Crowd Funding – Who needs publishers anyway?

Crowd funding is a new trend in the wide web surrounding our world – it sounds hip, young and modern. But what is Crowd Funding and how can it make my life better?

Crowd funding enables small start-up businesses to get the funding for their projects, may that be books, movies, games, webplatforms or lots of other things not from big companies, and thus being dependent on giant investor calling the shots, but from the people for whom those products are intended and who are excited and enthusiastic about this idea. For said start-ups this has the benefit of staying independent in their decisions and not, measured at a computer game for instance, having a publisher tell them what features to implement or what release date to meet. At the same time they already have the funds, that people are going to spend on their products later on right at the time of the production – thus enabling them to produce it in the first place.

The first time I got aware of crowd funding was the movie Iron Sky. The producers of said movie gave their fans the opportunity to help with the costs of the film, giving them some goodies in return, dependent on how much money the fans spent (ranging from the sound track of the movie to a signed BluRay version and much more).

Another great example for this kind of financing is the company Kickstarter, that offers a plattform for start-ups. One of their projects, which is dear to me and funded by myself as well, is Shadowrun Returns.

I am a Shadowrun Backer

For Shadowrun Returns the developers of the awesome cyberpunk pen & paper PRG Shadowrun got together, to create a computer game for the huge number of fans of their game, that met their ideas and wishes and not those of one of the big publishing studios. The developers asked for 400.000 US dollars – and people donated this amount within the first two days! Over the course of the 30 days total, in which money was being collected for this project, the community gave more than 1.5 million US dollars!

During this time the developers were in constant dialog with the community, listening to the wishes and ideas of the people and setting new monetary targets, which would enable them to realize more of those wishes. Some of these wishes, that have already been funded, include the translation into various languages, native additional game versions for Mac and Linux, hiring the composers of the SNES and Sega Genesis (Mega Drive) versions soundtracks to work together on the new game and lots more.

Personally I find the idea of crowd funding very intriguing, as it allowes small companies in the internet-age to carry out their projects. Aside from authors self-publishing their books or musicians and film-makers using the WWW as a platform to spread their work it is now possible for almost everyone to introduce his or her ideas to a wide audience – and if enough people like the idea to make it real. Wether crowd funding will be the future or just another short-lived fad we’ll have to wait and see – but I for one hope it’ll last.

Skyrim – 3D map modification – Update

For all of you who are playing Skyrim on the PC here’s a little guide on how to make the world map way more practical:

Update: Open C:\<USERNAME>\My Documents\My Games\Skyrim – there you’ll find the Skyrim.ini. – Thanks to Maxl for correcting me – had a mixup in the path.

Look for the [MapMenus] entry in this file – if there is no such entry copy the following block and paste it to the very end of the file, if you can find the entry change the values so they look like the ones down here.

[MapMenu]
//uLockedObjectMapLOD=0
//uLockedTerrainLOD=0
bWorldMapNoSkyDepthBlur=1
fWorldMapNearDepthBlurScale=0
fWorldMapDepthBlurScale=0
fWorldMapMaximumDepthBlur=0
fMapMenuOverlayNormalStrength=2.2000
fMapMenuOverlayNormalSnowStrength=0.8000
fMapWorldMaxPitch=360.0000
fMapWorldMinPitch=0.0000
fMapWorldYawRange=3600.0000
//fMapWorldTransitionHeight=130000.0000
fMapWorldMaxHeight=130000.0000
fMapWorldMinHeight=130.0000
fMapWorldCursorMoveArea=0.9000
fMapWorldHeightAdjustmentForce=100.0000
fMapWorldZoomSpeed=0.1500
fMapLookMouseSpeed=3.0000
fMapMoveKeyboardSpeed=0.0005
fMapZoomMouseSpeed=5.0000
sMapCloudNIF=0

What does this change in the game?

The clouds in the worldmap are removed, you can zoom in WAY closer making it possible to see more clearly where paths are and preventing you from running around a mountain three times to get to that one outpost you’re trying to get to … and if you don’t like it just remove the MapMenu block again – no danger to break your game.

If the zooming with the mousewheel is to slow for your liking, just change the value of fMapWorldZoomSpeed to 0.2000 or 0.2500 or something like that – you gotta figure out what suits your playstyle. And if someone out there actually likes the clouds blocking the view but still wants to be able to zoom in closer, just set sMapCloudNIF to 1.

Skyrim – or: Social life is not for the Dragonborn (update with review)

Skyrim

Can’t write … must play Skyrim … review will be posted some time soon when my eyes will start bleeding due to overstraining …

—– Update —–

Allright, my eyes are bleeding and I’m experiencing first signs of Carpal-Tunnel-Syndrome, time for a short break and time to write down, while in pain, my thoughts about The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for you, dear readership.

For those of you living on the dark side of the moon in a cave under a rock who have no idea, what Skyrim actually is here’s a short explanation: The “The Elder Scrolls” series is a series of computer games developed and published by Bethesda Game Studios which has been very popular amongst RPG (role playing game) fans since 1994. The qualities that make the TES games so special are the fact, that they consist of immense gameworlds, deep, gripping stories and a myriad of quests, sidemissions and things to do which are presented in an optically stunning way and acompanied with fantastic acoustics result in a unique, captivating atmosphere.

Since part four, Oblivion, players were given the ability to produce so called mods (modifications to the game world), allowing them to change, improve and expand the game and make it fit their wishes and desires which is one of the reasons that kept TES4 “alive” for a long time in the gamer-community.

On November 11th 2011 (11.11.11) the long wait was finally over and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released. At the very beginning the experience for me as a PC gamer was rather sobering: The controls and the menu are rather displeasing and one can tell that Skyrim had been developed for consoles and only been ported to the PC. Compared to native PC titles the textures also seem somewhat washed out and blurred. Do not get me wrong, the game still looks quite good  and runs smooth on older PCs, but the graphics can’t compare to recent PC game releases.

However this situation will change for the better pretty soon! Thanks to the aforementioned modability, much like in Oblivion, work is already going on to release high resolution textures and with a bit of tweaking in the ini-files of the game quite a few optical improvements can be achieved.

After the originally modest first impression due to controls and menu it took about 30 minutes and I was lost. Skyrim consumed me and on my first weekend I ended up spending 26 hours on Bethesda’s new masterpiece. Benjamin Daniel managed to express me feelings quite well on Facebook: “I have to stop playing Skyrim and go to bed now or I’ll be too tired to play Skyrim tomorrow!”

Skyrim offers everything that makes an RPG-fan’s heart beat faster: The stories are epic, the quests vary alot and the possibilites are almost infinite. As the game, much like it’s predecessors, doesn’t know classes the character adapts to the playstyle of the gamer. While I, for instance, roam through the world as a dark elf in light armor, sneaking, lockpicking, pickpocketting and assassinating people with a weapon in one hand and a fireball in the other one of my friends is mashing through his foes as an orc in heavy armor with sword and shield while another friend is the “knight in shining armor, fighter for good and justice”.

Fighting the in TES5 awoken dragons is also done rather nice, even though sometimes frustrating. The optical presentation is stunning, but the AI is, like in the rest of the game, sometimes mediocre. Why does my horse think it hast to charge head-first into a dragonfight only to be slain, carried off or roasted seconds later? Why are cave bears fiercer enemies than small dragons?

But all those moments only barely besmirch the experience that is Skyrim and fans of the RPG-genre will enjoy the game for a long time as it seems almost impossible to solve all the quests in one playthrough as there are lots of situations that force you to a moral decision – and each of your choices brings new possibilites and quests. Thus the replay value of Skyrim is enormous and one gets quite alot of fun and playtime for one’s hard-earned money.

My final verdict is as follows:

Bewertung: ★★★★★★★★★☆ 

Skyrim is amongst the most awesome games of this year. If the controls and the menu had been reworked to prevent sticking PC gamers to the limitations of consoles the verdict would’ve been even better. Still it’s a game that I can recommend to any gamer – even though lots of times during playing you’ll hear the voice of Eddard Stark in your head telling you: “Winter’s coming…”

I am Batman!

A freezing wind is blowing my cape into my back. The far away cries for help of political prisoners echo in the distance – but they are not unheared. Hugo Strange dared to threaten me – to threaten the safety of my city – but he forgot whom he’s dealing with. I am noone you’d want to have as your enemy … I … AM … BATMAN!

It’s been two weeks now since Batman: Arkham City, the successor of Batman: Arkham Asylum was released in Europe, giving me enough time to play and test the game and give you, dear reader, my opinion of Arkham City – though I have to warn you right away: it’s going to be quite a one-sided article. To express it in one word: Awesofuckalicous!

Batman: Arkham City

But let’s take one step at a time and first look at the story told to us by the intro: Batman had been cleaning up in Arkham Asylum, the Joker was left poisoned on an overdose of Titan and Hugo Strange, a psychiatrist convinced the new mayor of Gotham, a former Arkham inmate, of a very unique project: A part of Gotham City had been turned into a prison district, sealed off from the public and guarded by Tyger Security. The prisoners are allowed to freely roam around in this district and fight their gang wars as they please. But something is rotten in the state of Denmark! During a political speech in which Bruce Wayne wants to fight the project Arkham City he is being arrested and without trial thrown into Arkham City … where he learnes quite a few interesting things about Hugo Strange …

The story, which had already been gripping in the first part, is brilliant in the sequel as well. What separates part two from it’s predecessor however is the sandbox environment. While BAA was restricted to a few buildings in which all the action took place BAC is so much more spacious, which benefits the game quite alot. It’s just so much fun to glide from roof to roof, switch to freefall, batclaw to a nearby gargoyle statue, zipline up just to glide to the next rooftop. The whole area seems just so large and well detailed.

Aside from the mainquest there are alot of sidemissions as well. Those range from freeing political prisoners to working together with an old … associate … we met in the frist part … and off course there are all the riddler challenges as well.

The combat system is as it used to be: Easy to learn, hard to master. Quite a few new moves and combos as well as some new gadgets make for a wellrounded package worth every cent one spends for it.

The customer is also rewarded with an additional DLC expanding the game with a few missions surrounding a new character: Selina Kyle aka Catwoman!

Catwoman

She plays actually quite similar to good ole Bruce – and yet totally different. Additionally avaliable for the challenge mode is the Nightwing DLC – and at the end of November the Robin DLC is said to follow as well.

I now spent roughly 20 hours on this game and only completed 20% so far, because all the sidemissions distract me over and over again – and I really like that, as it means I get to spend way more time in Arkham City.

Well, here’s my final verdict:

Bewertung: ★★★★★★★★★½ 

Over all it’s a great game that I can recommend to anyone who enjoys action adventures, superheroes or sandboxgames. The only slight downside is, that the co-op mode that was rumored to be in Arkham City didn’t make it in – but it’s an awesome game nevertheless.

Diablo 3 Beta – new patch

Quite a lot has changed in the world of Diablo … as the Beta was capped to level 12 and my chars were at max level I’ve not been playing all that active as of lately – but now that all characters have been wiped and quite a few changes were implemented I’ll soon start cleansing the world of evil again – and I’ll keep my readers posted! Below you’ll find the most recent patchnotes:

General

All characters have been wiped. As part of this process, artisans, gold, and items (including those placed on the auction house or in a shared stash) have also been reset.
Switching out class skills will now require the use of a new feature known as the Nephalem Altar. Nephalem Altars are currently located in New Tristram, as well as in key locations throughout Act I. Clicking on an altar will open up the skill UI, allowing both active and passive skills to be selected or exchanged.

Quests
Gold rewarded from quests has been significantly reduced
Experience rewarded from quests after level 4 is now based on the number of mobs you’d have to kill to earn the same amount of experience, rather than being a strict percentage of a level

Skills
New passive skills have been added for all classes. See individual class notes below for more information.
AoE (Area of Effect) skills for all classes have had their damage reduced
Single-target skills for all classes have had their damage increased
All skills are now based off weapon damage

User Interface
The in-game UI has been updated with general art and usability improvements

Classes

Barbarian
Active Skills
The Barbarian’s Fury Generators have received a tuning pass. Bash, Cleave, and Frenzy now generate more Fury whereas the other Fury Generators now generate less.

Additional changes include:
Battle Rage
Damage bonus reduced from 30% to 20%
Revenge
The chance for this ability to activate has been increased from 10% to 15%
Weapon Throw
Fury cost reduced from 20 to 10
Damage decreased from 210% to 180%

Passive Skills
New passive skills have been added:
Nerves of Steel
Unlocked at level 12
Your defense is increased by 25% of your Vitality

Demon Hunter
General
Maximum Hatred reduced from 150 to 125

Active Skills
The order in which skills are awarded has been adjusted for levels 1 to 13.
Resource management for the Demon Hunter has been reworked significantly. Skills for the class now fall into the three categories: Hatred Generators, Hatred Spenders, and Discipline Spenders
Hatred Generators
Bola Shot: Generates 2 Hatred
Entangling Shot: Generates 4 Hatred
Evasive Fire: Generates 4 Hatred*
Grenades: Generates 2 Hatred
Impale: Generates 6 Hatred

Hatred Spenders
Chakram: Costs 10 Hatred
Elemental Arrow: Costs 5 Hatred
Hungering Arrow: Costs 10 Hatred
Rapid Fire: Costs 30 Hatred (initially) and 1.5 Hatred per second for each additional shot

Discipline Spenders
Caltrops: Costs 8 Discipline
Shadow Power: Costs 20 Discipline
Vault: Costs 10 Discipline
Evasive Fire: Costs 4 Discipline to Backflip

Additional changes include:
Bola Shot
On-hit damage increased from 100% to 105%
Chakram
Damage reduced from 150% to 135%
Grenades
Damage increased from 75% to 80%
Hungering Arrow
Damage increased from 115% to 145%
Pierce chance is once again a fixed 35% rather than scaling with level
Impale
Impale has been given a new spell effect. It is now a thrown dagger instead of a bow shot.
Rapid Fire
Damage increased from 35% weapon damage per shot to 38% weapon damage per shot
Shadow Power
Attack speed bonus reduced from 50% to 30%

Passive Skills
New passive skills have been added:
Tactical Advantage
Unlocked at level 10
Whenever you use Vault, Smokescreen, or backflip with Evasive Fire you gain 60% movement speed for 2 seconds

Monk
Active Skills
Mantras
All Mantras now have a 15 second cooldown and grant a bonus effect for the first 3 seconds after activation

Additional changes include:
Blinding Flash
Spirit cost reduced from 50 to 30
Duration reduced from 5 second to 3 seconds
Breath of Heaven
Spirit cost reduced from 75 to 25
Healing amount reduced
Crippling Wave
Damage increased from 120% to 135%
Deadly Reach
Damage increased from 110% to 120%
Fists of Thunder
Damage increased from 100% to 120%
Lashing Tail Kick
Spirit cost increased from 25 to 30
Damage increased from 130% to 180%

Passive Skills
Transcendence
Healing per Spirit reduced

Witch Doctor
Active Skills
All Witch Doctor skills now do damage based on your weapon damage and cast at a speed based on your weapon attack speed.

Passive skills
New passive skills have been added:
Circle of Life
Unlocked at level 12
Whenever an enemy dies within 12 yards there is a 5% chance that a Zombie dog will automatically emerge
Jungle Fortitude
Unlocked at level 10
Reduces all damage taken by you and your pets by 20%

Wizard
Active Skills
The order in which skills are awarded from levels 6 to 13 has been adjusted. Players will now unlock offensive and defensive spells in an alternating order.
All Wizard skills now do damage based on your weapon damage and cast at a speed based on your weapon attack speed.

Passive Skills
New passive skills have been added:
Critical Mass
Unlocked at level 12
Your critical hits reduce the cooldown of your spells by 1 second

Followers

Templar
Skills
Guardian
Ability now unlocks at level 20, instead of level 5
Heal
Healing provided by this ability will now scale properly
When activated, ability will heal you for ¼ of your total health every 15 seconds
Will only heal when player is below 50% health, down from 67%
Intimidate
Slow amount reduced from 80% to 50%
Intervene
Intervene is the new name for Taunt, and now unlocks at level 5
Radius of monsters to be taunted reduced from 30 to 10 yards
Duration reduced from 10 seconds to 5 seconds
Will now only cast when player is below 50%
Cooldown increased from 15 seconds to 30 seconds
Loyalty
Life regenerated by this ability will now scale properly

Items

General
Players now start with 5 health potions
Health globes now heal you over 1.5 seconds rather than over 5 seconds
The number of chests, shrines, and other interactable items (e.g. bookcases and loose stones) has been greatly reduced across the entire game
Items sold from vendors will now be at least one item level lower than those that are currently available to a player via drops from monsters
The level of an item is now much more likely to match or be close to the level of the monster from which it dropped, and the affixes that appear are much more likely to be from the upper range

Weapons
Several significant changes have been made to weapons and weapon damage affixes:
The damage bonus granted to two-handed weapons over one-handed weapons has been reduced from 15%-38% from level 1-60 to 13%-32%
Wands attack speed has been increased from 1.2 to 1.4
Quivers, Orbs, and Mojos will now always come with +Min/Max damage
Ceremonial Daggers will now frequently come with +Mana Regen
Wands will now frequently come with the +Max Arcane Power
The amount of inherent slow granted by cold weapons has been reduced from 3 seconds to 1 second
One-handed crossbows and daggers now pull from a separate pool of affixes for + damage
The damage variance between weapons of the same type has been reduced.

Bug Fixes
Fixed an issue that was causing two-handed Monk combat staves to not receive the proper damage bonus

Monsters

General
A new Mortar affix has been added to the game. Mortar monsters will lob grenades at enemies outside melee range.
Lightning bolt damage from Electrified-enchanted monsters has been reduced by 40%
Monsters that are enchanted to an element (Molten, Electrified, etc.) now correctly have 50% resistance to their chosen element
Ex: Molten monsters will have 50% damage resistance to Fire at equal level
Wretched Mothers in Act I can now only summon one zombie at a time
Treasure Goblins are now immune to fear

Bosses
Skeleton King
Whirlwind damage increased from 100% to 300%
Cleave damage increased from 80% to 100%

Crafting

Artisans
Blacksmith
Blacksmiths now start with a Fist weapon and a Dagger weapon option to craft
Blacksmith leveling and crafting recipes have received a tuning pass

Items
Pages of Training will now drop starting at level 6, down from level 8
The chance for Magic and Rare items to salvage into higher quality crafting material has been increased from 1% to 5%
Salvaging blue items now has a 1% chance to salvage into Legendary crafting material

Pandas in the mist

In September 2011 an austrian camera team managed to get a few snapshots of one of the rarest, most reclusive species known to exist in the world – the rare French Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca francus), commonly known as the “Sad Panda”. The Sad Panda is rumored to habitat an area in France, though he tought to be extinct years ago and reports of panda-sightings were thought to be mere cock-and-bull stories.

Stock footage from the book “Wildlife of Lorraine”, published February 1921:
Ailuropoda melanoleuca francus

“It was like a dream come true”, says cameraman t, who was lucky enough to have his camera with him when he and his team ran into this shy creature. “We were just roaming around an urban part of Upper Austria when we happend to see it in the distance. It was hiding in a misty building in the city of Linz. This also proves the theory, that the Sad Panda is not a territorial creature but seems to cross vast distances during its lifespan. We off course knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that we had to seize, so we quietly and carefully followed it around a bit.”

The Sad Panda in the Mist

“What we saw was just breathtaking”, t continues to tell. “The Panda was always thought to be a solitary creature, avoiding the presence of others – yet we saw it socialising with a herd of so called “web reviewers” (Channelous Awesomeous employeous) in the urban sprawl of Upper Austria’s capitol.”

The Panda socialises

“At one point it even got bold enough to try and become intimate with one of the females of the herd – displaying its rare smile in a mating ritual! But the alpha male of the pack, a prime example of a “Benzaieus Master Bateus” quickly sent the poor Panda packing.”

The amorous Panda

“The poor creature seemed heartbroken for a while – another thing we’d not thought possible amonst such simple creatures – and at one point it even almost socialised with a member of its primary prey, the common welshman (Welshyus Gingerus).”

The hearbroken Panda

“That peace how ever only lasted a mere couple of minutes befoe nature took over and the Panda scared the Welshy off in a display of animalistic fury – but it was still to depressed to hunt it down and feed on its corpse.”

The angry Panda

“After what seemed only a few minutes but actually was more like half a day we finally had to take our leave. Having seen this rare display of nature’s beauty was amongst the most exciting things that ever happend in my life! When we saw the Sad Panda depart into the mist it had emerged from we all felt moved and grateful for having been able to be a part of this unparalleled encounter. We, as the human race, have to take responsibility and make sure that the Sad Panda can finally repopulate its home in France and the surrounding regions to make it possible for our children and grandchildren to live in a world that does not only know these remarkable creature from mere books.”

The Sad Panda departs

All kidding aside I wanna thank the guys and gals of the Channel Awesome Team as well as the folks from AniNite’11 and AniManga for making this day one of this years highlights for me – and I especially wanna thank Sad Panda for allowing me to write this nonsensical story and starring in it. You guys were great and I sure hope to meet you all again at next years AniNite!

AniNite’11 – a retrospection

It has been roughly a month now since the AniNite’11 ended. “But wait” you might say, “AniNite? What are you talking about, dear t?”

Well let me explain to you all what I’d spend about a week of my time on in September. The AniNite is an Anime- and Manga convention, that’s happening every year in Austria’s capitol. Loads and loads of crazy people from all around the globe meet to inform themselves and talk about one of their most beloved hobbies: the colourful pictures from Japan that tell funny, exciting, sad and sometimes even erotic stories as western narrations just can’t.

Lot’s of poeple associate Anime and Manga with little gearls in school uniforms or drooling old men having a crush on said girls – but no, Animes and Mangas are by now part of all age and cultural groups. The “dirty stories” are only part of the cult – lots of them could rather be understood as modern fairy tales and have no or only very little erotic content. The average age of the visitors or this year’s AniNite was about 20 years of age – at least to according to my guess – but there have been quite a few “elder folks” who were very enthusiastically checking out the contests like AMV or Cosplay.

How, some of you might wonder, did you end up at said AniNite, dearest t? Well, I first came into contact with the convention last year, when I attended it as a visitor. I had alot of fun there and as it turned out one of my co-workers is amongst the top organisation crew of the con – so we started talking about it every now and then, one thing led to another and I ended up in a yellow t-shirt as a member of the security crew making sure everything was working smoothly and helping with the assembly and disassembly of the con as well.

If I’d have to sum the AniNite up in one word that word would probably be: chaotic, exhausting, hot, exciting, diversified, chaotic, funny, exhausting and chaotic. Would I do it again? Well – that depends on wether the team wants me next year. I, for my part, can only answer: “Hell yeah!” – it’s been quite a while since I had so much fun!.

Even though it was really exhausting and chaotic that is nothing atypical for an event of that size – and the new location (for the first time ever the AniNite was held at the Technical University of Vienna this year) didn’t help much, either. But every single member of the team was nice and great fun to be around and it was just so enjoyable working together with them all!

It was also very exciting to meet all the star guests in person, namely You Higuri, Tsutomu Nihei, Hans Canosa, Doug Walker aka “The Nostalgia Critic“, Noah Antwiler aka “Spoony“, Benjamin Daniel aka “Benzaie“, Julien Diaz aka “Sad Panda” and Mat Wiliams aka “Welshy” of Channel Awesome / thatguywiththeglasses.com, who all are very outgoing, nice people – even though some of them are french!

I for one am already looking forward to next year and can’t wait for AniNite’12 to arrive!

Diablo 3 Beta – huzzah! (Update)

Joy, beautiful spark of gods, daughter of Elysium.
We enter, fire-imbided, heavenly, thy sanctuary.

Diablo 3 Logon Screen

Today in the early morning hours it arrived – the invite the currently most sought-after betatest – the Family & Friends Beta of Diablo 3. After downloading the client (aprox. 3gb) I delved right into the game. Something positive to point out right from the start is that Blizzard is once again using the incremental patcher that they first implemented in World of Warcraft – which means one doesn’t have to download the whole client but rather only the most important gamefiles before starting the game. The rest will be downloaded and installed while one is playing.

The game so far is without render videos, which off course would be unnecessary for a beta, so it is downloaded and installed rather quickly and allows you to jump right into the action.  All five character classes are already avaliable and the character creation is as simple as it’s always been: class, gender, name – done.

As my first character I chose a monk named Karathon – simple because that’s what I play in my current Dungeons & Dragons game. So far I really like the game – it is entertaining as ever. When a game is started one can chose to create a public game, join a game or create a private game which others can only join upon invitation.

A couple of nice changes one runs into over the course of the game are the implementation of the “Cauldron of Jordan” and the “Nephalem Cube”. To me at least those were new – no idea if they’ve been in D2 at the end, I never had’em.

Cauldron of Jordan

The cauldron allows it to sell items at any time in the game, making town portals unnecessary, as one won’t run into a cluttered up inventory anymore.

Nephalem Cube

The Nephalem Cube gives the player the ability to salvage items rather than selling them, splitting them up into materials used in crafting. As I am currently only level 6 I don’t have any crafting skills yet – so I didn’t get to test that yet.

Also new, at leat to my knowledge, are the records. The game keeps score about all the heroic deeds the player achieves. Those include things like the number of destroyed objects one destroyes with one attack or a series of attacks, the number of enemies killed at once and so on and so forth.

Records

I have so far not yet found out where the player can look those records up in game – maybe the function’s not yet implemented, after all it’s still a beta.

So far I really like the game. I will not yet give it a final verdict, as the game is not gold yet, but will try to post updates every once in a while.

Update:

Here we are with the promised update of my beta experiences.

Diablo 3 pretty much feels like its predecessors – the design stayed pretty much the same and one very quickly gets that good old Diablo feeling again. As originally stated, all five character classes are avaliable, which are the Barbarian, the Demon Hunter, the Monk, the Witch Doctor and the Wizard, who are all avaliable in male and female variation.

All of the characters are very charismatic with a lot of personality making them come alive. While the wizard is very arrogant and narcissistic the monk believes in the righteousness and importance of his actions  and the barbarian is stoic-pragmatic, well, except for combat situations off course (qel surprise!). All characters’ voice overs are done really great, which shines especially during their interactions with other NPCs, be they merchants, followers or artisans (more to the latter two in a few moments) and makes you realize just how much love into detail Blizzard actually puts into their games. The characters feel alive and very vividly, making it easy to feel with them.

When played all characters feel similar but yet quite different. While the wizard uses arcane power as a ressource, that recharges rather fast by itself, the barbarian relies on fury, which he builds up with his attacks and when taking damage and channels into devastating special attacks. A noticable change to Diablo 2 is the skill system. In total each character has six skill slots avaliable, in which attacks, heals, buffs or other skills can be prepared to be used in combat. In the beginning a character has two of these slots unlocked with the rest becoming accessible at levels 6, 12, 18, and 24 – and two of those prepared abilites can be assigned to the mousebuttons while the rest is activated by keyboard (or addition mouse buttons if one has a multi-button-mouse). Additionally there are three passive slots with enhancements, that are always active and unlock at levels 10, 20, and 30.

Now let’s take a look at the skills themself. Every character starts the game with two already known skills. Over the course of the game roughly 20 additional skills can be learned. The skills one has prepared (and one can activate in combat) will be interchangable according to Blizzard (though it is not yet clear wether or not this will be doable in combat – in the current phase of the beta test it is possible). Once reaching level 10 two passive skills are avaliable, the number of those rises to 13 avaliable at level 30.

Another new feature is the fact, that one no longer needs to pack a gazillion of town portal scrolls. After finishing the third quest one receives the Stone of Recall, which works just like a town portal scroll but doesn’t consume inventory space. To activate the stone one needs to channel a cast for five seconds, making it impossible to use during combat.

Diablo 3 Stone of Recall

In the beta it is only possible to play the first act (or maybe even just part of the first act) in normal mode, Nightmare and Hell mode as well as the Hardcore mode are not yet avaliable. After finishing the fourth quest on is being “rewarded” with the following screen:

Diablo 3 End of Beta

While I was surprised at first I can understand the decision behind this. After all Diablo is a game that, if so whished, can be played in single player mode – and offering the full game during beta would be a bad idea and take away alot of surprises come release. After the first playthrough one can replay the game with his character just as is common for Diablo games to further increase in level. Starting with the second playthrough, it is possible to jump right to one of the four quests. As usually the dungeons in Diablo are created dynamically – and upon creation it is possible for sidequests to pop up (during all of my playthroughs I had three different sidequests if I remember correctly).

As promised we’ll now take a look at the followers and artisans. In Diablo 3 there will be three kinds of followers, who will help the player in single player mode if so wished (and in single player mode only!) – the Enchantress, the Scoundrel and the Templar. In the beta only the Templar is avaliable. The followers are supposed to be avaliable rather early in the game, each one after completing a specific quest unlocking them. The followers have four skillslots which unlock at levels 5, 10, 15, and 20. Furthermore they have inventory slots for main and offhand, two rings, a necklace and a special slot for follower specific items that unlocks at level 18. The skills of a follower can, once learned, be retrained for gold. Only one follower cann aid a character at a time.

Diablo 3 Followers

There are also going to be three artisans in the game: the Blacksmith, the Jeweler and the Mystic. Currently, only the Blacksmith is avaliable upon completing the third quest. The Blacksmith as usually allowes the player to repair their items and, as of D3, also crafts weapons and armor for the player. To do so (magical) items have to be broken down with the Nephalem Cube into their components, which the Blacksmith uses to make new items. For starters the Smith only knows a frew recipies, but the list of those can be increased in two ways. Firstly one can find recipies in the game for specific weapons or armor. While having the craft window open one rightclicks the recipie and the Blacksmith has learned a new trick of his trade. Secondly one can find “Pages of Training” of which five can be combined into a “Tome of Training”. With this tome in the inventory one visits the Blacksmith and combined with some gold and a few ressources raises the level of the Blacksmith, teaching him another couple of recipies. Something I particularly like is the fact, that the artisans’ level is account bound, meaning if I use my Monk to level the Blacksmith and later on roll up a Witch Doctor, I can get some shiny new weapons and armor for him that he can use as soon as he meets the level requirements – without the need to farm the Tomes of Training all over again.

Diablo 3 Crafting 1

Diablo 3 Crafting 2

Diablo 3 Crafting 3

Diablo 3 Crafting 4

Another thing worth mentioning is the Auction House. As of now only the “Gold Auction House” is avaliable, which allows the player to trade items for ingame gold. In the final version there will also be a real money auction house, because players back in the bygone days of the old Diablo games already used platforms like Ebay to purchase items for real money. Because those platforms were not maintained by Blizzard however one could never be sure wether or not one would actually receive the item one purchased and many a players were ripped off and never got their money back after a faux trade. Also Blizzard wants to cash in on the transaction fees of such sales and is not willing to once again give the winnings to Ebay and other platforms – a decision that is understandable from a company’s point of view.

Diablo 3 Auction House

The AH is simple and well-arranged. Purchased items are be sent to the stash, the storage space shared by all characters that can be increased for gold.

That about sums up my review. I’d not have thought that a relativelly short beta would keep me entertained that well and am rather sure that D3 is going to be a must buy. As Blizzard already announced however the release will be pushed from “end of 2011″ to “early 2012″. One hears it through the grapevine that alot of testers were displeased with the Demon Hunter so there might be some changes on the horizon for this class.

The english – we has it!

Valued audience!

It is my pleasure to announce that henceforth this blog will be bilingual. There are two points to this change. Ad primo it will allow my english speaking friends to follow my thoughts and posts as well and ad secundo it gives me the opportunity to polish my skills in the language of the Anglo-saxons.

So be happy with me and rejoice – from now on there’s double the dosage of t for you!

Change is not always a good thing!

Valued readership!

I have no idea of your opinions concerning this topic, but a couple of years ago, when “Change!” was the catch-phrase of Barack Obama‘s election campaign the whole lot of the US of A cheered – and the rest of the world cheered with them. Change – finally! Change is good! Change is positive!

Well I call bullshit! Change for the sake of change is nothing good, is nothing positive, it is but a cheap ruse to divert from way more important issues. I’m not going to be political here, way more intelligent people did that before and way more stupid people are still going to do that – and vice versa. I am going to bring up two examples for negativ change that were passed around in the interwebs in the last couple of days but still might have evaded the keen eye of my readers.

The first example is the re-re-re-re-re-[...]-re-release of the “Star Wars” by Lucas Jorge. In the last couple of years George Lucas did not cover himself with glory concerning his movie-release-politics. Old classics are being released over and over again, on VHS, VHS digitally remastered, DVD, DVD digitally remastered, DVD director’s cut … and now there’s the BluRay box. But what horror message is presented to the desparied cineaste who’s been tormented by disappointment after disappointment? After various changes to the original material (Han shot first, goddamnit!) and adjustments to the episodes I – III (Sebastian Shaw was Anakin, not that Christensen-whimp!) here’s the next slap in the face: Darth Vader’s scene during the final fight between the Emperor and Luke has been changed. Vader, one of the ultimate villains of all time, was the personification of a bad-guy. Emotionless, cold, calculating, dedicated he executed the orders of Emperor Palpatine didn’t bother killing many, many, many people while doing so. That, however, made the unexpected change in his character at the end of episode VI so much more emotional, surprising and just, well, better! Why, George? Why?

A second change that just pisses me off is the change on Superman’s costume made by DC. As mentioned elsewhere I am no fan of Krypton’s wonderboy, on the contrary, usually he just bores me. I have to admit that I did ocasionally watch the Lois and Clark TV show, mostly though because nothing else was on during that timeslot. Be that as it may, for every comic-book-nerd of today Superman is a part of comic-books like ink, papercuts and outrageous comic-book-prices in Europe. What was going on during those DC executive meetings that made them decide to change his appearance after all those years?! Superman looked ok the way he was – as heroic as one can be in blue spandex  with red briefs and a red cape. For decades THAT was the embodiment of a superhero and even the populace of non-comic-readers saw this picture in their heads when thinking of a superhero. So why did his costume have to be changed for the worse? Those red briefs were part of my youth, part of the youth of thousands of comic-book-fans (as well as a source for jokes and laughter in various satire-magazines, no doubt about it).

The answer is as simple as it is sad. Because consistency equalized with stagnacy nowadays. And stagnacy is the enemy of our economy. If you’re not moving forward you’re not productive, if you’re not productive you’re lazy, if you’re lazy you’re a freeloader – and if you’re a freeloader you’re vermin, unworthy to live in today’s society. Because of this thinking, poor nerds like myself have to spend thousands of our hard-earned euros on low-quality re-releases and have to endure blue scale-armor on kryptonian skin torturing our retinae. And don’t you tell me: “But you don’t have to buy / watch / read it.” Who ever says stuff like that didn’t even begin to understand what it means to be a true nerd – and thus is not qualified to join the discussion raised by this nerdrage!

’nuff said – I gotta go place an order now…