Blizzard: Sorry, You'll Have To Be Online To Play Diablo III

Don't call it World of DiabloCraft, it's still just Diablo III, Blizzard's upcoming massively single and multiplayer action-roleplaying game, but like World of Warcraft, Blizzard's now saying you'll need a persistent Internet connection to play at all.

Blizzard executive vice president of game design, Rob Pardo, delivered the bad news (well, for some of you anyway) at an invite-only preview event, claiming all the stuff they're throwing into the game "requires" placing gamers on an Internet leash.

Some of that stuff reportedly includes a friends list, cross-game chat (voice) courtesy Blizzard's Real ID system, online storage of characters, persistent parties, player-versus-player and public game matchmaking, dynamic joining or leaving in cooperative play mode, an item stash shared across multiple characters (up to 10), an auction house, achievements and stat-tracking, and a vanity system (something to do with visibile banners) that'll display your achievements to other players.

I know, there's a bit of the usual smoke and mirrors here, whereby Blizzard's probably really pushing the online-only thing "to thwart pirates and cheaters," but couched in "to make your playing experience more seamless." It'd be simple enough to sort the online and offline components into separate play columns and temporarily disable the online bits and bobs in an offline situation, just as StarCraft II does. Simple enough, but not secure enough, apparently.

Not that it'll thwart pirates (or cheaters). They've apparently been circumventing Blizzard's anti-theft, anti-cheating measures for years, including running illicit versions of World of Warcraft and StarCraft II. Blizzard boots them periodically, but they're a moving target. No system's foolproof.

But perhaps I'm being too hard on Blizzard. At what point does a game become online-only? No one balks at World of Warcraft's online-only play requirement or complains about their inability to play it on a plane (though many aircraft now have airborne connections almost fast enough to do so). I'm no fan of online-only software, since the Internet still has reliability issues, but it's more dependable than satellite television (where the signal's impeded any time a major thunderstorm rolls through) and to be perfectly honest, I never actually played StarCraft II offline.

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