Since the game launched in May, we have written extensively about the trials and tribulations of Blizzard’s Diablo III. The positive aspects include the critical acclaim and the record-breaking sales, however these seem to have been overshadowed by the negatives. Server crashes, cheaters using hacks to gain unfair advantages in the game and issues with the online auction house are just a few examples. One sticking point for many people has been the requirement for a constant internet connection while playing Diablo III, even if you’re playing a single-player game. It has long been suspected this is DRM in disguise, and Blizzard has finally admitted that this is somewhat true.
In a statement issued on the Battle.net forums, Blizzard co-founder Mike Morhaime addressed some of the fan feedback and criticisms that have come forth in the past two months. In addressing the concerns around the “always connected” requirement, he did acknowledge that DRM is one component. Since Diablo III launched, the online DRM was very quickly cracked, leading many to criticize Blizzard’s practice as being both a nuisance and ineffective. While Morhaime conceded that the online connectivity does not guarantee that people cannot hack through it, he does feel that it helps them quickly identify and solve these issues. He went further to state that, despite the drawbacks, that he remains confident that this was the right choice to ensure the long-term integrity of the game.
Morhaime further qualified the online component by noting that Diablo III was designed as an online game, and the always-connected requirement allows them to maintain and support this feature. This allows for the matchmaking, the co-operative gameplay and the peer vs. peer elements (which still aren’t live) that are integral parts of the gaming experience. Morhaime also feels that it helps to provide quick customer service and security fixes, so it serves a functional purpose beyond simply acting as DRM. Opinion is definitely divided on the online functionalities of Diablo III, but a quick glance at the forum comments shows a generally positive reaction to Morhaime’s statements. Whether it resonates with the collective hivemind of gamers is another matter.
Two months after launch, Diablo III still remains popular and highly regarded game, despite the lingering technical issues that Blizzard is continuously working to correct. As more patches get issued and more cracks in the game’s foundation are patched, hopefully the end-user experience will continue to improve as well. However, the “always-on” requirement is here to say, at least for the foreseeable future.