Anticipation is a mofo, isn’t it?
Last night, millions (literally, millions) of gamers switched on their computers in hopes of playing Diablo III, the newest in Blizzard’s hack-y, slash-y, click-y action-RPG series and a game certain corners of the internet have been frothing for since 2000. Their hopes were misplaced. All through the night, into the morning, and again through following evening, players valiantly attempted to start their game. Instead, they encountered the by-now-infamous “Error 37,” a notice that Diablo III‘s servers were over capacity and wouldn’t allow any more players in.
Now, wait a minute, servers?
Yes, dear readers, Blizzard chose to fit Diablo III with a mandatory online connection, similar to the DRM Ubisoft put into several of its PC games a few years ago, like Assassin’s Creed II. In a nutshell, the game requires players to be connected to the internet at all times during the course of play, even during single-player situations.
Blizzard could have implemented this persistent online connection for any number of reasons: piracy prevention, design decisions based around the game’s real-money-accepting auction house, more-easily integrated online play, whatever. I am still baffled, though, that the company decided to go through with using the connection requirement; Ubisoft’s Always On DRM met with extreme unpopularity upon release, and eventually was rebuffed and lost to the annuls of history (with the exception of bloggers like myself who dig through past screw ups for argument-strengthening examples).
Baffled. Even if the Always On persistent connection hadn’t been a PR nightmare for Ubisoft, I’m still shocked that launching several World of Warcraft expansions didn’t give Blizzard enough prior experience to deal with millions of gamers looking to play the thing they bought for $59.99 at Target all at the same time.
Seriously, gamers hoping to play through the single-player portion of their campaign are held up from doing so because of ill-thought-out and poorly-implemented DRM. Granted, “not getting to play a video game” ranks pretty high on the First World Problems chart (somewhere between “they only had white zinfandel” and “We had to go see The Avengers in 3D instead of 2D“), but it is still a case of consumers not being able to use a product that they paid money for.
This is why I have a strict cabin-in-the-woods policy when it comes to single-player games. That is, if I can’t take a game to my family’s cabin on Lindbergh Lake (a location sans-mobile phone service and often lacking internet connection) and still enjoy myself, I write the game right off. There are simply too many moments in my life where reliable online access isn’t guaranteed, and despite the ever-expanding presence of 3G wireless and high-speed broadband, I still feel like a game should be able to speak for itself without having to look to the internet. Besides, having that criteria helps thin out the games I actually care about.
Anyway, who knows how long it is before Diablo III can even be played without having to suffer through Old Republic-esque queue times, but it needs to be soon. Honestly, I hope Blizzard drops the need for a persistent online connection; it’s a crappy deal that ultimately benefits no one. Hopefully, Blizzard and pissed-off gamers can reconcile and go back to living in non-Metacritic-bombing harmony, but in the meantime, I’m going to go play Max Payne 3, a game that, remarkably, you can start playing as soon as you close the disc drive.