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Thursday, May 24 2018 @ 05:26 PM -08

Diablo franchise officially jumps the shark

Et tu, Blizzard? Abandoning your single player, LAN gaming base is going to be a costly mistake. Sure, plenty of Diablo fans will buy Diablo III despite being required to have an always-on Internet connection, but those of us who still fondly remember Diablo LAN parties will shake our heads sadly and give D3 a pass. Blizzard, what do you think made Diablo so huge in the first place? Do you really think you lost any sales because of LAN gaming? No. Even if a dozen people at a LAN party all played with one copy of Diablo, the promotional value made up for any imagined loss in ways you clearly have never imagined possible.

To make matters worse, the real-world-currency market in D3 is going to give wealthy people a distinct advantage in the game. Yes, that's what the world needs: more advantages for rich people.

Screw you, Blizzard, and screw your accountants and lawyers who pushed for these changes. You just lost a customer. And speaking of promotional value, don't forget that it comes in negatives as well.

Ghastly details: http://games.slashdot.org/story/11/08...tion-House

UPDATE: Blizzard responds to the outcry with more bullcrap. Details below.

UPDATE 2012Jul26: The backlash against Diablo 3's senseless DRM ramps up in Germany:
http://www.techdirt.com/articles/2012...ents.shtml From http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2011/0...uirements/ :

"You can play by yourself but your character is going to be saved on our servers. You have to authenticate through our servers to be able to play the game. I think it's not just 'Diablo 3' but with our games as a whole we're tying everything into http://Battle.net these days...We can provide a much a much more stable, connected, safer experience than we could if we let people play off-line."

How does adding an Internet connection requirement to a single player game make the game more 'stable'? It doesn't. Does it make the game experience more 'connected'? I suppose, but if I choose to play a single player game, then being 'connected' is not what I'm after. As for it being somehow 'safer' - I really have no idea what they could possibly mean. Safer? Really?

"I'm actually kind of surprised in terms of there even being a question in today's age around online play and the requirement around that," said Bridenbecker. "We've been doing online gameplay for 15 years now…and with 'World of WarCraft' and our roots in http://Battle.net and now with 'Diablo 3,' it really is just the nature of how things are going, the nature of the industry. When you look at everything you get by having that persistent connection on the servers, you cannot ignore the power and the draw of that."

If this bozo is actually surprised at the negative reaction, then he hasn't been paying attention and has no business running a game company. More likely is that this is just spin. World of Warcraft was designed from the start to be an online-only, shared experience, whereas the Diablo games were first and foremost single player experiences, so that comparison is pointless. Saying that they're doing it because it's 'how things are going' in the industry isn't much of an argument either. If all the other game execs jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? Actually, that's not a bad idea. And as for the 'power and draw' of 'everything you get by having a persistent connection', exactly what do I gain as a single player? In fact, I only gain headaches.

"Internally I don't think [DRM] ever actually came up when we talked about how we want connections to operate."

I'm sorry, but that's a whopper if I've ever heard one. The ONLY reason to REQUIRE a constant connection for a single player game is to force every individual player to own a copy of the game.

"Things that came up were always around the feature-set, the sanctity of the actual game systems like your characters. You're guaranteeing that there are no hacks, no dupes."

None of that matters for a single player game. It's also simply not true. Storing my character information on my computer means I control access to it. Storing it on a server means I have almost no control over it, and if the servers are hacked, anything can happen. And servers get hacked all the time these days.

"All of these things were points of discussion, but the whole copy protection, piracy thing, that's not really entering into why we want to do it."

A bald-faced lie. I think it's possible that in discussions of game features, they didn't talk about piracy, since this kind of decision is basically financial and typically made at a higher level by top execs, who are usually lawyers and money men. If an edict was passed down that an Internet connection would be required, then they really wouldn't have spent much time talking about it, now would they?

"But if there's a compelling reason for you to have that online connectivity that enhances the gameplay, that doesn't suck. That's awesome."

What compelling reason - other than copy protection? What enhancement?

"Let's say we want to create an offline capacity," he explained. "You're introducing a separate user flow, a separate path that players are going to go down. And, at the end of the day, how many people are going to want to do that?"

Um, how about anyone who wants to play the game but isn't interested in playing online? Duh.

"If [offline players] want to come over to the online environment , what are we going to have to do about those players that are in the offline environment coming into the online environment? We said we don't want to look at that [in 'Diablo 3']. Let's just keep everything clean."

How about just not allowing offline characters to be used online? Is it just me or is that not obvious? To me, that's a nice, clean approach and it worked fine in the previous Diablo games, except that some players who started offline were upset that they had to start over if they decided they wanted to play online. On the other hand, anyone who spent much time playing the Diablo games also ended up creating multiple characters, so this is not a big deal. And of course it would be easy to allow offline characters to be used for LAN games as well, while still preventing them from working online. Very clean.

"There seem to be folks that believe that because you have to be connected, it's like you're on Facebook or out there with the rest of the world. That's really not the case. Yes, you're going to have a connection, yes, your character will be stored on a server, but it doesn't mean you have to socialize with people. It doesn't mean you have to do anything but play the game by yourself. You'll still be able to have a private game. You'll still be able to go off and play the game solo and adventure solo. You can opt to bring other people to your world if you want, but that's up to you."

Well, that's a relief. Frankly, I had assumed all that. If playing the single player game also required being 'out there' in some Facebooky kind of way, I would be even less interested in this game, if such a thing is possible.

So I remain unconvinced. Meanwhile, the number of customers Blizzard is pissing off with this decision is growing, and the game isn't even out yet. Blizzard claims that 'everyone' has an Internet connection these days, but that's simply not true. People who are on the move for their jobs often have periods of no connectivity, or crappy wireless. I guess Blizzard doesn't want those people as customers. Other people being shut out include those who live in rural areas, military personnel in foreign countries, and anyone who suffers with a poor Internet connection, and the list keeps growing.

And of course Diablo III will never be played at LAN parties, which eliminates what is almost certainly the single best promotional opportunity a game can experience, and to which the enormous success of D1 and D2 can be at least partially attributed.

Diablo III will probably make Blizzard a lot of money. But in the process, Blizzard is also treating its most loyal fans with utter contempt. That is going to hurt them in ways that are difficult to imagine right now, but hurt them it will.