Black Viper
Black Viper
Jul 072009
 

Introduction

For many years, I have been a fan of Blizzard’s Diablo Universe. I have spent a chunk of my life playing the Diablo franchise and I must say, I enjoyed every minute. Unfortunately, while wandering around on Slashdot.org today, I discovered some disturbing news…

The issue

Diablo and Diablo 2/LOD had LAN support built in. This enabled people to play on a local LAN for various reasons… LAN parties are a big one, but why I did it was for different reasons. After I discovered that XP (the unit of measurement that allowed a character to advance) was multiplied by how many players were in game, I started playing with 8 computers.

Unfortunately, according to this interview on Slashdot and several other sources around the internet, LAN play will not be available in Diablo 3. What?!?

Quote from the article:

Slashdot: Can you tell us about the multiplayer aspect of the game, in terms of Battle.net and the possibility of LAN play?

Blizzard: We’re not supporting LAN play. We’re basically focusing on making the best multiplayer experience we can, and that’s all through Battle.net. There are tons of features we’re going to be supporting both for cooperative play and competitive play. One of the things we can talk about with the new Battle.net is security. Fixing some of the problems we had with the earlier Diablos — item duping, cheating, and griefing — we’re going to be addressing all of those things with the new Battle.net, as well as some pretty awesome competitive play ideas we’re working with right now. So that’s going to be the biggest advance, especially for previous Diablo players, to see all these we’re planning. It going to be really awesome.

I am well aware that this “news” is old in an internet time scale, but I have been looking forwarded to LAN play in Diablo 3 ever since I watched Blizzcon 2008. It just so happens that I wandered through Slashdot and discovered this interview in mid 2009. When checking out the link, I was thinking it was a “pre” interview for Blizzcon 2009… not old news.

The Reasons

I am well aware of the reasons behind this decision.

  • A “secure” environment
  • “Reduced” cracks and cheats
  • Less coding due to not needing a “local server” to handle the details

Now, lets look at this a bit more.

A “Secure” Environment

With Diablo 2/LOD, a person could create “Closed” and “Open” characters.

Closed characters were only available on Battle.net and the character information was stored on their servers. It also should be noted that if you failed to login for a predetermined amount of time (if I recall correctly, it was 3 months) those “secure” characters were deleted. Meaning, all of my “USWest” characters are long gone (I actually checked sometime in 2003).

Open characters could play local LAN or coop play as well as on Battle.net on specific open character servers (usually riddled with the standard issue “trained” characters or duped items). I only created open characters with LOD and did not play on Battle.net once. I also still have all of my open character save files backed up many different times through various upgrades, etc. I even fired up Diablo 2 LOD several months ago with one of my high level characters to see how it played out on Windows Vista. I could not do that with any of my closed characters… Now, how “secure” are those closed servers? Not very in my humble opinion.

“Reduced” Cracks and Cheats

Anyone that has been gaming at least 2 hours will figure out this: No such thing as a secure gaming environment exists. If a company creates it, it WILL be cracked/cheat ridden within hours of release (and maybe even sooner). It is a sport for some, a challenge for others, and a magnet for some people that just cannot play as the developers intend, and thus a “market” for those people willing to spend the time cracking Blizzard games or any other companies games.

Let’s take World of Warcraft as a prime example. Blizzard has done well with World of Warcraft in the fact that they have had several million players and have had “little” issues with gaming cracks and cheats…

Wait… lets completely ignore bots, glider, macros, gold spammers, key loggers and other cracks and cheats that plague the world. Let me put this in other terms: no LAN play with Diablo 3 forces me to use Battle.net just to put up with the exact same crap as I have with World of Warcraft and other Blizzard games. Diablo “map” hacks, Warcraft 3 invisible players, etc. “Secure” environment? Really… does anyone actually believe this?

Even some games have “secure” servers that have anti-hack code on the client and server to attempt a “nice” playing environment. Does it really work? Has it ever? Then why bother?!? It is an illusion put in place by game companies to help “reassure” legit players that they are not playing cheaters while invading my privacy to “validate” my game files. Can this ever be guaranteed? I did not think so.

Less coding due to not needing a “local server” to handle the details

Really. This cannot be the problem. Many games have available a “local” server. FPS games, RTS games, etc. Cutting out all of the Battle.net “match making” and chat rooms cannot be all that difficult. I did find is pretty high on the lame scale that even with a local LAN game and a very capable computer that “warping” of characters and monsters and “lag” in Diablo 2/LOD. This was only magnified on Battle.net with, what I had at the time, a dial-up connection. Even with that rather large issue, LAN was the only way to play.

I am unaware if Diablo 3 will include a “single player” mode of gameplay or if Battle.net is going to be the only way to enjoy the game. If it is included, it cannot be that hard to code it to send the location information out to client systems and have those client systems display said information.

The Bummer Factor

Not having LAN play forces me to connect to servers that I have no control over. I cannot count the amount of times in 5 years that the servers were down with World of Warcraft when I wanted to play. Lets just take today for an example… their “weekly schedules maintenance” time is right now… 5AM to 11AM. For those that are ready to scream “ZOMG, get a life for six hours!” I want you to realize that I have no choice in playing. I cannot play during their down times, their network maintenance or random stability issues resulting in server crashes after every damn patch that could last weeks, and right after retail release… it was months of lag and disconnect problems. I want local LAN play that does not base its “ability to play” around someone else’s maintenance schedule. I want to play when ever I wish… excluding those power outage times. 🙂

As an example, what would be your reaction if your favorite TV show aired at the exact same time every week that your cable/satellite provider happened to be performing maintenance. Would it actually be your favorite show if you cannot watch it?

It also means that I need to connect through the internet to game servers hundreds of miles away to play Diablo 3 with my wife that is sitting at a distance of FIVE FEET! Even in this world of technological marvels we have today, that just seems extremely lame to me. Blizzard, I beg of you… give me the option of LAN play! I do not want to deal with server stability issues months after retail release. It seriously is a big downer and if you really think that “all will be figured out before then,” you are kidding yourself.

Hellgate: London

Do I even have to mention this?

Hellgate: London had a single player game. Single meaning just that… server less and no LAN support. Multiplayer support, through Flagship Studios servers, lasted just over a year and the company hit hard times and disappeared. Now… do I have multiplayer support for Hellgate: London? No.

Am I suggesting that Blizzard will have an epic fail with Diablo 3 if they do not include LAN play? Of course not. However, I would hope that they would look to the failures of past Blizzard employees and reconsider offering local multiplayer capabilities… just in case. 😛

Additional Epic Fails:

StarCraft 2: No LAN support

August 27, 2009 @ ~ 7:00 P.M.: Battle.net authentication goes down for World of Warcraft. Stuck at “connecting”. Good thing I decided to switch from my regular account to a Battle.net one before it was “mandatory”. Grats to me also for deciding that Thursday would be another “guild gaming” day. Today “would” have been the first one… IF I could actually PLAY!

Conclusion

Even though this unfortunate information will not stop this fan from purchasing Diablo 3, It does stop me from getting multiple copies… Okay, maybe I will dual box. 🙂 Now that it is 11:01 AM PST and the World of Warcraft servers are back up, I am going to get back to playing my characters.

Black Viper

July 7, 2009

Revision History

July 7, 2009: Initial release

July 14, 2009: Added Hellgate: London blurb.

August 27, 2009: Epic Fails