Diablo III Shows Why Gamers Need a Bill of Rights?


An article from The Atlantic (which is a literary and political magazine; not a gaming publication) discusses recent video game innovations such as Real Money Trading, and how any company that incorporates that feature into their game, as D3 has, requires a strong DRM and EULA to control the system.

Could a company offer such an intricate economy without requiring digital rights management? “Probably not,” John Walker, a writer for the British PC gaming site Rock, Paper, Shotgun told me. “So the question is: Do we actually need this in the first place?”

“I think there’s two choices to be made in that situation,” he explained. “One is the publisher can say, ‘Let’s not do a real money auction house if it requires bringing our game to this level.’ Or customers can respond, ‘Well, I’m not going to buy that game if I’m going to be treated that way.'”

Walker’s comment gets at the heart of the issue consumers face today: If they don’t like one aspect of a virtual world, they can either stomach it, or leave entirely. And as virtual worlds become progressively more complex, the gaming company’s power necessarily expands. Just this year, players of Star Wars: The Old Republic were banned for dancing in the game. It was actually a clever form of cheating, but the controversy nevertheless drew many Footloose comparisons. And sometime next year, Bethesda will release The Elder Scrolls Online, an massive multiplayer online counterpart to Skyrim—a game that lets you get married, buy a house, and work an unsatisfying minimum-wage job chopping wood for gold. I don’t know why anybody would play a game to do these things. But once a virtual online world begins facilitating these sorts of interactions, the developer will essentially have all the same domestic powers that a real-world government holds over its people.

Check out the whole article, since it covers a lot of related ground, while never quite coming to a definite point. That’s not surprising, as this is an evolving field and a complicated issue, and by embracing it in Diablo III, Blizzard has pushed the conversation into a much more mainstream arena.

We’ve seen a lot of commentary about this topic, though I wouldn’t call it “conversation” since much of the time it’s just people blinding hating or blinding defending, depending on their view of RMT, or always-online DRMs. If it’s possible to move past those symptoms to view the larger disease, what would the conversation look like? What would have to be in a “gamer’s bill of rights?”

Currently, our rights begin and end at “don’t play it if you don’t like it.” The companies creating these games claim full ownership and the ability to make any sort of changes they see fit, at any time, with or without notification or consent of the players. Video game economies and communities are not democracies, and it’s hard to imagine how they could function if they were… and yet so many fans are united in hate over RMT and DRM that you wonder if we’ll see this state of affairs changing over time?

Tagged As: | Categories: Legal, Online-Only Diablo 3

Comments

You're not logged in. Register or login to post a comment.
  1. Is there a film fan bill of rights, or a reader bill of rights?
    I hardly see why this is necessary.
    If anything, that comes down to shoddy business practices, and in the united states, that’s prime territory for the FCC or agencies like BBB to take care of.

    BBB will take care of it, too. I had them after EA for about two years straight.

    • “Is there a film fan bill of rights, or a reader bill of rights?”

      You aren’t as intelligent as I had assumed — neither of those are interactive.

      On the topic, though, yeah, this is a laughable idea.

      • Your name is appropriate as it doesn’t matter whether a narrative is “interactive” or not. Just because you can’t plug a keyboard into a book doesn’t mean you don’t interact with it.

        A wiki is interactive. Should we have a wiki bill of rights?

        • a wiki is hardly interactive
          just because I can edit a wiki entry doesn’t make it interactive

          but the real question is, “does it provide a service?”
          if a gaming company provides a RMAH, then certain things should be in a “bill of rights”
          1) 99.9 % uptime
          2) transactions completed in a “timely” manner (24 hours or less)
          3) item stability (if I buy an item in the RMAH with +20%IAS, don’t nerf IAS and make the item worthless)

          if a company provides a skill calculator to go along with their RMAH then the skill calculator would be considered interactive and a point in the “bill of rights” would be to keep the skill calculator current, because it is a disservice for me to buy items from the RMAH to boost skills based on an inaccurate skill calculator

          • It is interesting… Are there implied guarantees regarding goods purchased from a seller and is the entity held to fair business practices? Is having complete control over an economy similar to monopolistic abuse? Considering that there have been a few serious cases of EULAs and other similar agreements being rejected by the courts, this could be an interesting new battlefield for the lawyers to profit from. Haha a class action suit over virtual items… but I suppose if someone bought a nice car and a week later the dealership switched it out for a bicycle that someone might be looking to take legal action.

    • You’re all off topic. The question is at what point do we begin to regulate gaming companies and virtual interaction? Virtual interaction has gotten to the point where people log in and perform many of the day-to-day functions that they would perform if they weren’t plugged in, and with an economy that uses actual world money, the gaming companies are essentially governments. They create the systems in which individuals work and earn profit, and the items those individuals spend those profits on. (Not to mention the social situations that players may run into as well.)

      Also, just to speak to reading and interaction: reading is definitely an active process that involves an engaged reader with a certain text that they are continually interpreting as the narrative unfolds. So to the person who said “wiki is not interactive just because I can edit posts,” you should read a bit more on literary theory or hermeneutics before you continue.

      • “Also, just to speak to reading and interaction: reading is definitely an active process that involves an engaged reader with a certain text that they are continually interpreting as the narrative unfolds. So to the person who said ‘wiki is not interactive just because I can edit posts,’ you should read a bit more on literary theory or hermeneutics before you continue.”

        ridiculous

        just because you read something does not mean you are interacting with it, regardless of how engaged you are or how much interpreting and evaluating you’re doing

        literary theory and hermeneutics have nothing to do with it

        you don’t interact with poetry, you don’t interact with the Bible

        any “interacting” you’re doing is with yourself
        there’s no one giving you feedback, no one correcting you

        you aren’t interacting with anything except your own mind and experiences that allow you to interpret what you’re reading in your own light

        • Conclusions with no premises = bad argument. So when you read a text, you are not processing information that is given in a sociocultural context, and interpreting the information within that context from a subjective perspective?

          If that’s not “engaged,” I don’t know what is. Then again, from your lack of critical thinking skills I understand why you wouldn’t think so.

    • You’re argumentation is rather cheap. “It doesn’t exist already, so it’s unnecessary” makes fighting for one his rights rather redundant. Hell, why do workers have rights to begin with? Bees have no rights either. War of Independence? Totally unnecessary either… And BBB and FCC cover laws, not rights. (There is a fundamental difference there…)

    • Stopped reading at Rock Paper Shotgun. That’s like quoting wikipedia in an essay.

  2. You know what ?

    Diablo 3 had a FAR better UP TIME than WOW had at launch.

    Diablo 3 had a FAR better protection of their customers than WOW had at launch.

    Diablo 3 has a far better protection scheme than Diablo 2 had during its whole life time …

    But

    But

    But

    Diablo 3 can NOT be copied, duped, cracked and stolen like DIablo 2 was for 10 years long.

    AND THAT bothers the stealing public.

    Tell it all to the thousands of musicians what they DO think about the ethics of the people that copy their music for billions and billions of dollars…

    Then we’ll talk about consumer rights ….

    Right ?

    • Buy Diablo 3, there’s a RMAH! Lol you bought our game, you can use the RMAH… as soon as you pay more money for an authenticator!

      That sort of bait-and-switch maneuver is nowhere near being ethical.

    • Thrall. I see you commenting often comparing Diablo 3 with older games like WoW. The industry has come along way since WoW… Diablo 3 launch isn’t WoWs launch.

      Secondly. You tend to defend blizzard for making mistakes that other companies have solved. A quick example would be features like steam guard or coin lock. Thats not acceptable when blizzard flat out knows and advertises that their game accounts will be compromised.

      Blizzard has had several of these huge launches now, and they continue to fail at them. Other companies can do it, why can’t blizzard??

      You say that it bothers people that diablo cannot be hacked duped etc… it bothers people that blizzard forces the online DRM, and then doesn’t keep their game online. There is a big difference.

      Blizzard has bought real money into their virtual gaming world now. They are not providing nearly the service they advertized (in part by now requiring an authenticator purchase, instead of solving their own security issues.)

      To top it all off, blizzards reasons they gave us for that online drm, havn’t worked. They have had people dupe items. Infact it brought down the asian servers because of it. They apparently havn’t stopped botters. They certainly havn’t stopped spammers.

      It also appears that they may be losing peoples items/money on the RMAH. (the verdict is still out how that turns out) If it is not yet time for a gamers bill of rights, it is certainly egding ever closer to that point.

      • D2 was copied, duped, cracked for 10 years long… 24/7

        With the on line protection of D3 you have a far better control and the risks of being duped, cracked, copied are NILL for 10 years long 24/7.

        IF on one very rare occasion it would happen: Blizzard can take immediate action and the ISSUE is resolved within hours, if not minutes.

        And about the “launching problems”…

        NO new On line game ever launched with 6.3 million players at the same time and ALL playing on 3(!) servers …

        get a grip : you simply take a straw and blow it up to extrme proportions.

        • Yes thrall immediate action. That’s why we had spammers for 2 weeks with no way of muting them.. that’s how the duping on the Asian servers got so bad them had to shut them down and rollback the entire deal. That’s why the ah has spent the majority of the time either down…or with commodities disabled. Its also why blizzardis punishing all players by giving a 72 hour window on digital download. Rather than taking immediate action against fruadulant transactions.

          And all of those things have been going on for a month now. Blizzard hasn’t resolved any of those issues in hours…or minutes….that’s just you making things up.

          Other games have launched with multiple millions of players..and sucsesfully…no not 6.3….but they have proven that it can be done…blizzard chose not to have enough servers…they didn’t care to heed pre sale data.

    • Thrall, who are you working for, music and video industry ?
      Stop arguiyng about copy, it’s out of purpose in this thread.

    • I see the WoW fanboys have found the comment section.

    • but
      but
      but

      if I want to make money smashing vases I can’t,
      because Blizzard punishes legitimate players

      if I want to buy the digital version and play all weekend I can’t,
      because Blizzard punishes legitimate players

      and, to follow up with your example of musicians, do you not realize its the music companies, NOT the musicians who are causing the stink ?

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/28/AR2007122800693.html

      the music companies (just like Blizzard) are punishing legitimate users

  3. One of the above points was about a game being interactive vs a film or book. The main difference here is I can still read the book or watch the film after the purchase where a game that is online only they can stop me. At any time for any reason they choose they can stop me from playing the game and keep my purchase price. This is what should be addressed. If the game had an option to be played offline then this would not be an issue as you could continue to play.

    As for real money in game it is no different then purchasing an upgrade for your car or home and that is why people with more disposable income live more as they choose. In this way it would compare with the in game experience. The way I see it is the people complaining the loudest are the ones that don’t have or care to spend any more to upgrade their game. What blizzard has done is cut out their competition of in game item sales as was done in Diablo II with websites selling items for the game. As long as any item that can be purchased for cash can be found in game then there should be no complaints, but if this is not the case then I agree that there should be something to level the playing field or segregate the haves from the have nots.

    As to the worry about an item getting nerfed that is a risk you take when you buy something, much like a car losing value. You buy it because it is what you want now, not because you won’t like it as much in a year or two. This is the nature of long running games with patches and changes. Who can say they liked every patch and change in diablo II? This is the nature of keeping a game fresh and viable for a long time.

    The nature of a game that makes it online only should be addressed somehow. The idea that a company can stop you from using something you purchased for any reason is wrong. I agree with them being able to stop you being on their servers as they are their servers, but to be able to make your purchase completely unusable on a whim is wrong. As it stands you could get banned for anything and have nothing you could do about it and be out your purchase price. You could get banned by a mistake blizzard made and you are just shafted. That is why I WILL NOT purchase a game that is online only because I have zero rights. ❗

    • Maybe think of a movie rental on itunes or music on spotify or books in your kindle. All of them you dont really own, you basically license them.
      If those companies stop providing their service or simply go bust your game/movie/book is gone. If Blizzard goes bankrupt tomorrow and doesnt provide D3 or WoW servers anymore your digital items go down the drain.
      That’s the reality of today’s digital content business. If you don’t like it vote with your feet and DON’T BUY IT.

  4. I had an auction up for a pretty amazing 1200 dps hellion xbow with massive ias dex vita and crit damage, it was bid up to $84 the night before the patch (I was expecting a hefty final buyout). The patch happened. The bow was still on the AH but it’s dps was now something like 1030 post patch. 2 things happened: a. I was shorted money because of the change. b. The person who had already bid on the bow wasn’t getting what they had paid for.

    The change had actually occurred mid auction and the stats on the bow were changed while cash was in play. That’s like bidding on a Radeon 7970 on eBay and them changing it to a 7950 after you had already placed your bid. I’m sure Blizzard was more than happy to take their 15% + $1. There was literally no buyer protection at all. I find this completely appalling and would like to know what you guys think.

    • I think you are entitled to the money and the buyer is entitled to a refund, and Blizzard is responsible for both. I suppose they could argue either way or against the whole thing, but it’s such an obvious case of changing parameters beyond the control or expectations of seller and buyer that from a customer service standpoint, why not take care of a couple of inadvertently burned customers? Blizz should just take the easy, customer-loyalty approach and going forward, suspend all auctions 2 days prior to rolling out a stat-change patch (which should be rare anyway).

      I guess from a Bobby standpoint, 2 days of lost auction fees > a few refunded sales, but the cost of servicing every customer that got burned like this, or even the small subset that bother to seek redress, has got to be non-trivial.

      (edit) just realized that they have another option, the “our TOS says you can go fuck yourself” option, which is probably the one they’ll take

  5. While I do – for the record – find Blizzard’s practice of interfering with contracts between players (and the dangerous and demoralizing precedent that it sets) vile, I feel obligated to let them a little off the hook. The reason for this is that they did provide frequent and adequate notice of the changes to be made, well in advance for a great many people to understand that their IAS items would be devalued by a substantial amount, and that they should factor that into their risk analysis when buying an item. It wasn’t as if they ninja nerfed it overnight.

    That being said, I definitely still think it’s bad mojo for them to have done it, and hopefully the backlash over it will make them think twice before doing it again.

    • If you were a regular reader of the forum, then you’re right. But how many gamers are doing that? Especially from the casual crowd brought in by the marketing campaign?

    • I agree with this too, in that IAS nerfs were well communicated if you were looking for them, but anyone with an affected auction during the patch could plausibly claim that they don’t look at any forums or other community news and do all their number-crunching/valuation on their own.

      And even if they were warned, it’s so much easier to just give the customers the benefit of the doubt in this single special instance of a patch affecting their transaction’s value. Yes it will cost money to verify all the claims by checking timestamps and whether IAS is present on the items etc, but Blizz will be buying a lot of peace of mind for their customers with that investment.

      If anyone submitting a claim for this issue is taken care of, they will feel much more comfortable using the RMAH and that kind of loyalty is worth a lot!

  6. The problem is this game-companies-as-government notion is that it’s easy to switch games. It’s hard to switch governments; in fact most of the really bad governments try not to let anyone leave. So “go find another game” is a lot easier to defend than “go find another government.”

    Still, over time, the most successful governments have been the ones that paid closest attention to the people. Over the long run, that’s probably true of game companies too.

    • Exactly. When it comes to entertainment “don’t play it if you don’t like it” is a perfectly legitimate response.

      A company isn’t going to do very well for itself if that’s the response it always makes, of course. (And note they’ll do badly precisely because people who didn’t like the game didn’t play it.) But there’s no fundamental human right to play any given computer game.

  7. Meh. Certainly there are aspects of this that have been badly handled by Blizzard. I agree that the direction that some digital products are going — where you’re more “renting” the product than buying it — are troubling.

    But “rights?” I don’t think you’re going to find “A right to play Diablo 3 anytime I want with no server downtime” or “A right not to have the IAS on my Diablo 3 items nerfed” listed with any of the major human rights organizations as a fundamental human right, nor in the bill of rights in any government.

    These are customer service issues, not rights violations.

    • I should add — certainly there are rights people have as consumers. I do think that we have a right to expect Blizzard to take reasonable steps to protect out account security, for example. However, I don’t think the fact that there have been some hackings demonstrates that Blizzard is playing fast and loose with our security: with that many users, of course there have been some accounts hacked. The availability of authenticators actually means Blizzard is providing more tools to protect my account than any other company I’ve dealt with — including, I’m afraid, my banks.

      We also have a right to be protected from fraud, but I don’t see that Blizzard has been misrepresenting their product. We may not like the “always-online” feature, but we all knew that’s what we were getting when we bought it.

  8. More I think about it though, bait and switch is fraud. Period. I think this is a big issue and I think Blizzard needs to refund people before someone goes after them. In this special case at least. I wonder how many people it actually happened to. If I was the guy who bought my item, I’m pretty damn sure I would’ve put in a ticket. I would like to know the outcome of that as well. I think I should take this to the general forums as well, if anything to see if Blizzard is handling things the way they should be and taking care of their customers.

  9. (about Skyrim) “a game that lets you get married, buy a house, and work an unsatisfying minimum-wage job chopping wood for gold.”

    Yes! That was it! That’s why Skyrim was SO popular, and it had NOTHING to do with those silly dragons!

    It seriously cracks me up how authors that are out of the loop represent gaming.

  10. Magic the Gathering CHANGE their cards and rules of the game constantly for 20 years now.

    You may buy a very high powered MTG card for 100 dollars today and within 2 months it can be useless due to the rules changing…

    Never heard of consumer rights in that game played by 8 million people (and loved). It is the right of the MAKER of the game to make changes to the rules and interactions of the items in ANY game.

    You don’t agree: you don’t participate. Be that a Collectable Card game or a Collectable virtual item game like Diablo 3.

    Period.

    besides it is the PLAYERS that decide on the prices they want to play. Blizzard only offers trading tools. You buy and sell between players, just like MAgic the GAthering or any collectable item game.

    • I don’t think “constantly” means what you think it means. The word you were looking for was “occasionally”. Sure they nerf some cards now and then but they don’t have a habit of doing so simply because they don’t want to piss off their consumers.
      I agree that this is a good example of nerfs affecting value of items, be it cards or imaginary weapons, but you make it sound like they’re nerfing stuff all the time. They don’t.

  11. Ha, I think people grossly misunderstand what a “right” is. This also shows how people grossly misunderstand the actual “Bill of Rights.” The BOR was added to our constitution in order to prevent our government from taking advantage of the people. That is all basically. People tend to scream constantly in a restaurant or in the work place about “freedom of speech.” The truth of the matter is that you have no inherent “freedom of speech” you are simply protected from the government!! arresting or persecuting you. If you swear in a restaurant or gym or movie theater or say something offensive in the workplace Those places have the right (within reason) to remove you or tell you to shut up or get out.

    Blizzard has in no way violated the geneva convention. Also an assinine BOR instilled by a third party would be pointless and sadly mostly abused. All we need is to give the federal government a reason to be lobbied even more by big business. It would simply be a new regulation and like most government regulations it would simply benefit the biggest corps with the most money (I assume somehow for some reason most people are of the idea that arbitrary regulations are, you know, good.)

Comments are closed.