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Please, for all that is holy... STOP IT.
August 2, 2011 5:22 AM   Subscribe

How to Ruin Your PC Port in 5 Easy Steps by Ben Kuchera explains the lengths video game publishers will go to to ensure that the PC version of their game is worse than the console version. Blizzard demonstrates how to follow these guidelines for Diablo III even if you don't have a console version.
posted by blue_beetle (97 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another take on this by Shamus Young of Twenty Sided.
posted by Splunge at 5:30 AM on August 2, 2011


From the article:
Just so we're clear, when you're bored on a plane, and you have your laptop, and you want to play the game you bought in order to fight boredom, Blizzard's official recommendation is that you play someone else's game. That's pride, right there.
Pure gold.
posted by Harald74 at 5:30 AM on August 2, 2011 [34 favorites]


Is there a non Ars link? I use adblock and am not welcome there. Maybe I'll steal some content just this once.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:31 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


So I guess that I'll take Blizzard's advice and play Torchlight 2 instead of Diablo. Thanks for the heads up.
posted by octothorpe at 5:36 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Given that 11 million players still play Diablo II on Battle.net (and it is seven years old), I'm betting that Diablo III would have to be an actually terrible game to keep from sellion millions of copies. Stupid decisions might make a dent, but it won't be an easily discernible one.
posted by Plutor at 5:37 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sellion? Argh. Selling.
posted by Plutor at 5:37 AM on August 2, 2011


The biggest upcoming-game-related disappointment I've had years was when I heard that S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was being developed for release on consoles. Previous games in the series have been PC-only and wonderfully un-dumbed-down for thumb gamers. I fear the worst.
posted by BeerFilter at 5:41 AM on August 2, 2011


Well, Battlnet has been virtualized before, it's just a matter of time before a handy local service allows Diablo III to be played offline....same goes for a lot of the speedbumps that these software developers utilize to discourage piracy...simple elegant workarounds appear that make even legally purchased games playable.
posted by samsara at 5:43 AM on August 2, 2011


I liked Valve's strategy for Portal 2.

Buy the game once. Play it on whatever fucking platform you want for no extra charge. Download and install the thing as many times and on as many devices as you want.

They are the only mainstream gaming company I can think of that gives a damn about customer satisfaction, and by doing so, make the other guys seem like absolute jerks in comparison.

As a consumer, I like choice. I don't like being nickle-and-dimed. I don't like when companies assume I'm trying to rob them. I don't like price fixing. I don't like paying for the same thing twice. I also like it when things just work, and the people I'm buying goods from clearly take pride in what they do.

Valve are the only ones in the industry who understand any of these things, much less all of them.
posted by schmod at 5:45 AM on August 2, 2011 [54 favorites]


I agree wholeheartedly with all of the points.

I am also grudgingly happy with Steam. They do get it better than anyone, although they are still a little too "big brother" for total comfort.

The thing I don't get is this: Game designers are smart people. Why can't they understand that making customers happy is a much easier way to sell lots of games than treating them like adversaries. Give them games that work, at a reasonable price, with a happy heart and a good attitude.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 5:51 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is there a non Ars link? I use adblock and am not welcome there. Maybe I'll steal some content just this once.

If you're that interested in the content then disable adblock before you click the link. It's not an arduous task.
posted by papercrane at 5:51 AM on August 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


The thing I don't get is this: Game designers are smart people. Why can't they understand that making customers happy is a much easier way to sell lots of games than treating them like adversaries. Give them games that work, at a reasonable price, with a happy heart and a good attitude.

The problem is usually with the publisher and not the developer. Game publisher seem to be staffed by executives who don't actually play games, and treat selling games the same as selling widgets.
posted by papercrane at 5:54 AM on August 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


There's a simple answer for what ails Blizzard: Bobby "Biggest Jackass in the Games Industry" Kotick.

(Not that EA, Ubisoft, etc are all that much better, necessarily, but jesus christ Kotick is just such a brazen asshole.)
posted by kmz at 5:55 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have seen many people trying to dismiss or downplay the problems in Diablo 3, but the question is, shouldn't the company be trying to make the game as good as they can, rather than putting restrictions on it?

Sure, we can explain away region locking, always on DRM and no mods, but those things were actively implemented into the game.
posted by Cloud King at 5:56 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have seen many people trying to dismiss or downplay the problems in Diablo 3, but the question is, shouldn't the company be trying to make the game as good as they can, rather than putting restrictions on it?

I assume the DRM stuff is pretty much just plug and play these days. Not to mention Diablo 3 has been in development for how long now? A bazillion years. And it's not like they're going to have an artist or gameplay engineer working on DRM.
posted by kmz at 6:01 AM on August 2, 2011


If you're that interested in the content then disable adblock before you click the link. It's not an arduous task.
Actually I'll just keep on using the internet like I have been for ~20 years, AND snarking at Kuchera for no one's amusement but my own
.
posted by BeerFilter at 6:03 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


And the DRM development cost just has to pay for itself in lost sales, so it is probably directly profitable.
posted by smackfu at 6:04 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I assume the DRM stuff is pretty much just plug and play these days. Not to mention Diablo 3 has been in development for how long now? A bazillion years. And it's not like they're going to have an artist or gameplay engineer working on DRM.

I don't mean the time it takes, I mean the idea of doing it. It's one thing to not implement something, but to actually add a feature that most people are against, for seemingly little benefit (why can't we have a separate singleplayer character? why can't we play with people in other countries? why can't we have mods?) to players seems wrong.

I guess Blizzard has been doing this kind of thing for a while now with WoW (charging $15 to change a character's gender), so it's not surprising, but it's still disappointing.
posted by Cloud King at 6:05 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Game publisher seem to be staffed by executives who don't actually play games

This, except for the "game publisher" restriction. I once worked at a tiny, tiny software company. Nobody used the software. I mean that literally. We had exactly one customer on the original platform and we'd done two ports after that. There were two developers working on this fairly large project. I was doing the ports that nobody ever used. The other guy was installing licensing libraries.

We both tried to convince the CEO that we WISHED we had a problem where too many people trying to use our software, but he never listened.
posted by DU at 6:05 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


The thing I don't get is this: Game designers are smart people. Why can't they understand that making customers happy is a much easier way to sell lots of games than treating them like adversaries.

We understand that. We're just not allowed anywhere near that side of the product.

There is too much risk of us doing something sensible.
posted by -harlequin- at 6:08 AM on August 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Wikipedia cites Diablo III as officially announced in 2008, after having been in development since 2001, a year after its predecessor, Diablo II.

Diablo III is morphing into another Duke Nukem Forever, with postponed release dates followed, after a decade in the making, by an execrable release attempting to cash in on the shreds of a dying brand. By the time it hits the stores, its presentation and style of gameplay will be lamentably out of date. Just like DNF.
posted by Gordion Knott at 6:09 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cloud King: "why can't we have a separate singleplayer character?"

Word on that is apparently Blizzard don't want people playing the single player game and then when they want to play co-op finding they have to start from scratch; taking an offline single-player character online makes it easier to cheat. Nixing offline characters even if you only play single player is their solution. Good compromise, imo.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:09 AM on August 2, 2011


Sound & fury signifying nothing.
posted by aramaic at 6:10 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I liked Valve's strategy for Portal 2.

Buy the game once. Play it on whatever fucking platform you want for no extra charge. Download and install the thing as many times and on as many devices as you want.
I am an actual Valve fanboi but this isn't entirely correct. If you buy the PS3 version of Portal you get the Steam (PC) version free. Xbox360 and PC version is a single-platform thing. It was to promote Steam for PS3 owners.

So the days of one game any platform are not here and never likely to be either.
posted by fullerine at 6:10 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Game designers are smart people. Why can't they understand that making customers happy is a much easier way to sell lots of games than treating them like adversaries."

But it works for Apple. "We'll just make them all use ITunes."

I console myself that at least the almighty MicroSoft fell on its face with "We're going to quit supporting XP in 6 months, so you must all by Vista, ha ha ha! (Er, okay, in a year then. Or a little more than a year, maybe.)"
posted by Net Prophet at 6:13 AM on August 2, 2011


So awesome console games come out, and then a little while later, a comparatively shitty port comes out for PC.

So basically PC gamers and Console gamers have switched places since the 90's. Sucks, doesn't it?
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 6:18 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Diablo III is morphing into another Duke Nukem Forever, with postponed release dates followed, after a decade in the making, by an execrable release attempting to cash in on the shreds of a dying brand. By the time it hits the stores, its presentation and style of gameplay will be lamentably out of date. Just like DNF.

Blizzard is not 3DRealms. Who knows if Diablo 3 will be a hit, but Starcraft II had (or has, really, since it's not fully out yet) a similar history and has been pretty darn successful.
posted by kmz at 6:18 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I loved Diablo I and II, replayed many times, and *never* played online. This is not a solution. Will not purchase.
posted by rahnefan at 6:18 AM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually I'll just keep on using the internet like I have been for ~20 years
On a dial-up modem via AOL?
posted by FreezBoy at 6:19 AM on August 2, 2011 [11 favorites]


Lynx is the only browser worth the name. Although it does make it hard to play Neptune's Pride.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:23 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


In order to market a product you need to manipulate the customer. This remains true when you do so by treating them well. That's the bribery model of customer satisfaction. It remains rare because it's more expensive than the threat model.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:25 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I haven't seen confirmation of a console version of Diablo III. Am I missing something? I hope there is one, though. I think it is a perfect game for any platform.
posted by Shike at 6:27 AM on August 2, 2011


I don't want to play anything more complex than a Mario/Zelda game on a console. And I don't want to be online when I play. Who wants to take my money?
posted by Eideteker at 6:30 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, this tweet (linked in the article) makes me annoyed I even played Bulletstorm.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:32 AM on August 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


Ars Technica has worded the article to sound like a letter to the game industry. It's futile - the people who make the decisions will never read it.
posted by vanar sena at 6:33 AM on August 2, 2011


Given that 11 million players still play Diablo II on Battle.net (and it is seven years old), I'm betting that Diablo III would have to be an actually terrible game to keep from sellion millions of copies. Stupid decisions might make a dent, but it won't be an easily discernible one.

Is that supposed to be seven million people and 11 years old? Because I know D2 came out before I was in college.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:34 AM on August 2, 2011


If I have to crack your game to make it work properly (and being playable on my laptop while I'm in a place that has no internet connection IS "working properly" for anything that isn't an MMO), where is my incentive to buy it? I'm going to have to perform illegal operations on the thing, and if I buy a copy and attach it to my Battlenet account and then crack it and Blizz ever detects my crack I would imagine my account will be disciplined somehow.

I've been a staunch supporter of Blizzard since the days of Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. I buy everything and play it and replay it and replay it because their games are legitimately excellent, but requiring internet connectivity is a dealbreaker even for a company with this much built-up goodwill. I will not buy Diablo 3 at this rate.

Doesn't mean I won't play the hell out of it, though....
posted by IAmUnaware at 6:35 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not feeling the outrage here. My PC games are played on my PC, which is connected to the internet at all times. I guess, yeah, if I turned into a person who played video games on planes a lot, I would have to play a different game. Seeing as I already play more than one game, that isn't so bad either.

I also played and liked Bulletstorm (but that rape tweet makes me ill). I guess all I look for in games is entertainment and not reasons to get enraged.
posted by Sternmeyer at 6:51 AM on August 2, 2011


Diablo 3 IS pretty much an MMO now. I would actually be very surprised if Diablo 3 had an offline mode. Storing character data on user's hard drive would be an insane move on their part. The only way character data can be secure is if it is stored on on their locked down servers.

Consider that there is a real money auction house - the incentive to try hack the game to duplicate items would be incredible. Hacking a character file stored on your computer would happen eventually. Conversely, no one has had any luck hacking into Blizzard's WoW servers and giving their character 9 billion gold.

But yeah, people who want to pirate the game on principle will continue to do so. But for those are paying Blizzard their asking price for the game, it looks even more attractive now, since you get access too all the community features which you wouldn't get on a pirate version.
posted by xdvesper at 6:54 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Personally, I understand the publishers' frustration with pirated copies of games greatly outnumbering paid-for copies of games, and as one of the suckers who still pays for games I don't mind a little DRM and online activation nonsense to help persuade some of the free riders to join me...

except:

Once the DRM and the online activation nonsense gets cracked (eventually, it always is, often sooner rather than later), and once the cracked versions are published to warez sites where millions of people can download them (they always are), would it be too much to ask to push a patch to us removing that crap from the paid-for copies too? "I'm getting an inferior product because that's part of the cost of enforcing the copyrights that paid for this product's production" is tolerable, but "I'm just getting an inferior product" stings.
posted by roystgnr at 6:56 AM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


Diablo II had a single player version, online play with the single player characters, and on top of that an online mode where characters were securely stored elsewhere. It's not like there was this "problem" to "solve" in the first place.
posted by Zalzidrax at 6:59 AM on August 2, 2011 [6 favorites]


I also like the whole thing where in Diablo III players will be able to anonymously sell items to other players in exchange for real actual cash money.

And by that I mean it makes me feel really, really dirty.
posted by kbanas at 6:59 AM on August 2, 2011


Recently I've had a sublet with terrible wireless, to the point where even if I have a connection it can go at any moment, often every 5 minutes. If I weren't moving, I would probably not be able to play Diablo 3 without stringing a 150ft cat-5 cable through the whole apartment. This just seems impractical, like, one time online authentication yeah I can see that, but *always on*? What happens if the connection cuts out in the middle of a battle? The use of battle.net should be enough incentive not to pirate.

Although, back in the day people complained about simple online activation. When HL2 came out I didn't get to play it for a few months because my house had *dialup* and I had to string a phone cable through half the house to get internet to my computer, which meant activating HL2 had to wait until I went to a lan party with a decent enough connection so I could download/update Steam (which was, at the time, just atrocious) and activate it.
posted by hellojed at 7:03 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


roystgnr: "would it be too much to ask to push a patch to us removing that crap from the paid-for copies too? "I'm getting an inferior product because that's part of the cost of enforcing the copyrights that paid for this product's production" is tolerable, but "I'm just getting an inferior product" stings."

The Witcher 2 did that. We got the boxed copy because we both wanted to play it, without the hassle of handing off Steam accounts or the expense of buying two copies. It shipped with flexible enough DRM to allow you to play it on two PCs at once, and the first patch stripped the DRM out altogether. CD Projekt are definitely getting my business again.

It's also a great game that you should totally play if you like western RPGs and have a reasonably beefy PC. An Xbox version is coming Soon™ if your PC is old and tired.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:03 AM on August 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


roystgnr: Agreed - I can see an argument for trying to stop pirating in the weeks directly after release, at the top of the sales curve. I think studios could get a lot less static for this if they released each game with a clear migration path for the DRM - going, for example, to occasional online authentication, and then being patched out completely. Otherwise, apart from anything else, you will at some point either have a useless game because the publisher has gone bust or shut down its authentication server, or be forced to download a crack anyway.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:13 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think this is entirely due to their idiotic decision to incorporate real cash into their game, which is in turn a result of WoW being digital crack that they make not only sixty bucks per copy sale, 30ish per expansion sale, but ten dollars a month per sap, and suddenly creating something like Diablo II (which people are still playing for free a decade later) doesn't make sense. A business has to grow, and you don't grow by continuing to give fun away for free. You have to pay for fun by the hour, and making D2 into a cash shop was the compromise they reached between the living asshole known as Bobby Kotick and their previous history as a company that made fun games.

Anyway, if you suddenly put real fucking money into your game, instead of letting that fool's bargain be handled by outside sites, then there's suddenly a huge incentive to stop hacking, more so than they had when they were just doing it to maintain balance in the game. Not that this will do it. It just makes the incentive that much higher.

What a dumb idea, and what a dumb consequence to that dumb idea. I'd like to see the suits leave gaming forever, but thanks to console gamers and MMOs I don't see that happening any time soon.
posted by codacorolla at 7:14 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


This reads like a nice, 50/50 split of good points and petulant whinyness. The most blatant of the latter for me being the author's amazing, blind leap from "I am angry that PC games developed from the source code designed for a console system are not provided an extensive range of options and elements that can perfectly be customized to my personal specifications" to "I am likewise angry that games taken from console source code are not ported to said PC platform immediately."

So, yes, basically that point of the article is that the author is quite angry he cannot get everything he wants, right now, as that should be on equal footing to just buying a fucking XBox. Umm... okay. It sort of makes his more valid and worthwhile arguments about Blizzard and Ubi's DRM nightmares much harder to read.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:28 AM on August 2, 2011


...also, I would personally have been much happier if instead of working harder on more fluid PC integration for Bulletstorm they just put that theoretical effort into not making the game awful.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:32 AM on August 2, 2011


The one bit I've not really seen much speculation on, about Diablo 3's real money auction house, is the effect it'll have on gameplay in players' attitude toward loot: namely, that having no untradeable 'soulbound' items, plus a cash value attached to each one, is going to make players feel like fools for equipping and using any rare gear that drops rather than selling it immediately. After you've run through the game once or twice and seen everything, the major motivation in Diablo/Torchlight/whatever is to build up your character, take on harder difficulties etc. This seems to undermine that.

Even with the incentive of real cash to bring players back, every chance to step up to new challenges, gear-wise, having to come at the cost of potential real income looks likely to make people terribly bored of the game very quickly. The $ value on everything risks players feeling like they're losing out by keeping gear to play with alternate builds, neat rare toys like the Orb of Deception in WoW, and items for potential future alts, too. Things like trying new classes or specs are huge draws back to this kind of game.

I get that the gear likely won't bind on equip - meaning you can hang onto something and use it until you find an upgrade, then flog the old one - but if there's an item level system like WoW (which presumably there will be), there'll be a top tier of gear which won't get upgraded from but which also won't lose its value. At the same time, if Blizzard go with a model anything like WoW - free or paid content patches adding new top-end dungeons, bosses etc - the previous best tier of gear is going to get obsoleted, which further drives players to sell now rather than use now and sell later. It happens in WoW's gold economy - the bind-on-equip (read: saleable) bits of gear from a newly-added raid sell for absurd numbers in its early days, while the price of the previous tier tanks. With almost every piece of gear saleable, and for real money, players with access to higher-end, less common gear are going to feel like idiots for playing the game the way it's intended and upgrading their character.
posted by emmtee at 7:34 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Game devs should take a leaf out of the Eidos Montreal book, who seem to be happy to take feedback about Deus Ex Human Revolution from the PC audience.

They asked for UI changes, DX11 support, the ability to change FOV and more, and Eidos have done the changes where sensible. This goes a long way towards a good relationship with the PC crowd who I would hope will buy it and not pirate it.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:49 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm interested to see what the AH ends up being like.

Are the items going to be very difficult to get (maybe with low drop percentages) to encourage people to buy, or are millions of people trying to make money on this thing just going to saturate the market and drop the items to very low prices?

I hope it doesn't end up like Valve with hats - where the chance of a hat dropping for a character you like is so low, the only way to get it is to buy or to leave the game running for hundreds of hours.
posted by Cloud King at 7:50 AM on August 2, 2011


Ubisoft claims this is a win for the company. It has seen "a clear reduction in piracy of our titles which required a persistent online connection, and from that point of view the requirement is a success," a company representative told PC Gamer...
Ubisoft may claim that piracy has been diminished, and we certainly can't argue with that assertion given that the company doesn't share usage data


There's over 70 people seeding a patched and cracked copy of Silent Hunter V, one of the games mentioned in the article. How is this DRM (or any DRM, for that matter) supposed to be considered successful?
posted by EmGeeJay at 7:56 AM on August 2, 2011


They're not claiming the DRM has reduced piracy because they can prove it; they're saying it because nobody else can disprove it. They have no idea whether piracy has been diminished. They've never had numbers on how many people pirated their games. How would they even get them?

It's just Ubisoft talking out of their ass. They seem certain that their draconian DRM is reducing piracy of their games. I'm equally certain it has had the opposite effect, based on anecdotal evidence and common sense. Unless they can produce some numbers, these arguments are equally valid and useful.
posted by IAmUnaware at 8:05 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's over 70 people seeding a patched and cracked copy of Silent Hunter V, one of the games mentioned in the article. How is this DRM (or any DRM, for that matter) supposed to be considered successful?

For those who say, "It always gets cracked", removing the single player, or removing LAN and direct IP based connections, has been very effective for Blizzard. There still are no multiplayer cracks for Starcraft 2. It's a lot harder for pirates to create non-existent functionality than it is for them to unlock disabled functionality. No one's cracked Guild Wars "DRM", if you could call it that, and that's what Diablo 3 is looking like more every day. If you have to create a private server, those are more easily targeted than dispersed p2p.

As far as online only, a lot of companies are moving to that, for example, n0tch. I don't really hear any howls of anger that Minecraft requires online activation every time you play it. People really didn't bitch at Guild Wars either, which beyond lobbies, could easily be played like a single player game.

As for the cash shop, this is pure harm prevention here. There are cash shops for Diablo 2 to this day, and I would assume that Blizzard has to deal with the support costs that come with buyers and sellers scamming each other in a grey market. If Blizzard has to deal with the after effects of that, they might as well control it to cut down on scams (anonymous trading), and take a cut.

Finally, I've heard constant smart ass remarks from the "everything will be eventually free" crowd that people should move away from trying to sell easily copied bits, that you have to find new business models. Well, welcome to the future, in which you buy access to a server, in which single player games are left by the wayside, because hey, you can't sell bits. Be careful what you wish for.....
posted by zabuni at 8:07 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Minecraft still let's you play if the login fails. The server software even has a feature to specifically NOT check if those logging in have verified with official servers (which has been great for convincing my friends to try the game/server) and three friends ended up buying the game due to this.
posted by haveanicesummer at 8:17 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would guess that that is as much due to the fact that Minecraft is in beta, and the server is probably effectively alpha, as much as anything.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 8:43 AM on August 2, 2011


I don't want to play anything more complex than a Mario/Zelda game on a console. And I don't want to be online when I play. Who wants to take my money?

I think you might have just answered your own question.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 8:55 AM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's weird to hang this article on Diablo III: Blizzard is one of the few companies making PC focussed games. Diablo III will be guilty of two of the five sins: online DRM and requiring a login. But if it works out like Starcraft 2 did those technologies will actually work pretty well and not cause big problems for gamers. (Sadly, Starcraft 2 is not proving very popular; let's hope Diablo III does better).

The crazy Diablo III news is that, as discussed above, you can sell your loot for real money. Hard to see how that's not going to make the game essentially gambling.
posted by Nelson at 9:07 AM on August 2, 2011


The crazy Diablo III news is that, as discussed above, you can sell your loot for real money. Hard to see how that's not going to make the game essentially gambling.

In my opinion, the cash shop is the reason that this new DRM is going in to play. One of the ways that duping, gaming the gambling system, map hacking, and botting took place in DII was through a detailed knowledge of the workings of the game, and part of this was through observation of client-side stored information. Another thorn in Blizzard's side was the operation of gray-market item and CD key merchants. And, of course, Diablo II generates no income stream after the player has purchased a copy of the game and its expansion (or, in my case, 3 copies to replace scratched and lost discs).

Going cash-shop does a few things: So, I can see why Blizzard is doing what they're doing (I think, if anyone things this analysis is wrong then I'd be interested to know), but I think it's incredibly wrong-headed. It changes around what made Diablo II so much fun: I could sit down and plink away a few hours without feeling like a fool if I wasn't poop-socking. This is a reason that I've never, and will never, seriously get involved with an MMO. Playing Diablo II was like playing solitaire, and provided me with an hour or so distraction from other work. Cash-shopping makes it seem less like a game and more like a job. I'll probably still play it, but right now it just seems like a terrible idea.

All of this coincides with what I've seen happening to gaming (and what's discussed in this post I made a few months ago), where it's not enough that a game is fun, but there has to be so many tie-ins that keep you involved in your "virtual lifestyle" so that they can keep milking micro-payments out of you. With larger budgets for AAA titles (invariably a sequel or rehash of something, it seems) there has to be a revenue stream to justify it.

This is absolutely the opposite of the way games used to be, where a game was shipped (mostly) complete, and once you tore off the cellophane it was yours for life. Maybe this is just the way of the world, and a sign that I'm getting old that I don't like it, but thankfully there's enough free-to-cheap independent games that are still being designed with players in mind instead of a tunnel-vision focus on their wallets.

Also, effectively gutting your market for people in foreign countries or rural parts of the States with bad Internet connections seems like a dumb idea, but I guess they don't have enough market share to matter any more.
posted by codacorolla at 9:27 AM on August 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


For those who say, "It always gets cracked", removing the single player, or removing LAN and direct IP based connections, has been very effective for Blizzard. There still are no multiplayer cracks for Starcraft 2.

...

Sadly, Starcraft 2 is not proving very popular

But correlation is not causation, right?
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:28 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's always a good idea to support gamepads, because many games are improved by them, but your default settings should be optimized for a mouse and keyboard.

Oh dear. Here come the Alpha Protocol flashbacks.
posted by Iridic at 9:30 AM on August 2, 2011


I was disappointed enough Dragon Age 2. I don't think I'm going to bother with Diablo 3. Pity.
posted by homunculus at 9:56 AM on August 2, 2011


...with DA2.

Mmm, more coffee.
posted by homunculus at 9:57 AM on August 2, 2011


I'm not really in the Starcraft scene but every article I'm reading says SCII sales were pretty spectacular, and I know it's the main pro gaming circuit game. How is it not very popular?
posted by kmz at 9:58 AM on August 2, 2011


Sadly, Starcraft 2 is not proving very popular

I'd disagree. It was the best selling pc game of 2010, and has already sold over 4 million copies. While not selling as many as the 11 million the first starcraft did, we can check back after a decade or so.

Putting real money into the system just creates an even larger incentive for hackers to not only poke at the client-side code, but to actively try to get into your databases, because now those databases have actual, God-honest checking account numbers attached to them.

Given that they are battle.net accounts, many of them already have credit card info attached to them, as well as an easily liquidated currency (WoW gold). I doubt the sophistication of hackers after people will increase that greatly. They're already one of the largest targets for phishing emails, and there have been trojans out in the wild that get past the two factor authentication.

And they probably won't have the actual checking accounts on their servers. Every mention of "cashing out" I've seen has references to a currently undecided "third party" who handles the actual money.

I could sit down and plink away a few hours without feeling like a fool if I wasn't poop-socking.

I don't see how this is changed. The cash shop won't have any weapons or armor that can't be obtained through mobs. As far as poopsocking, people have been running Mephisto runs, (same boss over and over) for as long as I've heard of Diablo 2. The cash shops exist, and you've ignored the grey market ones, so you can ignore the legit ones.

I still think it's a rather transparent push to get rid of piracy and generate alternative revenue streams, and plenty of other companies will eagerly watch to see how this unfolds.
posted by zabuni at 9:58 AM on August 2, 2011


BeerFilter writes "Is there a non Ars link? I use adblock and am not welcome there. Maybe I'll steal some content just this once."

Are we just supposed to remember their take on AdBlock or has the latest version bypassed the redirect? 'Cause the page loaded OK for me.

ArmyOfKittens writes "Nixing offline characters even if you only play single player is their solution. Good compromise, imo."

It's great if you have an always on connection and the company stays in business.

Sternmeyer writes "I'm not feeling the outrage here. My PC games are played on my PC, which is connected to the internet at all times."

Great for you. I often game (camping, work camps, travelling) without an internet connection, let alone one that is always on.

emmtee writes "I get that the gear likely won't bind on equip - meaning you can hang onto something and use it until you find an upgrade, then flog the old one - but if there's an item level system like WoW (which presumably there will be), there'll be a top tier of gear which won't get upgraded from but which also won't lose its value."

The interesting thing is that even though these items are digital and therefor one acquired used last year is the same as a new drop the items will depreciate as supply swells.

zabuni writes "And they probably won't have the actual checking accounts on their servers. Every mention of 'cashing out' I've seen has references to a currently undecided 'third party' who handles the actual money. "

I wonder how they are going to handle income and sales taxes. Especially say for a player in Canada.
posted by Mitheral at 10:06 AM on August 2, 2011


I have decidedly mixed feelings about the cash auction house. I'm not particularly concerned about it "degrading play" for me because I would never consider Diablo in any kind of competetive or min/maxing context. However if they build the entire game around this auction house system, which it seems to some extent they are doing, of course the end product might suffer. On the other hand if in the normal course of playing the game I'm able to earn myself $60 worth of sold items and I get the game for free? Sign me up.

Presumably if this is successful then whatever follows WoW could continue with this model. That would be if nothing else, interesting to see the results of.
posted by haveanicesummer at 10:22 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I played a lot of Starcraft, and I didn't buy the sequel because: a.) it's too expensive, b.) it's basically the same RTS model from over a decade ago? After playing games like Total Annihilation and Forged Alliance, I don't think I can go back to the SC style.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:33 AM on August 2, 2011


Related on the cash auction house: Catacomb, a 1985 science fiction story published in Dragon magazine, which has essentially become reality.

I absolutely agree with codacorolla that the DRM is related to the real money trade. Blizzard is creating a valuable form of virtual property, which means they have to provide some sort of security for that property. They've got enough experience now with Warcraft to know how to do it, but it's a big challenge. (btw, I withdraw my claim that Starcraft 2 isn't popular; I don't honestly know.)
posted by Nelson at 10:39 AM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see why the two need to be related. There would never ever ever be a real-money market for offline items. There's only going to be an economy for the server-side (as opposed to TCP/IP that you only play with friends anyway) multiplayer. That, by its very nature, requires an always-on Internet connection, and it's not like there are going to be massive protests over needing to be online in order to play a multiplayer game over the Internet.

Nothing there requires the complete elimination of an offline single-player mode.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:38 AM on August 2, 2011


Nothing there requires the complete elimination of an offline single-player mode.

Their argument is that it's disheartening for a player to unknowingly invest time and effort levelling up their offline character, only to try to play co-op with friends and discover they have to start again from scratch so as to be verified as not bringing in any hacked/duped items. There's a quote from Pardo (I think) floating around somewhere, to the effect that he believes that experience soured significant numbers of people on Diablo 2 and discouraged them from ever bothering with multiplayer, or even put them off continuing with the game as a whole.

I'm not saying I agree - I don't see why they couldn't have included offline character creation as a strictly non-default option, hidden behind a great big layer of 'WARNING WARNING CANNOT USE CHARACTER ONLINE' screens. That way people with reliable net connections just funnel through the standard process and make a server-verified character, usable solo and in co-op, whereas people who can't rely on their connection or know they'll be out of reach can specifically choose that option. I suppose they've weighed the potential hack-proofing gain of not even having any part of the item-generation or item-handling code included in the client (I guess there's a slim chance of it being reverse-engineered or a loophole found that's applicable to the online mode, remote as it may be) versus the bad feeling they'll generate, and decided it was worth it.
posted by emmtee at 12:01 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


So if I find a super-rare and awesome weapon in Diablo 3, I'm going to have to choose between using it and selling it for lots of real-world cash?

(Trick question. I'm going to be playing Grim Dawn and Torchlight 2 instead.)
posted by straight at 12:46 PM on August 2, 2011


So if I find a super-rare and awesome weapon in Diablo 3, I'm going to have to choose between using it and selling it for lots of real-world cash?

My suspicion is that with the auction house they're going to set the rarities of items so that it's statistically impossible to get good gear by just playing the game. You'll never see a super-rare unless you buy one.
posted by Pyry at 12:52 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the auction house was all p2p? How would there be a super-rare available unless somebody got it playing the game?
posted by kmz at 1:10 PM on August 2, 2011


I was going to jump on People Can Fly for that "editing .ini files is rape" comment, but it turns out the guy who said it is Polish, not a native English speaker, and claims not to have realized the connotations of that in in English:

"I used "rape" as "despoil", not a native speaker here - but still, poor choice of a word obviously, sorry!

I'm willing to take him at his word, much as the puerility of Bulletstorm tempts me not to.
posted by straight at 1:17 PM on August 2, 2011


Lots of really poor speculation in here. A couple thoughts.

1. Diablo 2 has been running this exact gear/market scheme, complete with ebay-style sites (d2jsp), for a decade. It works fine. Very few items that drop are worth anything in terms of real dollars, virtually everything is trash until Hell, and the majority of players will only encounter one or two items worth more than a couple cents in their entire play experience.

2. Comparing Diablo and WoW in terms of gear acquisition is really stupid. One is highly random and highly tradeable, one is nonrandom and untradeable. And no, if Diablo 3 is done right, there will not be one "uber-set" for each class. That would be horrible design and a complete failure if it were true. There should be tons of different gear combinations that are optimal to specific skillsets, of which there will be hundreds at endgame.

3. Hacking is not a problem for Blizzard anymore. WoW, and D2's ladder system, are pretty close to hackproof. Hacking is not their concern here; it's just maximizing box sales. Now you can't use one copy of D3 to run an entire LAN party. That's the entire point of this.
posted by mek at 1:18 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I thought the auction house was all p2p? How would there be a super-rare available unless somebody got it playing the game?

Pyry can correct me if I misunderstand, but I think what was meant by "statistical impossibility" is that someone will see these items, and thus sell them, it's just that the likelihood of any particular individual player seeing them will be really, really low, to the point where you would not expect to come across the item in the wild during the playable life of your game.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:23 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that's the case, but that was already the case in Diablo 2. Not sure how many players saw a Zod rune in the wild, but it was probably 1 in 1000, if that.
posted by mek at 1:27 PM on August 2, 2011


3. Hacking is not a problem for Blizzard anymore. WoW, and D2's ladder system, are pretty close to hackproof. Hacking is not their concern here; it's just maximizing box sales. Now you can't use one copy of D3 to run an entire LAN party. That's the entire point of this.

I played up through the first ladder season of .13, and duplication of items was still an issue, as was map-hacking, as was botting. Moving all of these things off of the player's computer is pretty much their stated intent in making in making it online only.
posted by codacorolla at 1:30 PM on August 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as online only, a lot of companies are moving to that, for example, n0tch. I don't really hear any howls of anger that Minecraft requires online activation every time you play it.

You can play Minecraft offline. You have to register it the first time, and it wants to log in every time you play, and you might have to log in every so many play, but you can still play without a web connection if it's been registered that first time.

People really didn't bitch at Guild Wars either, which beyond lobbies, could easily be played like a single player game.

It's still sold as a MMORPG though. It has to do with what people expect from the game.

If it makes you feel better: HOOOOWWWWLLLL!
posted by JHarris at 2:04 PM on August 2, 2011


I bought every game Blizzard released between Warcraft II and Wrath of the Lich King. I have not bought one since then for reasons having nothing to do with actual gameplay. Blizzard have turned into asshats, and the Diablo III auction house is a great example.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:22 PM on August 2, 2011


Game devs should take a leaf out of the Eidos Montreal book, who seem to be happy to take feedback about Deus Ex Human Revolution from the PC audience.

They asked for UI changes, DX11 support, the ability to change FOV and more, and Eidos have done the changes where sensible. This goes a long way towards a good relationship with the PC crowd who I would hope will buy it and not pirate it.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 7:49 AM on August 2 [1 favorite +] [!]


A preview build of this was leaked, the first big chunk of the game (maybe a quarter?).

It's fucking fantastic. Totally worthy successor to the original. I downloaded, preordered it shortly after and am pimping it remorselessly to everyone I meet.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:30 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I couldn't agree more. I stopped playing part-way through the leak because I realised just how good the thing was, and that I didn't want to get too into the preview build and have it just abruptly stop. It's gonna be a long three weeks.

Incidentally I'm reinstalling Diablo 2 as I type for the second time stupid resolution patch only working with 1.12. Well played, Blizzard, or something.
posted by emmtee at 3:37 PM on August 2, 2011


I've got metered Internet, so I guess if I need a dungeon crawling fix I'll play Torchlight 2.
On XBox Arcade, since its too much of a hassle to play PC games unless they're really indie or 3 years old. But I was kinda looking forward to Diablo 3. Nothing beats the original Diablo though. It had such a stark, gothic atmosphere. Used to play it while listening to Nick Cave. D2 was too open.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:43 PM on August 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I liked Valve's strategy for Portal 2.

Yeah, but if you want local (split-screen) co-op on the PC version, you have to hack it in. Otherwise, your only other alternative is to use two computers and buy two copies of the game.

Local co-op is included in the console versions, BTW.

I like Valve too, but Portal 2 has shown that they're guilty of gimping their PC versions, too.
posted by May Kasahara at 5:22 PM on August 2, 2011


Eh, I'd hardly consider lack of split-screen co-op on the PC version as gimping.
posted by Justinian at 6:37 PM on August 2, 2011


And, of course, Diablo II generates no income stream after the player has purchased a copy of the game and its expansion (or, in my case, 3 copies to replace scratched and lost discs).

I'm not sure how long it has been in effect, but I was able to register my ancient Diablo 2 key on Battle.net and just download the game from there. Quit buying discs.
posted by menschlich at 5:32 AM on August 3, 2011


Oh, and that goes for other Blizzard games as well. Registering a StarCraft 1 key on Battle.net actually allows you to download SC1 *and* the Brood War expansion pack.
posted by menschlich at 5:32 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Eh, I'd hardly consider lack of split-screen co-op on the PC version as gimping.


True - I mean, the fact that Portal 2 is specifically 2-player rather than traditionally multiplayer makes something of a difference, but are many people designing for split-screen co-op on PCs? I am thinking that the assumption is that PCs are more likely to be connected to the Internet, and are less likely to have two sets of input devices plugged in and working at once... so, PC co-op is the same as PC co-op on other Source Engine games, and same-room co-op is assumed to be desktop+laptop (or even PC + console) rather than split-screen.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:28 AM on August 3, 2011


or even PC + console

Is that even possible? Generally speaking games are PC+PC or console+console, and never the twain shall meet.

I do think the number of people who want split-screen co-op on PC is miniscule compared to the people who use separate PCs.
posted by Justinian at 12:30 PM on August 3, 2011


The short answer is yes - Portal 2 allows cross-platform play between PC and PS3, for example. The first XBox 360/PC cross-platform title was Shadowrun (2007), and there are other titles you can cross-platform multiplay between XBox and Windows PC using Games for Windows Live, like Bioshock 2. It's pretty unholy a lot of the time, and in the case of FPSes you have to balance it so that the PC players don't just constantly murder the console players, but you can do it.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:04 PM on August 3, 2011


Huh, I thought that was always the problem; mouse and keyboard is so superior a control method for FPS that PC players dominate the console types.
posted by Justinian at 10:03 AM on August 4, 2011


Yeah, but Portal 2 multiplayer is not competitive, it's co-op, so it's not as much of a problem.
posted by straight at 10:45 AM on August 4, 2011


That and the fact that Valve dumbed down the game a bit, yeah. They eliminated most of the type of puzzles which involved chain-shooting portals while flying through the air. Which was a real shame.
posted by Justinian at 12:35 PM on August 4, 2011


mouse and keyboard is so superior a control method for FPS

Superior for competitive games, yes, but less immersive for single-player stuff, I find. The absolute precision and ability to fully rotate ten times in a second makes for less believable character control to the slower and less accurate sticks on a pad, in my experience. More like controlling a person than some sort of hyper-accelerated ballet dancer.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:28 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Playing an FPS with a gamepad makes me feel like Batman.

Michael Keaton's Batman, who couldn't move his neck.
posted by straight at 10:04 AM on August 5, 2011


He made a good Bruce Wayne, though.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:40 AM on August 5, 2011


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