I love to read, write and talk about video games. Oh, and play them. I'm into a number of different genres and styles and will play almost anything. Except 3rd rate, 3rd person shooters, those are shit. A few of my favorites are Demon's/Dark Souls, Halo(all the Halo), Ghost Recon, Fallout (past and present), Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Neverwinter Nights, Portal 2, I could be here all day. You can read more of my stuff at The Controller Online or follow me on Twitter @TCO_Scott.
The long awaited release of Blizzard’s Diablo 3 was rocky to begin with, due the presence of an ‘always-on’ DRM system that didn’t exactly work in the first days it went into service. But it wasn’t until the technical issues were worked out that other, more fundamental, problems with the game made themselves known.
I found myself plugging away at Diablo 3, the same way I did with Diablo 2, but something was missing. It took me a few hours to realize that I just wasn’t having as much fun as I did with the previous games.
What took me a little longer to figure out was that I wasn’t having fun because I wasn’t really going after loot like I used to. Why was this? Diablo 3 still has plenty of loot dropping from enemies, so what was the problem? The Auction House, that was the problem.
The drops I was getting were simply not living up to what I could easily purchase on the Auction House, simply by exiting the main game and clicking a few buttons. Not only that, but for a few dollars I could hit up the “Real Money” Auction House and buy even better gear that real players were selling.
It turns out I wasn’t alone. In an article on Joystiq, Diablo 3 Director, Jay Wilson, told them that nearly every player has used the Auction House at least once, and over 50% of them use it “regularly.” In the same article he says he believes the Auction House “really hurt the game” because it “damaged item rewards” by encouraging players to bypass the normal, in-game, reward system of finding new, better, loot.
I agree and, specifically, here’s where I think they went wrong: World of Warcraft led them astray. You see, as a long time, on and off, player of Blizzard’s famous MMO I’ve spent my fair share of gold in the WoW Auction House. WoW and Diablo 3 follow the same basic formula, when boiled down, of killing things to level up and acquire loot. The further you get in the game, the better loot you can find, and the better loot you can use. This formula has been rinsed and repeated millions of times in both games and, though dumbing it down doesn’t do it a whole lot of justice, it works because it’s fun.
But why does the Auction House work in WoW and not in Diablo 3, if the games are so similar at their cores? Simple. WoW does not allow you to sell top-tier loot. You will find all kinds of gear by completing quests and defeating enemies, and players can even craft some pretty good gear themselves, but the best stuff is dropped by dungeon bosses and earned through player-vs-player challenges. This gear is usually the best stuff your character can use, based on their level, but it is bound to your character and cannot be sold in the Auction House.
These restrictions are what allows WoW to augment the core game formula, without breaking it. You can always hit up the Auction House to beef up your gear for the next challenge, but if you really want the best loot the game has to offer, you have to work for it and working for it is the basis of the whole formula.
Now, you may have heard me talk about how I wasn’t bothered by games like Dead Space 3, and the Need for Speed series, having a micro transaction system to buy in-game items, so why am I here saying that they effectively ruin Diablo 3 and not Dead Space 3? This is because these games follow a different formula and, though they have similarities, the reward system is more varied. Racing a clean race and taking the top position has its own reward, as does skillfully shooting off all the limbs of a Necromorph, so you can buy gear, or not buy gear, without drastically altering the formula.
The sad part of all of this is that the persistent online connection was brought in to keep the Auction House system from being flooded by hacked items, but if there were no Auction House to begin with, there would be no need for an always-on connection thus eliminating, what I see as, both of Diablo 3′s major issues. What’s good to know is that this was, at least in part, a lesson learned for the development team and that they've ditched both systems in the recent console release.
This update, coupled with the perfectly redesigned menus and interface make either Diablo 3 console version the version of choice.
Yesterday the Court of Justice of the European Union made a landmark ruling on an issue that has been the point of much discussion over the last couple of years: used games. We all know that we have the right to sell our used games, despite what software manufacturers may think, but today’s ruling concerns the application of the same principle to digitally distributed software.
I’ve discussed this issue extensively in the past, but it was always in the context of used game discs. I had been resigned to the fact that, as with most computer software, downloadable games were saddled with an End User License Agreement stating that I, in effect, don’t own the software but rather a license to use it. Not according to the EU’s highest court, it seems.
“An author of software cannot oppose the resale of his ‘used’ licences allowing the use of his programs downloaded from the internet.” The court stated in its decision. Sure, publishers can’t block the sale under this law but couldn’t they just refuse access to aquire the software once you have purchased, in effect, the license from your friend?
“Therefore the new acquirer of the user licence, such as a customer of UsedSoft, may, as a lawful acquirer of the corrected and updated copy of the computer program concerned, download that copy from the copyright holder’s website.” Right there, that’s it, that’s the most important sentence in the ruling, if you ask me.
Now, we all know that publishers can, and do, block access to extended features for used copies of games, such as access to multiplayer servers, but they can no longer deny that you own the product you’ve purchased. Ownership was always the point I was trying to make whenever this issue came up in the past; when you buy a car the dealership does not try to say it still owns that car, that would be ridiculous. Why then, have we accepted this setup when it comes to downloadable games? Why have I accepted it?
While digital distributors, like Valve, EA or Microsoft, have yet to weigh in on how they’ll comply with this decision, they can take heart in the fact that it isn’t legalizing piracy. The decision also calls for users to “make the copy downloaded onto his own computer unusable at the time of resale.” A completely reasonable caveat, but one that escapes publishers when they argue in favor of online passes to subsidize the cost of game servers for multiplayer games. This argument, in my opinion, has always been null and void as, when I sell a copy of a game to my friend, the amount of users playing the game hasn’t doubled so no addition capacity is needed.
Though I’m sure that publishers will eventually come up with a way to stop this, such as subscription services, but the question of ownership need never be asked again and that’s what I’ve always wanted publishers to understand. Once I buy your product, it is mine. It isn’t OK for me to duplicate it and give it to other people, but it is mine to transfer ownership of.
The doubly encouraging thing about this ruling is that, unlike the completely misguided and nonsensical American SOPA and PIPA bills or Canada’s Bill C-30, this decision was written by people who understand the technology they’re speaking about. Imagine, actually researching the subject you’re about make a law or legal decision regarding. Let’s hope the rest of the world can open its eyes to this line of thinking.
What really gets me going on this subject, whenever it comes up, is that I fervently wish that game companies would stop trying to make $10 from the guy who bought (insert your favorite Shooter) from his friend. Stop trying to recoup the cost exorbitant, and misguided, marketing strategies from the kid who only has $40 for a used copy of a game. Stop worrying about me lending my games to my friends, there’s still only one person playing that copy at one time, and start examining your own processes and procedures. Find a way to stop laying off half of the staff in one of your studios the same week they ship a game. Find a way to not shutter a studio for selling 2.5 million copies of a game instead of 3 million. Getting back to making a game that people want to buy, want to play with their friends, and want to replay are much better uses of your time than trying to block the sale of a $15 game.