It’s a Blizzard theme day, apparently. Earlier we showed you the seven-minute preview video of Diablo III gameplay. Epic, amirite? But wait, there’s more. Because, hey, we’ve only been waiting a decade.
Diablo III, the long-awaited, many-fabled unicorn of point-and-click RPGs, that same super awesome game you witnessed earlier here on Geeks Are Sexy, can only be played online. Even in single player, even if you’re not buying or selling in-game items for cold hard cash. Even if your grandma, who was 15 when Diablo II came out, really wants to play but doesn’t have wifi. Not even then, says Blizzard.
Senior producer Alex Mayberry says there were many reasons for the decision, including the prevention of cheating. Since players can buy and sell items for real money, any way of cheating to make or acquire better ones would be very lucrative – and unfair.
“It’s the trend that we’ve been moving towards,” Alex says. “Obviously StarCraft 2 did it, WoW authenticates also. It’s kind of the way things are, these days. The world of gaming is not the same as it was when Diablo 2 came out.”
If you’re thinking, “But, hey, why not make an offline mode, or offer online multiplayer as an option rather than the requisite,” the answer is simple, according to executive producer, Rob Pardo: If you start playing a character offline and — completely hypothetical here and not at all based on my favorite Diablo II character, Mongol — maybe you’re a Level-71 Barbarian with max Insane Courage and some wicked sweet resistances, and you decide after all this time that you’d really like to show him off to the other guys (and ladies) on Battle.net. Well, you’d be sad because you can’t, and so to keep you from being sad, Blizzard just isn’t going to let you play off-Battle.net at all. Problem solved!
“[Y]ou’d have to start a character from scratch, because there’d be no way for us to guarantee no cheats were involved, if we let you play on the client and then take that character online.”
“Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t play a game by yourself – of course you can. You can go into and start any game that you want, you’ll just be connected to the Battle.net servers, and we can authenticate your character.”
Clearly this is less about maintaining offline and online character continuity and entirely about trying to prevent piracy. Which is fine, I can respect that since pretty much any computer-owner can get StarCraft 2 for free. But the easier (and certainly more popular) solution is simply to disallow characters built and played in the traditional game client to be imported to Battle.net. That solves the problem of bringing in any cheat-enhanced characters and still offers the average geek the convenience of playing a game–for which they paid–anyplace they want.