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Blizzard CEO defends Diablo III DRM, says it was “the best long-term decision”

Diablo III, a game that fans had waited over a decade to play, was certainly not without its launch issues and consistency problems. Many fans blasted what they saw as an overwhelming disappointment, citing everything from the watered-down gameplay, the change in art design, the requirement to be connected to the Internet at all times, and the server connection issues. Today, Blizzard Entertainment CEO Mike Morhaime opened up in a message to fans, discussing not only the game’s initial problems and the outpouring of gamer concern, but also what lies ahead for Diablo III.

First, Morhaime discussed the issues Diablo III endured at launch including the context for the now infamous “Error 37” which quickly became a gaming cultural meme and embodied fan frustration with Blizzard. The error denoted a “Servers are Busy” message which was prompted when too many players were attempting to log on to the Diablo III servers at once, a situation that more than likely will occur when fans have waited to play a particular game for 10+ years.

“It has always been difficult to forecast how many players we will have,” said Morhaime. “With World of Warcraft, it was a challenge to handle the immediate demand when we launched back in 2004, and that was just in North America. We eventually expanded to other regions and reached nearly 5 million players by the end of the first year, and there were a lot of growing pains with that. However, we’ve never gone from 0 to more than 6 million players across multiple continents within a few days with a brand-new game. For Diablo III, we looked at historical sales for Blizzard games and other top-selling PC games and watched preorder numbers. We even upped our estimates to ensure we had additional capacity, or so we thought. In the end, it just wasn’t enough, and that is something we will work hard to conquer for future releases.”

Morhaime continued:

“In response to the immediate and overwhelming demand for the game, the team worked around the clock to support all regions, increase capacity, ship additional hardware to our datacenters, and troubleshoot and fix bugs as they sprang up. While things have by and large been running smoothly for several weeks now, various game-related issues have come up that we have either already responded to or are continuing to investigate (such as the latency issue some of you are experiencing) and make adjustments for. Rather than address every subject individually, I’ll just say that even as we work to address or resolve current issues, it’s always possible that further issues will crop up. We hope that our actions in the past have demonstrated that above all else, we’re committed to delivering an awesome game experience, and we hope you’ll have faith that we will continue to keep that commitment and respond to any new or outstanding issues quickly.”

Morhaime went on to elaborate on the game’s patch 1.0.4 which will further deliver on the team’s goal of promoting “build diversity” and will tweak many underpowered class abilities that are rarely utilized. The update will also include new and improved Legendary items that players will find to be more powerful. Updates to the game’s interface are also in the works including improvements to player communication so that you can more easily view friends’ achievements and join games faster. Improvements to the auction house will feature ways to give players better info through tips and notes and offer improved search functionality.

On the topic of the controversial Diablo III auction house, Morhaime stated that its purpose was not to provide players with a pay-to-win scheme, but to prevent players from having to engage in black market transactions:

“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. 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.”

Morhaime concluded by vehemently defending the contentious decision on the part of Blizzard to include DRM for Diablo III. DRM, or digital rights management, is a source of control technology that allows developers/publishers such as Blizzard to prevent infringement and pirating of a product by requiring all customers to be connected to the Internet at all times while using it. Morhaime stated that Diablo III was intended to be played with others, though he essentially implies that Blizzard was willing to cast aside gamers who wished to play the game solo:

“One other common topic we’ve seen in the forums is the always-connected experience, and the perception that the online requirement is nothing but an ineffective form of copy protection that has already been cracked. 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. These and other online-enabled features are essential to our design for Diablo III. That said, 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.”

For those of you who have completed the game on Inferno difficulty, have a maxed-out character, and are now getting bored with little incentive to continue playing – good news. Blizzard is working on an updated gameplay system to provide you with new goals aside from the “item hunt” mini-game that may not be riveting for players who don’t simply want to, you know, hunt for items.

Source: Diablo III Forums

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