Two victories in one day: Maxis and Blizzard's dramatic turnaround

Two victories in one day: Maxis and Blizzard's turnaround

Remember this date: March 18th, 2014. It’s a special day, where two villains were put in the ground for good. Diablo 3’s accursed Auction House and SimCity’s infuriating always-online “feature” are no more, or in the case of the latter, no more unless you actually want it.

It’s certainly taken a long time, a lot of shouting and a lot of angry forum posts, but the end result has been a victory of sorts. Communities were listened to, and affected significant changes in their respective games. It doesn’t happen so often that it isn’t worthy of note, and it’s just happened twice in one day.

This didn’t have to happen, which makes the turnaround so surprising. With over 2 million copies sold by last summer, SimCity was a commercial success despite the mediocre to poor critical response, while Diablo 3 broke presale records is is one of the best selling games of all time. 

These were not games that did so poorly that the developers needed to prostrate themselves in front of players and admit that they made a mistake or that anything needed fixing. Good will would have been lost, sure, but EA especially has made pissing people off a tradition, yet folk still gobble up their products. 

Is it suddenly going to fix all the issues in SimCity? Probably not. Diablo III’s looking a lot healthier, though, thanks to recent updates. But it’s still a huge shift. In the case of SimCity, it allegedly took a team of Maxis engineers six and a half months, rewriting core parts of the game before single-player SimCity worked properly. The game was designed, for better or worse, as a social, multiplayer experience. You can’t simply tack on an offline mode and cross your fingers. 

Diablo 3’s Auction House wasn’t integral to the game in the way that SimCity’s online feature was, but its impact was just as massive. It made the game, if you view the Diablo series as a loot-driven experience, ultimately meaningless. If you wanted the flashiest items and the best gear, you wouldn’t get any of that having fun. You’d get it by playing an entirely different game, poring over spreadsheets, identifying market trends, spying bargains. You’d have to play the Auction House, not Diablo 3. It was horribly pervasive. 

So removing the Auction House wasn’t enough, which is one of the reasons we are now able to enjoy loot 2.0. Blizzard needed to make loot drops meaningful again, undoing the damage rendered by their misguided attempts to stop a potential black market from cropping up. 

These changes aren’t simply Blizzard and EA admitting their mistake and making a quick fix. They are massive, sweeping changes that will hopefully have a significant impact on the respective games. Not because sales were poor and not because the games couldn’t be played in the state they were in, but because players wouldn’t let it rest. Not once. And what at first could have been viewed as impotent gamer rage has proven itself to be an effective way to positively alter two games. 

This is a really good day. 

Paladins
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subedii avatarBelimawr avatarDog Pants avatarcgerrr avatarKeefBaker avatar
subedii Avatar
752
3 Years ago

Maybe.

Don't get me wrong, it's nice that it happened. But to be honest, I don't know that Blizzard simply didn't make the decision to remove it after it started winding down and they had already made their money.

Not a move based on any kind of "wanting the community to be happy with us", but simply that they calculated that they could make more money via the addon without the RMAH (and the subsequent big marketing push now that the mechanics are reworked again to compensate for that) than by trying to keep both and maintain the old play dynamics.

Overly cynical? Perhaps. But I'm not going to outright praise them for this move either, the RMAH is something they knew (and were repeatedly told) would have a massive black-hole like effect on the gameplay since before the game's beta. More to the point, they justified the always-online requirement as being because of the RMAH. One's gone, the other didn't go with it.

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Dog Pants Avatar
1388
3 Years ago

Diablo 3 still has its always online DRM though presumably? You could avoid the RMAH, you don't have that option with the DRM.

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Belimawr Avatar
1241
3 Years ago

as long as the DRM is working and stopping people pirating the game it isn't going anywhere, so far it's been the most successful DRM in any game (Simcity could of probably held up to an extent until this patch) so the DRM in Diablo 3 is going nowhere soon.

but to be fair the DRM in Diablo 3 isn't that bad, it is probably the most stable always online DRM going, since Blizzard has invested a hell of a lot in battlenet.

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Dog Pants Avatar
1388
3 Years ago

Only as stable as your internet connection though.

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Belimawr Avatar
1241
3 Years ago

true but for for the average user if your not getting a connection good enough you should really be questioning your ISP, it's like the worldwide average is sitting around 17meg, the UK average has moved north of 10meg, so since most of these games are designed for a 512kb or less connection speed shouldn't be an issue unless you are in a small number of places.

as for dropouts and high pings, that is entirely down to your ISP and/or phone line provider, it is also something you should never put up with and look to move to a different service if one firm is failing to provide an adequate service.

it's the same as a few years ago I had terrible pings, I found out my ISP at the time was routing my connection to scotland then down to london before letting out on the net so it gained a massive ping navigating the ISP's network, never mind their backwards assed routing they used outside the main network due to routing everything through london, they refused to fix the issue I got them forced to release me from my contract due to not providing an adequate service and moved to an ISP when I got pings about a quarter of what I was.

so really unless you live in the arse end of nowhere or one of the few countries with bad infrastructure the quality of your connection should never be a problem. but even then I can see that getting eaten away over the next few years due to the fact I'm getting 40meg+ and pings of about 20-30ms over 4G so I can see it becoming the solution to places where it isn't viable to upgrade the actual hard lines.

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Dog Pants Avatar
1388
Dog Pants replied to Belimawr
3 Years ago

If it were a multiplayer game, or if you bought it for the multiplayer, then that would be a valid argument. Despite Blizzard's insistence to the contrary, the Diablo series have always been primarily single player games with a co-op mode, and always online DRM for a single player game is unacceptable. Simcity actually makes reasonably good use of its connection and we're lauding its removal, so Diablo has no excuse.

Incidentally, there are a lot of people in this country who have sub-standard internet connections because of the infrastructure, and it's not just people who live in darkest Wales or huts on the moors. I was one of them until 2010. There's a post about it on the forum but I can't find it now.

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Belimawr Avatar
1241
3 Years ago

yeah but in the last 2 days Ubisoft devs have said games don't need to be fun and a Riot Games Dev and an MS dev has said story in games is over rated, so while you can take these 2 patches as something good you should be worrying about the state of games when developers are saying games don't need to be fun or have a story.

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KeefBaker Avatar
393
3 Years ago

I have to say, Diablo 3 when it first came out was terrible. After the recent updates I started playing again and I'm really glad I did, it's now a superb game. So good it made me preorder the expansion.

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cgerrr Avatar
110
3 Years ago

Aside from always online DRM, removal of the AH doesn't change much: items are still boring and uninventive, characters still don't have even a spec of permanency in them, story is still crap, innovations or interesting game mechanics nowhere to be seen together with decision which actually matters and overall fell is mediocre and dull especially compared to D1-2.

As for SimCity: there is SimCity 2000, why play the newer castrated version of it?

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