Diablo III, it increasingly seems, is merely the breadless meat of its own game sandwich. Not long ago, a new set of security measures dictated that new owners of the digitally-downloaded version be downgraded to the limited Starter Edition for up to 72 hours. And now, after not allowing players to really start the game, it seems that Diablo III won’t let them enjoy the end of it either. Kind of.
Because you see, Blizzard (in an admittedly refreshing bout of honesty from a top-tier developer/publisher) had come clean and stated that Diablo III’s endgame content isn’t adequate. In that there just isn’t enough of it. Admirably open of them, particularly given that the statements were given in a public thread on the official Battle.net forums. But while Blizzard get points for humility, that honourable behaviour might only go so far in terms of satiating the baying Diablo community. The reason? Read said statement (from community manager Bashiok) below.
Above: This is not the statement. This is a screenshot
“We recognize that the item hunt is just not enough for a long-term sustainable end-game. There are still tons of people playing every day and week, and playing a lot, but eventually they're going to run out of stuff to do (if they haven't already). Killing enemies and finding items is a lot of fun, and we think we have a lot of the systems surrounding that right, or at least on the right path with a few corrections and tweaks. But honestly Diablo III is not World of Warcraft. We aren't going to be able to pump out tons of new systems and content every couple months. There needs to be something else that keeps people engaged, and we know it's not there right now.
“We're working toward 1.0.4, which we're really trying to pack with as many fixes and changes we can to help you guys out (and we'll have a bunch of articles posted with all the details as we get closer), and we're of course working on 1.1 with PvP arenas. I think both those patches will do a lot to give people things to do, and get them excited about playing, but they're not going to be a real end-game solution, at least not what we would expect out of a proper end-game. We have some ideas for progression systems, but honestly it's a huge feature if we want to try to do it right, and not something we could envision being possible until well after 1.1 which is itself still a ways out.”
So, an acknowledgement of failure and a (sort of) pledge to fix it, but one tempered with a second acknowledgement that said fix might not come for a long time. Do you find this honesty heartening, or is it a bit like being stuck up a mountain, being offered a rescue dog, and then being told that said dog is currently only a puppy and so will have to grow up and be trained first?
Also, this whole thing does beg another question. You see in a follow-up post, Bashiok admitted:
“Hindsight is 20/20 I suppose, but we believed pre-release that the item hunt would be far more sustainable, and would work to be a proper end-game for quite a while. That didn't turn out to be true, and we recognize that.”
Personally I find that a bit odd. In World of Warcraft, Blizzard runs the biggest MMO in the world. As a game developer it’s surely well-versed in statistical gameplay analysis, and thus I find it pretty damn confusing that it wouldn’t have seen this issue coming, either through pre-release testing or via live player data. Seems a strange issue for a company like Blizzard to be caught napping on, particularly given a) the speed that hardcore players get through new WoW expansions, and b) the amount of money Blizz stands to make out of Diablo III’s real-money auction house if it can keep high-level players grinding and farming long-term.
Surely being on top of this at launch would have been in everyone’s best interests, right?