If you’re like me and every single other person on planet Earth who plays PC games, then you’ve probably been up to your armpits in Diablo III over the past week. The Lord of Darkness has returned, and he’s bought with him HD textures, modern RPG tweaks, and sadly, the requirement that you be connected to the Internet at all times while playing through his latest adventure.
It’s bad enough that we have to be connected at all to enjoy a single-player game, but it’s an annoyance that I can often look past. The problem is that Diablo III’s connectivity requirement is not simply an authentication issue. Nope, Diablo III maintains a constant stream of information between the Battle.net servers and your game client when you’re playing. It’s like every monster you smash spawned directly from Blizzard HQ and was teleported through the interwebz to your desktop.
Of course we have the choice between either US or EU based servers to play on, which means that we experience the game with a latency of between 250ms-600ms, depending on the connection in question. We are ostensibly playing a primarily single-player game as if it were an MMORPG hosted on international servers.
I guess it’s kind of poetic in a way; illustrating clearly the direction that PC gaming has taken since Diablo II was released just under 12 years ago. Also, don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the benefits that the online component introduces. The auction house is a novel addition to the franchise, and the ability to easily join friends’ games, or have them jump into yours is great. Then of course there is the promise of PvP, which might be just what Diablo III needs to boost its longevity.
Still, in theory and in practice, I’m not happy with the fact that the entire game is essentially run through Blizzard’s Battle.net servers, as if being connected to a broader online realm is overwhelmingly beneficial to the gameplay.
But it is what it is, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping a lot of local gamers from enjoying Diablo III. I’m on my second play through, and despite a few reservations, I’m pretty happy with the end product that Blizzard released.
I was actually discussing the game with a friend yesterday, and he raised an interesting question: just how much data does Diablo III consume? If you’re an uncapped ADSL subscriber, then it’s not an issue, but a lot of local Internet subscribers are not, and furthermore, a large volume of gamers are using mobile connections, or the likes of iBurst.
So I did some testing, and discovered that Diablo III uses about 24MB of data for every 30 minutes of gameplay. That number can be broken down to around 20MB of downstream data, and 4MB of upstream data.
I’ve previously conducted similar tests on more multiplayer-centric games. Call of Duty: Black Ops, for example, actually uses slightly less bandwidth than Diablo III. In fact, it uses about 20MB per 30 minutes of gameplay, and Crysis 2 uses about the same.
So what does it mean for bandwidth-starved gamers? Well, if you’re using a mobile connection, then best you watch your bandwidth usage when playing, because 10 hours of Diablo III can chew up around half a gigabyte of data. Ouchies.