Most times when I sit down and write these rambling posts I only have a passing idea as to what I am going to talk about.
However today there is only one topic that as both a gamer and a long time Blizzard fanboy that I honestly could talk about and that is the Diablo III news. It’s for that reason that I am going to scrap the 25 minute timer, as im pretty sure im going to go over it and keep going till I have said my piece.
A few days ago a whole bunch of websites were invited to Blizzard HQ for a press briefing and hands on with the latest build of Diablo III, however they were all under embargo until this morning. This means that the web has been awash with new information from the game.
unfortunately, as is always the case, because the web has altered our brains to make it hard for us to digest large amounts of information ast once most of the web has focused in on 3 elements of the news and gone batshit insane. Those 3 facts are these
1) Diablo III will have no Offline Mode
2) Diablo III will have no Mod system
3) The auction house in-game will support Real Money auctions
So taking a look at these in order
1) No Offline
Ok, I agree with all the fuss about this. Any game that includes a single player campaign should have an offline mode – there are no exceptions, no if, and’s, but’s or maybe’s. It simply should be there. I said much the same about Starcraft II when it came out. Their justification for it this time round is in part to tie in with point 3, they can’t let you real money trade items online that could have been duped in a modded/hacked offline version.
That argument doesn’t work for one simple reason – you don’t want that to happen you simply flag all items that drop in offline mode as such – then do not allow items with those flags to be sold in the system or even transferred to a character in an on-line game.
However the problem is we really lost our chance to fight this one, we let the thin end of the wedge get past when Starcraft II came past and we happily lapped up online only with only a measly cross game chat as the justification.
2) No Mods
This one I can kinda accept to a degree, but it will be dependant on one simple fact – how modifiable will the default UI be? The only thing I use mods for are to simplify and clean up the UI to suit my playstyle, occasionally I will use it to add a new mode or feature once I have completed the main game. This is even more true of Diablo – I knew there were some mods out there for it but I don’t believe I even bothered with them.
However Blizzard has a solid history of supporting the mod community, Warcraft & Starcraft have featured modding tools as standard and some incredible things have come from those modders. DOTA to Gatherer – Bejeweled to the upcoming Starcraft Universe, they all have really changed the way we look at mods in general. To suddenly not support mods for one of their games seems like a complete change of direction for them.
Though to be fair – I don’t believe that Mods were ever officially supported for the Diablo franchise – they were just not outright banned either. However that is not a justification for not doing it now and I can only think that once again point 3 is the cause for this decision. If you allow mods, you open up the possibility for exploitation, that in turn could have a direct impact on the value of items in the real money auctions.
So for me personally this is only a minor niggle.
3) Real Money Auctions
Now here is the thing that most people seem to be getting hung up on, though personally for me is a bit of a none issue. The only reason it even bothers me in the slightest is that it is the justification for points 1 & 2.
As you have no doubt read elsewhere, Diablo III will include an auction house – a great feature that this game had to have – but as well as being able to sell items to each other for in-game gold it will allow you to buy and sell items for Real World Cash.
I have absolutely no problem with this. if a someone with a bit of spare cash knocking around and wants to buy themselves some gear, rather than going to effort of farming/crafting it themselves – then fair play to them. This is exactly the same reason i have no problem with speed boosters in cash shops – as long as there is a way to get it without sticking your hands in your pocket then its fine.
What actually elevates this over a cash shop however is the fact that is not Blizzard that are getting the cash (well not all of it, they will take a small fee) its another player.
Item selling is nothing new, I challenge you to find a game out there that has even a minor on-line element that does not have a item/in-game currency black market. They are all out there, hell even Diablo II still has a thriving item sales market. The problem with these is that they are all unofficial so anybody choosing to use them has Zero protection if the site decides to rip them off.
By bringing it in-house they add a layer of protection for their players, knowing damn well that the market for items would exist with or without their input – there really was no other choice but for them to at least try and put some safeguards in there and this is one way to do it. They are also not the first developer to do this!
Come back with me to 2005 – when Blizzard was just a whippersnapper in the MMO world snapping at the heals of the big daddy of the time Sony Online Entertainment. All the way back then SOE took a similar stance and realised that real money trading was going to happen whether they wanted it or not. It was for that reason they created a service known as the ‘Station Exchange’, which is simply an auction house that allows players to sell in-game items, cash & even characters officially.
Admittedly it was only on a few specific EQ2 servers, but it was a brave move all the way back then and one that I’m sure Blizzard have looked at closely.
In fact for you few out there worried about the value of items being excessively high, effectively keeping the high-end game to only people with lots of disposable cash, take a look at the Station Exchange. The laws of supply and demand will naturally keep the market under control – an item becomes popular and more people will farm it, thereby dropping its market value.
While I don’t think I will buy any real cash items, due to the fact that I will only be playing alone or with friends, if I do get tempted I still wont be sticking my hand in my pocket. Instead I will play the market a bit, farm some stuff and sell it on the market then use that to buy what I want.
Done right you should never have to put your hand in your pocket.
To wrap up
The Real Money Trade – All for it, it was going to happen anyway at least with an official market the players are protected to some degree
Lack of Mods – Well Diablo has never officially had mods anyway, so while it would have been nice its not a massive loss really
Lack of Offline Mode – There really is no justifiable reason for this, a simple bit of thought could stop any issues with the RMT and allow people to play single player whenever they want. Unfortunately we let the thin end of the wedge slip in with Starcraft II.