Blizzard's recent announcement that Diablo 3 would require a constant connection to the Internet has been met with some consternation from fans. The company has been caught off-guard by the reaction, at least according to online technologies VP Robert Bridenbecker. He says that Blizzard's history and the direction of online strategies in general shows the always-on requirement as a reasonable standard, given the benefits of it in this case.
"I'm actually kind of surprised in terms of there even being a question in today's age around online play and the requirement around that," Bridenbecker told MTV Multiplayer. "We've been doing online gameplay for 15 years now... it really is just the nature of how things are going, the nature of the industry. When you look at everything you get by having the persistent connection on the servers, you cannot ignore the power and the draw of that."
Bridenbecker claims that DRM wasn't the impetus for the decision, but rather the "feature set, the sanctity of the game systems like your characters. You're guaranteeing that there are no hacks, no dupes. ... I look at [DRM solutions] and say, 'Wow, those kind of suck.' But if there's a compelling reason for you to have that online connectivity that enhances gameplay, that doesn't suck. That's awesome."
He also suggests that offering a separate offline mode would create a "separate path" for players, and not many would use it anyway. He calls this solution more "clean." He also clarified that always-on doesn't mean you have to play with other people. "You'll still be able to have a private game. You'll still be able to go off and play the game solo and adventure solo. You an opt to bring other people to your world if you want, but that's up to you."
The rationale echoes comments from Blizzard game design VP Rob Pardo, who commented that increased security outweighs the benefit of offline play. "I want to play Diablo 3 on my laptop in a plane, but, well, there are other games to play for times like that."
The always-on requirement has been largely interpreted as a method of keeping hacks from impacting the game, especially ones like item-duplicating that would decimate the newly-announced real money auction house. We'll have to see if Bridenbecker's comments do anything to soothe the savage rage-beast that is the Internet.