Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why 'always on' is an 'instant off'

The news has come out that Blizzard's upcoming Diablo 3 will require a persistent internet connection, even for single-player play. Their excuse is that this is necessary because of all the integrated online features in the game (including an auction house, where players can buy and sell in-game items for real dollars). We've seen before where companies use this requirement as an anti-piracy measure as well. In any case, the result is the same: I will not be buying it.

I have seen comments how this is no longer a big deal. Just about everyone has a constant internet connection anymore, and if anyone knows how to run servers so they're always available, it has to be Blizzard.

But that's not good enough.

Just recently, I had issues where my internet connection was going up and down quite a bit. Granted, this isn't normal behavior, and a service call from Comcast fixed this, but it does present the possibility that I could get kicked off of my game because of a bad internet connection. Indeed, as we were recording the Geezer Gamers Community Cast this weekend, my internet connection hiccuped and our Skype session was disconnected, twice. Even a fully-functional broadband connection isn't 100% stable.

And that's the wired connection. Chances are, I'd have to play this game on my laptop, as I doubt my 10-year-old desktop has the horsepower for it. And my laptop connects via wireless. That only compounds the instability issues.

Of course, there are other problems where bandwidth caps are concerned. True, game data uses very compact data packets by design, but requiring constant communication with a server on the internet will drive up data usage. Plus, if you go over your cap with Comcast, you'll find your internet service completely cut off, which shoots a hole in the "everyone has a constant internet connection" argument.

Even if you have absolutely no internet issues at home, requiring a constant connection means, simply, you can't take it with you. I used to bring my laptop with Diablo 2 on vacations to the in-laws, where persistent internet is less of a sure thing than in my own home. The need for a constant internet connection means I could not do the same with Diablo 3, thus this requirement reduces the game's value for me.

There are two possibilities here. Either I am just an "edge case", one of the truly dwindling number of people who doesn't have a 100% stable internet connection everywhere they game, and no one cares about me, so my lost sale is meaningless; or I'm right, and the people denying that it is a problem are either the "good edge cases" or are in for a rude awakening when they find their legally purchased game is constantly forbidding their play.

So, for now, it's a no-sale, and that way it will remain until after hackers figure out a way to remove the "always connected" requirement and restore value to the game.

1 comment:

Yakko Warner said...

Or, if you prefer, here it is in verse.