Diablo III Launch Does Not Go Off Without a Hitch
The anticipation surrounding the third entry in Blizzard’s venerable Diablo series has proved to be unlike anything they have yet encountered in a game launch. On the back of over 2,000,000 pre-orders of Diablo III, Blizzard cautioned players that the log-in authentication servers might take up to forty seconds in order to log players into the game due to the high number of players attempting to do so. As it turns out, this was a rather optimistic assessment.
So great was demand for the title that Blizzard was forced to temporarily reallocate additional servers to cope with the influx of players, even as gamers faced anecdotal delays of up to two hours and met time and again with ‘error 37’ windows. Such niggles are barely noteworthy in regard to such a large-scale entertainment launch, and any lingering inconvenience is sure to melt away over the coming days, yet it is hardly the most palatable debut for fans who have been waiting for ten years in order to consume their next Diablo morsel. At any rate, unlike other such online DRM regimes, Diablo III‘s online authentication at least serves a legitimate design decision in allowing players to utilise the same character for both single-player and multi-player forays into the game.
Blizzard Comes to the Aid of Drunken Aussie Diablo III Pre-Orders
When the Australian arm of the fiscally stricken GAME retail chain yesterday went into administration scant hours before the year’s biggest RPG launch, gamers who had stumped up the cash for a pre-order of Diablo III looked to be SOL. It was announced that GAME would not be receiving Diablo III stock, and that consumer money was now forfeit, as only GAME’s backers are entitled to recuperating capital from the emaciated husk of the ailing corporate entity. The launch of Diablo III would have been a day of frustration and regret for Australian GAME customers were it not for the fact Blizzard has elected to ride into this situation of dire angst upon their rainbow-shitting unicorn of hope in order to provide a full refund to GAME customers who choose to instead purchase from Blizzard a digital version of their game.
The way that this has been worked is that affected gamers who purchase a digital version of Diablo III from Blizzard between the 14th (pre-release) up until the 21st of May will be entitled to a refund credit from the RPG developer with the biggest heart in the industry. Subsequently, these gamers will have until the 30th of June to submit their defunct GAME receipts to Blizzard in order to recoup their costs. While this may not be everything customers had hoped for from the start (particularly for those with Collector’s Edition releases of the game), it is nevertheless more than any of them could have hoped for after yesterday’s crushing news. As an act of eleventh hour charity, this goes well beyond anything else that comes to mind in the industry’s history (large-scale charity drives like Child’s Play not withstanding).
Moreover, it is refreshing to encounter a developer who just gets it. Sure, this may well amount to lost sales for Blizzard, but surely it is worth many times that in terms of customer goodwill. It is essentially saying to consumers that their continued patronage means more to the developer than several thousand additional launch day sales – and allows said consumers to continue buying Blizzard products with confidence. This is getting it right.
Cliffy B Endeavours To Be Even More of a Noxious Weed
Now, an abject lesson on getting it wrong. Cliffy B has this week been sticking his boot into Japanese developers, not in terms of quality (which has admittedly been at a low ebb in recent years), but rather at their churlish refusal to shoe-horn multi-player death match into their games. This douche in human clothing goes on to contend that focusing on the single-player campaign alone is not a valid decision, seeing as tacked on multi-player was such a game-changer for Dead Space 2, Bioshock 2, and Resident Evil 5.
Cliffy B has told Gamasutra that Shadows of the Damned suffered due to a lack of online co-op, and went on to suggest that Platinum Games’ failure to incorporate online deathmatch into Vanquish was nothing less than a crime, gaily tittering that: “If you’re going to make a third-person shooter… the fact that Vanquish didn’t have a multiplayer suite was a crime. That IP, it was pretty good as far as being Western [as though Western design is a virtue in itself], but the gameplay was great. The vibe… and I’ve often said on record that if Gears is the kind of Wild, Wild West coal train chugging along, that Vanquish is the Japanese bullet train, with style and everything. And there is no reason I shouldn’t have been zipping around, doing the mega slides, diving up in the air in an arena with other players.”
If ever an example was needed as to why the video game industry deserves to fail, Cliffy B in his infinite entitlement is surely it. If the central thrust of a gaming property is to provide a tight single-player experience, then what on earth would be the benefit in diverting capital and manpower to produce a mediocre multi-player component? But then it seems to fall to the makers of competent single-player games to be forever sneered at and patronised by people capable of implementing both single and multi-player modes – poorly.