Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Error #2,000,000: Diablo III, 'Unable To Play At All' Edition

You are scum.

Yes, you, dear reader. You are scum. A criminal, just waiting for your chance to take advantage of those poor hardworking videogames publishers. Be it by obtaining goods without first paying for them, or worse, playing a game the way you want to as opposed to the way you are told to. Basically, anything short of handing your money directly over to the publishers and then periodically giving them more is abberant behaviour in their eyes, and they will do whatever they can to stop you.

Their measures to retain absolute control in a world where they are increasingly irrelevant are manifold. They include such things as "Online passes", to try and stop those who sell our games to other people once we have finished with them from doing so. (Personally, I don't mind this, as I buy exclusively new copies and never trade in, so from my Ivory Tower all I ever get to see is bonus content for the same price that I was planning to pay anyway.) These take the form of codes that allow access to the multiplayer, or other aspects if the game has no multiplayer.

This doesn't really stop anybody, to be fair, and it hasn't really made the retailers drop the prices for secondhand games either. All it has done is ... effectively annoyed people who don't like paying the inflated RRPs that most games go at.

But, this hasn't stopped the publishers from plugging on with hare-brained schemes designed to make sure that NOBODY PLAYS WITHOUT PAYING! Enter the single most ludicrous of the publishers tools; Digital Rights Management (DRM) in the form of an always-online connection Take Diablo III, as the most recent example to pursue this method. Customers buy the game, take it home and install it, sit through a mandatory dlownload of additional files to update before attempting to log in, which requires an account at Battle Net, and then ....

Well, apparently, not a lot. It seems that the servers are struggling to cope with the weight of expectation of people who have patiently waited 12 yeards for the game, been good little boys and girls and ponied up the money upfront, and are now sat looking at a screen somewhat like this one:

Looks lovely, doesn't it?

See, Diablo III requires the player to be logged in before they can play. Any mode. Even single player. (It would be more accurate to say that there actually is no singleplayer mode, and that all you can actually do is play your multiplayer character with nobody else present.) The server handles mob spawns and loot drops, and therefore there is no way to play the game without connecting to the server.

The game you paid for. The game that sits on your HDD. You can't play it without going online. Which you can't do, because everybody else is trying to get online at the same time. Somewhere in the region of 2 MILLION of you, so at least you're amongst company.

This is so sickening that one has no choice but to burst into laughter about it. The pointless paranoia over the proliference of piracy has now reached its inevitable zenith. GENUINE PAYING CUSTOMERS are being denied the opportunity to play the game, whereas the pirates are ... far too busy not even giving a shit about Diablo III. It isn't on their radar, at all, since they know they need to always be online to play it and that is something that pirates don't actually like.

Well done, ActiBlizz. You shot yourself in the foot so specatacularly that it rebounded into your face, and now you should be the ones wearing eyepatches. DRM is stupid. Always-online DRM is even more stupid. And, the sheer amount of bad publicity this is generating is something you will have to fight against for any and all future releases. I can't see too many of your loyal customers racing to pre-order whatever expansion/DLC you release at this rate, and you are probably going have to give the first package away instead of charging for it just to get them back on your side.

DRM has never once been proven to lead to additional sales. Combatting piracy has never conclusively shown to be of benefit to ANYBODY. At best, it slows them down for a little while. At worst, it is Diablo III, and the only people who suffer are the loyal fans who were even willing to pay before the product existed. Good luck retaining them this time, ActiBlizz.

What SHOULD have happened is that the game be made in online and offline modes. Maintain them as two entirely seperate entities. Sure, some would have gotten it for nothing, and been playing it right now without piling a ton of hassle on the Battle Net servers. But, those who paid would get the service they DESERVE.

What do you do about this, then? Well, SCUM, you do as you're told. You already proved you are capable of that when you shelled out for the game in advance, despite knowing that this was likely to happen. And you moan on Twitter, where there are a million corporate shills just dying to tell you that it is only a game and you can't expect everything to be smooth. Welcome to games in 2012, and expect more of this bollocks in the future.


  1. What's your view on the real money trade possible in game? Do you think that the 'online only' system was chosen due to that to prevent people finding ways to dupe rare items offline to make real cash in game?

    1. I get why Blizz have done what they have, namely to try and keep some kind of actual economy in the acution house. And I love that idea, which is why I think there should be an offline only mode in the game as well as the always online one that has caused all the problems. The aim may be a noble one, but denying people access to a game they paid for is never cool, regardless of the reasoning behind it.