When Blizzard revealed that Diablo III would have no offline capacity, I raged.
Maybe “raged” doesn’t quite cover it. Is there a way to express obnoxious emphasis beyond all caps, bold, italics and an arbitrary font size increase? I suppose I’ll spare you the eye pain, but only because most web browsers no longer support the <blink> tag.
But yes, I became an annoying, spiteful twat. It’s hard to rationalize that behavior in retrospect. I wasn’t without my reasons, and they sounded really good at the time. I didn’t think my demand was unreasonable. ”Give me an offline mode in which I can create characters that may never, ever, ever go online. Give me something to do when the servers go down.” Why is that so hard?
What it boiled down to was this was how I had always played Diablo and Diablo II. I tried both online, and it was a wholly unenjoyable experience. The people I encountered were irredeemable specimens only vaguely deserving of the title “humanity” and the game mechanics encouraged them to continue in their irredeemability. They were fun to play with friends on a LAN, but not with strangers.
It only made sense I should be able to play Diablo III the same way. Such is the dilemma with sequels, right?
The Sequel’s Dilemma
Then I got a call from 1988. It was my friend, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. He was over at Super Mario Bros. 2‘s house doing 1ups and watching reruns of The Jeffersons.
He says, “s’up,” by the way.
He also reminded me that new games are new games and to stop hatin’.
Now, the publisher is not without fault here. When you make a sequel, you better damn well realize that you are wielding a double-edged sword. You are knowingly playing on the expectations and brand recognition of your consumers for profit. If you can’t mitigate the backlash of not meeting those expectations, that’s your fail. Sure, your customers need to be more open-minded. And if they were more open-minded, maybe you wouldn’t need established intellectual properties to get their attention. See how that works?
This is the big culprit here. I got angry, because Diablo III marks as official what had already become the staple PC copy protection. In order to control how their software is used, publishers are requiring you stay tethered to them via the Internet while you use their software.
It already exists in full, beloved force, and it is called Steam. Any game purchased through Steam requires a permanent Internet connection, whether they are multiplayer games or not.
But Steam has an offline mode! ZOMG, it’s so great!
Shush. You are wrong.
I almost never slap such logical fallacies around quite so bluntly, so maybe I’ll clarify. Steam does have an offline mode. As a logical statement, this is correct. (Claiming Steam has no offline mode because its offline mode sucks would be the fallacy ignoratio elenchi, I believe.) But, ask someone in the armed forces who took their laptop into a warzone and had to go 3 months without access to the Internet. Ask them how well “offline mode” works. The moment the program decides it wants its mommy on the Internet, resets its options for seemingly no reason, or otherwise hiccups out of offline mode, so ends their gaming until they make it back to sweet, sweet webhood. Just because a problem doesn’t apply to you personally doesn’t mean it “works great”.
Democracy “worked great” before women were allowed to vote. Therefore, it was just a problem with the women and not a problem with the system.
Perhaps that’s an overzealous analogy, but it captures my feelings on that matter.
Yo, Why The Steam Hate, Man?
Sorry, it’s a sore topic. But I had to ride on it, because I’m seeing a lot of claims that Diablo III is “setting a precedent to other publishers” that Always On DRM are the vegetables we as consumers are completely willing to chew and swallow if we want our dessert. I just want to go on record as saying that ship sailed a long time ago. I choked down those brussels sprouts when I bought Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Skyrim for my PC and found myself forced to run them through Steam.
How’s “Diablo: Underworlds” for a Title?
Not too shabby. As much as I wanted to hate on Diablo III for doing that thing I hate, the more I see and dabble in it, the more I realize that this is a largely marketing problem. It’s a mini-MMO, really. It’s built around a socially-minded core design. It’s a pretty solid design, too. Could I have been made to see that sooner? Was it, quite possibly, the number 3 that taunted me so?
I had this issue with Final Fantasy XI. Up until that point, I was on a streak of beating Final Fantasy games. I played ones that weren’t even that good out of some obsessive compulsive, completionist need to “beat them all”.
Then Final Fantasy XI came out.
How do I beat Final Fantasy XI? Couldn’t it be Final Fantasy Online? I would’ve been fine with Final Fantasy: Chocobo World Adventure Time. Why does it get a number? What are you, Final Fantasy XI, to this franchise?!
It killed my streak. When I couldn’t get into Final Fantasy XII, nothing urged me on. I quit before it even really got going. I didn’t even play Final Fantasy XIII. I didn’t go back and get Final Fantasy III for the NintendoDS. Left to analyze the games on their individual merits, rather than components in a larger creature, they just didn’t hold up as well and my excitement waned.
My fanboyish consumerism was shattered with the simple misuse of a number.
Diablo III does not so easily fit into that example, but it gave me the same initial feeling. I nearly passed it by out of a feeling that it could not be a true sequel if it could not share equal prestige with its ancestors on my shelf 20 years from now. How could it, if something as basic as an unplugged server could render it little more than a coaster? As if it had never existed. Coming from a world of sturdy plastic cartridges whose mortality is as familiar as any solid, physical object’s, this paradigm of volatile bytes and digital rights is going to take me further time to accept.
Perhaps a better question: Would I have felt compelled to write any of this if a poor Internet connection had not forced me away from the blissful ignorance of happy gaming?
Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned / Nor hell a fury like a gamer scorned.