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To say that Diablo III has issues is an understatement. The biggest problems with the game is not necessarily the game itself but the services that dictate the way the game functions, namely the Real-Money Auction House and always-on DRM. Well, Blizzard's CEO, Mike Morhaime, took to the Battle.net forums to defend the inclusion of the RMAH and always-on.
The post is rather lengthy but the highlights include his defense of the two features that have received the most criticism as well as a pledge to improve the overall playability and even making a passing remark about the steep drop-off rate from the playerbase, saying...
We are not satisfied with breaking launch records; we want people to continue playing and enjoying Blizzard games for a very long time. The Diablo III team has made an epic, entertaining, and beautiful gaming experience. That being said, we know that it isn’t perfect. Our teams are working hard to improve the game balance, build on our design, and listen to what players are saying to make it the best game it can be.
Morhaime goes on to talk about patches, updates, improvements, interface and UI functionality, etc,. etc. All the standard talking points you would expect from a corporate head-figure talking down to subordinates who feed on false positives and hollow promises. I'm sure Bernie Madoff cried a single tear after reading the post.
But the meat and potatoes is where we're headed to right now. Morhaime tackles the always-controversial topic of the RMAH, saying...
Regarding the real-money auction house, our primary goal for including this in the game was to provide convenience and peace of mind for those players who might otherwise turn to third-party services to buy items. Black market trading sites can put accounts at risk and create many customer service challenges. We felt that the players themselves also deserved the opportunity to benefit from the extra loot they found, as opposed to having all of the benefit go to the black market/illegal trading organizations.
First off, the RMAH is not necessary for a video game, at all. This is not the stock market, this is gaming.
The gold-driven auction house and player-to-player trading could be considered necessary but not a Real-Money Auction House. Morhaime is a blatant liar saying that the RMAH is for convenience. Blizzard could have sold gold directly to players to undercut black market trading if convenience was that important to them, there is nothing convenient about the legal terms or license agreements attached to the use and operation of the Real-Money Auction House, and players who have lost $50, $149, $186 and $200 to the grey areas of the RMAH distinctly disagree with Morhaime's summation of the RMAH being made for convenience. Convenience does not equate to losing money in a grey area and not having anyway to get it back.
The CEO goes on to say...
We know the auction house isn’t perfect, but with your help and feedback, we’ll be able to continue making it a better experience for those who choose to use it. On the flipside, we are also committed to ensuring you have a great experience with Diablo III without feeling like the auction house is mandatory, which was never our intention. Thank you for all the feedback about that.
I hate boldfaced corporate liars and Mike Morhaime is a boldfaced corporate liar. The auction house is mandatory if you want to avoid trade scams. Oh, you didn't know about trade scams? Well, just check out the Diablo III general forum and you'll see that there are a couple of posts per-page of someone being scammed. There is even a video here of a player being trade-scammed, which you can watch here at around the one minute mark (pay attention to his money before and after the trade and as well as his inventory. He doesn't get the proper amount of the item but he loses money).
If the auction house wasn't mandatory then why is it that customer support suggests that players use the auction house instead of player-to-player trading to avoid scams? Don't believe me. The proof is in the pudding, people. If you want to trade or sell an item and scamming is so frequent then what other choice do you have other than the auction house? That means it's not the truth that the auction house isn't mandatory since there is no other way to trade outside of player-trades. That's not even bringing into the discussion the topic of loot drops affected by the RMAH, which Bashiok made plan and clear for the public to see. You can delete the threads all you want, Blizzard, but you can't delete the screenshots.
As I said, boldfaced liars turn my insides the wrong way...especially the corporate kind.
Near the end of the PR-post stunt, Morhaime addresses the always-on, saying...
While we’ve never said that this requirement guarantees that there will be no cheating or game cracks, it does help us battle those problems (we have not found any fully functional cracks). More important to us is that the online requirement is critical for the long-term integrity of the game experience. I fully understand the desire to play Diablo III offline; however, Diablo III was designed from the beginning to be an online game that can be enjoyed with friends, and the always-online requirement is the best way for us to support that design. The effectiveness of the online elements -- including the friends list and cross-game communication; co-op matchmaking; persistent characters that you can use by yourself, with others, and in PvP; and some of our customer support, service, and security components -- is tied directly to the online nature of the game.
The always-on does not help players who want to play offline. So how does it help battle a problem for people who would never have had the problem to begin with if they could play offline? His conclusion is asinine. You can't get hacked, duped or exploited if you decide to play the game in single-player offline mode. If they wanted always-on for the multiplayer, fine. But completely removing the option was to push for the RMAH, otherwise they could have done like Trendy Entertainment and have the secure, always-on servers for ranked play and have local and offline modes for people who just want to play the game when and how they want. Everyone wins.
The other problem is that how does always-on and lag spikes help in Hardcore mode when your character can die for good? Wouldn't an offline mode make such a feature more convenient for players? I'd love for someone to argue how always-on helps make Hardcore mode substantial.
As for always-on being necessary for co-op...take note that the online multiplayer isn't even essential to the game, as Morhaime admits that...
...there are still improvements we believe we can make to expand the online experience and make co-op play even more rewarding, and this will remain one of our priorities moving forward. Overall, while there are some downsides to the online-only approach, I still believe this was the best long-term decision for the game.
Best long-term decision? 20 years from now you all think the Diablo III servers will be up? You'll still be able to play Diablo II in offline mode but always-on is never made for the long haul. Just ask Star Wars: Galaxy, Tabula Rasa or Auto Assault fans about it. Heck, the always-on isn't even good for the short-haul, just ask the French, Germans and Korean players how much they like not being able to play due to lag, server instability and crowded player slots.
Added to this, co-op isn't rewarding at all. It's not essential. So why is a game always-on to facilitate co-op when it's a non-essential element to the play experience? Are there dungeon raids? Can do you do eight-player boss fights? Are there some siege segments that require tandem co-op tactics (ala Lineage Eternal, Ghost Recon Future Soldier, etc., etc,.)? No there is not. So essentially Morhaime has lied again that the always-on was essential for a series of features that aren't even required to complete the game. Diablo III is not an MMO, hence always-on is not required.
I'm also sure there are a lot of other people out there who would probably like to loot-grind without having their game being affected by everyone else's loot drops, or being put at risk of hacks and exploits. How is always-on a plus for the end-user? It's not and no one with common sense can defend it without coming across as an anti-gaming corporatist. That's like Borderlands 2 being always-on and rare loot drops are based on the aggregate amount of total users playing...how on Earth can that be fun?
Diablo III is supposed to be about cool loot drops and loot grinding and that very feature is undermined by both always-on and the RMAH. Morhaime is selling talking points to market the game's appeal and justify Blizzard's blatant cash grab, it has nothing to do with Diablo III being a bigger, better successor to Diablo II, which is all gamers ever asked for from the start.