Stillman’s Slab #27: On the Pad


You knew it was coming. It’s Stillman’s take on the Funk, or Female Monk for those of you who think that’s her natural hair color. But what are those things growing out of her shoulder pads? Probably more shoulder pads. Yes, it is time to cover this subject in detail once and for all. Click through for the whole story.

On the Pad

It’s not quite On the Drawing Board, but On the Pad explores the massive shoulder pad dilemma like never before. Do the big pauldrons hurt the female Monk (or just our feelings) now that she too is infected with the shoulder plate fetish?  Is it a WoW spin-off thing, or is it simply ‘progression’ like Blizzard claims? Join me as I shoulder open the door to discussion on this weird trend in Diablo 3. 

 

Now normally I discuss several aspects of a Diablo character. But this week is a special slab because I already covered the male Monk in detail. I will simply summarize a few thoughts here on the female Monk before I tackle the pads and give her a shoulder massage. While she clearly did not attend the same Monk school as the male Monk, she seems realistic enough for my archer to nod at when I fly by in town. The bleached hair in her eyes makes her look like she just stepped out of a salon, but whatever, it’s all good. I wonder if she used Head and Shoulders, though. She kind of looks like Karen Smith who I went to high school with. Maybe I can finally take her pants off in the game. Anyway, no prayer beads is especially good because praying flat out sucks.

[Sorry, I am kind of angry at my wealthy Catholic grandfather for backing out of his promise to finance my quest for medical school. You may be allowed to ‘pull out’ in the Bible, but you can’t just back out of an eight year promise after the first three years. Anyway, back to the column.] 

So I will focus on the shoulder pad rant because I stand by what I said about the male Monk: Blizzard doomed themselves by picking a hero who can never make any sense in heavy armor. Never, ever, ever. If they went with a Cleric or Knight, there would not be an issue. Fans just have to roll with whatever bizarre full plate emerges for Monks while Blizzard rolls with the punches of criticizing fans.

Keep in mind we will be staring at these characters in-game for several hundred hours. It is only natural for us to want the best wardrobe for our future heroes. We have already seen some lashing out over much of the truly weird Diablo 3 armor revealed so far?like the enormous Witch Doctor mask (and lack of shoes or anything else). In the Gameplay Video, it is hard to even SEE the human figures of the male and female Barbarians because they are lost somewhere under the canopy of pauldrons. Is it really complaining too much if the Witch Doctor looks like a strange insect from afar or the Barbarian appears to have three heads?

And if most of what we are looking at is enlarged pieces of armor (like mask horns and pauldrons) that no one would rationally ever hit, then we have a problem on our hands…or shoulders. Simply put, why would anyone aim for the shoulder? This starts up a locomotive of other logical questions fans are asking. How do the characters attack properly, won’t they hurt themselves by pinching their heads with pauldrons, what about speed and flexibility, why make life harder by bearing more dead weight for no good reason, are they just showing off, is this really all about emulating WoW, how can they see anything to the left or right, and so on.

We find answers to some of these in the recent news item: Blizzard on Mega-Pauldrons. To justify the giant pauldrons, Blizzard stated that they want to show clear progression from weaker gear to the end game gear. But perhaps they underestimate just how nerdy we players are. Trust us Blizzard, we notice even tiny changes in armor progression. This is especially true after obsession with the game over months and years of downright cutting our friends’ throats over gear, gear, gear. We notice every pixel worth of change when we slap on that slightly higher def piece we traded tons of loot for. We don’t need inches of thickness added to the pauldrons to make us notice. And since when does Blizzard care about progressively bigger looks for gear? In Diablo 2, barely noticeable dusk shrouds and archon plates were coveted over full plate. Totally invisible circlets ruled the end game item slots in the godly power department.

This brings us to another part of Blizzard’s defensive stance: Badass and powerful looks should override reality and sensibility. Maybe so, but the massive pads look more like a crutch. The pads are being lugged around like, well, extra padding. They look disabling and hide the powerful human form that could be prominent if regular suit of armor plates were shown instead.

But all these problems will go away, says Blizzard, when we watch from afar with an isometric view. I beg to differ. Past experience in the Gameplay Video tells us the Barbarians’ enormous pauldrons were visually obstructive. Looking down from afar did not fix the problem; it only made things worse! Since we have a sort of angled bird’s eye view, the head and shoulder parts are already very prominent. Large shoulder plates only further occlude the body armor which should be the real focus of our marveling. The chest area is, strangely, completely exposed in all the heavier armor designs we have seen thus far.


The heavy armor style they are going for (no body plate, and mostly pads) closely resembles modern football equipment. Even worse, many sci-fi based games have characters with massive shoulder armor, which is not what I want to be reminded of when I play a fantasy based game. The final counter argument from Blizzard was that Diablo 3 is a fantasy game, so all the problems I presented concerning obscene pauldrons should melt away. The thing is, giant pauldrons do not add much of fantasy feel. 

Or do they? Some players find the characters look fantastically strong in the giant pauldrons. And I must admit, the female Monk’s shoulder thingies make her look more like Tyrael somehow. While I think the angelical look is interesting, it may be a case of Blizzard hitting the ‘holy button’ too hard: make her hair way too light, make the Seven Sided Strike totally engulf the Monk in luminance, make the pauldrons rise up like angel wings. Some things reek of trying to hard, which is what we get when the Witch Doctor’s posture is so exaggerated that he tips over into comedy. Massive pauldrons may be explained by this phenomenon. It could be a simple case of Blizzard trying too hard to make the heroes look extra strong. 

Blizzard is not alone in this effort. Let me explain. What we’re seeing a lot of now is artists hammering the ‘macho button’. It’s been going on in comic books forever with the altering of body proportions. Just shrinking a character’s head [like in WoW], for instance, will automatically make him look stronger, like in this MSPaint example I made below:

They also like to widen the jaw and make the head pyramidal, essentially giving the hyper macho guys pea brains. And, surprise surprise, the shoulders can be made more broad…to attract more broads, I guess.

As you can see, characters like this are starting to look stupid. Especially you, Mr. 300 pound Batman. Lay off the cheesecake, Okay?

So what we have is an arms race of macho imagery. The fear is that if the heroes like our female Monk don’t use the pauldron enhancing drugs, they might not look as powerful as some of the characters out there in other games [thanks a lot, WoW]. The real problem, however, is that Batman’s whole character rests on him being stealthy, silent, acrobatic, and highly intelligent. When he becomes bloated, loud, hulking, and brainless, he is no longer Batman, but rather a desperate step in the evolution of hyper-sexual imagery. Diablo 3 pauldrons are creating a similar macho-driven mess. We have Barbarians in a world where they are attacked from all sides but cannot possibly see anything around them and female Monks who cannot even do a straight jab by the looks of her obstructive shoulder armor. Some things are more important than looking macho. 

Obviously, I am not a fan of the shoulder pads. Maybe I just don’t understand why those useless things have to take over the entire game. Even the monsters are doomed, thinking pauldrons are where it’s at. Pauldrons are all some of them wear!

Why can’t it be helms or body armor? Some people shudder when they think of WoW or are simply distracted when the least protective piece of armor takes up 30% of their character’s image. Like it or not, I guess the Diablo 3 characters will have to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Literally.

BONUS BOLUS

I know what you’re thinking. Where is the humor? Where are the Jay Wilson jokes? Where is the picture of Karen? Well, this week, I crammed all the fun into the bonus material. In search for the unholy truth, I resolved my hypothesis on what REALLY happened with the pauldron takeover.

It all started when an ex football player named Harry was, for whatever reason, sitting in the Blizzard break room with a box of crayons. Harry had suffered a serious head injury and acquired massive brain damage. He was on his regular thickened fluid diet that fateful day. Now Harry just happens to share some genetic material with Robert Kotick, who stormed into Blizzard one day with his first and final specific demand to the Diablo 3 team. Using a bull horn, he announces, ?No one is going to make fun of my little brother again! When Harry draws something today, you are going to incorporate ALL of what he draws into Diablo 3 NO MATTER WHAT. Now let’s all go in there and see what he’s come up with. You will go in together. As a team. And you will come out more inspired than ever. Inspired by what Harry can do.”

So they go in.

Hours later, the team is still looking at the drool stained crayon drawing they have tacked onto a giant (and now cleared off) bulletin board. Jay Wilson is still rubbing his eyes hard enough to make squishy sounds.  Julian Love’s sighs are ominous to say the least. Christian Lichter finally dares to look at it, then scoffs. Later, he is found whimpering at his keyboard biting deep into his fist. Brian Huang, teary-eyed and tachycardic, is about to call his stock broker, but then slams the phone down hard at the last second. Anthony Rivero has been pacing around solemnly for two hours straight, running his hands through his hair to no avail. Finally, he breaks the silence. ?Ok. Maybe we can have the football player ‘tattooed’ on the Barbarian’s chest, and the giant shoulder gear can be his boobs. From far away, I mean. Did anyone see Raw Deal? The guy had boobs, Ok? So if we tattoo the whole thing and zoom back far enough? ?

?Oh come on!? Christian snaps. Anthony throws his hands up, saying ?Well I don’t hear any of YOU suggesting anything! If you got something better, I’m all ears.?

All we hear for the longest time is the steady drone of air conditioning. Someone’s cell phone plays a chirpy jig resulting in it being smashed across the floor. The frustration and doom is palpable.

?This is ridiculous,? Jay pouts. ?I’m turning on the radio.? The room is soon filled with Phil Collins singing My heaaaa-aaa-aart is broken in pieces. Since you’ve been goooooooone!

Julian sits bolt upright. ?That’s it! Pieces! Pieces!! The shoulder pads on the gigolo shark are half of the image right?? Christian, rubbing his face, mumbles, ?Who cares, dude.? Total despair clogs his vocal chords. ?How about this one, guys? IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVER!! IT’S OVEEEEEER!!?

Julian’s eyes remain lit with enthusiasm. ?Just listen,? he demands. ?If we take the shoulder pads and give them to the Barbarian, it will almost make sense. Then?and here is the part that saves the game?the other football equipment can be spread out as shoulder pads on other characters. The Monkette can wear the big knee pad thing on her shoulders.?

Brian Huang is roused from his clinical depression. He rises, saying, ?The shark penises can go on the Barbarian’s belt! And the goalie pads can go?I don’t know?how about the Monk’s wrist??

?Yes!? cries Julian. ?If we spread the garbage around, no one will know! Each bowling ball the sharkman is juggling can go…on a string…around the Monk’s neck.? Anthony spins around. ?And the shark’s surfboard will have to go over the Witch Doctor’s face,? he decrees. ?Just make his mask seven times bigger and add stuff to the perimeter.?

?And the nose rings,? Christian says, ?those can go around the two shark penises. No wait. The Witch Doctor can wear them everywhere.? The janitor cuts in. ?Maybe the Wizard can use the cyclops eye thing there like a…a dual wield thing, you know?? The team crowds around the picture to ponder this.

Brian is shaking his head. ?But what about the angry cube of jelly who’s trying to put himself into a bowl?? he asks. There is a prolonged chin stroking contest. Jay finishes his carton of Pop Tarts. ?Witch Doctor pets, maybe?? Anthony suggests.  ?It will take a while, but maybe if we gradually change the names from mongrels, to zombie dogs, then to rectangles…then maybe cubes. Hmmm…?

Julian leans in closer asking, ?What about the cowbell fins and rocket tongue?? Everyone slowly sends their eyes over to the cubical where the top secret fifth character class is being designed. Maybe, just maybe, there is hope after all. The team works long into the night, grimacing as they occasionally force a glance to the monstrosity on the bulletin board that started this whole mess…

 

 


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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