In The End, Diablo III Just Shouldn’t Have Been ‘Always Online’

In The End, Diablo III Just Shouldn’t Have Been ‘Always Online’

Last night, I stayed up really late playing Diablo III. I’m currently crashing at a friend’s house, and their internet is spotty at best. I played a bunch of Diablo anyway.

The only reason I was able to do that without regularly pulling my hair with irritation was that I wasn’t playing Diablo III on PC. Instead, I was playing Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition on PS4, which came out yesterday. (It’s also on Xbox One, PS3 and 360.)

There are a lot of small differences between the new console version and the PC version — controller support, local co-op, no planned support for the planned player-vs-player arena — but the most immediately noticeable is the fact that on consoles, the game doesn’t require an internet connection to play.

On PC, Diablo III does require an internet connection. When the game launched, that was a huge problem, because people couldn’t get their games to start. Blizzard’s servers were overloaded. But as Blizzard added servers and the number of players leveled out, things quickly became more manageable, less of a catastrophe.

The thing is, it’s still a drag to play PC Diablo III if you don’t have a great internet connection, or if you try to play while your network is running slowly or someone’s downloading something. It’s not about logging in and getting your session going, it’s about lag in the game slowing things down and making them weird and delayed and unpleasant.

There are some ways to address in-game lag on the player’s end — resetting routers, that sort of thing — though there’s no real solution for, say, the times when your roommate decides to stream a movie. It’s such a headache, especially for a game that’s pretty simple at its core. Diablo III should be about blowing up little monsters, not clearing the cache on my router and leaving massive info-dumps about my ISP on Blizzard’s forums.

I’ve been surprised at how enduring Diablo III has been for me, but in three of the last four places I’ve most recently lived, I’ve had inconsistent enough Internet that it’s put me off playing. Sometimes it’s fine, but then lag will hit. I’ll input a command and the game will hang, or my character will weirdly levitate around the level, or there’ll be a big gap between when I activate a power and when I see it fire off on screen.

This morning on PC, my demon hunter’s rapid-fire move looked like this:

In The End, Diablo III Just Shouldn’t Have Been ‘Always Online’

Notice the gap between when her firing animation begins and when the arrows actually begin to fly. Everything’s like that — enemies on the battlefield, her fast-moving dodge, special attacks. Like I said, the internet speed at my current place isn’t amazing. It ebbs and flows, and sometimes the game plays fine. But if someone else on the network starts browsing the web or streaming a video, forget it.

Meanwhile, this morning on PS4, my demon hunter’s rapid fire looked like this:

In The End, Diablo III Just Shouldn’t Have Been ‘Always Online’

Press the button, get an instant response. When I disconnected the console from the Internet, it made no difference, because the console version doesn’t require an internet connection.

When Diablo III struggled out of the gate in 2012, I wrote about why I thought the always-online thing was a problem:

Diablo III requires a constant internet connection to play. Not just to start a game or activate a new copy, but to play. Always. An hour and a half after I had started trying to log in from the title screen, I gave up. I couldn’t play Diablo III, even the single-player portions of the game, because Blizzard’s servers weren’t working.

This is a problem.

I did acknowledge that there were some things about the game being online that weren’t all bad – in some ways, the idea of playing in an interconnected world made it more appealing to me. But as time passed, I settled into a rhythm: I mostly play single-player. I play for fun, and don’t really care about chatting with or playing alongside Internet strangers. I might as well be offline.

The Ultimate Evil Edition pretty clearly underlines the fact that the PC version never really “needed” to be always online. It’s easy to imagine the alternate reality where this game was the one Blizzard launched on PC back in 2012, minus the expansion and a few of the other tweaks they have made since then. It could have had some sort of offline singleplayer mode, a LAN mode, other things of that sort. That’s what the new console version offers, and it’s been terrific fun, to the point where I’ll probably stop playing on PC entirely. That will partly be because I like kicking back and playing with a controller, but it will largely be because I’ll never have to worry about unexpected lag slowing down my singleplayer game.

Only the decision-makers at Blizzard know the full rationale for saddling the PC version of Diablo III with an internet requirement. Maybe it was to fight piracy, or exert complete control over the game and its balance, or to cut off hackers and cheaters, or maybe it was because they were invested in the (now failed) idea of the Real Money Auction House. Probably some combination of all those.

Regardless, two years after it came out, it’s clearer than ever: Diablo III never should have had an internet requirement in the first place.


  • It was clearly just a grab by Blizzard to try and get the RMAH up and running and hopefully making money. Other than that, there’s really no reason for an ‘always on’ internet requirement.

    • I really don’t think the RMAH would have made so much money as to justify – on its own – paying for enough servers to support ALL players, and maintenance of the RMAH itself. When they claim they were making an attempt to legitimize an existing practice (the black market buying and selling of D2 items), I’m inclined to believe them. On its own, it’s not a bad idea. I’m pretty sure it was the devs ‘making the best of’ the non-negotiable requirement they were delivered for always-online, for other reasons.

      I’m pretty confident that a LOT more of the motivation behind always-online was Activision’s insistence on:

      1) DRM (duh)

      2) Extending the sales tail with social pressure (quasi-MMO – research shows the majority of ‘unhappy’ MMO players persist due to social ties with the others they play with, and people are more inclined to pick up a copy of what their friends are playing)

      3) integration into as your ‘one stop shop’ with its own chat client and other pervasive social bullshit, enticing you to their other products by staring at their ads every time you log in.

      4) An insidious step forward in the push to establish ‘games as a service’ as the norm, instead of a product. (Which has numerous legal benefits for publishers, none for consumers/distributors.)

      Pretty sure whatever the RMAH made would pale in importance compared to those goals.

      • I agree with EVERY SINGLE point here, transient. And if all these apologists and mindless people keep making excuses for this growing trend, then eventually there won’t be a single game that you can play without a permanent and stable internet connection on either PC or console (because don’t think it won’t trickle down to you console users … Microsoft already demonstrated its willingness to introduce this type of thing with the CURRENT generation of consoles). You will also need an expensive and reasonably fast connection because if other people are using the bandwidth, then that impacts on any ‘standby DRM’ needing that constant verification – as was already pointed out by Kirk in this article.

        If it ever comes down to all games requiring an ‘always online’ connection, then you can guarantee that it will be nothing but pirated games for me from that point onwards. I won’t hand over money over to a company who will only allow me to play a game when their servers can talk to my computer and graciously give it permission to start, and who will proceed to cut me off a single player campaign when there is choke on my connection. And what if I move house and have a nightmare time getting the internet connected? No way in hell. I won’t be a part of that. Not ever.

      • Quit hatin Bruh!

        Battle.Net is one of the biggest in house powerhouses of gaming, especially with the modern iGen.

        Quit hatin Bruh!

        W.O.W. alone owns entire percentage of global population. What you got..?

  • No PC game in history disappointed me more than Diablo 3. I deliberately read as little about it before it came out to not spoil the game. I heard it required the internet but I thought it was in the same way Starcraft 2 required the internet. When I got it home and played single player with +200 ping I couldn’t believe how bad they fucked up. Bought all my gear on the gold auction house because drops were awful. Now the PS4 version comes out with offline play, couch co-op, LAN play balanced drop rates and I just think what a giant fuck you to PC gamers that initial turd was. Sure we got Australian servers before the expansion came out but how long did that take? 2 years. You know what I hate the most? The fact that after all the abuse I picked up Diable 3 on PS4 to play co-op with the wife last night… and it was gooood.

    • Well D3 PC was just a beta for Blizzard to enter console market. Hence the dumbed down skill tree and simple UI.

      • People like to argue this isn’t the case, but it just seems to make too much sense.
        At the very least it would explain how we went from Diablo 2 to “4 main skills (for 4 main buttons)”

        • From what I’ve heard it plays a lot better with a game pad, but I could be convinced that it was simplified for accessibility purposes rather than purely to make it work on consoles. Given they were planning making money off more casual players using the auction house it’s safe to say that situation was at least partially influenced by the desire to make the game more accessible to a wider audience. A lot of MMORPGs arrived at that conclusion and reduced the amount of abilities needed at your finger tips down to 3 abilities, 2 special abilities and a potion (it also has the bonus of making balancing things a lot easier).
          I mean at the end of the day it’s pretty easy to make a game like Diablo II work on a game pad and the layout for Diablo III’s console controls are very basic even amongst console games. I think if they were making it for consoles and for whatever reason insisted that there was only interface shared between versions the PC controls would be a confusing, over complicated mess that suddenly makes total sense when you can do things like combo a trigger button with an analog stick direction.

          That’s purely playing devil’s advocate though. Obviously the console release was in the works long enough that most corners of the games design process would have at least taken the playability on a gamepad into consideration.

      • You may have forgotten that Blackthorne, Warcraft, Warcraft 2, DIablo & Starcraft are all games created by Blizzard that have been released on consoles.

        Blizz has in some form been making games on console since the SNES

    • You either had some amazingly high expectations for a simple hack and slash game or you don’t play many games….

      I love how everyone beats up blizzard when they fully admit mistakes and go back and fix things. Especially games that don’t have a monthly subscription. So the version that came out over a year later on consoles was better…. boo fucking hoo. What a surprise that they learned something. Same with the Real Money Auction House. People hated it. They took it out. Damn, it’s not even anywhere near the same game that it was at launch. It’s probably one of the games that’s changed the most since launch. I can’t think of any other game (apart from expansions) that received such an overhaul.

      You even said it yourself… you still enjoy the damn thing

      I wish everyone could experience releasing a game and having the community shit on all their hard work because they didn’t agree with a particular design decision. Maybe then we’d stop crying so much. Don’t like it. Don’t buy it. Putting 100hours into a game while complaining about it the whole time is just stupid.

      • I think you missed the point of my post. I wasn’t complaining about the console version being better. It was more to show what a chump I am for giving Blizzard more of my money after being burned on the PC version. Instead I couldn’t help myself and I give credit where credit is due. D3 on PS4 is really good. The PC version with Aussie servers is much improved too. It doesn’t change the fact that the first release of D3 was some sort of sick social experiment to test the limits of gamers tolerance for BS.

        • Sadly enough… if the success of D3 is anything to go buy.. Gamers are one of the biggest herd of chumps in the consumer tree >.>

          • Except things like a “new” COD and Battlefield every year is a far bigger problem for the gaming industry.

        • I for one applaud Blizz for trying something different. So it didn’t work… so what. They fixed most things over time. There’s thousands of games that have terrible launches (online or not) and some take much longer to get fixed (if ever).

          In this world of ever growing unfinished games and early access I’m surprised people still complain about stuff like this. It’s not like it was a surprise. They didn’t hide the features from customers, they didn’t try force changes after you purchased it etc… people were just frothing at the mouth after waiting 13 years for a Diablo sequel and then cried when it wasn’t exactly the same as a 13year old game.

          Same thing happened with Watch Dogs. It wasn’t a bad game. It just fell short (for various reasons) of what was initially shown and hyped at E3. Watch Dogs was a perfect example how bad management and bad marketing can ruin a game (even if technically it’s fine). There’s a point at which “What it COULD/SHOULD have been” get’s a bit ridiculous. Everything can be better, no game is perfect and no game will appeal to every single player.

          I’m glad the console version is an improvement. Hopefully it helps improve the PC version too. Hopefully they’ve learned a thing or two and we’ll all be better for it.

          I’m not sure why you think it was a social experiment. Are gamers in general so stupid that they’ll pay for anything? Are we as a sub group of society that much different than any other customer?

          Why can’t people enjoy a game for what it is not what it could/should have been? If you don’t like it, well that’s fine… you don’t HAVE to. The company doesn’t owe you anything. You’re a customer and they sell you a product. Whether you buy it or not is up to you not them. It’s that simple.

  • I did acknowledge that there were some things about the game being online that weren’t all bad – in some ways, the idea of playing in an interconnected world made it more appealing to me.

    The big catch is you can get that stuff without interrupting gameplay. Fable 2 didn’t need to run every swing of your sword by a server just to have those player orbs floating around. At the end of the day they did it because they had to in order to insure what was coming in and going out of the RMAH was valid. As much hate as it got I can understand/forgive it, but the meeting should have ended with ‘I guess a real money auction house just isn’t realistic’, rather than ‘lets gimp the game for a long shot at making a real money auction house work’.

    [Edit: Quoted the wrong bit. =S]

  • I don’t dislike always online when they are honest about the reasons, such as to combat piracy, hack and other forms of cheating.

    It’s when they avoid answering why or make up a bunch of bullshit reasons that I get annoyed. (Simcity)

    • I prefer when they’re at least honest about their motivations but it doesn’t really help when it leads to encountering latency problems in single player, easily processed games. The Diablo III formula sort of assumes the only reason I paid for the game and haven’t hacked in cheats is because their DRM works. Everyone plays a half broken game in order to mildly inconvenience a few pirates and hackers.

  • As a lapsed PC gamer (now console) who f*cking loved Diablo I and II, all this coverage of the PC version of Diablo III being disappointing is really conflicting.

    Of all the games I thought would NEVER work on a console, Diablo III was right near the top. If it hadn’t been for the terrible reception it received I would have felt compelled to buy a new PC just for Diablo III. I was almost glad when it stumbled out of the gate because it saved me a couple of grand.

    Now I’m hearing that the console version not only plays comparably but on balance as a product it’s actually the better version? How the hell did Blizzard manage to do that!? If you’d told me 5 years ago that Diablo III would be half as good on console as it was on PC I wouldn’t have believed you.

    I suppose all you can do is look at what Blizzard did with the PC version and shake your head. It’s funny because they took a title with a formula that was rock-solid and then f*cked up every single little thing that they changed around it so badly that they ruined a title that was tailor made for a system which they specialised in.

    Anyway… here we are. I downloaded it for Xbone night for the very reasonable price of $60 (for a console title) after a mate of mine who I played Diablo II with back in the day told me that the demo of the 360 version had played well. Haven’t had the chance to play it yet, but I’m actually expecting good things.

    • The Balancing act that made the Console version so good was learned and implemented on the PC version. Yes the loot table was horrible but they did fix it.

      With the current state of the game, I’d happily buy the PC version if like the Console version I could get it in one box. Maybe one day.

  • Let’s not forget to D3 is not playable between the hours of 7pm and 1am every fricken Tuesday…. Because they make everything unplayable and take Battlenet offline …. WoW, Hearthstone, D3 and SC2… Gone

    Bend over PC you’re getting fucked and tossed away so Blizzard can taste that sweet sweet console cash.

    And people talk about EA….

    • Yeah it ruins my life that I can’t play a completely free game one evening a week… damn. In case you haven’t noticed plenty of other online games have maintenance times too.
      No wonder people complain about gamers being entitled

      But hey, at least I don’t have to pay extra to access multiplayer functions

      • Except its a single player game, I paid for it… God forbid some off us have lives outside of gaming that may allow Tuesday being an opportunity to play.

        It’s not an MMO, so name me another single player game that requires maintenance?

        It’s not required to be online to play solo, as shown by the console version.

        Thanks for being an apologist though.

        • Then don’t play the game. It’s like people don’t do any research before buying things these days. You know why I don’t regret my purchases? Because I know what I’m buying.
          I knew it was always online. I knew there was Tuesday maintenance. Just like I knew that Watch_Dogs didn’t look like the E3 Demo. I make the decision to still buy them because I want to and I don’t complain about it.

          They made a conscious decision to build the game as online only. Most of that came from the RMAH. Just because the Console version is offline doesn’t mean it’s that easy to rewrite the PC code. Console servers work completely differently so that part of the game was always going to be different in the console version.

          Whether you agree with the Dev’s choices or not, the end result is you paid for it. So either you didn’t bother checking what you were paying for, or knowingly bought something you didn’t like/agree with. I’m not sure which is worse.

          This kind of talk is exactly why people call gamers “Entitled”. Vote with your wallet not whining.

  • Flog a dead horse much?
    It’s 2 years on and you’re still complaining about it? Either play it and stop complaining or get over it.

    • I love when people unknowingly express their blind ignorance, its almost like an IQ test.

  • If only Blizzard would do the same with StarCraft 2. Sure, it means buying a second copy of the game, but at least I can play it without a account (you know, that required account that I can’t log into and can’t get support for to fix it?). People often use the term ‘drink coaster’ for useless discs, but I think I have enough unplayable games to make a pretty mobile.

    • Just out of interest what’s your issue? When I was locked out of my account they gave it back to me with surprisingly little effort. I mean I basically called them up and said ‘Hi, you know that authenticator that stops people from stealing my account, turn that off for a minute so I can log in’.

      • I can’t log in, but I’m not entirely sure what the cause may be. On the surface I may have forgotten my password – fair enough. But when I go through their authentication wizard in hopes of doing a password reset it won’t accept my ‘secret question’ answer nor my SC2 product key. I’ve logged a ticket with them yesterday and hopefully there’ll be some action some time. I’m not in a huge hurry because there’s no reason to link Diablo 3 with my PSN account. I would like to give SC2 another crack some time though and it’s a pain to have to need to log in when I’m playing SP only.

        • Ah, that sucks. I hate those secret questions. Half of them can be answered with a Google search.

          As much as I hate to admit it though Starcraft II is worth the hassle of being tied to Just finished Heart of the Swarm and loved it.

  • I vaguely remember something about the domain you set your account up on being the same you need to use to reset the password. Its stretching the memory. I had a shit-tonne of problems resetting a forgotten password, then it worked when I used the sight instead.

    This is a really vague memory from like 3 years ago, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s still an issue

    *Edit: This was SUPPOSED to be a reply to Dogman 🙁

  • I was six years old when Diablo came out, I loved it. At first it was just watching dad play it then after a while I got to have a turn. I remember being at preschool and pretending I was on quests and writing item names on scraps of paper and leaving them around my the joint to find later. Diablo II blew my mind. It was one of the few games my dad and I both played and we would play co-op LAN, that was a big thing for me. I loved Blizzard, thought they could do no wrong. I pre-ordered collectors edition of Diablo III and the combination of the watered down stat and skill trees and online only killed a piece of my childhood. Thank god Torchlight II came out a few months later.

    Diablo III shouldn’t have been online only. But it could have been if they had actually made it an awesome game, that just happened to be always online, like PoE. Instead the Activision overlords spat out the watered down, console friendly abortion known as Diablo III. At least the console owners can have a taste of what was once a brilliant franchise.

    • Sounds eerily like my younger years haha. Diablo 2 with the old man, step mum and some of their mates at LAN’s were a huge part of my early gaming years.

  • I enjoyed Diablo 3 despite it’s flaws – it was a really fun game at launch, and a truly excellent game after the expansion.
    I would have liked offline as well, but it didn’t affect me adversely (except for launch day, but thats one day I can deal with)
    My childhood wasn’t destroyed by diablo 3 being different, because I’m an adult and they are different games. Sensibilities, techniques and industries evolved over the decade between diablo 2 and 3.
    The game now is still amazing and calls to me every day. It’s taking a LOT of will to instead play my backlog instead of going back to diablo 3, thats how much fun I have playing it.

  • I never played Diablo 1 or 2 and so I had no expectations for D3 – the game was great to me. However, upon reading about all the would/could/should haves, I can see that the game fell way short of what it was “supposed” to be. But at the same time I can’t really share the same level of disappointment that fans feel.

    The game has outlived its value for me now, so I can happily put all the monster killing down, along with all the frustration that came with it over the last 3 years.

  • This is what I said for the article ‘Diablo III Feels Like It Was Made For Next-Gen Consoles’ by Yannick LeJacq:

    That basically covers my rant on this topic of ‘always online’ for single player. The sooner people vote with their wallets instead of buying into the hype and social pressures of ‘missing out on what their friends are playing’, the sooner this crap can be abolished.

    There should be zero tolerance for this kind of DRM. Let’s face it – no matter what way these developers and distributors want to spin it, at the end of the day it’s basically DRM.

  • I would have gladly bought Diablo III upon release, possibly would have even preordered it. That changed the moment I read and confirmed that the game would require an internet connection for even single player game play. No matter what kind of bs the apologists spout for that nonsense, there is no need and there is no excuses for making a single player game online only.

    I will not buy any game that attempts to abuse its user base in this manner.

  • Shdes I agree. No money for Blizzard. I never played online with Diablo 2. So I can only make a statement as a single-payer only person. ANY PAID game that forces me to login, just to play solo is BS.

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