Rob Pardo tries to take the bullet for Jay “Fuck That Loser” Wilson

Diablo III Lord of Greed

Blizzard’s Rob Pardo has accepted responsibility for Diablo 3‘s shittiness following the Battle.net forum backlash directed at the game’s Creative Director, Jay Wilson, upon announcing his departure from the game’s development.

Miraculously, despite supposedly being in development for 11 years (seven of which Jay was on board as Director) the game’s blatantly greedy business model, error-crippled launch, lack of balance, shoddy multiplayer, online DRM nightmare, lack of end-game content, etc. have earned the game a bad name in the Blizzard fan community.  Wilson himself is a quizzical nobody, without a resumé to speak of, now best known for daring to say “Fuck that loser” to Diablo 2‘s creator, David Brevnik, so it’s not surprising that Rob Pardo, a seasoned veteran with real respect, would step in and protect him:

If you still feel the need to dish out blame, then I would prefer you direct it at me. I was the executive producer on the project; I hired Jay and I gave him advice and direction throughout the development process. I was ultimately responsible for the game we released and take full responsibility for the quality of the result.

Jay “Fuck That Loser” Wilson’s departure means nobody is in charge of Diablo 3 despite it being in heavy development, with constant patching happening and two expansion packs in the works.  If I had to guess, I’d say the departure was a surprise even to Blizzard, which is why they didn’t have the chance to find a replacement and create a press release on the matter; standard procedure when somebody important leaves a major ongoing project.  Should we start blaming Rob Pardo for why Diablo 3 sucks so much?  I don’t think so.  Let’s not forget that Activision Blizzard’s CEO, Bobby “Exploit” Kotick, demanded the hasty creation of multiple Blizzard titles in order to take advantage of their godlike franchise names, pressurizing a company known for taking their long, sweet time.  It was bound to be a disaster, and Pardo was trying to play the hand he’d been dealt — who could have guessed Jay Wilson would be such a stupid prick?

Did I mention that the infinitely superior Action RPG, Path of Exile, is entering Open Beta this week?  And did I mention how this means you can play it free without worrying about your characters being deleted by any future update?

Damage over time: Morhaime weakly defends Diablo III

Diablo III Lord of Greed

Mike Morhaime (not pictured above), the longstanding CEO of Blizzard and recent corporate servant of Bobby Kotick (pictured above) has taken to the Diablo III forums to apologize, make excuses, and write enough corporate-speak to hopefully convince players that Blizzard’s latest big hit is not a big shit.  This, following on the heels of news that Vivendi is trying desperately to sell Activision Blizzard but nobody wants to buy it — probably because word on the street is that they churn out unfinished games at a unsustainable rate — which makes me wonder if this damage control is a coincidence or not.

Using the ancient method of saying the opposite of the truth — for example calling the universal outrage over the myriad of errors and crashes “not-so-positive” and throwing out the “Every Voice Matters” slogan — Morhaime’s post is a wall of blue text that means nothing, but feels reassuring to look at.  The unforgivable DRM scheme is labelled a success, not because even one player enjoys it or feels like it’s fair, but because “we have not found any fully functional cracks” of the game.  Huzzah!

And that’s not even broaching the subject of the Real Money Auction House, which is Blizzard’s shameless ploy to capitalize on the worst instincts of its gamer base.  As Ars Technica says,

Many players feel the in-game auction house perverts the spirit of the game by allowing people to buy their way to top-level loot. But Morhaime reiterated that Blizzard felt this was the best way to protect players from shady, black market item trading sites that cropped up around Diablo II. He admitted that the service “isn’t perfect,” but said that the company is “committed to ensuring you have a great experience with Diablo III without feeling like the auction house is mandatory.”

Just as with StarCraft II, which has failed to live up to its predecessor in every meaningful way, Blizzard is calling on its restless congregation to have faith, for There Shall Be Patches, And We Shall Get Our Money’s Worth.  Some beautiful day, when our weary travels in Sanctuary are over.

Meanwhile, upcoming Path of Exile will be completely free, feature zero “pay to win” features, and have an infinitely more interesting end game revolving around map items.  I’ve already praised the game’s ingenious economy, beautiful graphics, and superior game design.  You can currently buy into the beta using a Supporter Pack, which I suggest you do; this independent developer deserves success, unlike Bobby Kotick’s monstrosity.

Diablo 3’s boundless greed will force you to buy Authenticator

Diablo III Lord of Greed

If you don’t have a smart phone capable of running Blizzard’s Authenticator app and want to use Diablo 3‘s upcoming “Real Money Auction House”, you’ll need to purchase one of their physical Authenticators.  This means that on top of the ongoing issues with DRM disconnections and errors, hacking continues to be a massive nuisance — even people with Authenticators are being hacked, as confirmed by many players.  If only players were allowed to have offline games, none of this would be a problem.

As for the Auction House itself, the market for D3 gold is already booming, and thanks to the use of bots some people are making plenty of real money already.  Activision-Blizzard is jealous of this profit, naturally, and wants to stop it.  But much like real enforcement, the illegal side of the equation won’t be affected by authentication, because they’re not using Blizzard’s auction house!  Check out this interview with an anonymous gold farmer:

I hate Diablo III, so here’s some more hate

Diablo III Lord of Greed

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.

ALSO CHECK OUT:  Video Games in the Master Plan

Activision-Blizzard’s Diablo III DRM issue isn’t fixed with apologies

Diablo 3’s error woes have been making big waves, and RockPaperShotgun‘s Nathan Grayson has written an excellent editorial explaining why people shouldn’t let Activision-Blizzard off the hook just because they apologized.  Doing so, he says, sends a signal to other developers that players will be forgiving if they decide to follow the same route.  One quote in particular, from id Software’s Tim Willits, is provided as evidence:

“Diablo III will make everyone else accept the fact you have to be connected. If you have a juggernaut, you can make change. I’m all for that. If we could force people to always be connected when you play the game, and then have that be acceptable, awesome. In the end, it’s better for everybody. Imagine picking up a game and it’s automatically updated. Or there’s something new you didn’t know about, and you didn’t have to click away. It’s all automatically there. But it does take juggernauts like [Diablo III] to make change.”

That’s not the kind of change we can believe in, folks, but Diablo 3 probably will change it all anyway.  Here’s another piece discussing the stupidity of the “online single-player” game, on GameInformer.  They say:

So what’s the big deal about asking them to take the next step to be online all the time? For one, it means that we as gamers no longer own the games we play. By purchasing a game like Diablo III, you are no longer buying a product, you are buying the right to use a product at the discretion of its owner.

This much should be obvious, don’t you think?  When you play a multiplayer game which hosted on a company’s servers (see: Metal Gear Online) you know that they might shut down the servers some day, even though you paid full price for it.  You paid for access, yes, but without any promise that there will be something to access a few years from now.  That sucks, but at least it makes sense from a logistics point of view.  If you remember Diablo II’s multiplayer service, any character left inactive was automatically deleted after three months, saving Blizzard’s servers the storage headache.  But why in the hell should a single-player game carry the same fate?  It’s a greedy, short-sighted, and cruel system of control.  Is Activision-Blizzard contractually obligated to provide you anything in return for your dollars?  No, of course not.  They could shut down Diablo 3 tomorrow, if they wanted to.  Or they could just cut you off, for whatever reason.  The ridiculous errors people are encountering drive home the bleak reality of this.

UPDATE: Jim Sterling’s coverage of the MetaCritic backlash is worth looking at.  Although I keep noticing people say that Blizzard has been working on the game since 2001.  Much like StarCraft 2, the game was not actually in serious development for a decade; I’m sure they were tinkering, but the water only started to boil when Activision bought Blizzard, and started promising that a new Blizzard game would be released every year from now on.

OUCH: Leave it to John Walker to take a righteous sword to Diablo III’s many problems like no other.

Support Path of Exile, get early access

I don’t know about you, but ever since Activision made ruining the Diablo series a goal, I’ve been hankering for an alternative.  Of course, the most obvious alternative is the upcoming Torchlight II, which, like the first Torchlight, is made by the original Diablo team and has proven itself to be top-notch.  But my hankering is more specific than that.

I hanker for something dark and gritty, with more than four classes, and some serious lore.  Something with a non-money economy, huge freedom of choice, and a better health recovery system.  Those are just a few reasons why Path of Exile is so special to me.  I recently took part in the Stress Test weekend, and came away with very good impressions.  It’s a flagrant Diablo II ripoff at its core (thankfully), but it feels more like a true sequel because of some really creative improvements, and I suggest you take the time to find out about them:

Continue reading

Blizzard stuff

For some reason I didn’t get a lot of positive feedback on my cool Frampt fan art.  What is wrong with you people!

Blizzard is going to be giving Diablo III away to those who have an annual subscription to World of Warcraft.  They’re also making a new, “Oh shit we screwed up” expansion to WoW in order to recover from the poor impact of Cataclysm.  There’s also a new trailer showing off the “monk” class, and the new Panda race, which looks the same as every World of Warcraft trailer: only good if you forget what the actual game is like.  I’m not going to link to it, because who cares.

Starcraft 2: Heart of the Swarm has a trailer showing off the new units and campaign.  I was planning on getting all the expansions, but thanks to the Activision Effect™, I no longer care at all.  It will have to really win me over and prove itself before I put down the money.

Specifics on Diablo III’s online-only DRM problems

RockPaperShotgun has detailed the ways in which Diablo III‘s online-only system will affect players, including being logged out in the middle of a game due to server problems or connections, a cooldown period, and no ability to pause the game.

According to John Walker:

You can’t pause. In fact, in most ways, the game acts like an MMO. For instance, quit it, and you’re given the optional cooldown to have your player clear the server properly. But it’s not an MMO. It’s not even close to an MMO. So when I’m playing the single-player game, and I’m in the middle of a frenzied mob, and there’s a knock at the front door, there’s nothing I can do. As happened to me yesterday. Twice. On another occasion I was surprised by a phone call that led to my having to do some other things. I’d safely left my character in a cleared area, but long between checkpoints. When I came back to the PC, I’d been idle for too long and the game had logged me out.

Being idle logs you out?  No pausing the game?  Dropped connections?  This is Diablo, not World of Warcraft.  No matter what the justifications for including an online-only Digital Rights Management system, or how many great “features” come with this connectivity, this is disappointing and unnecessary.  This wouldn’t bother me so much if Blizzard wasn’t a leader in the PC gaming field, being copied by dozens of other companies; they set the standard for what games should be doing.

Of course, the real blame still goes to Activision.

I suggest you read the full post, as it explains even more annoyances with the system.