Diablo III Turns Video Game Design into Business School
I’m a man without a country, it turns out. Why? Because I, a dyed-in-the-wool, Battlestar Galactica-quoting, toy lightsaber owning, MMORPG playing nerd, do not love the Diablo series.
Before you light the torches and gather your pitchforks, allow me to explain.
There is an unfortunate truth about the video game business: it’s a business. A very lucrative business, no doubt, but one that has only recently garnered a mass acceptance in the public eye. It’s also never helped matters that many video games boast a rather steep learning curve for a beginner.
It doesn’t take earning an MBA or sitting through online business courses to begin to notice that, just as we see in other sectors of the entertainment industry, the desire to increase the number of people playing video games is leading to companies inevitably dumbing down their products. The video game industry is currently exploded and many businessmen and school programs have begun teaching the subject. While this has lead to great advances in the marketing and distribution of video games, it may have hindered the design side.
The results are an over-reliance on sequels, and the over-simplification of gameplay. It seems common sense on the business front; a successful series has an established fan base, which is a guarantee of future profit, and easier gameplay allows for a greater number of new players as well.
To some, the inability to envision new games outside of established franchises is a vice grip on creativity, and is debatably the greatest problem facing the video game industry today. What does each new iteration bring? What reason is there to play it all?
Which leads me to Diablo III.
To be fair, and it I realize it may be anathema to many gamers, but I never really got into Diablo II. I understood the appeal of the loot system and the simple joy of slaughtering your way through a dungeon crawler, but it was just never quite enough for me.
So when I heard about the release of Diablo III, I didn’t have the fond memories of the previous installment to get me excited. Once I heard more about the game itself, however, I went from underwhelmed to completely confused.
The first shocking detail I learned about Diablo III was the removal of LAN support. Given that the very reason I was ever introduced to Diablo II was for a LAN party, I’d always considered it as the go-to LAN game. When your internet isn’t the greatest, LAN is the best option multiplayer PC gaming. Removing that from Diablo III seemed to neuter the very purpose of the game: play with your friends without an internet connection. Additionally, playing only online will inexorably lead to server issues, a problem showcased when numerous players reported problems logging on to the servers at the game’s launch.
So, with LAN gone, what is the point in paying $60 for Diablo III when you could just be playing Diablo II? When asking a Diablo III fan what’s better about this game than the last, they’re a bit hard pressed. While the graphics have been improved, many have noted a stark drop in gameplay difficulty when compared to Diablo II.
Then, there are the quests. A lot of people have stated that they enjoyed the story, it has largely been chided as predictable and linear. In an age of titles like Deus Ex, video games have entered uncharted areas of storytelling. Where previously video games would implement morality and choice as a gimmick that never truly amounted to much of anything, games now allow for an opportunity that authors and playwrights have attempted to do for centuries: put the average person into the role of the story’s protagonist. It’s something gamers have even come to expect. Yet, Blizzard has arguably done the opposite. There may be more quests, but the absolute lack of real choice in the game only makes the price tag all the more confusing.
You may say that the crafting has improved and that many of the mechanics have been streamlined, but the same could be said about a large number of indie games with a top-down, Diablo II inspired feel. The fact that a lot of those games happen to be free also makes it start to become clear that there are just better options available.
When it comes down to it, I look at Diablo III as being little more than a big name attached to a mediocre game, and one that I would have trouble justifying $30 for, let alone twice that much. It could just be me, and it could just be my personal feelings of not wanting to give Blizzard anymore damn money, but Diablo III simply does not thrill me.