Diablo 3 starter guide and FAQs

[This article was originally posted here at Discless, and is reposted at NeoGamr.]

This starter guide for Diablo III provides some tips and suggestions for players who are new to the game, and also answers some of the most common frequently asked questions regarding its basic systems and mechanics. This is not an in-depth guide for advanced players and does not comment on any subjective debates like which class is best. It is intended to be a basic introduction to help players who are just beginning the game and want to know some of the most important information to get started.

The most important suggestion for new players is to turn on Show Advanced Tooltips and Elective Mode in the Game Options. In fact, this should probably be the first thing you do after logging into Diablo III with your Battle.net account. These options can be found here: Game Menu (Esc) > Options > Gameplay > Interface.

Advanced Tooltips and Elective Mode are both practically essential.

Advanced Tooltips and Elective Mode are both practically essential.

Advanced Tooltips shows you more detailed descriptions of skills, as well as the actual numbers and data associated with them. This is obviously useful because it removes some of the guesswork when comparing skills to each other. Elective Mode allows you to map skills from any category to any of your hotkeys, which is useful if you want to equip more than one skill from the same category.

The second-most important suggestion is to bind the Move command to a key (Game Menu > Options > Key Bindings > Gameplay). This command is not bound by default, and it will make your character move to your cursor without attacking. This is especially useful for melee classes, in case you ever need to stop attacking some pesky enemies and run around them to grab some health orbs. Bind it to whatever works best for you. I used the middle mouse button (Mouse3).

With the two big suggestions out of the way, here are the most frequently asked basic questions I could think to answer.

Can I play Diablo III without an internet connection?
No. You need to be logged in to Battle.net to play, even if you’re playing by yourself.

Can I give my friend a Guest Pass key and play with him?
No. Starter Edition accounts can only play with other Starter Edition accounts. (Source: Blizzard)

Why did my map progress reset to undiscovered?
The map is randomly generated every time a new game session is started.

What is my damage per second (DPS)?
Open your inventory (default bindings are I and C). The Damage attribute on the left side of the inventory screen is your DPS, calculated based on several statistics.

Damage per second is calculated from several other statistics.

Damage per second is calculated from several other statistics.

How do I attack without moving?
Use the Force Stand Still command, which is bound to Shift by default. In other words, hold down Shift and click an attack button to perform the attack without moving.

How do I retrain my followers?
First, hire the follower you wish to retrain if you haven’t already. Then right-click your follower’s portrait (in the top-left of the screen) and select Retrain.

How do I give gold to another player?
You must initiate a trade with the other player. Right-click the player’s portrait and select Trade. There is no way to drop gold on the ground.

How do I repair my damaged equipment?
You can repair your items at any of the merchants in town. You can’t repair your gear at the Blacksmith artisan.

Should I pick up white and gray items?
Short answer: No. Longer answer: White and gray items have such poor sell values that it does not seem worth the time and effort to even pick them up to sell to the vendors. Plus, they can’t be salvaged for crafting materials. Your inventory space would be put to much better use storing magical, rare and (hopefully) legendary finds.

Total selling price for all the whites and grays in this screenshot? 71 gold.

Total selling price for all the whites and grays in this screenshot? 71 gold.

Please note, however, that potions, gems and crafting pages appear as white items. You definitely want to grab the gems and crafting pages.

Is there a faster way to drop items on the ground?
Not that I’m aware of, unfortunately. The only way to drop items is to click the item in the inventory and then click the ground or click and drag the item out of the inventory, both of which are tedious when trying to dump trash.

How do I link items in chat?
Open the inventory screen (default keys I and C). Press Enter to open the chat window. Hold Shift and left-click on an item to add it to your chat line.

When will I start finding gems?
In Act 2.

Can I reclaim gems that have been socketed into armor and weapons?
Once you have the Jeweler artisan, you can remove gems from socketed gear by using the corresponding tab in the artisan’s crafting window. The gems will be returned to your inventory.

You can also salvage the socketed items at the Blacksmith artisan if you no longer want the armor or weapon the gem is affixed to. The gems will be returned to your inventory in this case as well. The only way to lose a gem permanently is to sell the socketed item with the gem inside it.

I heard that giving the Templar follower a shield will break my game. Is this true?
This bug has been fixed. You don’t need to worry about it anymore.

How do I see my frames per second (FPS)?
The default key binding to show your FPS is Ctrl+R. The FPS counter appears in the top-left corner of your screen. No external program necessary!

Why do I suddenly not hear anything?
You might have accidentally turned music or sounds off. Try the Toggle Music (Ctrl+M) and Toggle Sound (Ctrl+S) commands to turn them back on. Additionally, you can conveniently shift the master volume up and down in increments of 10% with Ctrl+Equals and Ctrl+Minus, respectively.

Can I access the Auction House while in a game?
No. The Auction House can only be accessed from the campaign screen, before entering a game. If you are in a game, you will have to leave it to access the Auction House.

Can I appear offline or invisible on Battle.net while playing?
No. Currently, there does not seem to be a way to do this.

How do I prevent people from joining my game?
Turn off Allow Quick Join in the options (found at Game Menu > Options > Social > Friends and Chat). This will prevent your friends from joining your game without a confirmation.

How do I take a screenshot?
PrintScreen, of course! Also known as the SysReq key. This key binding can be changed in the options.

Where are screenshots saved?
In Diablo III\Screenshots inside My Documents. So, the full directory path for screenshots in Windows 7 would be C:\Users\USERNAME\Documents\Diablo III\Screenshots

Sonic CD is a nostalgic glimpse into the past

Sonic awaits his just deserts.

Sonic awaits his just deserts.

Sonic CD is my least favorite of the Genesis-era 2D Sonic games. I always preferred the speedier pace and flow of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, 3 and Knuckles, as well as the relatively muted, warmer color palettes of those games. The denser and chaotic design of Sonic CD‘s zones demands more precise platforming prowess that at times results in a ponderously paced game, at least when compared to the canon entries of the series.

Despite this, the recent re-release of Sonic CD (on PSNXBLASteamiOSAndroid, and Windows Phone) is the most fun I’ve had with the speedy spinster since the Dreamcast, though this isn’t the first time I’ve played Sonic CD legally and officially on a computer. It was originally ported to Windows in 1996, and was Sonic’s official debut on the home computer. (This was a big deal at a time before the poor blue bugger had been prostituted out to practically every device and platform with a microprocessor inside it.) I recall my brother and I buying the 1996 CD-ROM game with some hard-earned allowance money at an Office Depot during one of our mother’s regular business-related trips to the store. It was probably both the first and last time I was ever excited to go to that depressing place.

Oh, chibi Sonic, you're so cute!

Oh, chibi Sonic, you’re so cute!

I had never played the game before the first PC version, since we didn’t have a Sega CD. While I never did grow to like Sonic CD as much as the other Sonic games I’d played on the Genesis – which is not very unexpected considering the combined Sonic 3 & Knuckles is easily one of my favorite platformers ever – I never regretted buying Sonic CD for Windows, and the game’s box probably still lives in a bigger box full of other fellow game boxes somewhere in my parents’ garage. I loved the soundtrack – the American version, as I wasn’t even aware of the Japanese version until years later – but I did not like the static spin dash that couldn’t be “charged up” by mashing on the jump button. (My dad’s computer’s poor space bar took the abuse for this game and many others.) I also didn’t like the conceptually cool but mechanically cumbersome time-traveling mechanic, and I disliked the “three-dimensional” special stages, which paled next to those found in Sonic 2 and 3.

I don’t remember if I ever did obtain all the Time Stones or all the Robotnik machines in the past timeline, although I distinctly remember finding the animated FMVs for the intro and both endings on the disc and watching them repeatedly. In the years since, I haven’t given Sonic CD much thought after it was eventually uninstalled, or lost in an OS reinstall, or whatever its fate ended up being.

On your marks, gentlemen.

On your marks, gentlemen.

So kind of Sega, then, to re-re-release this game on almost every modern platform imaginable and to lurch it suddenly to the forefront of my adolescent gaming memories. Sega’s ports of other classic games have thus far been disappointing affairs mired in ugly menu presentation and shabby emulation. (Of the Genesis? Today? Really?) How fortunate it is that Sega allowed the multi-talented Australian bloke Christian Whitehead to craft this adoring love letter to this rough gem of a game.

As I said at the beginning of this post, Sonic CD is my least favorite of the Genesis 2D Sonic games, and easily at that. The level design is very busy and ofttimes downright contradictory to speedy gameplay. Indeed, bothering to hunt down Dr. Robotnik’s Marvelous MacGuffins is an exercise in annoyance that slows the game down even more. The time traveling mechanic, while interesting in concept, only serves to hinder you further, and there’s really no reason to visit the future aside from curiosity. Collecting the Time Stones, the other method for attaining the “good ending,” is comparatively frustrating as the special stages can become quite difficult both to enter and clear. Either way you decide to approach it, getting the good ending will likely require quite a bit of save scumming, since beating the game does not allow you to revisit old stages to rescue the future on your save file.

While the game itself might be somewhat rough around the edges, Mr. Whitehead’s love letter is anything but. The menus are super slick, multiple save files are supported, and the Steam version runs in almost any resolution you could desire, windowed or full-screen (though you do have to awkwardly launch an external tool to change these options). There are three different settings for filtering the graphics, two of which are provided in case you’re a philistine and happen to hate pixels. The “sharp” and “smooth” options both look like warm vomit expelled directly onto your monitor at such a velocity that its blurry splotches spatter across your face. “Nostalgia” proudly flaunts its serrated corners and is the selection of true scholars and gentlemen (and gentlewomen), and if you choose anything else you are literally worse than a serial murderer. This option is stupidly not set by default, so make sure and switch to “nostalgia” immediately. I’ve included full-size screenshots below so you can see the difference between the three modes for yourself.

"Sharp"

“Sharp”

"Smooth"

“Smooth”

"Nostalgia"

“Nostalgia”

 

On top of running and feeling like a modern PC game, Mr. Whitehead deemed it worthwhile to add Tails as a playable character, only available after beating the game once as Sonic. You can also change to the Sonic 2 style of spin-dashing and mash buttons to your heart’s content. Brilliant!

In spite of these excellent additions, possibly the best part is that Sega was amazingly able to work out whatever licensing issues were required to include both the Japanese and American soundtracks in this release, which you can switch between at any time on the main menu. (It should be noted that they weren’t able to work out every single licensing issue, which means that the Japanese vocal songs are remixed sans lyrics. No toot tooting for this Sonic warrior, sadly.) I played through the game with the Japanese soundtrack for the first time and definitely enjoyed the experience. The Japanese soundtrack feels more thematically cohesive, since the songs for the past timeline were composed specifically for the Japanese soundtrack and weren’t replaced in the American version. That said, I do like both versions of the soundtrack about equally.

That's gross, Tails. Stop that.

That’s gross, Tails. Stop that.

This release of Sonic CD is a revelation: the revelation that modern ports of classic games don’t have to merely settle for ROMs thrown slipshod into a subpar emulator, but can ascend – nay, soar – to loftier heights. The two versions I tried, Steam and iOS, both run fantastically and nothing is lost in the translation to either platform. I imagine the other versions glimmer similarly. At a paltry $5 on all platforms, Sega seems to be making all the right decisions with Sonic CD, and I hope they continue this trend with future games. This release is an essential experience not just for fans of the game or series, but also for anyone who’s played a 2D platformer and liked it.

5 out of 5

GameFly Unlimited PC Play – Worth it or not?

Batman watches over the GameFly PC Client News Screen.

Batman watches over the GameFly PC Client News Screen.

GameFly, the video game rental service that is often described as the “Netflix of video games” is making moves into the PC game digital distribution space (often described as “Steam and its competitors”). With GameFly’s purchase of Direct2Drive in May 2011 and the launch of its beta PC client in September 2011, the company is taking big but slow steps into the market dominated largely by Steam. Not that there isn’t room for more competition, but is GameFly’s effort worthy of note?

I’ve been a GameFly member for quite a while, and the shipping facility in my city makes the mail service snappy and efficient for me. I received a beta invitation to the GameFly Client as they call it, so I gladly installed the application to check it out for myself. As an avid and possibly addicted member of Valve’s Steam, I was curious to see how a competitor approached the PC digital distribution game.

GameFly’s big selling point is the “unlimited PC play” for members of their mail service. This new service gives members unlimited access to a large library of PC games, and you can install and play as many as you want, whenever you want, so long as you’re still an active member of GameFly. Sounds awesome, right?

No, Battlefield 3 is not available for free unlimited play.

No, Battlefield 3 is not available for free unlimited play.

Well, the selection of “unlimited play” PC games is definitely substantial, but is unfortunately not very interesting. Pretty much all the available titles fall into one of two categories: games that are several years old, or crappy games that you’ve probably never heard of. Not that those are necessarily bad things, but if you think you’ll get to play some recent big-budget release without buying it at full price, don’t get your hopes up.

The actual process of installing and playing an “unlimited play” game is overly involved and complicated compared to the relative simplicity of Steam’s. These are the steps you have to take before you can start playing your game:

  1. Click “Download Now” to initiate the game download
  2. Verify your account by entering your GameFly password
  3. After waiting for the game to download, click “Install Now” to install the game
  4. Click “Play Now” to activate the game before being allowed to play

It’s kind of a pain in the butt. The upsides are the ability to play the games even when the GameFly client isn’t running (which can’t be done in Steam), and uninstalling the games is not nearly so laborious.

I ended up playing this game longer than I intended while testing the client.

I ended up playing this game longer than I intended while testing the client.

The GameFly PC client has features for buying games from the GameFly store and for managing your GameQ, where you add games to receive in the mail. You can also watch videos and read video game news from Shacknews, which is owned by GameFly. The whole client looks slick and attractive, which isn’t surprising as it’s an Adobe AIR application. This also means it’s quite the resource hog for the minimal amount of functionality it actually provides. Since the GameFly website can perform every action that the PC client can except for downloading the unlimited PC play games, the PC client feels kind of unnecessary and mostly redundant. The selection of unlimited play PC games is unfortunately not interesting enough to make this a recommendation, unless you happen to be particularly interested in a certain PC game that is available in the program.

Maybe the GameFly PC client will be worth another look in the future when GameFly can work out deals with publishers to get more interesting PC titles in the unlimited play program. For now, I’m uninstalling it from my computer.

Review: The Binding of Isaac

You'd cry too if your mom was trying to kill you.

You'd cry too if your mom was trying to kill you.

In the biblical account of the binding of Isaac, Isaac is not so much a character as he is a plot device. He accompanies his father Abraham on a test of faith – God wants Abraham to sacrifice his son to prove he fears God. Isaac remains passive throughout, even as his own dad ties him up and raises a knife over his helpless body. The Isaac of Edmund McMillen and Florian Himsl’s account is a little bit more proactive.

Your quest in The Binding of Isaac is to guide Isaac as he attempts to escape the misguided zealotry of his mother. You’ll travel through his house’s basement, which seems to be connected to hell itself. Along the way you’ll encounter numerous terrifying creatures and other oddities that can help or hamper you in your quest for freedom.

The game plays like Robotron: 2084 mixed with a Zelda adventure. You can only shoot in the four cardinal directions, and your projectiles and stats can be upgraded through items found in the dungeons. You’ll never quite have the same game twice, as enemy placement, room layouts, item drops and secrets are all randomized heavily. With so many variables in play, conquering the game is as much a game of luck as it is skill. Finding the right gifts out of dozens of possible items will definitely factor heavily in a successful run, with each new item appearing on poor Isaac’s horrified face and body. After several such upgrades, Isaac usually bears closer resemblance to the antagonistic grotesqueries of the depths than the innocent child he began as.

With its roguelike influences so readily apparent, you can expect to fail – a lot. No save system exists here, which is fine since a complete run through Isaac’s basement is not very long. The Binding of Isaac delivers a compact experience in about half-hour bite-size chunks, making it the perfect length as the curious diversion it is.

The art looks like something out of a Flash game, because it is. It might not be much to look at it in still screenshots, but in motion everything comes alive with the sick creativity of McMillen’s imagination. Horrors lurk in every room, and the disgusting creatures within the hellish atmosphere are simultaneously gross and amusing. This is not a game for the kids. The excellent soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky adds to the uneasy tone.

One of the disadvantages of the Flash technology powering the game is that everything runs off the CPU rather than a dedicated graphics device. This means that even with an above-average system, you may run into a lot of slowdown in some of the busier rooms. Ironically, this actually tends to work to your advantage as the dozens of flying projectiles become much easier to dodge in slow motion.

I’m not sure what statement if any McMillen was attempting to make with The Binding of Isaac, or if the source material was merely inspiration for his own twisted vision. It’s an endearing game, as odd as that may seem, and a great value at its $5 asking price. You may find yourself coming back to it again and again, because surprises still remain in abundance even after you’ve seen one of the endings. It’s not for the faint of heart or the easily frustrated, but those who persevere will be rewarded with a unique and unforgettable experience.

4 out of 5

Review: Resident Evil 4 HD

Resident Evil 4 HD

You're looking the wrong way, Leon!

After outings on the GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Wii, Resident Evil 4 finds life yet again on new platforms, this time in HD as a downloadable title on PSN and XBLA. While it’s mostly intact with all of the additional content of its subsequent re-releases, this modern update of the classic game still feels a bit lacking.

The biggest issue with RE4HD is the controls. Sure, you can play with the original control scheme for the PS2, and they even included a slightly more contemporary control scheme that emulates other console shooters’. However, the new control scheme doesn’t go far enough, and will still feel alien to gamers accustomed to the dual-stick trigger-button combo found in practically every recent shooter.

For example, the left stick is used for both movement and aiming the reticle, while the right stick can only shift the camera around when you’re not precision aiming. Even though you can’t move while aiming, a concession of eastern game design that I am willing to overlook due to the game’s age, forcing the player to line up headshots with the same input used to run away from the infected feels awkward and makes the controls feel imbalanced… Like your right hand doesn’t have enough to keep it busy while your left hand works overtime.

I’ll admit it: I first played Resident Evil 4 on the Nintendo Wii, which had its own unique control scheme to capitalize on the motion controller craze of the time, and I felt that it was a strong example of the great potential for engaging motion controls – a potential that was sadly not lived up to by the Wii’s library or its competitive successors’. Either way, using the Wii remote to pick off Las Plagas was fun and felt fairly natural. Why then, does RE4HD not support PlayStation 3’s Move controller, which is essentially a more powerful Wii remote?

Issues such as the controls, ugly textures, framerate slowdown and standard-definition pre-rendered videos are all evidence that this is a lazy port. If this was being handled by any company other than Capcom, I might have held out hope that it would be updated in the future to address these problems. Sadly, that is not the case, and it’s hard to recommend Resident Evil 4 HD at its $20 asking price, unless you’re already dead set on buying it anyway. If that’s the case, then you will definitely find the game itself and all its extra content a satisfying package. It’s just a shame that a game as great as RE4 didn’t receive the loving attention it deserves for a high-definition update.

3 out of 5