Blizzard Defends Always-Online Requirement For Diablo III
Speaking to Game Informer, Blizzard VP of online technologies Rob Bridenbecker was quick to point out the benefits of requiring players to always play Diablo III online. Unsurprisingly, Bridenbecker downplayed piracy prevention's role in the decision while talking up the ways being online improves a player's experience.
"One of the problems we ran into back in the day was that we had two different, disjointed worlds that were being created," Bridenbecker told GI. Blizzard always hated the fact that players had to start over with a new character to play online on Diablo II's closed Battle.net (a vastly superior experience to the hack-infested open Battle.net), losing their single-player offline progress. "Even the people that want to play alone eventually will want to play with other players," Bridenbecker said. "We wanted to remove that variable altogether."
Bridenbecker also pointed to the integrity of the game economy, especially with the inclusion of territory-wide auction houses for both real money and in-game currency, and how much easier the always-online requirement makes Blizzard's job of creating a hack-free, optimal experience for its players. "There are just way too many benefits to ignore," he said.
On the piracy front, Bridenbecker insisted that the game design aspects of the decision were a much larger priority. "You know, piracy is always the one that folks point their fingers at; you know, 'this is the reason that companies are doing that.' And for us, at the end of the day when you look at World of Warcraft, and StarCraft II, and even going back to Diablo II, Diablo, and the original StarCraft, we've always been about online play, so that's the dominant reason for the decision," he said.
Personally, as a gamer, this decision doesn't affect me in the slightest – I was always going to play Diablo III online with server-stored characters, and I love the gameplay itself. I agree with Blizzard that that's by far the best way to play a Diablo game. At the same time, I have a hard time buying that preventing people from re-rolling a new character to play online was of such overwhelming importance that Blizzard had to completely disallow offline, locally-stored play.
I'm sympathetic to the piracy angle. I don't even necessarily disagree with the design argument, since I do truly believe that playing Diablo online is a strictly superior experience. On the other hand, you don't need an MBA to understand that there are many business reasons that Blizzard wants everyone to connect to their servers using a Blizzard account.
On the whole, though, I have to side with the many outraged gamers making their voices (shrilly, in most cases) heard on the Internet. I'm the guy who loves playing online, and I would lose nothing if others were able to play Diablo III offline. Why not make everyone happy?