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September 5, 2010


Plight of the Independent Game Company

Posted by on Sep 5, 2010

You may have recently noticed Tom’s call to arms about Diablo and Diablo II. I certainly did, and it unfortunately reminded me that I lost a full four Diablo II CD keys before Blizzard allowed storing them electronically on Battle.Net. After considering re-buying a copy of Diablo II, I went to Steam on a quest to find another game that would fulfill my desire for a fun game of a similar caliber (the brilliance of Steam as a game delivery platform is a story for another day).

In my games library, already purchased, I found Torchlight. What could be better? A modern replica of Diablo 2 that I could sink my teeth into, and perhaps immerse myself for at least a little while in the magic of its world. Yet within 30 minutes of hacking and slashing, I realized the fatal flaw – I really really wanted to play multiplayer. I wanted to call up Wade, Tom and Third, and lead a bloody charge into the depths. But I couldn’t.

And that leads me to the plight of the independent game company. Diablo II is actually ten years old at this point, and while Torchlight faithfully replicates the feel of the old game, it doesn’t grip me in the same way. In an epic world with a questing story line, I don’t want to go it alone. It feels wrong, and even a bit ridiculous that I, the lone mage, could single handedly fight my way through an army of skeletons, witches, trolls, and their ilk, without ever needing a little help.

Yet I realize the problem – matchmaking is complicated, hosting servers cost money, you spend at least as much time fighting cheaters as you do creating the world for people to play in. It’s very hard for an independent company without a ton of resources to commit to creating that sort of place, and especially one in which people play for free. Back when Blizzard created Diablo II they took a huge chance setting up all of the realms, but somehow it paid off. The gaming world seems to have changed, because I don’t see people taking those chances any more – I even see juggernaughts like EA (hardly surprising) shutting down the multiplayer servers for two year old games.

And so we have the situation that independent game companies, such as the guys who made Torchlight, can create a great game that only holds my interest for 30 minutes before I stop and go play Starcraft 2 online. If any of you out there know of an independent game that solves this problem, let me know in the comments and I’ll give it a shot.

Check out Torchlight at