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May 21, 2012

Dear Reader,

I wonder sometimes about the arbitrary limitations we put on ourselves.  D3 has an auction house.  D3 allows, through the “elective mode” option, you to more greatly customize your character’s abilities.

So why do recoil from both of these options?

One of my buddies (let’s call him X) and my other buddy (we’ll call him Y) got into a verbal – mostly friendly – altercation about use of the auction house.  Since X has been twinking out at the AH, he’s become a ridiculous powerhouse compared to the rest of us.  His damage number is as high as my wife’s and my Y’s combined.  This means that every fight is basically trivialized.

Y, though, was the first to use the AH, but he stopped around level 12 and has since replaced every AH bought item.  At level 12, though, he was given a LOT of shit about “cheating” by X, who is now inadvertently “ruining” the game for the rest of us by being so overpowered.  As a result, now Y is giving X shit, which leads to verbal – mostly friendly – altercations.

Frankly, I don’t really care, but I don’t want my experience trivialized.  I don’t care what’s trivializing it, but I want it to be fun.

Then we have the Elective debate.  Why the hell did Blizzard create “talent blocks” of abilities if there was a button you could push to just ignore the “talent blocks?”  Y suggested it was so novice players don’t accidentally choose only resource-using abilities and end up with no mana/rage/spirit/baby flesh (or whatever witchdoctors use).  Okay, well, that makes sense, but then why not set up a warning for that type of thing?  Why create a false “interesting choice” – having to choose one out of a set of abilities – if you can just override it in the options?

So again we descend into a conversation about how to play the game.  Half of me says, “Just have fun.” The other half says, “Why would the developer create a challenge that can be so easily overcome with auctions and options?”  The third half (I can have a third half; I’m overweight) of me says, “I feel like my experience is being trivialized by others, like WoW was, through too-easy access to ‘win’ buttons.  The solution is to play alone.”

In the end, of course, it doesn’t really matter.  I’ll play and have a good time – and I am, though I died AGAIN during the last boss of act II (I’m the only one who keeps dying, and I’m the one who can consistently heal.  Clearly I’m doing something wrong), but I feel this gets right back to my group leveling tips, and more importantly, to a tip I now know I left out: make sure you’re all playing the same game.  Clearly, my group isn’t.

One of us uses elective mode; the other three don’t.  One of us uses the AH; the other three don’t (anymore in Y’s case).  One of us doesn’t give a hoot about the lore and runs off by himself all the time, potentially killing champions so far away that the rest of us don’t get loot; the rest of us explore the whole map and call out when we find a champ or a book to make sure everyone gets it.  The real problem, it seems, isn’t to do with “cheating” or the game itself, but simply with play styles.

I’ve thought a lot about play styles, mostly in reference to the pen and paper RPGs I’ve run.  I’ve made bold (and probably erroneous) statements about it being impossible for wildly different play styles to cooperate meaningfully in a tabletop game.  I have lots of stories I can tell in this regard, stories of horror and anger and betrayal at the acts of fellow players who are supposed to be on your team.

I’ll even be really bold and go out on a limb and say I don’t think Bartle’s entirely right.  I think he’s started something, like Gardner did with multiple intelligences, but I think, also like Gardner, there are more to add to that list.  Not in my group, though.  It’s pretty clear we’ve got an achiever who just wants to get done as easily and fast as possible and explorers who want to see the whole game and enjoy what was left for us there by the devs.  No one’s right; no one’s wrong.  No one’s cheating, not really, even if my very gamer soul rejects the AH and elective mode.  There are no cheaters, just confusing design decisions.


Stubborn (only 15 essays left)

Edit: Good lord I had a lot of grammar errors today.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. kaleedity permalink*
    May 21, 2012 1:01 pm

    Hit level 60 yesterday. Sapping the AH for gear isn’t going to trivialize everything soon. It might actually be better to play the lower difficulties with worse gear so you can figure out how to handle problems without getting one-shot by extremely difficult monsters.

    The elective mode is an annoying decision, but reasonable when taking some design elements into play. Bill Roper, one of the producers for D2, and later (ugh) Hellgate: London, always said that the easy portions of a game should be playable by your grandmother. I can respect that to some degree, but it is annoying that I just have to know about elective mode to bypass it. At least my time isn’t wasted in normal — as I can figure out what many of the unique mob traits and some of my character’s passives and skills actually do. Pound of Flesh passive for the barbarian? It’s the best passive they have. I wouldn’t have guessed.

    You do have significantly more choice without elective mode — you can ignore whole categories of skills and you only eventually pick 6 from the total pool of skills. My barbarian hasn’t used an ability that cost fury in dozens of levels, outside of swapping to them to see their effects once or twice with new glyphs.

    Fury spenders are just pretty bad; there are overwhelmingly good AoE options available elsewhere, and five out of the five fury spenders are AoE abilities. Only one has a “single target” glyph option, and its damage is only slightly better than other single target options. A significant fraction of the community is making the same decision to take no fury spenders. That’d be my biggest complaint so far.

    • May 23, 2012 4:24 pm

      At some level, them, what Blizzard’s doing is insuring itself against complaint about various categories. Because you’ve identified fury spenders as “pretty bad,” and because perhaps many of monk’s spirit spenders are “pretty good” (I don’t know; I’m just playing without worrying right now), Blizzard insures people won’t complain as much simply by having an out: turn on elective mode and use whatever abilities you want. If that’s true, then basically Blizzard has made a bad design decision (in my opinion) to cover up other potentially bad design decisions. That’s not a good trend.

      Email me your RealID sometime so we can meet up, though I assume it’ll be on your alt’s alt’s alt. (;

  2. May 23, 2012 1:35 pm

    This is the first I read about elective mode, and I’m sad to see that it exists. Here I had been thinking that Blizzard had made a clever design choice, one that is similar to the new talent system for the next Warcraft expansion.

    To belabor the advantages, if it’s not obvious:

    1. It simplifies the UI if you only have 6 actions you can ever use. Warcraft players have umpteen million keybinds to be competitive players, and I don’t find it a fun part of the game. It would be better to have a cease fire and tell people to play the game more and their configuration files less.

    2. The limitation makes for more interesting choices. To follow on Kalleedity’s comment, imagine you had to take one fury spender, even if you don’t particularly like any of them.

    • May 23, 2012 4:28 pm

      I am, too. If we can agree that Sid Meier’s definition of a game – as incomplete as I think his definition is – is correct: a series of interesting choices, then some, certainly not all, but some of the “interesting” part is diminished by being able to mix categories. I agree that part of fun I’m finding in D3 is that I don’t have to go to websites to figure out my ideal rotation or spec a certain way, and yet that culture is already rising up in the forums, and elective mode only empowers it. I’m sorry to see that option, too.

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