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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.