Australian Blizzard fans got a shock to their system earlier this week when GAME, a major electronic entertainment retailer in the territory, announced that, in light of having gone into administration, they would not be carrying copies of Diablo III. And what of the money gamers had put down at the store for their pre-orders? Lost, said GAME, as they would be unable to refund said pre-orders, especially if paid in cash (in credit, they said, there was a possibility that one could have the charge cancelled on the bank's end).
It puts a little fear into you, doesn't it? Makes you a little wary of the pre-order system you take for granted, the assumption that your money, once invested in the game you're buying, will secure you a copy at release and won't simply be lost to you forever, used to pay off creditors higher on the company's list. Because that's what's happened in Australia, administration being fairly comparable to bankruptcy in the United States. Though individuals who pre-ordered can register as creditors of the company, they're considered "unsecured creditors," which puts them very low on the list in order of repayment. What, then, is a frustrated Australian who paid for Diablo III in cash to do?
Enter Blizzard itself, swooping in to the rescue. Under no obligation to do anything of the sort, Blizzard has offered affected consumers a free digital copy of their new game through the Blizzard store. All one has to do is purchase the game through the Diablo III website, then submit a GAME Australia receipt by June 30, proving that they paid down their pre-order before May 15. In return, said gamers will receive a credit from Blizzard for the amount paid to GAME Australia.
This is customer service. Understand that, though providing a digital download of the game doesn't explicitly cost Blizzard anything, they also aren't receiving a penny from the original sales at GAME. The retailer accepted pre-order money, but had not yet ordered copies of Diablo III, meaning that Blizzard had yet to be paid and, as such, doesn't technically owe the affected individuals a thing. That they're resolved to fixing the problem anyway is a magnanimous gesture, especially when one considers that the company does have to expend money to maintain the servers that these new customers will be using for downloading the title, playing the game, and, of course, logging in.
And, last night, players learned just how wrong things could go with the login servers. At 3:01 AM EDT (12:01 AM PDT), Diablo III officially went live and immediately proved that Blizzard was simply not prepared for the demand. Within seconds, individuals trying to login were receiving Error 37, which stated that the servers were busy. Occasionally, they would manage to get authenticated and meet with Error 3006 (time out) or even get to the character creation screen before the server booted them. Personally, I spent, over the course of an hour and a half, an hour spamming my password box (pretty sure I've diminished my keyboard's life by a few thousand keystrokes from that). The other half an hour was spent chatting with similarly frustrated friends while Blizzard added additional servers to the mix, going so far as to take down the Battle.net website.
Though it was only an hour and a half's delay and may seem humorous in hindsight, there are certainly realities it makes abundantly clear about always-online games. Diablo III is not explicitly a multiplayer experience. This is not a case like World of Warcraft or other MMOs in which players are inhabiting a shared world at all times, whether they wish to interact with others or not. Diablo III is for one to four players, but demands an Internet connection to play no matter what, whether to accommodate certain features or (more to the point) to combat piracy. Eventually, though, my friends and I were able to pierce the veil and hop into the game, make our characters and venture forth into the dark, musty world of Diablo III. We comprised a diverse mix of skillsets, from Barbarian to Witch Doctor, but the fifth class, which none of us picked, was the Demon Hunter. Turns out that may have been for the best.
It turns out that the Demon Hunter is the catalyst for a game-breaking glitch in Diablo III. Early in the game, one comes across a Templar companion. While one is incapable of teaming up with him if in the party of players, on their alone time, gamers can use companions to fill out their party and engage in battles that, as a solo player, they might find overwhelming. These companions can even be equipped with new items and weapons. If you're a Demon Hunter, though, it's best that you don't attempt to equip your Templar with a new shield, as this has been shown to crash the game and prevent login until Blizzard comes along and fixes the issue.
To be fair, what's a major launch without a few hiccups? Blizzard seems to have done a masterful job of combating the worst of it, thus far, and while some issues that are bound to be persistent have reared their ugly heads (always-online gaming), the vast majority appear to be solvable.
Oh, and if it's telling at all, I'm only writing this because, as of this moment, the servers are down for maintenance. My clicking fingers itch.
Date: May 15, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*