We met up with Diablo 3 game director, Jay Wilson at Gamescom to discuss Diablo 3′s always-online requirement and some of the issues that PC gamers can face when playing online-only games.
Some players might not have access to a stable internet connection. What should a player do if, say, the internet wiring in his house is flawed?
“Erm… upgrade the wiring in his house?” suggests Wilson. “I mean, in this day and age the notion that there's this a whole vast majority of players out there that don't have online connectivity – this doesn't really fly any more.
“I mean, at our hotel, there's nine wi-fi networks that I can access. Just from the hotel! And they're all public – they're all paid – but they're pretty cheap, and they're all publicly available. So the notion that there's just tons and tons of people out there that aren't connected – isn't… I don't think is really accurate.”
Wilson also told us some of the philosophical and practical reasons behind the decision not to include any sort of offline mode.
“There's two basic problems with us doing that,” said Wilson. “One is players default immediately to that. So, they basically unintentionally opt out of all the cooperative experience, all the trading experience, and the core of Diablo is a circle-trading game. So for us we've always viewed it as an online game – the game's not really being played right if it's not online, so when we have that specific question of why are we allowing it? Because that's the best experience, why would you want it any other way?”
Wilson admits that the decision will alienate some players, but also suggests that it's impossible to please everyone.
“You've got to make choices about what you want to do, and sometimes those choices are going to make some people unhappy, but if you feel like it's what is the right thing to do to making a better product then you have to do it,” he says.
“An online experience is what we want to provide for this game. Every choice you make is going to omit some part of the audience. Some people don't like fantasy games, so should we have not made Diablo a fantasy game, because some people don't like that? Some people don't like barbarians. Should we not have put a barbarian in the game because some people don't like it?”(opens in new tab)
From a practical angle, piracy was also a concern for Blizzard when they made the decision to make Diablo 3 require an internet connection.
"If we allow an Offline mode, it changes the structure of the data that we have to put on the user's system. Essentially we would have to put our server architecture onto the client so that it can run its own personal server. Doing that essentially is one of the reasons why Diablo 2 was a much easier game to hack than obviously any other game you'd mention and so it's what led to extensive cheating and item dupes and things like that."
"I would never guarantee that we're never going to have those things in Diablo 3, but it's one of the things that our community has been the most vocal about, wanting this fixed, and if we essentially are putting the server out there...we're not really going to be able to better than Diablo 2."