During the formative years of my youth, in which nothing exceeded the excitement of being home alone on a Friday night with Chinese food and Starcraft II, I couldn’t be bothered to leave the house for anything other than some live-action role-playing (LARPing). On one particular night, having consumed enough sweet and sour pork for the entirety of the county, I was forced to leave the relative safety of my room, forced to discontinue the harvesting of minerals and seek out a new thrill — that is, Diablo II.

Diablo II was a dungeon-crawling counterpart to Starcraft II and the digital realization of a Dungeons & Dragons campaign come to fruition under the watchful eyes of Blizzard Entertainment. Yes, that Blizzard, of World of Warcraft fame (or infamy). Diablo II quickly replaced Starcraft II on my superfun Friday evenings.

Older now and a bit more sociable, imagine the horror that dawned on me when Diablo III was to have an open beta this past weekend, free to play for all who would dare to brave the queues. After managing a brief stay in the dungeons once again, the only question left to answer is: Friday nights? Who needs them?

Twenty years after the events of Diablo II, new heroes are tasked with the somewhat impossible duty of ridding Sanctuary of evil once again. Demons, skeletons, dragons and yes, Diablo himself are all out to get you. Diablo II gave users the ability to customize a warrior via add-ons and skill sets as well as via armor and through trade. Who can forget having to run back to their fallen body in order to retrieve goods before some wanderer stole everything they owned, leaving them naked and helpless?

Diablo III continues the tradition of customizing, somewhat; a result of the casual gamer’s idea of treating every player equally — that is, like a “noob.” Blizzard, over the years, has cultivated a crowd of players who expect quests and skills to be handed out as if they were candy on Halloween. In the days of the original Diablo, skills were the byproduct of the number of tears a player dripped onto the keyboard; unfortunately, Diablo III has an artificial tear machine that auto-levels and selects the best configuration for the player. Kids these days.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t a customizable gaming experience here. Players can choose from a wealth of classic classes in new forms. A monk, a wizard, a barbarian and a witch doctor all accompany my most anticipated: the demon hunter, a ranged character with a crossbow, various magical attacks and a body. Those Friday nights were so lonely.

Ever wondered what it might feel like to be a shark on the prowl, protecting a pot of gold like a terrifying 11-foot leprechaun with razor-sharp teeth? Imagine no longer. Depth may or may not be swimming up your canal in the very near future.

Two teams — one human and the other shark — race against the clock either to steal treasure or to protect it. As a human, your goal is to recover sunken treasure, presumably for sale on the antiquarian market. As a shark, your goal is to rip the limbs off of these would-be underwater Indiana Joneses, leaving them unable to hug their children or eat soup properly. Yes, the battle between man and shark is a pointless one that has been raging for ages. The war will rage soon enough on the PC, leaving only the question: How many more? Bring our divers home now. In the meantime, start making room for Diablo III. I’m already dusting off the ol’ HP.

Look for Diablo III on May 15. You’ll know it by the trail of empty Doritos bags and neck beards. Depth is currently in the embryonic stage of development, but continue to chum the waters with interest and it may circle your (insert other shark pun here) soon.

Chris O’Neal is just happy this whole terrifying ordeal is over . . . or is it? Follow him on Twitter @AgentONeal.


Nerd Calendar

THURSDAY NIGHT MAGIC April 26, 7-10 p.m. Magic the Gathering, Emperor Multi-Player. Bring your decks! Hypno Comics, 1800 E. Main St., Ventura.

MAGIC THE GATHERING PRERELEASE April 27-29.  Magic the Gathering prerelease: Avacyn Restored Magic, format: sealed. Call for times. Friday, April 27, Magic the Gathering tourney, format: booster draft. $15 entry fee, 6:30-10 p.m. Everyone leaves with at least one pack for playing in addition to FNM prizes. Seth’s Games and Anime, 2379 E. Main St. Ventura. 653-5890 or www.sethsgamesandanime.net.

LEAGUE OF LEGENDS TOURNEY Friday, May 18, 7 p.m. 5 vs 5 tournament. The Armory, 1496 Tower Square, Ventura. 650-1213 or www.thearmoryventura.com.