When Blizzard detailed the online “features” of Diablo III (thanks for letting us know, Blizz!), they certainly ruffled more than a few feathers. And rightfully so. It is one thing to announce an anti-piracy feature such as DRM, but the Diablo III crew seems to be taking it a step further. In fact, their most recent announcement about the constant-online feature has, perhaps, opened a larger can of worms than they intended. In short, Blizzard has combated the desire to play offline by saying “the game’s not really being played right if it’s not online.” Whoa…
How’s that dial-up AOL connection workin’ for ya?
The biggest argument against the constant internet connection has been that many people do not have a constant internet connection. Tales of rural areas that only have access to ye olde dial-up connection abound, with players saying it will be physically impossible for them to stay connected. Many gamers cite their on-the-road, mobile-laptop gaming habits, saying that WiFi is not always easy to come by.
Game director Jay Wilson had this to say: “I mean, in this day and age the notion that there’s this a whole vast majority of players out there that don’t have online connectivity – this doesn’t really fly any more.” And you know what? I’m going to agree with him on this (bear with me… reserve the torches and pitchforks for later) because it is 2011. Looking at the map included, this lists merely five of the major DSL providers. It may be easy to get caught up in that white space, but you have to realize that the majority of major cities and suburbs are covered. It sucks to be stuck in BFE North Dakota, without DSL, but you also have to understand that this is fast becoming a minority of the population. This is not the best argument to counter such a measure with.
Now unfortunately, I think Wilson’s comments on WiFi are starting to show the underbelly of this argument: “I mean, at our hotel, there’s nine WiFi networks that I can access. Just from the hotel! And they’re all public – they’re all paid – but they’re pretty cheap, and they’re all publicly available.” Sure WiFi is often available rather cheap, but free is even cheaper! And the justification for it to be otherwise is thinner than the justification for an Antiques Roadshow game…
So while I tend to agree that the non-DSL argument is moot, trotting out the prevalence — and affordability — of WiFi may not have been the best approach.
Playing. You’re doing it wrong.
Of course, we could go back and forth about the availability of WiFi or DSL connections, and this commotion may have died down for Blizzard. But then Wilson had to defend this stance by saying that players who wanted to play offline were not playing the game right. So that I don’t sound like I’m reading too much into his statement, here is his quote:
… players default immediately to that [offline]. So, they basically unintentionally opt out of all the cooperative experience, all the trading experience, and the core of Diablo is a circle-trading game. So for us we’ve always viewed it as an online game – the game’s not really being played right if it’s not online, so when we have that specific question of why are we allowing it? Because that’s the best experience, why would you want it any other way?
First, let me acknowledge that I understand Diablo III will represent thousands of hard-worked hours on the part of developers, programmers, artists and every wheel and cog that makes the giant Blizzard machine run. I understand that, and I understand that every single one of these people wants their hard work to be noticed and appreciated. Therefore, there is a desire to push people into seeing all of your work. I get this.
But isn’t that the nature of video games? Once you have lovingly created this work of art, you then hand it over to your fans so that they can make it their own. Using something simple such as Mass Effect 2 as an example, if I want to be an asshole renegade who gets my entire crew killed and romances anything with two legs, then by-the-Omnissiah, that is my game playing right. Looking at something like Call of Duty, if I want to play through the campaign mode and completely and utterly ignore the online content, again, this is my choice as a player (though I imagine more people do vice-versa of that scenario). That’s the great thing about games. Do what you want!
Now Blizzard is trying to disguise an anti-piracy technique as something that has the players’ best interests at heart. Excuse me if this rings a little hollow. Especially since they tout their real-money trading system as the reason for this security method. Maybe it’s just the cynic in me, but as soon as an argument gets back to the dollar signs, my skepticism sets in.
And if the internet has taught us nothing, it is that pirates will find a way. Why alienate your customer base to punish the people who are going to find a way around it anyway? Alas, that may be a different rant entirely…
I’m sorry, I cannot hear you over the sound of money.
Players have often joked that the road to Blizzard’s office must be paved in gold, with the number of World of Warcraft subscriptions. It is no secret that Blizzard’s name can be associated with a high-quality game and I have often praised them as the kings of polish. But this is no excuse to start putting on airs, and frankly, this whole situation is starting to reek of such things. Why would you squander years of goodwill built by consistently producing quality games with a feature so universally reviled?
That Blizzard so casually writes off non-DSL having fans, and has taken a “we’re doing this for your own good” stance, the whole message feels a little cocky. At this time, Blizzard is still hoping for a late 2011, early 2012 release. With the insanity of the holiday release line-up, such tactics make it even easier for players to speak not with angry RAGECAP forum posts, but rather with your wallets. Because at the end of the day, that is most powerful argument you can make.