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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?