Originally I began to write this article as an examination of the sense of entitlement that seems to permeate through the gaming community. Some gamers get upset at anything that they perceive to be taking away what is rightfully theirs, be it the ability to trade games, on-disc content as DLC or even a short single player component and frankly it was starting to annoy me. I have always been happy to be, in a small way, a part of the industry. I love gaming in all its many guises and if developers feel they need to have DLC planned months before the game is released or want me to input an online code to play the game then I can live with that. It is after all a small annoyance before the good times that follow. But then something happened that, while not changing my mind, certainly pushed me to the point of changing the focus of this article. Diablo III was released.
Diablo III has had without doubt one of the rockiest launches in recent history. Plagued by restrictive DRM and server issues from day one, it put me offside from the very beginning. I like many others waited for the launch minute to tick over and get playing. Kickoff time came and went and I proceeded to spend the next two hours trying in vain to log in. I had, naively perhaps, thought that Blizzard, the company that at one point had 14 million World of WarCraft subscribers would be prepared for the onslaught that they clearly knew was coming. While disappointing I could understand it to an extent. Launch day problems are nothing new to the industry so I was willing to let it slide.
But the problems continued. The next day the server was down and once again I couldn’t play. When I finally logged in, the lag was terrible. Lag is something that gamers, especially ones from Australia, have learned to live with, but not in single player games. That’s right, I was lagging in a single player match. More than once on my quest to destroy the minions of hell I died because of warping, stuttering and other lag related effects. Now if this was only occurring on the second day, then once again I could have probably forgiven the problems. Like I said I am generally a positive sort of guy and was willing to forgive and get on with attempting to take down Diablo.
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I was still being plagued by these problems. I counted no fewer than seven server outages, lag was still a massive issue and it seemed, publicly at least, that Blizzard was yet to take steps to rectify the problems. The only noise players were hearing was a vague “we are working on it” statement that seemed to be coming out of Blizzard HQ almost hourly. As I write this, a couple of months after release, even more problems have come to light. The Blizzard servers have been hacked and players have had their hard won loot and gold stolen. My patience is finally wearing thin. I started to get upset and for the first time ever I wanted to run grab my pitchfork and join the lynch mob out to get Blizzard for what they had done to me. Once those initial instincts had died I began to look at the situation in a more analytical manner.
Now I want you to think of this scenario. You walk into a car yard and buy a car. This particular car is one you have had your eye on for quite some time and you are finally going to get it. You hand over your money, grab the keys and jump in. Turning the ignition fails to start the car. The car manager tells you because there are lots of people trying to start their car right now you are going to have to wait a bit. So you wait and eventually the car starts. You drive out of the lot and get an hour down the road when suddenly it starts chugging, your gear changes are taking ages to kick in and steering in the right direction is not only difficult but erratic. Finally you park the car and because of a faulty lock thieves break in and steal all of your parking money from the ashtray.
People wouldn’t put up with it. I know I wouldn’t. Complaints would be made to the car yard and if there was no response it would be taken further. The governing body would be brought into and enquiries would be made. This goes for every consumer product except video games. Consumers spend money with the expectation of receiving a product and if that product doesn’t work as advertised or is faulty in any way I am within my legal rights to request an immediate remedy or a refund. Yet I sit here in front of my computer wondering why I am putting up with these problems.
Another recent example is Street Fighter X Tekken. A patch was released for the game in April, which proceeded to break it. You would have been forgiven for expecting a quick resolution to this matter, but players, including myself, had to wait until mid-June for a resolution. Surely that is unacceptable yet I had no choice but to wait for a fix. This wait was so long I decided that is wasn’t worth it and promptly walked down to my local games store and traded it in. Now these problems are in no way an indication of the games themselves. Diablo III is a great game and when it works it is some of the most fun I have had on my PC in a long time. Likewise with SFXT, it is a solid game that fans of both franchises can get into but these technical issues soured my time with both of these great experiences.
I originally assumed that after a month or two, I would have forgotten the problems as I played through Diablo III for the fourth time. Unfortunately I haven’t and my experience with these titles has been tainted for good. The upside is that due to the nature of the product, the problems almost always get fixed and the game sometimes even gets improved. Developers genuinely want me to have the best time with their game and are willing to fix the problems I (and thousands of others) find. Despite this, what it boils down to is I expect a product I buy to work “out of the box”. A game should run as soon as I click that icon. Surely that isn’t too much to ask? Is it?