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Friday, 22 June 2012

Diablo 3 on the mainstream news

The story of Kripparian becoming the first player to beat the game in Hardcore mode is currently trending third most popular on the BBC news site.

Congratulations Kripp, fantastic achievement!

It's also very interesting how popular the story is. We've heard over the years various claims that gaming is a niche hobby, for geeks. Clearly it's a significant part of mainstream culture.

The BBC however still classifies this story as a Technology story, some kind of computer thingy, not as a culture story. I wonder when, if ever, they'll enter the twenty-first century.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Damage Reduction

Damage reduction works is as follows:

If an attack does N damage, you take N reduced by Armour (calculated by adding your Strength to your Armour from gear)
reduced by resist to that particular damage type (resistance rating is calculated by adding 1/10th of your Intelligence to your resists from gear, both general and specific to that type to get a rating and then compared to monster level. It claims to be a percentage but it isn't)
reduced by 30% if Barbarian or Monk
reduced by special damage reduction affix if appropriate, for example the 10-20% melee damage reduction on the String of Ears legendary belt
reduced by any skills or passives (eg Witch Doctor's Bad Medicine)

Then it rolls your chance to block. If a block is generated your Block Amount is subtracted from the modified damage.

At some point it rolls your chance to dodge. (It doesn't matter at what point in the process). If successful no damage is taken from this attack.

Some notes:

- damage reduction from Armour and Resists is for same level opponents. This means that everything in Inferno reduces your listed damage reduction from Armour and Resists. You are getting less than the amount displayed on the character sheet.

- the field Damage Reduction displayed on the detailed character sheet is damage reduction from Armour only. It's always the same value as what you see if you mouseover your armour with detailed tooltips displayed.

- for softcore all damage reduction is more or less equally valuable. (That's arguable). In hardcore you should probably plan around worst case scenarios. So dodge is a less useful stat because you really need enough effective health to survive when you roll snake eyes on your dodging. Armour, resists and vitality will tend to perform the same in any situation where you're taking damage but dodge will vary. You may get lucky some fights and unlucky in others. Same to some extent for block - in hardcore you probably have to plan around getting hit several times while not rolling a successful block or dodge. This is pretty much the same philosophy as WoW tanks use and there's a lot of good theory written about effective health tanking. The motivations are pretty similar - a WoW tank doesn't want to roll snake eyes and wipe his raid and a hc D3 player doesn't want to roll snake eyes and have to start over.
This is important because there is a lot of advice for Barbarians in particular to gear up with Stormshield and Justice Lanterns which is perfectly decent advice for softcore but may not be the best strategy for hardcore.

- for all that all damage reduction is good and dodge seems to be very underrated in softcore. You can get a lot of dodge very cheaply when your dex is low. Even in hardcore it doesn't hurt to be lucky.

- generally speaking defensive stats aren't on true diminishing returns. Sure, it takes the same amount to improve from 90 to 91 as it did to go from 0 to 10 but both of those are a reduction of 10% damage taken. In other words the returns diminish for the number displayed on the character sheet (which is cosmetic) but don't diminish for the amount of damage you take (which is what kills you). The exception is Dexterity. Dexterity gives less dodge per point the more you have of it.
- Vitality is an alternative stat for survival. In many ways it's less good than any other way of generating the same amount of effective health. I'd rather have 75% damage reduction and 20k life than 50% damage reduction and 40k life because most healing is a fixed number and a 10k heal makes a bigger splash in a 20k health pool. On the other hand Vitality gives a LOT of effective health.

- there's an effective health calculator for most classes here

- the Enchantress gives a 15% armour buff that is up just about all the time.

Friday, 25 May 2012

My builds as a level 60 Witch Doctor

I have two main builds I'm using at the moment and different gear sets for each:

Progression build (high survival)

This guy can move almost all the time. Even slow-casting spells like the Gargantuan he can run behind a pillar or a corner and cast it. Basically there are two play modes - if it's safe you stand behind the pets refreshing Grasp and Haunting a mob or two, adding chickens to taste. If it's not safe you run around like a scared thing occasionally pausing to dot.

Note that Big Stinker is required to make Bad Medicine work. Also Hex is quite important for pet healing as the build lacks Fierce Loyalty.

Gear: at first I did AH searches for 50 Resist all and 100 Vitality. Then I thought about it and tried 45 Resist all and 90 Vitality and gear was much cheaper. This build uses a shield, not a mojo.
I just soloed Hell Diablo with this build.

It should be very group friendly - everyone loves a tank. It makes a decent resser as you can ress people while your pets distract the mobs. Dps is really low though.

Farming build (high dps)

The goal is to get everything on cooldown then spam bears at people. It's really fun, hits like a truck and looks awesome. The Witch Doctor at his finest!

It's great for my gold farming set as the large pickup radius helps Gruesome Feast and Grave Injustice function better.

Wrathful Protector is kinda a weird choice. i think it's the weakest rune for the Gargantuan but what I was finding was that if the Gargantuan is alive anyway it's annoying to recast him. But if he's not there it makes perfect sense to hit the button. Plus the protector looks magnificent.

Gear: I searched the AH for gold find > 12, pickup radius and vitality gear. It was reasonably cheap to buy gear that fitted most of that in each slot. I got 30% gold find on the amulet and that was fairly cheap. With hindsight I'd add some mana regen and +mana gear. It's astonishingly mana hungry.

I've been gold farming in Act 1 NM. I kill 5 boss packs then open the secret level.

Regarding the AH, I really do think the game is based around it. As in tuned for it. To finish Act 4 Hell I first built a gold farming set, farmed gold to buy a (considerably more expensive) resist all + vitality set. My resists are around 480, I have a lot of armour block and dodge, 21500 life and I still die even with a very defensive build (including passives for 40% damage reduction and the if you die it doesn't really count skill). It would have been very close to impossible to find such gear naturally and extremely hard to finish Hell without it. And that's not even considering Inferno yet. You're meant to shop, the game is designed around you optimising. (The late game anyway).

Saturday, 19 May 2012

The power of shopping

Buying items is amazingly useful as a method of powering up and the game is very poorly understood by the players who simply have no idea how to deal with the great glut of rares they find.

My first investment was in some pickup radius gear. It's too boring to miss gold and have to run back for it so I did a search on armour with pickup radius, Intelligence and price under 1000. I got 5 pieces which was a very solid early boost, all rare (yellow).

I'm level 42 now and the glut of items is just starting to thin out a little. Still there's still enough that I can gear up off the AH more than from drops.

I've leveled up my jeweler and can make the first of the crafter only gems. The gem market shows the noobiness of the general population. Last time I looked chipped rubies were selling for more than flawed rubies even though flaweds are better in every way and have no minimum level. Some general points about gems:

- don't craft, shop. None of the findable gems are worth cubing up. For instance a flawed ruby can be crafted from 3 chips. Or you could buy one for 600 and sell the 3 chips for 650 each. Same principle applies all the way up - sell gems you aren't using and buy better ones rather than crafting.

I haven't leveled the blacksmith but the same thing applies even more. For the cost of making an item (which is crafter cost plus the vendor value of several items you salvaged rather than vendored) I can pretty much guarantee you'll find a better one on the AH for less money.

So what should you shop for:

Socketed weapons. Most people are pricing by weapon dps. A socketed weapon with a ruby in it will hit much harder than pretty much anything the same item level.

Armour with:
- Vitality. It simply tunes down the difficulty of them game. I've died quite a few times already, it's a real time-waster.

- Experience. This is very strong. It's a lot of extra experience because we kill a lot of monsters playing this game.

- Main stat. You get a lot of damage from, in my case, a big chunk of extra intelligence, and every stat has a defensive bonus too. Also we see very high stat numbers quite early - I've a level 32 blue hat with 96 int, 43 vit on.

- Gems.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Launch Day!

I'm stuck at the downloader but I imagine it will let me in later this morning. Some people have already got a few hours play in but a great many are stuck either downloading the game or at the log in page.

Let me offer a few last tips for launch day:

- watch for gold AH bargains. Prices will be very cheap today as no one has any money.

- level will probably be the main determinant of wealth. Don't try to level in magic find or gold find gear.

- do collect +exp gear as it is not shared with your party.

- look out for gold and green items. These weren't in Beta but were a huge element in previous games.

- buy some + run speed boots from the Auction House as soon as possible.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Hardcore or softcore?

Diablo 2 was, as far as I know, the last really popular permadeath game. Originally role-playing games drew inspiration from life and from wargames. In both of those your unit (sic) is extinguished once killed, dead, gone, game over. Over time it's suited both players and developers to allow play to continue past moments of losing. (In fact in single player games people almost always reloaded when they lost anyway even if it did feel a bit like cheating).

So why would anyone want to play hardcore? Is it just masochism?

I think to best understand it one needs to step back from immersion. Sure, some people like it that their character plays a story with closure. My old guild had a subforum devoted to death reports which turned into a remarkable place with friends paying tribute to other people's characters and even our own resident elegist. The key to understanding hardcore, however, is to look at the game mechanics.

So what are the game mechanics of hardcore? It's harder. It forces you to always focus. That can be very compelling. It's stressful. It's challenging. It resets your character from time to time so you can start over. Other people do less well, no one bad is going to be ahead of you simply by having spent more time. Grouping is a massive exercise of trust. Good groups feel awesome (since your trust proved well-founded). And beyond the beginner areas you never group with a bad player (although malicious players are possible, nobody is actually bad).

So it's all about the tension between risk and reward. Having to pay attention means you are more immersed in the game. Having to minmax your survivability makes you better at strategising a character build. The stress of the danger is exciting - sometimes your body will respond to the game, your pulse races, you sweat, you curse out loud. (Reading that back that sounds super-nerdy, let's move swiftly on!)

Viewed in that light it's very clear that hardcore is just right for some players and not right at all for other players.

So how do you know which you are?

Well, try it. And not just once, try it from time to time. My first go at Hardcore I couldn't get out of Act 1 Normal in Diablo 2 so I shelved the idea for several months. Later on I tried it again simply because softcore didn't feel challenging enough. Once I'd played hardcore for a while softcore became unthinkable, as bland as playing Windows Solitaire.

With Diablo 3 I see the auction house as a new frontier. So even though I would naturally incline to Hardcore mode because the Real Money Auction House is only for softcore I'll be playing there. And it's not just about the money, it's about the gaming of the AH. It is a very interesting and of course a fiercely competitive minigame.

So what if they extend the Real Money Auction House to Hardcore? I'll definitely move over. I think it's a much more exciting way to play and I also think it will be more lucrative. Hardcore mode has two elements that really ramp up a game economy - item destruction and challenge. People will be obsessed with beating Inferno and some of them will spend a lot of real money to try to do so.

So that's my decision - softcore until a Hardcore RMAH is released then hardcore. With 2 weeks to go, have you decided which mode you want to play Diablo 3 in?

Friday, 27 April 2012

Gold Find radius

I'd like to talk about one of my favourite mods - gold find radius.

So what does it do?

Well when you play Diablo 3 you passively collect gold and health globes just by walking over them. However you have to walk exactly over them and it can be quite fiddly. I've killed a monster, begun to run forward, noticed that he dropped gold, gone back for it and turned around, notice that I missed the gold pile, gone back again to pick it up.

Time is money, friend.

I'll confess something now. I'm something of a completionist and a pack rat. I hate leaving stuff even if collecting it is sub-optimal. And in any event I'd argue that passively collecting gold is certainly not sub-optimal.

For there's a nifty little affix that helps a lot. And it helps more the more you have of it.

At 0 gold find radius you will inevitably miss a lot of gold stacks and sometimes even when you go back for them you'll try to run over them and miss. Your base pickup radius is really narrow.

At 2-4 yards gold find radius you pick up quite a lot passively and only very rarely miss if you go back for gold you miss. However if you kill a mob and immediately move forward you can get out of range before the gold hits the deck which is annoying for melee range characters.

At 6-8 yard gold find radius it's unusual to even see gold drop - it perpetually gets absorbed into your wallet without any effort on your part.

Gold find radius also boosts 2 Witch Doctor passives, crediting you as monsters are killed. That's very useful if monsters will be killed some distance from you which is quite likely at higher levels where you may be at long range while minions tank. It's also useful in a party as group members inevitably spread out.

There's one downside to increasing gold find radius - it's not always best to pick up health globes. If you have a large gold find radius you automatically consume all the globes immediately where with a smaller radius you could leave them until you need them. However that's an extra level of micromanagement, there's a case to be made for passively consuming all, especially if the content is relatively easy.

I recommend non-Witch Doctors get about 6 yard gold find radius.

I recommend Witch Doctors with the Grave Injustice or Circle of Life passives get as much as possible.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Open Beta weekend - everyone can play D3 this weekend!

We're pleased to announce the Diablo III open beta weekend, which offers open access to all players with a valid account! Beginning this Friday everyone is invited to log in and help us put the game and servers through their paces in this three day stress test as we march toward the game's release on May 15. You can begin downloading the Diablo III client right now!

From Friday, April 20 at 12:01 p.m. PDT (noon), until Monday, April 23 at 10:00 a.m. PDT you'll be able to log in, team up with friends, and play each of the five heroic classes to level 13 as you fight to save the world from the impending demonic invasion.


What steps do I need to take?
Log in or create a account at

Create your BattleTag™, which is required to play Diablo III

Download the game client, install, and play between 12:01 p.m. PDT April 20 and 10:00 a.m. PDT April 23

I know some readers haven't got a Beta key so here's your chance to play the game and get a feel for it. It's a very exciting experience, the first impression the game makes is an absolultely wonderful one.

I think some beta testers have got a bit bored as the beta is so short so it's just the same content over and over again. But if you've been on the outside looking in I'm sure you'll love every moment.

12.01 pm PDT is 8.01 pm British Summer Time so the servers are open now!

Friday, 13 April 2012

275 000 Diablo 3 Beta invites

 Some great news from Blizzard for people still wishing they could try D3 Beta. Go check your BNet account, you'll see the game there if you got in:

We’re in the process of sending out 275,000 Diablo III beta invites to our opt-in testers. As it’ll take us a while to notify all the lucky invitees, we recommend heading to your Account Management and seeing if you’ve received a Diablo III beta license. If you have, you’re good to go! Download the beta client and use your account and password to log in once it’s installed. While you’re logged into your Account Management page though, don’t forget to create your BattleTag. You can choose this permanent account-wide nickname by clicking on the BattleTag “Create one now” link on the left side of your main Account page. Choose wisely as there’s no current ability to change it. A BattleTag is required to play Diablo III, and so whether you get into beta or not you should pick one while you’re there.
Keep in mind that with such a large amount of invites for our test hardware we fully expect a strong possibility of stress test issues, such as an inability to log in, disconnections, and potential lag/latency. We’ll also be testing our queuing system ,which you may see when attempting to enter a game.
Thank you for your continued help, feedback, and patience as we approach the May 15 release.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Beta patch 16

Full patch notes here. Unofficial changes listed here.

It's a very light patch which is healthy, the game is almost done.

For the Witch Doctor Haunt got reduced duration which is a very nice buff (it does its damage quicker), Locust Swarm got higher damage and Sacrifice got higher damage. Generally a good patch for us. Haunt - Resentful Spirit is now really useful doing 287% weapon damage over 2 seconds (then presumably jumping to another target if it kills).

Dots are rather redundant in Beta but will be useful for the harder difficulties.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Beta Patch 16 and character wipe

The Diablo III beta is currently undergoing maintenance as we prepare to deploy the next beta patch. We anticipate that downtime will last for about 8 to 9 hours, until approximately 8:00 p.m./9:00 p.m. PDT.

Please note that Beta Patch 16 will include a character wipe. As with previous character wipes, this wipe will also affect gold, achievements, items, followers, and artisans.

Thank you for your patience!

                                No patch notes yet. I'd guess they'll change the skill trees around to show off some different skills (it seems as much marketing as game design at this point) and they'll do some fixes to the auction house UI.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

What are you playing till May 15th?

After exploring the Diablo 3 beta I found myself casting around for something to do.

I usually spend a little time in Eve Online each day as I find that game fascinating. However at the moment I'm mostly generating income passively, storing it up for the next surge of pvping. I won't do so now because Eve is a game where everything takes absolutely ages. By the time I find an outfit I like, get my ships to their combat hub and fly a few fleets with them it would be almost Diablo 3 time. No point joining someone to go perma-afk after a few weeks.

Eve Online

I decided to go back to Everquest 2 and asked a friend if he wanted to give it another go with me. We got to about level 10, he swapped his new guy for an old character and mentored down and then pushed on a few more levels. I really like EQ2 and I'm very happy that I can casually drop in for free whenever I feel and have tons to do. There's a bewildering amount of content. I joined the dungeon finder tool and it popped up pretty quickly. It wasn't like that when they first introduced it because I think people were basically conservative. However it's gained considerable traction since I last played.

Everquest 2

We discovered that the virtual card game that is packaged with EQ2 had been quietly accumulating cards. On one of my accounts I had 102 boosters! I had been aware previously that EQ2 players got free boosters for this game but it had never worked before. Naturally since we had all these cards we had to try it.

Legends of Norrath is a very good collectible card game. It has significant twists on the basic framework that Magic: The Gathering created and the artwork is beautiful. It also has the somewhat quirky Everquest sense of humour. I always find their plotlines reminiscent of Piers Anthony's Xanth series.

Legends of Norrath

I'd certainly recommend anyone who likes card games and has ever played EQ or EQ2 to log in and see if there's boosters waiting for you. Even if you don't play for long it's great fun opening boosters and seeing all your cards. (They're locked so you can't trade them, at least the free ones are).

Now there's another free to play card game of course that SOE do (several actually but another that interests me). They have Magic The Gathering Tactics.

Magic the Gathering: Tactics

Magic The Gathering: Tactics is a delightful blend of Heroes Of Might & Magic 3 and Magic The Gathering. Your forces move across a board much like HOMM3 but the cards are all Magic cards. It has a lot of critics, particularly on the Wizards of the Coast board so whatever you do don't read that forum. This is because Tactics rewrites a lot of the classic MTG gameplay.

Heroes of Might and Magic 3

It is very attractive to me because I loved Magic I loved HOMM3 and I like to finesse free to play games. I had some Station Cash anyway so I spent some of it unlocking the 6 paid campaigns (1500 SC, about £12). I've built up a deck made of commons that is just starting to get some results. I beat a level 52 player (out of 55 max level) twice this morning so I must be close. I've also started flipping rares on the auction house, following Marcko's advice of Buy Low, Sell Normal. Unfortunately sales are slow. I'll probably sell a few at the weekend.

Magic The Gathering is a more interesting game for me because the cards were part of my gaming history. I am a former UK national champion and when I had my Magic phase I reckon I spent about £5000 on cards in that year.

There's a lot to recommend it for Diablo 3 fans. It's fast and furious. Tournament matches have a 15 minute chess clock that means you have to build a deck to win and win fast. I've already lost one game to the clock - that will teach me to play Blue! There's an interesting auction house and trading element to the game. And, because it's free to play, you can dip in and play it for 6 weeks then drop it to play Diablo 3 without losing the value of the time you spend progressing.

My character is Stabsey, say Hi if you give it a try.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Inferno difficulty ramped up in the later stages

via Bashiok: This is may be a good a time as any to REVEAL TEH SEKRITS! that Inferno monster levels aren't linear any longer. They get progressively more difficult. This was really a reaction to Inferno playtesting. Our original intent was to have a flat difficulty level where you could go wherever you want, farm for items, and it'd be no more or less difficult than any other area in Inferno. This caused a few inherent issues for us, though:

It just felt wrong. It didn't feel right to be progressing through the game and have it stay pretty much the same difficulty the whole time. It felt like a letdown to get to the final boss of the game and it be no more difficult than the first.There’s a wide variety of players out there and we wanted to make sure everybody had something to sink their teeth into. We expect that anybody with enough time and dedication will reach level 60.  But the jump in difficulty to Inferno needed to be different amounts for different people.  For the crazy people they need a HUGE ramp in difficulty, for a more “casual but still hardcore” audience you want an obvious but milder increase in difficulty.  So for the crazy people who play non-stop they’ll hit Act I and get a challenge, but 1 month later they’ll still have something to work on (Acts II, III and IV).  For the “hardcore-casual” they will reach level 60 later and not get brick walled when they reach Inferno.  They can experience some “small victories” working on Act I with the dream of maybe someday reaching the later acts.Longevity.  We know people really want goals to work towards and challenges to overcome.  We made Act III and Act IV really, really brutally hard, for the most elite players only.  It felt wrong to make ALL of Inferno that brutally hard.

Now, you may be saying “I thought you wanted us to be able to farm anywhere we wanted.  Now we only have half as much area in the game to farm in? What gives?” Our goal is to make the loot mathematically better in the later acts without making the earlier gear completely obsolete. We feel Diablo II actually did a very good job with this and we expect Diablo III to perform similarly.

Specifically, people in D2 did Diablo runs, Mephisto runs, Pindleskin runs, Pit runs, Baal runs, etc. because the loot in Diablo is extremely random. Even though the theoretical best items might come from the later Acts, well-rolled items from earlier acts will still be better. Internally we find sometimes after an intense session of brutally hard Inferno it can be really fun to cruise through Hell Act III or IV and it’s not too uncommon surprise when an upgrade drops. We expect this to carry through to Inferno difficulty where somebody who can theoretically farm Act IV will likely still enjoy romping through Act I simply because the drop potential is still there. It’s all because of the highly random items having lots of overlap in their power distribution curves.

Sounds fantastic! I tend to be quite a hardcore player anyway so I'm delighted to have more to get my teeth into. Eceonomically I think this move pushes more earning power into the hands of the most successful. See you in Inferno Act 4!

Stabs' Third Party Trading Service

I'd like to announce a service I will be offering for Diablo 3 players.

Trusted third parties are a way of trading between players who are strangers and who have no reason to trust each other but want to make a non-simultaneous transaction. It's a practice used in Eve Online where it successfully protects people from scams and cheats.

Normally if you want to trade in the game you will just put the stuff in the trade window, double check then hit Accept. (Watch out for last minute switches!).

However for some trades it's not possible to do that. If you want to trade Hardcore gold and items for Softcore gold and items then you need to trade your Hardcore stuff to a Hardcore character and your Softcore stuff to a Softcore character.

Example: Bob wants to trade a Grandfather he found in Softcore for a good Wizard rare Sue found in Hardcore. Bob gives the Grandfather to me in the trade window along with a small fee in gold. Sue gives my level 1 Hardcore alt the rare in Hardcore. I screenshot the trades and send the screenshots to each player by email and wait for confirmation. When both confirm that they are happy with the trade I give Bob's Hardcore character the rare and give the Grandfather to Sue.

This allows players to trade in all sorts of innovative ways. Want to trade Age of Conan gold for D3 hardcore gold? No problem I'll have characters available in both to hold your stuff. Want to trade stuff on the American realm for stuff in Europe, hardcore to softcore? No problem.

What I don't do is find trades for you. If you want to trade your Grandfather for stuff in Hardcore you find a player and agree a trade. I just secure the transaction.

This service is completely legitimate and permitted within the TOS and the EULA of the games for which it is provided. Here's an example of a forum for a SOE game where players quite often trade between different games. Players can generally give items to other players in most online games without restriction. This is not a RMT or grey trading operation.

This service simply means people have more fun. The person burned out on Eve can trade his spaceships for a shiny big sword to the delight of the Eve newbie he deals with. The person who played in Europe when she was stationed here on military duty can exchange her stuff here for stuff she can use on her new characters when she goes back home.

So what makes Stabs a "trusted" person?

1) Self-interest. I get fees for doing this and if I rip someone off, no more customers, no more fees.

2) My blog presence. I've blogged on Stabbed Up since July 2009 and was commenting on many other people's blogs before then. I have invested a huge amount of time writing and have a good reputation in the blogging community. It also makes me very traceable in real life if a dispute became a legal matter.

3) My personality. If you read my blogs you will see that I am an honest and principled gamer with a history of principled action. I'm a decent person and I think you can see that from my writing.

4) My Diablo 2 community involvement. I was heavily involved in the Diablo 2 forums writing thousands of posts as Brista on the Amazon Basin and Lurker Lounge.

5) Feedback from satisfied customers. As this service continues I hope to receive feedback from players who use it. (There's none yet but give me time, the game hasn't started!).

Services offered:

Diablo 3 same mode same region trading. Only use this if it's a very valuable trade and you're paranoid about someone switching the item just as you click Accept.

Diablo 3 mode to mode trading. Hardcore to Softcore or Softcore to Hardcore.

Diablo 3 region to region trading. I'll update this as soon as I have characters available in different regions.

Diablo 3 gold and items for other game gold and items. If you want to swap your EQ2 gold for D3 gold or Eve isk for D3 gold then I can arrange it. (I don't currently have a WoW account so I can't offer this service in that game).

Basically I'll install most popular games that are free to play and I subscribe to Eve. Just ask me if you want to know if I cover a particular game. Games I certainly do cover include:
Eve Online
Everquest 2
Magic The Gathering: Tactics
Dungeons & Dragons Online
Age of Conan

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Return of capital in the first month

The sub-prime crash of 2008 generated a lot of very interesting economic analysis. One of the lines that stayed with me is that while wheelers and dealers managed to make money shorting a falling market, for most regular savers the focus shifted from return on capital to return of capital.

Thus the rather remarkable fact that when Standard & Poors downgraded the USA, US government bonds became more popular. The thinking is this: if the US got downgraded the world economy is screwed. If the world economy is screwed businesses, banks and so on might go bust, land might plummet in value. But the US government will still pay back its lenders most of what they lend as long as money is still in operation. So the response to the US being rated less worth investing in is that people invested in the US!

That tells us a lot about deflationary economies, economies that are crashing.

The Diablo 3 economy will be born crashing. Day 1 there will be thousands, even millions of pounds, of real money chasing a negligible quantity of goods and gold. I'll probably stick up all my gold on the RMAH at level 10 if I get in right at the start - there will be some people who will pay £50 for a little boost at the start.

From that point it will head very quickly towards its equilibrium point. I think the economy will be balanced by very expensive repair bills and will eventually be mildly deflationary not strongly deflationary. But it will start off strongly deflationary.

So where do you keep your in-game assets to achieve return of capital? That 20 dps sword that will seem amazing on Day 1 and be worth £20 will be worth pennies by the end of the week. 1 million gold, worth a very significant amount on Day 1 will be something we farm in an hour once we're running around easimode Hell with a level 60 in 900% gold find gear.

Here's some ideas:

1) Invest it. Getting ahead of the pack with your artisans could allow you to practically mint money. It's probably best to just concentrate on one. I'm going to be focused on my Jeweler and my friend Wazzer is doing the smith.

2) Gems. Gems never become not valuable. Even at level 60 a chipped gem puts you that little bit closer to an upgrade. It's not like a level 10 sword that's only useful for alts and newbies once the main part of the player base has gone past it.

3) Pages of training. I think these will go UP in the first month. Competition for these will intensify as people close in on Rank 10 artisan.

4)  Undiscovered marvels. Currently on the Beta AHs the worst affixes are Attacker Takes Damage and Health Regeneration. Usually people salvage this gear as junk, sometimes they put it up for some trivial price (and it almost certainly returns unsold).

However when the game goes live there's a very specific point at which those mods become valuable to a small group of players. At level 45 the Witch Doctors get Fierce Loyalty. So suddenly these junk mods become very useful to those WDs who like summoning.

Now I think summoning will be pretty strong and that Fierce Loyalty builds like this one will gain in traction. So this gear will suddenly become much more expensive as people realise that it's not junk after all and it will rise in price.

Another example is real dps v apparent dps. Once players get more experienced they'll realise a 280 dps weapon with + Int (or whatever your dps stat is), + Crit chance, + Crit damage is far better than a 300 dps weapon that lacks any such dps-boosting stats that aren't factored in. I explained about buyer psychology yesterday.

I'm sure there are other examples of gear that people will think is rubbish early on but then realise is good once they get more experienced at the game. High level Vit gear will go up if people discover they can't survive Inferno without it.

5) Store it as real money or the equivalent. Either cash out or you can leave it there as Blizzbucks or whatever the currency is. (thanks to Loque for reminding me of this option, I'd meant to put it in but forgot).

Buyer psychology in Diablo 3

I'm going to show you something.

What in that image stands out? What, when people look at it, immediately jumps out at them first?


In fact it's so visually strong that people don't even need to know what 18.7 is a measurement of, they'll just know it's a little better than 17 but not quite so good as 20.

Remember the first part of Blizzard's mantra is Easy to Play. This is stats made simple. How good is that sword? It's 18.7. That's all most people will feel they need to know.

If that weren't already strong enough have a look at the AH interface. What does it sort on by default? DPS

Item, DPS, Bid, Buyout, Time Left. The game is structured as if there's only one thing you need to know about a weapon - DPS.

In fact there can be other dps elements to a weapon that don't show up in the number. An 18.7 dps weapon with bonuses to crit strike chance, crit damage rating, and Strength might be a much better dps option than a plainer 20 dps weapon but most players would never know. Your buyers generally won't know.

Shopping is all about taking mental shortcuts.

Harvard Prof Robert Cialdini told a story in his excellent book Influence about a woman acquaintance who was selling gems. She left a note for an assistant to half the price of a slow selling stock of Jade. He mis-read the note and doubled the price. Suddenly these gems that no one wanted sold out. She asked Cialdini why?

Most people have no clue about what makes a good piece of jade. Actually we have no clue about lots of things but our brains have evolved a mechanism to cope. What we do is we take mental shortcuts. In the case of jade we look at the price.

Jewelry is a very personal present. We tend to buy it for someone close to us - a wife, a daughter, a mother. A $25 piece of jade is a bit too cheap for most people to buy as a present. A $50 piece of jade is just right. It doesn't matter that it's the same piece of jade in both cases, we equate quality with price, It's a method that works 99% of the time.

Part of mastering the Auction House in Diablo 3 will be understanding the difference between buyer psychology and optimisation.

Next consider movement speed. Now arguably for certain fights, dangerous act bosses, Inferno and so on it might make more sense to have combat stats on your boots than run speed. But no one playing Diablo will want to move like they're walking though treacle. It's too mentally offputting to consider. So boots without movement speed will almost certainly be underpriced relative to their mods and boots with movement speed, especially max move speed, will be expensive.

There are six principles in Influence that explain why people make decisions, particularly decisions where someone else has talked them into something.

Reciprocity. So if I play with someone and give them a nice item they are very likely to respond, especially if there's a sustained social relationship. This of course can be manipulated, one could give people rare boots with no run speed and be quite likely to get random rares back.

Commitment and consistency. If we set up a Sunday afternoon gear swap market then over time people will come to really appreciate it. Sticking to the same time every week and never missing a week could establish some sort of player trade fair.

Social Proof. People will gear up in the way they see other people developing their characters. If some people in Inferno early on get a very distinctive look, the item that gives that look will be sought even if the stats aren't great.

Authority. Check what top players and D3 celebrities like Force and Athene are wearing. Buyers will want to buy the same gear. They know it works. The exception, sadly is me, because I'm expert in specialising in random junk ghetto gear and still kicking butt. Maybe, come release, if I attract a group of fans who particularly want to emulate me we'll see a trend for blues with + Gold Radius on. A boy can dream.

Liking. People are influenced by people they like. Force will probably get copied much more than Athene because Force is more likeable. Athene's rather odd sense of humour puts many people off. So expect people to influence and be influenced by friends and guildies. If you sell to someone ask them if they are in a guild and if anyone else in the guild would like the item. Being introduced by someone they like makes people more receptive to you.

Scarcity. People often panic buy when they fear a window of opportunity is closing. When you trade you can excite a buyer by mentioning that you have to go soon or that someone else is interested in the item. Of course scarcity is already heavily built into the item system so people will be open to the notion that your offer is a unique and special chance to enhance their character that they'll regret missing if they don't buy now.

Good luck in the D3 Trade Wars. I think the getting rich game is going to be as fascinating as the RPG!

Monday, 26 March 2012


Much of the leveling in Diablo 3 is simply moving and the faster you move the faster you level. In addition it's very useful to be able to keep up in multiplayer. It rather sucks to find everything dead by the time you arrive over and over.

In addition to run speed when considering how fast you move consider Gold Pickup Radius. If you ignore gold then you don't especially have to worry about this affix in terms of your speed. But if, like me, you instinctively collect all the gold before moving on you will play through the game much quicker with some Gold Radius bonuses. I personally like at least 4 yards. This affix also boosts two Witch Doctor passives (Circle of Life and Grave Injustice). Note that the Demon Hunter can have a ferret companion that collects the gold for her.

Run speed is only found on boots in the Beta. The datamined affix information also says it can spawn on weapons and belts although that's probably a smaller amount and quite a high level. In addition legendary and set items get to break the normal rules. Run speed was quite a common set bonus in Diablo 2 and I'm sure that'll be true in D3 too.

The best mod in Beta that people can use is +7% although faster boots exist for unplayably high levels.

Faster movement is one of people's top priorities and most people will consider boots useless if they don't have faster movement. Even blue boots with one affix are reasonably expensive on the auction house but I doubt many players would buy rare boots with good affixes that lack movement speed. It's very noticeable, even a small percent.

Selling crafted faster boots should be a reasonably profitable niche market for people interested in that side of things.

As well as gear, each class has a greater or lesser degree of movement buffs from abilities runes and passives. Demon Hunters Barbarians and Monks all get good speed options, Wizards get Teleport and the poor Witch Doctor is a lot slower than everyone else.

These are the relevant abilities:


Leap . Covers distance quicker than running, allows otherwise impassable terrain to be navigated.

Frenzy - Vanguard. +15% move while Frenzying.

Sprint. +40% for 3 seconds, can be runed into Marathon (50% for 5 seconds) or Forced March (affects allies, 20% for 3 seconds). It looks like you can chain Sprints as long as you have the Fury.

Demon Hunter

Smoke Screen - Displacement gives +35% movement speed when activated (for 3 seconds presumably, the duration of the ability).

Shadow Power - Shadow Glide gives +40% for the 3 seconds it's active.

Tactical Advantage gives you +60% move for 2 seconds after you Vault, Smokescreen or flip with Evasive Fire. I've been using this in the Beta and it's really good. Monster packs aren't that far separated and a Vault or two is usually enough to get to the next pack.

Hot Pursuit gives you +15% when you're at Full Hatred. Another nice ability, best to open on packs with your spender and finish off the last few with your builder if you have this. Combines well perhaps with Vengeance because that fills you up after a fight, there's usually a few globes around after you kill a decent size group.


Way of the Hundred Fists - Blazing Fists applies a 5% move and attack speed buff every crit that stacks up to 3 times. Lasts 5 seconds.

Dashing Strike - Way of the Falling Star gives a +25% move speed buff for 3 seconds after you hit an enemy.

Mantra of Evasion - Wind through the Reeds adds a 5% move speed buff to the group.

Fleet Footed gives 10% movement speed. This is a very nice passive for so early on, arguably the best skill in the game.

Witch Doctor

Horrify - Stalker gives +20% for 4 seconds. The skill has a 20 second cooldown.

Spirit Walk seems to allow you to pass obstacles. Possibly it will let you walk through walls and doors which would be handy.

Spirit Vessel knocks 2 seconds off your Horrify and Spirit Walk cooldowns.


Teleport was really good in D2. The combination of moving very fast with ignoring walls made it the top movement skill in the game. In D3 it has a cooldown although the Wormhole rune seems to allow you to chain spam it. It may once again be the best skill in the game if you can feed it enough Arcane Power.

Archon has a rune just called Teleport that allows you to teleport when you're an Archon.

Illusionist is a passive that resets the cooldowns on Teleport and Mirror Image if you take 15% damage in a single hit.


In this area my beloved Witch Doctor class sucks royally. All of the others seem pretty good. I suspect that once people have good gear fast cast Wizards permaspamming Teleport will have the rest of us eating their dust.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Account security

Diablo 3 is going to see an unprecedented wave of online game crime.

Not a pleasant fact but worth stating. For the first time your game is not just a leisure pursuit but a store of wealth, a piggy bank full of bank notes. And there's a lot of people who would dearly love to smash it.

This is what your Diablo 3 account looks like to some people.

The Background

Professor Richard Heeks studies and writes about how developing countries use computers and communication technologies, a discipline called Development Informatics. In 2008 he authored a report on gold farming which is probably still the leading single piece of research in this area. (If I'm wrong I'd be delighted to find out otherwise).

There's two things in particular I'd like to highlight from Heeks' work that are relevant to understanding the RMT industry.

First the idea that you can't earn more than $5 per week because of Chinese farmers is false. Chinese farmers, according to Heeks get a salary of $145 per month at the meanest estimate and operational overheads are 100%. In other words if you earn $289 per month and absorb your own overheads you operate cheaper than a Chinese farmer. No one in China would farm gold for $5 per week.

Next Heeks feels that perhaps "gold farming's crepuscular status was artificially suppressing consumer expenditure". He means less people buy gold because it's forbidden. Diablo 3 changes that.

I think the RMT economy in Diablo 3 is going to be huge. Massive, beyond anything seen before.

The gold farming industry since professor Heeks wrote his report has continued to grow. The World Bank reported it at $3 billion in 2009. As it has been pretty much doubling every year for which we have figures it may be over $10 billion now. This is seriously big business and Blizzard's last RPG was right at the heart of the sector's growth. How much bigger could it get when D3 makes gold buying respectable?

It's also a very shady business. Gold farming operations have been linked to pedophile rings, have used forced labour, have been compared operationally to mafia organisations.

Gold selling operations often result to preying upon their clients. According to Blizzard:
Gold sellers and leveling services are responsible for the vast majority of all account thefts, and they are the number-one source of World of Warcraft-related phishing attempts, spyware, and even credit card theft. Players who buy gold actively support spam, hacks, and keyloggers, and by doing so diminish the gameplay experience for everyone else.

They also prey heavily on the games companies. And there's no way in hell these companies will meekly hand over the profits from RMT back to Blizzard and go off and do something else.

They'll attack Diablo 3's security. Blizzard's security. And YOUR security.

Securing your account

1) Use an authenticator. If you're not happy about paying for one grind some Blizzbucks and spend it on one in your first couple of weeks playing Diablo 3. EU customers get one here and US customers get one here. South East Asian customers get redirected to the US store.

2) Use unique passwords and a unique email for Blizzard. Don't tell anyone this. I regularly get exciting sounding phishing emails that appear to come from Blizzard in my public email - I know they're fake because it's not the email address that Blizzard has.

3) Never open a phishing email. Not even to read how dumb they are or whatever. Just mark them as spam.

4) People always say never share your account. It happens to be against the TOS. It's good advice but if you do share your account change the password after each time your friend or family member uses it. Your kid sister isn't going to be as security conscious about your stuff as you are and before you know it half of her school has your log-in details.

5) Don't trust fan websites. It's pretty easy to put up a fansite. And you can put almost anything in the html.

I'm going to now put my tin foil hat on and ask you to consider major fan sites. There's a history in online gaming of professional gold farming outfits buying out popular amateur fan sites. In fact it's almost the dream one has when making a fan site - that in 3 years some company will offer a million quid for it. Well, I have a question I'd like you to think about.


Why would someone buy a game fansite for huge amounts of money? I've heard people say it's because they can advertise there but internet advertising is cheap. They could advertise on dozens of fansites for a decade for less money that they pay to buy them.



What if some of the most popular fan sites have been bought out by gold sellers so that they can get people's game log-in details. In some cases they wouldn't even need to keylog although there have been stories of keyloggers downloaded from popular sites. But I bet if people had to put a username and password to read this blog some of you muppets would give me the exact same user name and password you use for your Battlenet account. <3

The basic fix is having up-to-date browser, addons (like Flash), virus scan and firewall. Some browsers may be safer than Internet Explorer. I use Firefox and NoScript.

A more paranoid fix is simply to use a different computer for web browsing than you do to play your games on. You'll probably need to browse a couple of sites on your gaming rig - downloading from Blizzard for example but you sure as heck don't need to surf to see what Inferno Skeleton King can drop on the pc that has your £5000 BNet account on. Alternatively you can run your browser in a sandbox with sandbox software like this one.

6) Don't use addons for D3. It's very likely that any addon won't work on D3 (or if it does you'll get caught and banned) but is issued knowing that it won't work on D3 but it will work on your pc, sending your personal details out over the wires. Just be suspicious - why is some random stranger on the internet giving you a maphack for free? Just because they're nice?

7) Be VERY careful if you trade on third party sites. It's probably not worth doing at all, some people might see a great deal and think yeah I'll buy that for $5 and sell it for $20 in game. Stop! Cons work on us because we're greedy.

8) Read the official information from Blizzard and CCP.

Let's be careful out there.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Skill calculators updated for patch 15

The Diablo 3 skill calculators have been updated on the official site.

It comes in both European and American flavours.

Enjoy skill doodling!

I found this really funny.

Over on the US boards someone started a thread with the title I don't think D3 is going to do well at all and went on to explain why he thought that in a wall of text.

He got a blue response.

This response:

Nah, it'll be fine.

I bet some of the other games companies really hate Blizzard at times.

Corpse Spiders

Beta patch 15 moved the Corpse Spiders spell to level 3 and dramatically reduced its mana cost. The mana cost varies with level but when you get it it costs just 2 mana to cast. It always costs less to cast than you naturally regenerate making it completely spammable.

At level 13 it looks like this:

Corpse Spiders (basic version)

You get about 3 attacks each spider so the basic version does about 4 spiders * 3 attacks * 16% and the Leaping Spiders is 4 * 3 * 19%. That works out to 192% weapon damage and 228% weapon damage. Worth 3 points of anyone's mana!

At level 9 you unlock a rune for it. This changes the spell's visuals quite dramatically and improves it by increasing the damage the spiders do per bite and giving them a leap. This makes them better at attacking moving prey but it has been claimed that the basic spiders are better against stationary targets.

Runed it looks like this:

Leaping Spiders

They're quite good at munching things as these unfortunate zombies discovered:

What do spiders eat for dinner? Everything!

Another subtle advantage of the Leaping Spiders is that although they don't attract aggro (ie no mob thinks I'm picking that spider as my target), they do disrupt pathfinding. Leaping Spiders are bigger than the basic spiders so they get in the way more.

In this shot the Skeleton King was briefly trapped. He hesitated as if he wanted to move towards someone but couldn't path find.  (Although he escapes when he uses his Whirlwind or Vanish abilities).

If you cast it at monsters that are moving towards you they form behind it. You can cast it onto the ground by holding shift, so dropping them into the paths of monsters slows them a small amount (as they have to deviate around the spiders).

Like all summons it's dynamic. If you have spiders out and cast Soul Harvest or equip a better weapon you'll see their damage increase dramatically.

 It's possible to set up traps. If you're waiting for a monster to spawn you can spam spiders to create a reception committee. The unfortunate Mira Eamon met such a committee in this shot - she died almost instantly:

The ! denotes Haedric experiencing a what the fuck moment.

And just in case anyone hasn't had enough spiders already here's a fabulous video from a fellow arachnid enthusiast. Hat tip to Plateau Gaming and FixtionFXR for this wonderful film.

Friday, 23 March 2012

What to do with this Blizzard money?

Diablo 3 offers players a revolutionary depth of real money trading. And no doubt many players are quite without planning it going to find themselves with a significant amount of real money. You will be able to cash it out in most countries via Paypal but I'd like to explore some of the other options. There are in fact quite a lot of ways to spend your Blizzbucks.

1) Games

Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm is due out this year.

Well Blizzard is a games company so it makes sense that they have rather a number of good games. While you can't pay for recurring sub fees directly with game money you will be able to buy games and you can buy WoW game time.

You could buy
- another copy of Diablo 3. More auction house slots, more character slots, more storage space, ability to cheese your other characters if you set it up on two computers.

- Diablo 2 (released 2000). Superb game that still has hundreds of thousands of players and ranks 18th in the all-time PC bestseller chart. It's one of the games that made Blizzard. My only quibble is that picking up gold is really annoying after you've played Diablo 3!

Starcraft I (released 1998) or II (Wings of Liberty campaign released 2010 and Heart of the Swarm campaign expected this year). Classic real time strategy games with a gritty sci fi style. So well balanced they've become one of the defining e-sports games supporting a community of professional gamers and commentators.

World of Warcraft. At the time of writing, if you've played WoW before the best way back in is with their scroll of resurrection deal. You can also get regular copies of the game as well as game time in the Blizzard store if you're not eligible for the scroll. If you've never played WoW it's a wonderful deep world full of little oddities and unexplored nooks. The main focus of players is raiding (killing big monsters in a large group) and group pvp in battlegrounds.

Warcraft 3 (released 2002). Another classic RTS, this is actually the base game that spawned the entire DOTA genre. Both DOTA and League of Legends emerged from Warcraft 3 mods. And Warcraft 3 is a very good real time strategy in its own right.

2) A Blizzard authenticator.

No, you can't have my stuff!

Phishing, keylogging, trojans - it's a brutal internet out there. And with Diablo 3 you'll be keeping REAL MONEY on the internet.

Lock your front door, folks, it's just common sense.

3) Cuddly toys

Like kids? I adore them although I don't have any myself. I do have friends with kids and the idea of playing Diablo 3 for a weekend then buying one of them a present from the proceeds seems like an excellent plan.

They even have a cuddly toy that looks like little Ashley:

Ashley. xx.

4) Books

Among my many other talents I'm a librarian and like most librarians I love a good read. Richard A Knaak is a talented writer who's done lots of fan fiction (and my, hasn't that come a long way since Gary Gygax's terrible novels). He's done 6 Diablo novels which I aim to collect by playing Diablo 3 and earning them in-game.

There's also the Book of Cain which is an encyclopaedia of the Diablo universe. I know one isn't supposed to judge a book by its cover but - damn:

Dare you smell the pages?

5) Mouse mat

Ah yes, the mouse mat. THAT mouse mat. The picture tells it all:

Bring it on, Inferno level!

Apparently there are other mouse mats in the store if you prefer something more wimpy. I couldn't really see them, my eyes were full of spikey mace.

6) T -shirts

There's both male and female T-shirts and they look pretty good.

7) Other stuff

There's a lot of other stuff in the Blizzard store too. There's an expensive but good mouse, an expensive but good headset, loads of WoW-related stuff and Starcraft stuff. So if you're someone who baulks at the idea of playing all night for $1 an hour maybe it's more palatable to think you play as you would anyway but sometimes treat yourself or your family to a present as a reward!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Banana Hat

Banana Hat. by Versace

My life will be utterly empty until I have one!

Nephalem Valour: analysis

OK, after absorbing the news it's time to analyse the new game mechanic. (Because that is, after all, what this site is all about).

On the face of it the buff encourages people to simply play through the game without cherry-picking. However I still think that's probably sub-optimal.

Inferno item farming will be all about killing random boss packs and champion packs that have random affixes. I wrote about D3 end game farming here and about boss affixes here.

Not all boss mods are equal. Moreover, not all boss mods have the same impact on different types of character/build. A Barbarian for example isn't really hurt by the Vortex mod. The boss pulls the Barb in close, the Barb smacks him in the face, what's not to like? Nor is he hurt much by the Teleporter mod. The boss Teleports to the Barb, the Barb smacks him in the face, again what's not to like?

However Plagued (extra poison damage plus aoe poison damage if close), Molten (extra fire damage plus aoe fire damage if close), Frozen (extra cold damage, slows movement and attacks) and Electrified (extra lightning damage, spits out highly damaging bolts in its vicinity) - that would be a horrible boss to melee.

So it makes sense in that example for the Barb to skip very melee-unfriendly combinations and cherry-pick easy kills.

Also you only need to achieve a minimum boss kill per unit of time that will be determined by the developers before release. They're toying with the 15 minutes to an hour range. I don't think it will be 15 minutes. 15 minutes to find your next boss pack and kill them? In a game where people wipe for an hour on boss packs? It's too fast. They have to allow for people needing to afk and people with no faster run so I think it will be at least 30 minutes, possibly an hour.

If you have an hour to kill your next pack then it will certainly be possible to skip difficult ones. In fact if you spend an hour wiping you've lost your buff anyway.

Next they've said the buff will have a stacks cap of a "number you can count on one hand". There's lots of boss packs and champion packs in a game. There are a lot more than 5 just in the Beta content and that's just a part of one of the 4 acts. So there's lots of bosses to choose from.

The waypoint system will, I think, become part of a complicated routeway of boss running.

Teleport to Old Ruins
- run back to the Dank Cellar, check for a boss
Town Portal
Teleport to the Cemetery of the Forsaken
- run back to the Weeping Hollow, check for packs and shrines
Town Portal from the far end of the Hollow
Teleport to the Cemetery of the Forsaken again
check graveyard and each Tomb, skipping the jar of souls event (because it doesn't spawn a boss) but doing the Lady event (it always spawns a boss)
and then on to the Cathedral etc.

Possibly you might know how many packs normally spawn on each dungeon level so if Cathedral 2 only shows you one pack before you find the way down you might double back to check the other bosses.

It could be possible that once you have a full stack of Nephalem Valour an act boss drops better  than random bosses so you might do 5 bosses + Diablo, save and exit, repeat over and over. But I think that's possibly less likely because for several of those bosses you'd be at gimped Nephalem Valour.

What might be better if Neph Valour makes Act bosses really good is you get your full set of stacks then kill each Act boss, Baal running style. So basically you'd kill 5 champ packs in the Cemetery or wherever then use the last waypoint in each Act to get the act boss.

Now there's an advantage to working through the quests - you get extra bosses on the quests. For example Manglemaw is a boss that only spawns if you're doing A Shattered Crown quest. Otherwise his spot is empty. So part of this optimisation process may include doing the quest.

No quest? No shinies.

However, even with all the waypoints and optimising the hell out of the system you may end up doing something very similar to playing through the whole game in the right order (with some boss skipping). So well done Bllizzard! Looks like mission accomplished.

Nephalem Valour clarifications

Courtesy of Reddit we have some more information about the new game mechanic:

Straight from Blizzard:
  • How many stacks if any?
    We're not totally sure but probably a number you can count on one hand.
  • Do you lose the buff when you die
    It lasts through death currently, and we like it. I know some people will also want it to be a punishment for death, but repair costs are already extremely impactful.
  • If the buff splits between players
    Like someone joins after you've been killing and they have less stacks? It's a direct increase to your MF/GF, so it uses the same mechanics.
  • If you lose it on disconnect
    There's a small grace period, similar to WoW where you can get back into the game before your character is actually logged out (ie a timeout), but yes if your character times out you would lose the buff.
  • Time limit on stack if any?
    We're messing with times from about 15 minutes to an hour. We don't know yet.
  • Stacks removed after boss?
    We don't really think it needs to. Your focus is still going to be seeking out champions and rares. If you want to get full stacks, kill a boss, and then try to rush to kill another boss before the buff falls off... have fun? It's not going to be the most lucrative way to play, so it's likely a non-issue hypothetical.
NOTE: This system is still WIP and nothing is final!

When you say extra loot, do you mean, extra loot. Or do you mean extra loot that is on par with what elite/champs drop. I remember from the article before, bosses do not drop gear that is as good as champs/elites.

They will drop gear as good as champions and elites with this buff (because you have to kill champions and elites to get it, which was the point). With the buff active you’re guaranteed one extra item drop from the boss, and it’s likely that it’ll be 1 item per stack of the buff. Up to X stacks. We don’t know how many it’ll be, probably a handful. 

(Hat tip to Degrin).

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Blizzard unveils new loot buff

Bashiok has just unveiled details of the new Nephalem Valour buff:

We’re working hard on balancing and testing Diablo III, and one of the major components is making sure that the end game experience is fun and exciting. We’d like to share a few of our goals for end game:
  • We have an enormous number of skill build combinations, and we want a lot of those skill builds to be viable and interesting
  • While there are millions of skill builds available to players, we don’t want players swapping skills regularly to beat specific encounters as they come up
  • We don’t want repeatedly running specific three-minute chunks of the game to be the most efficient way to acquire gear for your character
  • While a three-minute run shouldn’t be the most efficient, we also don’t want you to feel like it’s a two-hour commitment every time you sit down to play
  • Bosses should still feel worth killing

Nephalem Valor is one of the major new systems in Diablo III and it kicks in at level 60. Keep in mind that this is still in testing and we’re still working out the details. Here’s how it currently works internally: Rare and Champion packs already have great loot on them. By killing a Rare or Champion pack, not only do you get their loot, but you’ll also receive a buff granting you increased magic find and gold find. However, if you change a skill, skill rune, passive, or leave the game, the buff disappears. As an extra reward, if you kill a boss while this buff is active, you’ll receive extra loot drops from that boss.

The exact amount of magic find and gold find provided by the buff is still being reviewed, as is the amount of extra loot you get from a boss while the buff is active. We’re also playing around with whether or not the buff stacks, what the duration should be, and whether or not it should persist through death. We want to make sure the buff is strong enough to make staying in your current game more rewarding than creating a new game. At the same time, if the buff is too strong, it risks making shorter play sessions feel not worthwhile.

We expect this system will encourage players to stick with a skill build of their choice, select an area of the game they enjoy, and sweep it for rare and champion packs on their way to a boss, finishing off a run with a boss that’ll be worth killing. If you wanted a shorter play session you could be done at that point, but if you have more time, the path of least resistance would ideally be to stay in the same game and make your way towards the next boss.

He also clarified a point raised by a player:

No, it kicks in at 60. Once you hit 60 you have access to this buff regardless of difficulty. You can use it and go back to Hell to help you gear up for Inferno, absolutely. 

Pretty sensational stuff and it will really affect the way we play. Personally I love it, I'm looking forward to playing through the game rather than doing the same old runs over and over.

I don't think it will entirely cut out optmising - clearly players will choose where to start.

Following on from yesterday's post about farming clearly it's optimal now to race to 60 and farm before most people are 60. A shame for those of us who like messing about with alts but I for one will certainly race up to 60 and try to knock some of those terrifying  Inferno bosses over! 

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Item farming for real money

There's a widespread assumption that item farming in Diablo 3 will be for pitifully small amounts of money, largely because of the existence of a large Chinese gold farming industry which will drive prices down. Force and Sixen voiced this opinion on the latest of their excellent series of podcasts and Marcko of the gold guide more or less agreed.

I'd like to question this assumption:

Marcko wrote: Force stated several times that competition would drive down prices to make farming virtually slave labor. He jokingly mentioned a certain ethnicity known for gold farming and said that this group of people would drive prices into the ground. You're right Force, but they can only drive them down so much. At some point, demand and supply will meet to create a consistent trend for prices. Being ignorant of this balancing act will lead to the assumption that it's impossible to make any money playing the system. But you are correct that simply farming items and selling them is a terrible way to make money on any auction house.

Remember the You Will Die! video that Blizzard released? This is what farming in Inferno looks like when done by some pretty serious gamers (serious enough to work for a games company).

Now I've met a number of Chinese farmers in WoW and read a lot of articles. Generally the typical Chinese gold farmer in previous games has been very unskilled killing very easy mobs for loot. In Vanilla WoW they did the owlbears up in Winterspring all day (and I used to go gank them sometimes).

Another problem is that the accounts are worked in shifts. At the end of an 8 hour shift a farmer sells everything he possibly can to meet his quota and leaves his shift-mates with an almost naked character. That wasn't too bad in WoW where most of the gear, even the bags later on, was bound to the character. But in D3 nothing is bound, a farmer can strip his guy naked for extra gold.

There's no way that these people are going to become effective Inferno teams, at least not early on. In fact we have strong evidence for this because there was already a practice in WoW of selling raid and arena spots - you'd pay a good player to haul your not-so-talented butt past content you wouldn't otherwise beat.

I've never heard of Chinese gold farmers selling arena ranking or raid spots.

So while there will be competition if you are farming effectively in Inferno, particularly if you are ahead of the curve, there won't be millions of semi-literate people from the Third World in the next game farming the same mobs. Not even if their prison guards try to make them.

A Diablo themed picture every day

Talented Diablo fan Waies has decided to draw a Diablo themed picture every day until release.

His album is here:

28th Feb: Soul leeched by an Apparition
Several of his pieces draw from famous art works, there's also a piece inspired by Da Vinci's Last Supper which is breathtaking.

All art is copyright of the original artist.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Soul Harvest: it's awesome

The Witch Doctor is great fun to play in Patch 15.

This was my first impression:

Level 1 Poison Dart, Level 2 Grasp, OK nothing new.

Level 3 Corpse Spiders. And you can spam it so much - your blue ball barely moves while spamming it. On mobs like Mira, the Blacksmith's wife you have about 20 spiders there waiting as she turns into a zombie, she got devoured!

Then Level 5 Firebats. Kills the mana but whoo hoo, running about with your own personal flamethrower is fantastic.

Level 6 now, nearly 7 and the server's just fallen over again. I'll go to sleep happy and dream of creepy-crawlies. 

I've now got to level 12 and oh my, is Soul Harvest good or what? 

This is my stats page without Soul Harvest. 28.18 dps (all my spells are based off that).

 So what happens with one click of the Soul Harvest button? This happens - 60.76 dps

OK, big numbers but does it actually kick butt in practice? Hell yes!