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August 11, 2011

Perspective on Diablo 3 “Always Online” Saga

Posted by on Aug 11, 2011

There’s been a ton of brouhaha over the requirement that Diablo 3 will require an internet connection to play. Max Schaefer from Runic Games (the makers of Torchlight) had a great interview with Inc Gamers where he discusses his feelings about the Diablo 3 requirements and how they differ from Torchlight 2.

I think Schaefer really hit the nail on the head here – Torchlight 2 and Diablo 3 are trying to do two completely different things. Torchlight 2 is a multiplayer dungeon crawler; Diablo 3 is a (quasi) stateless, free, MMO. It’s worth considering for a second why that makes a difference.

With an MMO, the goal is obviously first and foremost to make the game an experience, but a close second is the requirement to ensure that all players are on the same playing field. The game isn’t any fun to play if a couple of people are operating outside the normal bounds of competition – if you ever played on the Diablo 2 Open realms, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Playing an MMO is experiencing the world and story created by the game creators with a group of people. The key there is experiencing – MMO players aren’t creating their own story, they’re playing inside of the one created for them. In order to do that in an enjoyable way, everyone needs to experience the story the same way… the creator needs control.

A dungeon crawler like Torchlight 2 is a different animal – at heart it’s a platform on which gamers create their experience. I don’t know about you, but one of the reasons I wasn’t blown away by Torchlight  was I didn’t think the story was that engrossing – I didn’t really feel that I was experiencing a world. With Torchlight (1 or 2), you create your world as you want it to be, alone or with friends, imprinting the world the way you want it to be. For a platform like that, mods, cheats, are all fair game. You play the game the way you want to play the game. That means that when Torchlight 2 comes out, it may well be rife with cheaters, hacks, and all the rest. It’s a conscious choice.

I’m not trying to argue that these games are completely different – they most certainly are not. Both of them have the same core elements (which is why this whole debate started in the first place). What they do have is two different philosophies about what they are – its hard to bash Diablo 3 for being online only when what they’re building is an online MMO experience. Torchlight 2 will likely not have some of the experiences D3 has, and that’s a conscious choice.

For me, I’m getting Diablo 3, and I’ll play it online; when I don’t have internet access, I’ll hack and slash my way through Torchlight 2 and it’s world of mods. I look at it as the best of both worlds – rather than complaining about one or the other, take advantage and get both.