So, Diablo 3 came out.
At this point I feel like I’m pissing in the wind on this one. I’ve felt like the sole voice of dissenting opinion among my friends to the point where if I continue to try and state my opinion I’m being oppressive and preachy. And it isn’t even the fault of my friends either, they acknowledge my opinion and we have a reasonable discourse about it.
But inevitably I see some sort of overhyping about it and I think I need to voice my opinion and to be honest, I’m getting tired of what I have to say.
So, screw it, I’m going to say it here and let the whole matter go. It isn’t healthy to dwell on it and I’d rather have an archived, well rounded article that I can point to rather than an extended speech.
As of this writing which is roughly a couple of weeks after the launch of Diablo 3 the game has become a hit, selling out across physical and online marketplaces. This is actually to the point where some online retailers have had to issue mass refunds, and I do mean mass, exposing large communication errors between publishers and online retailers.
That last part I think is a good thing as in the long run, we’ll have less of these issues.
But onto Diablo 3.
I was at first puzzled that the game was even announced from Blizzard. It’s been presented to me at several occasions that Blizzard certainly had enough money to develop a new game franchise thanks to World Of Warcraft effectively being a license to print money. In fact I would hope that this would convert Blizzard into a studio where new ideas were experimented on frequently as side projects while people worked on World Of Warcraft.
Now someone has pointed out to me that with the Warcraft, Starcraft and Diablo franchises, Blizzard really has no need to make new content as any new ideas can just be incorporated into those three franchises.
I’m sure that’s what it was like that around Kitty Hawk when the Wright Brothers were getting up to their newfangled shenanigans. Actually, I can’t feel right about that joke, there was massive competition to break into flying machines at the time and viewing the race to take the sky was an invigorating part of human history. Gimme a sec, I’ll get another.
Oh, I’m sure it was like that with Uemura with people asking him why he needed a new game system when the Atari 2600 had so many titles.
Umeura was the chief hardware designer behind the Famicom, the original version of the Nintendo Entertainment System. I know I probably didn’t have to explain it but covering my bases on this one.
Anyway, Blizzard chose to add to the Diablo continuity since the other two previously mentioned franchises had their own existing modern iterations with an MMO and a strategy game. I questioned it a bit at this time since I was under the impression that Diablo 2 and its expansion Lord of Destruction damn near finished the concept of the series, save for the final fate of the last two remaining lords of hell. Hence why I only questioned it a bit. There was unresolved story and two remaining evils having sole control of hell’s legions (as the players were given all evidence that the remaining five were killed in Diablo 2) and left to exploit that resource makes for a good plot idea.
But then I found myself asking a question, why now? Diablo 3 had spent a greater part of its life in development hell since the division that created it known as Blizzard North, disappeared due to a mass exodus/firing. That team moved on to create Hellgate: London. You know a part of me wonders if Hellgate: London is actually that group’s take on the original idea of Diablo 3, that the two remaining evils of hell Belial and Azmodan at long last created enough forces to lay siege to earth while waiting long enough that the planet wouldn’t be ready. Either way, with the mass exodus the big remaining writer from the core team was Chris Metzen a man who wouldn’t know what to do with a good canon story if it fell into his lap. Which is roughly what happened with all of Blizzards intellectual properties.
Ah Chris Metzen, you and Joe Quesada are proof to the stereotype that artists shouldn’t be allowed to dictate story. Ever.
To be honest, I like what I’ve seen of Diablo 3‘s story. Each of the remaining evils is given a strong role as a core villain leading into the mysterious return of Diablo. And upon investigation, I like the reason behind his return. I won’t spoil it here but it plays into a relationship from the first game that I actually wanted to see come to fruition. Some may see it as a shoehorned in loophole but I look at it as a rather beautiful moment corrupted by the evil of Diablo. The idea that a villain can taint even the happiest final moments of an otherwise doomed character is a resonating concept and I like it.
Also, again I won’t spoil it, but what Diablo does in his return and his subsequent endgame are all great ideas. Though I’ve heard the criticism that most of the plot turns are predictable but one man’s predictable is another man’s foreshadowing so I’ll let it slide. Still, portions of the dialogue could use some tweaking.
Here’s an example: the opening “It has been said that in the end of all things, we would find a new beginning. But as the shadow once again crawls across our world and the stench of terror drifts on a bitter wind, people pray for strength and guidance. They should pray for the mercy of a swift death… for I’ve seen what the Darkness hides.” Fuck that’s vague, isn’t it? You would expect something like “We fought the evil, we repelled the evil, we dispatched the evil. But fear is a poison that grows stronger with time. As we remember the horror, we remember it’s master, the Lord of Terror and while we know in our minds we have slain the beast, in our hearts… we can never be sure.” There Blizzard. On the house. Now fire Metzen and hire me.
Now after saying all of these great things in the game’s favor, what could possibly make it go wrong?
Well, a part of me and while not a big part thinks that the only reason this game was actually made was because of the grey market.
At the very least, every single problem players have is because of this thing.
The Grey Market is just that, a marketplace within the game that you can sell items, online, for real cash. Now in it’s most basic use there’s nothing wrong with the idea of players liquidating their in-game items that they don’t use for a bit of extra change. There are a lot, and I mean a lot of problems with it though.
For starters, because the system uses cash instead of in-game currency, Blizzard gets a cut of the money. That’s expected but a part of me wonders if this system was put into place because someone at Blizzard saw all of these people buying and trading virtual items online for World Of Warcraft for real life cash. You couldn’t implement it in Starcraft, wouldn’t work, but put it into Diablo with random item generation and you have a game that isn’t an MMO that is generating funds continuously after launch.
But the problems get worse.
You see, the problem with generating virtual items is that you run the risk of players who store their data locally or even play the game locally on their pc being able to hack the content on the computer. If they can, then they can edit that data and produce specific items on command. Now for a normal game this isn’t an issue, for a game which has a market with a real world economic output it’s a big deal. So the easiest solution for Blizzard was to store everyone’s game data on their servers.
‘Cause, you know, it isn’t like they had issues with servers before with World Of Warcraft.
And it happened, servers crashed hard because they weren’t ready for a midnight launch of a major release. And you know what? There was no way they could be. The game sold to the point where stores, at least in my district, sold out of physical product and I’ve already spoken about what happened with online retailers. Never mind the fact that users of World Of Warcraft got it free with an annual pass for the game. And they downloaded it early and all they had to do was click a button at midnight launch day to play the game. So how many people play World Of Warcraft and buy it annually? Combined with sold out retail and online purchases? It’s a wonder the damn game plays now.
Actually, from what I hear that’s the issue to this very day. Even in solo play the game suffers from lagging speeds and heaven help you if you have a restricted bandwidth cap like most family households out there.
On top of that you have people who are now getting their items hacked when they spend too much time away from their game. Sure you can buy an authenticator from Blizzard but as I understand it, it doesn’t do much to stop them if they really want it. Since real physical money is involved I wouldn’t be surprised if every, even slightly malicious, hacker was clawing over themselves to steal these items.
The problem is, the game is a sell out hit. Regardless of its detracting features people are afraid to even complain about them for fear of a nigh biblical backlash of hatred. It’s the same reason why EA put so much DRM on Mass Effect 3 they knew that if the technology moved on a good game, it would sell the technology and make it okay.
Well publishers, it doesn’t. It only hampers sales of your games. GOG.com proved that a DRM free market exists. Not only does it exist, it is damn, damn hungry for games. If I had a single criticism for the sellers at Good Old Games it would be that there aren’t any demos on there. Considering the discount windows though, the most a player would lose is ten bucks if they’re thrifty. That’s not too bad.
I feel bad for the loyal Diablo fans that have to deal with this. I think Blizzard has given a lot of its loyal customers a raw deal and it isn’t getting better anytime soon with this company. After Starcraft 2‘s always online debacle there’s a chance that any new concept game released by the company may have less chance because of how the core properties are hamstrung. We’ll have to see where this goes.
And so too does this work exist.