It wasn’t long ago that I wrote a post on how single player games are being treated more and more like MMO’s by the gaming community. Well, Blizzard has, with its latest offering, blurred the line between the single player game and MMO even further. Is Diablo 3 a single player game? Yes… and no. Is it an MMO? No… and yes. Here are some reasons showing the similarities of what can make Diablo 3 a new breed of MMO.
1) An auction house. First and foremost, Diablo 3 has an auction house. An auction house is a feature found in almost every MMO on the market. A place to barter, buy, and sell from other players, an auction house is essentially its own form of PvP. Buy low, sell high, corner the market on iron ore, etc. Diablo 3’s auction house takes a new twist by selling items with not just in-game funds, but also real money. Find an item you think would sell well for real money? Post it on the region’s auction house. If it sells, Blizzard takes a $1 off the top. If you then want to transfer the money to a PayPal account, Blizzard takes another 15% cut off of that. It’s a nice little racket Blizz has going there. Considering the drops in the game are randomized, if you play enough and find enough high quality items, you could potentially make Diablo 3 a side job! I wonder, though, how many people are going to claim any money made through the auction house on their taxes…
2) Public Play. When it comes to playing the game, you have a few options. You can play it solo, you can play it with friends, or you can set a “public” option and play with complete strangers. Playing with complete strangers is the cornerstone of the MMO. Sure, you eventually form guilds and then play with just your guild, but you usually find those guilds at first by playing with the random public, and Diablo 3 lets you do that.
3) Always On. You have to have an “Always On” internet connection attached to Blizzard’s servers to play Diablo 3. Blizzard recently just had the equivalent of “launch day blues” where on the day the game launched, it had multiple problems and the game’s server crashed. Usually, this wouldn’t be a huge deal for a single-player game, but for Diablo 3, it is. Certain features that Diablo uses, like the auction house or public areas lend credence to needing to always be connected to the internet and in this day and age, most of us ARE always connected to the internet. However, the internet isn’t always perfect. Comcast (or whoever your service provider is) could have some downtime, your router or modem could fail and you’d lose internet for hours or even days. Blizzard has essentially said “Too bad” to this, and demands all systems be connected at all times, just like an MMO. The difference is that an MMO’s primary content and focus is online play. A single-player game? Well… not so much. My good friend Tushar over at Technical Fowl has quite a bit to say on this matter, and you should check it out.
4) Class Reveals. Diablo 3 has five distinct character classes: Barbarian, Demon Hunter, Monk, Witch Doctor, and Wizard. Nothing like choices to fit multiple styles of play. However, each individual class has had its own separate reveal. Now, this could be an indication of a new age of gaming, in which every little scrap of information about an upcoming game, MMO or not, is heavily consumed up to and well after a game’s release. However, this is a trait that has primarily settled in the MMO space. Guild Wars 2, for example, spent months dragging out their multiple character classes, with each reveal showing videos, ability breakdowns, and a ton of screenshots. I didn’t see Skyrim flaunting its Battlemage class or that the Rogue (my preferable Elder Scrolls class) was a class being brought back, but every class in Star Wars The Old Republic got its time in the spotlight, and this is something new for single-player games.
5) MMO News Sites Can’t Make Up Their Mind! Have you seen Massively, lately? They initially placed anything relating to Diablo 3 in a “Not So Massively” tag, relegating it just like any other games that are popular, have multiplayer components, but aren’t as massive as they could be. However, as it got closer and closer to launch, they almost dropped the tag entirely and started giving Diablo 3 just as much space as other MMOs, sometimes even giving it the “Free-To-Play” tag. Its absolutely true, Diablo 3 has no subscription whatsoever, but then again, neither does my copy of Ultima VII.
When all is said and done, the answer to whether Diablo 3 classifies as an MMO is really “No”. The ability to play completely solo with nobody else around, even if you still have to be connected to Blizzard’s servers, takes a big ‘M’ away. However, by adding features never really dreamed up in any other single-player game before, Blizzard is setting a new precedent, and like it or not, we may see new single player games released from here on out change as a result.
Lets just hope they keep the necessary online connection to a minimum.