May 16, 2012

Reasons to Support Indie RPGs, Pt. 4

Diablo 3 has been pulling a Darkspore since its release yesterday, thanks to Blizzard’s bizarre decision to prevent people from playing the game in single player mode without a constant internet connection. Even those who were able to get through to a server, like John Walker of Rock Paper Shotgun, had the delightful experience of lagging. Lag in a single player game.

I won’t get into Blizzard’s purported reasons for forcing people to play online in single player mode, mostly because I think those alleged reasons are disingenuous. What this really comes down to is the auction house. Blizzard has put a marketplace into Diablo III where players can sell gear to each other, with Blizzard taking a cut of each sale. If players could play offline, they could easily cheat and spawn an endless supply of top tier equipment to sell. This would depress the auction house market, killing a source of revenue for Blizzard. Thus, in goes the massively intrusive DRM.

There are a large and growing number of good, indie alternatives to Diablo III out there right now. Soldak Entertainment, Runic Games, Crate Entertainment; these guys don’t hobble your ability to play the game that you paid for in the name of milking you for yet more cash. These are guys that deserve your money. Blizzard, frankly, does not.

  • Armaan Khan

    Everyone should buy every Soldak game. They are awesome, and Drox looks like it’ll be his best yet.

  • Brian Jeffears

    If you want a quality, free, long-growing single player offline experience in much the same vein as the above, you’d do well to give Triangle Wizard a shot.    Soldak is ace on the commercial front, doubly looking forward to Drox as well.

  • Wazzup115

    “This would depress the auction house market, killing a source of revenue for Blizzard. Thus, in goes the massively intrusive DRM.”

    I think more importantly, this would make the auction house completely worthless if cheaters could sell things, regardless if it was real money or not.
    Trading was a huge part of Diablo II, I honestly believe Blizzard wants to provide it as a service for players and not only a cheap way to make money.
    And somehow they need to pay for those huge MMO-sized servers that run their DRM and online services, without taking a fee like with WoW.

    I do believe they decided not to include singleplayer as that would mean having an open and closed mode and from a game design perspective that’s just a way to divide the players and make things confusing “wait what I can’t sell these awesome items? but I got them fair and square?” or “What? I can’t play with you guys because you’re playing in closed mode?”. Sure the DRM comes with it’s CONs as well, but I think those are more acceptable.
    If it was up to me, I’d make the same decision. It’s critical that the system is secure since it’s so focused around items. Just like if MMO’s weren’t as secure as they are then all your high lvl characters and gear would lose their perceived value. Because the hardcore playerbase relies on the perceived value of the games items, it’s a different ball game compared to small indie games where people aren’t as competitive and elitist.

    It’s easy to go and say “damn you evil money grabbing corporations! Indie is the morally superior choice!”
    On most days I’d agree with you, in this case I don’t think it’s that simple.

  • CraigStern

    Let’s suppose for a moment that Blizzard had taken the route they took in their older games, giving players the opportunity to play on a LAN, or (God forbid) with no internet connection at all. How would Blizzard end up with huge, ongoing server costs in this scenario? The only way Blizzard would end up with huge server costs in a situation like this is if everyone decided to play online through anyway–and in that case, everyone would have access to the auction house, meaning that Blizzard would still take its cut to pay for the servers. The online players are happy, and the offline players are happy. The only one who is perhaps less happy is Blizzard, who isn’t making quite the profit on auctioned items that they could be making.

    As for the whole confusion thing, I’ll just say that gamers are capable of making informed choices about how they want to play their games. It would take an hour–at most–for Blizzard to put in a single player button followed by a splash screen that reads “Warning: you won’t be able to trade items online or play multiplayer if you choose this game type.”

    Blizzard had no problem offering players a choice of single player or multiplayer cooperative play in Diablo 2. They had no problem offering separate single player and online multiplayer in Starcraft 2. But now, suddenly, players are unable to decide for themselves how they want to play the game they paid for? I don’t buy it.

  • Wazzup115

    Starcraft 2 is completely different since it doesn’t have any persistent in-game items or characters.

    Also, I still don’t think it’s a good idea to split the players between offline and online.
    We’re talking about a company who gave up on releasing games that they felt didn’t met their standards.
    And spent 2 years polishing Diablo III to the state it’s in today.
    They made the judgment call that it’s more worth giving everyone the same experience rather than allowing lan/offline play, to keep the quality consistent. Ironically it also meant people not being able to play at all and people lagging.

    The way I see it though, it’s more like an MMO, it needs the DRM to make it secure.
    Also, by having an open/closed mode, it still devalues the perceived worth of items, if someone can get a trainer program to claim the most rare epics when playing open, how would you as a player feel about paying real money for those items in closed? (when you can get them for free in open)
    The items need their perceived worth for the hardcore players to really feel like they can invest into the game.

    Then there’s the issue of piracy, which is a big deal since it’s such a hugely anticipated game.

    Judging by those factors, I’d make the same call.

  • CraigStern

    Starcraft 2 *does* have persistent player stats for wins and losses, though. And yet the game still lets you play single player. It merely warns you that games played in single player (or against computer AI) will not impact your rankings. That’s a sensible approach, and one they should have taken with Diablo 3.

    Now, I’ve heard people say that Diablo 3 is an MMO, but I don’t think that’s a defensible position. An MMORPG is defined by (1) a persistent universe and (2) a huge number of concurrent players. Diablo 3 does not feature a persistent universe. Just the opposite, in fact: the world is procedurally generated differently for every player. Further, the maximum number of players in any given game is 4. That’s not exactly up to the standards of “massively”–that’s more like a game of Castle Crashers. It certainly doesn’t explain why the game couldn’t have been made with a proper offline single player mode.

  • Andy

    Counter argument I got from one of my friends:
    “It’s like asking Blizzard to let you play World of Warcraft offline. The main experience is multiplayer, and the game is almost entirely tailored to multiplayer cooperative gameplay, which requires an internet connection to do. Acting like this makes Blizzard a devil company is just silly considering how much support they give their games post launch, if they were really awful they’d not be doing server maintenance and allowing people to lag, in about a week nobody will be complaining about this because the online-only DRM won’t be noticeable because Blizz will have the major bugs fixed and the server capacity at a high enough level to be entirely stable. Also, Torchlight was a fantastic game made by some D2 devs, but doesn’t compare at all to D3 because ultimately the core audience is different, TL panders to the more casual ARPG players while D3 has much higher difficulty levels and complex skill trees which can be changed at any time. Crate’s game hasn’t even been released yet (It’s over a year away), and Soldak’s is randomly generated every playthrough. That alone sets it as an entirely different gameplay experience. Sure, they don’t use “invasive” DRM but I’m fairly certain that if they could, they would. Blizzard only takes heat because they do the things that are in the best interest of their company because they can afford to. At the heart, you have to remember that Blizzard is a national corporation, it would be ridiculous to ask them to release a nondrm title for 20 dollars with the production cycle that D3 went through.”

  • CraigStern

    “it would be ridiculous to ask them to release a nondrm title for 20 dollars with the production cycle that D3 went through”

    That’s a classic strawman fallacy, insofar as it ignores my actual argument. I made no claim about the price they should sell the game for, nor did I say that Blizzard should release the game without DRM.

    Diablo 3 is a single-player game that you can choose to play cooperatively with up to 3 friends; that’s not even close to being an MMO, and certainly not comparable to asking to play World of Warcraft offline. See:

  • Wazzup115

    ” It certainly doesn’t explain why the game couldn’t have been made with a proper offline single player mode.”

    Sorry but I feel you’re being very close minded.
    I’ve state a lot of reason for blizzard doing what they’ve done. Now if you agree with them or not, that’s beside the point.

    I wouldn’t call Diablo 3 an actual MMO, but it has persistant characters and items and a player mindset similar to MMOs.
    So there’s no use getting stuck on the technicalities of what the definition of an MMO is.
    The point is, people accept MMOs not offering singleplayer, why? Because it wouldn’t be the same game in singleplayer? Well that’s what Blizzard thinks about offline Diablo 3 and I agree.
    They made the game and said, we don’t want to offer offline singleplayer because it breaks up the community, devalues items, provides two different levels of “quality”..

    Now those are the pro’s and con’s and it all depends on where you place your values.
    If I’d ever play Diablo 3 I’d want to know items mean something, that they’re worth something. That’s the MMO part for me.
    But that’s also my hardcore mindset talking, in reality I don’t have the time or will to be hardcore like that.

  • Scubapookie

    First of all, you two are both just presenting the same points repeatedly. This less like a debate and more like two small children going back and forth saying “He did it!” and “Did not!” Secondly, while I agree that the one reason to play a game is for the perceived value of one’s progress, have you considered that some people want to get a hang of the system by themselves? Also, I’ve never played the game, but as a player of other games, I would be perfectly satisfied with not being able to trade items from single player to other players. If you want to be able to trade an item, well then get your butt in gear and get one that’s tradable. It’s the same concept as Pokémon not allowing you to use legendaries in tournaments and online battles. You have them, and you should feel proud of that, regardless of whether or not you can show it off to other people like a pompous douchebag.

  • CraigStern

    Keep it respectful, Scuba. I don’t tolerate ad hominem attacks on this site.

  • Scubapookie

    My apologies, good sir. I meant no offense, I simply became a tad bit overenthusiastic in the heat of the moment. It shall not happen again. Here is a link to puppies in reparation:

  • CraigStern

    Update: thanks its always-online DRM, scores of players are now having their games hacked, their gold and items stolen, and in some cases their characters deleted entirely.

    This just gets worse and worse.