The limitations of online-only DRM are, perhaps, in truth only hypothetical. It’s possible to imagine a DRM scheme that must be online all the time, yet handles outages gracefully and never limits your play. Unfortunately, that DRM is not the kind Blizzard is installing on Diablo 3, one of the most anticipated titles of the year. At a briefing given to a few gaming sites, it was revealed that the game will indeed require an active internet connection at all times in order to play at all.
Remember the last time a top-shelf game did this? Remember the outages, the errors, the frustration, the lack of communication? Blizzard says it has to be this way because otherwise they can’t be sure you haven’t cheated to create your character. What a brilliant solution to the problem!
Here’s the money quote, as reported by 1up:
What a great thing to say! What an incredibly lucid statement! He’s completely correct. There are other games to play. Other games that, unlike Diablo 3, I’ll be buying.
The very first thing I thought of was simply to make the system opt-in: you create a character on Battle.net and log in to play single player, collect loot, and are tracked the whole time. That’s the way persistent online games work. Has been for quite a long time now. But what if you just want to play offline? Why, you create an offline character, who can never be played online. The online character is stored entirely on Blizzard’s servers (like, say, my guy in Bad Company 2), and the offline character is stored locally (oh, like my other guy in Bad Company 2).
Blizzard isn’t stupid — or perhaps I should say, they aren’t stupid in a way that would prevent them from thinking of this solution. But they are stupid if they think this is going to work. Battle.net might be one of the biggest online gaming presences in the world, but if Blizzard thinks this little obstacle won’t be cracked and Battle.net spoofed, they’ve got another think coming. And if they think breaking paying users’ games will decrease piracy, they’re just plain nuts. A little more banter can be found at PC Gamer’s writeup of the briefing.
And a note to Blizzard PR: suggesting people play other games than your own because yours will be deliberately inaccessible isn’t really selling it.