Friday, 18 May 2012

Obligatory Diablo III nonsense

I wasn't going to get Diablo III anyway, but if I was, Blizzard would have lost a sale.

Courtesy of Penny Arcade, I was under the impression, initially, that the program was already sitting on people's computers awaiting activation on release day. To be honest, I was shocked that companies still do that, despite the huge fan outcry that's occurred whenever it's been tried. I mean, it's understandable why a development company might do things that way; it's more understandable why the fans would be pissed off about it, and the customer is always right, even if said customer is a loud, obnoxious jerk who smells slightly of boiled cabbage and turpentine.

Evis T informs me that actually, it's the rendering engine and such that people have on their PCs, and the content is streamed from Blizzard's servers during play.


I live in a neighbourhood with a poor net connection. Evis T lives in a residential complex abutting his workplace, with a poor net connection. Our pals Arron and Andy seem to just have flat out bad net no matter what they do. Playing online games can already be a chore for us, as people drop out randomly or freeze up with lag. Now we can't even play single-player games without worrying about that? Or that things might go tits-up Blizzard-side? Amazing. And this is supposed to be an anti-piracy measure... seriously? If anything this sort of draconian countermeasure, a cure worse than the disease if you will, would make me turn to piracy.

I haven't looked, but I would put money on cracked copes of Diablo III being pretty easily available already.

I don't care about Diablo III - the original Diablo underwhelmed me enough that I never bothered with Diablo II, and to be honest, I'm just not a fan of Blizzard's games in general. But Blizzard are a 'big deal' company, with the power to set precedent for other companies. If BioShock Infinite, or Baldur's Gate: Enhanced Edition, or my beloved Carmageddon: Reincarnation were to use the same system, I would not be impressed. There's already been some backlash against Stainless in some fan quarters for the fact that Carmageddon: Reincarnation will likely require Steam upon its initial release, even though Steam is pretty unobtrusive if you want it to be, and you can play Steam games offline.

Although it might not be how I'd do things, I can - if pressed - reason in favour of Steam-only gaming (especially as Stainless have said that, pending the success of that release, they'd love to be able to port the game to other platforms). Similarly, I'm sure somebody out there can reason in favour of Blizzard's Diablo III model. I'd love to see it justified. But most of my pro-Steam arguments boil down to the fact that all the potentially annoying things about Steam don't get in the way of letting you play your game. Even games which really, really want you to be online, like The Sims 3, still grudgingly allow you to play offline. Blizzard's latest trick, however, effectively restricts access to something people have already paid for a licence to use.

I'm waiting for the day when a company uses the same system as Diablo III, then five months in announces that the game will no longer be playable without a DLC pack. Although maybe that would be a good thing, ultimately, if the resulting backlash would kill off the idea once and for all.

The face of gaming is changing. More and more gamers are putting their money where their mouth is, or more accurately, not putting their money down for practices they dislike. The fan reception to the endings of Fallout 3, and more recently Mass Effect 3, prompted the developers to rectify things in an expansion pack and patch respectively. GFWL is apparently losing steam quicker than a sumo wrestler in a long-distance limbo race. And so a business model which restricts access to single-player, ostensibly 'offline' content is surely doomed to fail.

At least I hope so.

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