Blizzard's VP of Online Technologies, Robert Bridenbecker, has waded into the hot water of the PR pool to try and quell the negative response to the game developer's decision to make Diablo 3 online-only. He says the company is surprised over the furor, and dropped a surprise of his own: piracy apparently didn't influence the decision.
According to Bridenbecker, Blizzard's decision to go online all the time boils down to the company seeing it as added value, not something to stymie piracy. With offline characters, players could cheat and then bring that into the online space — something common with the first two games in the Diablo franchise. By keeping characters server-side, Blizzard can perform a little quality control.
Here's what Bridenbecker said:
"I'm actually kind of surprised in terms of there even being a question in today's age around online play and the requirement around that... Internally I don't think [DRM] ever actually came up when we talked about how we want connections to operate. Things that came up were always around the feature-set, the sanctity of the actual game systems like your characters. You're guaranteeing that there are no hacks, no dupes. All of these things were points of discussion, but the whole copy protection, piracy thing, that's not really entering into why we want to do it. I'm a huge purveyor of online sites and from my standpoint, I don't look at DRM solutions and go, 'Wow, those are awesome.' I look at those and say, 'Wow, those kind of suck.' But if there's a compelling reason for you to have that online connectivity that enhances the gameplay, that doesn't suck. That's awesome."
Still, if the online-only decision isn't a form of DRM, then why not just have an offline mode so plays can enjoy the game that way? Well, because you don't really want that, apparently: "Let's say we want to create an offline capacity," he told MTV. "You're introducing a separate user flow, a separate path that players are going to go down. And, at the end of the day, how many people are going to want to do that?"
Indeed, how many people are going to want to do that? Well, people on the road with laptops for one. People who don't have access to a steady net connection. People who want to mod the game — something server-side characters won't allow for, but Blizzard has already counted modding out for Diablo 3 anyway. (At least, general modding. We could see an editor through the company such as the one offered for StarCraft 2.) People only buying the game for the singleplayer.
Sure, all these folks are exceptions, but they all add up, and there are definitely more of 'em than what I can think up here in the span of a few seconds. Will they make up the majority? No. Could you offer them the ability to play and make it clear their characters are offline only? Well, sure.
How about you? Do you see the online-only play as added value? Or the lack of an offline mode as the lack of a feature?