Diablo 3 Competition

Out of nowhere, there were a bunch of posts on /r/guildwars2 about how ArenaNet “dodge a bullet” with Diablo 3 Open Beta weekend happening this weekend and not the next one (when there will be the first Beta Weekend for Guild Wars 2 pre-purchases).

At first, I thought those people are demented, as there is absolutely no relation between Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3. Just when I started to think where those two relate, I really got who Blizzard is afraid of: Guild Wars 1.

  Guild Wars 1 Diablo 3
Gamplay Instantiated, story driven Instantiated, story driven
Skills Several skills available, but only some available during combat Several skills available, but only some available during combat
Visuals Gothic, ancient/Third person Gothic, ancient/Third person
Cash Shop Yes, controlled by the company Yes, controlled by players

Blizzard, Master of Illusions

There are news that, for those who spend a lot of money on World of Warcraft, there is a free copy of Diablo III waiting for you and you also get a free mount!

The trick is: You need to buy a full year of World of Warcraft. Yes, full year.

Just to check the prices I logged on my old Battle.Net account. The only options I found were monthly ($14.99), 3 months ($41.97, $13.99 per month) or 6 months ($77.94, $12.99 per month). At first I thought they would add a new model, but it’s not there yet. But let’s imagine they will keep the trend and do it $11.99 per month, or $143.88 total. With this you can buy 2 copies of Diablo III. Or you could get one copy and have some cash as cushion for the lost sales in the real money AH.

Also, let’s be honest: If you have both, would you actually play both? I have the slight impression that you would be safer cancelling your World of Warcraft for about 3 months, play Diablo III till you reached some comfortable level, saw everything you could and then return to World of Warcraft (or, basically, you’d be paying for one game and playing the other a lot more). And then there is the catch: You must do this before 2011-11-18. I pretty much doubt Blizzard will release Diablo III before that — and I think it would be a real dick move releasing exactly on that day, so you start paying your World of Warcraft exactly when you are going to spend a lot of time actually exploring Diablo III.

That was the first illusion they were planting today.

The second appeared on “My Games” in the Battle.Net while I was faking a “resubscription” to check the prices. There, I saw this:

No, dear sirs, I did not get a beta key of Diablo III. This is just Blizzard way of trying to entice Battle.Net users to think they already got a Diablo III key (or something).

(Also, I bet the “Tyrael Horse” is as annoying as the “Celestial Stead”.)

Edit: TillEulenspiegel, on RockPaperShotgun post nailed it:

1) They don’t want people leaving WoW to play D3.

2) The marginal cost of each player playing D3 online (ie, the only way possible) for a few hours is negligible. So this costs them a few lost sales, but that’s about it.

3) People who have less time to play D3 (because they’re also playing WoW) are more likely to buy stuff on the RMT auction house, thus fueling the economy.

It’s a cunning plan.

I want Diablo III, but I don’t want Diablo III

The first videos of Diablo III are now pouring through YouTube and now we can have a somewhat better idea of how the game is going to work:

Now, from someone that played Diablo I and II, Torchlight, is curious about that huge Skill tree on Path of the Exile and checked most of every other ARPG around, Diablo III looks pretty boring. Just looking at the video, it seems like a larger, darker version of Torchlight — but, then again, the ARPG format was explored a lot already, so there isn’t much difference between ARPGs these days.

And then you have the very simplified skill system. Good, bad? Don’t know, but seems… meh. Character personalization seems to fall all around runes, and there are only 4 options to each of those. Poisonmancer, Golemancer, Minion master, Bonemancer… All those are “builds” of Diablo II Necromancer class; all other classes had a lot more builds. So even with 7 classes, the number of builds made it possible to expand your gameplay a lot more. Now… not so much.

So skill system doesn’t provide enough uniqueness, visual is not impressive, gameplay is almost the same… what is left? Story. That’s the only thing that could drive me to Diablo III now: A meteor? What was that? Is there any references to the Wanderer? Is Tyrael doing something after he destroyed the World Stone? Yes, I’m curious about it. On the other hand, that’s the only thing I’m interested right now.

But then we fall back to everybody (and they mums) complain about the game: Always online requirement. Sure, sure, Blizzard can say whatever they want about the “proper experience” and “secure place for the Real Money Auction House” (as if World of Warcraft are hacked by the thousands every day and those are Battle.Net accounts now, so you can imagine the problem when you go in vacation and half way through it you can’t use your credit card anymore ’cause your limit was maxed when someone got your Battle.net account and bought half of the auction house with your credit card attached) but there are lots of problems with it already. Rock Paper Shotgun had a experience with the servers and, although they are still in beta, they shown a small experience what happens when your connection, your router, your modem, your ISP, Blizzard’s connect or their servers go haywire.

Also, by the report above, it seems a hacked version of Diablo III is very very unlikely to happen: They adopted a Guild Wars mode where the server comes with everything and you play in instantiated zones and you can bring your friends with you, sharing the instance. The only way a hacked version would work would be implementing the whole map generation, item generation and AI mobs in a server, so you can scratch any possibility of getting a version that doesn’t require to be online.

I mentioned before my problem with Always Online requirement (the number of things you need to check to be sure you can play is too much and Blizzard gave me a bad taste of their “maintenance time” while living in Australia) and now it seems Diablo is region locked — which probably means I can now only play with other Brazilians and their continuous trolling in online games — makes a complete turn off about the game.

Boring + Stupid Requirements > Good Story. Good thinking Blizzard, you basically killed your game.

Diablo 3 game director on lack of offline mode: “the game’s not really being played right if it’s not online”

Diablo 3 game director on lack of offline mode: “the game’s not really being played right if it’s not online”

I think the thing you must read  to understand why you should buy this game:

But what about those without a stable internet connection? What should a player do if, say, the internet wiring in his house is flawed?

“Erm… upgrade the wiring in his house?” suggests Wilson. “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.

This is Why Diablo 3 Must Flunk

This is Why Diablo 3 Must Flunk

Tim Willits, from id, have high hopes that Diablo 3 proves successful with its “always online” DRM. And, as much as Blizzard, he doesn’t address the point directly, citing “always updated” games as a nice thing.

Obviously, he ignores that Steam provides nice updates and doesn’t require the user to be always online.

It’s obvious that what Tim expects is that Diablo 3 proves to be a huge success, so other companies can use the “always online” excuse over and over again to put more and more DRM around. And we, customers, will be locked in this, under the hopes that our free time will never coincide with the company maintenance time or our ISP maintenance time or that, someday long in the future, when we decide to play that old game again and find that the company decided it wasn’t profitable to keep servers running with a low population and, thus, we can’t play anymore ‘cause the game can’t connect in the server anymore, or suddenly Anonymous/LulzSec decide to attack the server, leaving us with no option to play the game (Anonymous did attack World of Warcraft login servers with a small part of its force and brought the service down for a couple of hours).

And the sad fact is that, in the end, for more that some people understand that there are too many variables to make this a long time, fool proof system, a lot of people will buy the game and give people like Tim Willits the perfect excuse to add more and more lockdowns.

I just wish, deep down, that Anonymous and/or LulzSec go full force into Battle.net servers once this game is launched. But I pretty much doubt anything like that would happen.

PS: I know how much I sound like I sound a lot like “DOWN WITH DRM! THEY MAKE MY GAMES HARDER TO PIRATE!”, I’m actually not against DRM. I understand that they exist for a reason and it’s valid: companies spend piles of money to bring games to life and they deserve to get their rewards in the end. What I am against is this kind of DRM, which prevents customers enjoying the game ‘cause it requires something completely alien to the experience (in this case, the single player game which requires an online connection when you don’t use anything that really requires online play). Besides, as I pointed over and over again, “always online” DRM have too many variables and its prone to several failure points.

Why Ubisoft Can Have DRM But Blizzard Can’t?

This last week I’ve been bashing Blizzard for adding some sort of DRM but pointing that I’m enjoying Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood a lot, which have the same sort of DRM. Sounds kinda hypocritical, doesn’t it?

Just to start, I’m not against this kind of DRM, as long as it makes sense. For example, it makes sense for World of Warcraft and Rift, on where things don’t work with a single person. A single person realm/shard won’t have an economy, you won’t be able to do all the things and the whole end-game is centered around the end game dungeon/raids (and expert rifts, in the case of Rift).

(I believe no MMO should have its end-game centered only on raids and dungeons — like Blizzard is doing with World of Warcraft and their belief that adding more will bring those 1 million players back — but that’s a whole different discussion for another time.)

For games like Assassin’s Creed and Diablo III, it isn’t bad if you will do something that involves other people. For example, for the Auction House on Diablo III, that’s ok; for the multiplayer combat in Assassin’s Creed, that’s ok. But on single player, when I don’t want to deal with other people, it makes absolutely no sense.

There is also the gameplay in this: For Assassin’s Creed, there is no way you can sit and play for 10 minutes. The story is complex, the controls require some fine graining that you can’t get with touchpads (maybe the “nipple mouse” on Thinkpads will work, but I’m still not quite sure about that either) and there are lots of cut-scenes (too many, I guess: I’m tired of seeing my character cutting recruits fingers when they reach the assassin level). So although it’s not ok to add DRM for single player in this, it still requires you to sit down, find a comfortable chair and be ready to stay sat for some good time. It’s not a quick fix for anything.

Diablo, on the other hand, is the “quick fix for RPG” type of game. Story is the least important thing in the game: All you want is a quick run to get some loot. Who can’t remember doing Mephisto runs in 7 minutes (or less) just to give a chance to get something of value. And Blizzard announced that Diablo III will be even more casual, which we know what it means: It will be easier to get good gear. It’s loot piñata galore! It doesn’t make sense that I have to run through a check list (Is my modem ok? Is my ISP ok? Is there anyone else downloading something? Am I downloading something? Is my OS downloading a patch?) just to play 5 minutes.

But none of this is a super high reason for being ok for some and not ok for some: When Ubisoft added DRM, they said there would be a DRM in the game that would require constant internet connection (and they later payed a high price for that). Blizzard, on the other hand, keeps claiming that the reason it’s in the game is because “when people reach level 20 or 30 or 40 and they want to play online, they will have to start over”. And they are saying that mantra over and over again instead of coming clean and saying it is DRM. If they came, right from start, saying “We had to add DRM to stop piracy ‘cause we found that there are [insert huge number here probably with 6 or more zeroes] pirated copies of Diablo II and we lost [take previous number, multiply by 100] dollars in revenue, so we are sorry we had to resort to this thing”, most people would say “Oh well” and buy it anyway. But weasel words wins nobody affection, and Blizzard screwed this up. Again.

This Is Not The Blizzard You Once Knew…

Today, listening to the The Mailbox (which I recommend watching/listening, just to give a different point of view — it’s different even to mine, in this case), with Totalbiscuit discussing the info released for Diablo III, he said

… and don’t you dare blame this on Activision. Blizzard has made these decisions, they are not separate entities. These ideas are Blizzard’s ideas.

That’s one thing that I thought yesterday. Best World of Warcraft expansion? The Burning Crusade (at least, visually talking). ARPS? Diablo I and Diablo II. Warcraft, StarCraft… all those marked the game industry. And all those lost their talents.

The Blizzard you once knew, made by people who understood what was fun and what not are not there anymore. If you want the old Blizzard respect for players, you’ll have to knock on Ready At Dawn (God of War for PSP), Red 5 Studios (Firefall), Undead Labs (future zombie MMO), Runic Games (Torchlight) and ArenaNet (Guild Wars) doors.