On Thursday I wrote an article about how Blizzard denounced DRM in favor of “better games” – now, I’ve got to take it all back, as word comes in from IncGamers that Blizzard won’t even include a pseudo-LAN feature in StarCraft II. Instead, all gaming must take place over the Battle.net platform, regardless of how close the two computers are to each other.
When asked about it, Frank Pearce, Blizzard co-founder, said that the functionality “is not there. Our goal is to make sure that connectivity to the Battle.net servers is such that [it’s] the experience people want.”
Let’s get serious, Blizzard. Battle.net is not a feature, it’s a DRM. An authentication method. (Shame on me for praising them about the same subject just yesterday.) A restriction. Fair’s fair when it comes to getting your money’s worth and stopping pirates, but this is ridiculous.
Here’s a solution that’s been proposed by many fans and computer geeks like myself in the community. It’s simple: use Battle.net as an authentication method, then allow players to disconnect and play using LAN at will. Even if you require a persistent online connection to ensure that no one’s illegally , that’s fine. But to use only the internet as a method of data transfer? Even when all the computers are in the same room? That’s silly (read: very stupid). As game developers and software designers, it’s your job to ensure that your players can get the best connection possible, and the best connection possible is only achievable behind a local network. This isn’t even a DRM anymore – now it’s just bad planning.
When asked if Battle.net was a DRM in disguise, Pearce has this to say:
“That is not really our primary focus with it. We just want an online destination for a community to be united. So if we do our job well in terms of the future commercial nature and component nature of the Battle.net experience, then we hope people will want to play.”
I’d like to take a quick moment to describe the similarities between this situation and a small piece of software I use that makes my life a little better, called Windows live Sync. It’s an online service provided by Microsoft that allows any number of computers to log in to the service and autosync files, anywhere in the world. However, if the two computers are behind a local network, the software detects this and starts using the local connection to transfer files. This is awesome, because I use it to sync over 20GB of .mp3 files. The software would be unusable if it didn’t use local network transfer, because it would be slow and costly.
StarCraft II has the potential to be like Windows Live Sync. Unfortunately, it’s not like Windows Live Sync. It’s a little more like Keanu Reeves:
So there you have it, Ranters. You want fast connection speeds? You can’t have it. You live in the boonies with a dial-up connection? Sorry, no StarCraft for you. Blizzard said so because they think it’s better to take away playability.
The StarCraft 2 beta period ends in 2 days and the game is set to be released on July 27.