Bitching About Diablo 3 Is Allowed; Advertising in Games Can Go to Hell
(This is another edition of RANT Bites, a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
We have two substantial Rant Bites for you this week. One involves the elephant in the room, Diablo III. The other involves the money colored elephant in your game, adverts for downloadable content. Choose your subject wisely, warrior, for you may only pick one. Actually, you can have both. Because I am in love with you. Romantic love.
Diablo III is not served:
I didn’t want to commit a full article to this because I’m working on a video concerning the subject, but I did feel the need to discuss the subject that’s flowing from everybody’s fingertips at the moment — Diablo III’s controversial launch, and the slew of server issues that have resulted from the game’s always-on DRM. Yes, I know some call it an anti-cheating measure. I call it DRM. Because that is, ultimately, what it is. It’s a feature implemented at the cost to the player in order to “protect” the product. It is, as far as I am concerned, DRM. It works the same way as Ubisoft’s always-on PC shenanigans, and therefore should be treated with the same amount of contempt.
Anyway, the definition of the system isn’t the point, the point is the fact that, last night, I was killed twice in a row due to single-player lag that kept shifting my frail Demon Hunter into mobs of angry Fallen. The point is that Error 37, alongside a number of other errors with even bigger numbers, have been plaguing users since launch. The point is that people have spent upwards of $60 on a game, possibly taken time out of their personal schedules to play it, and have been unable to play due to the kind of server strain reserved for MMOs. Ultimately, the point is that, if you’re angry or upset about that, you have every right to be.
Don’t listen to the people calling you an entitled whiner. Don’t listen to the pundits suggesting you shouldn’t complain, or that you’re an “idiot” for buying a game you wanted instead of a game they wanted you t0 buy. Last night, a chap told me he felt bad for being annoyed about the Diablo III downtime. He said it made him feel spoiled and entitled. Now, the “entitlement” argument is up for debate when you’re talking about preferences, purism, and differences of opinion. As far as I am concerned, that word has no place in a discussion about the inability to use a product that has just been purchased for a not-insignificant amount of money. It’s embarrassing enough for a real MMO, where the downtime is at least expected as part of the experience, but it’s simply not acceptable in this circumstance. Some of you will counter by saying that Diablo III is not a single-player game. Even if that’s true (it’s debatable considering co-op is still optional), here’s the thing — it isn’t an MMO either.
At the end of the day, Blizzard’s reasons and justifications don’t matter. They don’t. You can give me any number of reasons why Diablo III has to be consistently connected to the Internet. You cannot, however, give me a single solitary reason why it’s okay for paying customers to be unable to play a game they just bought. The bottom line is that loyal consumers are being given a problem that shouldn’t be theirs to deal with, and that’s all I give a shit about. That’s also why, if you are pissed off at Blizzard, you ought not feel bad about it. It’s not “entitled” to want to play Diablo III if you paid for it. You actually are entitled to that.
In-Game Ads For In-Game Purchases
I am not 100% against in-game advertising. Provided the savings on costs are passed onto the player, I am a fan of them in theory. Of course, publishers would rather earn the cash with ads and still charge users $60 for the privilege, but there’s still potential in advertising that I wouldn’t mind seeing explored. When it’s classy and unintrusive, such as Solid Snake rocking an iPod or a real-life product appearing on a background billboard, I don’t really have much of a problem with brand names sneaking into the experience. In fact, seeing something like that has the benefit of making a world look even more real and believable, which isn’t a bad thing at all. The real problem arises when games start advertising themselves within the game. It’s happening more and more, and it’s pissing me off.
I’m currently playing a game for review, one that shall remain nameless for now (there are dragons in it), that frequently puts adverts for its downloadable content in pop-up messages, mixed in among the tutorials and whatnot. Ostensibly, while you’re playing the game, you’re getting spammed by ads. Aside from raking up the ever-present debate about when it’s best to start working on downloadable content, the offshoot of this self-promotion is that it leaves a real sour taste in the mouth of anybody trying to enjoy the game. As we discussed in an article last week, it’s yet another situation in which a game designed to be absorbing and immersive yanks the player out of the experience and exposes them to the fact that they’re just playing a product. It totally undermines any attempt at crafting an atmospheric experience, like a puppet show in which not only are the strings visible, but the puppeteer has tattooed “GIVE ME FIVE DOLLARS” on his cock and he’s waving it about in the background.
Whether it’s a Dragon Age character asking for money before you can save his village, or big “DLC only” mission markers popping up on your open world, the way in which downloadable content is getting integrated into game worlds is pathetically tacky, and cripples the experience. If I’ve just bought a game, the last thing I want is to feel that what I’ve actually paid for is a delivery method for more stuff that I need to buy. The idea that $60 games are turning into miniature storefronts is incredibly insulting, and it’s a practice that the rising quality of free-to-play games will expose as little more than a scam. That shit has to stop, because I am sick of games that need to be cheaper already, trying to make themselves even more expensive, and sacrificing the initial game experience to do so.
Consumers will only swallow that shit until something better comes along, and I am confident that many “something better”s are only continuing to gain influence and popularity.