Like many others I was one of those who sat up waiting for the clock to strike midnight and the servers opened. It felt almost magical, the expectations were high, and the wait was almost tedious. But the clock struck, the servers opened and were of course flooded. Being realistic about it, I had been expecting this to happen and was as such not put off by it, so after a couple of hundred login attempts and ~45 min later I was in! I came prepared and already knew prehand what class I would play, my monk strode forth into a demon filled world, ready to deliver righteus slaugher to the forces of evil! Everything was new and exciting, I let myself get pulled in by the world and the story. Leveling up and finding better items on a regular basis was entertaining and enough to keep me engaged.
Having vanquished diablo not once, nor twice but three whole times (normal, nightmare and hell), I of course had to try for the fourth time. I started out on inferno, ready for the pain I hoped it would bring, and it sure did! First champion pack and I had to give up. But not to worry still filled with enthusiasm, I knew this was a grind game, and we weren't expected to be able to tackle inferno straight out of hell. So back to hell difficulity, grinded diablo for a couple of days (4-6 hours of playtime), and tried inferno once again. This time I actually made some progress, rescued poor old Decard Cain, but I still had problems, the going was slow and many deaths was suffered. Now slightly put off, but not ready to give up, I went to the forums to see if anyone had some tips on builds and strategies for my monk. This is where I was for the first time really put off, for while people where discussing how to best handle inferno as a monk, I also saw how people was already talking about how to handle is as a wizard or a demon hunter, and the tone was obvious different. For them, it seemed, the question wasn't how to even be able to survive long enough to get a hit or two in, but rather how to do it the fastest. Basicly the discusion had turned from survivability to optimal damage output. Okay, I started out knowing ranged classes would probably have the advantage, but the more I read the more disheartened I felt.
What I'm talking about was the Smoke Screen and Force Armor abuses, they have since then of course been fixed, but this the main reason why I decided to take a break from diablo, the first time.
A couple of weeks passed, patches had rolled out, the fields were evened out, so I decided to give it another try. I've afterall been waiting years for this game to come out, and from my experiences in diablo 2 I knew this genre had the potential for entertaining me for months if not years to come. So once again I logged in, and started out with my monk once more. The idea was to at least get through act 1, as by now most people seemed to say act 1 was easy enough, but act 2 was where it really became hard. I spend a million or two of gold on the auction house and got my gear up by a large margin, since there were a lot of people already in act 3 and 4, the gear needed to tackle act 1 was very cheap. I quickly started farming Leoric, played with some friends and even got the butcher down. All was good progress was slow but steady, I still felt like I actually got something out of playing. Even the few attempts at act 2, and getting masacred, didn't put me off. As mentioned earlier I knew this was going to be a grind game with some heavy gear checks along the way. So I farmed, and farmed and after that I farmed some more. I got a few items worth selling on the AH made a couple of million gold, but didn't really spend it on anything notable as I wasn't sure what was really good yet and was holding off till things became clearer to me.
Farming first leoric and later the butcher was okay, an item or two worth selling a day seemed okay. A steady income for my character, while hoping that I would find that 'perfect' rolled rare that would allow me to finally progress in act 2, or at least sell it for millions of gold and buy the gear I needed. Alas that was not to happen. Rares rarely dropped, and when they did it was mostly items of below level 60 (Judged by the level required to use them). I then realized I would probably never get the item I was hoping for in act 1, seeing as how the really good items only dropped in act 3 and 4. Having read that act 3 wasn't that much harder than act 2, I buckled up and started getting through it. Bought some gear of the AH and went forth, and actually found it easier than expected, all the people on the forums crying about it, and my own previous though short experience, had set the bar for my expections high. Once more there were progress to be seen, with a mix of group play and solo grind I slowly got through it. Only had to spend ~2 hours on Belial to get the fight down to perfection, as that was needed for me to win it, any single hit could kill me with a crit, it was tense. Finally I was in act 3.
I had no expectations to do well in act 3, but just the possibility of a good drop was enough to keep me farming the normal mobs and the occasional easy champion or rare pack. The killing was slow and tedious, death was almost guarenteed, and the drops were few and far. A friend had introduced me to the item level system, and reading up a bit on what people reccomended of your gear for act 3 and 4, I knew I was falling short of those reccomendations. I now had two options, I could either farm act 3 very slowly and hope for some ilvl 63 drops, or go back to act 1 and farm a lot of ilvl 60 items and buy the gear I needed from the AH. I did a mix of both, simply because either was boring to do in any lengthy amount of time. The realization that the gear I needed for farm act 3 and progress to act 4, meant I had to get 'perfect' act 1 gear or decent act 3 and 4 gear was too much however. I could either spend thousands of hours in act 1 and use the AH or thousands of hours slowly killing in act 3 and hoping the gear I needed would drop.
This and the still present class differences meant I in the end gave up. I'd now given the game two chances, one right as it came out, and one after a few patches, I just couldn't see it moving towards something I would find enjoyable. Several people I knew were already farming act 3 or 4 with their characters, and it didn't feel like they could relate to my problems, they had gone straight from hell into inferno, they had had no problems with act 1, they hadn't have to farm act 1 for days just to get though act 2. Or so it seemed, and yes by this time I was already having some very negative feelings about the game. Of course they could find me the gear I needed, but not only would it defeat my own goals with the game, it would feel like using a cheat. So goodbye diablo, once again.
I hadn't planned on coming back to this game, but with the release of patch 1.04, I started paying it attention once more. I read the patch noted for this and the few patches since I last played, and I must say I approved of the direction the game was now taking. We seemed to finally have moved out of the initial testing phase and into a proper game. This and my now completely shattered expectations to the game, meant I could start out fresh. No idealistic hopes, no years of build up, nothing another failure could ruin. For me, this game could only go up, and it seemed like it just might do that.
So once again I logged in to battle.net, and rolled out my, by now somewhat dusty, monk (Yes I'm somewhat fanatical about my character). Blizzard had fixed the biggest issues I previously had with the game, I could now actually get the gear in act 1, and classes were playing on a more even field. I could with, for the first time, play my monk with hopes of actually getting something done. And my did the game play brilliantly...
I finally felt like my class was getting somewhere usable, I finally felt like my endless butcher runs weren't endless, I finally could do farm runs with the smallest of hopes to get that one drop. I think we all know the feeling of hoping for that drop, it is the reason we play this game, it is like gambling, only we dont have to pay to play, well not anymore than our time and the initial cost of the game. I remember the rush I felt when I saw the first ilvl 63 item, it was even okay that it was total crap, in my eyes I could win just as much as the best of players, only I would get fewer chances for my time, but that is where the sense of progress is. Having the new Paragon levels added on top of that helped even more, now I didn't feel like I had wasted 40 min after a run with no drops worth mentioning, I had still gained some experience. Maybe in a few weeks I will get tired of it again, but I feel fairly confident I wont get any hopes crushed once more, no, now I can play the game, I can enjoy it, and if I choose to stop again, it will be for outside reasons.
I still feel like there are more ways in which Blizzard can improve the game, but at least now it feels like they are doing something right. Would love to see more skills being buffed so they become usable, I'm sure fellow monk players now what I'm talking about, and I'm just as sure that the other classes have skills that are outright useless. Crafting might also need another lookover, and some other small things might need some numbers adjusted. But we are getting there! Another major patch or two and I think the saddest part of the game will be the multitude of players, who like me, quit the game early on.