After nearly 12 years, Diablo 3 finally arrived last Tuesday, May 15th, returning players to the dark land of Sanctuary on an eternal quest for better loot.
But Diablo 3’s release certainly was not without bumps and errors. Players stayed up all night, ready to push play at 12:01 a.m. , only the be shut out of the servers and unable to play for hours. These server maintanance periods lasted throughout the day, and even now some players still have connecton errors. If you’ve followed gaming in any capacity, this is old news.
But for many gamers, Blizzard’s handling of Diablo 3’s online-only infrastructure is an inexcusable crime. Players took to Metacritic, giving the game poor ratings despite its high level of polish and well crafted gameplay. The online functions were too much for them, and the Metacritic score for Diablo 3 now sits at a 4.1/10 user score.
Videogame Critic and Industry commentator Jim Sterling supported this mindset in his most recent episode of his webshow The Jimquisition. In the episode, he backed up angry gamers, saying since Diablo is an intrinsically single player experience, Blizzard should not have required a constant internet connection. Sterling beleives gamers are fully justified in their anger, and in fact suggested they should continue to express their discontent to prevent future games from utilizing the same sort of online functionality as Diablo 3.
This may be one of the few times I disagree with Sterling. The defense of the online features is simple: Blizzard has an auction house where players may use real money to buy and sell gear they find in the game. In order to prevent people from hacking items and duplicating them (things we all knew how to do in Diablo 2) to then sell on the auction house unfairly, Blizzard implemented an always-online system. But Sterling believe it goes even further than that, positing that this is just DRM to prevent piracy.
I’m sure that’s a part of it, but to suggest that Blizzard is doing it to save themselves from piracy is incorrect; they’re doing it to insure players who utitlze the auction house will do so honestly, and without worry of being duped. Diablo 2 was played for nearly 12 years, if Diablo 3 lasts even half as long, Blizzard has given players (and themselves) the ability to make money on the game for as long as it’s being played. Rather ingenious in my opinion.
That being said, I certainly don’t think players should stifle their discontent, but I also think they should try to see the merits in this system. Sure, sometimes the connection issues are annoying, and I certainly have been far luckier than others in terms of latency issues and server errors. But I also oppose the “Diablo is a single player game” argument, simply because for that 12-year life span, Diablo 2 was being played online the overwhelming majority of the time. I will even argue that the online Battle.net functions have enhanced my experience, making playing with friends seamless. And those moments when I want to play on my own, I can still chat with my friends and people I’ve quested with at any time. I’ll take a few hours of down time or lag every once in a while to keep that experience. Because what’s a few hours versus years of potential entertainment?
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