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EUOLogy #8: Clicking on Goobers, a Retrospective

Four years ago—give or take how much time it really was—the TWG got its humble start in a print magazine with a review of the game Diablo 2. This article was affectionately subtitled “Clicking on goobers is fun to do.

Well, the years have passed. The TWG has moved on to bigger and better things. We’ve got a strong online presence, daily updates, and have gone through three different layouts. Yes, the TWG has grown up during those four years.

My roommates and I . . . well, we’re still playing Diablo 2.

That’s right. The game is four years old, and it was never really that amazing (graphics wise) to begin with. There are many more newer, more beautiful, more ‘worthy’ games. We’re still playing Diablo 2. Now, we haven’t been playing it straight since 2000 (thankfully). However, the game has a remarkable ability to suck us back into its clutches. As Earl noted, “It’s like a bad girlfriend (something he recently had experience with). It just keeps on showing up back on your doorstep, demanding your time. And there’s really nothing you can do.”

What a fitting analogy. (See my column from last week. It gives this one a synergy bonus.) There’s just something . . . entrancing about Diablo 2. Your hero appears on the screen. He walks forward, sees a bunch of little monsters (hereafter known as ‘goobers’) running around pillaging and doing monsterly things. You click on them with your mouse, and your hero runs over and kills them.

Now, it gets just a little more complex than that. You get different WAYS you can kill the goobers. You can throw things at them, you can blast them with magic, you can even yell nasty things at them. (Fellfrosch once built a character that only did damage this way. It was the Bill O’Riley of barbarians.) However, the general concept stays the same. You click, goobers die.

But there’s more. Oh, yes. When the goobers die, they give you stuff. If you pick up that stuff—the armor, weapons, rings, etc—you get tougher. That way you can kill stronger goobers. It’s a glorious cycle of destruction.

The game is silly. Often times, you’ll kill some little bird—or break an urn—and a massive suit of magical plate mail will flip out into the air, spin a couple times dramatically, then fall to the ground and wait for you to pick it up. You’re left wondering how the ancient Horadrim stuffed that massive suit of armor in a little urn—then you pause, and wonder WHY they stuffed a massive suit of armor in a little urn. And, if that goober had a powerful bow of amazing destruction, why was he trying to kill you with a blow gun? It doesn’t matter. Almost everything in the game—from the levels, to the mini-bosses, to the item drops—is random. You can play it over, and over, and over, and over. . . .

It’s cathartic, as Tage noted. There’s something restful, even peaceful, about sitting and making the goobers pay for their crimes. You click. Then you click some more. By the third click, you’ve entered a state where the only thing that matters is the goobers and how fast you can make them yield to you their massive suits of plate mail.

Anyway, there is a point to all this. All goober-ness aside, I’m left wondering how a game this old can still be so . . .well, good. Everyone talks about the speed of technology, and about how hardware goes out of date so quickly. And yet, it seems like things are slowing down at the same time as they’re speeding up. Or, at least, perception wise. The better the computers get, the harder it is for a layman to tell the difference between their capabilities. It’s like some geek speed-of-light—the closer you approach infinite speed for your computer, the less I’ll care how my goobers look on the screen. The differences between games now and games four years ago must be amazing from a technical standpoint—but, they don’t actually seem that different.

I see much good coming from this, actually. Diablo 2 is amazing in that it is still supported by Blizzard, and is still being sold. We’re on the cusp of getting a new Everquest, but the old one put in an amazing six years. In game-years, Everquest is like a little old Asian man who somehow managed to live into his late 180’s. Games are getting more expensive, true—but their shelf-life is getting longer (potentially).

I think that eventually, we’ll approach a state where new games are released solely for content reasons—never simply because the older games have worse graphics. A good game will stay on the shelf for decades and decades, just like a good book, and the new games will have to compete with the old powerhouses. Games (like the fantasy fiction market, in my opinion), will HAVE to be better than what has come before—not just prettier—in order to demand an audience.

Let that day come. I think the average gamer—the one who can’t bother or afford to be upgrading equipment every six months—will bless its arrival. Until that time, however, we’ve still got Diablo 2.

Because clicking on goobers is STILL fun to do.


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