Autopsy, Part 3

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Jun 11, 2008

Filed under: Game Reviews 32 comments

This post focuses on some of the details of the crafting system, which is largely undocumented. What I have here is just my guesswork on the matter. I’m sure there are inaccuracies in it. Also note that I’ve only played the “marksman” class, so I don’t know how things are for the other classes in the game.


When describing the addictive pull of Diablo II, one person said, “You keep playing because you can’t shake this feeling that there just has to be a better sword out there, somewhere.” Killing monsters in search of loot gives much the same thrill people get from those scratch-off lottery tickets, or slot machines: The next one might be a winner. Each monster is a Pià±ata, just waiting for you to knock him open and see what goodies he has, and there’s always a chance you might hit the jackpot and get something really good.

Except, in this game the crafting system makes the search for loot largely irrelevant. There are level restrictions on items. To use a weapon of awesomeness factor X you must be at least level Y. If your weapon is under this limit, you can take it over to the nano forge and upgrade it. (I’m pretty sure it won’t let you upgrade the weapon if doing so would make the weapon unusable for you.) So, at any time you can be reasonably sure that you’ve got nearly the best weapon you’re allowed to wield.

The whole “there’s got to be a better sword”, thing never enters into it, because if you did find something better, you probably wouldn’t be allowed to equip it.

Suggestion: It was a bold move to introduce a crafting / upgrading system that negates the need for treasure hunting – which was the biggest draw for Diablo II over the years. It was either bold, or foolish. The crafting and upgrading had better be really compelling if they’re going to supplant treasure hunting as the focus of the game. Speaking of which…

Crafting & Upgrading

There are several devices and at least one special “vendor” type person in each base, who together form the item crafting and upgrade system of Hellgate. The game never explains any of it. No NPC in the game makes mention of them. The machines are just sitting there, and you have to figure out how it works through experimentation. Which would be fine if the whole thing weren’t so inscrutable.

How it works: When you find stuff, instead of taking it back to town to sell you can choose to take it apart. This will break the item down into a number of components. There are (if I remember correctly) nine different different types which are used as a sort of raw material / currency when creating new items (you’ll need blueprints) or upgrading (use the nano forge) your existing ones.

There are all sorts of odd limits that come into play here. You need enough of each of the required parts and you need to be high enough level. Once you’ve got the item, you need to have enough points invested in certain attributes to equip it. Again, I worked this out entirely on my own. There is never a quest to even nudge the player in the direction of these devices. The game really needs one.

Things get even more messed up when you get into the mod system.

Suggestion: Just some in-game mention of this stuff would go a long way to teaching people how the hell they’re supposed to play this game. All it takes is a short little quest from an NPC. Here’s a handful a junk parts. Go over to that machine and make me a zapperthing or somesuch. Done? Hey, thanks. Here’s some XP. You know, you can use that machine yourself… etc. See also: Horadric Cube, Diablo II.

Weapon Mods

Let’s back up. In Diablo II, there were gems. Colorful little gems that, I must admit, looked really cool in a “Bejeweled” sort of way. They had a tactile appeal. Sometimes you’d find a weapon with a “socket”. You could put a gem in the socket. If it was a weapon, then adding a ruby would cause it to deal X points of additional fire damage. Ice damage for sapphires. Poison damage for emeralds. And so on. Once you fitted a gem, there was no going back. You had to think before you united a gem and an item, but the system allowed you to customize your gear. It was fun and straightforward.

Each gem had an associated type of damage:

  1. Red / Fire: Moderate damage. Sure and steady.
  2. Blue / Ice: Lower damage, but it freezes foes, slowing them down.
  3. Yellow / Lightning: High damage potential, but very variable output. (Sometimes it would deal high damage, sometimes almost nothing. Each hit was a crapshoot.)
  4. Green / Poison: Huge damage output, but the damage is delivered gradually over several seconds.

Everything I just explained could be understood by simply looking at the in-game tooltips. A quick glance told you everything you needed to know to consider the tradeoffs and decide what you wanted.

Now, back to Hellgate:


Now items may have several different types of slots. Battery slots. Fuel slots. Ammo slots. Tech slots. As with gems in Diablo II, you can put stuff in those slots. In the upper left of the screenshot above you can see the tooltip for an “Anchored Tech”, which goes in a tech slot. JPG compression has made a hash of it, but the part in red reads, “Mod level 6 (Requires item levels 1-12)”. So there is the level of the mod, the level of the item, and the level of the player. Do not ask me how these relate, because I’ve never made sense of it. It’s confusing and arbitrary.

But the worst part of the system is that you have no idea in the world what will happen when you put that tech in the gun. Some techs will say, “Adds 25 phase attack strength”, but you put it into the gun your damage output goes up by (say) nine points. Another tech will say, “Adds 9% phase attack strength.” Okay. Nine percent of what? Of the base damage? Of the phase attack it’s already doing, if any? What is “phase” attack anyway? Another tech just says it reduces energy consumption (which makes no sense because most weapons don’t use energy – you can hold the fire button down forever) but those techs somehow make the damage go up as well. You’ll have six different techs you might equip, and no way of knowing which one is the best or what the tradeoffs are. Worse, once you insert the tech, it changes the level of the item, which may prevent you from inserting other bits.

If my description makes no sense, I’m sorry. I wrote the preceding paragraph five times before I gave up and settled on what you see. I suddenly realized that I was writing the documentation Flagship never bothered to give us, and if I’m going to go to all that trouble I should send them a bill. Short version: This is your primary method of keeping your weapons up to date, and the system is utterly mysterious and totally undocumented.

On top of this is the fact that there are too many damage types. Fire damage. Electrical damage. Physical damage. Spectral damage. Phase damage. There is tremendous complexity here. But who cares? Without knowing what benefit you get from any of these, why should the player worry about it? How does “spectral damage” differ from “phase damage”? Is one better than the other? Against certain monsters? On Tuesdays?

Then there is “extra” damage to various monster types: Necros, Specters, Demons, and some others I can’t remember. In Diablo II, Act II was almost entirely spend fighting undead. Act IV was nearly all demons. You could select an appropriate weapon to deal with the most common monster type you’d be facing. In Hellgate the monsters are all mixed together, so there’s no reason to specialize. The player certainly isn’t going to switch weapons every other monster just for an extra 8% damage. It’s yet another layer of needless and unexplained complexity.

They could replace the tooltip for every tech with, “Extra some percent of damage, sometimes. Maybe.” Because that’s how it all reads to the player. Aside from leveling, this is the player’s primary vector for growing stronger, and they are never given the information required to make an informed decision. Choosing is fun. Guessing is not fun. Particularly if you have no way of appraising your guess after the fact.

Suggestion: I like the idea of socketing different items to customize a weapon, but this entire system is impenetrable. The player should be able to make their decisions based entirely on what they see in the tooltips. Leave out “phase” damage and “Spectral” damage and focus on properties players will grasp. For guns it would be stuff like, accuracy, refire rate, range, splash damage, and upper / lower and damage output. Barring that, the game should offer a “preview” of how the weapon will change if you use the mod you’re holding. Making the system understandable is step #1 of making it fun.


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32 thoughts on “Hellgate:London
Autopsy, Part 3

  1. kamagurka says:

    I don’t understand this. I’d still be shaking my head if this was another company entirely that failed to understand some of the basic lessons D2 taught us, but these people were right there when they made the damn thing!
    And this doesn’t look like a polish issue either. Most of these look like fundamental design flaws to me, things that were decided early on. Oh well.

  2. Cincinnatus says:

    I have to say that my lunch break is my favorite part of the day, largely because I get to read each day’s update fresh off the presses. This series on Hellgate: London has allayed my previous fears that I was missing excellent PC games in my self-imposed purchasing hiatus, so thank you, Shamus, for putting my mind at ease. Though I must say, my last purchase, the Command and Conquer: First Decade DVD, was absolutely amazing.

    On an entirely unrelated note to both this already blathering post and your continued saga of H:L’s epic failure, my roommate and I, while at our small college in the midwest, maintained what was affectionately termed a “dlog” (door blog), taping articles and webcomics on the door in regular fashion. A recurring bit of comic wit was your DMotR, and it just happened that the day our elderly dorm matron (the woman who donated the money for the entire dorm) came to “inspect” our rooms, comic XXXVI (“Hates the Dice! Hates them Forever!”) was gracing the door. We experienced a sudden surge of panic, for we had intended to take our comics down before she arrived, not knowing if they would be appreciated. All the RAs and our House Director, as well as a good five or ten men in the dorm, stood in a loose circle around the room. We held our collective breath as she looked at the comic for a *long* time. Then she chuckled slightly and said, “That’s nice.” :D So congratulations, Shamus, you got the official seal of approval from a wealthy patroness.

  3. Mephane says:

    Just an idea: You should use PNG as your file format. It merges the benefits of GIF (lossless compression) with those of JPEG (high compression, true color images) with more features (optional alpha channel transparency). PNG files are roughly twice as “large” as JPEG while providing vastly superior image quality no matter whether it is just a screenshot of text, from a movie, video game, a photograph, a stastistical chart, hell, whatever!

    And ANY modern browser is able to display PNG files. If a browser does not, it is probably so old that no one would ever care about supporting it anyway. ;)

  4. Derek K says:

    I think you would really benefit from a quick jaunt to the HGL forums, Shamus. At least if you’re going to keep playing – there are some very nice faqs there. And yeah, I somewhat agree with the “writing their docs for them” idea, but that’s pretty common in rpgs now – the really good details have to be ferreted out by players that care. And once that initial level of confusion is gone, you don’t have to understand everything – if you just know that X Strength means it’s more likely to apply, and know that you probably need about Y there to care, it’s easier to hand wave the rest….

    Phase damage can cause an opponent to go out of phase, which reduces their damage, and increases their damage taken. Phase Strength is an indicator of how likely that is to happen.

    Shock has a chance to knock out their specials, iirc.

    Fire sets them on fire, doing a DoT.

    Stun stuns.

    Poison is another DoT.

    I actually really get in to the mod system, precisely because it’s highly complex. It means that there are 10-15 different paths to pursue with your weapon – high damage? High special? A mix? High chance to apply? And then you have to compare against enemy types. Some mobs have a huge stun resist, so you have to shock. Some do fire damage, so you need resists. Etc. But I’m also the kind of guy that has 5 builds mapped out before I even roll a character, so…

    I also found the crafting to be pretty self explanatory – it wanted stuff. But I was a bit frustrated by the random nature of it. You were better off adding 5 normal properties to a weapon than 2 best, in terms of bang for the buck, but of those 5, 2 would probably be “increase damage of curses” on your MM rifle. And once it was there, it was there.

    But I fully agree that all of the above would have made a *really* nice set of tutorial quests. Put a training room off the first station, where people will tell you what to do – you can skip it if you want, but if you go in, you get to see how it all interacts.

    Again, HG:L 2. ;)

  5. Dev Null says:

    You must be sick of hearing about WoW by now, but I’m going to mention it because they make a nice cross between Diablo’s pinata-monster effect (as it shall heretofore forever be known) and the discombobulate and build mechanism you seem to be describing. You collect stuff off of beasties, and you can take it apart into its component bits, but you don’t use those component bits to make an uber-weapon that is the best you can handle for your level, you just use them in the enchanting system (which is kinda like the weapon mods system you describe, but less inscrutable and less involved – each item can have only one enchantment.) So you have the drive to whack monsters for new loot BOTH because you can get better base loot, and because you can use it to make your base loot better.

    (They also have the gem slot thing – stolen wholesale from Diablo II, but I guess they’re entitled. But here again its fairly simple and obvious what the gems do, for the most part.)

    My point being that I think the idea of being able to personalise your weapon has a lot of appeal in this style of gameplay, but preferably it should be minor tweaks – being able to custom-build your toys seems like a recipe for everyone using exactly the same thing, after the min-maxers have done the maths and posted it on a website somewhere.

  6. Alexis says:

    Another WoW-contrast post. I’m trying really hard to only discuss systems mentioned in the original post. If I made a mistake on a point irrelevant to the OP, please let it slide.

    Where HG:L really screwed up is not in making crafting a viable way to obtain and customise top-end items, but allowing it to eclipse the other methods. WoW has several playstyles which reward loot, each generally has a few best-in-slot items to offer which encourage diversifying one’s experience.

    For the most important gear (read: stuff you might use), WoW is moving towards point and token buy systems. This avoids some of the real-money-trading issues around gold while providing the guarantee of item X after Y points. The Diablo concept of maybe, juuuust maybe a SoJ dropping off a random zombie has been dead for a long time in favor of custom loot tables.

    The HG:L tooltips aggravate me more than anything else in the game. One of the revolutionary innovations in WoW was simply putting a DPS (damage per second) number on weapons. It’s a small but significant step away from pnp handwaving. It speaks of a culture that cares about mechanical balance and a confidence that ‘exploiting’ the system is simply playing well. *

    The (generally) extremely accurate and detailed tooltips allow theorycrafters to construct wonderful spreadsheets to allow you to figure out your actual DPS. Programmatic access to the combat log allows in-depth postmortems and metrics.

    It all comes down to providing control and continual positive feedback. These are key to the usability of any system, not just games.

    Veering briefly back to the OP, HG:L has none of that. It’s a game-killer to a systems junkie like me. WoW’s transparency culture produced the armory**, HG:L can’t even tell me what my spells do before I buy them.


    * AD&D is phenomenally exploitable so there was a continual game of “what can we get away with?”. There’s a theory that munchkins find this question so inescapably fascinating they are unable to focus on actual roleplay while it stands. Consequently they test the DM to destruction.

    Technically coins can be thrown 3/round for 1 damage. Plus strength modifier. That gets pretty crazy with a haste (6 coins /r) and a +10 strength mod. They’re more like Stinger missiles at that point.

    ** The Armory is an inspiring example of a web application. There aren’t many websites this sophisticated.

  7. Alexis says:

    @DevNull: yay I’m not alone! I feel less dirty for liking WoW now. A little anyway.

    Are cookiecutter builds so bad? With scarce resources, not many people will actually achieve the perfect build. It gives people an easy point to aim for, letting them get ‘on the path’* without a statistics degree. A rich, well-balanced system will allow playstyle differences to make deviation profitable. So newbies can get on the path to cookiecutter easily, then when they get there they’re pro enough to understand the deviations they want to make. I raid felguard.

    I actually love the idea of legendary weapons, which provide 50-75% of your character’s power. I would like to be able to name my weapon, pop different mods in and out, upgrade the core weapon down multiple trees and so on. I’d be happy to get 1 new weapon every 20 levels, that would require a LOT of work (or some work and the gutting of my current weapon) to bring up to a reasonable level. Each weapon would give my character almost entirely different abilities.

    Of course what I’m talking about is a mech game that isn’t a frackin mech game**. I’ve hated every one I tried, totally unapproachable, no story, post-apoc setting. Don’t they like selling games?

    HG:L screwed the pooch on this one by not allowing you to remove enchantments. You could screw up your uberweapon, forever. In short: no respec button. So close, but no cigar. I’m not Korean, nor am I unemployed, therefore the chances of me ever getting a really good weapon are nearly nil.

    That’s really demotivating. CRPGers will put up with a hell of a lot if they’re on the path. HG:L tips you off the path at every opportunity, one misstep and boom you’re dead. Call me obsessive but playing without a respec button is like hardcore mode to me.

    * ‘on the path’ is not my idea, but I wish it was.

    ** Click my name.

    and yeah, I did mention I like obsessive analysis right?

  8. daemon23 says:

    In Hellgate the monsters are all mixed together, so there's no reason to specialize. The player certainly isn't going to switch weapons every other monster just for an extra 8% damage. It's yet another layer of needless and unexplained complexity.
    Uh? I remember pretty clearly using a nice sniper rifle at one point in the game that gave a nasty spectral punch to whatever I hit and allowed me to one-hit-one-kill a whole heck of a lot of lesser critters at a nice range. Then I stumbled on a batch of spectral monsters which simply shrugged off most of the damage. Sure, every other monster is a bit overboard, but I usually found myself trying to keep at least one secondary weapon with a different damage type ready.

  9. lplimac says:

    A few clarifications. There is a “Horadric Cube” item in the game… undocumented as far as I know and only available to subscribers, but it’s there. It’s base use is to make on higher level “pot” from tow lower level ones. There are two ways to enhance weapons, one costs coin to add one of three classes of abilities (common, rare and legendary if I remember right); the second takes the broken down item. And yes you can create an item that, if it increases a required stat, makes it unusable for your character or makes the enhancements that are in it unusable (say the weapon goes from lvl 24 to 25 and the mod is only lvl 14-24). Not well thought out at all and a crap shoot to use.
    Oh the update that I though was live on Monday was only pushed to the test center, not live servers. It does include a stat and skill respec ability though, so if you have a ‘broke’ character you have a chance to fix it when the update is pushed to the live servers.

  10. Jeff says:

    Actually, the monsters aren’t mixed, for the most part.
    Each time an instance spawns one type will be dominant.

    Certain types of monsters (there’s like 4 classes, iirc) will be weak to some and strong to others.

    Personally I never cared. The key to the different damage types is the special effects they proc, and fire is always the best. Cause… burny death.

    Edit: Hm, what on earth is up with my gravatar?

  11. Derek K says:

    @Alexis: I had forgotten that aspect of Hellgate – there is a dps number. But each weapon has some sort of completely obscure “rating” number which is entirely unrelated to the dps. It’s a sort of meta “value” number, but never seems to mesh with reality. It’s caused any number of people to give away a very nice gun because the one they had was 2 points higher, because it had some mod that scored better on the ranking.

    @shamus: “The player certainly isn't going to switch weapons every other monster just for an extra 8% damage. It's yet another layer of needless and unexplained complexity.”

    I am. :D That’s why you have F1, F2, F3. ;)
    Still, it’s a fun game. ;)

    @lplimac: Those aren’t subscriber only items – they’re open to everyone. There’s the Nanoforge, which upgrades the entire item for parts, and then the something else that adds a random power in one of three tiers, for increasing costs.

  12. Frac says:

    It may have been said (I didn’t read all the posts) but it is possible to upgrade something to be unusable. I haven’t played for a while, but I did exactly that a few times.

    I got a nice stat that increased the wisdom requirement, for example, to something higher than I had. The item just turns red on your paper doll and, presumably, is like not wearing it at all.

  13. Awetugiw says:

    Again, I think I should point out that Diablo II isn’t all that much better at this point.

    The formulas for computing the actual damage, chance to hit, et cetera are not actually very complicated, but more than complicated enough to make it unclear how they will change from getting, for example “+76 attack rating”.

    The rules for stacking different bonuses are a nightmare. The game itself gives no hints whatsoever about Horadric Cube recipes. And then there’s runewords…

    This is somewhat alleviated by the fact that there is an excellent guide online, maintained mostly by Blizzard itself, so one cannot truly accuse them of making the players write the documentation.

    If you want a system where you’ll actually understand the effect certain bonuses or penalties will have on your character you’ll probably have to play a game that actually works as pen-and-paper RPG. So practically speaking this means games that use the D20 system.

    If I play a D20 based game I will usually know the effect things will have on my character. Often I can even calculate the extra chance to hit a certain feat will give. The quality of the documentation varies, so with many D20 based games a player who doesn’t know the D20 system still won’t understand the rules properly, but it is at least possible to know what will happen.

    HG:L gives a player no clue at all as to what the effect of many things will be.
    Diablo II gives the player some things to go on, so choices will usually be “educated guesswork”.
    A D20 based game will in theory give the player all the information needed to make a good decisions.

    I’m not saying this makes a D20 game superior to Diablo II. I have never seen a good D20 third person looter, and I doubt it is really possible. However, for clarity of game rules, Diablo II is only slightly better than HG:L.

  14. lplimac says:

    @Derek K: I may not have been clear but the Cube is subscriber only. The other two methods aren’t but the Cube definitely is.

  15. Lanthanide says:

    “Another tech just says it reduces energy consumption (which makes no sense because most weapons don't use energy – you can hold the fire button down forever) but those techs somehow make the damage go up as well.”

    Two things, first I think that the energy thing is about lowering the energy use for your skills. Not truly a brilliant thing to put on a gun because it is confusing – those sorts of things are better relegated to armour or jewelry where it is clear that it is affecting the character as a whole, rather than an action the character performs with their weapon.

    Second, that big number that you see isn’t actually the damage that the gun is doing. FSS has received a LOT of flack over this (see above WoW mentions about DPS) but have stuck by it. To see the actual real damage of a gun you have to right click on it and select item properties or whatever. The big number you see, with the elemental background, is an indication of the overall strength of the weapon, as calculated by some secret formulas that FSS has never shared with the fans. They found that all of the weapons had such dramatically different ways of dealing damage – some via fields, some per second, others with large high damage rockets and some with a wide spread of low damage bullets as well as swords and weapons that don’t do any damage (like the HARP guns), that putting a direct damage number wasn’t actually useful for the average player to work out what gun was better. If you just went with what had the bigger number, ie a slow-shooting rocket, you could end up doing less damage over time than if you used a fast-firing low damage weapon. Then you throw in the additional damage types (phase, stun, shock etc), damage vs undead or beasts, critical chances etc etc and it makes for a very difficult mess to decode for the average player. So they do all the work for you and roll all of the stats of a weapon into a special number which is supposed to be comparable across weapon types, such that a weapon with 60 is ‘better’ than one that has 50. Of course as you point out, mods that have no impact on actual damage-dealing are also rolled into this score, so it is a bit difficult to truly compare one to another. This is especially tricky because FSS has never released the formulas to calculate the scores, so we have to take their word on it that they’re accurate and calculate the score in a way that players would find consistent and comparable.

  16. ngthagg says:

    Lathanide had the damage number right. The damage for the gun in the screen shot is 7-8 electricity, at 400rounds/minute. The big 196 in the corner (which is all you see in the tooltip, if I remember right) isn’t worth much once you start modding and upgrading.

    There are five types of damage you can do in the game: physical, fire, electricity, spectral, and toxic. Each of those has has an associated status effect: stun, ignite, shock, phase, and poison. The attack strength for these things applies only if you can do the associated damage type.

    I notice, for example, that you’ve put a master cell in that weapon, to increase all five attack strengths. The problem is that you’ll only see a benefit from the increase in shock, since you only deal electricity damage, and not physical, fire, spectral, or poison damage. You’ll never cause the ignite effect without dealing fire damage, for example.

    I found the best use of the three weapon slots was to ensure (along with the appropriate mods) that you could deal all five types of damage, so that you could complete the mini-game.

    The mini-game is one of the few parts of the game that is both a great idea AND implemented well. Although I wonder what happens at the end of the game when you have no more quests to complete?

  17. icegreentea says:

    I’m pretty sure D2 had similar limits on weapons and armor you found. There were limits (minimal X strength to equip or whatever), that combined with any sane point leveling strategy basically put level limits on a lot of the stuff you got. I remember grinding for nearly 3 levels so I could use some badass loot I found lying around. It was the ‘same’ sword that I was already using, but dealt +10 damage and had stun on it.

  18. Jeff says:

    The energy consumption mods don’t directly affect damage at all.

    There are ‘constant stream’ weapons, like a Zeus lightning rifle or a flamethrower type. When you use those you’ll notice a bar saying 100% at your cursor. Hold down fire and it’ll decrease. That % is the damage you’re doing, as a percentage of the damage statistic. Fire it constantly and it’ll settle on 25%. So you can’t fire it continuously. The energy consumption mods reduce the rate the gauge decreases.

    They got rid of quest completion as part of the mini-game back when I last played (1.3, the one with in-game mail).

  19. Zaghadka says:

    Well, reading these articles caused me to download the demo version.

    It couldn’t find a large set of install files and I had to move them manually to the correct directory. No joke.

    Afterward, rather than a clear “the demo is over” quest and splash screen, the game just stopped giving me quests. People stopped talking to me. I played through two whole sections with no point but playing through two whole sections. Afterward, when I quit, no splash-screen, no sales job, just the desktop.

    Rating: double-meh. Somebody gave up before it was done.

  20. Freykin says:

    In cLoD, weapons could have strength and dexterity requirements, while armor had strength requirements. Once they are magical and on up, level requirements would pop up as well, based on the mods or which set/unique item it was. The strength and dexterity requirements never changed from the modifications, however, and I think that is an important distinction. It also didn’t use up the stat, so if you had str 50, you could wear a full set of str 50 requiring gear, whereas in HG:L, you could wear one piece.

  21. thepanzer says:

    “Somebody gave up before it was done” may be the perfect phrase for describing any aspect of HGL.

    Let’s try it out…
    There was the promise of additional character classes but-
    There was the promise of seasonal content but-
    There was that whole SEA thing but-


  22. K says:

    One thing nobody has mentioned: The BIG number which you, shamus, think is damage, is not damage. It’s “Rating”. A generic and arbitrary “how powerful should you expect this to be”-rating. It’s also completely useless due to that.
    So if you put any sort of mod into any weapon, it will go up. Without any effect, possibly.

    I read through gamefaqs BEFORE playing the game… Your point is still valid ;)

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I remember when HoMM5 came out,and it also had no documentation.You had creature skills like “mana syphon”,and no further explanation.You had to eitherexperiment with skills,or download a fan made guide.Its sickening how the developers are letting their fans do their work for them,and pay them back with nothing but DRM and misstrust.Oh,and bugs.A plethora of bugs!

  24. MechaCrash says:

    The mini-game is one of the few parts of the game that is both a great idea AND implemented well. Although I wonder what happens at the end of the game when you have no more quests to complete?

    Originally, you were just plain screwed. Eventually they added a timer to the minigame such that after…I think it was fifteen minutes, the whole mess reset and you had a new game. Fine in theory, annoying if you’re just about to grab the last item you need when the timer expires. Although apparently the entire requirement is gone now. I wouldn’t know, the game stopped working for me one day, and between doing the uninstall/reinstall dance and patches you have to download and apply manually which turn out to not work…I just gave up. (Which is too bad — I was having fun, despite the flaws.)

    I also am not sure about “well designed.” See, item drops are weighted towards your class, which means you’re unlikely to have gear you can’t use drop. Which is great, because it cuts down on the frustration of finding a weapon forged from awesome and quenched in kickass that you can’t use because it’s not for your class. The problem is that this tended to bone the shooty types who got melee weapons as a minigame requirement, because I could handle any requirements easily except that one. I played an Engineer, and once spent at least a few hours stuck on one minigame because I had to pick up five swords. Which rarely dropped for me. Which meant I couldn’t complete the minigame as often, which in turn slowed down my loot getting because that stuff didn’t drop out of the sky as often.

    Speaking of stuff dropping out of the sky…Shamus, I hope you have special mention for the RTS-like segment, because it was the most poorly conceived piece of crap I ever had to deal with.

  25. Zerotime says:

    MechaCrash: The melee weapon drop thing is pretty easy as long as you don’t mind glitching the game – just put the sword in an upgrading machine and shuffle your inventory around so there’s no room, which will make it drop on the ground when you cancel out of the upgrade interface. Move stuff around and pick it up again; rinse and repeat. It’s especially easy if you’re playing an engineer and have a drone equipped with a sword.

    Of course, I uninstalled the game back in February, so this probably got patched out months ago.

  26. Scourge says:

    Speaking of stuff dropping out of the sky…Shamus, I hope you have special mention for the RTS-like segment, because it was the most poorly conceived piece of crap I ever had to deal with.

    SP version of that, no big problem. Multiplayer with the monsters attuned to the people in your party? Night impossible.

  27. Derek K says:

    Amusingly, massively.com has linked to this series of posts by Shamus:


  28. I really am enjoying these as they express the feelings I had as I went from really enjoying the game (first 3-5 levels, it is a great kill some zombies, quake/diablo cross) to frustration at level 20

    Anyone know if there is a read through that outlines the plot?

    I’d like to just read that and skip working through the rest of the game.

  29. Poet says:

    Sometimes when I read your blog, I hear my GM’s voice.
    “How does “spectral damage” differ from “phase damage”? Is one better than the other? Against certain monsters? On Tuesdays?”
    Sounds like just exactly his kind of (valid) complain, in exactly his mocking tone.
    I theorize that all good GMs are clones of the same person. Possibly Gary Gygax.

  30. Kizer says:

    Just a quick note, Diablo II also had level caps on weapons. Numerous times my Amazon was five dexterity points and three character levels away from being able to use a new bow. Same story for all my other characters. I think the difference you pointed out here is not that level caps exist, but that the level caps are arbitrary/senseless/inscrutable. I mean, I often find a better sword in Diablo II that I cannot equip yet. I’m having trouble seeing what the difference is.

  31. Vipermagi says:

    Skipping every other comment here..
    D2 never taught you about crafting, upgrading and 90% of other miscellaneous recipes. I think Cain mentions three or four (quivers, rejuvs and one/two other?). You have to go to the Arreat Summit site and find the Cube Recipes page to learn about crafting (I never knew you could craft until I saw the crafting page on AS, which was after at least a year of playing).

    The biggest part of “There’s a better sword out there” wasn’t the lack of crafting recipes, but the sheer amount of affixes and their random values, along with Unique and Set items. Crafting can yield a top notch weapon which beats Breath of the Dying, but it can also give you a Wirt’s Leg with 5% leech (so to speak). Well, those are my thoughts on it.

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