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Lightening Doesn’t Strike Thrice

Starting a new business is really exhausting work.  It’s almost as bad as having a baby.  Long days and nights trying to get documents written out, developing databases and other supporting products, being at the beck and call for demanding clients who want to take advantage of the inexperienced who only wants to do a good job.  You spend a lot of time trying to avoid the pitfalls and traps that come with making the wrong move.  You’re constantly learning when to throw in the towel or when to pull out the stops to get through a rough patch.  And despite what you might learn, it does little to prepare you for the next situation that’s always different somehow.

It really isn’t always all busy or that bad.  I’m able to snatch an hour here and there to do something else to wind down.  And more often than not, I’m going back to the computer to do a video game.  And although I’m not at all good, I love to play nevertheless.  But I always play the computer.  I’m reluctant to play somebody head to head.  In a fighter game I’d flameout faster than one of those Cylons trying to shoot down Apollo and Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica series.  Chances are pretty good that in a chess game I’d be in checkmate in about three or four moves.  I guess I like playing the computer because it doesn’t gloat when I die so quickly and easily.

For years I’ve been waiting for Diablo III to be released.  I was a huge fan of the original Diablo.  It was a unique real time strategy game in a world full of first person shooters.  It seems like I wasted a million hours of my life on that game.  But that doesn’t compare to the number of hours I wasted on the sequel, Diablo II.  Diablo II took the original, added more graphics (not hard to imagine the way gaming technology constantly pushes the envelope of computer development) and extended the Diablo game world to cover a variety of environments.  It starts off in a forest like setting, goes into a desert setting, moves into a jungle setting, then it takes the battle to hell itself, and then wraps up the game play in the mountains of the Arreat Summit and the Worldstone Keep.

I’ve spent the last ten years dallying in Diablo II.  It has become a gaming staple for me.  And when Blizzard, the creators of the Diablo gaming franchise, announced that it would release Diablo III, I started anticipating its release like a six year old anticipates Christmas, at least back in the day.

Diablo III was released at the very end of June last year.  Like most software products, I never buy the new PC game the moment it’s released.  The developer and the gaming community need time to work out the kinks for me.  And I’ll be damned if I’m going to stand in line outside the Best Buy overnight for any product that is potentially riddled with issues.  My anticipation’s great, but my frustration with faulty software is pretty intense as well.  I’ll give it a few months.  A few months turned into a few more months.  And I faithfully stayed with my Diablo II.

About a week ago, I defeated Baal, Diablo’s bigger meaner brother that came with the expansion pack, on the Hell level for the umpteenth time and decided it might be time to look into getting Diablo III.  I went to Amazon and looked up the software.  I was dismayed with what I saw.  The reviews were not kind.  About half the gamers who bothered to make a review were saying don’t bother.  Diablo III was a tremendous disappointment.  I was stunned.  Although I never played the game, I kept track of its development and often played trailers of the game going through its beta development.  The graphics were impressive.  The character developments piqued my interest.  The sketches of the new Diablo only fueled the anticipation.  What could’ve gone wrong?

Diablo III became a victim of Blizzard’s success.  When the original Diablo was made, it was something new and fresh and totally unexpected.  It came out of left field and hit a grand slam.  It raked in so much cash it looked like a Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme from Bernie’s perspective.  And when Diablo II came up to bat, history repeated itself.  Gamers everywhere paid good money to buy the game and play the game on Blizzard’s game network.  Diablo II made so much cash it looked like a no bid contract for Halliburton.  And after the success of these two software applications, Diablo III had big shoes to fill and Blizzard had to ensure another home run.  So instead of focusing on the game and letting it earn its money honestly the way the first two did, Blizzard instituted a policy that was revenue focused instead of entertainment focused.

It used to be that buying the software and installing it on your computer was a simple matter.  It’s standard procedure that after new software is installed its authenticity had to be verified.  This is done with a request for registration that’s performed shortly after installation.  But Blizzard changed the policy so that the software had to be authenticated each and every time the software is started.  This meant that you couldn’t just play the game if you were somewhere when the internet wasn’t available.  And while 24/7 internet access is taken for granted by a lot of people, not all of us carry a personal internet connection around everywhere we go.

The next complaint was that one purchase made one character.  I used to play several characters on my machine.  As one got difficult or boring, I’d simply shut that game down and started another game on my machine with one of my other characters.  With Diablo III you got one shot.  No more letting someone else start a character and playing on their own terms.  One game means one character and there is nothing you can do, short of buying another game and giving Blizzard more revenue.

The play of the game is everything the trailers and teasers promised.  Most of the reviews had nothing but praise for the third installment as a game.  The problem is that the execution of the licensing has destroyed the game’s enjoyment.  And while Diablo III will make a lot of money, it won’t make nearly the amount it could’ve made if it simply focused on making the best game possible.  From what I understand, Blizzard has lost a lot of its Diablo fans.  While Diablo III may wind up a solid hit, it is bound to come up short when the final tally is done and it’s compared to its predecessors.

While I haven’t played the game myself, let alone gone through the rigmarole of purchasing and registering the game, I have a tendency to put credence on the word of others.  When it comes to video games, the entire internet is like a Consumer Reports review.  It would be rather foolish to dismiss the experience of so many others.  And while I would like to get my hands on the game and give it an opportunity to impress me, as if that would be hard to do, I can’t help but think that Blizzard should’ve stuck with the formula that made it so successful in the first place.  It is unfortunate, but it appears that in a bid to focus on the generation of money, the lightening that made a solid hit the first two times will not be striking a third time.

Thursday, February 17, 2011 - Posted by | Life, Thoughts

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