Diablo III looks good (despite what I’ve heard about it’s graphic style and WoW like image) and I must say I am eager to get my hands on a copy for both my wife and myself. Let’s be honest, there is nothing quite like sitting down to an intense dungeon crawl and clickspam stealing all the health potions while your spouse (or girlfriend) rages in the other room. There is one small hitch, I won’t be buying Diablo 3.
During the June of 2000 I picked up my copy of Diablo II after work, from there I ran home and installed it. While it was installing on my Cyrix 266, Nvidia TNT2 powered system I was on the phone to my work colleague who had likewise done the same. I played Diablo II for about 50 hours, before I slept. This isn’t some kind of geek fantasy exaggeration, these where the gaming sessions we were involved in. I can’t remember if I called in sick for work or if it was a weekend, those kind of details faded into the background as I drove my vicious Necromancer towards Diablo himself. That is what you might call emotional heritage. Memories of a time where nothing else mattered and Diablo II engulfed our imaginations, and our lives.
In 1997 I paid $4 for a floppy disk copy of the Diablo demo. That was my pocket money, and it was $4 well spent. Four of us sat huddled around a Pentium 75 watching that interlaced intro with avid anticipation. I can only remember the name of one of my companions that day and I haven’t seen him in over a decade and yet that moment lives vividly in my mind. I lived in a boarding college at that time and we had had to find a way to hack the computer security system so we could sneak down after lights out and play games on the provided study computers. They were years out of date but Diablo would sluggishly load and play. This kind of emotional heritage stems back to a time when I held computer game companies as deities. This was all long before World of Warcraft, long before the Distribution conglomerates of today’s sordid and hedonistic games industry. My love of Blizzard stems from a fantasy time generated in the head of an adolescent who’s only love was computer games. I loved Diablo and it loved me in return, faithfully we shared our relationship for over a decade.
Emotional heritage is an interesting concept. It allows corporate entities to confuse us, trick our mind into thinking foolish things. Today’s Blizzard is not the Blizzard of yesteryear, today’s gaming market is not the same environment as that of my youth. We live in a difficult time for PC gaming and we cannot let ourselves be fooled. Diablo 3 is not, as I had wished for in my heart of hearts, a successor to the immortalised Diablo franchise. OK so it is a successor however that is not it’s primary function. Diablo 3′s primary function is to make money. Considering the franchise, we aren’t talking about pocket change. Every movement by Activision or Blizzard regarding Diablo 3 is driven by capital gains and it is entirely unlikely that it will change.
Let’s examine the scenario.
Decision #1 – Free to Play / Pay to Win
Diablo 3′s Auction house is a thinly veiled attempt by Blizzard to take a slice of the constant out of game item buying market. I’m not a fan of the free to play system stemming directly from the fact that it costs far to much since it creates a pay to win environment in which the only way to remain competitive is to pay for items. This is a ridiculous aspect of MMO’s that simply does not belong in the Diablo franchise. Worse, pay to win models can be likened to endorsed drug use for athletes, only the event organisers are the pushers making a profit. It reduces the legitimacy of gaming as a sport and after fighting so long for a scant scrap of credibility it is the last thing we need an industry leader like blizzard to adopt particularly in a non MMO game.
Decision #2 – No Mods / Restricted use of your property
This is an old argument and having never really modded Diablo or Diablo II I can’t speak with authority. I can however see both sides of this argument. As a consumer I feel I should have a right to utilise my purchase as I see fit. As a competitive gamer I would like to know the online environment is restricted and legitimate. Modding can often be considered a double edged sword, however considering the success of Warcraft III mods that have carried onto their own franchises as well as into the Starcraft II arena it is odd Blizzard has chosen this path. Except when you consider the nature of Decision #3
Decision #3 – always on DRM (digital rights management -100% internet connection required for all game modes including single player)
There have been many arguments as to what this kind of DRM means for the industry. Publishers speak constantly about the threat of piracy to the industry, a constantly rebuked and realisticly weak argument. In this scenario Blizzard speaks of the services that can be offered by a constant connection. Guaranteed anti-cheating, auction house facilities, drop in drop out co-op support, live online rankings, and constant live monitoring and cloud saving of your progress. This of course is supposed to negate the fact that should your internet become unstable lose connection or be disconnected to due to a careless council worker you will simply be disconnected form your single player game and told kindly by the Blizzard service that “ well, there are other games to play for times like that.”
It’s plain to see the lack of mod support being spoken of as a feature is just one of the many complaints users will have about the DRM. Personally I see the auction house as a money grab by Blizzard and the last thing I need in a single player RPG is interaction with hordes of crazed internet scammers. Let’s be serious for a few moment’s, blizzards claims that this system will abolish cheating or scammers is ridiculous, tantamount to lieing. Perhaps that kind of bullshit works on the WoW’ers out there but not even Blizzard’s street cred is going to pull that off for any experienced gamer. Not only will Blizzard’s DRM not prevent scammers and cheaters it will encourage the hacking community to take action, as they have against ubisoft and of course blizzard (not that I condone the action, just that it is expected).
I think what really makes me hate this scenario, what makes me hate Blizzard to the very core of my gaming addicted heart is that they will do this, they will pull it of and it will give every other distributor out there the licence to do the same. Sure, the boycott on Ubisoft games has for the most part worked (although they are insistent to a fault) but it wont fly with a Blizzard title. The sheer number of blind devoted fan’s that would happily shell out cash to have Blizzard CEO Perdo stick a fork in their eye, is heart breaking for those of us with a real attachment to the majesty of a gaming era now seemingly dead.
Did I buy a copy of Deus Ex despite my rage at the e-game advertising. No. Will I buy a copy of Diablo 3 despite it’s always on DRM. No.
This kind of DRM is verging on level discrimination, against socio-economic and geographicaly situated gamers. I would be pleased if some clever European activist group started a class action lawsuit against blizzard and it’s attempt to marginalize, control and discriminate it’s former fan base.