Debate over the always-only, MMO-esque requirement of Diablo III continues to simmer (45% dislike or hate, out of over 6000 votes in our poll), though I don’t know if anyone’s really changing their mind with all the arguments each way. Blizzard certainly doesn’t seem to be doing so, and from their comments about the entire game’s programming architecture being predicated on a client-server model for security, it seems like they must have been working towards this solution for a long time. (Casting some doubt on the truthfulness of Bashiok’s past equivocations on the issue.)
Blascid posted a long and heartfelt plea against the always-online requirement, with lots of quotes and citations from other arguments. Bashiok replied… without giving an inch.
This is not too unlike World of Warcraft where the world itself, the art, the sounds, etc. are on your machine, but all of the NPC’s and enemies are controlled by the server. Diablo III doesn’t function in all of the exact same ways, but things like monster randomization, dungeon randomization, item drops, the outcomes of combat, among others, are all handled and verified by the client talking to the server, and vice versa.
We’ve learned a lot from this type of architecture from World of Warcraft, and the added security and oversight it provides. It allows a great deal of control over the game at all times for all players, so if we know there’s an issue or bug we can usually address it right then and there through a live hotfix. Hotfixes can’t be used for everything, we’re still going to have client patches, but we’re definitely looking forward to being able to deliver a consistently high quality experience to all players simultaneously through processes like hotfixes.
In addition there are some pretty intense security concerns. While there’s never a fool proof solution to stopping hack and cheats, we’ve found that a strict client/server architecture is a huge barrier for their development and use.
Ultimately we made the decision to make the game client/server based because of the security and quality it can provide to those playing, and as a bonus it reinforces a lot of our ideals for a thriving online community.
So it seems like this is how it’s going to be. Perhaps if the community had been almost entirely opposed to this scheme, as was the case with the mandatory Real ID on the forums, Blizzard might have reconsidered. But with at least 50% of fans supportive, or at least not opposed to the always-only requirement, it seems like it’s going to be here to stay.
Unless/until some clever hackers find a way to break the code and enable single player offline mode, in what would surely be the most popular Diablo game “mod” of all time.