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.
Remember when we thought that Diablo III was going to launch in 2011? Ah, those were the days. But Blizzard put a halt to that rumor train soon after the launch of D3's closed beta test, saying that the game was being pushed back to Q2 2012 to avoid releasing a game that was "almost ready." They apparently don't want to release "almost ready" components of the game, either: Blizzard recently said that Diablo III won't include PvP when it launches.
My December column defending Diablo III’s always-on DRM generated as much hostility as anything I wrote since I called Doom III a hollow, clichéd piece of garbage. The responses were a mixture of insults and reasonable commentary (mostly insults), with complaints falling into three categories.
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.
Runic, you speed demons, you! You've already beaten the devil himself to the punch twice, and now – against all odds – you're looking to add even more insult to injury. Speaking with Joystiq, Runic Games CEO Max Schaefer said that he fully expects Torchlight 3 -- not 2, which is slated for a Spring 2011 release -- to hit virtual shelves before Diablo 3 finally escapes from development hell.
"I really think we will, I'm not joking about it. I'll be the first to buy Diablo 3, I'm a huge fan. I just know what it's like over there," Schaefer said when asked if he thinks his third hack 'n' slash RPG will outpace Blizzard's.
"[Blizzard has] an impossible task. Blizzard can not get away with doing a Torchlight 1. If they put out a single player game, an RPG that's kinda stripped down for $20, people would say, 'What the hell happened to Blizzard?' They don't have that luxury. Everything has to be super epic. More epic than anything that's come before, more epic than World of Warcraft. They have to do that. It puts them in a really tough spot, I don't envy them. It has to be perfect."
Torchlight, meanwhile, is being developed by a smaller team that – according to Schaefer – will never grow beyond 40 people, with the goal of development cycles that last less than one year.
Honestly, though, we're just happy that both games exist. Diablo's big, bombastic, and epic, and Torchlight keeps us from forfeiting our miniscule sum of sanity while waiting for Diablo 3. It's Yin and Yang. Diablo brings the noise, Torchlight brings the funk. The balance of the world, it seems, revolves around two games about clicking everything that moves and playing medieval dress-up. Without one or the other, we would all surely be destroyed.