How Terrible Piracy Countermeasures Ruined Diablo III

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If you follow video games — or more specifically, PC games — with even a passing interest, you’re probably aware of the fact that Blizzard’s most recent AAA release, Diablo III, has a very controversial feature: players must always be connected to the Internet when playing, even when in single player mode. The primary motivation for the decision was for it to serve as a form of DRM (digital rights management) to prevent users from playing pirated copies of the game, and some people are mistakenly dismissing always-online gameplay as no big deal.

Those people are wrong. It’s a very big deal.

It’s a big deal because players have to suffer through lag and latency issues while playing a single player game. Think about that for a moment. You will experience lag in Diablo III when playing single player. I never thought I would have to say something like that because up until now it would have made no sense. And in a way, it still doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is my character repeatedly rubberbanding around the screen during combat, teleporting from one place or another, effectively landing in just about every trap I’m trying to avoid while simultaneously dancing around every health orb that I’m trying to pick up? Oh, because I’m online – but why? I’m not even playing with other people. It’s not easy to wrap your head around the concept, as it simply defies logic.

Diablo III error code

It’s a big deal because it caused some serious issues when the game was released. It’s no secret that Diablo III had a rocky launch, what with the ubiquitous ‘Error 37’ becoming an Internet meme overnight. To an extent, I don’t even criticize Blizzard for that in and of itself; it’s bound to happen with such a massive release (I can say from experience that other recent releases such as Battlefield 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic also suffered from server issues on launch day). But Blizzard’s servers getting absolutely crushed on release day should have no bearing on the single player experience. Yet it did.

“I want to play a single-
player RPG, which is what
Diablo III is supposed to be.”

It’s a big deal because, launch aside, you will always be at the mercy of the servers you’re forced to play on. We may be weeks past the initial launch of Diablo III, but the servers are by no means reliable. And, let’s face it, it’s not like there will ever be a time in which they will be available 100% of the time, which means that there will never be a time in which you can play your single player game whenever you want. In the time since Diablo III’s release, aside from still occasionally being too slammed, I’m still finding that servers are sometimes down, whether unintentionally or for maintenance; other errors besides the infamous 37 (including error 3003, which indicates an inability to connect to the servers and often shows up after a disconnect) pop up with disturbing frequency. And truth be told, sometimes the in-game lag seems like a welcome alternative when my game is disconnected and I lose my progress.

And it’s a big deal because it changes the very nature of the game. Diablo III is no longer an RPG with a co-op, multiplayer option. For all intents and purposes, it’s an MMO, even when I’m not playing with other people. And that’s an issue. If I wanted to play an MMO, I would go play one. But I don’t want to play an MMO, because I generally don’t care for them. I want to play a single player RPG, which is what Diablo III is supposed to be.

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