Launch days for games are always a tricky affair. It’s the first time that enthusiastic, passionate and occasionally fanatical fans get their hands on the game and get to judge it for themselves. It’s the first time that people who like watching out for errors or glitches get to put a game to the test. And of course, it’s the first time that servers get put through their paces, and probably the only time that there will be such a strain on game servers.Battlefield 3
, FIFA 12
, Star Wars: The Old Republic
and, most recently, Diablo III
have all had their infamous issues with servers at launch. If any of these were a surprise smash hit, it would be understandable that the servers would struggle. However, each of these titles has successful prequels, which they would be expected to surpass. It appears as though lessons are not learned from one release to the next. Worse still is the evidence that companies are not learning or taking cues from rivals. While companies are unlikely to be praised for keeping servers online at launch, it is clear at this stage that they will be lambasted for servers overloading or going offline. Instead, each release brings apologies and statements that they “thought they were prepared”, but need to do more.
When reading through the above list, it is clear that one of these things just doesn’t belong. First of all, it is a title that has nothing to do with EA
, but the key difference is that Diablo III is essentially a single-player game. Unfortunately for honest players it requires a constant internet connection to play. It is understandable that Blizzard
wanted to protect against piracy, but the server debacle since launch shows that it got it wrong. Diablo III’s release was eagerly anticipated by hundreds of thousands around with world, with PC pre-order records set on sites such as Amazon
. When the time came to unlock the game, Blizzard’s servers became overloaded and players found themselves unable to play the game they had waited over ten years for.
Piracy is inevitable. Regardless of what steps are taken, someone will manage to crack a game, and like many other titles this will happen with Diablo III. The ironic thing, and we have seen it before in other entertainment industries, is that honest customers risk being punished for their honesty. Those who purchase movies find themselves staring at piracy warnings and now gamers find themselves staring at errors, while those who found a copy be nefarious means are able to enjoy the product.
This is not the first time that something like this has occurred, and it’s not even the first time in a long time that this flaw has been exposed. Earlier this year, Ubisoft
was forced to take servers offline as part of a transition of data. This meant that online functionality was removed from certain titles naturally. However, other titles such as Assassin’s Creed
(Mac), Splinter Cell: Conviction
(Mac), Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X. 2
(PC) and The Settlers 7: Path to a Kingdom
(PC) were completely unplayable as a result of Ubisoft’s anti-piracy measures. These titles required an internet connection, but to servers which were offline at the time. While no-one was able to play online, those with pirated copies were able to play and progress through their single-player campaigns in the listed titles.
It is time to reconsider anti-piracy measures that depend on internet connections. There are flaws with this arrangement on both the developer’s and the players’ sides. As we have seen servers can become overloaded, be taken offline maliciously or simply require a transition or upgrade. On the other side, players may not have internet connection. While this is unthinkable to many, there are temporary situations such as an unreliable connection, problems with the line in the area or possibly if the player moves house and a connection is not in place. All of these factors result in the same situation: players unable to play a game that they have purchased and own.
As for Diablo III players, they still face issues with servers and are likely to for some time. It is unlikely that there is a quick fix and the real sticking point is that Blizzard will have to take servers offline temporarily on occasion for upgrades and fixes. In addition, Blizzard has said that it is not launching the online auction house, which means that players have lost out on one major and central element of the game. Well, at least one player managed to make hay while the sun shone and completed a run-through on normal in twelve hours.