Diablo III’s Disastrous Launch: Phase Two

How did Diablo III’s launch go for you guys? The feeling I’ve gotten, from reading comments and forum threads, is that most of us (the hardcore fans) were expecting technical problems and B.net issues, and that we just hoped they wouldn’t go on all week (or month). When the log in problems only lasted a few hours, with a few other buggy flare ups over the next few days, I was actually quite relieved. Obviously the launch didn’t go fantastically well, but it could have been a lot worse, and honestly, I expected that it would be.

Eve Online jabs at Diablo III's error codes.
If the preceding paragraph is at all an accurate summation of your opinions on Diablo III’s launch, you are far off the curve, since the mainstream consensus is firmly decided that it was a debacle. I collected more than a dozen typical headlines in a big post on Wednesday, and it only takes a glance at those to see what I’m talking about. Error37 even went viral as a #Error37 hashtag on Twitter.

In some ways, I think Blizzard might have made an error by issuing that apology letter, since all the media observing from a distance took it as an admission of failure that ramified the “terrible launch” meme.

I titled this post Phase Two, since now that the disaster has been firmly established in the minds of non-players and media critics, they’ve move on to apportioning blame, weighing the fallout, and using the “terrible” launch as a hammer to beat on their own pet issues. The biggest focus of media coverage/hate has been Diablo III’s online-only requirement, which has become the whipping boy for all of Battle.net’s problems, and even a flash point for gamers who hate any sort of anti-piracy or DRM effort.

A few of the more moderate samples:

  • Wired UK’s Editor says he won’t buy Diablo 3 due to the online-only requirement and thinks that sort of intrusive DRM is unacceptable.
  • Has Diablo 3’s rocky launch hurt PC gaming? Yes, says Indie designer Jeff Vogel.
  • A thoughtful editorial on Stuff NZ ponders the issue of DRM in the digital age and whether or not requiring online-only is a valid piracy prevention technique.
  • A post on Forbes tech blog uses Diablo III’s launch problems as a leaping point into a longer piece about DRM issues in general.
  • Diablo III’s DRM is the focus of most of the zero-bombing user reviews on Metacritic, and while the vast majority of those posts are clearly from haters who would have given D3 a zero for some other reason (such as the “pay to win” RMAH) even if the launch had gone perfectly, the bad launch and online-only requirement has served up their argument on a silver platter. Numerous articles have commented unfavorably on D3’s launch and features by citing the 2.5/5 Amazon score and 3.5/10 Metacritic average. These articles all follow roughly the same path: “Sure those Metacritic hates are dicks, but they have a point…” See Forbes blog, Unleash the Fanboy, MYCE, Digitally Downloaded, and 8 Bit Envy.

    Some of the other media offerings on this issue:

  • Time’s Swampland blog: Online Gaming Bad for Us and Here to Stay?
  • GameRanx: Online-only DRM “sets a dangerous precedent.”
  • Goozer Nation: What constitutes an “acceptable” release?
  • Forbes: Diablo 3’s Launch and the perils of online-only.
  • Venture Beat: Other game characters speak about Diablo 3’s launch.
  • Now Gamer: Quotes an “industry analyst” who says this was embarrassing for Blizzard.
  • AtomicPC: Is a bad launch the end of the world? And if not, why not?
  • Technabob: EveOnline pokes fun at Diablo 3’s launch.
  • It’ll be interesting to see if this controversy has legs. I doubt it, and next week when D3’s no longer the flavor of the moment and the Battle.net servers have performed well for some days, the gaming blogosphere will move on to some other circle jerk. One thing will remain forever, though. The mass media (mis)impression that Diablo 3’s launch was a complete and utter debacle. We’ll be reading and hearing references to that for years.

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    38 thoughts on “Diablo III’s Disastrous Launch: Phase Two

    1. Yea, I wasn’t surprised there were problems. I don’t think it warranted all of the negative attention. I have had more than my share of fun over the past few days, that’s for damn sure.

    2. I think you are going too far in defending Blizzard over this. RPS has a nice article about the topic (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/05/17/opinion-why-the-problem-with-diablo-isnt-diablo/), for me personally the biggest problem is that I still get lag spikes even though I have around 250ms delay. Few times it almost costed me my life, and I don’t see myself playing hardcore if such behavior continues. I payed more money for this game than usually (10€ more than for example DeusEx3 or Witcher 2), and as a a paying customer I really want to get my moneys worth.
      Right now I don’t feel like I have recieved a top-notch quality product. I think we as a gamers are really in a strange place right now where we expect that having such problems is ok, and that we should be thankful to big game companies for allowing us to spend 60€ for their product. No, it is not ok to have disconnects, lag spikes and all sorts of errors, even though it’s only few days after launch.

      • Cmon man. You pay $13£ for 1,5 hour movie and bitch about $60£ for hundreds of hours of entertainment just because you couldn’t play for the first few or got some lag issues? The vocal majority who think Diablo 3 had a bumpy launch either haven’t experienced a true bumpy launch or are just miserable and want the world to know it. Diablo 3 had by no means a perfect first day, but was it a disaster? Not even close. Computer gaming is extremely cheap entertainment; stop bitching about a few lag spikes and “lost” hours, or go do something else with your time. 

        • I pay 3£ to watch a movie in cinema. And every time when I see them running commercials from 21:00 to 21:30, even though the film is supposed to start at 21:00, and even arrive half an hour before to pick up my tickets, my inner slider moves towards ‘never go to cinema again’ side. I value my money, and if I pay someone, no matter how much, I expect to get a quality product, or at least what I was told I would get.
          I’m not talking about first day problems, I knew it would happen. What I’m irritated about is that still today, I get rubber band effects, I get slight lag spikes in the middle of the fight, and I feel for 60€  (which is again higher than what usually goes for games), this is not the services I expected.

          If this was MMO, I would say ok, there’s no other way around it. But blizz has decided to turn a single player game into always-online model because of the people who would pirate the game, and in the end the paying customers are the ones who feel the effects of such a decision.

    3. I am not a fan of always-online, and have argued against it since I first heard of it.
      Having said that, though, I am puzzled by the attention this is getting. How many MMOs have had similar or far worse problems at launch? Including, IIRC, WoW :p And yet these games were not crippled by a rocky launch, and the press didn’t act like the world was ending.
      As for the performance issues and minor bugs mentioned in the post above me, that is also hardly unique. Games in D3’s price range do not typically launch with fewer bugs and other issues than cheaper games; in fact, they generally are more popular and more complex and therefore have more problems, not fewer.
      Would be nice if we lived in a world where the tech worked the way it was supposed to out of the box, but that is not the world we live in, and that is not special to D3.

    4. Haven’t had any log in issues started playing early Tuesday morning been on pretty much constantly this week with only a few problems with lag which all except one were when I first created a game and were over within a minute.

      I think blizzard have done ok, going from 0 – 500,000 (or whatever the number of players is/was) is a hell of a task. It’s not perfect but then if your expecting perfection you might just want to do everything for yourself and see how that goes. 

    5. Most online only games have bad launches, and Diablo 3 is no different. But who really cares when you’re happily playing the game for months or even years after? I sure don’t.

    6. I really didn’t have that many problems barring Tuesday. Since then no problems except a few lag spikes. 

      I didn’t try to get in game instantly bought the game in midnight opening at a very late hour got home slept woke up then played. Nearly didn’t have any problems 🙂 

    7. Hater’s will hate I guess, but DRM is a genuine problem I Agree and I hope all of you agree to, start a petition. DRM was to prevent piracy? Well I just found out that some Russian dork has been able to bypass the login, don’t know if it’s true though. But similar stories are starting to pop up, no word on the internet?

    8. If you think this or any other game launch, or any other human endeavor, for that matter, will ever be flawless, you expectations are unreasonable.  There is an old saying about fast, good, and cheap, and it holds for a reason!  Now, if major problems were to persist, it would be a different matter.  So far, it’s gone about as well as can be expected given the situation.

    9. “Having said that, though, I am puzzled by the attention this is getting. How many MMOs have had similar or far worse problems at launch?”

      The thing is, this isn’t an MMO. If it was people would be more forgiving. People who want to play single player are having a terrible time because of the completely unnecessary requirement that they stay connected to a server at all times. The RPS article is spot on. Blizzard made a bad, customer-unfriendly decision in the first place, then couldn’t even provide a robust enough infrastructure to cope with the implications of their decision, and are quite rightly being pilloried for it.

      It is completely unacceptable, and I cannot get my head round hire anyone can defend it, or pretend it’s not a big problem.

      • ” then couldn’t even provide a robust enough infrastructure to cope with the implications of their decision”
        What are you talking about?  The servers have been fine for the last few days.  Are you honestly using launch day as the grounds for this argument? 

    10. Hi all, I just wanted to ask this forum (in desparation) if any regulars are still unable to access the game??? I am still unable to even complete the installation, and despite all my best efforts with Blizzard online assistance, have yet to play Diablo 3 at all, despite purchasing the online version so that I could \go online when the servers came online\ etc.    Was wondering if any of the forum moderators or guests have any information as to whether this is still a big problem? PS this is a great site – came across it when trying to solutions to my predicament, if I wasn’t trying so hard to avoid spoilers, it would be even better.

    11. Maybe you should go read the tech support forum Flux. I (and hundreds+ (?) of other people judging by the posts there) haven’t been able to play for more than ~10 mins without a kick to the login screen. I’ve tried every solution they’ve suggested, bar buying a new router. So ye, launch successful.

    12. The bombarding of zero s on megacritic user reviews is part of the internet hate syndrome.

      People have ZERO significance in their mostly anonymous lives and the kick to press a button and adding a zero to the next big thing gives them a kick.

      So what? COD gets 3.6 on tgat site and sells 25 million copies a year …

      The fact mainstream journalists note it is actuallt POSITIVE. Because ANY news on a GOOD product is positive news.

      If your product IDENTITY is good, then rea life communications will simply confirm it.

      After playing D3 I know they have an extreme good product in the on line market.

      In fact in day to day communications the word has spread that D3 is a fantastic game.

      1000 idiots on the internet are faceless and have zero impact, just like WoW and CoD proved in the past.

    13. The bombarding of zero s on megacritic user reviews is part of the internet hate syndrome. People have ZERO significance in their mostly anonymous lives and the kick to press a button and adding a zero to the next big thing gives them a kick. So what? COD gets 3.6 on tgat site and sells 25 million copies a year … The fact mainstream journalists note it is actuallt POSITIVE. Because ANY news on a GOOD product is positive news. If your product IDENTITY is good, then rea life communications will simply confirm it. After playing D3 I know they have an extreme good product in the on line market. In fact in day to day communications the word has spread that D3 is a fantastic game. 1000 idiots on the internet are faceless and have zero impact, just like WoW and CoD proved in the past.  

    14. On one hand, the review bombing and stuff is over the top. But on the other hand, I have only managed to get a few hours of green latency gameplay so far. This is unacceptable. They said May 15th was when I could finally play this game after all the wait, but what they delivered was nothing short of a lagfest. I have been disconnected a million times and made 2 additions to the hall of heroes. Until this week I was perfectly fine with the lack of offline single player, now I am pissed.

    15. OMG!
      Their all fools, everyone one of them.  The substance to the hate is just smoke and mirrors.  I will never understand the hatred of the no online play that the haters love to puke about non-stop.  The general internet hate that infects everything will never stop until we stop listening to them.
      How anyone can be sheep in this world and follow the idiots that scream the loudest is beyond this human to understand.  They are sheep, plebs, slaves and I feel very sad for anyone not willing to fight this hatred.  Just like my barbs said, “you fight or die!”.  I will fight!  Its going to stop, where at the breaking point and I believe someday soon its going to end.  This evilness is not going to prevail because I am the Nephalem and evil will be destroyed.


    16. I have to say, I like this version of DRM infinitely better than Steam: being forced to run 3rd party software in order to play my game. Online-only is less obtrusive. Besides, I never played D2 offline either.

      • *rolls eyes

        Just because YOU don’t play offline, doesn’t mean the millions of others who are complaining about this do not. But I bet you are fine with EA’s Origin and Ubisoft’s DRM. They use the same principle as Steam i.e the loading of a third party program.

        At least Steam has an Offline Mode…true, it doesn’t work all the time for some, but I have never had a problem with it and neither has several millions.

    17. Honestly, I’m stunned at all the hate against online-only.  Most of my play time so far has been solo, and I have no complaints.  40+ hours played in the game in less than 3 full days is a “terrible” launch?  Give me a f’n break.

      Compare Diablo 2 to WoW.  I loved Diablo 2.  However, the game was irreparably broken due to the inability to prevent duping due to the design of the game data system, which necessitated all game data be able to be handled by the client since you could play offline – your own computer was both client and server.  Knowing every detail of how data is handled and being able to modify that data is how duping is easily done.  It’s also why 7+ years of WoW still has resulted in no dupes.

      Do we have problems of duping on WoW?  Most definitely not, or you’d see the rarest BoE’s cost pennies on the dollar on the AH.  The reason?  A true client-server architecture.  Sure, there are private servers, but they can’t infect the legitimate game community of WoW’s servers.

      Would I like to be able to play offline single player any time I wish, and also join the online community with the same character?  Sure.  Would I love to have my cake and eat it too?  Sure.  However, and I willing to sacrifice offline play for the ability to have an untainted economy

      Note that this has nothing to do with DRM or anti-piracy.  The data requirements of Diablo 3 servers give it the same hardware requirements of WoW, and I’m sure Blizzard feels that a WoW-legitimate economy is more important than a broken game that needs ladder resets every few months to be pure.  Yes, it’s not a true MMO, which is why there is no subscription fee.  That’s being supplemented with the RMAH fees, and although I do feel that’s not in the spirit of the game, it’s a better alternative than spending $15 to subsidize what 3rd party websites do anyway.  Just look at WoW gold sellers and the certain real money D2 item sales sites.  Fighting real money items in games today is like common drug prohibition.  It’s a lesson in wasteful futility as people will do what they want to do whether you support it or not.  See alcohol in the 1920’s.

      • I guess being able to play is a small price to pay for virtual items security in your single player game…
        Keep in mind, DRM (yes, online-only is DRM) never hurts the pirates and hackers – it always hurts the loyal paying customer. Loyal customer has to put up with all the BS DRM causes, while pirates/hackers play their game DRM free. Sad truth is, D3 isn’t immune to this, no matter what anyone says.

      • Again, another ridiculous post.

        Blizzard could have EASILY made stipulations to having an offline character. They could have made it so that an offline character cannot take part in the RMAH. Or that an offline character could only join other games made by people who are playing offline characters. How about the fact that when there servers are down, people can still play offline. Or when people are having lag spikes, 3007, or any number of errors, people can still play offline. How about when I want to get some quick gaming in and do not have access to a network (you do realize that there are millions of people who do not have access to the Internet EVERYWHERE they go, as well as millions of places in the world that do not offer access), I cannot play.

        There are plenty of reasons why they should have allowed offline play, and only ONE why they shouldn’t. Blizzard doesn’t want to upset that potential “cash cow” that is the RMAH. They want to make sure the D3 economy stays intact hence, when items sell for a lot, Blizzard takes a bigger cut. Hey, I am not opposed to that in the least and have the intelligence and common sense to say that, “Just because I won’t use it, I am not going to talk smack to others who will.” Blizzard should have realized this as well and implemented changes to the game, like those stated above, in order to ensure the RMAH economic integrity.

        Point blank, why is it so hard for fan boys to understand this? Fact is, there is no argument that you can make that would condone Blizzard’s actions. No two ways about it….Blizzard screwed up royally and by doing so, screwed the customer.

    18. Um, a passenger plane going down is a disaster.  A hurricane wiping out a coastal community is a disaster.  NOTHING about the launch of D3 was a disaster. This is a total non-issue.  The only people who care about this are reviewers and drama queens like Flux.  Seriously dude, quit posting about the ‘disasterous’ release or how the game is too easy because .000001% of the players are in inferno already (by pumping VITA and running right through all content – which isn’t even playing the game).  This is supposed to be a fansite – the constant hating from Flux disguised as ‘news bites’ is getting wearisome.  

      • Just because you want to ostrich and not know what’s actually happening doesn’t mean everyone else wishes to share your ignorance. I think most of our readers are curious to know what 90% of the internet game/tech/news sites are writing about D3, and why, and whether its accurate or not.

    19. The thing is this…I played WoW for a few years and I never ever ever had rubber banding (and it even reported my latency at a higher value than DIII does) yet I’ll get this rubber banding almost very 5-10 minutes in DIII when the bar is “green”. This morning I figured “WHAT THE HELL” and I created an HC char…latency was very good (in the green must be good…right?) at 285ms and things really went well up until a point where it all of a sudden it spiked to +1000ms. I quickly switched to a software character (thank goodness I wasn’t busy with a boss fight – the Skellie had just gone down!).
      So all of the news about how we wouldn’t feel the latency while playing turned out to be pretty much BS. Now don’t get me wrong – I love the game (although I’m only busy with Act II…I just refuse to rush) and I’m having a blast but at the same time the nasty nasty online demons are just popping up their heads to screw it over.
      Okay I’m stuck in hell it seems…I love it but it could be better in terms of the “play experience alone” if that makes any sense (i.e. ignoring the actual game). I guess that’s just the way it’ll always be for a game that could have been played in an offline mode with some form of synchronising online component instead being forced to retrieve chunks of data from a server instead (and yes I knew about this before hand – but it’s Diablo…so really what was I expected to do?).
      Do I blame piracy? Do I blame corporate greed? Ah fark I don’t know but it sure doesn’t sit quite as comfy for me as it should.

    20. I’m struggling tounderstand the hate. I had issues Tuesday night, but since then nothing. Not much lag, no dc’s, no login queues, etc.  Frankly it’s been about 1000% better than I expected. Maybe it’s a geographic thing – I live in LA, maybe being physically close to the servers helps. Or if there are multiple server sites distributed around the country maybe the ones on the west coast are better?

      Im not sure about the wisdom of the apology. Flux is probably dead on that it fed the hate cycle, but on the other hand, should Blizzard act as if all is normal?  I don’t know. The hatemunity like to pile on Blizzard for being heartless corporate Bobbys, so I bet they’re over compensating whenever anything goes wrong.  

    21. D3s launch was bad. It’s like they had the Open beta weekend only to cover up a bit because of that bug that made the closed Beta an open beta… Because they obviously didn’t implement anything to fix the problems the open beta had. People experienced the exact same errors during launch that open beta testers did…

      Its sad, because D3 is clearly the best thing Blizzard has made in at least 8 or so years, but this whole ‘Online Only’ thing is unacceptable. I was shocked so many people weren’t against it until launch night. It’s pure DRM, and I’m glad people aren’t quietly swallowing the pill. The irony is Blizzard would have gotten away with it, and ushered in a new age of online only DRM, if they would have actually acted on the issues encountered during their open beta.

    22. Two things..
      Second:  Quit bitching.  People are already clearing inferno.  Stop sucking.  It’s your fault you can’t log in  anyway.  If you are going to complain about something so much, I don’t wanna play with you anyway.

    23. Could we be overemphasizing this? Do you really think it will be remembered for YEARS?

    24. Error 37 right now and it’s the bloody weekend.
      I didn’t really care about this issues until not, but now I agree that this is complete disaster. A week after the game is one and thousands of players can’t log in and play the game they bought. Ridicilous.

    25. EU servers are again in trouble today, on Sunday. No way to play Diablo 3 since one hour and counting.
      It seems we’ll have to cross our fingers each weekend, even for a single-player game. How people don’t see this as a game-breaking issue is beyond me.

    26. This is now beyond disaster, 6h of unavailable service, and it’s Sunday. Sunday, when I clear all the stuff so I could play D3 the whole day and what do I get. 6hs of waiting to servers to get back.

    27. I own a macbook 5.1, so I didn’t have to worry about the server issues at all because Diablo 3 doesn’t play on macbooks with my graphicscard, even though its specs are above the minimum requirements. So, until I buy Windows 7 to run bootcamp, I spent 60 dollars to play at 5-10 FPS.

    28. Most of the players on the forums come off to me as primitive and impatient, harassing Blizzard and jumping to wild conclusions simply because they had to stop playing the game for a few hours the day it was released for hotfixes. Did anyone honestly think a game as complex as Diablo 3 could be launched with absolutely no problems? Let’s be realistic here. Another thing I can’t stand is the nitpicking. Four years ago, this game didn’t exist. The idea of Diablo 3 died with the disbanding of Blizzard North and the canned Diablo 3 project they were working on. 2008 WWI – Diablo 3 is revealed, fans are super happy. Fast-forward four years – a month to launch day, and all they can do is complain about monk animations. These fans, in my opinion, don’t deserve to play the game at all. 

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