The Problem with Diablo III and ‘Always-On’ Gameplay

You knew that inevitably in all the sweet talk going around about Diablo III's current beta, that someone would run into a problem with Blizzard's "Always-On" save system. The system requires that players always be connected to the server – even in single-player. Also the game saves character data online.

From my own experiences, when the server disconnect me and another friend, we noted that all our progress in the campaign was lost and we had to start all over again. To be fair, the server at least saves your character data when you are disconnected, but clearly the system needs some tweaking or players will probably go insane…

Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker offers an in-depth analysis of the "Always-On" aspect of the game and why it is currently – at the very least – problematic.

"My intention with Diablo III is to solo the game. I realise that’s not the way many will play it, it’s not what the Diablo series is most famous for, and it’s arguably not the primary way Blizzard intends the game to be played. However, crucially, it’s a mode of the game that’s deliberately programmed to work, with NPC story-based characters to join your party and interact with you, and a single-player plot to hack through. It is, undeniably, designed to be played as a single-player game.

However, the always-on DRM makes this the most remarkably annoying process. During the beta, Blizzard’s servers have dropped a few times. Of course, that’s expected during a beta, but it’s also not unexpected once a game has gone live. And here, when the server goes down, you’re left with a ghost of the game until it eventually stops you from playing at all. I found that suddenly when I fired my bow no arrows came out – I could wander around, enemies were still there, but clearly something was wrong. And then it froze, a message popped up saying there were connection troubles, and I was dumped back to the main menu with no way to play. For no discernible reason. I still had the game installed, had no desire to be online or use any online functions, and yet still couldn’t play."

Later Walker notes that these problems usually only occur when there are some technical issues afoot. And to be completely fair, the software we're all analyzing is still in beta. But making the game online all the time means that you can't do a lot of simple things you would normally do in a single-player Diablo game – like pausing – and the game is set up like an MMO complete with logout cool-down times and being logged out when you are idle too long. The latter is particularly bad because your character data is saved – but as I mentioned earlier – your progress is not.

You can read the RPS article here. It's certainly something Blizzard should read, because when the full game is released some players won't be as pleasant as Walker is about it.

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