More Diablo 3 Ranting; DRM vs. “Freedom.”

Anyone who’s spent more than fifteen minutes in the same room with me over the course of the past eighteen months has probably heard me mention something about Diablo 3. This is why I’ve titled this post “More Diablo 3 Ranting” despite the fact that it’s my first post on this blog.

Any title with the absolute face-crushing magnitude of Diablo 3 is going to generate controversy. Refreshingly, the controversy surrounding Diablo 3 is actually legitimate, well above the level of a cadre of odius shut-ins who’ve banded together to protest the color of the main character’s hair. The two primary issues surrounding the release of D3 right now are it’s “always-online” DRM scheme and Blizzard’s total moratorium on mods.

To go ahead and make this point, I think an outright ban on mods is  a slap in the face to anyone who’s ever loved Blizzard’s games. There’s got to be a better way, so pay someone to sit down and come up with it. God knows you’ve got the money. This viewpoint has also been discussed to death, so I’m just going to leave that there.

As for the always-online DRM…

You know, I’ve thought about it, and I think I’m okay with it. Okay, okay, settle down. Just stay with me and I’ll articulate this. “DRM” is very understandably one of the most hated acronyms in the gaming community. Conventional DRM does nothing for the end-user. It’s an inconvenience, a speed-bump, something that soils the game experience even for people who’ve actually paid for the games that it’s attached to. The only thing DRM has historically done is benefit a company’s bottom line at the expense of the consumer while giving back nothing. Anyone would hate that, and it’s not hard to see why. It’s even more of an insult that the software usually comes wrapped up in a name that was obviously dreamt up by some permagrinned marketing-schmuck. “Genuine Advantage” immediately comes to mind.

However, if Diablo 3’s DRM works as advertised (something which admittedly remains to be seen) it’ll give the Blizzard mothership much closer control over the moment-to-moment functioning of the game, which sounds Orwellian in knee-jerk terms, but let’s be realistic about this. You’re about to get into a car with someone who complains that he can’t drive past a school at 80 miles an hour. Still wanna get in the car with him? There are stupid laws out there, I’m with you on that one, but most of them are pretty sensible.

Want a sample of a virtual space totally unencumbered by laws? Go play a game of Diablo 2 online. I don’t mean a game with someone you know personally, I mean just go out and play a pick-up game of Diablo 2. If you manage to last ten minutes without hacks, I’ll buy you  a new house.

If it works like it’s supposed to, Blizzard’s new concept might represent the new model of DRM. I’ll let someone micro-manage my game as long as I get some tangible benefit in return. That’s the key difference. If giving up a little control over this product means that I can go into a public area any time I like and play a fair game, I’ll give it a chance.