Versus: Diablo III
It’s time, yet again, for Versus. For the uninitiated, this is when I write an article from both sides of an argument, and let you decide which one hold more water. This time, I’ll be examining the controversy surrounding Blizzard’s recent decision to require internet access to play “Diablo III,” even in single player. Hit the jump, and let’s make a memory.
Requiring Internet is Brilliant
Okay, I want a show of hands: how many Blizzard fans reading this right now don’t have the internet? None of you. Not a single one. Unless an Amish guy who found a stray copy of “Tides of Darkness” and managed to install it on a canvas wagon just strolled into the room, you all have the web. And, as I’m sure you’re all painfully aware, they don’t tend to bill you for its use by the hour, so there’s no point in turning it off from time to time. This adds up to a simple fact: a crushing majority of you people (WHAT do you mean “you people”?!) have internet access running 24/7, 365 days a year.
So what are you all so upset about?
Are you telling me that when you want to play anything single player, you actually turn off the internet, to get that really alone feeling? Or is it outages that concern you? Are you gripped with terror at the possibility that on two occasions every twelve months, you may actually need to stop playing “Diablo III”? Holy hell, guys, what kind of regiment did you have planned? How does the prospect of twelve unplayable hours per year ruin all of your plans? Were you all simultaneously attempting a Guinness Record for unbroken playtime? Were you going to sleep during loading screens, bathe during auto-saves, visit with family during framerate hiccups?
“But I bought this product,” you claim, “And it’s my right to play it whenever I desire, not simply when I have internet!” No it isn’t. I can go buy a toaster oven and insist it’s my right to use it without paying an electric bill, but that won’t make it any more true. And plenty of games currently out require internet for play, so why should “Diablo III” be different? You’re not going to get very far in “World of Warcraft” without a solid line to the outer world. And you’ll be missing over half of any “Halo” or “Call of Duty” title without the ol’ series of tubes. Gaming is growing more dependent on the internet every day, and this is a good thing. It empowers bug fixes, instantaneous content expansions, easier purchasing, lower costs to developers and customers, and hack prevention. Welcome to the future, you freaking troglodytes.
Furthermore, Blizzard is putting this feature to solid use. By keeping you plugged in to Al Gore’s invention all the time, they can guarantee the fairness and cheat-free nature of any game at any time, thereby allowing friends to drop in and out at will without re-rolling characters. They can generate completely unique loot to all participants in a game, so no one is yoinking all the choice stuff to everyone else’s frustration. They can let you fight your friends with any of your characters at any time, on a totally level playing field. And, they can set up a massive, player-friendly auction house that will allow you to move between digital currency and real-world money with surprising, maybe even alarming, ease. These are all things you should be glad about. Blizzard wants you on the internet so they can give you a big, wet, sloppy kiss with it. Stop squirming around in their arms and feel the love.
Requiring Internet is Oppressive
I think you boys have been in the “World of Warcraft” a little too long. I know it’s nice to roll around on beds of money, but some of your franchises were humming along just fine without your tyrannical fist smashing down on their faces. Of course I have internet, and of course I have it on all the time, but who are you to dictate to me how I play your game? Do you see Xbox 360s or PS3s just shutting off if they don’t have a CAT5 in them? It’s one thing to require internet for multiplayer, but it’s another to poke your nose in where I don’t need or want it.
If I’m playing single player, that should explain a great deal to you about my disposition. I want to be alone. Seeing as Battle.net, by your own admission, will offer the player no control of their presence online, we will be forced to be visible at all times. Every other internet-tethered service in existence, from Facebook to Gmail to XBLA, has the good sense not to act like this. Sometimes we’d like to avoid that cousin of ours from the Midwest who always wants to play something but raid wipes at every opportunity. You, again in your own words, propose that we simply tell these people to go screw themselves, and they’ll “respect that.” Great, now he’s running off crying to my aunt, and I’m going to get a call from my parents. Thanks, Blizzard.
Now there are some benefits to what you’re trying to do, but I should have a choice in them. It’s great to have the option to hop another player in at any time, but who says I know anyone else that plays this damned game? And why can’t I weigh the benefits and choose for myself? At the start of the game, I should get to decide whether a given character will be “co-op enabled.” If it is, then you have my permission to nose around in my campaign and make sure I’m flying right. But if isn’t, just leave me the hell alone and let me play the game by myself. Maybe I don’t care about your in-game economy, maybe I’m not a gold farmer in China looking to sell off some “+2 Poison Damage” daggers. Maybe I’m just a normal gamer on a ten hour flight with no wireless (it’s spotty even when it works), and I would have really enjoyed playing one of my favorite franchises to pass the time. How come I don’t count anymore?
The worst part is you pretending this is about giving me more choice. It’s not. It’s about the business model you discovered by accident in WoW. You’re trying to make yourselves so stinking rich on an in-game economy that you’ll burn one hundred dollar bills in your fireplace on a chilly evening. Everything else is subservient to that. What’s happening here is that you don’t want to see “Diablo” characters selling on eBay, like they do in WoW. And you know what? Fine. If people want to blow more money on games, go with God. But when you start forcing me into an interactive environment without basic social functionality, and restricting my access to a product I paid full retail for, and giving me no agency in what parts of the game I take part in, that’s when I begin minding.
I’m not saying it’s the end of the world. But there was a better, more fair option out there that you didn’t even explore: leaving the choice with us. Your time with Activision is beginning to show.
the killer’s vanilla