Diablo 4 Notes

May 14, 2024

- Charnel House gives you the same piece of lore every time you go through it. It's a NMD.

- Crazy reward-stacking on a dungeon: 2024-03-04_12-35-52.mp4 (H drive). This has everything; on the way to the dungeon I accidentally trigger multiple events and complete two Whispers. Also shows how the stacked events synergize so they complete at the same time. The end of the dungeon is ridiculous, feels like I broke the game.

Replay_2024-03-11_21-32-32.mp4 02:01 leveled up battle pass

notes march 8

Visuals and tests that need to be made:
- [x] Dungeon clear times
- [x] Visualize the overlapping content with an exposition map {-- nah --}

april 22

- [x] A jungle --> A swamp (line 200)
- [x] "Invented the action RPG" -> "Invented a new kind of action RPG"
- [x] "Scrambles her brain" -> "Seduces her" (line 204)
- [x] "Around the midgame" -> "Around the middle of the campaign" (line 222)
- [x] Redo "There's a simple system of item tiers up to this point". Stress on wrong word.

may 11

- [x] Entire intro.
- [x] Line 50 "A lot of the same notifications and nags exist, but they're much easier to get used to and quickly become subliminal."
- [x] Line 61 "The weirdness of this intro reminded me a little of the hell area in Diablo 1, which used the uncanniness of early 3D graphics to portray a hell that was more alien than biblical."
- [x] Line 113 "You press Q to heal..."
- [x] Line 159 "Playing in the open world has a very hypnagogic quality..."
- [x] First sentence line 163 "The reason you'll get for why Diablo 4 is designed this way is its multiplayer."
- [x] Line 197 "The game has an abundance of continuous shots..."
- [x] Line 218 sentence "Don't get me wrong..."
- [x] line 236 "dimensional blade" not pulse blade
- [x] Line 242-246 "In a word, the affixes... ...and aspects are going to be even more important."
- [x] Line 279 "Some of the new affixes are promising"
- [x] Line 331 "it's followed by this set piece--the closest thing we get to a coherent thesis statement from Lilith" existing read is bad
- [x] Line 375 "The Diablo 2 style is dynamic..." to the end
- [x] Line 373 "These are not interesting divisions..."
- [x] line 389 "it's a sped up and refined version of Diablo 3's post-campaign grind" and "D3 has daily missions you can complete for a reward."
- [x] line 409 "class-relevant stats" not "class-relevant skills"
- [x] 419 "They are tied to consumable sigils, which drop all the time and can be crafted to get the exact difficulty you want, anywhere from level 54 enemies to level 154 enemies."
- [x] 425 "I have not read a single one of these sigil descriptions and I barely ever die in NMDs"
- [x] Line 479 "This is not a bad way to make a game..."
- [x] Line 481 "The affixes seem like Diablo affixes..."
- [x] Line 483 "but when I started doing the Nightmare dungeons and facing high-level enemies that were occasionally difficult to kill" existing read is bad
- [x] Line 491 "They are efficient because..."
- [x] Line 502 "The only way the developers have tried to make fights interesting is giving the bosses a bunch of high damage area-attacks that you have to avoid by moving or dashing."
- [x] Line 504 "Anyway, season 4 is overhauling unique drop rates..."
- [x] Line 509-517 "Season 4 looks like a mixed bag... ...you can fill that void with cosmetics."
- [x] Entire conclusion.

may 1

- [ ] line 367

notes on "Live Interview with Diablo 4 Associate Game Director Joe Piepiora"

may 9 2024

12:10 content and systems (he agrees with me!)
13:40 dying to waves uber lilith
14:40 incentives
24:10 traps
25:00 latency breaking dodges
28:25 talking about level 50-100
29:40 identifies "the fun" in an ARPG as new stuff vs. difficulty
31:20 endgame
the game is getting more content after level 100 but the 50-100 area is still a deadzone. There has to be some reason for this.
36:40 people don't like grinding nightmare dungeons
43:30 "we wanted to take a lot of nods from Diablo 1 and Diablo 2"
45:38 difficulty and power creep

Dungeon Clear Times

These are measured from when the first enemy health bar appears at the top of the screen to when the boss' healthbar disappears from the top of the screen. Some inferences have been made in the case where footage starts a couple seconds after entering the dungeon. These are lengths of 60FPS frames.
{== 2024-02-17_13-28-17 (A) has two untimed dungeons ==}
clvl 66: 38470
clvl 71: 33000
clvl 72: 29993
clvl 72: 38056
clvl 72: 34578
clvl 72: 24464
clvl 77: 29653
standard deviation is about 1.3 minutes
clvl 77: 18740
clvl 78: 18797
clvl 78: 23140 (Butcher, reject)
clvl 78: 19146
clvl 79: 18050
clvl 79: 18545


clvl 80: 06:32

notes march 6

Integrate these points somewhere, both fall under the "pace control" or gameplay time extension idea:
- [x] Enemy design pulls you deeper into dungeons/further through open world--the dodge goes far, damage pools all over the ground. Spider Host is another example, it explodes and the spider it spawns is far behind it i.e. closer to the next monster pack. Packs aggro from pretty far, it is difficult to get back to town in the open world without killing one or two more monster packs than you wanted to.
- [x] Dungeons are heavily structured. Killing volume is good in D4 but the game forces you to collect keys to reach the boss, this prevents fast farming of glyph XP and makes you kill pretty much every enemy when you run a dungeon. Whether you're high or low level they end up feeling sluggish because half your time is spent backtracking to drop a rock on a pedestal (can only carry one at a time!)

edit notes March 3

- [x] More organic transition from end of campaign to endgame progression?
- [x] Organic transitions between endgame systems
- [x] Some device to explain the way systems interlink in-situ? Vid is probably confusing.
- [x] You dropped the "dungeon stacking" idea. I think it's a good one--go through a specific scenario of travelling to and completing a dungeon. Maybe integrate a sidequest, construct, shrine...


- [ ] Loot - is it too much too fast, are the endgame aspects/uniques interesting? how do they link up with and support character building, especially the 'prescriptive' nature of the skill tree?
- [x] RENOWN
- [x] The open world, multiplayer, and level scaling
- [x] Why it's a big deal that enemies get stronger as you level even in previous areas.
- [ ] Phenomenology of the D4 shop?
- [x] All of the enemy "states" i.e. healthy, injured, overpower... how confusing it is to compare gear.
- [x] More on sound design!! Note sounds taken from previous games.
- [x] Timers attached to everything.
- [x] DIABLO 4 HAS A FUN ECONOMY--minimum possible fun to keep players' attention while stalling progression as much as possible.
- [x] Spatial relations break down when areas do not have an innate 'danger' value. Especially with Helltide making everything red all the time.

{== Replay_2024-02-17_14-58-22.mp4 got my first open paragon glyph slot thing ==}

Re-organizing the script

{++ tis done ++}
- [x] Review footage and figure out a natural place to talk about this stuff
- maybe after Donan's son dies?

Things to talk about BEFORE endgame:
- Aspects
- Equipment basics; normal, magic, rare...
- Then you can introduce the tiers with reference to this.
- Crafting

Things to talk about AFTER endgame (no particular order):
- Paragon
- Helltide
- Tree of Whispers
- Layering
- The Timers
- Open World/Multiplayer stuff

Note May 11

I watched a full render on May 9 (some editing cleanup and VO to re-record, but pretty much a finished video) and sort of had a crisis. The video just didn't cohere properly, the argument didn't properly build to a point. Thankfully I did not work yesterday and just let the panic about the video dissipate.

I think a relatively small tweak--but an extremely important one--fixes the video. I was myopic about the battle pass, without addressing the greater context of Diablo 4 being a live service. The point isn't for Diablo 4 to sell the battle pass so much as the point is for D4 to perpetuate itself for as long as possible. There are incentives beyond the pass itself, and I have addressed these in a new intro.

I figure I have Saturday and Monday to finish the video--I will be busy for most of Sunday. I think I can finish it today, but my absolute minimum is a final pass on the script, finished voiceover, and half of the voiceover edited to video. That way I can review a render on Sunday, get a good idea of any changes that need to be made, and have a bit of extra time on Monday. Then I can release just in time for season 4 and the video will actually be good!

May 12

I'm pretty happy with the script, figured I will actually have time later today to do voiceover and maybe start re-cutting. It needed a lot of small changes, which is a huge pain to implement on the video editing side (need to track down a lot of specific spots in a two hour timeline) but worth it I think.

The main changes are the introduction and conclusion; I decided to be more transparent about my feelings with the ending. My conception of a 'critique' is decimating a thing into its parts and reassembling them to understand their order. The final "stage" of playing a game is the momentary experience, so it's appropriate to talk about feelings at the end. I also thought it would be kind of funny to teach the controversy and explicitly say that this video burned me tf out.

May 11 new intro

I don't envy the developers of Diablo 4, because Diablo has a legacy. The first game is an unassailable masterpiece that not only invented a new kind of acton RPG, but remains one of its finest examples. Diablo 2 is one of the best selling games ever, and it exudes fun from every pore. Diablo 3 sucks, so there's room for a redemption arc. I've played the Diablo games to death because I think they're quintessential examples of video games. They have a strong focus on skinner box mechanics, but at their best the Diablo games use it to create a specific mood and tell a story.

Dark Souls convinced my heart that games could be high art, and Diablo 1 finally convinced my head. The item acquisition loop that structures the whole game is inseparable from the horror and darkness that Diablo impresses on players. The series has a reputation as the realest of real games; repetitive, grindy, and entirely focused on systems. Actually playing the games and realizing how beautiful these systems can be had a big impact on me. Diablo 4 has some big shoes to fill.

And Blizzard itself has a legacy. For two decades the studio could do no wrong, but nowadays they are doing a lot wrong. Diablo 4 could redeem Blizzard the game studio, even if most of its C-suite belongs in prison. The Diablo series came from Blizzard North, which I'll call by their original name Condor, so it's markedly different from Blizzard's usual aesthetics. They tried to Warcraftify the series with Diablo 3, but Diablo 4 could be something new at a time when Blizzard really needs to do something new.

Well, the game is out so there's no need to speculate, but D4 came with a lot of expectations. At first glance, Diablo 4 is a solid red orb blue orb ARPG with an excellent story, friendly enough for a wide audience but expansive and dark enough to satisfy Diablo fans. It's a pretty deep meditation on everything that went wrong in Diablo 3, and an exercise in re-aligning the games with their original spirit both tonally and mechanically.

{== interview clip==}

However, Blizzard made Diablo Immortal. I don't envy the people who made D4 because the higher-ups know Diablo is fertile ground for recurring revenue, and I think one of Diablo 4's primary goals is to finally get the sticky black oil out of its playerbase. When I played through Diablo 3, I felt like it was built for a microtransaction model that just wasn't there; it has all the fake progression and shiny notifications of a phone game but never actually sends you to a shop.

Diablo 4 has a battle pass and a microtransaction shop. You can make a case that it's not that evil in the grand scheme of things, this isn't the most monetized game of all time. But because Diablo is so pure, I think it's a good barometer of the game industry at large, and what I found upon playing D4 up to level 100 was a compelling, well-hidden treadmill that ruins an extremely promising first few hours. It's worth noting this treadmill is so good at its job that despite being the Diablo game I enjoyed least, I played it compulsively up to and beyond level 100, then played three more characters up to level 20.

The core gaming community doesn't like pay to win microtransactions, and this has forced studios to get creative. Lootboxes have come under a lot of legal scrutiny and everybody hates them now, so they're relegated to explicit gacha games. The AAA hivemind has instead fixed on the term 'live service' to describe games like Diablo 4: it promises endless new content every season, and to pay for these updates each season has a new battle pass. In their ideal world you pay full price for the game, then 10 or $25 every few months to get the battle pass.

The cost of acquiring new players is going up, due to data privacy laws, increased competition, and a variety of other reasons depending on who you ask
{++ https://sbcnews.co.uk/features/interviews/2023/09/15/rising-costs-acquisition-retention/ ++}
{++ https://web.archive.org/web/20240108161033/https://sbcnews.co.uk/features/interviews/2023/09/15/rising-costs-acquisition-retention/ ++}
. So the new buzzword is player retention [1] [2] [3], keeping people coming back to your game, and this is true in AAA, mobile games, and online gambling.
{++ https://kotaku.com/top-video-game-companies-wont-stop-talking-about-games-1795663927 ++}
{++ https://web.archive.org/web/2/https://kotaku.com/top-video-game-companies-wont-stop-talking-about-games-1795663927 ++}

AAA games have astronomical budgets now, and the live service model not only builds loyalty and allows for the sale of lucrative battle passes, but lets developers recycle the lion's share of their work for, potentially, years. Blizzard won't come out and say that Diablo 4 is built to sell battle passes, but they will happily call the game a live service. In my mind, these are effectively the same thing, a live service without monetization is just a good game. People still play Diablo 2, but it's not a live service.

Player acquisition happened mainly in the realm of advertising or sign-up bonuses {== 10 million power!! ==}, but retention is a matter of game design. The game itself has to make people come back to it. Live service games make a ridiculous amount of money, and live service progression can be grafted onto a multiplayer shooter, for example, without doing too much damage. Diablo 4 is a systems-heavy action RPG, and the live service surgery has effected the game in a lot of incredibly deep ways. Partly as a Diablo lover, partly as somebody who wants to learn about monetization, I decided to delve into every single system in D4.

Diablo 4 was apparently Blizzard's fastest selling game ever [4], but it petered out quickly and seems to lack the longevity of Counter-Strike or Path of Exile, both of which have grown in popularity since release. Even if Diablo 4 fails I think it's a significant game. When you put game design into the world, other people can copy it, and a Hoyoverse spin on Diablo 4 could really do some damage. Instead of weapon aspects you collect waifus who empower your gear, you can switch them freely like Path of Exile gems. Put Diablo Immortal's crest system in there too, but you get a handful of them with every gacha pull so people don't notice how bad the value proposition is. Please share the filthy lucre if you use this idea.

This video is a snapshot of Diablo 4 from when I played it, the game's loot system is getting revamped in season 4, but most of the changes are just intensifying what is already in the game. I'll be comparing D4 extensively with the other games in the series, not to say that Diablo 4 is bad because it's different but to help explain why D4 makes the changes it does. I don't have any nostalgia for the previous Diablo games, D1 and D2 are just good games.

New outro may 11

The development of mobile game science, and before it the early attempts at lootboxes and microtransactions, are part of a developing consciousness of what game design can do. It's shameful that this knowledge is used to make games more addictive. Studios like Blizzard have re-enacted the plot of Diablo; they delved for knowledge and power, ostensibly to entertain people, and in they end they turned into demons.

I was sort of expecting this whole analysis of D4 to build to a point, but I'm just left feeling kind of tired and sad. I'm entering my third month playing Diablo 4 and every mechanic is the same story: it slows down progress or removes choices. There is a beautiful game in Diablo 4 but in the end it did exactly what it set out to do: it retained me as a player for several months. It wasn't surprising, it didn't change my mind about anything, it didn't make me happy.

Diablo is a fixation for me because mobile game science has really just rediscovered what made it so great [20]. The first two games are pinnacles of design, they are happy to just be excellent, polished video games and only on that basis do they become unforgettable works of fiction. I ran through Diablo 2 Resurrected after I finished playing D4, I was going to use a pre-made Paladin build but I accidentally built around the wrong skill.

And the game didn't stop being fun, it didn't punish me for colouring outside the lines. It gave me an exciting tradeoff where I had low health and good DPS. Every vendor in that game has thirty gear pieces that are more fun than anything in Diablo 4, and you'll never buy any of them because the loot that drops from enemies is even better. It's just so generous and rich and unpretentious; you play it for 40 hours and every second of it feels like people at the top of their game just putting their entire soul into a project. If we survive, people will still be playing Diablo 2 in the year 3000.

Things like that aren't allowed to exist. Something hellish bubbles under Diablo 4's surface, and every once in a while I would see through the mirage and the game would reveal itself as this great maw, desperate to suck up time and energy. Those first few hours really stuck with me, it gave me physical symptoms of depression but I just couldn't stop playing. That feeling comes back just a little bit when I see other players moving around like bugs, picking up loot only they can see.

When I talk about mechanical interactions bringing you into relation with a game, I really do mean it. If I want to write about these things, I have to let them change me, and Diablo 4 is not so much a junk food game as it is a hemlock game.

I don't like being tricked, and Diablo 4 differs from a mobile game because it can't directly monetize players. Instead, we're driven back into the slow grind until another battle pass notification pops up. The season journey was a perfect name for Diablo 3's nascent battle pass. It echoes the UX designer speak "customer journey", referring to a system of tricks and dark patterns to make you buy a toilet on subscription. I shit on Hoyoverse a lot, but they've never tried to fool me into appreciating their gacha mechanics.

Diablo 4 only has retention mechanics, everything I looked at serves its incentives, but still it pretends to be a video game. It demanded appraisal by sacrificing the time and effort of talented people to make a ridiculously detailed world and a good story and meaty combat. Then every single system just serves this pointless incrementalism that's not even really fun; the item loop is totally vestigial, it's almost worse than a slot machine because at least you're winning and losing money on the slots. All you do in Diablo 4 is input time and money, and your reward is the opportunity to put in more time and money.

It shouldn't surprise me that a live service game would be built around keeping you playing right up until the next season and little else. But this infects every single thing in the game, it's both heinous and completely mundane.

Diablo 4 is a magic trick, a treadmill that looks like a journey. It has cutscenes you watch and dialog you listen to but it doesn't have a story because nothing is allowed to change. The game is 80 hours of metastasis every four months, which renders all of the interesting stuff fake and obligatory.

Every single glowing review I read for D4 describes a fatalistic surrender to the game; in PC Gamer D4 is "slightly scary" in its effectiveness, Polygon invokes the lizard brain, GamesRadar calls it a "destructively compulsive cycle," IGN says it's "diabolically hard to put down". A user review by Selors on Metacritic summed it up best, though. They say the game made them feel "weird and unhappy." I can't put it any better than that.

Addiction is taken for granted with Diablo, but there's a quiet admission in all of these reviews that something about this isn't right. 'Fun' is one of those concepts that makes a lot of intuitive sense until you really start to look at it. A game should be fun, that's fair enough, but because Diablo 4 has microtransactions and, honestly, macrotransactions too, I have to wonder if its fun is in service of something else, especially when a huge number of its systems are geared toward making the game longer and less interesting.

In my last video I said good criticism was motivated by love. Well, I'm done loving Diablo and I'm done caring about AAA games. The live service model is going to completely take over. It's unsustainable and it poisons everything it touches. So it's time to go back to beating the drum of indie games, which have been in a perpetual golden age for years. There is always a cool new game to play, and it's never made by a AAA studio. Here are some games I'm excited about, none of these people asked to be in the video so don't bother them if you dislike me.

The people who made Path of Exile were independent, and they've spent over a decade trying to make the Diablo-style ARPG better. {== Grinding Gear Games has been owned by Tencent since 2018, but PoE came out in 2013==} A game is an ensemble, so while PoE or Diablo 2 might have addictive mechanics they have to be understood in use. Fun and addictiveness are often conflated in games, but they're not the same thing.

Path of Exile's microtransaction shop has many of the same problems as D4's. But Path of Exile revolves around intrinsic rewards--the fun combat and deep character building--its systems are very clearly in service of player choice rather than time-wasting. The game isn't subservient to its own revenue model. Like a lot of these games, it can be mundane moment-to-moment, but so are turn-based RPGs. The endgame mapping system doesn't quite escape being tedious, but even it offers tangible progression along with its own massive atlas tree that lets you shape your endgame experience however you want. Which is just a neat idea, much better than Diablo 4's repetitive Nightmare Dungeons.

PoE is also free, its shop is a way to keep the lights on. It has a proxy currency, but the exchange rate is fixed and obvious. It openly calls itself a microtransaction shop, and PoE is clearly aimed at adults. The only issue I have with it is that some items have awkward pricing so you have a few coins left over, which is absolutely scummy but saintly in comparison to D4 or Fortnite.

Sometimes, a fun game is addictive too, what's important is how that energy is directed. If players are so engaged that they want to play your game for hundreds of hours, you can use that enthusiasm to make an entire world, to draw out themes or stories and deliver them through that compelling gameplay. You can also use it to feed people's addictive tendencies, encourage them to get hooked and then sell them things. The idea of enemies getting stronger the more of them you kill, and explicitly because you're killing them could be incredibly compelling for an RPG, but it's an RPG that would need an ending. Diablo 4 doesn't exist to explore the themes inherent in its mechanics, or even to explore its own beautifully rendered world. It exists to occupy a little bit of your attention and jangle enough keys to keep you playing.

As developers discover more and more effective game design, it opens the door to more powerful experiences but also stronger means of manipulation. Without a lot of large-scale social changes, the best I can do is try to offer a vaccine for this stuff, and the best developers can do is understand how their games effect players and use that to create intense emotional experiences instead of intense financial strain. The frustrating thing is that some slob can just take a great game, make a cheap copy, and slap a bunch of pseudo-progression and monetization on top of it. In fact, there's one high-profile example you might have heard of.

The Orgy of Violence

{== Starts at Replay_2024-02-17_14-33-35.mp4 and the subsequent replays ==}

D4's best moment for me came when I fought my first world boss--these are big, tanky bosses that show up every half hour or so somewhere in the open world. Me and a bunch of other players gathered to kill this boss. It was a pretty standard boss but there's an innate sense of camraderie working on this big enemy with a bunch of other people, and it heightened the battle a lot.

Immediately following the kill, the Helltide event started; a fifty-minute orgy of violence where killing mobs gives you a currency for opening special chests. I was in the same instance as everybody who fought the boss--a decent number of people--so demons were dropping like flies and spraying legendary gear on the ground.

More than any individual drop, following a world boss directly with Helltide feels like Diablo 4's jackpot. The main source of pleasure isn't the rewards, but the rhythm of play, the sudden rush and time limit of the Helltide event. There's a Diablo game here, but there's something else too. The time-limits, and the subdivision of the game into lots of small events enforces the rhythm of play. The tightly controlled level of difficulty creates a static, mindless experience in the endgame. Diablo 4 has variations, slight dips and bumps in heartrate, but it is an endless field of monster packs, organized into "special events" that will chain together for as long as you can stomach them.

{++ add these as sources when you migrate to the main doc ++}
https://gameanalytics.com/blog/hybrid-casual-higher-retention-better-engagement/ https://gameanalytics.com/blog/casual-games-with-good-meta-mechanics/ https://www.gamerefinery.com/the-layer-approach-mobile-game-genres/ https://www.blog.udonis.co/mobile-marketing/mobile-games/hybrid-casual-games {++ add these as sources when you migrate to the main doc ++}

The natural conclusion here is to call Diablo 4 a slot machine, but it's more than that. Predatory mobile game developers have a name for Diablo 4: hybrid-casual. The principle is to layer a lot of progression or secondary mechanics on top of an extremely simple core. Mobile games are honest about what they are, but Diablo 4 can't be honest, because it's targetting Real True Gamers.

A lot of mobile game science has just rediscovered what made classic Diablo so fun; Game Refinery analyzes the mobile game market, and their VP of Games thinks about games in terms of preparation and action layers. In preparation, you build up a base or tweak your build to get ready for the action, and the action is conditioned by the prep. Layer is an awful choice of word, prep and action "phases" make more sense. Either way it describes Diablo's item loop to a tee; the preparation and action phases are strongly integrated with each other to a point where most people will tell you that Diablo is about clicking and loot. {== Mr. BTongue ==}

As much as loot became an end-in-itself, Diablo was more than that. It always had a skinner box attached to it but like Mr. BTongue says earlier in his video, Diablo 1 is dominated by its atmosphere. Can you even imagine thinking about your light radius in D3 or D4? I don't think it's even in the game anymore. This was the core of Diablo. Its mechanics and its loops were tools to create immersion and trap you in its procession of more and more dangerous places, they used game design as a medium of expression. Diablo 1 leaves you with something, and Diablo 4 takes everything.

Whenever a timer comes on screen to encourage you to massacre 300 enemies in a minute, the game cuts off and sells a little more of its body. Every system is tuned to keep you on the treadmill, and the story can be great or terrible but it doesn't actually matter anymore because you're so divorced from the idea that Sanctuary is a real place. It's depressing and embarrassing that Condor made two genre-defining ARPGs, the first of which is undisputably a masterpiece, and their legacy is clicking and loot.

Diablo 4 leans into mobile game design in a lot of ways. Diablo 1 and 2 created the item loop as a means to an end, and it turned out to be addictive, but the later games use it because it's addictive. Diablo 4's action phase has a fixed, pretty low difficulty, and this makes up the casual core. The hybrid part of hybrid-casual comes from all of the progression systems and events that have their hooks in that core, and I think this is Diablo 4's big innovation. These progression systems and events overlap to create what I can only call a cacophony of systems. Sidequests lead you to random overworld events, and they can intersect with Helltide areas, world bosses, or whisper quests. In the background, you're progressing the season journey and the challenges and the battle pass and you're probably still levelling up because character levelling stalls out around C-level 60.

In the quantum of gameplay gear is dropping or you're opening chests which give you a mixture of crafting materials, new gear, and boss summoning materials which tie into the only endgame thing to do: farming uniques from special bosses. Item acquisition links into the preparation phase in town, which has been greatly expanded with the aspect and crafting systems. All of this noise serves a purpose: it stops the player from stopping, it helps you glide silently on the tracks of Diablo 4. The only time the game ever tells you "no" is through its microtransactions. Those rewards are locked behind a small payment.

"Season journey" was a prescient name for Diablo 3's nascent battle pass, it echoes the UX designer speak "customer journey" https://www.forbes.com/advisor/business/software/customer-journey-map/, referring to the collection of dark patterns and tricks to make you buy a toilet subscription or something.

Diablo 4's overlapping of progression systems, goals, and rewards is almost beyond comprehension. It has its purpose, but to fulfill that purpose Diablo 4 has bled all of its artistic potential. It is shit, literally just a piece of disposable garbage you're supposed to engage with until the next piece of garbage comes out. There is a lot of love in Diablo 4, but it suffocates under the weight of its game design. It has better theming, better plot, better mechanics than Diablo 3, but it's not in service of anything other than getting you addicted and making you spend money.

The game's difficulty is just there to provide enough friction to make players think it's interesting, even though your build will almost certainly stagnate early on; levelling up effectively does nothing but increase the numbers you see in the UI, all the enemies are just as difficult to kill as they were before. There are things to do all the way up to level 100, sure, but they boil down to the same thing, and a Diablo game that only exists in service of the item loop is absurd.

Many of the glowing reviews I read for D4 describe a fatalistic surrender to the game; in PC Gamer D4 is "slightly scary" in its effectiveness https://www.pcgamer.com/diablo-4-review/], Polygon invokes the lizard brain [https://www.polygon.com/reviews/23739085/diablo-4-review-release-date-mmo-pc-open-world], GamesRadar calls the game a "destructively compulsive cycle" [https://www.gamesradar.com/diablo-4-review/], IGN says it's "diabolically hard to put down" [https://web.archive.org/web/20240223183844/https://www.ign.com/articles/diablo-4-review. A user review by Selors on Metacritic said the game made them feel "weird and unhappy" and I can't put it any better than that.

Addiction is taken for granted with Diablo, but there's a quiet admission in all of these reviews that something about this is not right. 'Fun' is one of those concepts that makes a lot of intuitive sense until you really start to look at it. A game should be fun, that's fair enough, but because Diablo 4 has microtransactions I have to wonder if its fun is in service of something else. Diablo 4 is the stranger in a white van giving you candy; it tastes sweet but if you look at the bigger picture for a second this situation is pretty fucked up.

Diablo 4 preys on our base impulses and conditions us to keep playing it. So what, lots of games do that. But D4 is fully conscious of what it's doing; Diablo 3 wanted to be an addiction simulator but its execution was sloppy. Diablo 4 does a fantastic job masking its nature with a grimdark world and the appearance of being a game.


For many hours, it's a pretty fun, mindless video game. A lot of breath has been wasted saying Diablo is stupid or shallow, and maybe it is, but the principal difference between your masterpiece JRPGs and Diablo is that Diablo is faster and more elegant.


incomplete documentation of footage. Really need to come up with a better system for this.

cl11, main quest
11:23 lunar shrine
20:42 main quest stuff begins

cl12, main quest
08:02 lunar shrine

13:28 lunar shrine

02:00 fear
09:56 exorcism
second half is all good low-level open world play

getting lunar new year rewards

11:50 fear
22:05 platonic ideal pack

05:48 stun

cl35, main quest
14:00 CRAZY sidequest layering
14:20 lunar shrine
18:57 ghost kid random event
25:17 druid sidequest
43:57 lunar shrine

cl37, main quest donan's son

07:03 sidequest guy turns into a demon and i kill him

funny demon merchant sidequest

donan's son
07:46 soulstone TF

cl44, main quest.
37:12 disney first gay kiss

cl45, main quest
01:49 ancestral favor level up
12:00 Neyrelle mom resurrection. good shit
15:33 Battle pass tier 15
24:13 boss fight where vigo dies

cl42 main quest
37:36 donan's son attacked by lilith

astaroth fight!

cl46, main quest
00:23 chapter 1 SJ objective
01:02 lunar battle pass rewards
06:05 Baal altar
07:18 Diablo altar
09:20 mephie
14:55 cool camera movement
16:46 temple of the primes (i love transformers)
22:15 ritual with Elias
24:53 stun

cl46, main quest
36:12 meeting Meshif
53:50 arrive at cannibal temple

cl47, main quest
elias resurrection stuff
13:06 1st sightless eye cutscene

00:00 hingeless sidequest

tree of whispers introduction

cl48, main quest
inarius shot
research with donan
more wandering with donan
getting the quicksilver, witch doctor boss

cl48, main quest
02:02 donan PTSD
15:25 donan's trip
21:05 he actually did it the absolute madman he made a soulstone

cl50, main quest
20:59 neyrelle's arm
24:18 immortality coffin
43:12 killing elias

cl50, main quest
03:58 inarius yoinks the soulstone
24:36 cutscene lilith enters hell
26:28 we enter hell
53:42 the good cutscene

cl50, main quest
the good cutscene part 2
24:33 portal that leads to the end

lilith death cont'd

ending and credits
50:40 construct intro
52:30 endgame intro

03:17 first world boss -> helltide

helltide cont'd

helltide cont'd
05:19 battle pass 26

part of a stronghold

Necromancer start

another world boss, ashava

05:00 WT3 grigoire

dying in WT3 capstone dungeon

02:06 battle pass 49
08:34 getting cache from tree of whispers

00:28 chapter 2 SJ objective

10:24 The reward stacking dungeon experiment
12:00 battle pass tier 50
25:11 end of the vault

07:43 leveling my glyphs

06:56 WT3 capstone dungeon boss (Elias)
09:35 going to WT4

01:46 first combat in WT4
03:13 battle pass 53
08:00 world boss is instantly killed (Wandering Death)

01:59 tree of whispers
03:46 sidequests until the end

07:23 messing with tuning stones

06:16 looking at the map, renown, SJ, battle pass... good b-roll
09:40 crafting a new healing potion


reading out NMD objectives

Gear crafting. good b-roll

08:15 gift of living steel

dying to WT4 grigoire

dying to WT4 varshan

Gear crafting.

720p NMDs

720p NMDs

cl14 NECRO
06:05 tree of whispers

cl17 NECRO
01:03 stronghold (Nostrava)

Killing WT4 Grigoire

04:01 potion crafting, killing WT4 Varshan

tree of whispers farming


kixxarth the helltide bug