Tuesday, June 26, 2012

GAMERS! Draw your battle lines TODAY!

I'm troubled, loves.

Diablo III has done something rather unexpected in a recent update. Nope, it wasn't the introduction of the real-money auction house which is the actual reason why Blizzard insist you are always online in the first place, a feature bafflingly missing from the product at launch. (Which is a huge part of the reason why so many were so angry, because when something they didn't give a shit about that didn't even exist yet was STILL getting in the way of them playing, they were quite rightly pissed off.) Oh, they did finally bring that in, but that is not the only new thing introduced.

The new feature that I am talking about is the trial system. Apparently, a player in their first 72 hours is potentially disruptive, and so these players are not allowed in to the full game. (That they bought and paid for.) Instead, they are restricted to the first act, and can only interact with other players who are in their 72 hour trial period. None of the content in Act 2 onwards (that they bought and paid for) is available to them.


Somebody thought this was a good idea. Somebody, somewhere, floated this suggestion. What is most astonishing about this is that somebody else agreed, and gave it the green light.

What astonishes me the most of all is that the internet isn't going batshit about it. Possibly because it doesn't affect all those millions who pre-purchased the game and thus already endured reception of Blizzard's shaft? I can only imagine this is the case.

If you are one of those who aren't making a fuss about this, then you are one of those that will ultimately allow more of this crap to happen to us. And, instead of just endlessly click-click-clicking, you should be calling your comrades to arms over this. An injury to one of us is an injury to us all.

WHERE do Blizzard get off thinking they can treat people like this? On what mandate can they arbitrarily decide to cut people off from the game THAT THEY BOUGHT AND PAID FOR until Blizzard say "Heh, it's ok, you can go in now."? The answer is unsurprisingly obvious.

We did this to ourselves.

Right now, I am not seeing anything like the levels of hatred thrown Blizzard's way that I did when Diablo 3 was released. I should be seeing a lot more. Any and all complaints about Diablo III that relate to the way Blizzard are treating the customers are entirely justified. Customers in Korea are still getting errors when trying to connect, to the extent that Blizzard are being forced to refund them.

If you went out for a meal, you would expect the place to bring whatever you ordered from the menu to your table. If they were to say to you something along the lines of "I'm sorry, you are a new customer. You will only be able to order the steaks after you have finished a meal with us today." then you would not only make the entirely justifiable decision to not tip that waiter, you would also never eat steak in that restuarant because you would never go there again. You would not allow them to treat you that way, so why is it different when games companies do it?

Perhaps I may seem unusually angry towards Blizzard? Well, just so you know, I am merely angry towards companies who display such outwards contempt to their customers. Polytron, for example, find themselves in a similar boat.

They first came onto my radar for hatred when Phil Fish made his now infamous comment that "Japanese games suck" shortly before the release of Fez. To mere ripples of dislike from the internet in general, which is surprising considering how borderline racist the statement is. He apologised, naturally, and it seems that this is fair enough. (It isn't.) So, duly, everybody bought Fez and then raved about it. I bought it too, but I am not as enthralled as the rest of the world is, despite it being exactly my kind of thing. Maybe it being exactly my kind of thing is the problem, as I have played plenty of stuff that does what Fez does. Apart from the QR code stuff, which REALLY doesn't sit well with the style of game, in my opinion.

But all of this is taking me completely off-topic, because as much as Phil Fish deserves hatred for being such a cock, the latest development in the Fez saga doth truly taketh the caketh. As is increasingly the way these days, games are released on a set date regardless of what state they may actually be in. Such old-fashioned concepts as "Making sure the thing works before releasing it" are seen as quaint traditions that are just not needed in these days where everybody has an internet connection. Fair enough, Fez is currently ONLY available online, but even so it is a poor choice of ways of doing business.

I honestly can't remember the last time I bought a game on XBox 360 that didn't eventually get an update of some sort. Generally, these updates happen on day 1, so there is a pretty good chance that any game you play on the console will require the update. And you see others doing it all the time, too, with them coming online about 30 seconds after they last came online. It is so accepted that it has in fact become ubiquitous. We just know that games get updated, often for seemingly no real reason at all.

Fez has just been updated. Updated into actual uselessness. It seems that the new version renders save files from the old version corrupt and unplayable. Polytron first advised people not to download it, and then MicroSoft pulled it from the XBox Marketplace.


It completely amazes me that a situation like this can ever possibly come about. For a start, Polytron should have picked this up during testing. Shouldn't they? Is it wrong of me to want people to do the job that they are supposed to be doing? That they didn't makes me think ... did they even have QA on this? And, once they failed to spot it, isn't MicroSoft supposed to have additional teams to pick up on stuff like this in order to allow certification? If so, how did they not spot this?

How did Bethesda not spot when a Skyrim save file larger than 6Mb became unreadable?

How was Mass Effect 3 allowed to leave the warehouses with an inability to faithfully import a custom Shepherd that was built in the first game?

It is not unreasonable to expect games to ship without problems. It is not entitlement to want what you paid for. It is entirely justifiable if we get cross as a result of these errors. Particularly in the case of disc-based games. Yes, most of us are connected and can probably update, but when the updates cause further problems, WE ARE RIGHT TO DEMAND TO KNOW WHAT IS GOING ON.

The games industry has a bunch of problems, some big and some small. One of the biggest it faces in the years to come is to stop making us all feel like we are nothing more than a number to them. There is an apparent lack of CARE in the way that the big games publishers are treating us. From the outside, all we ever seem to be are revenue streams, and when we demand our money's worth, well ... they don't seem to like it.

Instead of inventing yet more schemes to squeeze the very lifeblood out of us, publishers need to instead start focusing on ways to win us back. Other industries realise the power and importance of brand loyalty, why don't games? If you went into a car dealership showroom, and were told that your car would be ready tomorrow but you will have to wait a week before you could open the windows, then you simply would not buy that car. Games publishers, however, seem to actively loathe their customers to the point where that analogy is not only accurate, but could actually be extended.

We have got to stop tolerating this behaviour, guys! For every millimetre we willingly give to them today will mean that we have more to fight for when they finally cross the line. For some of us, that line is already a memory, and it is those vocal souls that we need to start getting behind. If we fight amongst ourselves, spouting such patently ridiculous rhetoric as "It's a big game, there are bound to be some bugs." instead of "This is unacceptable, don't buy Dawnguard until you know for sure it works.", then we will ultimately have only ourselves to blame.

We should not be paying to beta test. PLEASE, I beg you, stop doing it. Or else, instead of downloading a free ending for Mass Effect 3, in the future you'll be paying to download better endings for all your games. You just spent 3 games uniting the entire universe against a common threat, surely you can join in with this much more straightforward cause?


  1. What trial system is this? I didn't read anything about this being introduced and can't find anything on google about it. There is a starter edition (free demo) and a flier with a code for a free guest pass that came with new copies of the game (with the intention that you give the code to a friend). The only stupidity there was that you couldn't actually group with your starter friend as starter accounts can only group with each other.

    Far as I know you're not limited within the first 72 hours in any way if you bought the game in full? It sounds to me like someone redeemed the guest pass thinking it was their game code or something.

  2. Turns out is just digital edition purchases, but this is still pretty inexcusable. http://thisismyjoystick.com/feature/new-diablo-3-players-get-starter-edition-for-72-hours/

  3. Ah, then I agree that is crap, although it sounds like the usual time is less than 72 hours. Probably similar to how their WoW character transfers etc always say it could take hours to process, but it's done really fast.

    I would think this is so they can start trying to weed out Chinese botters. See this interview with a Chinese gold farmer in D3 http://www.teamliquid.net/forum/viewmessage.php?topic_id=343265 The details are summarised below the vid. But interestingly, the gold farmer actually wants Blizz to sort the situation out (presumeably because he'd like to be able to sell legendary weapons for real money at exorbitant prices instead of the current undercutting situation.

    1. Thanks for that link, it was very enlightening.

      I totally get WHY Blizzard are doing what they are doing, but if anything the evidence suggests that it isn't working anyway. So, why punish perfectly legitimate customers at all?