Dear Blizzard

What the hell, guys?

Look, in this month’s regular Fanboy Indoctrination and Proselytizing Monthly magazine, right next to the article about tricking little kids into pre-ordering Mists of Pandaria, you had that whole feature about how awesome Diablo III was going to be. And, obviously, you were right. I sprinkled my incense on my Metzen-Shrine just like every good acolyte, sent in my monthly dues and went to bed with my Huggable-Tyrael Talking doll.

But, look, it’s hard not to get some of the complaints from the unwashed heathens that keep rolling across our desks. Despite my best efforts to stay on script about the Real Money Auction House and always-on DRM, you gotta admit that some of these folks may have a point.

Now, I suspect the banging I hear at my door is probably the Mike Morhaime Faith Adjustment Team, so let me be quick. You guys have been great for years and years, and you remain to my mind one of the top game creators in the world, but it is time to lose the holier-than-thou, above-it-all arrogance that seems to ooze from every comment, statement and news story coming out of the business these days.

My latest last straw was news yesterday that now customers who buy a digital copy of Diablo III will have their game hamstrung for 3 days. Honestly, when I read this I just looked at the story for a solid minute waiting for it to resolve into something logical in my mind. It did not. I mean, if you want me to spin this for you guys, I’m going to need some talking points or a powerpoint or something. I don’t get how to justify and resolve the fact that if I went out and bought a copy of D3 on your online store right now, I’d have little more than a glorified demo, unable to go past level 13, unable to advance through more than the first couple hours of the story, unable to chat with the sanctified general population, unable to play with my friends, unable even to give Blizzard its 15% tithing by buying fancy pants off the auction house until Sunday.

Look, I like to keep a fairly even tone to my articles generally, and I have been accused on more than one occasion of giving an undeserved benefit of the doubt to businesses large and small, but I can’t think of any other way to ask this question.

Are you guys completely stupid now?

I know I’m tottering closer and closer to internet diatribe territory here, and I want to be sensitive to the fact that probably my question seems like the sort of foul-tempered, gutteral mutterings one might expect from a Blizzard forum post -- look forward to my next article Why I’m Starting a Class Action Lawsuit After the Demon Hunter Nerfs. I can even now hear the Faith Adjustment Team cracking through the locks on my front door. Someone is shouting “For Aiur!” and I think that may be some kind of mental trigger, because I suddenly want to give those guys my credit card, but let me eke out a last couple of lucid thoughts here.

I believe that you believe you are doing what’s in the best interest of everyone, and I also believe that you guys have a strong commitment to creating the best game you can within the understood necessities of a more complicated games industry. But there was a time where I remember Blizzard Entertainment making and publicizing key games decisions that were clearly to the benefit of the game and gamer equally even if they were not always the optimal choice from a business. And, sure, sometimes it burned you, but it also was those kinds of decisions that propelled the company into a balanced position of financial, critical and fan success.

Let me tell you, from the outside looking in, as someone who has done all but going door-to-door to ask if people have heard the good word about Azeroth: You guys are blowing it. And, that’s fine. You know just as well as I do that you don’t need that balance to make a ton of money. You don’t need good-will, or broad based critical support. You don’t need the enthusiast press. You don’t need forums that sing the songs of your praises. You don’t need me to get on every podcast and talk about how much fun I’m having with Diablo 3. You can happily flush all of that down the toilet and still sell a hojillion copies of Heart of the Swarm, Mists of Pandaria and whatever Titan turns out to be.

And, as much as I want to come up with a meaningful, cogent way to tell you to cut this crap out of no LAN support, forcing egregious DRM in the name of semantics and now the hobbling of legitimately purchased copies, I can’t. It’ll work, for now. You’ll make a ton of money, for now.

So, let me just say as a fan, it sucks. It’s shameful, and it’s embarrassing for someone who has always tried to assume the best intentions to see the consistent march away from industry-leading games and service to corrupted, fallen hero. You guys are better than this, or at least you were.

I hear the Adjustment team now in the other room, and they’ve apparently got their Conformity Sticks out and charged. But you can still salvage what you were to gamers if it’s something that matters to your company mission anymore, though I suspect maybe it doesn’t. From one of the most ardent fans of your games over the year, come back Blizzard. I miss y—ow!

Have you heard the good news about Mists of Pandaria? It’s going to be awesome and you should preorder it today.

Comments

I have not been on board the whine brigade about most of the D3 complaints and conspiracy theories, but this 3 day starter edition thing... well, I just can't find any kind of positive spin. It's ridiculous in every respect, and I hope this is not indicative of what we can expect in the future.

They backpedaled hard on the Real ID initiative just a couple years ago. Let's hope they do the same with this.

Right there with you. I spent the last few weeks laughing at the authenticator-less hacking whiners, pointing out that the game is very fun, justifying the online-only model, but... yeah. The more I played, the more I realized the whole game is basically just a mechanism to drive you to the auction houses. And now this demo lockdown thing... just gross. The real money AH is so clearly the root of all these problems, I'd kill for some insight into how things are looking from their end. Did they expect the issues they're seeing? Do they just stand to make so much money from that they'll do anything to protect it? Are there people inside the company yelling "I TOLD YOU SO!"?

Fascinating to watch regardless, it's just sad that it's happening to one of my favorite game companies.

My characters stopped advancing after the last patch, I changed my password (as suggested in a forum post) and everything worked after that (though I haven't checked to see if things are still working). Not that this excuses Blizzard's idiocy, but it was a fairly simple work around.

I sort of get the opinion, and maybe it's just me, that Blizzard is just phoning this whole Diablo 3 thing in.

My wife was badgering me to buy this game for us to play together, and I'd told her that we should just wait for Torchlight 2. This bit of news pretty much seals it..... no D3 for us.

EDIT: Thought better of it.

I hate to beat a dead horse here, but they've been going downhill since they were bought by Activision. Coincidence? I think not. There is a clear shift in corporate attitude, and I'm pretty sure I know where it's coming from.

Disclaimer : I've been hating all things Blizzard for a long time (and tried my best not to whine on the Internet about it).

Look, being the resident industry apologist doesn't have to be the default behavior (as in, needing a 1000 word explanation when breaking the mold). The prevalent attitude around these parts seems to be "let's be mature about this, companies exist to make money, no need to overreact Internet". I don't disagree, but by the same logic companies will make money at your expense any time they can get away with it (which means, in the case of Blizz & Bioware, etc., any time they want). The companies that can't rely on the bottomless pockets of their publisher's marketing department don't have any option but to nurture an audience and shower customers with love.

Now the bitter and old, smelly, drooling and insignificant little Internet whiners like myself feel like the latter have the right idea.

Sean, I think it's good that you're admitting you have a problem. That's the first step on the road to recovery.

Also, some smythe has been sleeping on the job:

unable even to give Blizzard it’s 15% tithing

Shameful. Simply shameful.

There has to be a point where the delicious Kool Aid isn't worth everything else you have to swallow as well, right?

In full disclosure, I haven't bought a Blizzard game since SC1. But with the recent trends Blizzard has been taking with both SC2 and D3...will there come a point when people say "The game looks great but everything else is too much to put up with"?

As soon as I learned that Blizzard was requiring an always-on connection, I decided to just skip it and enjoy Torchlight 2 when it comes out. I just can't see that Blizzard's click-to-kill game is going to be so much better as to warrant all the baggage that goes along with it. Plus, Torchlight 2 is so much cheaper.

Yup. I understand that they did this to prevent fraudulent credit card purchases of direct download copies to game the RMT system, but really they could have just locked out use of the RMT AH for their 3 days to confirm. They absolutely did not need to lock the game down to being a demo for 3 days after you've paid for it.

I wasn't going to buy it to begin with (the always connected thing + you can't play single player when their servers are down + etc) as I'm voting with my wallet... but this helps make that substantially easier. I'd only consider buying it online (that's the only way I buy games now) and I will *NOT* pay for a game that'll start out locked as a demo. No.

People really need to put their foot down, and say no to companies like EA, Ubisoft, Activision and their irk pulling this sh*t, and abusing paying customers. It's not ok.

Ariskany Evan wrote:

Just bought a new MacBook Pro (non-retina 15"), so I don't have the cash to buy Diablo 3 right away. I may be the only one who's actually excited about the announcement of the starter edition, since it means I'll be able to get my fingers clicking sooner than expected.

After you give Blizzard $60

So digital copies are locked down for 3 days to prevent someone from stealing a credit card number, farming the crap out of the game and the auction house, and then cashing out before the fraud can be detected and the account shut down? That does make sense now from a clinical perspective. I can't say it looks great to customers, but how far does the average buyer make it in three days of normal playtime?

trueheart78 wrote:
Ariskany Evan wrote:

Just bought a new MacBook Pro (non-retina 15"), so I don't have the cash to buy Diablo 3 right away. I may be the only one who's actually excited about the announcement of the starter edition, since it means I'll be able to get my fingers clicking sooner than expected.

After you give Blizzard $60

According to their write-up on it (http://us.battle.net/support/en/arti...) all I need is a guest pass from a fellow gamer to be able to try out the starter edition (ariskanyevan, if you're feeling generous!). And now I know that there's a 72-hour waiting period, I'll just buy it from retail/Amazon when I do get the cash together.

Bummer for those who just recently bought the game digitally to find themselves waiting...

DorkmasterFlek wrote:

I hate to beat a dead horse here, but they've been going downhill since they were bought by Activision. Coincidence? I think not. There is a clear shift in corporate attitude, and I'm pretty sure I know where it's coming from.

Agree 100%. Become part of a public entity and whatever the business objective was before, it changes to getting an ROI that justifies the purchase price. I'm sure Vivendi has a large cadre of product managers developing ever more interesting ways to monetize Blizzard's properties and goodwill, just as I'm sure Blizzard's leaders are getting a little freaky as they're progressively subsumed into the Vivendi-borg.

Look for the Blizzard creative team to make a really sweet, players-first game around about 2008 + [the later of the day their Vivendi options fully vest or their non-competes expire] + development time for the new game.

Torchlight 2 is not a spiritual successor to Diablo 2.
It is a successor to Torchlight which is a spiritual successor to Diablo 1.

I dig the auction house. I do. But the moronic prices I see there, whether people are morons or that they're using the auction house to store items... who knows*.

Where is the true successor to Diablo II? Just not feeling it. (some may say Torchlight II after it releases... WHEN it releases... obvious they used to work for blizzard :p)

Itemization. I love all the WoWification... but the seeming millions of variations of some items... just annoying. I just don't recall it being that... messy in D2. I played through a character before the nerf bat made it's rounds... I beat the crap out of mobs and candy exploded all over the place.

Multiple yellows, a few blues... it was amazing. They have it tuned correctly now, and I don't have a problem with it, I just don't understand how they have problems doing something they are the masters of... WoW has been around for years as well as Diablo... they have the calculations... why is it still a mystery? Math is math... it's not your significant other after "some bitch done talked about my shoes" and she's crying and you don't know what to do...

Always on DRM. Lag.. in my single player game. I've jumped into games with friends, it's pretty slick. But there's times the lag... or just not being able to login JUST to play single player?? On the plane.. in the hotel.. ZERO Diablo III.

Friends... this isn't a multiplayer persistent world that requires a constant connection.

* Insane auction house posts solution: you can eliminate assanine pricing by demanding a retainer amount of a percentage of the asking price so that idiots that have 3 million gold for a grey item... have to put down 10 or 20 percent of a refunded fee so they have to be serious about selling.

Gaming as a service, when it doesn't need to be, corrupts whatever it touches.

I had a long conversation with a social games producer once, and he laid out for me how their design meetings went. Essentially, they draw their core game loop on a white board. They look at all of the player's primary activities, and all their optional activities, and then they figure out how to monetize them. They do this either by creating new systems for monetization or, preferably, by linking activities back into an established system like purchasable EXP packs.

I only have an outsider's perspective of Blizzard, but everything I've read about their decisions lately makes me think they had a few design meetings like my producer friend's. The real money auction house is their monetization of one of Diablo's most popular side activities, and the various systems they've put in place either help herd players toward the auction house or help support its existence.

Which makes this move a bit of a head-scratcher. What does Blizzard gain by locking Diablo 3 down for three days? Is there something about newly-purchased copies that throws off the economy of the auction house? I simply don't understand it even from a very clinical business perspective. Or am I just misunderstanding how this all works?

Had a friend try to tell me it's a glitch, looked it up and found this forum post. Yeah, it's just another good reason to be happy about not giving them my insignificant (to them) amount of money.

Who would have thought at the start of this year that gamers would have been hammering their final nail in the coffin to bioware and begin placing some nails into blizzard? I remember so many people being excited and thrilled about what they were looking forward to this year. I wish I had that comic stashed away with Shepard getting heckled on stage while behind the curtain Gordon Freeman says "good luck out there" to a sighing Diablo. Guess we won't be getting Half Life 3 teasers for a loooooonger-er time.

Just bought a new MacBook Pro (non-retina 15"), so I don't have the cash to buy Diablo 3 right away. I may be the only one who's actually excited about the announcement of the starter edition, since it means I'll be able to get my fingers clicking sooner than expected.

AndrewA wrote:

My wife was badgering me to buy this game for us to play together, and I'd told her that we should just wait for Torchlight 2. This bit of news pretty much seals it..... no D3 for us.

Yep. Bring on T2. Blizzard can have my money when they pry it from my cold, dead hands. :p

Coldtouch wrote:

Who would have thought at the start of this year that gamers would have been hammering their final nail in the coffin to bioware and begin placing some nails into blizzard? I remember so many people being excited and thrilled about what they were looking forward to this year.

I seem to remember a decent amount of people predicting that the RMAH would bring issues with it, and that it couldn't exist in isolation from the rest of the game. As for Mass Effect3, I don't think anyone knew much about the ending before release, I was thinking that all they needed to do was just tie up the loose ends and not blow it all up.

The industry no longer cares about the core gamer. We have been reduced to the buzz kills who make the Metacritic score and the thieves that pirate games. We are now seen as liabilities, for the most part, not as the group that built the industry from the ground up for the last three decades and tried our best to bring our friends, family, and co-workers into the wonderful world of games.

"Thanks for the support guys, we got it from here," seems to be the general attitude.

Thankfully every development team out there is filled with core gamers. As long as the people making the games are part of the tribe, there will always be great games, just not as many as we would like.

Apparently this was an error on Blizzard's part. They meant to lock down just the AH access because of the credit card fraud issue, but they unintentionally locked down the level and progression cap just like starter edition. Ars's coverage links to the statement Blizzard released on (holds nose) Kotaku.

Ars Technica wrote:

UPDATE: In a statement to Kotaku, Blizzard clarified that the level cap and game progression restrictions detailed below are an "unintended consequence" of the 1.0.3 update for Digital Edition purchasers, and that the company is working to fix this problem. Other restrictions on auction houses, public chat channels and games, item dropping and Global Play features will remain in place for new Digital Edition purchases until credit card payments can be approved, in order to "deter credit card fraud, which in turn helps reduce gold spam and other harmful activities that can have a negative impact on the game experience for everyone."

I'm going to assume they're telling the truth on that, instead of backpedaling.

mrtomaytohead wrote:

Had a friend try to tell me it's a glitch, looked it up and found this forum post. Yeah, it's just another good reason to be happy about not giving them my insignificant (to them) amount of money.

"This topic has been deleted.
Click here to return to the forums."

O_o

Archangel wrote:

I'm going to assume they're telling the truth on that, instead of backpedaling.

Not me. You don't "accidentally" implement a flag that limits newly activated purchases to the demo. And I absolutely refuse to believe that Blizzard, a veteran development studio that spends half a decade polishing their games down to a frictionless sheen before release, has such a lackluster QA department that something like this made it out of testing.

Archangel wrote:

Apparently this was an error on Blizzard's part. They meant to lock down just the AH access because of the credit card fraud issue, but they unintentionally locked down the level and progression cap just like starter edition.

What amazes me is that the patch shipped with a bug like this... not to mention some of the other issues players are finding. And also why, upon discovering the problem, they didn't schedule a immediately schedule a hotpatch and have PR release a statement about the mistake.

Dax wrote:
mrtomaytohead wrote:

Had a friend try to tell me it's a glitch, looked it up and found this forum post. Yeah, it's just another good reason to be happy about not giving them my insignificant (to them) amount of money.

"This topic has been deleted.
Click here to return to the forums."

O_o

Well that's all kinds of fishy. The post was from someone with an official tag I can't quite remember as I just looked to make sure it was coming from a 'trustworthy poster'.

OzymandiasAV wrote:
Archangel wrote:

I'm going to assume they're telling the truth on that, instead of backpedaling.

Not me. You don't "accidentally" implement a flag that limits newly activated purchases to the demo. And I absolutely refuse to believe that Blizzard, a veteran development studio that spends half a decade polishing their games down to a frictionless sheen before release, has such a lackluster QA department that something like this made it out of testing.

This. It's an absolute fabrication if they say that it was never meant to be.