Getting your hands on a hot new PC game isn't as simple in China as it is in the United States. The Chinese Ministry of Culture needs to clear a title before it becomes available in stores, a process that's been known to take months, or even years. As a result, impatient Chinese gamers looking to engage in demonic hack n' slashing have resorted to pineapples, phonics and search trickery to get their hands on the much-coveted game.
Would-be demon slays ran into a big problem during Diablo III's opening week; nasty errors and server issues forced many first-day buyers into involuntarily sheathing their swords. The congestion highlighted concerns about the game's always-on DRM, but it turns out there was a good reason for the bad server woes: Blizzard claims Diablo III is the fastest selling game in PC history. Wait! Isn't PC gaming supposed to be dead?
With May 15th less than two weeks away, it's no surprise that the Diablo III hype train is starting to chug along at full speed. Blizzard opened the game's doors to everybody with a Battle.net account for an open beta a couple of weekends back, and in the past few days, the company has released a slick new TV trailer and unveiled the fee structure for Diablo III's controversial auction house item-selling feature. (You know, the one that "forced" Blizzard to invoke always-on DRM, even for single player mode.) Are you ready to get gouged?
Attention would-be witch doctors and wizards: it's time to reschedule whatever you had planned for the weekend. Homework, quality time with your significant other and bleaching your grandma's teeth all take a backseat to your new to-list entry -- blasting demons and devils in Diablo III. Last night, Blizzard announced that the game would be free for all this weekend as part of a stress-testing open beta. Actually, you can start swinging your swords any minute now.
The launch of Diablo 3’s closed beta test does more than help Blizzard iron out bugs for the upcoming release of the game; it also wet the taste of gamers who have been waiting for a true Diablo 2 sequel for ten years and counting. (Um, even if the crappy always-online DRM did give cause some headaches.) Turns out it was just a tease; today, Blizzard officially announced that the release date for the game has slipped back into “early 2012.”
Ooooh, it’s getting closer! Even though the whole “Always online DRM” limitations kind of suck – something that many of you agree with – there’s no denying the fact that Diablo 3 is, well, Diablo 3. You know, the sequel to the super successful and super awesome Diablo 2 (and Diablo before that). It’s been ten years since Diablo 2 blew away gamers across the world, but now – finally! – Diablo 3 is rolling out in closed beta stage.
The last time we checked in with our skeleton-raising Diablo 2 necromancer, the blood of the three Prime Evils – Mephisto, Diablo and Baal – stained the hands of our summoned golem and the world had been saved from sure destruction yet again. That was way back in 2000. Now, over a decade later, we're beginning to hear some solid facts about the upcoming Diablo 3. Or at least facts about in-game transactions. Apparently Blizzard doesn't want to let the item-selling money train plow on without them; the company just announced that a couple of item-selling auction houses would be built right into the game.
You could be forgiven for thinking that even Blizzard – perhaps the only company more powerful than the natural disaster it's named after – might not escape a run-in with and subsequent buy-out by Activision unscathed. After all, if the Infinity Ward fiasco proved anything, it's that Activision isn't afraid to bust down the doors and assert control when it feels like things aren't going its way. But unless Activision's got some kind of 24-hour hypno-ray constantly blasting Blizzard's offices, it sounds like Activision has yet to recreate the Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo developer in its image.
“Since we had our merger with Activision, it hasn’t changed anything at Blizzard,” Blizzard VP Michael Ryder told MCV. “We operate in pretty much the same way we already have. Since we have been working with Activision we continue to be who we are. We make the same decisions in the same way we always have, and the relationship with Activision hasn’t changed that.”
“For example, one of our values is that gameplay is supremely important. We talk about play nice and play fair, which has to do how we work with each other and our partners. Preserving that culture is a key part of our ability to continue to deliver great games. We nurture it, protect it and take care of it as much as we can, because it is a big part of who we are.”
So yeah, if you thought Activision might have been pulling the strings behind the whole Real ID debacle, this seems to suggest that you were wrong. Granted, we're not ready to about-face and start handing out fliers for St. Activision's Church just yet. After all, what happens when Blizzard starts pitching something that doesn't fit nicely into its steady diet of Warcraft, StarCraft, and Diablo? If the goose stops laying golden eggs, will its goose be cooked? Tough to say. Hopefully we'll get a definitive answer when Blizzard reveals that new MMO it's been working on.
Remember all that Flagship Games brouhaha that arose last year when the developer – composed of former Blizzard employees – went into a tailspin, taking the US edition of Hellgate: London with it? Well, a gaggle of those gifted men and women reassembled at Runic Games, where they’re currently making another run at Diablo’s throne with an action-MMORPG called Torchlight.
The game’s “plot” – if, at this early stage, one could even call it that -- apparently breaks down like this:
“Adventurers set out from the town of Torchlight into the nearby mountains in search of the magic ore that imbues their equipment with power, yet imperils their very existence."
Gotta watch out for those mountains. They’re medieval man’s natural enemy, clearly.
Chinese online gaming company Perfect World will publish this tryst between Mythos and Diablo, which boasts the support of Max and Erich Schaefer – two of Blizzard North’s co-founders – as well as Diablo I and II composer Matt Uelmen.
It’s Diablo, but with tiny cartoon skeletons so precious you’d sooner attach cute, misspelled captions to their visages than give ‘em a bit of the old hack ‘n’ slash. What’s not to like? Unless you’re holding out for Diablo III: “Realistic” Edition, Torchlight looks like one to keep an eye on.
The apparent state of <insert WoW class that’s constantly nerfed and obviously in need of buffing here> may have led you to believe that Blizzard’s exceedingly affluent staff doesn’t want to hear from you. Well, given the nature of the mega-publisher’s current contest, it’s pretty obvious that you were wrong. See, Blizzard only wants to hear from one of you.
The contest, which is open to aspiring word jockeys all around the world – from London to the Bay – invites Blizzard’s biggest fans to prove their mettle not with sticks or stones, but with words, the most powerful force in the entire universe. In order to qualify, your piece must be 3,000-10,000 words long and – as expected – set in one of Blizzard’s three fictional worlds.
Should your modern classic catch the eyes of Blizzard’s finest Lorecrafters (note: not a real job title), you’ll be flown out to Blizzard’s offices in Irvine, California where – and this is just a pet theory of ours – you’ll be surreptitiously assassinated by the same people who judged you worthy of setting foot on Warcraft, Diablo, and StarCraft’s holy birthing grounds.
Why? Simple. According to the contest rules, upon arriving at Blizzard’s pad, you’ll be given a replica Frostmourne sword (to defend yourself, obviously – you know, honor and all that) and a sumptuous meal (presumably a last meal, but also a possible attempt to weigh you down during the inevitable conflict). But wait – you’re probably wondering why Blizzard would go through all of this trouble to help you, a simple fan, meet the real Diablo? Well, after little to no research, we’ve surmised that – like a paranoid dictator – Blizzard’s current writing staff is afraid of competition, and would like to hold onto the swankest gig on earth for as long as possible.
So yeah, don’t enter the contest. We’ll, uh, just go ahead and take the fall for you. Without other entrants, we’re sure to “win” – if you could even call it that – and then we’ll put a pointy, meticulously sculpted end to all of this nonsense once and for all. Wish us luck.