We didn’t bother having a review of Diablo III, here at TechZwn. It wasn’t because we didn’t have anyone playing it—a good portion of our staff was on the beta preview. It was that none of the staff who played it had enough interest in the game to write anything on it. Frankly, Diablo II was, and still is, better.
Diablo III has taken piracy protection to a level where the game was unplayable (literally). To bring the game to a broader audience, it also stripped away some of the best elements of the series, such as complex skill trees (and skill points in general), tossed out world PvP for an arena, and ditched the single-player mode that we all knew and loved for an “always online” requirement.
What we got instead was a game that threw out what made it unique for elements that developers are trying to clone across the industry: scripted scenes all over the place, checkpoints to lower the difficulty, and in-game stores where users can blow real money to raise themselves above other players.
This brings me to the point of this post. Frankly, the flaws in Diablo III are the same flaws that are quickly destroying the AAA game market. Most MMORPGs are all trying to clone World of Warcraft. First-person shooters are trying to clone the Call of Duty franchise. And you’ll find that in nearly all genres, developers are getting rid of anything complex and lowering their difficulty so the games can have what they call “broad market appeal.”
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a few AAA games that look amazing and original (Bioshock Infinite, and even Uncharted 3, for example), but overall, the AAA game market is becoming little more than flashy graphics, cinematic stories, and recycled gameplay.
Now, gaming wasn’t always like this (at least not to this extent). Go back to the golden age of gaming in the ‘90s and you’ll find some of the most creative and odd titles you can imagine. Some were complete failures, and some are still played to this day. It was a time when there were only a few major success stories in gaming, and each genre was still so young that developers had the creative space to do whatever they pleased.
Some of the greatest titles, ever, came around during that time: Warcraft and Command & Conquer began what we now know as the modern RTS. Masters of Orion and Civilization helped build the 4x strategy genre. Rainbow Six and Half-Life showed us what a first-person shooter could become. And Diablo showed us the next level of the roguelike genre.
But, in the void of modern gaming, we’re seeing this level of creativity make a return. And this brings us to indie games. Now, you’ll see hordes of terrible indie games—like art house films that nobody, except the people who made them, likes to watch. But now, thanks to sites like IndieDB and Kickstarter, we’re seeing many high-quality, highly-original, and highly-awesome games ready to take the industry by storm.
Indie developers (and some of the mid-sized companies) are still down to earth. They often don’t wrap their titles in layers of DRM. They don’t have “always online” requirements. They often talk to the community, get feedback, and change their games along with the people who play them. They’re just all around really cool.
And now, we’re seeing some of gaming’s greatest developers coming out of the woodwork to bring back titles we once loved. We’re seeing developers break away from the big guys to form indie studios. And we’re seeing a return to where gaming once stood.
And this brings me back to Diablo III. Everyone was waiting for it, and after 10 years of development, most of us were disappointed. This wasn’t a case of poor development. It was a case of developers penalizing other players for the actions of a few. It was developers trying to squeeze money out of players for as long as they own the game. And that’s really a pity.
A few weeks ago, EA tried cashing in on the popular indie bundles with the “EA Indie Bundle.” When this happened, Notch summed it all up pretty well through Twitter: “Indies are saving gaming. EA is methodically destroying it.”
That statement was a bit harsh, but in some ways it is true. As things stand, it’s looking like indie games will be the ones to save the industry, and when the army of awesome titles that recently made their goals on Kickstarter hit the markets, we’re likely to see the return of something great.