Friday, April 4, 2014

The essence of Diablo, Torchlight, and ARPGs

The ARPG genre is one of my least favorite genres in gaming. I don't dislike it because they're not enjoyable. I played D3 for quite a while, including a fair bit of RMAHing back when that was a thing, and over 50 hours on launch day. I played a fair bit of Path of Exile, a ton of D2, both Torchlight games, and even some other games in the genre like Van Helsing and the Dungeon Siege series. I'm even playing Borderlands 2 right now. I play a lot of this genre.

The main reason I hate the genre is the insidious addictiveness present in it. Once you've beaten them once for the story, the only reason to replay is to get more loot, more levels, and bigger numbers. They're skinner boxes with this continuous positive feedback to keep you playing. Honestly they're not that much different than MMORPGs but they're more single-player focused. It's why I kind of hate the existing themepark MMORPGs because there's already a genre for that.

I'm not really fond of the kind of game design where the longevity is entirely built around grinding more numbers. It's ultimately why I quit Age of Wushu (well the P2W didn't hurt) and it's kind of dirty to gamers. It's the same kind of design that made Cookie Clicker popular. I feel like games that have longevity should be because of their interesting gameplay. What ever happened to great games like Tetris or Bejeweled where you just play to better yourself?

If I was a AAA designer I'd totally make games like this, because the constant, guaranteed progression is the equivalent of gamer crack. People play these games and feel obligated to play them far more than they would if they sat back and thought logically about it.

I really like playing these games, but I really do not like that they're basically degenerate loot farms. It's rare that "real" gameplay actually occurs in these games. When D3 was a super kite-fest (before the Inferno nerfs and then its final removal) it felt really good to play because dodging everything and not getting hit was really satisfying. When you played against Inferno Belial (he's was sort of a gateway boss) and anything he did could kill you in one or two hits, it felt really good to dodge all of it and not get hit. Then the game became another super grind number-fest (and act 3 lashers were horrible design for that reason). What ever happened to frozen + arcane enchanted + mortar + fire chains? It got easier and easier because people apparently don't like being challenged. They just wanted more numbers.

The best of the genre really focuses on producing a great experience outside of the numbers and progression. I'll talk about D3, Borderlands and more next week. Stay tuned!

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