Destructoid reports that the PlayStation 4 version of Diablo 3 will not have the Real Money Auction House, or DRM in general. It will be fully playable while offline. The Real Money Auction House was at least at one point used as the justification of the always online requirement, a requirement enforced by remotely executed game logic, turning your experience into one of playing OnLive but with your machine having to do the rendering. With that gone, PlayStation 4 users can experience the game as PC users had hoped to, in a responsive form.
Let us not forget that the Real Money Auction House does not bring necessarily new functionality to users, item trading for cash has been around much longer than Diablo 3, rather this loops Blizzard in on the activity. It is a feature that is primarily for an additional monetization loop, one that does not add any content to the game. Remember that PC users were restrained in both device and experience for the sake of this monetization scheme, and PS4 users will be receiving the game without such restraints. PC sales were insufficient for Blizzard, but PS4 sales are.
Above we have the 2008 reveal video for Diablo 3. It looks fantastic, and still is a joy to watch, even with the narration. That narration however contains two clues, the first at 5:21, and the second at 11:08. In the first, the speaker states “the most important part of the game: the loot.” which is untrue of Diablo as whole. Diablo is the adventure of vanquishing evil while being very much mortal, the loot isn’t the end goal, it is the means. You enjoy the higher quality items because of what they do for your character in that experience. Better loot facilitates improved substantive input which increases the sense of progress and thus provides the escape the player was looking for.
On the second point it is stated “Diablo is first and foremost a cooperative game.” It is? It was? Diablo was the story of a lone adventurer, with all of the dialog and cutscenes treating it as such, and which the Diablo 2 story acknowledges as being the act of a single individual. Diablo 2 makes no mention of parties, nor do the NPCs ever address you as a group, they address the singular, the individual. The Diablo games could be played cooperatively, but they were never first or foremost in this. If they mean Diablo 3, then why is the implementation so simplistic? Additional players increases monster health, and previously monster damage. That isn’t supporting co-op, that is implementing a bare minimum. Killing Floor bothered to at least distribute the scaling across population, type, and health (as tracked separately for the body and head). Why not add modifiers such as moderate resistances to encourage players to use different attack types from one another and work together? Increase the population? In addition, Diablo 3‘s max player count tops in at four, one below the number of available classes, which means you can never have a full complement of what the game has to offer. There is little to suggest that Diablo 3 takes the notion of co-op particularly seriously, but here we see a claim from four years prior to the release that is either a gross misunderstanding of the franchise’s lore, history, and implementations along with a lackluster implementation, or just simply a lackluster implementation on its own.
Some may say that Diablo was known for its multiplayer, which could theoretically be true, but multiplayer participants are typically the most vocal of populations in a game’s community, and if you engage in a community outside of buying and playing the game, you will probably also engage in the multiplayer. We hear the most from the multiplayer participants because they are predisposed to taking part regarding the game online already. To take that further, we have this direct quote from Wyatt Cheng, one of Diablo 3’s System Designers, as the credits claim him:
While many people are playing co-op, it’s still a minority of games. Ideally we would like players who want to play solo to be able to solo, and players who want to play co-op to play co-op. At the moment though playing solo is the clear choice, even for those who would prefer co-op with some of their friends.
This was three months after launch, well into a good statistical sample of player behavior. We don’t hear from the solo players for the same reasons that they are solo players. For all the claims of emphasis around cooperative play and its significance, the mechanics as they stand and the numbers that Blizzard has on hand say otherwise.
The loot being so important was a key support for the Real Money Auction House, Blizzard’s monetization scheme which brought nothing to the player that they didn’t already have at purchasing the game. Their commitment to cooperative gameplay cannot be taken seriously with their mechanics, which fall short of previous Diablo titles in all respects. These two items were the justification of Always Online, a requirement that resulted in less responsive gameplay than previous entries as it introduced the potential of lag and packet loss to core activities, and also the infamous Error 37 event. These things came at a terrible cost for PC gamers, and it is something PS4 users will not have to experience. How should we feel about Blizzard when they so ardently undermine one platform’s experience, when they are capable of not doing so on another?
I for one, feel inclined to take my business elsewhere.