Some odd reports came clattering out of the internet this morning in the wake of Blizzard's admission that Diablo 3 doesn't have a "long-term sustainable end-game". Some odd reports, some jumped up knicker-twisting and a generous sprinkling of misunderstanding, because even though Blizzard admit that Diablo 3's end-game isn't what they'd hoped for: for 99% of players that just doesn't matter, and never will.
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Here's the key part of the quote from Diablo 3 community manager Bashiok. This
was posted in a thread titled "End Game Solutions?" in which one player
pondered the potential for additional content for those who've played for over
350 hours. Keep that big number in mind: that's two solid weeks of playtime.
"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."
For those unfamiliar with Diablo 3, this has roughly translated to an admission
by Blizzard that the game lacks 'longevity' and 'replayability' - when it
absolutely doesn't. At least not by any sensible measure of what a single-player game should be. This certainly isn't, as one site reported, Blizzard
admitting that their game "isn't good enough". Rather, they're admitting that
their game isn't designed to be enjoyed ad infinitum - that's why Bashiok makes the
World of Warcraft comparison above. Now I'm hardly a Blizzard apologist, but I
think that's just fine, and it's wonderful of them to admit it. Blizzard have nothing to be ashamed about.
To clarify, the end-game Blizzard are talking about here is a difficulty mode
that less than 10% of players have reached. The problem they are admitting to
is one that perhaps 1% of players will ever recognise: that after
hundreds of hours in Diablo 3 you'll eventually run out of stuff to do. The "end-game" they're referencing is one that, chances are, you haven't reached and never will. They're not talking about everything that happens after killing Diablo - that's where the game starts.
Personally, I've only put around 40 hours into the game so far. In that time
I've replayed the story three times on increasing difficulty settings with just
one of the game's five classes. So, in my case at least, Blizzard have
designed content enough to last at least another hundred hours. By my
reckoning, that's more than generous enough to sustain a single player RPG.
Setting aside the perpetually contentious issue of Diablo 3's always-online
requirement, it seems Blizzard are damned when they treat Diablo 3 like an MMO,
and damned when they don't. The sneering reminder that Diablo 3 is in fact a
single player game is the rod with which we regularly cane Blizzard's back
every time their servers implode. It would be cynical of us to now put our
hands on our hips and demand to know why Diablo 3 doesn't have the same rolling
end-game as its MMO sibling World of Warcraft. Let's not pretend that single-player rod doesn't exist now that Blizzard have grabbed the metaphor and are happily
riding it around the room like a single-player broomstick.
Look, it's not like Blizzard don't have some practical solutions either: the
upcoming Diablo 3 1.1 patch will add PvP arenas and
league tables, with "Call of Duty like progression" systems. And that'll punt
the game's longevity to unknown lengths. Probably quite far, I'd wager. Beyond that: of course there'll be content expansions and, I guess, new classes introduced. Bashiok even mentions plans to implement more progression systems: "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 it itself still a ways out." Again, more than you'd get from most RPGs.
This is a rare instance in which I'd like to see Blizzard cut some slack.
They're admitting that their single player game gets a bit boring around the
350th hour. Three hundred and fifty hours. If you don't think you've got your money's worth by then - if you
think that's the mark of a game lacking in longevity or replayability - then I
sincerely believe there's nothing Blizzard can do to help you, you poor, damned sod.