Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More on D3

The furor over the Diablo 3 announcements has even made its way onto boingboing.  Between that and the forums there are all kinds of folks ticked off at Blizzard over their announcements of a Real Money Auction House and the requirement to play online.  Lots of people are chucking around conspiracy theories about Blizzard's shift towards social gaming and facebook integration and the forces of evil... but I think they just aren't seeing the big picture.  Here are the facts:

1.  If people are allowed to play offline they will hack their characters.

2.  Playing online with people who have hacked characters and gear isn't fun for and does not lead to any kind of persistent trading game or sense of advancement and also ruins PvP.

3.  Having separate realms for single player characters that are played online and online only characters means that many people will end up with characters they are attached to but which are in the wrong partition.  They will be separated from their friends characters and potentially from the entire player economy.

In D2 Blizzard ignored the third fact and we ended up with the travesty of Open Battle.Net where everybody was running with max level characters with hacked gear whose only goals were to grief those few people who were playing legitimately.  What this also meant was that all the people that started playing offline ended up having to start again from the beginning if they wanted to play with their friends - not particularly daunting for the hardcore players but a really big stumbling block for beginners I think.

Sure, Blizzard could just offer single player mode available offline with big warning notices that proclaim "YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ONLINE GAME WITH THIS CHARACTER!" when a new character is started and this would benefit those who want to play offline while travelling or whatnot.  It will also screw over all kinds of people who don't know what they are doing and end up building a bunch of single player characters that are then stranded outside Battle.net.  This would give players the freedom to play anywhere and also the freedom to screw up.  Instead Blizzard has decided to make sure that nobody gets those options.

Was this all motivated by the desire to improve the game for players at a cost of the players' freedom or was it a nefarious scheme to get everyone to spend money at the RMAH and add in another layer of DRM on the sly?  I suspect it was mostly the former but the fact that forcing people to play online might get Blizzard some extra revenue and might keep hacks out of the game a little longer couldn't have hurt.  Thing is, if Blizzard could have found any way at all to let people play offline and maintain a secure online environment that was integrated with offline characters they would do it!  They can't though, and they either needed to continue the clunky and annoying split of online/offline characters or force you to have an internet connection.  It won't affect me either way but for the record I think they made the right call.

1 comment:

  1. Couldn't agree more. I see a lot of bitching about the "always online" thing, and as someone whom has been online without fail since 1999, I can't understand the problem with it. Or, rather, I'm not someone it will ever affect, and I think most of us fall into that category.

    Entertainingly, I have heard two arguments against always-online. One, is that people will not be able to play the game in places like, say, an airplane. I find this argument hilarious, as you really can't play many games at all on an airplane - if anything due to the sheer lack of room to move. WoW wasn't hurt in any way from having a lack of "airplane compatibility", and I can't see that being an issue here.

    The second argument I have heard is people fighting overseas in the military won't be able to play since they have shitty internet access. To me, D3 isn't something which people are obligated to play, and it simply moves into the "can't play while driving a tank" bin. There are a million games out there which I'm sure people serving overseas cannot play, this is going to be one of them.

    Anyhow, just thought I'd share those arguments with you. As an avid D2 player (filled a whole mule up with SoJ's!) I forgot about the problem with the distinction of online vs. single player characters. You're absolutely right - most people would start the game in single player mode, develop and be proud of that character, then discover they would need to make another new character to play online, and would perhaps simply refuse to go on at that point. I think the always-online is a big win for accessibility and community building.