Ars Technica has posted a piece on how Diablo III is a sloppy, unfinished game, being obviously “broken” in terms of gameplay balance. Blizzard is lazily developing the game after they’ve taken people’s money by patching, treating it more like an ongoing beta than a final product.
Blizzard‘s defense is easily predicted (after all, it’s the same excuse for why StarCraft 2 was, and continues to be, so frustratingly imbalanced) which is that their games are so complex that multiplayer develops its own “meta game”, wherein players are blamed for not finding the proper response to apparent imbalances. After acknowledging the prudence of tweaking things after release, and the history of patching in older games, writer Orland says:
But the ubiquity of the post-release patch has led too many developers to be pretty lax about prerelease balancing, secure in the knowledge that they’ll be able to fix any problems that pop up at a later date.
The “meta game” excuse is tried and true, because it has a deep history with the original StarCraft. Players (mostly in South Korea) defied Blizzard’s expectations by constantly evolving the strategies of the game in creative new ways, finding solutions through innovative gameplay rather than relying on a patch.
As for my comments about Blizzard being dominated by Activision, I know that Activision doesn’t own Blizzard (they’re both subsidiaries of Vivendi) and that Blizzard is supposedly free to do whatever they want. It’s a gray area however, because it’s also a fact that Bobby Kotick is the CEO of Activision-Blizzard as a whole, meaning that his greedy, profit-driven, anti-creative, short-sighted and hugely destructive mentality towards game development was chosen to set the vision for the merged company. His status and his well-known vision automatically sets the tone for everybody below him, including Mike Morhaime, who is the CEO of the Blizzard half of the company.
By saying that Blizzard Entertainment is independent and free to develop as they see fit they have ensured plausible deniability, but don’t the games speak for themselves? They are uncreative, unfinished, lacking content, and dominated by DRM shackles. Battle.net 2.0 was, and still is, a downright embarrassment. Let’s not be naïve.
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