Diablo III vs. Torchlight II, or: DRM vs. F-U-N

We just learned that Diablo III will be saddled with DRM that requires an active internet connection.  If your internet is down, or you want to play on a laptop without a WiFi hotspot, that’s just too freaking bad for you.  This announcement is generating all the usual rancor, “Burn in hell, Blizzard,” and, “ur drm iz 4 n00b fagz who eat teh p00pz,” etc.

But why do we even care?

We all know the deal with piracy and DRM, have heard the arguments both pro and con, and we all have our own rabid opinions on the matter.  I’m not going to debate the need for DRM, I’m going to debate the need for Diablo III.

Eleven years ago Diablo II was a revelation for a certain type of obsessive compulsive gamer.  All the looting and clicking on things and leveling up and clicking on more things…what a joy.  The people wanted more.  Finally, in 2008, eight years after the release of Diablo II, a new sequel was announced, the aptly named Diablo III.

But then, in 2009, Torchlight was released.  It had all of the leveling and looting and clicking action, with the added bonus of being newer than Diablo II.  So people bought it.  People, in fact, have bought more than a million of it, and that’s an impressive number of units for most products this side of rice.

Now the aptly named Torchlight II is slated to come out “some time in 2011” with a host of improvements, including multiplayer and outdoor areas with weather cycles.  Meanwhile, Diablo III has been pushed back to “maybe January 2012,” which probably means summer.  To put the whole thing in perspective: the crew at Runic Games (a small, independent developer) has done all of the same work in creating new content for a sequel as Blizzard (which, according to Wolfram Alpha, has 7,600 employees, or roughly three-and-a-half RMS Titanics worth of people), while also creating day and night, sun and rain.  And they’ve done all that in a mere fraction of the time its taken the mighty Blizzard to get to the point where it can delay the release of its game again.

Let me rephrase this one more time, because it blows my mind.  Runic games was founded in 2008, the same year Diablo III was officially announced, and they’re going to release the sequel to their first game before Blizzard releases a game that it has ostensibly had eleven years to work on.

Yes, Diablo III has more impressive graphical assets.  It better, considering Blizzard rakes in $4.5 billion a year.  But, honestly, I don’t think the better graphics matter.  They’re clearly meant to be realistic, which so far means that they’re all sorts of muddy shades of mud.  Here, take a look:

Torchlight II, while not quite as intensive, seems like a bright, colorful place:

And, frankly, it still looks pretty damn good.  It looks, in fact, like a world I’d actually want to spend some time in, which is more than I can say for Mudablo.

So what we’ve got is two games that will have almost exactly the same clicky-looty-levely gameplay, but one will be largely “realistic brown” and have ridiculous DRM.  I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of both those things.  In fact, in the last few years I haven’t played a single game I wished was more realistic.  Usually, I wish games were less realistic so they wouldn’t be either a) creepy, or b) BROWN.

I often, however, wish games were more fun.  And I know Torchlight is just as much fun as Diablo, so why should I suffer for realism?

Sorry, Blizzard, but you’re a decade late and a dollar short.

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