I recently, like many other people, started playing Diablo 3, kind of out of nostalgic reasons but also because I was curious to see how the game had been developed. After some time of playing my conclusion is that the game represents the New Asian Capitalism Slavoj Zizek often talks about, instead of the typical 70′s style capitalism of Diablo 2.
Diablo 2 was a very succesfull game, and the reasons it was so much fun were fairly simple
1. Its a gear hunting game that plays on the human hunter instinct
2. You could feel like you are building a godlike character, which means the game was always inferior to the player.
Diablo 3 is VERY different. Its almost the exact opposite of the above. Blizzard made the game so hard that, even with the most expensive gear you could possibly find, you would still get killed instantly by many elites.
The ideological background is clear: the Game is more important than the Player. The Game no longer allows the individual to feel it has godlike qualities, but instead chooses to make it feel insignificant. The player is no longer some divine fantasy about infinite improvements but an ideological tool that serves only one purpose: to show the player that, no matter how much you improve yourself, the Game will still beat you.
Who plays the game and pays attention understands that it was actually build around the Auction House. Blizzard could easily have made this a fee-per-month game, like World of Warcraft, but instead chose to do an experiment: let’s see if we can play credit card company, and charge a fee on every transaction with imaginary items our players make. There’s a reason why a monk hardly ever gets monk drops, and a barb hardly ever gear for a barb: the game was completely designed with the Auction House at its core.
It’s an absurd concept that also reflects our absurdly corrupted modern world. Everybody knows that if you actually want to make money with that system – and its hardly designed for the individual to make money, mind you – the worst thing you could possibly do is hunt for items. I played the game for about a month, and found exactly two legendary items ingame. I suppose i could sell those for maybe 30 bucks, but only a fool would follow that strategy: the real game, like in the stock markets, is to buy up wanted items for cheap and sell them for expensive prices.
Thus, the whole game is build around a mechanism that requires anyone serious about it to play as less as possible. For this reason it was mischievously clever to make the game as hard as it is: the actual worker must feel insignificant, because only insignificant-feeling people will invest real money into gear. There’s no point in buying gear if your character finds decent drops and hardly ever dies. The game must make you feel insignificant, and then you will invest to see if you can beat the system.
I think the model is based on a heist – for it seems to me that in the long run nobody will find this model enjoyable – it doesnt feel like fun, it feels like hard work scraping for a buck. But as a heist it’s in a way sort of brilliant: make millions of people buy your game with high expectations, make them all feel insignificant, and then cash in on all the imaginary items they sell to each other.
You can almost smell the brilliancy eminating from Blizzards marketeers room. A strategy worthy of NASDAQ. It explains why the game, after such a ridiculously long development period, appeared as a buggy beta. It was simply MEANT to perform as a heist: the development time was pure propaganda to raise everyones expectations: the amateurism in server maintenance and downtimes and countless other problems are symptomatic for the idea that Blizzard actually wants to put as less resources into this as possible, for the whole thing was never meant to be a long term strategy. Cash in, cash in again, develop on.
It’s either that sort of mischievous cleverness, or the zombification of the gaming industry. But there are so many signs that there is something rash about the game development: a huge act 1, and very short act 4, for example, which, again, just serves to leave the player unsatisfied. Even Diablo himself, some sort of schizophrenic entity in this parody of a game, looks terribly disappointing and half the size he had in Diablo 2. In Diablo 2 he looked sort of impressive and scary. In Diablo 3 he looks, well, sort of like an annoying insect with a psychiatric problem. Trust me, all that has a good reason. There are no real coincidences in design.
What about VST plugins that are entirely handled/rewritten through Jquery? In theory one could make any synthesizer simply as a website in this way. Hell, give it enough time and you could actually program an entire recording studio that simply works as a website. Not that that would give an advantage over existent DAW’s, since they are so complex that even if the geniusses at google had 100 years to waste they wouldn’t even come close to their functionality, but rather because cloud bases applications have one big disadvantage: bandwidth, which means they consume much more resources than anything else and – as such – are actually extremely non-ecological. Still, its impressive what web programmers can accomplish nowadays and I do wonder if this was made with help of the rather interesting ‘Soundjs’ library that I’m currentlu also diving into myself, which you can visit here
I was pondering the other day about FTP programs. You know, those programs you use to upload things to your webserver. There are lots of FTP programs out there, hundreds, maybe even thousands, and they basically all do exactly the same thing: upload stuff to your server. So that’s an exciting angle for investigation of branding: we have a market with countless products that all do the same, and so why do some of these FTP programs fare well and why are others doomed to oblivion? And what relation does it have to their name, design, and concept?
Me, I’m only familiar with 3 FTP programs. I started out (yeah yeah Im OLD) with WS-FTP. Sort of the gray office clerk of FTP programs. I dont know if there where others that preceded it, but let’s just say WSFTP was the FTP program to use when Windows had a 99% market dominance and everyone didn’t even hear of ICQ yet.
This is what the bugger looked like. Fucking basic. Just hardcore blue and gray. No design at all. But that’s like maybe 15 years ago. I wonder what their logo and website look like now? Did they survive?
This is what the program looks like now. They did survive, as i recall it back then the company’s name was also Ipswitch. They seem to focus on netwerk management software now. They claim WS FTP has 40 million users – why don’t they put a chat app and a picture in the corner, and they can make an IPO-HEIST just like facebook….oh wait for that you need the right friends…
Anyway, the design. It looks sort of messy. Lots of colors, extreme amount of buttons. Probably they hired some of the microsoft word developers that got sacked when everyone started using open office? I mean hell, I count no less than EIGHT rows with buttons in that program, and call me nuts but it seems to me people basically want to use an FTP program to upload files.
So, WS FTP followed the same route as microsoft: lots of options, possibilities, weird colors, looks like something old hippies could like. And there are lots of those around, mind you. Office clerks are old, like weird colors and lots of buttons. If you wonder why it always takes ages for any government employee to return your form now you know why.
Second FTP program I remember came right after RAMBO: they called it ‘Bullet-proof FTP’ and my guess is the guys who made it thought – oh my, look at that gray shite office clergy thing, let’s make something for real geek-machos and call it ‘Bullet-proof’ too,I even remember some logo with a bullet in it let’s see if i can find it, oh yes:
Okay. In the meantime they ‘went 3D’ to make it even more macho. We have the gray office clerk with a provocative red tie. Senselessly positioned gray 3D letters, and the shark bullet that was their logo before too. Can you imagine even for a single instant that someone actually wants their FTP program to be macho? Same weird color combination: Red, Orange and Gray.
They also have a very messy website on which they, now, gave the shark bullet a clowns nose, just to make sure it stands out enough.
Last program i remember i have been using myself last 10 years and its Filezilla. It’s, I think, the most succesful FTP client, but that might not be only due to their branding, which is more modern, but also because of their strategic partnership with Mozilla, but in any case, its interesting to see that the most successful FTP is also the only one with a real logo:
Modern and minimalist, easy to remember, functional. Kind of the same as the program itself, which does what it should do without a zillion buttons nobody wants on top.
In a philosophical sense the branding comparison is sort of interesting: people often think that a logo, for example, should contain ‘a corporate idea’ or ‘the essence of our products’ or something like that. Bullet Proof FTP is a clear example of that line of thought: we sell a secure connections, so let’s put a bullet in our logo? Hmmm. Well, not really, but macho’s often do think in weird ways.
Filezilla plays on modern mythology with its name, just like Google does. Mythology is always more efficient for branding than logic: the thing that always preceeds the logo is the name. Choosing a name is usually always the hardest part, since for a logo one can always find an experienced designer. I am sure that just based on their design Filezilla will have a younger audience, more cross-platform, and its open source software to boot.
Isn’t it sort of fascinating that the open source program is the one with modern design, while the commercial variants have either rather ridiculous and chaotic designs that seem to target older people? To me this is one of the many signs on the wall that much commercialism is not very interested in innovation at all – capitalism only essentially innovates when its threatened.
I decided to open a ‘lab section’ at the myrmex site, sort of a weblog to discuss innovate design, post interesting links to and share knowledge about new design technologies with readers. Myrmex is a dutch design company and Holland is well known for its innivative designers – yet, because unfortunately our education system does not seem the prime priority of politicians. At any rate. it seems a much better time-waster than facebook, in the sense that you actually end up with a database full of useful information instead of just random interactions with people that are hardly still your own.
I know, most corporate blogs are boring as hell, but I have the advantage of both being the boss and to have somewhat of a reputation as a provocative writer, so that combined will be responsible for a sort of webmag that is able to actually stimulate readers, and not just be some dull linkdump that rehashes stuff everyone already knows.
I called the main concept of the site ‘design philosophy’, well, I’m actually working on a philosophical opus called ‘Tractate of the Sun’ and as I like to think (a great hobby if you ask me) then why not share views on design from a more philosophical perspective? After all, a webmagazine should have a niche to be interesting, and I dont think anyone has any need for a ‘yet-another-place-where-we-can-read-technews’ sort of place. If you’re one of the victims of this introduction, welcome, and feel free to contact me if you have any interest to participate in the site. Myrmex is, after all, also some sort of social concept.