On­line woes of Di­ablo3


Gadgets and Gizmos (India) - - CONTENTS - BY ANAND RA­MACHAN­DRAN

Di­ablo3 came af­ter a very long wait. But it ran into trou­ble soon af­ter be­cause of servers that could cope with the bur­den of mil­lions playing on the Net. A look at the game’s on­line DRM.

By now, un­less you’re liv­ing un­der a par­tic­u­larly large rock, you’ve prob­a­bly heard about

Di­ablo 3. And there’s a good chance that you’ve also heard about its con­tro­ver­sial and trou­b­lerid­den launch. Servers that broke down un­der the load of mil­lions of players try­ing to log in. Re­peated er­rors and glitches that needed patch­ing on day one. Gamers, as they tend to do, re­acted by trolling re­view scores on Me­tacritic and spew­ing venom at game maker Bl­iz­zard on fo­rums all over the In­ter­net.

And, de­spite all the other trou­bles, the chief tar­get of their ire was Bl­iz­zard’s de­ci­sion to im­ple­ment an ‘al­ways con­nected’ DRM (dig­i­tal rights man­age­ment) that re­quired players to be con­nected to the Net to play even the sin­gle player cam­paign.

“Why can’t I play a game that I’ve bought when and where I want to?” “What if I want to play on my lap­top while on a long plane jour­ney?” “What hap­pens if my In­ter­net connection goes down?” The ques­tions are fly­ing fast and fu­ri­ous, mostly fu­ri­ous. Sto­ries of why the whole thing sucked started crawl­ing out of the wood­work—one player I know was on the verge of beat­ing a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult boss when he got dis­con­nected from the server—and lost all his progress. Gamers were ou­traged with the idea that Bl­iz­zard was forc­ing them to stay con­nected—this was a game that they had waited over a decade for, and felt that Bl­iz­zard had let them down. In In­dia, where a large per­cent­age of players (es­pe­cially in non-met­ros) still chiefly play sin­gle-player games and lack re­li­able In­ter­net con­nec­tions, the chief sen­ti­ment was pal­pa­ble dis­ap­point­ment.

This is hardly the first time that a game has re­quired players to be al­ways on­line to play the sin­gle-player cam­paign. Ubisoft drew huge amounts of gamer rage when it im­ple­mented the ex­act same idea for many of its PC

games, in­clud­ing As­sas­sin’s Creed 2,

Splin­ter Cell Con­vic­tion and Tom Clancy’s HAWX. PC gamers com­plained that their con­sole coun­ter­parts didn’t have to go through this dra­co­nian mea­sure. Ubisoft coun­tered with the usual piracy ar­gu­ment. Gamers sneered at this jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, say­ing that peo­ple who played the pi­rated ver­sion could crack and by­pass the DRM any­way, and that the only thing Ubisoft suc­ceeded in do­ing was pun­ish­ing hon­est pay­ing cus­tomers, and treat­ing them like crim­i­nals, while the pi­rates could en­joy a bet­ter game ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s an ar­gu­ment that rages on to this day. Even on­line ser­vices like Steam and Ori­gin have their prob- lems—they both make playing games in their ‘off­line’ modes cum­ber­some and glitchy.

Bl­iz­zard, how­ever, has a very dif­fer­ent im­ple­men­ta­tion and very dif­fer­ent jus­ti­fi­ca­tions for its al­ways on­line re­quire­ment. When you’re playing

Di­ablo 3, all game cal­cu­la­tions are made server-side—which means that with ev­ery game ac­tion you take, the in­for­ma­tion is im­me­di­ately re­layed to Bl­iz­zard’s servers, which then store, cal­cu­late and re­turn in­for­ma­tion to your PC. This, Bl­iz­zard claims, re­sults in a smoother and more seam­less ex­pe­ri­ence. Con­sider the ad­van­tages for a mo­ment. There are al­most no load­ing times be­tween lev­els and stages— if you’ve played Di­ablo 3, you would have al­ready no­ticed this. This re­sults in a rel­a­tively un­in­ter­rupted killing spree ex­pe­ri­ence—which is what the essence of Di­ablo is all about. Also, all your char­ac­ters, stats and save game in­for­ma­tion is be­ing writ­ten to the server in real time, with­out any need to ‘sync’ in­for­ma­tion with the cloud. This means that you can log in to and play Di­ablo 3 on any PC in the world where it’s in­stalled and all your save in­for­ma­tion will be in­tact, and in­stantly avail­able. The con­nected na­ture of the game also en­ables some very cool so­cial mul­ti­player fea­tures— such as the bril­liant sin­gle-click ‘jump in and play’ coop mode, and real time

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