Blog 399: Doubt

I waited a long time for Starcraft II. It looked so promising, and considering my experiences with the editor so far during the beta, it really is. But there are murmurings surrounding the massive pile of intrusive DRM and data-mining systems that is Battle.Net 2.0 that have made me question whether I really want to support this game at all.

Could it really be back to Warcraft III, after all this?

Always On Internet Connections

They were always pretty hazy about just how one will be able to do singleplayer. At first it was “no, you’re not allowed to play offline at all, why would you want to do this?”, now it’s “okay, you can play as a guest”. Play as a GUEST? On my own computer? Wait a minute, faggot-features.

I don’t like always-on Internet systems because they are beyond my control. If my computer breaks and I can’t play the game, that’s my fault and I can fix it. If the CD snaps, that’s my fault. If these things happen, they’re my responsibility; but it is also within my power (well, usually) to fix them.

But when BT decide to cut off my line, that’s not my fault. When the servers go down, that’s not my fault. But not only are these things not my fault, I can’t do a damn thing about them. If I’m offline when I’m offline, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like outside; I can play my game and be happy — it is under my control. Call me paranoid.

“You’re paranoid.”

— Kaiden, Mass Effect

Anyway, hopefully it’ll end up like UT3; where you can play offline as yourself and it still stores all your achievements. I would be rather pissed if it locked me in to being “Local Player” just because I don’t want my every move tracked by their data mining platform. The word on the street certainly does seem to be validate online then play off, but I won’t trust my senses until somebody has tested the release version.

If you have a really bad internet connection, but you have a couple of friends there…

That functionality’s not there. Our goal is to make sure that connectivity to the Battle.net servers is such that that’s the experience that people want.

Interview with Blizzard’s Frank Pearce

I mean, what? It doesn’t matter if I want it or not; if the connection just ain’t there… That interview has been known to induce spontaneous combusion, I don’t advise reading it unless you’re really serious. That man is nasty.

Region-Lock

Blizzard’s attitude to online play is also quite strange. The fact that I might interact with people outside my geographic locale (the wonders of the Internet), and, heaven forfend, desire to play games with them (occasionally) seems to have slipped their mind. When you sign up to your mega Battle.Net 2.0 account and give it a region, that’s it.

Warcraft III let you choose which geographic region servers you connected to. It worked quite well there, I don’t seem to remember the pro-gamers coming crashing down because of the latency (hell, I even hosted better than half the people across the pond most of the time).

Fine, we don’t like latency, but it never killed us. And I’m sure we don’t mind having a little bit more of it so we can play a few custom matches with our trans-atlantic (or even trans-hemispherical) associates. Even though there are plenty of rumours of Euros signed up with US accounts and not even experiencing the so-called “terrible terrible lag” that is feared. Hell, they could just do what all the FPSes do and, cripes, show a ping value and let you decide?

We can always hope this will be dropped by release time, but in all the press releases they seem to be sticking to their very strange guns. My theory is that it’s to protect the poor little North Americans from butt-rape at the hands of Korean pro-gamers. The entire system seems to be designed around molly-coddling, actually… And it’s easily subverted if you’re forewarned. I wasn’t, but I suppose I can always get another e-mail address to support a new Battle.Net account… sigh.

The same interview I linked above tells you that in order to play on different servers, you will need more than one regional Battle.Net account… and more than one copy of the game. Nice. They speak about doing “what the community wants”, but they won’t give them the thing that the community wants most — and it’s something that used to be possible with no problems.

The mind boggles.

Map Hosting

I’ve heard a lot conflicting rumours and what you can and can not do in terms of map hosting. The most frightening is that you cannot host games that are not in the Battle.Net “cloud”; i.e., not published on Battle.Net. No more hosting a map straight from your drive and (cripes) waiting for everyone to download it off you when you’re testing.

That would (possibly) be fine if you had infinite space to upload all your projects. The current figure is 20MB, which is all fine and dandy, but then I’ve also heard you have a hard five map limit. So if you want to produce, over your lifespan, more than five maps (it’s more likely than you think), you have to drop an old one — which will make it unhostable, because it’s no longer about the host having the map, it’s about the map being out there. Of course, they might allow you to buy more space, but micro-transactions is one can of worms I really don’t want to open…

Of more concern to me, however, is the truly frightening rumour that one will not be able to host locally. I can almost stomach an always-on Internet connection for data-mining, but having to play my singleplayer RPG map through Battle.Net?! That’s pretty hard to swallow. I’d rather not have to put “download map, open map in editor, press test map” as the instructions for my maps.

Maps are also sorted by popularity, which seems to me a slightly daft decision. WC3 had the terrible problem (okay, mostly a community problem) of the most popular maps drowning out the slightest attempt to host something a bit odd or new — and sorting maps by popularity is going to reinforce that even more.

Aside from that, single-player maps just don’t belong on the net! It’s… it’s… Wrong. Aaargh!

Conclusion

Okay, most of this is rumour and supposition; I haven’t been on Battle.Net since the editor came out, but with all these frightful rumours piling up I will continue to avoid it.

So I hardly ever play online anyway; true. (But why could I do something in an old game that I can’t do in a newer game?)

So I do have access to an always-on connection; true. (Except that week when it spontaneously disappeared.)

But the features are stacking up in a manner that I find distasteful. With these, on top of all the little editor things like the three-cliff-level limit and the missing action “set player name”… The entire edifice just seems to be going in the wrong direction. So much emphasis on pr0-gaming, so much that we took for granted in WC3 that has been surreptitiously dropped, so many forward steps accompanied by so many backward flops…

There’s a serious amount of discontent floating around, most of it flaming from the extremes. I don’t think I agree with either the “Battle.Net 2.0 is unsavable” camp or the “Battle.Net 2.0 is the best ever” camp. Then again, these are pretty much all composed of “it’s not Starcraft 3D” people and pro-gamers.

I will get the game, I suspect (what with the terrible concern of censorship being relegated to just the map title and description… I can stop swearing for those few hundred characters), and the RdzPG Library is going strong in the beta editor. WC3 had a whole different raft of problems and it turned out all right… Didn’t it?

Not to mention Facebook integration. Facebook integration. I mean… Motherfucker.

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