August 6, 2011

Blizzard Responds to Communities “Online Only” Complaints

Blizzards recent announcement that their newest release would be following the “Online Only” model has genearted a large number of complaints.  Blizzard recently took the time to address those comments.  Here is what they had to say:

“We thought about this quite a bit,” said executive producer Rob Pardo earlier this week. “One of the things that we felt was really import was that if you did play offline, if we allowed for that experience, you’d start a character, you’d get him all the way to level 20 or level 30 or level 40 or what have you, and then at that point you might decide to want to venture onto But you’d have to start a character from scratch, because there’d be no way for us to guarantee no cheats were involved, if we let you play on the client and then take that character online.”

Senior producer Alex Mayberry told MTV that gamers can play by themselves, but the characters are stored on Blizzard’s servers. “You have to authenticate through our servers to be able to play the game,” he said. “I think it’s not just ‘Diablo 3’ but with our games as a whole we’re tying everything into these days…We can provide a much a much more stable, connected, safer experience than we could if we let people play off-line.”

In addition to the player character aspect, the single-player mode will have elements including a persistent friends list, cross-game chat via the RealID system, player versus player and more. These require a constant Internet connection obviously.

But despite the reasons behind the always-connected requirements, fans are not happy with the decision. MTV uses this posting on Reddit as an example which has more than 2,700 comments, most of which express their distaste for the always-connected requirement.

“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,” said Blizzard’s vice president of online technologies Robert Bridenbecker. “We’ve been doing online gameplay for 15 years now…and with ‘World of WarCraft’ and our roots in and now with ‘Diablo 3,’ 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 that persistent connection on the servers, you cannot ignore the power and the draw of that.”

“You’re guaranteeing that there are no hacks, no dupes,” he said. “All of these things were points of discussion, but the whole copy protection, piracy thing, that’s not really entering into why we want to do it. I’m a huge purveyor of online sites and from my standpoint, I don’t look at DRM solutions and go, ‘Wow, those are awesome.’ I look at those and say, ‘Wow, those kind of suck.’ But if there’s a compelling reason for you to have that online connectivity that enhances the gameplay, that doesn’t suck. That’s awesome.

While it is appreciated that they are trying to provide a “safer” experience many people prefer not to have their content controlled.  Their statement that it wasn’t about piracy is a half truth.  Piracy is a big deal on the PC platform but not as big as it used to be.  This is another prime example of blocking user made content.  If users can’t create their own content then they will be forced to purchase it from Blizzard.  This is 95% likely a move to drive more revenues. 

Source: Toms Hardware

November 10, 2010

Are Custom Maps and Modding A Dying Art?

What do Modern Warfare 2, Black Ops, Medal of Honor, Gears of War 1 and 2, and Bad Company 2 all have in common besides the fact that they were some of the biggest releases to come out in the last 5 years?  None of them support or even provide tools for custom content?  It appears that the world of modding has met it’s match with the new pay DLC/micro transaction pricing model that major companies such as Activision and EA are pushing.  It makes sense for these providers to block custom content so they can limit users to their custom content.

This really is sad in the sense that some of the most popular multiplayer games out there today were based off of modded and custom content.  Some prime examples of this are Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic and Day of Defeat.  All of these games spawned off of a user created mod.  The modders created the game play, sounds, maps and overall content of their mods.  These mods took off at such an alarming rate that Valve took notice of them and purchased them from their developers. 

Not all developers block custom content, in fact some encourage it.  The ever popular Valve software provides the SDK packages to create custom content.  They also provide a map editior to create custom maps.  Valve is quite unique from a great number of other companies out there today in the fact that they don’t push pay DLC in fact they tend to shy away from it.  They also have an entire section of their website dedicated to modding and to help people who are interested in it to do so.  The creators of X3, Egosoft,  are another prime example of a company that encourages it’s users to create custom content.  Egosoft built in a script editor within the game that allows you to modify almost every aspect of the game and even add in new content.

With the rise of consoles over the last 5 years the overall modding community has defiantly died down.  With the slower release of PC titles and even fewer that allow for modding in the first place it’s definitely put a hamper on the community.  Consoles for the most part do not allow any custom content.  There is one title however that does try to let users make their own content and that game is Halo.  Halo, to my knowledge, is the only console game that really makes an attempt at letting users create custom maps and game play types.   Halo’s forge does a fairly good job of letting the player create a custom map based on a preset number of items he/she can deploy in the world.  Halo also provides you with the tools you need to create custom game play types as well to go along with your custom map.

While not all custom content is good and in fact some of it is just plain terrible I think it is a real tragedy that developers as a whole are shoving it off in some dark corner so they can bolster their profits with multiple DLC content packs.  Custom maps can be a lot of fun to play and in some cases they are far more fun then the standard content that comes with the main game.  Modding also helps increase the lifetime of any particular game.  People are still playing games like Half Life, Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and Deus Ex many years after their release because of the substantial amount of user created content there is. 

So what do you guys think?  Do you think the modding community is really all that important?  Is it beneficial to companies to allow users to create and publish their own content or does it hurt their bottom line?  Does custom content take away or add to the game?  Which is better?  DLC or user created content?  What does the TGB community think?

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