What does it take to change a mediocre game into a fun game?

I’m sure many game developers wish they knew the answer to this one, but somehow Blizzard has stumbled upon their old magic once again.

I would never say that Diablo III was a bad game.  However, there was certainly something lacking from it that made it as fun as the original two.  Blizzard seems to have listened to the correct fans, because they were able to make a number of great changes to the game in their 2.0.1 patch that they released a few weeks ago.  These changes have taken an old game and given it a new life that has had me playing more now, than when the game first came out.

The first of the noticed changes would be the new loot system.  Unfortunately I wouldn’t say they nailed this one 100%.  Similarly to what they did with wow, they have made it much easier to get the rarer items.  What this means is that almost every boss monster will drop at least a rare item.  Rares now seem to be more common than uncommons, and commons are even more rare than uncommons!  Legendaries now drop far more frequently as well, as while playing through the game in this patch my character’s gear was almost half legendaries.  This is quite a drastic change as before the patch I had never once seen a legendary item drop in over 3 play through’s of the game.

Old vs New

The problem with this is that past the first 30 minutes of the game there is almost no reason to ever even look at the common or uncommon items because there is no way they will be better than the rare or legendary items which drop in much greater quantities.  What function do these items even serve now?  Sure it serves to make the common player feel more powerful, but really all they have done is shifted everyone up the power scale thus keeping things the same.  This is probably one of the only game changes that I don’t agree with, however the result is hard to argue with.  It makes the player feel more of those feelings that they like to feel.

The other major change they made to the loot is that now the game will almost always drop loot that has the stats of your character.  This means that while I play my monk, I will get almost all dexterity items, while omitting the strength and intelligence items.  I personally love this change as I thought it was horrible that I already knew 95% of the items I would acquire wouldn’t even be worth looking at.  There are also many more powerful items that will still give great increases without having a primary stat on it at all, thus making it so that you can give it to any of your other classes to use down the road.  This gives the time that you have spent collecting gear a sense of meaning and worth, and it was something the game was severely lacking before.

The last major change that they made I think frequently gets overlooked by people.  The game re-evaluated what they now call the toughness stats and gave them greater itemization on items that drop in the patch.  What this means is that you are generally going to have more armor, more hit points, and more resists on gear now.  What this in turn does is reduces those times where you will go from full life to dead before you could even react to use a defensive ability or health potion.  This was something that annoyed me as, I don’t mind dying, provided I know there was something I could have done to prevent it, and I just simply failed to do so.  This along with the limited ability to resurrect at your body a few times every so often, make sure that the player is playing more, and has greater control of their destiny.

While there are many other great changes, these were a few of the ones that stood out the most for me.  Other changes included a revamped paragon leveling system, new stats, new buffs, new difficulty system, many new class balances, and even a few new abilities.  Even better is that you get all this for free even before the expansion is released.  If you were like me and really only gave this game minimal amount playtime before, you owe it to yourself it get the patch and give it another shot.

Diablo 3 Monk


early card design for KhanQuest

A good friend of mine, Jason Khan is finally putting his board game concept in to high gear and shooting for a finished prototype. We’ll call it KhanQuest for now (working title).  Along with Rhys Yorke, I have been asked to do the games artwork.  I’ll be focusing on the game boards, cards, tokens and such, while Rhys will be creating the cover art and images of all the games units. This will be my first board game, though it isn’t as unfamiliar as I may have first thought.  I’ve done plenty of print campaigns for various marketing agencies over the years.  Surprisingly I still remember most of it.  Combine that with what I’ve learned from video games and it’s like some unholy merger of love and hate.

There is of course many challenges to look out for. The biggest being:  There’s no post-launch-day-one patch to fix all those little mistakes that slipped through publishing.  You get one shot, its gotta be perfect.  But there are advantages too. No restrictions on file size, texture quality, or which devices it’s compatible with.  As long as you have a human brain, you should be good.

I’ll be adding a page to projects for KhanQuest, and who knows maybe even Jason will pop in sometime and comment.

The above image is an early concept of the games research cards.  Yeah I know, odd for a mage to be thrown in to a tech UI but don’t worry it will all make sense. At least we hope.


A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease after spending 2 consecutive weeks in the Hospital. Crohn’s itself though painful was actually not the worst of it. What came with Crohn’s was an elevated level of anxiety and panic, something i was only minorly suffering from before. Prior to Crohn’s my anxiety was mostly just an inconvenience, stuff like butterflies in your stomach, or being kept up late at night.

After, however that minor inconvenience became full blown panic attacks. If you’re not sure what those are, the latest Ironman movie had Tony Stark suffering from the condition, and for the most part it was pretty accurate. Only difference is mine didn’t last 30 seconds, but closer to 30 min to an hour.

To top it off, a few weeks after being released from the Hospital, Gameloft Toronto, my employer at the time had to downsize. I was one of the unlucky bunch that would be let go. The loss of income meant moving out of my downtown condo and back with my parents. This did not help the whole anxiety thing. It was not the best year of my life.

Looking back now however I realize just how much it actually affected me. I thought i was being strong and handling everything ok. But as I created this website and sat down to draw characters I eventually plan to use for a web-comic I realized I hadn’t drawn a single thing since before my stay in the hospital. That’s over a year without even picking up a pencil for a little doodle.

It’s not like I didn’t do anything artistic in this last year. I did do freelance graphic design jobs, 3d renders for architectural clients, and even Photoshop creations for our ongoing D&D campaigns. But i hadn’t actually drawn anything, the basis for everything ‘visual art’ and the hobby that started it all for me.

This may not seem like a big deal for those non-artists out there, but to give you an idea, prior to my hiatus I was probably drawing something at least once a day. If I went out for coffee with my friends my sketchpad would always accompany me. If I had a long ride on the subway i’d be doodling. So to not draw a single thing in a year, yeah it was a big deal.

As I sat down and began creating the characters for this site, the first feeling was fear. Fear that i’d forgotten how to even draw.  But once I actually did, all those good feelings that I loved and forgotten came rushing back.  I was reminded why I perused creative disciplines in the first place, and though I don’t consider myself a professional illustrator, I was relieved to see I didn’t suck as much as I thought I would.

I feel more motivated now, my anxiety levels while better in general, are under even more control, and I even started waking up in the mornings!

So hello tablet and pencil my old friends, I’ve come to doodle with you again.

Weightless TOJAM 2010

Weightless was developed by a team of 3 members at the Toronto Game Jam (ToJam). The team consisted of Fraser Adams (programmer), Jason Khan (level designer) and Noah Marton (artist.)

The game is a sort of platformer with unconventional mechanics. There’s no gravity. The player creates their own gravity wells to maneuver through the levels while collecting gears, avoiding spikes and evil robots.

Click here to play!