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.

Those Diablo 3 Announcements…

The internet is abuzz this morning with some Diablo III information coming directly to Blizzard. The most ranty one (with reason) comes from RockPaperShotgun. I’ll paste here the announcements (and their reasoning) and talk a bit about it, but you can read the full article (and it’s comments) following the link.

1) The game requires a constant internet connection. It cannot be played offline.

“One of the things that we felt was really important was that if you did play offline, if we allowed for that experience, you’d start a character, you’d get him all the way to level 20 or level 30 or level 40 or what have you, and then at that point you might decide to want to venture onto Battle.net. But you’d have to start a character from scratch, because there’d be no way for us to guarantee no cheats were involved, if we let you play on the client and then take that character online.”

Blizzard gives a good reason for this, but we all can see that this is mainly a form of DRM. What annoys me in this is that I’ll have something else to take care.

For example, when I’m playing Rift, I have to be sure that my computer is not doing anything stupid and that my router and ISP are also not doing anything stupid. And I (or anyone in the house) can’t do anything stupid on the internet. If I suddenly decided to check a Steam game (let’s say, because Torchlight II was released) and I’m downloading it, affecting my ping times, I could be kicked out of the game because of that; if my parents get one of those massive PPT files in their inbox while their computer is on, my ping times go up and I could be kicked out. On the other hand, under any circumstance I need to worry about those things while playing Terraria (or Trine or Diablo 2 or Torchligh [the first]).

Besides, we all know that someone, somewhere, will hack it so it won’t need an internet connection and you will be able to play offline (without access to any of the auction hosues) and the only people who will have to deal with this bullshit are those who bought the game.

2) Mods are “expressly prohibited.”

“For a variety of gameplay and security reasons, we will not be supporting bots or mods in Diablo III, and they’ll be expressly prohibited by our terms of use for the game.”

I never modded my Diablo 2 (and only today I heard about Median XL) or even Torchlight (‘cause they managed to make the mods platform dependent and most didn’t work on OS X), so it’s kinda hard to say if that’s a bad thing or it seems ok. On the other hand, I modded the hell out of World of Warcraft without any problems and it seems StarCraft II also allows mods, on single player and multiplayer. It’s not like Blizzard doesn’t have the knowledge to do it properly, so… it kinda feels like there is something smelly in this.

3) Items in the auction house are bought and sold for real-life money.

“We think it’s really going to add a lot of depth to the game. If I have more money than time I can purchase items, or if I’m leet in the game I can get benefits out of it. The players really want it. This is something that we know people are going to do either way. We can provide them a really safe, awesome, fun experience, or they’ll find ways of doing it elsewhere.”

Before you jump into rage mode like the people in RPS, know that there will be a ingame gold auction house which doesn’t involve real life money. On the other hand, you have to think if someone will use it.

If you find an unique item (the ones with gold names in Diablo II) and you can’t use it ‘cause it’s for another class, what would you do? Would you put that on the gold AH or the real money AH? The only way people would use the gold AH would be if there was an ingame sink for it — something like mounts in World of Warcraft, in the Burning Crusade expansion (‘cause mounts are fucking cheap these days). But, again, why would Blizzard add a gold sink to let people use the gold AH when they can just do nothing and let people use the real money AH and get a cut of it?

Also, just reading RPS article, I couldn’t stop thinking that it would go around some virtual currency, much like Atari Points on Star Trek Online. You can earn those points in game, which you can use to buy other stuff (even on other Atari games) or you could buy them with real life money, but you can’t convert those points to real life money. But then, reading the full article on MMO-Champion, it seems there is a way to take this money out of it, so probably it won’t go this way. Also, I’m pretty sure PayPal is a lot happy this morning (what? Do you think I’ll be able to transfer this money directly to my Brazilian bank account?)

And, in the very end, who will know the source of item? When I was playing EVE and my minerals where sold to some random guy, I always wondered if that was a real guy, some with factory or simply a play from CCP to make it feel like another player was buying my stuff instead of the game getting it. In this case, could I really know if the item came from another player or it’s Blizzard dropping some item in the AH? What will stop Blizzard from, say, dropping a huge amount of items under fake players (or internal employees dropping them to make them look legit, under different names) near the end of a fiscal year?

After that, this game lost a lot of its appeal to me.