A few days ago it was revealed that Diablo III will only be playable on PCs with a permanent internet connection. This obviously upset a lot of people, especially those with an unreliable internet connection or those who don’t have one at all. The general consensus amongst these people is that they want to be able to play what they paid for whenever they want to – Battle.net be damned.
Blizzard is one of the most successful game developers in the world, and that’s largely thanks to World of Warcraft. It makes sense then that the company would begin moving all of their franchises onto similar models. StarCraft2 is practically there already, and there are rumours floating around that Heart of the Swarm will require a permanent internet connection as well.
According to Blizzard’s Vice President of Online Technologies, Robert Bridenbecker, everyone at Blizzard was “kind of surprised” about the whole furore regarding the online requirements for Diablo III. He said that this has been Blizzard’s approach for fifteen years and that “it really is just the nature of how things are going”.
Naturally, Blizzard is standing steadfastly beside their claims that the initial reason for this persistent internet requirement is not for DRM purposes. As previously mentioned, the online requirements are there to make online play more seamless and more enjoyable for gamers. Previous Diablo games required people to start a character from scratch if they wanted to play online. In Diablo III, Blizzard wanted to avoid that and allow people to take their single-player characters online whenever they wanted.
“Internally I don’t think [DRM] ever actually came up when we talked about how we want connections to operate. Things that came up were always around the feature-set, the sanctity of the actual game systems like your characters. You’re guaranteeing that there are no hacks, no dupes. All of these things were points of discussion, but the whole copy protection, piracy thing, that’s not really entering into why we want to do it. I’m a huge purveyor of online sites and from my standpoint, I don’t look at DRM solutions and go, ‘Wow, those are awesome.’ I look at those and say, ‘Wow, those kind of suck.’ But if there’s a compelling reason for you to have that online connectivity that enhances the gameplay, that doesn’t suck. That’s awesome.”
The “compelling reason” is the whole persistent character thing. For anybody who doesn’t intend to play Diablo III online however, that “compelling reason” devolves into a DRM model that’s similar to other companies’ – and in Bridenbecker’s own words “those kind of suck”.
According to the Blizzard VP, allowing single-players to play offline would create “a separate path that players are going to go down. And at the end of the day, how many people are going to want to do that?” I would – I would very much like to be able to do that.
What this permanent online requirement would mean for the oft-rumoured console versions of Diablo III is an interesting question. Would you be able to play Diablo III offline on a console, or will it go the route of Warhawk and MAG and say that an internet connection is required to play this game?
Diablo III will still sell zillions of copies despite this online requirement. Blizzard seems to be want all of their customers to fit the profile of their World of Warcraft players. I’m not one of those so for me this permanent online thing is a little bit of an annoyance – it’s not a deal-breaker, it’s just an inconvenience. I know I will still get the game and still have stacks of fun playing it, providing I can actually play it when I want to. ISP issues or the favourite South African pastime called “cable theft” might have a say in whether I’m able to though.