Despite a development window that spanned 12 years and a public beta with over two million testers, the release of Blizzard's Diablo III has been something of a cock-up — a rare mistake for a publisher that is famous for getting things right. Other Blizzard titles you might recognize include Starcraft, Warcraft, and World of Warcraft — still the only Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that truly matters from a financial standpoint.
Despite 6.5 million purchases and downloads, Diablo III — in the words of Ars Technica writer Kyle Orland — is still a work in progress.
Among the many issues to plague the Dibolo III launch: Right away there was a massive outcry over the online requirement to play the single player game. Obviously multiplayer, co-op play requires an Internet account, but why in the world would you need to be online for single player? In Dark Souls there were certain kinds of interactions you could only get playing online, including the ability to invade/be invaded by other players, and little chalk notes from other players that you could read that might give you some good advice — or bad advice, because some people are jerks. But if you didn't have an Internet connection you could still play the game.
Blizzard requires you to get a Battle.net account to play, and unless you specifically block people then your friends can join in on your single player game at any time. Having someone join you online automatically adjusts the number and difficulty level of enemies. But instead of helping, there are complaints that party crashers are sitting back and earning experience and loot without making a real contribution to the battle to offset that increased difficulty.
Secondly, the game is unstable and there have been a few server errors and glitches reported, all of them annoying and some more serious than others. In one case, you couldn't arm your Templar follower with a better shield to boost his defence stats or it would cause a fatal timeout error. There were also various issues with the servers at Blizzard — which is understandable for multiplayer, but really shouldn't affect a single player game where the game essentially lives on your computer.
In one case, detailed by John Cheese at Cracked.com, he was booted from his game because a player who dropped in on his game — uninvited, no less — had a crash. In other words, he started a single player game, was joined by a friend who was on his Battle.net group from another game, the friend's computer or connection crashed, and Mr. Cheese was kicked out.
Some of the complaints have to do with the game itself — dissatisfaction over the skill trees, player balancing issues, weak enemies, a short campaign (around seven hours), the lack of secrets and discoveries, and other issues revolving around aesthetics and playability.
And console owners have been teased that an Xbox/PS3 version of the game would be released for years now, but Blizzard continues to be frustratingly coy about it despite the fact that the game would actually translate pretty well. If EA can release Battlefield 3 on so many platforms, why couldn't Blizzard release what is essentially a cookie-cutter dungeon crawler — albeit a very good one — so it's playable for everyone?
The number of complaints prompted a bit of glee from Blizzard's competitors, so often left in the dust. Eve Online, a popular MMORPG, made light of Blizzard's predicament with Diablo by adding a splash page with some of the error numbers users were experiencing. "37... 3007... 315300... It's code for "Play Eve. Servers Are Up. Login is Fine."
Last week Blizzard rushed out a series of patches to fix some of these issues, and made an official apology of sorts to purchasers. They promised to continue to improve and upgrade the game, which is fair — Blizzard backs its products for the long-term like no other company, and continued to release patches and updates for Diablo II almost a decade after it was released. The original Starcraft has been upgraded repeatedly, gradually making it the most balanced Real Time Strategy (RTS) game in the world.
I'm sure Blizzard will fix everything and the game will continue to sell well. But the real question is whether the game industry will learn anything from Blizzard's mistakes. No game is glitch-free — check out YouTube.com videos for any current game and you'll see countless examples — but it just seems like Diablo was flawed from the start, starting with the annoying online requirement that Blizzard should have known better not to include.
The most important question to ask is, "But how is the game?" I honestly can't say — my laptops system specs are nowhere close to what's required and I kind of had my heart set on the console version. I'm honestly surprised a console port has not been announced yet.
But the reviews are good, about 90 per cent on Metacritic.com, which compiles the reviews from dozens of other review sites — kind of like a RottenTomatoes.com for games. By the sounds of it, you can't go wrong.
Except when something goes wrong.