Saturday, January 20, 2018

Diablo III's Darkening of Tristram Event Back for More

This old man remembers playing the first Diablo back in high school (yes, this is literally old school for me), when choices were relatively simple and technology was relatively basic. You had 3 classes, 6 equipment slots, a small inventory, and your spells and gear came from manually distributed stats and tomes. And even then, during the age of folks playing together online over dial-up, Blizzard and Blizzard North put together a solid game that had Game of the Year awards and massive sales to its credit. Now Diablo III, the current iteration that has much more control, content, and character customization, is going old school once more by renewing their Darkening of Tristram event.

Those familiar with the game know that your base of operations is New Tristram, after the destruction of the originally named village after the events of the first game. The Darkening of Tristram is a short and fun add-on that lets players experience the quests and bosses of the first game, which was originally part of Blizzard's Diablo 30th anniversary party last year.

What makes this fun is that in addition to the old bosses and classic loot. Blizzard made the graphics of the levels delightfully retro the second you enter the portal, throwing it way back to how they looked in the original entry into the series. To give you some idea, back in the day on original release, the requirements were a Windows 95 box packing 8MB (yes, megabytes) of memory, a 2X CD-ROM drive (if you've ever seen one before), an SVGA video card, and a simply blazing 60MHz Pentium processor.

For those that have forgotten or have never experienced it, SVGA means 800x600 on a 14 inch monitor. And for online play over said dial-up modem (mine was 33.6k) you needed a full SIXTEEN MEGABYTES. So right now, I'm guessing you're either feeling pretty old or wondering what civilization must have been like on double digit MHz processors and dial-up internet service.

Well kids, respect your elders. Because all of us that lived through it when it was live thought it was simply glorious.

The gameplay stays identical to what you're used to in Diablo III, but quests like the Halls of the Blind, squaring off against Archbishop Lazarus, and standing toe to toe with the (original) Butcher will take you back to a simpler time. And let's not forget the original recipe highest level loot we all farmed and ground out for Lord knows how long - the Godly Plate of the Whale, King's Sword of Haste, and the Archangel's Staff of the Apocalypse - complete with classic Diablo icons. The same eerie music was there too, adding great ambiance while you fight your way to the Dark Lord. You can use any character you have to play through the event, but Blizzard's official recommendation is to start with a level 1 toon to get the full experience. I agree, because I went through it on my Torment IV barbarian and absolute facerolling was full effect.

Even with the original music, the graphics pared down and the throwback gear and in-jokes, the one thing I didn't get from this was the actual fear that came with the first game. It might be hard to believe, but the first Diablo did provide some frights - you won't get the stress we had running away from the Skeleton King when all we could do was walk, and you may not have that jump when you open a door and the Butcher rolls out by surprise screaming "Fresh meat." Damn kids and your GeForces and Radeons and whatnot.

At any rate, you have until the end of January to rack up the achievement rewards and a couple of transmogs, one of which may or may not be a very brutal red soulstone jammed right into your toon's dome.

Oh, and one more fun thing below before you all run out to Old Tristram. Have fun kids.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The 2017 Bit Awards

This past December, the indie gaming scene got to end the year in New York with the second annual Bit Awards presented by Playcrafting. Fans and developers filled the Tishman Auditorium at Parsons for more than just awards being handed out to the best of 2017, but for a night celebrating indie game development and the industry.

The night was hosted by actor Ruffin Prentiss, the voice of Watch Dogs 2's Marcus Holloway, who spoke about as his respect for the artists and developers in the room, and talked about his own gaming history starting from the Atari 2600. He also talked about how much he enjoyed being part of a video game that told a story, and how important it is to see the landscape of the industry and celebrate the creative and development teams that make it happen.

In addition to awards, the audience was brought into the show itself - Colleen Mackin, Parsons Professor and game creator brought her Metagame to the stage with members of the audience. Next up was ESC Game Theater's Pete Vigeant, who led us all in a rousing game of Quiplash with not only folks on stage but with the show's digital audience watching on Twitch.

As it goes for any show, the music is what sets the tone and the mood. And the music at the Bit Awards absolutely killed. The Bits, led by Street Fighter V composer Zac Zinger, kept the night lively with jazz tunes and spot on renditions of victory music from games like Chrono Trigger and various Final Fantasy titles. Boston presenting developer David Su brought music to the show as well, and along with Dominique Star and Laila Smith performed a song from his game Yi and the Thousand Moons.

And let me not forget for you Overwatch fans reading this - Mercy was on call as Lucie Pohl was in attendance to present the Player's Choice award.

The night closed with the year's Game Changer award being given to industry legend Warren Spector. Having his start in tabletop games, Spector was honored as creator of Deus Ex and Epic Mickey, and for his work on System Shock and Thief. Spector gave an inspiring speech about he wanted video games to change the world, and closed by challenging everyone to make video games that made people forget about his generation.

Playcrafting has been on a mission to shine a spotlight on indie gaming and developers. The Bit Awards came just off the heels of the first annual Play NYC, a games convention in August again focusing on indie games. I talk a little bit about it here, and guarantee you it shouldn't be something you sleep on for 2018. Playcrafting provides people with the tools to not only learn the skills needed to develop games, but how to get those games off the ground as well through workshops and game jams. This is an organization everyone should keep their eyes on, and with events like Play NYC and the Bit Awards, they're sure to be responsible for helping a new generation of great indie titles make the scene.

Here's a list of all the winners below. For more info on the other demos and trailers premiering at the show, check out the Bit Awards official site.

Best Student Game - Studio Wumpus, Sumer
Best XR Game - Team Panoptes, Panoptic
Best Style - David Su, Yi and the Thousand Moons
Player's Choice - Mot & Dot, The Ultimate Clapback
Tabletop Game of the Year - Vance Hall, University of Dope
Mobile Game of the Year - Simple Machine, Calculator: The Game
PC/Console Game of the Year - The Deep End Games, Perception
Rising Pixel, Boston - Ryan Canuel
Rising Pixel, San Francisco - Sorob Raissi
Rising Pixel, New York - MaryMartha Ford-Dieng
Game Changer Honoree - Warren Spector

Oh, and let's not forget that fun afterparty - thanks, ESC Games Theater!