Diablo III - Why Online-Only Play is Not the Prime Evil
It has been twelve long years in the making, but finally Diablo III is here. Fans of the game serious have had a full week to experience the fast paced clicking orgy of demon slaughter that defines the game and most seem to be enjoying the experience. However, the launch of Diablo III hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Blizzards decision to make the game an online-only experience has resulted in more than a few problems. With server crashes galore, more error messages than we can count, and claims of hacked accounts popping up more than a few players are railing against the lack of offline play in Diablo III.
Who can blame them? I certainly can’t. In fact, during the first two days after Diablo III was launched, I was right there /nerdraging with everyone else. I spent my time alternating between typing in my password and clearing error messages, all the while cursing Blizzard for forcing their online-only play onto us. I lamented the loss of my precious offline solo play and was positive that all my woes could have been avoided if only this offline option was still available to me. Now, after 60 plus hours of game play I have had time to calm down and realize that Diablo III’s connectivity requirement exists for several reasons that actually manage to make the game better than ever before.
Diablo III - Why Online-Only is Not the Prime Evil
One of the biggest problems with most offline games is that literally everything about the game is stored locally. This of course presents an almost irresistible challenge and sooner than later, the game has been cracked. In a blink of an eye your character is decked out in the best gear available, complete with player states that no legit player could hope to achieve. Pretty soon even the game’s inner workings are laid bare and it becomes a hacking free for all.
In a totally offline game, this is not such a big deal. However, in Diablo II which offered both online and offline game play this quickly became one of the biggest problems the game had to face. Map hacks and super powerful characters ran rampant through the game and woe to the player who tried to remain legit. A permanent connection to Battle.net allows Blizzard to store all character and game information on their own servers, meaning that hacking the game is near impossible. A fact that all players should be able to appreciate.
Having the game and character information stored on Blizzard’s huge database also provides the additional luxury of automatic saves. This means that all your hard work is almost instantly saved and can be accessed from any computer with access to the internet. No matter which computer you choose to use, you will log in and be instantly where you left off. Whether it be just starting the game or waiting to defeat Diablo himself your character will be ready and waiting even if your computer crashes and everything is lost.
One of the most annoying things about Diablo II for me was the fact that finding and playing with friends could be quite the task. Diablo III has changed all that. With all players being permanently connected to Battle.net along with the introduction of the Real ID and BattleTag systems, you can set up a game with your friends with a few clicks or join up with total strangers with just a few clicks. Once you are inside a game, all it takes to catch up with your party members is another simple click and you can be off fighting the denizens of hell together in a matter of seconds.
All characters share a single stash alleviating the need for multiple “bank” toons often seen in the days of Diablo II, making it easy to swap gear from character to character. Not to mention that players can also swap easily from multiplayer to single player with just a few mouse clicks, something that was unheard of in the days of Diablo II.
Diablo II and its multiplayer option were but a taste of the social aspects of the game that Diablo III now has to offer. The permanent connection to Battle.net has let Blizzard introduce to us new features that keep us connected with our friends at all time. No matter if we are playing solo, multiplayer, working the Auction House, or sitting at the character screen we are in constant contact with our friends.
As I write this, I have Diablo III running in the background, waiting for the second I can venture into the world of Sanctuary once again. My Demon Hunter stares at me expectantly, but for the moment I cannot answer her call. While I can’t physically be playing at the moment, I am still celebrating small moments of the game…through my friends. In the chat screen achievement after achievement roll by and I find myself clicking away on those I don’t recognize and mentally fist bumping my friends as they progress.
Along with achievements I can also see which of my friends is playing, which Act they are in down the exact quest, and who they are playing with. I can even view recent players that I have played with that are not on my friends list, which is helpful when I find players I may want to play with again, but don’t quite make friends list status. All of which could not be possible without the permanent connection to Battle.net.
I can relate to the fury experienced by those locked out of the game in the initial release. I felt the same fury. However, after spending some time playing, I just can't maintain it. Despite the perma-connection to Battle.net Diablo III has remained true to the series, while adding social aspects that make this game something special. Despite the hesitancy of the fan base to accept it, Diablo III has really, in my opinion at least, changed things for the better. The Diablo III experience is all about the sheer joy of playing games with others who share your passion, much like the World of Warcraft experience, but on a smaller scale. Once you have seen the beauty in this, Diablo III becomes a magical experience that is well worth giving up offline play for.
How do you feel about the lack of offline play in Diablo III? Do you think the new features, better security, and overall feel of the game are worth leaving out this feature? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below!