Monday, August 1, 2011

Diablo 3 triple bombshell

So if you're a Blizzard fan, more specifically a Diablo fan, and not living under a rock, you've probably heard the 3 major news pieces from Blizzard regarding Diablo 3 today:

1) Online-only play (no offline play)
1a) Regionalization
2) No mods
3) Real money auction house

I am so disappointed and disgusted with these announcements that I had to post something, even though I haven't posted anything for a long time. Let me address each of these points to explain why I am absolutely mortified and incredulous at how Blizzard has managed to butcher a game that looked so promising, until today.

1) Online-only play

Seriously Blizzard? What were you thinking? When StarCraft II pulled this stupid stunt I though that there's no way in hell Diablo is going to follow the same path. Guess I underestimated Actiblizzard's greed (or the stupidity of whoever concocted this bullshit).

Yeah, there are always those ready to blast me for daring to wish for an offline game in this day and age. Well, you are wrong. There are countless reasons for offline play (including personal ones) and scenarios where it is desired, nay, the only option.

The first and easiest argument for offline play is that not every Diablo fan on this planet has access to the internet, or to reliable internet. I should be indifferent because I have a fast broadband connection but even that occasionally goes down. When there's a particularly nasty storm outside my cable can go silent for 24 hours or more, while the power is still up. Try playing Diablo 3 under those conditions.

The second argument is that maybe I'd like to play this game while traveling, on a plane or a beach or wherever the fuck I please, where there's no internet access. Good luck with that.

The third argument is that play will be dependent on Blizzard keeping those servers up. Sure, we can all imagine that Blizzard will still be here in 20 years but in reality nothing is guaranteed. Companies can rise and fall unexpectedly and no single company is immune to that. Hell, Blizzard might decide at some point that they've had enough supporting Diablo 3 (though I admit that this is far-fetched), and just pull the plug on their servers.

The fourth argument is that I just want a goddamn single-player game that I can enjoy without having to go online. I don't want to socialize, I don't want to mix with others and I don't want to log in to Battlefuckingnet. Blizzard says that you don't have to play with others while online, you can just create your own game. In that case, why the fuck can't I do this offline??

I'm sure others can find even more arguments. These are just off the top of my head.

Blizzard's justification for this clusterfuck is that it will provide a "secure environment" bla bla bullshit. Fuck that. I don't need a secure environment in the privacy of my own computer. In my circle of one I'm more secure than Fort Knox. The underlying reason is, of course, piracy. They are hoping that this will cut down on piracy because, after all, if you can't play it offline, you can't pirate it. I'll get back to this point...

The obvious solution, which Diablo 2 had, is to separate offline and online characters. Simple. Offline characters will never be able to play online. Blizzard claims that people who level their characters to 30-40 and then want to get online won't be able to. Boo-fucking-hoo. Everyone knows what they sign up for from the beginning. No one will cry over this because, I repeat, this is how Diablo 2 worked and no one expected otherwise. This argument is, therefore, fail.

I thought that I could get over the fact that LAN play was missing, and I actually did. I figured that, what the hell, I don't LAN that much anyway so as long as I can enjoy the game offline, I'm cool. Heh, I wasn't counting on Blizzard's diabolic solution.

1a) Regionalization

Another thing that pisses me off, and comes with the territory, is that Battlefuckingnet now divides the world into regions. For most people this won't make a big difference because most of their friends are local anyway, but there are a few of us who have friends on other continents.

Take me, for example. I'm European but I live in the US. My best friends are still in Europe and a few of them were hardcore Diablo 1&2 players (just like myself) and are still big Blizzard (and WoW) fans. Will I be able to play with them on Battlefuckingnet? Of course not. My version would be localized to the US, while theirs would be European.

Well, screw those guys, I can just play on my own here in the US. But what if I move back to Europe in a couple of years? I'd have to pay another $60 (or whatever this game will cost) because my copy would be locked to the US and either I won't be able to access US servers from Europe or the lag will be too bad to play. Oh and of course I won't have LAN so I can play with my old friends at LAN parties.

2) No mods

I can't say I'm a big fan of mods. In fact, I've never used them in Diablo 1 or 2. Nonetheless, I support a gaming community's right to mod the games they own, provided it never gets on official Blizzard servers. But wait, there is no offline mode, nor LAN play. The community gets screwed over again.

I completely understand Blizzard's interdiction of mods but that should only apply to playing on their official servers. Offline, anything goes. Or it would, if offline play was an option.

3) Real money auction house

Initially I was cautiously optimistic about this new feature. I seems quite revolutionary at first glance. However, the more I think about it, the dumber it seems. Well, it's obviously a smart move from Blizzard's perspective. After all, they'll be taking a cut of the action. Though they claim they're not in it for the money (because poor them, they'll just be breaking even, whatever the hell that means), make no mistake: they're only in it for the money.

It's not altruism which compels Blizzard to introduce the cash auction house. A gold AH would have been sufficient. But nooo, Blizzard has discovered yet another golden-egg-laying goose and they have to milk it for what it's worth.

If you fantasize about making a living purely by playing Diablo 3 and selling items on the auction house, you are deluding yourself. Valuable items will probably be rare enough that you will only get a valuable drop once in a blue moon. And when you do get that uber-rare legendary item and want to sell it, there will be a dozen just like it on the auction house (from a million other players) and the lowest selling price will be a lousy $4.99. After Blizzard (and Paypal or whoever else) gets their cut, assuming you sell your item without posting it multiple times, you'll be left with less than half the selling price. And this is without even considering all the gold cash farmers that are likely to pop up.

Remember, each time you post an item there's a listing fee. If the item doesn't sell, you still pay the listing fee. If the item sells, you pay a selling fee. I don't know if in the latter case your listing fee is refunded. Think of it in terms of the WoW auction house. Same principle, only you'll be paying real cash to list those items.

I also have a problem with the perceived value of items. If I got a very rare item, in the new system I am faced with 2 very painful choices: should I use that item myself or should I sell it. By selling it, I could make some real money. But by keeping it I could get some real use out of it. Hard choices, right there. Well, at least items are not soul bound.

There are a couple of things about the cash AH that piqued my interest.

First, they mentioned that gold will also be trade-able for real cash. This will create an interesting balance between the cash and gold auction houses (yes, there will also be a gold AH in game, thank Zeus). So it might be possible to make some real cash by selling gold instead of rare items. After all, it's a million times easier to farm gold than it is to farm rare items.

Second, they said that those selling items for cash will be protected by anonymity. Neither their real name or their character names will be shown. I was like, WTF? The problem that I see here is that there's nothing stopping Blizzard from injecting items into the auction house, thus effectively selling their own pixels (which costs them nothing to create) for real money.

Blizzard swears on their mothers' graves that they will never sell items directly and that the only items on the auction house will be found by players in game. Which is the way it should be. But when no one except Blizzard knows who's behind a certain auction, how can we, the players, be certain that it isn't actually Blizzard selling that item covertly, FOR REAL CASH?

I admit that this theory could be entirely bullshit, but it is a possibility. I imagine that if such a conspiracy were to take place, there would inevitably be a leak that exposed Blizzard's nefarious affairs.

What they did is obvious: they decided to remove item selling from eBay and third party sites to their own yard. Good for them. But pretending to have done this for the benefit of the players is disingenuous.

Furthermore, they claim that online play is mandatory for the cash auction house (or even the gold AH) to work. That's perfectly fair. We all now how easily items were duped in Diablo 2 on offline characters. For that reason, completely segregate online and offline characters! Bam, easy solution! Offline characters will never have the possibility to trade with online ones. Offline characters would be saved to your local computer, while online ones will be saved (yup, you've guessed it!) to the server. There would be no way to tamper with the latter. Moreover, you shouldn't even be required to create a Battlenet account in order to play offline games. OK, fine, just register the game in your Bnet once, and that's it. I'll give Blizzard that. But don't require me to be online after that, EVER!


1) Online-only play. Fuck you Blizzard. You've screwed a lot of people royally over this one.
1a) Regionalization. Meh, I'm on the fence over this one because I realize there are certain technical limitations to implementing worldwide play on a single server. Still, it would have been nice not to be segregated. It would have been nice if my copy of the game bought in the US still worked in Europe.
2) No mods. It's none of your goddamn business Blizzard what I do offline with my game. I bought that game with my own money, I can do with it whatever I damn well please. Offline.
3) Real money auction house. Fuck you again Blizzard. Here's a solution no one asked the question for. Though some people have already started seeing dollar signs, it will only serve to make Diablo 3 a cheaper experience.

My take on this is that I'm extremely disappointed, to say the least. As you might have noticed, I've taken the kid gloves off of my usually restrained language. Well, no more Mr Nice Guy. I've waited for Diablo 3 for 10 years (along with millions of other fans) and when it's finally around the corner, they hit us with this royally screwing bullshit. Thanks a bunch Blizzard for respecting your fans.

In return, all I can hope for is that the pirated, unlocked and offline-enabled version will be made available as soon as possible after the game is finally released. I never advocate piracy and Blizzard's games would be the last things in the world that I would pirate but this is too much. They showed how much they "respect" us. We can only repay them in kind.

I also hope that those who are of a similar opinion will refrain for buying this game, but the truth is that many fans, no matter how horrified, will end up buying it, thus empowering Blizzard into thinking that their stupid tricks were effective. I won't kid myself, nor will I kid you: I might end up buying it in the end. After all, I'm human. But I will do everything in my power to resist the temptation. There's a whole new world out there which doesn't include Blizzard, or even computer games. If Blizzard tries their best to alienate their fans, I can only feel obliged to leave them in the rear-view mirror.

Maybe I'm overreacting. Yet, I can't help feeling a deep sense of loss over this. Perhaps it's time to grow out of this eternal anticipation over the mythical Diablo 2 successor. It looks like that game will never happen. Yes, in a few months there will be a game called Diablo, with brand-spanking new graphics and good gameplay, but somehow it will never be the same. Underneath all that bling, the spirit of the original Diablo games is not to be found.


Wintermute said...

You make it sound as if Blizzard owes you an offline game, and, by extension, that every other game developer owes you one as well. As if playing Diablo III offline is an unalienable human right. It ain't. They make the game, they make the rules. I don't see how they've "screwed" you, unless they -promised- offline and LAN play and regional non-segregation, then cut those features. Even then, tough cookies. Play something else.

On another note, I agree that the cash auction house has the potential for abuse by Blizzard/Activision, but there are plenty of other micro-transaction-based games out there. You're paying for bits no matter what. If you find value in those bits, does it really matter who's profiting?

Coop said...


Don't buy it. You can protest with your wallet. You do not however get the right to pirate a game because you think the developer does not respect you.

As Wintermute says, they don't owe you anything here. You don't have a right to demand that Blizzard or anyone else makes the game you want. You do have the right to not purchase the game or make your opinion known, but somehow justifying pirating because you don't the game is over the line. If you choose not to buy an iPad because you don't like Apple's app store policies, you aren't automatically justified in stealing one.

Your attitude is selfish and childish. If you want to make a point, make a point, more power to you, but your stance is very diluted when you refuse to sacrifice anything for it.

Adgamorix said...

Who got 'screwed' by the game being online only? I don't recall Blizzard stating that they were creating the next "AMG AWESOME" sit at home with zero connection to the outside world game. They have stated, more than once, that they want Battle.Net to be their version of Steam. Let me guess, you don't like Steam either, because you have to be online to play?

Also, you are missing a key point here that has been upheld over and over again in the courts. You're not buying the game - certainly not for $60. You're buying a license to use the game, under their rules, which can change at any time. The only software you own is software you've developed yourself. Even software licensed under GNU doesn't say you own it.

Buy it or don't. Personally, it's in the top 5 games I'm looking forward to in the near future - and I don't care if I have to log in or not.

Adgamorix said...

I guess I shouldn't have been surprised by your stance since you have gold selling ads on your blog.

Darth Solo said...

@Wintermute you are right. They don't owe me anything. And I don't owe them my money.

@Coop copying some bits is not the same as stealing a physical item from a store. But let's not get into that right now. I highly doubt I'll even be bothered to pirate it (it's too much of a hassle and not worth getting an inferior product) but someone WILL crack it, just to get past this online bullshit. You know, Diablo 3 was just about the only hope me and countless others had for a game with an offline component. I'm 100% for Bnet, as long as I don't have to log on to it.

As for Steam, I don't mind it because for most games you just need it once, to activate the damn game, after which you can play it to your heart's content, offline, in the jungle, desert or North Pole.

@Adgamorix I see you are buying into this "license" bullshit. It's nice that the software industry has managed to drill this into people's heads to the point where they are staunch supporters of this idiotic concept.

See, that's why I can't stand online only games that I also have to pay for. Because I'm just buying a "license". I want my offline copy so I can hack it if I wish, mod it or do anything short of making copies to sell.

Take World of Tanks. It is online only but it is FREE. I pay for certain stuff only if I want to. And I did. No one forced me. On the other hand, I knew what I was getting into from the beginning and anyway, WoT revolves entirely around online play.

As for the gold ads on this blog, you need to learn how Google AdSense works. I have no control over it. WoW blog + mention of gold = gold ads. But like the guy above you said: if you don't like gold ads, you don't have to buy gold. Personally I'm firmly against gold buying (and you would know that if you'd visited this blog before) just for the record.

Bobbins said...

Hell they owe us! But Blizzard isn't the company it use to be and I miss it! I've supported Blizzard like millions of other customers over the years and I don't like what it is becoming.
But like the others say above if you don't like it don't buy it. In fact come to think of it the really poor patch releases in WoW should be a concern to their customers. In fact 400,000 left didn't they!

Am I upset! YES. But maybe time to move on. I owe Blizzard nothing and they owe me nothing.

Adgamorix said...

If you're against buying gold (which you have stated before), then turn off the ads.

So do you 'own' the items in WoT? I don't think so. If the servers shut down tomorrow you wouldn't get a disk in the mail with the code for your purchased items.

Along those lines, you know what you're getting into with D3 as well. It's not like you bought it, played for 3 months, then suddenly logged on to find that the online portion had been implemented without any forewarning. THAT would be worth getting upset about.

Jason said...

Whoah everyone! Darth is entitled to his opinions. I for one am still excited to play and sad to hear that you might not be along to D3, Darth... I've enjoyed your blog a ton (even though I have also given up WoW, but am very excited for D3!!). I am also a solo player, but have taken the approach that maybe with online only, it will keep me tempered with play since I WON'T have access everywhere and I can then budget time. Glass half-full, my friends :)


Darth Solo said...

@Bobbins Blizzard indeed isn't the company it once was. If back in the days of the original Diablo, Starcraft and Warcraft it was driven mainly by the passion to make awesome games, these days its main motivation seems to be how to find new ways in which to milk players. There's nothing wrong with making money because that's the whole raison d'etre of any company but I hate it when it impacts the nature of their games.

@Adgamorix as I said, I can't control what ads Google shows. Some of them are gold ads but many aren't (some of them in fact are from Blizzard). I make pitifully little money from these ads and it helps to offset a small percentage of my WoW subscription.

Here's the deal with WoT. The game is FREE! And its entire concept is based around playing with others, unlike Diablo. Diablo should be a very powerful single player game with the option to play cooperatively with others (preferably over LAN but also over the internet). Nothing more.

I would stop bitching instantly if Diablo 3 were free. But it isn't. That, coupled with the online-only mode and regionalization pretty much kills it for me.

@Jason thank you for understanding. I am very hurt right now and understandably so (in my opinion) because this is the one and only game I was expecting for years and had high hopes for. No other game compares, in my eyes.

I will write in a future post why my particular situation makes me so upset. I'm aware that 99% of potential Diablo 3 buyers won't be in my situation but that's the way things are for me and I stand firm in my opinions.

Malvius said...

Unfortunately we are a people akin to a frog in a slowing boiling pot of water, in time the frog is cooked and served for dinner.

Just because a company chooses a certain way to sell their product, doesn't mean it's right.

This license option that software companies are going is wrong. Paying for software means it should be owned not rented.

I agree with you Darth, wow some roaches came out the woodwork to attack you, I thought the crowd on this blog were pretty civil for the most part.

Darth Solo said...

@Malvius thanks man! It's ok, people have the right to their own opinion and I was expecting some backlash anyway, from my abrasive tone.

I'm all for not owning the software, on the condition that a) I don't have to pay for it or b) the price is too small to matter.

It won't be the case with D3. It seems that these days $60 is the new $50.

Jon said...

I play WoW on the EU servers while living in the USA. I have an EU battle net account that I created while living in the USA. Unless they are doing something different for D3, you could get someone from the EU to buy the game for you and use the EU servers like i did for WoW.

Darth Solo said...

@Jon but I already have a Bnet account on US servers, since I played WoW a lot. And besides, if someone else created an account in my name, wouldn't that be against Blizzard's Terms of Service?