Friday, May 18, 2012

Episode 35: Diablo

Welcome to Roguelike Radio episode 35, where we discuss the Diablo series. Talking this episode are Darren Grey, Andrew Doull, Ido Yehieli and Keith Burgun. You can download the mp3 of the podcast, play it in the embedded player below, or you can follow us on iTunes.



Topics discussed this week include:
- Is Diablo: A single unit RTS? A roguelike? An opiate of the people? A slot machine? A pool table? Coke(tm)?
- What makes a game memorable?
- Diablo-likes, including Torchlight I and II, Sacred and Sacred 2, the Sacred auto-updater, and Borderlands
- Loot, hardcore mode, and the music
- Click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click, click....

78 comments:

  1. Clickety click.

    I wonder if I ever manage to get to this episode. The backlog just keeps growing. ¯\(°_o)/¯

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  2. I can give a rundown/review of every episode if you wanted...ha! I've transcribed a few for friends. :-)

    I've not listened to this one yet, and I'm sure I'll have copious amounts to say, but for now I'll say these 2 things.

    1. No John Harris? :-) From his writing this game seems like something he could speak on for days and days.

    2. My personal take on Diablo in general is that I like it. I dislike the roguelike elements in it. The game is too linear, so the procedural elements do not add replayability or anything interesting at all. I like it for the same reasons I like WoW. Not for the gaming but for the opportunity to go kill stuff with my buddies, and pick up shinies. For that purpose it surpasses Wow by a great deal. When it gets competitive PvP up and running it will eclipse WoW in all ways for my gaming group...Yes, I game in a group. Roguelikes are the only single player games I play. We co-op FPS games (MW3 right now) and for competition online we do WoW arenas. I've had a top level character on WoW for years and NEVER been in a raid. We narrowly focus on arena competition only.

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    1. "I've transcribed a few for friends. :-)"

      If you want to make any of these available, please let us know and we'll be happy to host them.

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    2. I seem to have deleted them or misplaced them. There have been a few HD clean ups in recent weeks. I asked the friend I sent them to if he still had them. His reply?

      "Well I just deleted them, I didn't really have much interest. Sorry."

      You can imagine my fury. I type fast so it wasn't too difficult to do but still it takes me about 2x the episode time to do. I typed them so my friend could practice reading english (He's Korean).

      I should force him to make some comments from the Korean perspective, as penance. The Koreans LOVE Blizzard games. It's nearly fanatical over there with Star Craft. They freakin' televise top level games, and hold games in soccer arenas some times.

      During this episode there was an allusion that SCII is just SC in HD. Lol. OF COURSE IT IS! For what it was SC is nearly perfect in the eyes of many.

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    3. If you e-mailed the files to your friend then are they backed up in your sent items folder?

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  3. It seems to me like you guys are starting to really head down the road of game design elitism. I think you should really consider the fact that, to a non roguelike player, most roguelikes are slot machines. You play the game a bunch, and sometimes get lucky and get the rare loot that lets you get further than before. This system is still there even for veteran players. Obviously this doesn't apply to all roguelikes, but you know it's there. You can also take a look at some classic roguelikes in terms of difficulty, where they are so easy and trivial for veteran players that they have to invent challenges to keep it interesting. Games are for enjoyment (debatable) so what is the problem with a game that keeps you interested so much that you play for a long time? To me, that sounds like a successful game, and an example of good game design. Roguelikes also have the carrot on a stick system where getting to level X and seeing the new enemy or mechanic keeps you coming back. All games come down to having some element that the player wants to see that keeps them coming back to the game. If it wasn't there then people wouldn't keep playing (except for artistic or social reasons etc).

    I find this episode particularly strange because *so many* elements of dungeon crawling rpgs are shared in common with roguelikes. Likewise, difficulty and strategy occur in the diablos. These concepts are subjective, so to say they do not occur or occur at different rates is necessarily subjective. You can have just as much fun planning out skill builds as you can choosing which item to enchant in brogue, if that floats your boat. I think the advantage in a game like diablo 3, which i don't recall being mentioned is that *in addition* to these elements you have a combat system that can be fun and engaging, rather than our thrilling "press right until enemy is dead" style.

    I realize that in some ways this podcast is a natural result of the incredibly cold and elitist group that is the roguelike community, but perhaps you could keep a more open mind about how genres you don't like can still be legitimate genres?

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    1. I totally disagree that most roguelikes are slot machines. I find that roguelikes are continually challenging my skill. Whether or not I am able to identify the "critical moment", as John Harris puts it, is the skill of Roguelike games. They are hard and involve interesting decisions (not often enough maybe, but they are there, unlike with Diablo).

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    2. See you've hit on my exact complaint, and to be honest i think you are the worst offender. Roguelikes are continually challenging TO YOU. Diablo offers no challenges TO YOU. This doesn't mean that you can make large sweeping statements about how these games ARE, because those statements are entirely subjective. It depends on your personal experiences with games. I would agree with ido below that the real design mistake is not making harder difficulty modes available from the get-go for people who want to start off with a better challenge, but tbh i find the diablo 3 normal mode to not be completely trivial (although I imagine it depends on what class you choose). To me, roguelikes are 1 part chance and 1 part choice. On the contrary, diablo games are entirely choice based, because the loot (while shiny) is pretty much completely meaningless. A good player can survive with terrible loot in a diablo-like, but this is not true in a roguelike at all. In most roguelikes you are heavily the slave of the rng. I realize this idea is incredibly threatening to roguelike fanboys but it is nonetheless the truth.

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    3. So... you're saying other people find Diablo challenging? The reason I said this as a blanket statement was that in my estimation, the idea that Diablo could be challenging is logically impossible, since there is no logically complete-able goal and no state of failure. Right? Like, the illogical goal of Diablo, as it's normally played, is to "GATHER MORE +1s!". At what point do you ever have "more +1s" though? It's not a condition which can be fulfilled.

      So if the goal is not something that can be fulfilled, how can you say that the game is difficult? I guess probably one possibility is that we have a different idea of what the word "difficult" means. I'm interested in continuing that conversation.

      I do think that roguelikes are too random, on that we agree. However, I don't think the choices players make in Diablo actually have a meaning.

      The entire system of Diablo is a foregone conclusion. While I may be wrong (and look forward to you showing me how), I am making this statement objectively; I'm not interested in subjective matters (and I can't imagine why anyone else would be).

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    4. I would say that goals are half game, half player. For instance, someone mentioned that there is an achievement for beating some boss in diablo 3 without any armor equipped. That is the kind of goal that makes "difficulty" highly player-dependent. Someone who plays the game "normally" might come away thinking it was easy, while another player might explain how they thoroughly enjoyed a lot of challenges. That type of thing is why I think you can't really talk about the difficulty of a game in an attribute type of way where we say x game has difficulty y. The type of choices wrt diablo-likes are skill or combat based, such as "do i back away, move to the left, use skill a or b" etc. Once again, the way the player plays the game (and their goals) is going to dramatically change how meaningful this choice becomes. If we are going to define something like a "difficulty" in terms of "expected play" or "ideal play" then I might agree with you, but I prefer to think that most games are unique to each player to some extent. This is certainly more apparent in roguelikes where the game literally is unique each time it is played, but I think it shows up in most genres, to an extent.

      In terms of gathering being the goal of diablo, I have to disagree. That is one possible goal, but when I play these games i usually completely disregard the loot aspect. When I get something better i naturally equip it, but since I know it is pretty irrelevant, it's not really a short or long-term goal for me. I play these games to get to the end and beat them, and then I'm done. Certainly there are people that will keep heading down the infinite gear scaling up path, but again I think that is highly player-dependent.

      You also mentioned the idea of no state of failure, but you can define any game to the point where there is no state of failure. Take a roguelike: since experience gained in a playthru increases my chances of winning, death isn't really a failure state. Indeed it is a natural part of gameplay. It is just a checkpoint on the way to victory. Similarly, death in the diablos isn't really a failure state, it just means you have more experience with the thing that killed you.

      This type of thing makes me wonder why permadeath is actually fun in roguelikes, because I think it would certainly be terrible in long games like diablo. I mean it is basically creating a situation where you have to replay the levels you know only to be killed by something unexpected you had no knowledge of. Assuming you don't purposefully make the wrong choice in a roguelike, you lose because you guessed wrong. That seems like the kind of thing that would be a real annoyance, and yet it somehow works out. For me, i think it is the comedy of the bizarre death or unlucky situation, and that lofty chance of actually succeeding, that keeps me coming back. But this is what I mean when I think, however slim, there is actually more challenge in diablo-likes, because you *can* boil them down to a player-skill game, but roguelikes are entirely about gambling with things you are unsure of. The "skill" people talk about in roguelikes to me is entirely taking place in the metagame, where you as a person try to piece together the information you have learned and make semi-informed decisions across many lives.

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  4. Kraflab: I find it particularly strange because *so many* elements of dungeon crawling rpgs are shared in common with roguelikes, and yet they feel like such different games. We tried to address this in the podcast without coming up with a particularly satisfactory answer, as well as the touched on the risk of charges of elitism that you're trying to pin to us.

    I'm particularly surprised given how much time I spend defending Angband, that such a superficially similar game type does very little for me (mild addiction to Torchlight aside). I think my biggest problem with Diablo and their ilk is the control scheme. I'd be much happier if they went down the path of providing a crouch roll and more traditional WASD/thumbstick style movement - that is, commit to being real time games. And yet the Binding of Isaac gets it so right, where Diablo II just completely fails to.

    And I think "incredibly cold and elitist group" might be exaggerating things a little.

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    1. perhaps it is the amount of random and surprising situations that arise. I don't have much experience with angband, but i will say despite "random" maps the diablos are missing that sense of surprise or shock. You usually know when things are going to go bad, where the boss is, how hard an enemy is, etc. Wrt the cold/elite, I've seen people (a well known developer in fact) actually express a desire to make their games difficult to play for the sole purpose of keeping people away from this genre! Such a thing is mind boggling to me.

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    2. The cold/elite description is probably an accurate description of some members in any small community. This is a product of human nature. When people feel like they are part of their own special little community they will sometimes fight to keep it that way. By allowing outsiders to join there is the risk that the community will change; alienating some members.

      As for the hostility towards Diablo and its ilk, I understand it completely. Some of us are simply offended by what we see as exploitation of human nature. By engaging in this type of game design, Blizzard sinks to the level of a casino in ethical standards.

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    3. I think perhaps the cash auction house is the last straw in this department, but in terms of game design I don't see a real problem. I mean I think it is fun, but I wouldn't get "addicted" so to say. So is blizzard evil: yes, but that isn't a game design error or fault. The designers created a game, *Blizzard* is using that game to exploit people. FYI roguelikes can be just as addicting to people. Perhaps you just don't see that much because the shear number of people playing wow or diablo certainly overshadows it.

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    4. The difference is that Roguelikes don't try to be addictive (or at least the ones I like don't). As an example, read the philosophy of Crawl:

      http://crawl.develz.org/other/manual.html#n-philosophy-pas-de-faq

      As you can see, it's extremely different from Diablo. Blizzard's philosophy seems to be about maximizing the addictive factors (Skinner box reward cycle) and minimizing anything that might slow the player down (complex choices, meaningful consequences).

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    5. There is naturally a large difference between a hobbyist free game and a massive commercial blockbuster. What I'm getting at here is that if roguelikes were more mainstream there would probably be a huge blockbuster roguelike that was highly addictive. This is probably some of the reason why people want to keep the community tight. The point is that you shouldn't label the genre as addicting/evil. That is more a matter of modern video games in general. Of course with the specific example of diablo I completely agree with you in their intent.

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    6. I still don't quite understand what you're getting at. My argument has to do with intent and the execution of that intent. "Huge blockbuster" games are intended to have as broad appeal as possible. Such a goal has nothing to do (and some would say is in conflict) with advancing the art of game design.

      I suppose you could argue that the philosophy of some portion of the Roguelike community (no matter how large) has nothing to do with the definition of the word Roguelike and I might have to agree with you. Unfortunately, I don't have a label for games which meet the arbitrary criteria of such a philosophy.

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    7. Kraflab: I don't think we made any sweeping statements about the genre of action RPGs, just Diablo itself. I know Andrew at least is a fan of Torchlight. Also none of us denied that Diablo is itself a roguelike - I made the point that it's just a very bad roguelike, with all the strengths of the genre downplayed or badly implemented (like the random content being too unvaried and predictable). Diablo *is* the huge mainstream blockbuster roguelike. And it sucks :P

      I don't deny some people enjoy it, but many people play roguelikes specifically as a challenging and engaging alternative to the boring AAA games. Our opinions should not be surprising to roguelike fans. And yes, I think we're all aware of how negative an image roguelikes have to those outside the genre :) We'd like that to improve, and Diablo has some lessons on interface to take note of, but even on that front I think there are better lessons to be learned from the likes of ToME4.

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    8. Diablo 3 seemed to at least have gone ahead with a much better control scheme than any diabloesque game before it, you can now control all the action with just one hand (I wonder whatever can you do with the other? :P) -- using the mouse ofcourse! DUH!

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    9. Darren: you know, ironically enough, diablo 3 feels a lot like tome4 to me. Abilities make the combat fun, interesting, and strategic with their variety, but the random generation itself seems boring and uninspired to me.

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    10. Well ToME4 quite deliberately copies the likes of WoW for interface smoothness, and the whole cooldown abilities system is very reminiscent in all of these games. ToME4 is turn-based though, and its interface is much better set out for the sort of complicated game you can have when you remove the real-time necessity for constant action. It also has a much more customisable interface than many games that try to streamline too much.

      For a single player experience I can't understand why any roguelike fan would choose Diablo 3 over ToME4. Especially when you consider price and DRM woes.

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  5. I forgot to mention one advantage of diablo at the end: it's very easy to just start playing it, in terms of UI/UX & the game just easing you into it very smoothly.

    This is something that many roguelikes suffer from, so maybe they can take some pointers from it in that department.

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  6. Magicka is similar to Diablo but has a genuine skill mechanism - the keyboard combinations used to cast spells. This can be somewhat hacked around by just looking up the wiki and finding some super combinations.

    Picture magicka, with a more ruthless skill balancing (particularly to remove the general purpose power moves and the heavy weaponry), and then built on procedural content. This could be an evolution of roguelikes, and could be played multiplayer.

    Also, Magicka has a cheeky sense of humour - something that's often found in roguelikes.

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  7. The reason I like Diablo as a series is because I became hooked on the 2nd game and then I became hooked on the story of the setting. The story is very cool to me, even if the gameplay isn't much different from Gauntlet or whatever. The fact that it's a Skinner Box with fancy graphics just helps you get through the game until you can hear the cool new story bit.

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    1. I'd have to say I'm exactly the opposite. I HATE the linearity of forced plot points. Hate it. It is the main reason Diablo fails as a roguelike.

      I do like the game though, I just skip through the cut scenes and text. I like the cooperative factor, the smashing and the spectacle.

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    2. Diablo stopped being a roguelike from D2, when the sometimes unrealistic proc. generated corridors/rooms were exchanged for proc. generated 'set pieces'.

      It is even more so in D3 where such set pieces are required due to the epic scope (if you played act III you would understand what I mean, didn't wanna offer any spoilers). What it loses in replayability (exchanged for randomly placed events instead), it gains in realism and theme. I don't think there was a single environment in D3 that did not feel to me like it 'made sense' from a building/architecture perspective.

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    3. I like narrative focused games but haven't found the Diablos to be very compelling for this compared with other games. In particular they lack NPCs that one can actually care about. There are lots of other games with great stories that also have interesting gameplay.

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  8. I would like to add two things that exist in Diablo that go well beyond the 'skinner box'.

    First, it did not sound like any of the participants (apologies if mistaken) had any real deep experience in D2 beyond the 'normal' mode (and I don't count Keith experience with a limied Beta of D3 satisfactory either). At higher difficulty levels there is a definite tactical challenge both at both the micro (since enemies will not only be more numerous and resilient, but also have various special abilities - not unlike how brogue is designed) and the macro/meta level (requiring a change of build). You simply CANNOT easily click or grind your way through the much higher difficulties - god knows I tried. The D3 video Keith was talking about ("D3 will kick your ass") is making it perfectly clear - Normal mode is for 'k(l)icking it with your mates', and higher difficulty levels require much more thought. Certainly, it is not the level of depth that - shall we say 'Tome4' has, but it is not merely a slot machine.

    Second, Diablo franchise (D2 in particular) was always about the agonic struggle between you and every other player. It is not merely getting that next +1 sword, but rather showing that your +2 sword is better than someone else's +1 sword. This was to an extent facilitated by a ladder system - the game was about proving you were the top dog in the hellish proving grounds, and Hardcore certainly WAS popular amongst the hardcore (not as popular as the default mode, obviously). In fact, I know of some roguelikes that have taken that same approach - one could see it with the tournament mode that Crawl has (achievements and all) which completely changes the nature of the game (now I am just waiting for a Tome4 Tournament mode...one could only hope).

    Having said that, this was about the participants reflection on their experience - hence it would be quite subjective.

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    1. I don't accept the "it's good once you get through the bad part" explanation - a game should be from the get go, or give me the option to be good from the get go.

      I'm not going to invest 40+ hours trudging through mindless gameplay just to earn my right to play a good game - there are plenty of games that are good right off the bat.

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    2. Oops...got cut off. You can finish through ACT 1 in 2 hours,
      (in fact there is an achievement for finishing under an hour, so it must be feasible). About plenty of games that are better than D3 - I agree, but I have yet to see a game that is of that same style that is better than it (maybe TL2 or POE, but I'll have to assess when they come out). So for anyone who is looking for a high production value ARPG, I can't think of any other recommendation (and I don't think graphically modded Dwarf Fortress Adventurer mode will necessarily cut it).


      But anyways, I wasn't talking about D3 in particular, but rather the franchise in general, and if I recall D1/D2 were very tough from the get go.

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    3. Ido, I think it is totally legitimate for you to complain that it doesn't ramp up to the style of difficulty and complexity you like in a game quick enough. I think Abe's point is that we can't say that Diablo games require no skill and are simply slot machine loot drop games if we haven't actually given them the chance to show their depth. I agree that starting slow (or not giving the player a choice to start faster) is a design mistake, but it doesn't warrant dismissing the entirety of the game as evil and its player base as stupid mindless drones.

      This is ESPECIALLY true if what Diablo is accomplishing is in fact exactly what you guys want games to accomplish. If it is a slow difficulty curve that gets more casual gamers to a state where they have to push themselves and play smart to improve, isn't that exactly what you want out of a game? I've seen a lot of friends who hardly ever play games get through the highest difficulty in Diablo 2. From what I understand (haven't gotten there myself), that's a somewhat significant challenge. Congrats to Blizzard for getting players to want to take on that challenge.

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    4. Unknown - not given them time to show their depth? As I've said I played diablo 1 to exhaustion. I clocked 10s or 100s of hours in it, maybe more.

      At the very least I feel comfortable saying that D1 never gets really deep.

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    5. I second Ido about D1, but only D1 :P

      Re: difficulty, it is a moot discussion - plenty of roguelikes offer no challenge at the first few levels. Brogue which is extremely challenging, is pretty much an auto-pilot breeze through levels 1-10 (once you know what you are doing), and 1-4 if you are playing blind. There is a current minimalist design fad going on at the moment where everything has to be subjectively good from the get go (books, movies, games). I feel this does not do service to types of work that do require a lot more commitment and involvement. I have read plenty of books that I did not enjoy for the first 100 pages but then became an instant favorite of mine. Sometimes the depth (and in games could be difficulty) takes time to develop.

      And for everyone who believes that HC mode in Diablo is for sissies (I am being confrontational here on purpose), and that both Inferno (or hell in D2)/Inferno on HC for that matter can be breezed through simply by grinding and no intelligent play - I pose a challenge to prove it, otherwise it is nothing but unsubstantiated design theory and does great disservice to those who have tried.

      You don't actually have to do it yourself, but bring enough anecdotal evidence that it can actually be done (youtube LP can be sufficient). I am hoping to try it myself once I finish it on normal mode, but until then - I am not convinced.

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  9. How about this then...its good from part 2 of Act 1? :)

    If you want a challenge play a Wizard with no companion so you don't share the XP, would be challenging at normal from the get go.

    Challenge is subjective anyways, for our kind of company - sure it could be a walk in the park, but some people find going up/down the stairs in a RL challenging (I believe brogue even made that an automatic action in the recent version).

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  10. Don't forget to try out the more boiled down version of Diablo 3, BLACK SWF: http://www.dinofarmgames.com/blackswf.html

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    1. And for those that want a hybrid: http://roguebasin.roguelikedevelopment.org/index.php/Zero-Player_Game

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    2. Keith...no rewards when you reach every prime number? Doesn't really drive your point then :P

      I did click to a hundred just to see if anything interesting would happen...kind disappointed :(

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    3. Abe - every number is a reward!

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    4. I believe the biggest thing missing from the analogy is that there isn't a random change to get a /better/ number.

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    5. yes...I was hoping for some l33t l00t...maybe have a random chance (low drop chance) for the number to jump ahead. E.g 1,2,3,4, 10!, 11, 12, etc.

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    6. HAHAHAHAHAH THIS IS HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!

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  11. FATE wasn't mentioned. It's a smaller more limited Diablo-like with more Roguelike elements (no class, skill based, one random length dungeon and random boss monster).

    Check it out for some quick fun. It has an option to retire your character after you beat the boss. Then you can pass on an item to your next character (your heir). The item receives a bunch of bonuses when it is bequeathed.

    Neat little game. I currently have heirloomed the same ring over and over to the point that all of the bonuses on the ring no longer fit on the screen all at one time.

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    1. There's a few Diablo-likes we didn't mention: just those that we had experience with. I'm quite keen to explore Depths of Peril and Din's Curse once I've had a solid play through those; in order to see what extra depth (if any) their designs contribute.

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    2. Andrew, you also forgotten one of the better ones of the time which was absolutely NOT a RL (I believe nothing but items was proc. generated) but incorporated diabloesque gameplay - I am talking about Divine Divinity which can be seen as a Baldur's Gate meets Diablo hybrid.

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  12. I have to agree that this was a slightly elitist episode. I do agree that roguelikes pose a mich bigger challenge and give the player a lot of choices. Diablo and Torchlight are a lot more casual, but to me personally they are a lot of fun (haven't played D3 yet though). I can sit back and play without having to focus too much on the game. I can make a mistake and not lose everything, as would be the case if it was a roguelike.

    I'm also aware that WoW and MMO's are frowned upon by a lot of the RL community, but a game like WoW will surely punish you for making a mistake if you are playing the game in a raid setting together with 9 or 24 other players. It's a different kind of challenge than a roguelike, but it is a challenge, and at times a damn hard one.

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    1. I think the label of elitist is a bit unfair when several people have admitted to clocking up 100s of hours on the games. It's not like we're labelling these games worthless from afar. Also I don't think any of the opinions expressed should be in any way surprising... A great number of roguelikes players are specifically attracted to this genre to get away from the mindless AAA games that offer no challenge or interesting gameplay.

      WoW may have its own challenges, but it is wrapped up in all the grind and monotony of the rest of the game. Many say the same things about certain roguelikes of course, and we don't shy away from pointing this out as something we consider a design flaw. Amongst both the dev and player communities this is pretty well accepted, with strong efforts to minimise grind in games like Crawl.

      Also I have to wonder how many expressive Diablo fans have actually played the game recently, rather than just remembering with fondness their days of dungeon scouring with friends as a teenager. Would you put up with the clickfest these days?

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    2. Hey, anytime anyone says anything bad about anything, they could be called elitist.

      If you agreed with us, you wouldn't be calling us elitist.

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    3. Ok, ok, so my comment was slightly harsh and I apologize for that. It was the thing with comparing to addiction and drug abuse that made me react. I've experienced both drug abuse and gambling and it really got me going when I heard those things compared to playing Diablo on a regular basis.

      And regarding elitist, I meant in the first out of three different definitions on wikipedia: "Elitism is the belief or attitude that some individuals, who form an elite — a select group of people with intellect, wealth, specialized training or experience, or other distinctive attributes — are those whose views on a matter are to be taken the most seriously or carry the most weight". I got the feeling of "we know best and we will rid the world of mindless games".

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    4. Would you call us elitist if we made these points about FarmVille?

      Also I don't think we can be said to be a select group - we're just some randoms throwing a podcast together. I freely admit to being a complete amateur when it comes to developing games. Anything I express is purely my opinion, not the be all and end all of game design. I can perhaps be a rude, opinionated jerk, but that certainly doesn't make me part of any elite :)

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    5. Dunno, haven't played FarmVille :-) But honestly, I am intrigued by any game that manages to attract "the masses". The game in question might be boring and trivial, but the fact remains, it's played by millions. It's the psychology behind all that, the virality (is that a word?), the way it is designed to give a steady steam of small rewards (compare to a slotmachine).

      I am also equally fascinated by niche genres like roguelikes. If you look at it with the casual gamer hat on roguelikes are the most obscure and hard to understand games and yet they have a very dedicated following and the term roguelike is popping up both here and there. It is fascinating and it's part of why I love roguelikes. I admit that I played them a lot more in my youth, but I still love them!

      And please forget the whole "elitist" thing. I got caught up in some of what the previous posters wrote and added to that the comment about dug addiction that really hit a nerve.

      Keep up the good work and let's talk more at IRDC!

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    6. Heh, well, I find the whole "mass market appeal" thing less interesting. McDonalds has mass market appeal. Not that I don't enjoy their produce on occasion, but if I wanted to open a restaurant it's not the first thing I'd want to copy. Yes, there are interface things to learn and such, but I'd rather look for good examples within my own genre if I want valuable lessons.

      Also it was kinda enjoyable to talk negatively about a game I dislike and have solid criticism against.

      Looking forward to meeting at IRDC. I hope you're still planning on a "roguelikes for mobile devices" talk or similar, as I think there's a lot of interesting design considerations for that and I'm curious to hear from your experiences.

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  13. Writing my thoughts here as you guys are speaking (on the pod cast):
    ...this is definitely NOT the type of games you guys are going to like. The Roguelike elements are terrible.
    -Is Diablo an Action RPG or RTS (Single Unit)? Does it matter really? Diablo is it's own genre really. Diablo-likes. Still, fun comparison. I'm thinking it's gone far beyond Single Unit RTS, but still. Fun comparison.

    -Sacred II: Own it...SUCK. Bought it in the budget bin. Updater worked perfectly. :-)

    -Torchlight: Took out a lot of annoyance, but still it was missing something. I dunno what.

    -Diablo a Roguelike? Well, it has some elements, but Diablo is a single character grinder. If the characters aren't throwaway it's not a roguelike. Plus the game is FAAAAAAR TOOOOO LOOOOONNGGG for permadeath to be fun at all. Plus the game is linear, so that also shoots down permadeath as a fun choice, who wants to play the same quests over and over? The procedural dungeons do not add variety either, they are similar enough game to game that they should just have been better designed and static.

    -Diable was originally turn based design? Wow. Radical design shift.

    -Hardcore mode? I don't know anyone that plays that way. A totally inappropriate mode for this game. A hold over from roguelike roots. The procedural dungeons are just as useless as permadeath in this game. These elements exist for legacy reasons only.

    -Playing with your friends? Yes. This is what makes Diablo awesome. Bashing through with your buddies. The other draw is the 'new shiny loot' reward system. The skinner box or slot machine effect. It's fun, but I know it's shallow.

    -Diablo gameplay is the equivalent of giving a raisin to a monkey for shaking your hand. Shake. Raisin. Shake. Raisin. Perform. Reward. Over and over and over. The difference is that you can get full with raisins, not with Diablo.

    -My goal in Diablo is to kill Diablo, but in general the game is designed as a great loot quest. I play to quit once I kill Diablo, after that I might do PvP with friends when PvP comes out.

    -Torchlight seems inferior to Diablo II and III, but I cannot put my finger on why. Probably the hype and spectacle, and maybe also the super balanced and refined approach to Blizzard game design.

    -Potions? In Diablo 3 there is a cool down on potion use. The command is hotkeyed to one button. 'Q' by default. Pretty good design decision I think you guys would agree with.

    -Gameplay not that interesting? Probably not for designers, but for clickity click addicts it's totally fun. And yes OF COURSE Blizzard knows it it creating an addiction based game.

    -Strategic Game? Diablo 3 is FAR MORE strategic than the others due to the infinite ways in which a character can approach their character build. It's a neat system. 24 abilities with 5 modifiers each (runes). You can have 6 active (on your HUD) at any given time, and you must take a break for a few seconds to switch out your 'build'. Does this make the game more tactical? Yes, surely, in as much as the different abilities and hot keys make WoW combat more tactically interesting. It's not as intricate as some roguelikes, but it's real time so the comparison is unfair. Realtime requires few choices lest it confuse the player, no time to ponder.

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    1. -Click click clickity click? Having trouble writing this post as my mouse is acting up. Guess I need a new one.

      -Grinding? This is nothing new and Diablo did not invent it. See Dragon Warrior on the NES (and any other early RPG).

      -Starcraft and Starcraft II? If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Koreans freakin' worship this game.

      -Diablo 3 plays like Diablo 2? Man. I gotta disgree Keith. Similar, yes, but I think you are downplaying the strategic depth of character and hotbar design in Diablo III and the tactical world this opens up. It's more of an interface improvement, but it seems to really change it. It seems to be playing more like Wow than Diablo 2...of course Wow and Diablo II are similar in a lot of ways.

      -Choices? Maybe there aren't any good choices, even character design will probably be solved by theory crafters.

      -Death as a function of just not having enough resources? Tactics and strategy are not (or they are seldom) a deciding factor? Man. Gotta disagree. This is the same thing people in WoW say when they are getting creamed. Gear counts, surely, math is math, but I've seen guys do amazing things with shit gear. It hasn't been shown yet, but surely skill in this game will matter just as much as it does in WoW. Top arena players in Wow dominate other teams with similar or even superior gear do to skill. For example my team, given equal gear, could NEVER take out any of the top 100 teams. They beat us every time. Same goes for Raids (groups versus in game bosses). Knowing the sequence of the fights matters more in Raiding, but good raid leaders will take a player with solid skill over a top geared player every time.

      My comparisons and references to Wow might not be relevant, but so far playing Diablo III it looks like a lot of these things are going to play out in a similar fashion.

      -Screwing up a click and moving into a death situation? You can set up your interface in Diablo 3 so this doesn't happen anymore. You can press a key to "move to cursor" now. You can also still press shift to stay still. I always play ranged so do this instinctively now. Hold shift always!

      -Progress Quest! A great parody. Seriously. I downloaded it and kept waiting for the game to start, I thought my character was just building. Like in the beginning of SIL where you are generating your character. Then I realized what I was watching WAS the game. I laughed and laughed.

      -Diablo as a sort of 'veg out' activity? Definitely. Watch a movie and play the game. Why not? Easy to play, not too demanding. A chill, very chill, experience. I like it more than WoW because it has less social aspect. Too many people base their social life on MMO's, in Diablo it's lighter. Social, but light. Action, but light. Stategy, but light. Get me?

      -Addiction? Yes. Specifically made to be addictive. It'll probably be illegal someday, once game addiction is understood.

      -Roguelike players getting into Diablo III? Look, the ARE NOT looking forward to the game because it's a roguelike. They like it for the hype. They like it for reasons that have nothing to do with the same reasons they like roguelikes. Look, we might be hardcore but we aren't required to be hardcore all the time. Sometimes we watch Firefly and Star Trek, other times we watch Xena and Sex in the City. Don't gotta hate! We still love you. We're still your friends.

      -I've had TONS of memorable moments with Diablo-likes. Most of them are based on the social context, not so much what happened in game really. It's more about our reaction. Like my buddy Jon who did a perfect impression of the boss that said, "Looking for Bael."

      -Diablo makes no sense in real time? Really? Come on man...I know you are just discussing but man.

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    2. -No tension in death? Wait until your friends break your balls for days, weeks and YEARS for screwing up. Even when playing alone it's a big inconvenience to die as sometimes you cannot find your freakin' body. There is a lot of suckage incurred in death. I do think you guys are down playing the amount of suckage. I think it's as much of a let down to die in Diablo as it is to die in Brogue after the initial 4 levels or so.

      -Remove death completely? Interesting as a hypothetical. Not sure how it would work to make Diablo more fun or more focused on the design goal. Perhaps I'm lacking enough imagination about how it would work with the theme. I may ponder on this more...this idea seems to be based on the notion that death in the game is nothing more than a minor annoyance. If you die as much as I do it becomes a MAJOR nuisance.

      -Diablo and WoW? My game group and I see them as basically the same game. They scratch the same itch.

      -Diablo as a waste of time? On par with drugs perhaps? Not sure what to make of this notion. Maybe I know too many drug addicts (social work and legal work tends to draw that crowd). It's not even on par with gambling as you don't lose any money, but with the new auction house maybe we'll see a monetary impact. I just don't see the Diablo experience as that empty. I mean seriously, what is really gained from beating Nethack or Crawl. A serious amount of E-peen, adulation from a very small segment of the indie gaming community and maybe a little of bit of self enrichment. But really to most people you've just wasted a shit ton of time. Same with Diablo. Big waste of time. But if it's fun for the player we should be more open minded and learn about why it's fun not sit back and act like it's not or shouldn't be.

      Start with the acknowledgement that Diablo is a very fun game for most gamers and do an analysis from there. Discounting the game and player base as somehow misguided, unhealthy or just addicted can totally miss the point. I guess I just want a good, varied, permadeath/replayable roguelike with the same polish, action, interface and production values as Diablo III. And it'd be nice if it ran on full speed on my computer. That'd be awesome.

      -Coke is good...I'm doing a line of Diablo III coke later tonight. :-)

      -A player can spend all of the time playing GO, Chess, Baseball, etc...and this can lead to an enriching life? Sure. If you are good. If you make money at it. If you are adored by fans or the other players. If it's a high profile game. Star Craft has reached this level in Korea, but the vast majority of people don't reach that level, not in a game that can provide social/economic status. They play a bit and move on. That's what will likely happen with Diablo III. That's doesn't mean it's not worth your time. I don't think fun is ever a waste of time.

      -What's my favorite part? The social play. Best online play ever.

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    3. Joseph: Good points on waste of time. Hardcore roguelike players will definitely look upon Diablo as a waste of time. A lot of Diablo players would look upon beating Nethack as a waste of time. My mum would look upon both as a waste of time. It all depends on your perspective and preference.

      But as you say, a lot of players really enjoy Diablo, Torchlight and similar games and we should ask ourselves why instead of bunching them up with drug addicts. I'm sure there are take-aways from such an analysis that could make roguelikes even more enjoyable.

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    4. We did ask why on the ep, and considered things like interface, advertising, accessibility, teenage fantasy fulfillment and the multi-player component. Plus the whole desire to play a relatively non-taxing game, a bit like spending your time watching TV. "Popcorn gameplay" I called it, where you eat for the sake of eating, rather than for any nutritional pleasure.

      I get that people do this, but it really doesn't appeal to me, and I can't help but judge it in the same way I judge couch potatoes or people who listen to crap pop music. I play games specifically to be engaged, and I can't help but feel that mindless games like FarmVille and Diablo do a disservice to the potential of the interactive artform. Not to mention the insulting nature of the deliberately addictive design.

      So, yeah, maybe a bit elitist, but not without good reason in my books :P

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    5. None of you seem to know what elitism is. Please look it up.

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    6. Are you being elitist about the term 'elitism'? :P

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    7. It's important to remember, Darren, that most non gamers look upon gaming as a waste of time. You may refer to a certain segment of the gaming community as couch potatoes, but the non-gaming community at large thinks the same of all gamers. Even if they might enjoy the occasional card game or face book game.

      Snobbery all around, surely. There's a certain amount of shaming to it as well. I wrote a bit about gamer shame over at my ZeroFPS blog.

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    8. I personally think that single player games can be a waste of time. Roguelikes and the occasional indie are the only single player games I end up playing.

      It all just depends on what you value in gaming. Overcoming adversity in a solitary environment is not why most people game. Definitely not the reason to play Diablo.

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    9. Interesting, I just stumbled on this post about someone dying from a heart attack while playing Diablo 3 for three whole days:

      http://buildstarted.com/2012/05/21/please-dont-let-gaming-consume-your-life/

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    10. This frequently happens in South Korea. Guys will sit at the computer and play and play until they die.

      There are places called PC Bongs (rooms) open 24 hours a day. Pretty cheap per hour of play. People will sit in them and play until they die.

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    11. Natural selection at work.

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  14. Really if you guys think that roguelikes can suffer same problems that Diablo did, why not make an episode that point those out?

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    1. We did a *bands episode before Christmas :P

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    2. That was a good episode. You guys were more jolly in ribbing Angband. Diablo made you guys go into full attack mode. :-)

      It's cool though. It was expected. I actually thought it'd be much worse.

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  15. One thing you guys have ignored is that finally I, the worst roguelike player in the world, will be able to beat a roguelike game. Beating Diablo is not the point of the game, but still...

    I will ascend!

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  16. Sigh.

    I know comments like this aren't well-recieved, but I like this podcast and feel like it's my duty to say that this wasn't one of your better episodes. I sincerely hope that there is an intervention and the next episode isn't about D3, because this was a bit of a slog to listen to honestly. I don't like Diablo, at all, but this really did come off as elitist whether it was intentional or not. The "friends don't let friends play Diablo, it's a waste of life!" speech was way over the top.

    Oh well, I appreciate the episode even if it wasn't my cup of tea.

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    1. I think some of the comments were a little jokey or exaggerated and shouldn't be taken too seriously. I understand this ep isn't everyone cup of tea though, and we rather expected that (since many RLers are Diablo fans, but I still don't properly know why). Other Diablo-haters have enjoyed it though, and would equally be complaining if we praised it too much ;) On re-listening to the podcast I don't think we were that bad overall. We were very negative, sure, but we did go to lengths to point out some positive aspects and what we think draws people to the game.

      I don't think we'll be doing D3. I know I personally have no interest in playing it. If we did we'd maybe get some fans of the game on too.

      Of course we may do DiabloRL at some point :)

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    2. I'd be more than willing to speak in a Diablo 3 podcast. I like the game and I also like Roguelikes, but for radically different reasons.

      Many roguelike players enjoy other genres. They have a greater breadth of games they enjoy.

      Personally I play a ton of different games. For single player I go for Roguelikes, but also sometimes I go for epic space strategy games or even Sim City type games (sometimes). I love Co-Op gaming and play Modern Warfare 3 a couple of times a month with friends. I also like to compete in the arena in WoW with those same friends. But I have to tell you that leveling a character in WoW just to compete in Arena was absolutely mind numbing.

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  17. Diablo is incredibly mindless... and yet I enjoy playing it, maybe exactly because it is so mindless. That said, I tend to grow bored with Diablo, Torchlight, and similar games after a week or two and have to take a break. Those are not kinds of games that I can play day after day. They are kinds of games that I play when I don't care to strain my brain. Then again, as I'm growing older, more and more I tend to move towards more mindless pursuits.

    As far as the addictive nature of Diablo and similar games, I totally agree. That said, ALL good games have addictive qualities to them. Rogue, and to a lesser extent, Empire were certainly culprits. I was in College when Rogue was big, and a small number of people actually flunked out of school from spending too much time in the computer center playing it. It's true that Diablo has a lot less of substance, and that, more than its addictive nature, is what is different about it.

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  18. Also seems elitist to me. Anyway, it makes me want to play Diablo. Was it really that bad?

    I have played Diablo several times and liked it, also I have played Diablo II with a friend and liked it. Then I have tried to play Diablo II myself, but it was very boring.

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  19. I know it almost seems like a troll comment, but since it was brought up in several points in the podcast, in the description on the website, and even in the comments, about the whole "click click click" thing.

    I think there's a lot less clicking in Diablo 2/3 than any other mouse-driven game to be honest, like MOBA/RTS games, where precision clicking is very important. Since Diablo 2, you have been able to hold the mouse button down to do everything, and since the gameplay is not really about strategy, you can just sit back and attack, move around, loot at will just by holding down the mouse. All without worrying about having 300 actions per minute like in a Starcraft 2 match.

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    1. Diablo 3 has even less clicking.

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  20. No matter what you think about the game. Any fast paced Roguelike could do well to copy it's skill system. Infinitely customizable but still limited. I'm very impressed by it as a game mechanic.

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  21. This sums up my feelings on the Diablos pretty well:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/05/28/diablo-iii-the-unofficial-novelisation/

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    1. Haha, that is brilliant!

      On the topic of D3: I've been watching Inferno mode live streaming (http://www.twitch.tv/kungentv) and that adds a whole new perspective to D3 I think. I think I would really appreciate the adrenaline rush you get when you're close to death or when you beat a boss. The perma-death isn't really as permanent as in a roguelike though since you get to keep your stash.

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  22. You guys seem perplexed why people like Diablo. Isn't it obvious how it's just a skinner box and doesn't have any real challenges in it?

    Aren't Diablo players just like people with drug or gambling addictions, just wasting their precious time on this planet?

    I'd just like to say that there ARE people who come at Diablo as a tough problem to be solved and not from the skinner box angle. In D3 I was been shocked to find myself spending hours analyzing auction house arbitrage strategies. It's certainly no roguelike but it is a very interesting problem in itself. The economy has been CRAZY and there's no real world example like it.

    The other interesting side topic is that there are professional Diablo players because of the popularity of streaming. Over 50 thousand people watched this streamer clear Inferno on Hardcore: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaDA7GxAtXM

    He made thousands of dollars in a single night with that viewer count. Wild!

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