My Monday night was uneventful. While the two million people who pre-ordered Diablo III ripped their hair out waiting for the clock to strike twelve, I was watching House M.D. and casually surfing the net. Unlike a lot of my friends, I didn’t preorder Diablo III, nor have I bought it in the four days since it’s been out. Why not, you ask? Oh, you didn’t ask? Well, I’m telling you anyway.

Always Online Is Always a Bad Idea: The Error 37 Story

Digital Rights Management, you are a thorn in the side of every gamer. Diablo III is the latest culprit in an alarming trend of videogames requiring that the player be online when playing the single player portion of the game. This is done to combat piracy at the expense of inconveniencing and upsetting players who legitimately purchased the game.

For instance, my ISP in my podunk Northern California town is less than stellar and I occasionally experience interruptions in my internet service. If this were to happen during a Diablo III session, I’m be out of luck. If my internet were to remain down for an extended period of time, I’d be out of luck for an extended period of time. It also enables lag, a familiar problem to those who frequently play online, a problem that is now being introduced into the single player realm.

And then there’s Error 37, which is the error that everyone got when trying to play at launch, because the servers unsurprisingly took a beating. I imagine this was worse for those who bought physical copies, having to wait in line for possibly hours, just to get your game, go home, and find out that you can’t even play it.

Look at All This Loot

Fans of Diablo III love their loot. It’s in their blood and it’s what attracts them to games like this. The quest to find better and better equipment almost takes precedence over the main quest of the game which is to destroy Diablo. While loot isn’t necessarily the same thing as achievements, given that loot has an actual impact on the gameplay, the same feverish hunt still takes place.

I don’t dislike the hunt, but it’s a slippery, obsessive-compulsive slope. At some point the desire to have fun is overtaken by a need to collect and by satiating this need, the gamer tricks themselves into thinking they’re having a good time. Admittedly, I’ve fallen victim to this many times, enough times to know a trap when I see it.

This is Your Brain on Hype

Spore. Lair. Duke Nukem Forever. Hype kills.

In all fairness, this was largely out of Blizzard’s hands. If you develop a sequel to a 12-year-old smash hit, you don’t have to lift a finger to generate any hype. Fans of the franchise fired up the hype machine four years ago when D3 was announced and it’s been overheating ever since, generating wave after wave of unreachable expectations. Remember when those first screenshots came out and rabid fans went berserk over how the game wasn’t dark enough? That was the anticipation spinning out of control; the first indication that fans were expecting a perfect product.

The problem is, even if you don’t buy into the hype, it still makes it very difficult to predict how good the game is going to be. You need to exercise the proper amount of caution. You certainly shouldn’t dismiss a game because of hype, that’s silly. However you have to pinpoint those looking through 12-year-old rose-tinted glasses, because you can only trust them as far as you can throw them (does not apply to circus strongmen). More importantly, you need to sit back and watch the reception.

With something like Diablo III, it will never, ever be as good as everyone’s wildest dreams. And sure enough, it currently holds an 86 on Metacritic – certainly a very respectable score, but worth all of the fervor? Probably not.

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