Friday, June 15, 2012

The End of My Blog

The devil will do me in.
 
I just came off a spate of intense work that prevented me from making much progress with Wizardry V, but I'm ready to sit down this weekend and finish it up.

In the meantime, I have a question that will betray how little I've been keeping up on the latest news and trends in computer games.

Do I understand correctly that Diablo III requires players who are playing even the single-player game to be permanently logged into Blizzard's servers? This seems so ridiculous that I feel like I must be missing something, but every site I read seems to confirm it. If you don't have an Internet connection at the moment, you can't play the game? At all?

Given the nature of my blog, this naturally worries me a lot. I'm already going to miss out on the classic MUDs and first MMORPGs, including the first Neverwinter Nights and Ultima Online, but I was prepared to accept that. If Blizzard's approach to copyright security takes hold, though, I'll miss out on single-player games, too (I doubt Blizzard's servers will still be supporting the game in 2032). Is there any suggestion that Blizzard will remove the login restriction as the game ages?

I suppose it's silly for me to be thinking so far ahead, but if other developers pick up on this trend, it sounds like my blog is going to reach a point in which great old games are simply no longer playable.


91 comments:

  1. I wouldn't be quite so paranoid on this -- I remember back in the 1980s having a similar discussion regarding funky copy protection dependent on hardware except of course now there are hacked versions to get around that. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a hacked version already out now of Diablo 3 which allows server avoidance.

    I would be a little more paranoid about "everything turns into a MMORPG so nobody writes single player CRPGs anymore", but that's a different type of discussion thread.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've worried about that, too, but I figure the success of games like Skyrim shows that the public still wants single-player games.

      Delete
  2. Man, your title scared me into thinking you were quitting the blog again...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I thought too.

      Delete
    2. That would be Wizardry5-CRPGAddict 2-0! ;)

      Delete
    3. I saw it and thought oh he got sucked into D3 like he had Skyrim a while back

      Delete
  3. Sadly, the world generation, much of the data and computer AI is server side, which means that without an internet connection, the D3 software on your computer is useless (it's a "dumb client" in that it only displays what the server tells it to display). Just watch out for bugs that kicks you from the server (and therefore the game), too.

    http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2012/05/diablo-3-give-a-knight-a-shield-and-he-kicks-you-from-the-game/

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, it is an always online game. I think it was done too prevent cheating, and protect their real money auction house (this way they can get a cut of the gold farming economy). Also there is no real difference between single and multi-player games. I'll be playing single player and my friend will log in and join my game while I'm doing stuff.

    I'm not sure what Blizzard plans on doing when their servers eventually go dark, but they seem to be a reasonable company and perhaps by 2032 there will have been a release to run your own server or a final patch to the game that removes the online restrictions (though I do think they offload a lot of AI type stuff to the servers, but I'm not sure). It is weird to get lag while playing a single player game.

    It is a shame you won't be able to do any MUDs in your blog, going through all the old entries I had been thinking about MUDs, there was one early on that seemed like it was a two player MUD on the same computer. I spent way too many hours playing Crimson MUD when I was younger. You might still be able to find some MUDs still running, but where you would fit them into your pipeline I don't know.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have been thinking about the same thing, and ... well, it's a big deal. Maybe Blizzard will keep their servers online for ten-twenty years, who knows. They're Blizzard, they still support Diablo I.

    But we do know that a company like EA shuts down their multiplayer servers after a few years, and now they're doing the same online only thing with SimCity. So, how many years until that is unplayable? Five?

    If this online only thing becomes predominant, and I think it will, then gaming history from 2013/14 and on will at one point just disappear. That scares me.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I'll point out that many of those old MUDs are still around and emulation software exists to run them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good to know. I have some on my list, and I'll try to check out whether they're still available as I get to them.

      Delete
  7. Don't worry about D3, it's a big huge fail! You as a CRPG addict who loves complex RPGs will without a doubt dislike D3 as it's a cheap off-the-bar hack'n'slash, packed in ever-shinier graphics, where Blizzard removed even the last bits of what makes an RPG a good game.

    The trend of making single player games to be online-locked will fail soon (it does already on a large scale).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Diablo III's sales numbers disagree with that last statement there...

      Delete
    2. Yes many bought it, but how many of them are disappointed? So far I've only heard back from friends who bought it and are disappointed.

      Many games sell in high numbers, it doesn't mean the game is good. Most people have a very poor taste. It's a fact.

      Delete
    3. I agree that it doesn't sound like my kind of game. I'm more worried about the trend than this specific game.

      Delete
    4. Joe: People bought the game, because the game is called "Diablo" not because they have to be connected all the time...

      Delete
    5. I don't think CRPG Addict needs to worry as ARPGS don't appear to be his thing and it is ARPGS that require being online-only due to the multiplayer economy. As for D3, D3 was a great game, people just unreasonably expected to be playing it for 10 years. I had great fun for 250 hours of playtime before the lack of replayability got to me. 250 hours for 50 bucks is a good deal and better than most games.

      Delete
  8. I'm going to have the same problem when I catch up to Xbox Live Arcade and Xbox Indie Games. I believe both require an active connection to the Xbox Live servers, and we've already seen the original Xbox servers go dark so it's a very real concern.

    As for Blizzard, if things stop being profitable they'll shutdown the servers, but WoW is still going so there's that. I expect it'll be around for this game.

    Here's an example of single-player/multi-player game that you can't play anymore, although the emphasis for that game was always on the MMO part: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellgate:_London#Server_shutdown_and_future_development

    As for MUDs, I used to use zMUD and it appears they're still around.

    In any case, I wouldn't worry about it. If a game isn't around by the time you get to it, then it probably isn't worth playing; otherwise, people would have found a way to keep it alive.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can still play Hellgate: London in single player mode. I own it & still play it.

      Delete
    2. hmmm, maybe I just stopped playing when the multi-player went away. My mistake. Maybe it was a difference between having a physical copy and a digital one? I remember needing to log into a server to authenticate before playing, but I couldn't do that anymore. Maybe it was a different game though.

      Delete
    3. zmud has been replaced by cmud, but neither are necessary, I started out mudding using telnet and still use it from work from time to time. Every windows computer comes with telnet. Although the newer windows' have it disabled by default a quick google search will tell you how to re-enable it.

      Delete
    4. There are lots of other MUSH clients that don't make you pay: I've used MUSHClient myself, and heard good things about a bunch of other ones. I even have Mukluck on my phone.

      Delete
  9. Xbox arcade games do not require you to be connected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indie games do though right? I remember one of them did because I couldn't play it since I didn't have internet at the time. This was a couple years ago though, maybe they changed it?

      Delete
    2. 'Fraid not.

      Delete
    3. What may be going on there is that XBLA games (and presumably XBLIG, though I've never purchased any of those) are tied to two things: the physical Xbox they were purchased on, and your Xbox Live account. Anyone with access to that Xbox can play the XBLA game, no trouble. If you want to play it on a different Xbox, say a friend's console, or a replacement model you got under warranty when your first 360 died, then it requires you to be connected to the internet and your Xbox Live account.

      Delete
  10. From a historical perspective, how much has already been lost? Such restrictions, either for gameplay, financial or DRM reasons mean that certain games will be completely unplayable.

    There was an article a while back about this problem, and how piracy is often the only solution (because the rights holders lose interest in old products when they are not profitable): http://technologizer.com/2012/01/23/why-history-needs-software-piracy/

    ReplyDelete
  11. Diablo 3 is a very polarizing game. It's great for playing with a small group of friends, since the setup time for a game is only about one minute or less.

    On the other hand, as a single-player game it can be annoying since the game basically exists for you to grind. As an avid player (with 40 single player hours and 15 multiplayer hours)the only thing I really hate about the game is the first 10 levels, which are fun the first time and just tedious the next time you do them.

    Whether the online-only part will doom future CRPGs to obscurity is anyone's guess. My own feeling is that there will always be single-player RPGs, since the format offers a lot over the MMORPG and action RPG formats: deep characterization, the ability to play at your own pace, and plots potentially more interesting than "save the princess/kill the big bad".

    Ok, maybe that last one is rare even for single-player RPGs, but I can dream that more games like Planescape: Torment will eventually be made....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Whether the online-only part will doom future CRPGs to obscurity is anyone's guess. My own feeling is that there will always be single-player RPGs,"

      Yes, but as long as they use the same kind of always-online copy protection that Diablo III uses, they will only exist for as long as the publishers support them. When they stop supporting them, the games will be gone forever. And at some point, they _will_ stop supporting them. Publishers will shave off costs wherever they can, and they don't care about history. If a server park is needed to play a game nobody buys any more, that server park will be shut down and used for another game.

      Delete
  12. I do think there will be an increase in the number of games that you will need an active internet connection for but I wouldn't worry about this. As others have said there have always been attempts to put similar controls around games before and players almost always find a solution for the games worth preserving.

    I remember when CDs first started to be used for games and every game that came out seemed to have "full motion video". I thought that every game was going to be like that - now I look back at those games and the video and gameplay look incredibly dated.

    We also have other game development channels coming out such as independent developers who cater to CRPG fans or things like the Wasteland 2 Kickstarter project funded by the fans - I don't see fans supporting projects like these if restrictions like this came into play.

    ReplyDelete
  13. You can still run stock Rom 2.4b6 on your local machine and give it a go for us. ; )

    I actually do this every now and then, and that game is stinkin' hard on its own. Even with friends playing along I'd be hard pressed to advance very far.

    ReplyDelete
  14. I wouldn't worry: by the time you reach these games, they will have most likely been turned into offline (Blizzard promised that much).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is most likely a very empty promise. There was news that Vivendi wants to sell Activision Blizzard. Who knows what new owners want to do with the games? And in 15 years the company might have been sold several times (After reading up on Wikipedia, it seems that Blizzard has been involved in 6 buyouts and mergers since it's inception in 1991).

      Delete
    2. They can promise all they like. I'll believe it when I see it. And on a case by case basis, because DRM being removed from one title has never guaranteed the same for any other game using the same system.

      Delete
  15. It's very interesting to see the development. Triple-A games move toward more restrictive DRM and always online games with the interesting code server side. On the other hand you have small- to mid-sized developers (Indie and otherwise) that make a point of having no DRM. The interesting thing is that 15 years from now no one will be able to play the current crop of AAA games, but the indie games will live on and still be playable.

    Also, many AAA-developers don't want their games to have longevity They don't want you to play that old game, they want you to buy their new games instead.

    ReplyDelete
  16. You aren't missing much with Diablo III. It's dumbed down even by dungeon crawler standards and basically is just a loot collection game. It's geared completely toward loot drops in order for Blizzard to make as much money as possible from the auctions.

    ReplyDelete
  17. As a side note, you may not have to miss out on the original "Neverwinter Nights." An offline version is available for playing, but usually the big issue is that you can't save your game. However, there is a port of DOSBox that allows for save states, and you can play it that way (though it is very, very tough as a single player, though you will have access to the DM controls, so that will help).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's great to know. Thanks! I was hoping there was some way I could give that a try.

      Delete
  18. I pirate 90% of my games, with rare exceptions for MMO's and truly outstanding games, like Skyrim. I feel no guilt, having worked for two game developers I've seen how they treat and think of their consumers, while the actual programmers may be gamers, the suits in charge are just usless 1%ers who more often then not ruin things with their cluless medelling. Anyhow D3 is currently UNpirateable. It is available for download, but it's just the client (no crack) Now Starcraft II was DRM as well, and the pirates were able to simulate a connection to battlenet (so you could play the solo campaign). But since D3 has very little story, the client you get is dumb. The game is all server side, so even a simulated connection won't work. After the Hype (a year or so) they may release a hell of a patch so you can play it offline. until then you CANNOT play if your internet is down for any reason. Some other companys caught so much flack for that business decision (Assasins Creed) That they eventually gave in and turfed the DRM. DRM usually only punishes Legit owners (CD's Keycodes, pain in the ass) as the pirates have a workaround ready on release day! plug and play.
    -Regular reader but I think I'll go Anon on this one.

    ReplyDelete
  19. What I am going to say is just a theory so correct me if you think I’m wrong. If they would have put a definite end to the piracy, internet wouldn’t be global anymore and they could lose a lot of money.

    Reason is that people simply could not afford to have computers. I can name you at least 20 countries where price of OS (Windows) is same as average monthly salary. That is Windows alone, not to mention all those programs we are all using to run computers smoothly and on top of that games and their subscriptions.
    My guess is that number of players in countries like China, Brazil or Russia would be reduced by 90% . I have mentioned those countries only because of huge gaming community there.
    For example one of the most massive MMORPG’s Blizzard’s WoW, would not have around 10 million subscriptions but significantly less without people from these and many other countries who couldn’t afford to play them.

    I could be wrong about numbers but I am pretty sure that there is a lot to say about reasons why they didn’t put an end to the piracy and they probably never will.They realise that they can earn more money if they have large community interested in gaming because selling the game is not the only way to make a profit.That is why more and more MMO's are becoming free instead opposite.

    There is a certain amount of money we are all ready to pay for games and sitting all day in front of computers. If they cross that line I may just as well get fed up and go play some sport instead. (If drinking beer is still a sport)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are conflating different causes and reasons for piracy.

      For one, World of Warcraft is subscription based and online play, so there is no real way to work around paying Blizzard's rate. China is a special case- they had to work with a Chinese company to release it there under different laws and different costs- I believe they pay by the minute for time logged in rather than a monthly subscription.

      If a product is not available in your market(i.e. most of the world that isn't Europe/Japan/United States), then that is more of a gray area than "I don't want to pay that much". And "that much" will vary heavily from person to person and region to region.

      Complaining about prices vs. volume sold is a complicated area- far fewer games sell millions of copies than you would think(and almost all of those are spending almost as much on advertising as they did on development).

      A lot of the problem is also embedded problems with the retailer/publisher system. Right now retailers get to take a decent sized chunk of any sale, because they used to be the only way to get your game in front of the largest number of consumers. Publishers get an even bigger chunk, since they are the ones providing the funds and getting the game out to retailers. Most developers don't have the funds to cover multiple years of salaries and development time out of pocket.

      The larger problem is corporate structure is toward maximizing short-term profit. Most publishers aren't interested in long-tail sales, instead they want consumers to go buy the next current thing, and view late sales as competing with their full-price games.

      I personally don't buy many games brand new anymore, and stay a few years behind current on console games- generally I can wait and pick things up a year or so later for a much more affordable price. Unfortunately that is much harder to do for PC games outside of Half-Price Books.

      Delete
    2. Kellandros: I don't think that it is harder to buy PC games for cheap price, assuming that you don't need a boxed edition. Look at Steam! This weekend there is a sale for Deus Ex Human Revolution for 7,49$. Very reasonable price for one year old, and one of the most honored game...

      Delete
  20. In fairness, as the number of games made per year increases fairly drastically, do you reasonably anticipate reaching Diablo III even as early as 2032? I'd think 2072 might be more accurate. How many games stand between you and the latest incarnation of Diablo?

    JS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, stop trying to depress me.

      Delete
    2. I vote we deal it when we get there. At the rate things are going copyright enforcement thugs will have burst into Chet's house and dragged him off for reeducation so he only buys new things at full price, as anything else is stealing, no matter if what he wants it out of print for the last 100 years.

      That better? ;)

      Delete
  21. What I foresee is if Blizzard does not make it so you can play offline then before it goes offline some hacker will find a way to download the server side of the game. It just takes a single hacker figuring out how to get to the servers.
    As for more games becoming online only I don't see it going away but I also don't see it making too much headway into single player games. Blizzard is getting away with it because as someone else mentioned, the game plays best with your friends. The single player from my outside perspective seems to be more of a "waiting for others" mode rather then actual single player. The first time some other game tries to do this with an actual single player focused game people won't take it very well at all and there will be a great storm of complaints like there always is when game companies try to push the boundaries of DRM.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Blizzard's servers are still supporting Diablo 1, 16 years later; if they do the same for Diablo 3, that'll take you to 2028.

    Not saying this because I like the always online nonsense; I hate it. But this particular concern seems overblown, Hellgate (which was the first game of a start-up company) notwithstanding.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Giauz

    I did not like the sound of this when I first heard about it (and I never even played a Diablo), but I can empathize with the decision. Even if piracy isn't actually hemmoraging money from Blizzard and the games industry as a whole, software pirates are still in the wrong. That one article that was linked earlier in the comments makes piracy sound so agreeable with excuses of preserving cultural history, just nevermind exploiting that culture without paying the asking price.

    Of course all of this is very much my personal opinion : piracy should end or people should get the bad treatment their piers provoked, either way the pirates and publishers continue to feel they are in the right no matter what happens to the present and future of the everyday gamer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. D3 being online only actually has nothing to do with DRM. The entire point of D3 is to kill monsters over and over and over again that drop randomly created items. Eventually the random number generator will give you that ridiculously rare item you want or perfectly made item (perfect for you that is). D2 had offline mode, any time some godly item dropped, people would use hacks and exploits to duplicate the hell out of it and sell them off for other items or real money. With blizzard making trading easier via the auction house and sanctioning selling items for real money (you cant avoid it, might as well moderate it and protect players from scammers) on the in game real money auction house, you can see how allowing offline mode and tons of duplicated high end items would be a major problem. The entire point of ARPGS is to find more and better loot, offline mode allows cheating this entire system and flooding the market with high end items and ruining the game for everyone who wants to trade/sell even a little. Blizzard made the right move, it has nothing to do with DRM, and only applies to ARPGS and MMOs.

      Delete
    2. I'll have to call BS on that. Allowing you to play offline that never crosses into the online mode would handle the needed duplication policing. If the offline mode which saves on your disk can be used to duplicate items so what you cant go online and sell those. Keep the online mode always on and DB wins conflicts.

      Delete
    3. I like Torchlight II's approach. Start your own server and/or play on servers with people you trust. Cheat if you want, or play it straight. Totally up to the user. $20 retail.

      Delete
  24. Wow, the name of this post scared me quite a bit. I was all, "NOOOOO!"

    I had no idea you even wanted to play the MUDs and MMORPGs. There certainly isn't much story in such games, particularly MMORPGs. Last I heard, though, Project 1999 is still going strong. It's the original EverQuest, as a fan project. You just have to play (or otherwise acquire) the original game, then you can play with no fee.

    Speaking of Project 1999, I'm sure someone could do that with Diablo 3, if they wanted to. Then you would just have to buy or download the client, and play on someone's server, which would have all the items and such faithfully recreated.

    For the record, I do think this and other DRM schemes are awful. Punish the player, and the player will go elsewhere.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can still play Ultima Online via a ton of different player-run servers as well.

      Agree with the hatred of DRM schemes. They really only hurt the legitimate customers. In the case of Diablo 3 though, I don't think a "cracked" version is going to be coming any time soon. Clever of Blizzard really, but I think I'll keep on playing Titan Quest instead.

      Delete
    2. I had a peek on project 1999 a couple years back, felt like having another look in march and found that eq1 has become free to play (with limits) on official servers now.
      I was excited about d3 coming out, then just before release day I thought meh, over time I heard people saying they were not impressed so just never bothered. If they continue with this online only nonsense, I guess I'd finally have time to re-do my old qbasic rpg in java or c++ :)

      Delete
  25. I played Diablo 2 in college and the first before that and thought they were much more enjoyable when playing with other friends. That being said, I am not a fan of the 'online all the time' model, but Diablo 3 is supposed to be a much more community based game. It is designed around being able to easily jump in and out of others' games while chatting and trading things. Just seems with the way it's designed, if you are playing single player you are kind of not playing it as intended.

    I play some Starcraft 2 and it is a very similar system. Very streamlined to let you link up with friends and jump into quick games. As for Blizzard's track record, they did just release another patch for Diablo 2 last year or something and have been keeping up with the community well. They will definitely make it offline capable when the time comes.

    I just trust Blizzard more than other big software companies, personally. They put out quality products and support them, even if they're not your cup of tea. That being said, they may just be better at snowing consumers for their DRM, but if the ends are similar I can't complain much.

    ReplyDelete
  26. I hate DRM. It's frustrating to deal with, it doesn't stop the real badguys, and it treats every customer like a potential criminal.

    But let's be clear here: if you are pirating games that are available on the shelf for purchase, you ARE a criminal. No one is entitled to someone else's product. It doesn't matter if you personally think the only people profiting are "1%ers" (whatever the hell that really is).* Stealing is stealing. If you steal, you're a criminal. It's that simple.

    I know that some don't want to hear that. I know that they've created all sorts of rationalizations for themselves. That doesn't change reality.

    I'm not here to argue with people, so I'm not going to bother getting into it with any replies.




    *BTW, it's a total fallacy that only so-called "1%ers" profit from this stuff. They might see the lion's share of the $$, but if they DON'T see those $$ then the studio gets laid off or kicked to the curb. Just because Employee X at the game studio doesn't see a personal cut of every sale doesn't mean he isn't profiting from the game doing well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I tend to agree with you. Reddit, where I spent a reasonable amount of time, is so pro-pirate that it disturbs me. They seem to think that their crusade to make illegal copies of software puts them up there with the leaders of the Civil Rights Era or something.

      The exception I make for myself is, of course, in the area of abandonware. I don't believe "abandonware" has any legal status, but if a company is no longer selling a game--if there's literally no way to purchase it legitimately--then I don't feel too bad about downloading it. If I didn't, this blog wouldn't exist. Even so, I realize I'm on shaky legal and ethical grounds.

      Delete
    2. Meh, if you try to give them money and they won't take it isn't your fault. I joined Reddit a little while ago and so far I'm very unimpressed. Mostly banal chatter, very little intellect shown.

      Delete
    3. I should specify: The above was only about abandoned games. Personally I'm in favour of a 'use it or lose it' approach to copyright; if it isn't a single, physical object (Painting say) then if you let it go out of print for 5 years, it is public domain. Possibly with some 'Unless you've made efforts to get it back in print' clause, for authors who'd love to get books back in print, but can't find a publisher.

      That said, once I discovered that developers don't get royalties for games unless they are self-published (Skyrim for example, and most indie games) I care a lot less about piracy. Ripping off a publisher that puts out a bit of shell money, then sits back and waits for the dollars to roll in is still a crime, but much easier to take then ripping off someone who puts 5 years of their life into a game.

      As I saw one investor say about why he left the games publishing market, it is becoming more of a 'heads we win, tails you lose' relationship between devs and publishers.

      Delete
    4. The problem with that logic is that, for whatever reason, the developer has chosen to publish the game through a certain mechanism. If the developer is getting screwed by the publisher, that's a problem, but it's the developer's problem. If you pirate the game, you're screwing both the publisher AND the developer (though perhaps the latter indirectly).

      To take an analogue, I wrote a book two years ago that I published through a nonprofit association. The association gets all of the income from the sales of the book. If you make illegal copies of the book (and some have; the PDF got out somehow), you're not hurting ME directly, but you are hurting the overall business model that I chose to use.

      I realize that game publishers, book publishers, music publishers, etc., aren't nonprofits, but that's not the point. The point is that as the content creator, I have chosen to make my content available through a particular means. It is my right, as the creator, to make that choice. If you pirate my work, you are robbing me of the right to choose the appropriate means of distribution for my own creations. You are trusting that YOU--someone not even in the business--knows better than I do what does and does not hurt me as a developer.

      (I hope that it's clear that when I say "you," I'm not speaking of you, personally, Canageek, but rather all people who pirate.)

      Now for whatever reason, some developers and publishers of old games chose to enter into a business model that ensured that their games would be unavailable after a certain passage of time. We can sit here and say it's stupid. We can say, "How is it hurting anyone if we download and play games that otherwise wouldn't be making the creators any money anyway?" But it doesn't matter. It was their choice to stop publishing their games just as it was their choice to publish them in the first place. As the creators, THEY get to choose. Maybe Robert Woodhead and Andrew Greenberg are embarrassed about Wizardry and would rather not have bloggers like me dredging up the games' flaws. Maybe Tabula Rasa failed in part because people wouldn't stop playing illegal copies of Ultima IV. It doesn't matter what their reasons are; again, it only matters that we are robbing developers from the ability to control their original creations.

      Alas, I'm old enough to know that our actions don't always reflect our beliefs. I have a problem with meat, too, but I still eat it. And I'm going to keep downloading "abandonware" copies of games that I can't otherwise buy.

      Delete
    5. The developers and publishers also don't control the secondary market, which I've heard many grumblings about, but is deemed a legal means of obtaining old games. Sure you might have to pay random guy X 10 times the original price, but that's better than paying no one? I'm not talking about places like GoG, but ebay and other auction sites. At least at GoG I hope they're licensing where they can, but they've also taken the time to get the games working on newer systems.

      Delete
    6. My feeling is that once you release a work into the public space, you cede certain aspects of control. You can and should be able to derive profit from a work. You should be able to claim it as yours, and trade on its name, and so on. What I really do not believe you should be able to do is retract it from public availability, build in deadman switches that will guarantee it stops being available in the future, decide that certain parts of the world aren't allowed to have it, and so on. That isn't to say that you should be required to personally provide it at your own expense (so an MMO that isn't profitable anymore wouldn't have to stay operational), but neither should you be out there ensuring no one else does if you're not willing to.

      I think our culture is much poorer when the rights holders do things like that.

      Delete
  27. I love how people think that the reason Diablo III has an always-online requirement is to prevent piracy, despite the fact that Blizzard takes it a step further and has all interactions occur server-side, meaning they'll be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars each much to maintain the servers (much more than they'd lose from potential piracy).

    The actual reason is because they put a lot of emphasis on the Auction House in D3 (which I actually find I really enjoy) and things such as combat and loot drops must be handled server side in order to prevent exploits which would destroy the economy.

    So yeah it's not there for DRM.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do I understand the auction house correctly? People with a lot of time on their hands play an insane number of hours, collect goods, and then sell them to other players for real money?

      Delete
    2. That's the idea.

      Mostly you'll get gold farmers (people getting paid a small wage to play the game to collect the items for sale to make money for the company they work for) doing the bulk of the trading and selling.

      Delete
    3. You -can- do that, but the best way to profit is to abuse the hell out of economics. That is, search for items someone is selling for way less than what they are worth (preferably on the gold auction house) and then resell them much higher. I, however... am not very good at that.

      I dunno, I understand why it bothers a lot of people but for me it adds something of a metagame and purpose to the grinding.

      Delete
    4. This whole idea depresses me in ways that I can't fully articulate.

      Delete
    5. I haven't played Diablo 3 outside a beta weekend, but I know it probably isn't my cup of tea.

      Most of the complaints that I have seen are about the streamlining Blizzard did- they tried to go through and remove a lot of the cruft and annoyance from the game:
      - talent builds are not permanent(you could end up creating and leveling multiple of a single class to try out different play styles). They instead just unlock new abilities at set levels and let you apply glyphs to customize some of them, and can flip those out with a short(like 5-10 min) cooldown.
      - Identify scrolls are gone; rare items still have to be identified but it is just a single right-click and a short cast bar with no cost.
      - Town portal is a free button on the bar, no stockpiling of scrolls of that.
      - Health bubbles spawn when enemies die for quick free healups; potions are rarer and less required.
      - You have a shared loot stash between all your characters, so can save drops your current guy can't use for later.
      - Weapons have been generalized, where even casters can use some blade weapons and get the weapon attack power to up their spell damage.
      - The auction house is supposed to be a safer and easier to use way to sell or get items that just didn't drop for you; less likely to get defrauded by physically trading with a stranger.
      - Real money auction house was potentially beneficial to players without a lot of free time to play- they could buy items to be able to progress without as big a time commitment. As long as spending money isn't required to progress, I have less problems with monetizing features.

      There are articles about some of the worst abuser Chinese "free-to-pay" MMOs out there; those are pretty disturbingly direct cash grabs.


      Some of the people I've seen complaining about D3 were more about the speed to burnout, where the grinding for gear became much more obvious once the smaller annoyances were cleared out.

      Delete
  28. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  29. While its getting harder to play the old games, many are being recompiled by people at places like www.gog.com. I've gotten several missed classics there .There is also using VirtualBox to run the old operating system. Better still there are NEW rpgs being created. So I hope the end has come to rpg fans like us supporting the garbage produced by the overbloated companies like Blizzard and EA (the worst). There are alternatives including some high production level new ones! Recently a new movement in CRGP's has come out with developers, some ex-employees of the above mentioned "evil" companies, funded outside of the big bad publishers. Kickstarter.com has made several of these possible.

    These I have high hopes for:

    The Banner Saga (http://stoicstudio.com/ )
    Shadowrun returns ( http://harebrained-schemes.com/shadowrun/ )
    The Legend of Eisenwald ( http://aterdux.com/projects )
    Wasteland 2 ( http://wasteland.inxile-entertainment.com/ )
    Echos of Eternia ( http://echoesofeternia.tumblr.com/ )

    Also a new classic game inspired by Wizadry has just been released:
    Legend or Grimrock ( http://www.grimrock.net/ )

    And these games are (or will be when released next year) average of $15-$20 each. less than HALF the price of the big boys installing spyware into your computer (and yes...it IS spyware..it monitors your computer and EA actually scans your files!?!? (WTF))

    So take heart CRPG fans, new items are coming with spirit of old, its just we have to look for new sources which will be better for all and hopefully put people like EA and Blizzard in their place.

    Oh, the best part about these games, is they are ALL DRM free. Kind of exciting isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very good points. I probably allowed myself to get too alarmed by a single company's decision.

      Delete
    2. While I might give you EA as 'evil', that word gets thrown around waaaay too often.

      Most of the complaints people have is the fault of publishers- they are the ones who tend to have the final say on things being included in games.

      Publishers are the ones who want to make sure the games being put out make money- that is both good and bad. Good in that they provide the funds for developers to get work done, profits can be used to fund the next game. They also keep developers employed through licensed games and what we generally term shovel-ware, without those crap games most mid-size developers couldn't stay in business and new companies couldn't get started.

      The downside of publishers is often in the extra requirements they put on developers. They end up in the same mindset Hollywood and TV shows fall into, with copycatting- if one game/movie/show is a big success, they try to find the quickest way to copy the obvious parts- this is why we went through trends of 3D shooters everywhere in the 90s, multi-player tacked onto games after Halo, everyone and their dog trying to jump into the MMO market.

      The small upside of this is iterated improvements- most games at this point reuse existing control schemes all the time. Someone who has played one fighting game can transfer a good portion of their muscle memory to a new game. Or look at fantasy RPGs and D&D conventions.

      There tends to also be other requirements, like launch dates that cause a lot of problems- trying to make the Christmas season especially. Timing the release of a game right would be a big boost, but we have too many games fighting for the same launch dates.

      ---
      EA's Origin service(which the spyware comment is about) is at best problematic, at worst the sort of invasion of privacy Jonah was complaining about. But that is a publisher side demand, like most DRM(to protect profits). There are some minor benefits to developers of knowing information about system specs(but that really should be opt-in information from a beta or other volunteering, not required). Most likely the computer scanning is a new version of the rootkit method, installing hidden programs to try to prevent people from cracking their game; the only good thing I could say about it is that it is less likely to cause the wider computer problems/security nightmares of rootkits.

      Origin is trying to compete with Steam. Steam itself has its ups and downs; it requires extra steps of authenticating before it lets you play your games. But people have been accepting of that because of goodwill towards Valve, cheap prices and great sale prices, convenience factors, and ease of use(they don't throw their restrictions in the face of users).

      Delete
    3. Oh, one last point:
      These smaller, cheaper games are being self-published by known developers. They have many advantages they are taking advantage of:
      - Viral advertising; especially KickStarter and clever videos and good communication.
      - Focusing on a smaller, more devoted and enthusiastic audience.
      - Getting pre-orders in place via KickStarter, so they have an up-front funding without requiring a publisher.
      - Reduced costs (word of mouth over wider advertising, fewer physical copies, no need to create a large inventory of games that may or may not sell).

      Remember though, they are giving up a few things at the same time.
      - limited retail sale opportunities. Without a big publisher they aren't getting in Wal-Mart.
      - Bigger risks- if they hit big problems in development the game may fail without additional funding.
      - Scale. Graphics are unfortunately the first thing people look at on judging the quality of a game. Without a large art team and years to develop textures and models, they aren't going to be able to look like a AAA game. This can be mitigated through smart design- avoid striving for perfect realism and you can use much simpler models.
      - Time. They have collected money from customers already, who have expectations. They will have to release something before their funding runs out, or have to go back for more money from a likely more skeptical audience.
      - Salaries. These guys are going to only get money from the actual end sales. They may not be able to give full salaries to any programmers they hire. Most people prefer to work for others because of the certainty and regularity of paychecks; consultants and contractors get payed only on their actual output(if there is no work available, they don't get paid).

      ========
      Knowing all that, I've still contributed via KickStarter to 2 of those games on John's list. But I am not planning to judge them on the same scale as I would a game made with a much larger budget. Unfortunately, the average consumer is unlikely to know enough to be as kind.

      Delete
    4. I'd like to think that people that pledge on kickstarter is from an older generation of gamers, that would never judge games on graphics alone, so that would probably never be a reason for these games to do poorly. Btw I have also pledged for 2 of those games and think it's actually kind of exiting.

      Delete
    5. I think it'll be more telling for the viability of projects to generate revenue from Kickstarter after some of these games have been finished. Right now we're seeing people front money to fund the development, but I wonder how well the games will actually sell once released.

      Delete
    6. http://echoesofeternia.tumblr.com/

      This is an example of a very bad website to inform your potential audience about the game you are developing. I could not find any actual information about the game besides a few screenshots, nothing about how the game will be played, what style of game it is (beyond what you can glean from the screenies.

      Delete
    7. Zenic, if these developers make enough money from their Kickstarter bids to generate decent salaries during the development process, does it really matter if the game sells well?

      I mean, when you publish a book, it doesn't really matter if you make money off the advance or the royalties, as long as it's the same money.

      Delete
    8. I'm just thinking ahead. What happens after this game is done? Another Kickstarter for the next game? I guess it doesn't really matter if they have the funds to see them through development, then it really doesn't matter if they can make money off this game to fund the next.

      It just seems like a unending cycle of having to use Kickstarter to get a game development going for these groups if they're getting customer money upfront. Basically they're be back at the some place when this game gets released. I'm probably wrong about this, but it seems like they're just keeping afloat from project to project. I guess without a publisher taking a chunk of the money their revenue is increased.

      Delete
    9. What happens next all depends on how well the game they produced sells. If nothing else they could use Kickstarter for doing pre-orders and gauging public interest; but what I've read suggests that the higher dollar value donation levels are what drive the success of a project's funding.

      Without a publisher they keep more of the sales potentially, but they have to do more non-game design things themselves:
      - secure server for online payments
      - storing customer data securely
      - providing enough bandwidth for downloads plus patches and updates
      - advertising and marketing (if people don't know about your game they can't buy it)
      - inventory/warehousing (for physical goods)
      - financial tracking and taxes (lots of small payments spread over a large range of time; hopefully they can defer the taxes on a portion of their up front capital investment in office space and computers at the least and cover that over long-term sales)

      Most likely I would guess they will have a moderate success in terms of sales, with a smaller team size and costs that should provide a decent profit. And since they did it independently they still own all the intellectual property and they can choose sales/discounts (like the Humble Bundles), start a sequel or find other ways to build on it.

      Delete
    10. @Zenic the unending cycle you refer to exists in the publisher model too, you just pitch the publisher and ask for money for your next game where in kickstarter you are pitching whoever reads the page.

      Kickstarter and others like it may very well change investment by reducing the need for VC or publishers or investors to start your project. I am hopeful but cautiously reserved that we are seeing the beginning of a sustainable model. We have seen it successful in obtaining funding but have not seen many examples of how well the end product of that funding will be. Much depends on how well the consumer feels they are being served on these first steps down this path.

      Delete
  30. There is an emulated server for D3 being working upon at www.skidrowcrack.com. It is already possible to run Diablo 3 without connecting to Blizzard servers. So don't worry :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. Diablo 3 is an MMO in all but name. They need the DRM to have an iron grip on the rarity of items, so the RMAH has a point. I've written about this extensively on my blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can "win" the game, though, right?

      Delete
    2. There is an ending- you also have the option to restart at the beginning at any point, keeping your character and loot intact.

      I did see a quick article on The Escapist by a former staffer that Diablo 3 started planned as a full on MMO; when they changed directions and delayed Diablo 3 again a lot of the developers jumped ship (to work on Hellgate: London).

      Delete
  32. No, you can't really win it. Sure, the plot ends at a certain point, but from a perspective of mechanics, that's not the end of the game at all. The game is designed around this core concept: "Figure out the ideal skill and gear selection so you can generate valuable items with the highest efficiency." The plot is a side-dish.

    ReplyDelete
  33. There is another point, which, I think, hasn't been mentioned, and it is the mentality of players or more precisely customers. As the videogames become more popular and expand more and more as a common entertainment, it stops to be a domain of lonewolfs as I am or CRPG Addict is (At least I think that you mentioned it somewhere...). So the customers are more often people who don't want to be closed alone for many hours in the living room, bedroom or another "dungeon" with PC or console, where we introverts like to relax in the virtual world.

    These people much more likes felowship, entertainment in a group and shared enjoyment. It is different mentality and I think that there is a majority of them on the world more then the closed introverts. And the gaming industry clearly reflects the fact, what is seen on the MMO game increase, and I fear that this will probably lead to countermarch of single-player.

    I don't think that it will be death of the single player games, at least in close future not. There will be still people like me, which want to play with their pace, with their own ways, and don't want to take care about other players. There will be also still people which don't want to handle situation like whether to go for a dinner with family in same time when important battle, race or raid runs, or whether to turnoff the game just now and be punished for game leaving... So there will still be demand for single player games, but I think single-player becomes minor genre. And I lay my hopes on independent developers and projects in a future...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You seem to have a good sense of the field. I suppose it's silly for me to worry about 2012 gaming trends when I'm still in 1989. If I ever blog about D3, it'll be as an archaeologist, and by then we'll already know what happened to the genre.

      Delete
    2. Your fear looks unreasonable from this point of view, nevertheless I understand it very well. My fear is a little bit higher, as I am playing games also according a "list" but my list is not governed by timeline but by my own "metascore" based on the game reviews from several sources. So I tried to play all best honored games from all genres and I am jumping variously from past to the present.

      Delete
    3. This seems to be something that publishers believe, certainly. I'm not so sure. Metrics have consistently established that people who play multiplayer at all, even in theoretically multiplayer focused games like the Unreal Tournament franchise, are a small minority. Something under 20% of the total gaming population. And MMOs only really took off, despite a theoretically multiplayer focus, when the design shifted so that they were largely soloable.

      I think at worst we're likely to have forgettable multiplayer modes tacked onto games, or light "social networking" integration. And as long as those modes don't do like Diablo III and force reliance on company servers onto even the singleplayer content, I will be comfortable ignoring them.

      Delete
  34. if you want good quality crpg games try out spiderweb games. makers of the Avernum and Geneforge series of games. low quality graphics, but in terms of story and gameplay, you cant find anything better. even big budget games cant match this company which is run by one guy that farms out his development needs.

    ReplyDelete
  35. I have never looked into playing Diablo III, but my experience of a couple of years of World of Warcraft and their online-only policy give me the impression that Blizzard has mastered the art of exploiting the economy that their games create. World of Warcraft is (or was?) a huge business. In China, there have been cases of slavery, yes, children in slavery, who are forced to grind 12 hours a day to create powerful characters and/or virtual wealth to sell them to other players. Blizzard, or their parent company, apparently wanted a share of that business. The whole gameplay idea of Diablo III, as I can discern from the comments here, is designed to give players the vain hope of making money by playing. Very disappointing.
    I wouldn't worry too much about playing Diablo III in 2032. That's 19 years in the future. And 19 years ago, the year was 1984. The rate of change within the industry has been incredible. The video game industry is already bigger than the movie industry. Who knows...in 19 years internet access might be free... and that's the least visionary thing I can imagine.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome all comments about the material in this blog, and I generally do not censor them. However, please follow these rules:

1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) THIS ALSO INCLUDES USER NAMES THAT LINK TO ADVERTISING.

2. Please avoid profanity and vulgar language. I don't want my blog flagged by too many filters.

3. Please don't comment anonymously. It makes it impossible to tell who's who in a thread. Choose the "Name/URL" option, pick a name for yourself, and just leave the URL blank.

Also, Blogger has a way of "eating" comments, so I highly recommend that you copy your words to the clipboard before submitting, just in case.

NOTE: Spam has gotten so bad lately that I've had to turn on comment moderation for posts older than 10 days. I apologize if it takes a little while for your comment to appear.