Diablo 3
Diablo 3 Blizzard Entertainment

Siobhan Keogh: Online-only game grief

ALWAYS online games are the new normal, and sometimes it's like gamers have stopped noticing.

When always-online games, usually slathered in poorly-made rights management technology, began to take hold in games, gamers everywhere began the five stages of loss and grief.

First, denial. They wouldn't really do that to us, right? Maybe they're just trialing it out. They'll learn pretty quickly that gamers won't stand for it.

Then anger. How dare they inflict this on us? Don't they realise the customer is king? We have thrown cash at these companies for years, and they react by making games less accessible and less playable.

People were upset when Diablo III was released, and Sim City as well. They were games that, traditionally, had offline modes. But while we were all frothing at the mouth over sequels being online-only, game studios started to find ways of getting around gamers' ire. After all, no one complains about MMOs being online all the time - it's just the way they're meant to be played.

Now, I think we're somewhere around the bargaining stage. It seems that we're okay with our games being online, as long as it's required to make the game function properly.

NEW ADVENTURE: Discover your Destiny.
NEW ADVENTURE: Discover your Destiny.

Take a look at Destiny, for example. Clearly it's built to be an online game - you play through a campaign and people pop in and out of your world.

There are also player-versus-player game modes. To get the full Destiny experience, you have to be connected to the internet and preferably playing co-op.

But is there any real reason it can't be played offline, too?

Enemies appear to respawn on a timer and you can quite happily play through the whole thing without assistance from others, so I don't quite understand the reasoning. I genuinely do believe you won't get as good of an experience playing offline, although I don't see that as a good reason to exclude it altogether. In fact, if you just want to play on your own then you subject yourself to a worse experience, especially if you've got an internet connection like mine that likes to drop every few hours just for fun.

Regardless, it would be a much easier sell to gamers than something like Sim City, as it's a new franchise without a history of offline play.

I'm picking on Destiny, which - for the record - I think is going to be a fantastic game from what I've played so far. But Destiny is just one of a long list of games that are releasing over the next year or so with no offline mode - high-profile Ubisoft games The Crew and The Division also make the list.

Then there's the fact that existing franchises have just kind of given up on the single-player modes. It seems like the creators of Call of Duty: Ghosts just decided that hey, if they couldn't prevent people from pirating the single-player version of the game, they'd just make it not worth playing at all. Or perhaps that's a bit paranoid - people do mostly play Call of Duty for the multiplayer, after all.

It's only a matter of time before we all collectively go through the next couple of stages - depression as the realisation that we've been duped sinks in, followed by acceptance when we realise that we've let it happen and it can't be changed. I'm culpable myself - I paid for a copy of Diablo III and I still play it sometimes (although to be fair, Blizzard has made significant improvements to the game since its release).

It seems to me that inevitably, all blockbuster games are going to be online-only in the near future. Little by little, game developers and publishers are nudging us closer and closer to that reality.

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