When I woke up this morning and worked through my morning news ritual, I was unsurprised by the number of Diablo III stories that were flooding my feed. Speed runs, game breaking bugs (yikes!) and the “best” way to maximize different classes. Heck, there was even something really cool on Kotaku about the one piece of Diablo gaming history that Blizzard didn’t have a hand in.
Still, one story from VentureBeat jumped out at me, quoting some of the most eloquent prose on the Internet and inducing the first facepalm of the day. Users are review bombing yet another game on Metacritic. The practice, for those unfamiliar, is when numerous people dissatisfied with some aspect of a game leave absurdly low user reviews. Actually, let me just show you…
A majority of those “negative” reviews are flat-out 0.0 scores. The complaints include the game being a “bad version of WoW,” frustration over the connection errors and unadulterated rage at the “always-on DRM,” which requires players to have a stable internet connecting even when playing alone. You can read the vitriol here.
Whenever I see something like this, I wonder what the point is. If it’s to draw attention to the complaints, well, I suppose you’ve succeeded. Of course, Twitter trending topics and the number of outlets already covering the issue (not to mention the Blizzard forums currently engulfed in flames) are giving voice to the concerns. But, why review bomb? The practice is tired. No one gives it merit, because everyone knows the perspective is skewed. By the very nature of the practice, the user scores don’t take into consideration the thousands upon thousands of gamers that are sitting back and waiting for the team to work out the problems.
Did you really expect that the servers wouldn’t be overloaded on Day 1? Diablo III is one of the most anticipated games of the decade. Of course things were taxed to the breaking point. Heck, even Blizzard has gone through this before. Remember how bad World of Warcraft’s connection and queueing problems were during the first month?
The inevitable response from gamers is that Blizzard should have been prepared. Trust me. They were.
I have no doubt that their teams were all on high alert, scrambling to keep things moving. The emergency downtime yesterday was part of that process. “Ah, but what about server capacity?” I hear you saying. It’s a balancing act. I once asked the same question to a developer and received a completely logical response. He told me that server loads subside quickly after launch. Were developers and publishers to purchase, install and maintain servers based on initial loads, there would be absurd waste. Instead, they plan for average peak and do their best to get through the launch window with as few scrapes and bruises as possible.
Does it mean that some gamers won’t be able to play right away? Yes. Does it mean lower costs during development? Absolutely. You might not like it, but it’s a cold reality of the industry. Developers simply cannot predicate ongoing server capacity based on the day 1 crush.
As for the always-on DRM issue, it’s another stark reality of the direction the industry is headed. Especially with the auction house (another popular point of contention that often involves the words “pay to win”), Blizzard needed to make sure that duping (if possible) could be caught and the perpetrators banned. Even if there were no mechanism to purchase items with in-game money, you can bet the requirement for an internet connection would remain. I don’t mean to diminish the complaints, though. The cries against always-on DRM are rooted in legitimate frustration, and the inclusion of it has often lead to rampant piracy (EA’s Spore a prime example).
The truth is that while some of these complaints are valid, the mechanism and manner of voicing them diminishes the message. Review bombing is the equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum because your mother didn’t buy you a toy. It’s childish and petulant.
If you really want to affect change, make reasonable arguments, substantiate them with fact and be open to civil and courteous debate. I assure you that developers hear the rage but respond to those that are mature in their approach. Most importantly, play the game before you complain about it. If you have no intention of purchasing Diablo III, for whatever reason, then move along. There is no reason to throw a fit. There are tons of other great action RPGs out there to occupy your time, especially this year.
At the end of the day, Blizzard is going to address the connection issues. You will be able to play Diablo III. The real money auction house is not the end of the world (though, given the theme of the game, maybe that’s the point). Next week, when everything is moving smoothly and you are blissfully clicking and loot whoring away, your emotions may have mellowed, but that 0.0 review score won’t. Most won’t take the time to go back and delete or modify their score on Metacritic, instead leaving the hole metaphorically punched in the wall.
So, instead of throwing a tantrum, perhaps consider an alternative mechanism for voicing your disdain. Or, better yet, go play something else until the problems are fixed. Sanctuary will still need saving when you come back.