Last week's long awaited release of Diablo 3 greeted both players and observers with yet another high profile spectacle that showed how it really isn't too bright an idea for fans to allow a game company to go unchecked, whether it be due to indifference or blind fandom, in it's bid to consolidate power title by title.
As history has and will most likely continue to show, the toleration of a game's experience and value being entirely funneled through the developer's sphere of control will inevitably lead to the same unfortunate outcome: A mixture of oppressive DRM and methodically whittled down options that put gamers squarely under the corporate thumb well after they've had their fill of pick pocketing.. resulting in the paying fan not only being left wide open to further corporate greed but, as the Diablo 3 launch clearly showed, also perpetually at the mercy of corporate folly and technical issues far beyond personal control.
Only when a company like Blizzard has been allowed to completely dismantle the balance of power between gamer and game maker can a scenario occur where a large number of fans wait out years of anticipation, wade through long lines/download times, and shell out $60-$100 only to finally sit down and be met with this for extended periods of time:
For those who never cared to pay attention to all the noise surrounding Diablo 3, inevitable technical issues on Blizzard's end or busy servers make the game unplayable in any capacity. No multiplayer or singlepayer, just gaming's most expensive menu screen for the unlucky masses who can't squeeze through in time.
This is all courtesy of restrictive DRM requiring an always-on internet connection (whose aim is every bit an effort to protect it's precious real world money auction house as it is to combat the piracy boogeyman) and across the board gutting of basic features like LAN support over the years. This longtime action RPG franchise is now locked down as tight as an MMO.. and now as unreliable as one to. (who doesn't enjoy constant vulnerability to character hacks regardless of whether or not you care to play online, lag while playing singleplayer, and pretty much all of PC gaming's annoyances with none of it's openness or flexibility? )
The irony ofcourse is that the entire mess was seen coming a mile away.
Blizzard had been gimping their games for increased control and artifically increased profit well before D3 and 'features' like the required always-on internet connection were made know well before release. Yet, despite all of this, the hype and preorders persisted with a mere fraction of the hassle given to the likes of EA and Ubisoft for similar tactics. When it came down to it, Diablo 3 was simply being the clusterf*ck it's fans allowed it to become.
Amid the aftermath of the botched launch, the three biggest groups of contributors to the passivity towards what the franchise was being turned into were content to avoid any semblance of accountability:
- Complaining buyers who showed they're pretty much all talk by still deciding to throw money at a monster they knew was growing out of control.
- Shortsighted fans of other genres who are content with looking the other way because the collateral damage hasn't hit their own favorite franchises (yet).
- Mind-numbing Blizzard apologists who seemed to always fail in realizing the irony in the time they spend complaining about those who they feel are spending too much time complaining.. as well as the absurdity of acting as if the developer deserved some sort of an award for trying to clean up the embarassing mess their own excessive greed put them in. No, as usual, there were many among this group that were more than content to aim low and target Blizzard detractors (at times with needlessly antagonistic nonsense) than question the company itself.
Groups of gamers who have done nothing but help continue the undermining of a once protected belief that the consumer's expectation of being able to play a freshly purchased full-priced game whenever they desire to do so should never be allowed to be downplayed or, in the worst cases, ridiculed.
I realize Diablo games have always been Multiplayer-centric, but turning an option into a 'requirement', not a one-time or an occasional requirement, but an actual dependence, while delibrately passing the misconception that always-on DRM will magically prevent potential game-ruining cheating on top of all the exaggerated excuses revolving around the supposed lack of player desire for an offline option in attempts to justify it is ridiculous and insulting. Blizzard has simply made their problems everyone elses to without a balanced tradeoff.
The most disturbing aspect though wasn't a few Diablo fans not being able to play their game right away or the melodramatic arguments that ensued because of it. No, the saddest part is actually what proceeded the drama. It's what I'm unsurprisingly starting to notice as time passes and more people are finally starting to consistently play the game.. acceptance.
The growing amount of acceptance of these types of messes and adoption of the "what are you gonna do, it is what it is" attitude with the stunts pulled on a game of this scale is what will do the most damage to not only the franchise, but gaming in general over the longterm.
Despite the many headaches Blizzard may have endured righting the server issues, they would gladly endure them time and again so long as the end result of paying customers condoning their actions stays the same.
A game like Diablo 3 has no secondhand market, it has DRM tailored to enhance exploitation, and it's basically a herded experience that forces gamers to play on Blizzard's terms and their terms alone. It's a level of control that, whether they would openly admit or not, is the absolute dream scenario that all game companies are currently striving for one layer of fan indifference at a time. All of which is why it is so vital for gamers to always consider the ramifications of whatever leeway they provide to modern game companies. Much like new laws and taxes in the real world, once a new form of DLC, DRM, or any other change to the standard in which games are made / marketed are allowed to pass.. they never really go away. They tend to only compound.
Many have touched upon the war on singleplayer, physical formats, or used gaming when discussing the currently aggressive climate of the industry, but the fact of the matter is that those are merely fronts for what has always been the real war.. the one being waged on the consumer rights of gamers. That is why it is as important as ever for gamers to be wary of what they allow their wallet to vote for if they care to avoid their favorite games or genres descending into depths they may not want to follow them into.
As soon as I heard that you always had to be connected to the internet to play Diablo III, I decided I wouldn't buy it. It was that simple for me. The people that did buy it told Blizzard that they don't mind this kind of BS.
Oh please. The connection issues with Diablo III are SOOOOO last week. The new hot topic is the hacking!
Oh yes, if you haven't heard yet, over the weekend there was a sudden surge in account hackings. It seems that hackers have found a nice little exploit in the game client and are stealing session IDs of gamers that recently played with other players, allowing the hackers to access the last character the gamer played with and steal all their items and gold. Players that were affected would login to find their character completely wiped clean, in an act or location they weren't in when they last played, and a bunch of people they have never met on their friend's list...So it seems like it is a way to steal session IDs via an exploit in the friends/recently played with list.
Blizzard's response thus far? "Oh there is nothing wrong with our secure servers. You have a keylogger or fell for a phishing scam. BUY AN AUTHENTICATOR!" Except that people with authenticators have been hacked...And if a keylogger or phishing scam was how their account was hijacked then why isn't the entire account compromised, as opposed to just the last character they used? It is clearly a case of hackers figuring out a way to steal session ID information.
Sadly, as with the other issues Blizzard fanboys the world over are rushing to Blizzard's defense, spewing the same nonsense about keyloggers and phishing scams and the people affected are liars trying to drag poor old Blizzard's name through the mud...Happily ignoring the fact that several freaking game journalists have also been affected and spoken out about their issues. So Blizzard is doing the equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears saying "Lalalalalalala can't hear you lalalalalalalala" while the fanboys scream "LEAVE BLIZZARD ALONE!!!!"
Do bears really **** in the woods? News at eleven.
@raven28256 It just keeps getting better doesn't it? My ears are still ringing from the piercing screeches of D3-playing friends who found out about the hacking problem the hard way. What made it worse was that most of them were just coming back online after dealing with that 'Error 3006' bug that continuously boots players if they happen to equip a certain shield.
It would be hilarious if it all wasn't so ****ed up, almost every one of those affected friends had high level characters that were completely stripped and left naked in some random forest. o_o
Yeah...joy. There is a big flame war going on across the Internet, where the people who were hacked are complaining that there has to be an exploit that hackers are using while the fanboys say they are making it all up and probably weren't even hacked in the first place. Meanwhile, Blizzard is still saying that there is nothing wrong and that all the cases of hacked accounts were just "mundane" stuff like keyloggers or phishing scams like you get with any online game.
Once again, this ignores that long-time Blizzard customers have been hacked. We are talking about people that have been playing WoW for years and have an authenticator. We are talking about people that aren't the sort of idiot n00bs that would fall for totallylegitfreediablogold.com. For God's sake, journalists from freaking PC Gamer and Eurogamer have been hacked. That should raise some suspicion; these are long-time gamers that are pretty savvy when it comes to protecting their accounts in online games. And if it was keyloggers, why is Diablo III the ONLY thing compromised? Why didn't their WoW or StarCraft accounts also get hit?
There is something fishy going on inside Diablo III's servers. The sort of reports that have been showing up from pretty damn legitimate sources make it hard to blame it on keyloggers or phishing scams because of the nature of the hacks. How are people with authenticators being hacked? Why is it that many people only had their most recently played character hacked, NOT the entire account? You can't explain some of this stuff with phishing scams or keyloggers. The fact that the Euro servers were down for 4 hours Sunday for "unscheduled maintenance" makes things look even worse.
Honestly though, I blame the upcoming auction house. Blizzard is creating a system where you can legally make money by farming for loot. This is a thief's wet dream and makes it even more tempting to steal accounts since you can wipe them clean and sell all that loot for real money. Did anyone honestly not foresee why this might be a bad idea, especially when you can't protect your characters by just playing offline? The auction house is already affecting gamers who want nothing to do with it and just want to play by themselves.
This is starting to remind me of the Fifa hacks on the 360 last year when people were getting hacked through unexplainable means and Microsoft just sat there ignoring the issue.
I tend not to purchase games with heavy-handed DRM either. You ask me, the inane hoops that PC gamers have to go through to play games now is exactly why PC gaming will never be as prevalent as consoles.
I'm actually quite curious to see how such things would play out on the console landscape. Surely you'd have your crazed addicts who'll accept anything, but I can't help but wonder if it would alienate the broader console gaming base, who are used to just putting the game in and having it go.
As to why Blizzard gets so little resistance compared to EA or UbiSoft? Fanboyism. There are less than a handful of developers who can get away with anything because they have a legion of blind fanboys who'll eat their crap that it doesn't matter if everyone else says no. Blizzard's basically in the same position as Valve and Nintendo.
Nice blog. It's really impressive that Blizzard manages to pull what EA wouldn't even dream of and still keep its fans (more like followers or fanatics) satisfied. What Bliz did to Starcraft would be considered a sin if it were any other company. It sliced the game in three, sold it as a full priced game and the remaining parts will also be sold at full price, and only when it thinks its followers have waited long enough. To add insult to injury, the first 1/3 of the game is not available on Steam (one of EA's most severe and recent sins) and still costs $59.
I do hope this fanatic mantra of "Blizzard only releases top notch products and all delays are justified so that they release an awesome game" loses some of its strength.
Great blog,I fully agree with everything you said...
I never played Diablo games,and I was planning to get into the franchise when D3 is released,but when the first always on-line DRM announcement came,I removed the game from my purchase list,since I will NEVER support anti-consumer strategies and corporations that force you to fully play on their terms,while having minimal control over the product you bought...
Also,as you pointed out,one of the most disgusting things about Diablo 3 release is the widespread "what you're gonna do" attitude among fans,which turned the entire game into crap.I even saw some Blizzard fanboys vocally defending always on-line DRM with "arguments" like "Blizzard knows what's best for us" or "This always on-line DRM will be different,and make the game better for us".Very sad how many gamers forget their consumer rights when these big name games are released,and accept any crap these greedy corporations throw at them :(