Remember when you first heard stuff like how either Steam or StarCraft 2 require you to be online for authentication purposes? That the process to play or utilize either service offline can be a bit circuitous, but at least it’s still possible to be offline. But, Diablo 3 differs in that you must be online to play at all — not just for authentication.
Executive vice president of game design Rob Pardo notes that the wealth of improvements and features Diablo 3 brings to Battle.net necessitate the always-online requirement. Specific additions that he refers to include:
- A persistent friends list.
- Cross-game chat via the RealID system.
- Persistent characters that are stored server-side (no more having to play online once every 90 days, nor item duplication cheats).
- Persistent party system.
- Player-versus-player and public game matchmaking.
- Dynamic drop-in/out for co-op
- Larger item stash that gets shared among all of your characters (at the moment, up to 10)
- The auction house.
- The Achievement system and detailed stat-tracking, both of which feed into the final point:
- The Banner system, a visual way to display your prowess in the game. Banners start out like emblems, where you can choose from an array of symbols, patterns, and overall shape/design. Then, you can tweak its appearance through Achievements and other accomplishments. Examples Pardo cites, include whether the character is in Hardcore mode, how many Achievements have been earned, how many PVP victories, and so forth. Additionally, the Banners also have gameplay features; in-game, rather than use Town Portal, you can click on a player’s Banner to instantly teleport over to said player.
While Pardo recognizes that people sometimes want or need to play offline (such as internet outages, or playing on a laptop during an airplane flight), he notes that the increased security, plus benefits like the above, outweigh those other concerns. “I want to play Diablo 3 on my laptop in a plane, but, well, there are other games to play for times like that.”
Interestingly, before our own play session for preview purposes, we saw what happens when you try to play offline (or get knocked offline): you get stuck at the login screen (a la World of Warcraft). The reason? The beta server wasn’t online. How do you feel about this? Are you already online all the time anyways (for Steam or WOW)? Or is this a significant issue? Let us know in the comments below.