobs see the green letters like the neon lights at their first strip bar. It is not about how good the set is anyway. Just consider the principle for the sake of argument: Blizzard is encouraging players to kill the Cow King. They even rigged his drops so that if a newer player accidentally kills someone’s Cow King, there will be a good chance of seeing these special set items drop. Now here is the funny part: to collect the entire set, you must kill the Cow King MULTIPLE times, and you certainly do not want to kill your own Cow King from a Cow Level you made. Your goal should be to ruin as many people’s cow games as possible by killing their Cow Kings! I am speechless.

    By the way, the Cow King will often drop two of his set items in one kill. While we would normally think this reduces the number of farmers’ lives you have to ruin to complete the set, it also gives psychopaths further incentive to kill more peoples’ Cow Kings. They are getting not one but two set items. Drool into the grail! And with eight psychopaths to a game witnessing the pinata Cow King bestowing multiple orgasms in pixel form, well you get the idea.

    Players can, of course, continue to enter red portals made by others once some jerk killed their Cow King. However; it is much faster and rewarding to be able to make your own red portals. The alternatives are begging others or rushing a new character to Hell mode just to be a surrogate red portal maker for your characters who have had their cow making powers snatched from them. Players castrating other players has been coded into the game since the earliest patches.

    The Cow co-op fiasco makes me think of how twisted Diablo 2 is in nature. Act end bosses give good drops and the best experience. Both the moolicious loot and experience get even better with more people in the game. This forces higher level characters to join beginners’ games for the sole purpose of killing all their act end bosses thereby ruining their quests. Smart players will ruin the most players’ games per unit time, while smart beginners will make password games which limit cooperative play. The game could not possibly be made any less cooperative.

    Just look at Hardcore Hell mode games.  It is a ghost town, at least on USEast. With zero public games posted sometimes, you sure do not want to be the loner clown who paints a target on his backside by making a public game. You may as well just get a ?cell phone?. I mean play single player. You can even use the players 8 setting in single player, making it perfect for both magic finding and experience grinding. Blizzard’s message is clear: Use a meat cleaver to cut your Internet wires. The TPPK problem seems easy to fix, but by doing so Blizzard would just be caving in and tossing aside their anti co-op principles they have maintained for so long.
    In conclusion, the Cow Level is very fun and quite humorous, despite being rather repetitive and sterile. It is a blast to kill so many stupid foes at once. I think we all enjoy the success of being cornered and getting out of it alive while getting a good chuckle out of the androgynous cows, even if it is just for one or two play troughs. The real joke, however, is on the players. The real foes are our supposed ?teammates?. There is no way in Hell we will ever reach our true potential?whether in the Cow Level or in the grand scheme of things?by playing cooperatively. Blizzard has sealed our fate in noob blood and elitist spit which all curdles when mixed together. The game encourages us to grief each other for our own selfish gains.
    Legend speaks of a Secret Rainbow Level in Diablo 3. But, given the inspiration behind The Secret Cow Levels creation (i.e. players constantly asking about it), then all logic points to a Secret Chat Gem Level or a Secret Standard of Heroes Level. The real Easter egg in Diablo 3, however, will be Diablo 3 itself. With cooperative gameplay taking center stage at last, it will be like stepping off the high school play production that is Diablo 2 and stepping onto a Shakespearian play where none of the actors want to cannibalize everyone else to hog the show for themselves. Shakespearian plays even had male actors dressed up females, kind of like the cows. Diablo 3 could even put in some Hell Bovines in a more serious context (demon type monsters you see everywhere) because we players are so used to seeing them and taking them as serious threats. Whether or not there are cows or an Easter egg level in Diablo 3 is not really that important. All that matters is how great the party play will be…or not be.  You could say there is a lot at ?steak?. 

    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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