Online woes of Diablo3
THE PROBLEM IS THAT PLAYERS HAVE TO BE ONLINE IF THEY WANT TO PLAY DIABLO 3. HERE’S UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACT OF THE GAME'S DRM.
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