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Diablo 3 Server Woes (PC)

*This “review” was written based on experience from launch day up until the 16th of May. The official review is here.

Diablo 3 is the newest release from one of the most successful and profitable games developers of all time, and the amount of money they have spent on the presentation is obvious from the very start. An amazing animated sequence sets the scene for the adventure to come. Even at this early stage though there seem to be issues with the game. The animated sequence seems to depict events that never occur once you begin playing.

You see while Diablo 3 may appear to be a fantasy epic about adventure and defeating waves of orcs and other enemies, it is in fact a complex meta-game based around trying to log in to a server that may or may not exist. Obviously devised as a kind of reworking of B.F Skinner’s work on conditioning of pigeons, this game asks how long a player will attempt to log in to a game that probably doesn’t even exist. Like the symbolic pigeons pecking away to try to release seeds, Diablo 3 has set the gamers of the world the task of repeatedly clicking at a log in page with increasingly obscure error messages befuddling them and tricking them into believing they are making progress.

In that respect Diablo 3 is an unreserved success, but only as an extended social experiment rather than a game. Tricking hundreds of thousands of people into taking the day off work to play was just one of the clever aspects of the game, which allowed Blizzard to transcend the real world and incorporate elements of ARG into the experience.

The problem is the gameplay mechanic aren’t satisfying. I at one point managed to defeat the log in screen just to be faced with three separate EULA’s. After clearing this level, I was dumped back to the first enemy I encountered, Error 37. This could have been a good opportunity for Blizzard to bring in a new set of enemies, possibly incorporating numbers like 9190, 5001 or even some fancy hexadecimal like 8E5FA. Despite these small criticisms Blizzard still succeed in making the error messages obscure and meaningless enough to keep the player both enraged but still engaged.

The cleverest aspect of the whole game though is how it is a commentary not just on how a rich and greedy company can exploit a fanbase that they see as akin to lemmings, but how a game that ostensibly looks like a battle against evil forces is inherently evil itself. While the commodification of a beloved single player game series is undoubtedly sinister, Blizzard’s real master-stroke was in providing no kind of offline mode. This omission was in spite of the near limitless resources it poured into figuring out a way to transform a fun action game into a complex system for funnelling money from you to them. In some ways it seems like the gap in their revenue from declining WOW subscribers may cause them to pursue such desperate methods of monetising a game in any way they can, but of course this is just a game in itself. No company could be that cyncial .

In the end though the final twist *spoilers* is that there is no associated game. You may hear from your friends that they have played Diablo 3, but have you actually seen it? Of course not! They are all in on it, and its simply the next level of Blizzard’s complex social experiment to see how much gamers are willing to take before returning the game or abandoning the company in the future. Maybe they will even patch a game in eventually so it will seem like it was there all along. Rest assured, whatever game actually awaits you (if it ever does appear) will be an afterthought; a token effort made by a team a tenth the size of those behind the actual game, which is of course all about maximising business models and exploiting brand loyalty.

So while Diablo 3 is a grand experiment, it is also impossible to recommend. As a way of showing everything that is wrong with modern gaming Bliazzard have done brilliantly. Evil and broken DRM, exploitative business models and bug ridden software are all lampooned perfectly in this brilliant satire piece on modern gaming. Despite this the old axiom holds true: the only way to win is not to play…… and even more importantly, not to buy.

1 out of 10

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