Blizzard’s New Not-So-Secret MMO: Diablo 3

I know it wasn’t too long ago that I published a post all about how Diablo 3 was blurring the lines between a single player game and an MMO and I concluded it with this statement: “When all is said and done, the answer to whether Diablo 3 classifies as an MMO is really ‘No’.” I take it back. When I said that, I was under the assumption that the primary arguments were an auction house and “Always-On” play. Yes, an auction house needs a lot of other players to make it work, and Always-On play does make multi-player gaming a lot easier, but really, Diablo 3 has let loose the final trappings binding it to the single player genre.

I apologize for being mistaken before, but Diablo 3 IS an MMO.

Pfft… anyone can memorize that…

May I submit to the court a few pieces of evidence that clearly show that Blizzard has finally taken the final steps and have crossed the MMO boundary that they have been stumbling toward the entire time. First and foremost, a very strict No Cheating policy.

Now, in a game that not only has an auction house, but one where you can trade real money for in-game items, preventing players from cheating is a necessity. If one could create cash and items from thin air, then the concept of trading items in the form of an auction just makes the entire process futile. So, yes, I agree, cheating should not be allowed. This keeps everything fair between all of the players partaking in the auction house.

I want to go down on record as saying I’m not a fan of cheating in games, either. Game guides, boss videos, the whole nine yards, I consider it all cheating. But really, a game isn’t just about being fair to others. Since when do we all play a game for the same exact reasons? One time, while I was playing World of Warcraft, I wanted to pick up all the backstory from Warcraft 3, but I wanted to do so very quickly. So, every level I played, I cheated and gave myself full invulnerability. This wasn’t because I couldn’t get past the levels on my own, but I wanted to see the full story, and the sometimes hour+ levels were just getting in the way. So by cheating I was able to see every level beginning, every piece of dialogue in between, every level ending, and every cutscene. Having cheat codes allowed me to see the game’s full story in a quick, condensed manner. Did I get a huge sense of accomplishment? Of course not, but that wasn’t the purpose I was going for. Cheating in single player games allows players to explore the game on multiple levels and fairness never even comes up in the equation.

However, you cheat in Diablo 3, which does not claim to be an MMO and what happens? You get BANNED. Banned! Done! Thanks for the $60! Now maybe you will learn your lesson! Next time maybe you’ll think before your single-player game is taken away from you!  This truly is the end of an era, isn’t it? Will we be sitting on our front porch years from now, playing our brain-embedded Google contact lens gaming system, telling our grandchildren about how we had “Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Select Start” practically programmed into our muscle memory? You know what those whipper-snappers will say, too, right? “Jeez, gramps, lame! I bet you couldn’t even feed your family and put down “World of Warcraft 5 Player” as your profession on your taxes!” (To which, you know you must reply “Get off my lawn!” to keep your retirement home street cred)

For all the ladies out there… who wouldn’t want the romantic heart of Griswold? Only $4.50!

My second piece of evidence is one that has been brought up before, but it needs a solid repeating: A Real Money Auction House! This… well, it honestly scares me a little about society. Not for the sellers, mind you, the sellers I can see this as almost being a genuine source of income (Taxes and all!), and so one could, if one knows the system first, end up making back the couple of Jackson’s needed to get the game in the first place, after taxes of course.  (Why do I keep bringing up taxes? Well, as my good friend has so adroitly pointed out, not only are you held liable for reporting ALL income gained from using the auction house, but if you get any money back through PayPal, they are obligated to report that income to the IRS. If you don’t claim it, but Paypal says you do… well lets just say that you might want to get your paperwork in order for a forthcoming audit.)

Anyway, for players who ARE making some extra scratch from Diablo 3 I say “Awesome!” A good friend of mine even recently said that in a few weeks, he’s been able to net himself about $20 off of items sold in the auction house. You know, he was able to do what the alchemists of old tried to do and failed miserably… create gold from thin air. He was able to, using Diablo 3’s auction house as a medium, turn a digital axe he found by the pure luck from a random number generator, and was able to sell it to someone else for more money than you could sell an old lamp at a yard sale. Wow. If this doesn’t make your head spin and show you exactly how much Diablo 3 is changing the face of gaming, then you’re really not paying enough attention.

Now let me go ahead and fire up Final Fantasy X, get a nice drop from this giant bird-like creature and… wait… I can’t trade it for some Taco Bell? Oh that’s right! There are no other players to trade anything to! To have that kind of market, you would need a lot of players… a Massive amount of them, one would say, and the storefront better be an Online entity. A Real Money Auction House can really only exist in an MMO setting. Too few players or too little exposure to it, and the destruction of foreign policy and the world’s litigation won’t be worth the cost of having it in the first place.

Seriously, if you haven’t read this… you need to.

Finally, for my last piece of evidence, a quote from Blizzard’s own mouth, that Diablo 3 lacks a “long-term sustainable end-game”.  Sustainable end-game? This right here, aside from the huge other two pieces of information, just seal the deal. Now, having a replayability factor is very good for a game. It allows you to play the game through a second or third time and play with a different ending, or a different playstyle. But to just come out and say you’ve attempted to make your game with a “sustainable end-game”? Sorry, guys, just come out now and admit that Diablo 3 is an MMO. Admit it! If what lay for me at the end of every game was a treadmill-style gear grind just to be able to play more and more dungeons, I think I’d give up gaming forever. If you watch a movie… it has an ending. If you read a book, it has a final page. If I play a board game, there is a winner and a loser. If I play a single-player game, I want to be rewarded with an epic ending cutscene! (I guess by not having a solid ending, they were hoping to avoid the Mass Effect 3 fiasco). But it comes down to this… no ending, no single-player.

In conclusion, in the case of the Players vs Diablo 3, I hope you find that with the evidence strongly presented here to you today to find Diablo 3, with it’s strict No Cheating policy, it’s Real Money Auction House, and an admittance of the attempt for a “sustainable end-game”, that Diablo 3 should stop trying to pull the wool over it’s clients eyes and just admit that alongside World of Warcraft, Diablo 3 is Blizzard’s second MMO.

I rest my case.

\\ Ocho

P.S. – It sounds like if Diablo 3 can’t find itself a very good sustainable endgame solution, that it might end up…… getting burned.



Diablo 3 Blurs the Line Between Single Player Game and MMO Even More

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.

I’m 37, I’m not old!

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.

\\ Ocho