Blizzard Bans Diablo III Players on Linux, Citing Wine Software

Controversy continues to grow surrounding Blizzard’s newest release, Diablo III. According to a Battle.net forum-goer, several Linux players’ accounts have been banned, with Blizzard’s automated responses citing “Unapproved Third-Party Software”.

For those who may not be familiar with gaming on Linux (yes, it actually exists!), many games that are supported on Windows won’t run natively in Linux. In these cases, there’s a piece of software called Wine which implements an open-source version of a Windows environment, so these games can run on Linux machines. However, for all intents and purposes, games running in a Wine environment behave identically to running natively on Windows.

Back on topic, it seems Blizzard’s Warden software, a program designed to catch cheaters and bots, is behaving a little too zealously. Rather than investigate these cases, however, Blizzard support seems content to simply leave the situation as it is. The following e-mail response to one user, known only as William, says it all:

“Thank you for contacting us. An additional review of the action taken against the Diablo III account on not_really_real@emailaddress.com has been completed. We have confirmed our initial findings, and the account action will not be reversed or changed. Actions are based on the violation’s severity and take previous violations into consideration. This action was taken in accordance with the Terms of Use (us.blizzard.com/en-us/company/legal/) and our Diablo III Policies (us.battle.net/support/en/article/diablo-iii-policies), which all players acknowledge and agree to before logging into the game. We understand that these policies may seem harsh, but they are in place to ensure that every player is able to enjoy their time in Diablo III. Thank you for respecting our position. “

There’s just a couple of things wrong with these statements. Linux may not be an officially supported system for Diablo III to run on, but to say Linux players should be banned for using a Windows emulating environment (a ubiquitous one at that) is purely nonsense. It’s also a bit unclear where the line is drawn between unsupported and prohibited software, even after reading through Blizzard’s Terms of Use. But perhaps the biggest issue I see here is the fact that Linux players have been able to use Wine to play World of Warcraft and Starcraft II online with absolutely no repercussions. Why would Blizzard suddenly take such a severe stance?

Blizzard has long been a company that’s done right by its fans, but we’ve seen a few slip-ups following Diablo III’s release. Is Blizzard falling to a point where its relationship with its customers will be irreversibly damaged? And what do you think of Blizzard’s recent behavior? Let us know in the comments below.

Blizzard Restricts Digital Purchases of Diablo 3, Fans Outraged

On-site footage of an actual fan’s reaction.

Apparently Blizzard is doing more to add to Diablo III’s rather checkered launch cycle.

In an official Battle.net forum post, Blizzard has announced that starting with its new patch 1.0.3, all digital copies of Diablo III, new and purchased alike, will be limited to the Starter Edition for three days after purchase, “less” – which is about as solid a promise as a startup fund.

  • Act I up to the Skeleton King is available
  • Level 13 cap
  • Matchmaking available only with other Starter Edition players
  • No Auction House access (Real Money or Gold)
  • Global Play is not available. Players attempting to connect to Diablo III Starter Edition in a region other than their Battle.net Account’s home region will receive Error 12. See the Global Play support article for more information.

Officially, this move was made to prevent “fraud” attempts in-game, but it’s hard to fathom what sorts of fraud threats Blizzard is trying to combat, or if it’s even effective. Shady gold sellers are likely the target, but there’s no official word on it. Whatever the reason, fans are downright outraged at this change. For some, it’s the fact they paid for a full game and are only given access to it after three days. For others, it’s the fact they already bought the game and had the restrictions imposed before the change was even announced, preventing their characters from gaining any experience. Still others, myself included, just see this as a slap in the face from a company who has, by and large, had a great relationship with its fans. While I did purchase a physical copy of the game – I like actually owning my games – I am deeply offended when a company imposes an unfair, unequal policy against its customers.

Honestly, if Blizzard is trying to put a stop to gold sellers, the only provisions that would make any difference are the third and fourth on the above list. However, they could have just cut off access to the game’s public chat channels to kill the snake by cutting off the head. No chat access means no access to a customer list and no way to list annoying chat advertisements.

Hopefully Blizzard will roll out a more fair restriction in the future to combat fraud and avoid damaging their relationship with the fans any further. Let us know how you feel about this recent, controversial change in the comments below.

Starcraft II on the Wii U a Possibility, According to Blizzard

The gaming giant behind such franchises as Warcraft, Diablo, and Starcraft has traditionally focused on PC gaming, but Dustin Browder, the lead designer of Starcraft II, recently hypothesized the ways they could make Starcraft II work on Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console. While Mr. Browder hasn’t made any promises, he did allude that Starcraft II could work on the Wii U, under the right conditions. Jason Schreier of Kotaku recently had a brief interview with Justin Browder over the possibility of the wildly-popular strategy game coming to consoles.

Browder’s biggest problem with gaming on touch-screen devices are his “big meaty sausages called [his] fingers”, implying that the games with the most responsive controls on devices like the iPhone and iPad are ones with quick touching actions, not pointing and dragging. There is also the issue of hotkeys – new players to Starcraft II can start off playing with only the mouse, and that’s fine, but once they become more serious players, using the keyboard to access units and commands at your fingertips becomes the way to play. If Browder and his team could find a way to make this work with the Wii U, Starcraft II might have a real chance on the console.

Browder alluded to a Sony representative visiting the Blizzard offices in Irvine, California, to demonstrate what their Move controller could do for their games. The rep was a huge Starcraft fan, and managed to make the game work with the Move controller – he had obviously practiced a lot ahead of time, though. When Browder got up to try the game, he “wanted to kill [him]self” – the controls just weren’t tight. This is his biggest issue – if the controls aren’t tight and reliable, the player will be “fighting the interface” so much that it ruins the game experience.

In closing, Justin Browder states that a Starcraft II game on the Wii U isn’t out of the question, but it won’t just be a simple port. Blizzard doesn’t do “crappy ports” – if it isn’t a quality product, they won’t release it. Blizzard is famous for its ridiculously high quality standards, and a console game would be no exception. If the controls wouldn’t work as-is, it’s likely Starcraft II would be made for the Wii U with a brand-new interface, units, etc. – it would essentially be a brand-new title in the series. But we won’t have anything official until Browder and his team have had the chance to really sit down with the console.

Personally, I find the idea of a Starcraft II port for the Wii U exciting, but like Mr. Browder, I have some concerns. First of all, Starcraft II is all about intelligence, and playing the game with others on a large-screen TV isn’t feasible due to the possibility of screen looking. This means each player will need their own viewport on each controller, and the screen is probably too small for this. Plus, it doesn’t leave any room for an interface on the controller, unless some combination of triggers and buttons will substitute for keyboard hotkeys, which might work. Maybe one trigger will select all buildings of one type, the other will select another, and the shoulders can select parts of your army? It’s definitely possible, it’ll just take a lot of planning. Perhaps the main TV screen could even function as a board for hotkeys, allowing the player to point their controller at the TV to select certain commands or units. But again, they’re going to need to be able to hide exactly what they’re doing from the other players. Finally, there’s the issue of sound privacy – if your opponent hears your Battlecruiser over the speaker, they won’t even need to scout, because they’ll know what units you have. Perhaps disabling unit noises unless headphones are plugged in to the controller?

What do you think? Would you like to see Starcraft II on a console, or have ideas on how to make it work? Let us know in the comments below!

New Starcraft II: HotS Gameplay Footage

Starcraft II fans will be pleased to learn that there’s new gameplay footage released today for the upcoming expansion pack, Heart of the Swarm. Sean “Day[9]” Plott and Rob Simpson join forces at Blizzard HQ to shoutcast a match between two Zerg and Protoss players using a development build of HotS. Take a look!

Additionally, Blizzard has released updated unit information for all three races. Check it out below!

Diablo III Review (PC/Mac)

Blizzard Entertainment is starting to set a trend with its franchises, reviving old (but popular) games like Starcraft and Diablo II. Starcraft II was a hit less so because it does anything groundbreaking, but takes a proven formula and improves it in every way. Now, after years of waiting, Diablo III is here. Will Blizzard keep its reputation for releasing blockbuster hits, or is Diablo III better off in the Hell-hole that spawned it?

Story: 3/5

The Diablo series, frankly, has never really been known for having a strong story. They were mainly meant to simply drive the gameplay, giving you a reason for runing around and slaughtering monsters. However, Diablo III does an admirable job of presenting you with an overarching plot, characters you want to relate to, and twists and turns. The main problem with Diablo III’s story is that it doesn’t try hard enough. The plot is there, but it’s pretty generic. The characters are voice-acted well, but they really don’t do enough to make you want to care about them. And the plot twists, while properly placed, aren’t too difficult to predict. Still, it’s a decent story, and it’s told in an excellent way through Blizzard’s cinematics, something the company has always been known for. These cut-scenes have never looked this good, though – the art team has managed to produce cinematics with the most realistic animation and texture you’re likely to see anywhere else. All in all, it’s a commendable effort, but not quite at the level where we’ll be talking about it after the game is over.

Gameplay: 5/5

Diablo III is built on the successes of its predecessors, offering an exciting, intense action experience with the simplicity of point-and-click controls. While it isn’t the most daunting task to improve on such a simple concept, Blizzard has managed to take the core elements from Diablo II and improve them in every way. At the heart of Diablo III’s gameplay experience are the five character classes the player has to choose from: The battle-hardened Barbarian, swift and deadly Monk, elusive Demon Hunter, dominant Wizard, and mysterious Witch Doctor all have unique playstyles, and every player is sure to find their niche. To add to their uniqueness, each class also has their own type of resource they can tap into to power their special abilities, and they all behave differently. While the Barbarian’s Fury only builds when giving and taking damage, the Wizard’s Arcane Power quickly regenerates at a constant rate. This creates the dynamic to use one skill to build resource, and another to spend it, creating a nice one-two punch that’s very satisfying. Each character’s skills are unique and serve a certain niche and playstyle, but players can also choose to add “skill runes” as they level up, which improve and change the function of each skill. While the Barbarian’s Cleave skill is deadly on its own, a player can choose a rune to improve the damage, or another one that will cause enemies to explode on death. And Diablo III gives you no shortage of enemies to test your strength against. There’s a huge variety here, with some even having unique behaviors or requiring more than one “kill” to eliminate. Rare monsters occasionally present themselves, with unique properties you’ll need to overcome to defeat them, such as knockback and freeze. The game also has a few dozen boss fights which require unique strategies to defeat, and play out like scripted events. It’s a nice way to break up the inherent monotony of point-and-click action games.

It’s hammer time.

The revamped resource system is just one example of the major reason Diablo III feels so solid: it’s incredibly streamlined. Moreso than anything else, Diablo III strives to keep tedium at a constant low, allowing the player to focus on the action. Just to name a few features in this vein: you can pick up gold by running over it, teleport to other players from town, open town portals at will, fire ranged weapons without the need for ammo, view stat changes on gear at a glance, and more. All these streamlines help to keep you focused on the action and are excellent for the type of fast-paced game Diablo III sells itself as. The interface is designed to be streamlined as well, and definitely takes a lot of cues from Blizzard’s other smash hit World of Warcraft. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though – despite the lack of ingenuity, a lot of WoW’s best interface features really help the experience when playing Diablo III. On level-up, you’ll be told exactly what stat improvements you get, what new skills you can use, and more. Not all is good however – many WoW players will notice that a lot of its flavor carried over to Diablo III, sometimes in overwhelmingly obvious ways – for example, the parallels between the Barbarian and the Warrior (Rage/Fury, Rend, Cleave, etc.) and even the Wizard and Mage (who share skills like Arcane Missiles and Arcane Barrage). Still, Diablo III is its own game, and feels immersive in its own universe.

The Diablo series’s hallmark has always been the loot, and Diablo III continues this trend in a big way. There are many ways to arm your character with dozens of pieces of gear with hundreds of possible magical combinations. And monsters drop these treasures like they were all taking them to the bank. It’s all part of the Diablo experience and it’s a huge thrill, especially when you find a rarer piece of treasure. These pieces truly make you feel more powerful. Any magical gear you find can also be broken down into components at the Blacksmith, who can then use them to craft more gear for you. This is a great way to have more control over the type of gear you can get, and it’s exciting to see your Blacksmith learn new recipes as you train him.

Loot is still at the forefront in Diablo III.

Blizzard has billed Diablo III as a complete online experience, and it shows in every aspect during play. You can chat with friends or join a chat room at any time, join friends mid-game, or even buy and sell items for gold at the auction house. Blizzard plans to also open up a real-money auction house at the end of May, allowing players to actually earn some money for the treasures they find in-game. Another plus with Diablo III’s online angle is that you never play alone: you can hire one of three computer-controlled followers in town to supplement your hero’s abilities. When you join a game with friends, these followers will wait in town. Despite the pitfalls of online play, like lag and disconnects, the online experience feels solid, and it’s a great social environment where you’re never far from your friends no matter what you’re doing. Users on slow wi-fi connections might have some issues, however.

The game’s campaign spans four acts, all of which should take around 3-5 hours to complete. All in all, one playthrough of the game should take anywhere from 12-20 hours, but the beauty of Diablo III’s gameplay is the high replay value. After beating the game on Normal difficulty, you’ll unlock access to Nightmare difficulty, where enemies are tougher, deal more damage, and have unique abilities that will really test you. This trend continues on to Hell difficulty and the new Inferno difficulty, which is sure to really put players to the test. Players are rewarded for this higher challenge with more and better loot, and honestly, what other motivation do you need? With five classes and multiple levels of difficulty, Diablo III is a game players will have trouble putting down, especially once they can sell their legendary loot for real money on the auction house.

Graphics: 5/5

The cutscenes are absolutely stunning.

The art direction for Diablo III has changed greatly from its predecessor, again drawing inspiration from World of Warcraft’s art style. While this does make the world more cartoony looking, it still presents itself as a dark, gothic world under siege. The characters look a big exaggerated, especially once armored, but it really gives you a sense of progression when you see your Barbarian running around in big, hulking armor with bloody metal spikes while swinging a gigantic, serrated sword. From a technical aspect, the game looks great as well – skills are accompanied by stunning special effects and blood and gore spray all over your character and the environment when you connect with a particularly hard-hitting attack. The game’s physics engine, like its characters, is extremely exaggerated but fits in perfectly with the visceral style of combat. Body parts will fly on critical hits, and parts of the environment shatter into hundreds of pieces when destroyed. It’s especially satisfying to smash a skeleton warrior with a critical hit and watch the bones fly and ricochet off the floor and walls. As previously mentioned, the cutscenes are also some of the most amazing we’ve seen yet, and really showcase Blizzard’s talents. All in all, from a visual standpoint, Diablo III is stunning.

Sound: 4/5

The Wizard’s Disintegrate spell crackles with energy.

Going hand-in-hand with Diablo III’s excellent graphical presentation is its sound design. One thing you’ll notice is that there is a lot more voice acting this time around – everyone from the lowliest of townsfolk to King Leoric himself is voice acted excellently. You might even recognize such actors as Jennifer Hale, Gideon Emery, Paul Eiding, Steve Blum, Crispin Freeman, and more lending their talents and bringing the characters of Diablo III to life. Even less prominent characters like New Tristram’s townfolk are voiced well and believably. Sound effects are stunning as well, and really lend themselves to improving Diablo III’s visceral approach to combat. The ground resonates with the Barbarian’s ground stomp ability, and the air crackles with the Wizard’s electrocute skill. The audio’s only shortcoming is its soundtrack. While it isn’t bad by any means, it doesn’t really do enough to stand out and even repeats certain tracks at different points in the game. Every piece fits the moment properly, but it’s just not one of those soundtracks you’ll find yourself hummimg to yourself when you’re away from the game.

Overall score: 17/20 = 8.5 out of 10

Diablo III is exactly what fans have been asking for – a refinement to the addictive point-and-click action of its predecessor with improved graphics, scintillating sound direction, and an online integration that is sure to help a big community thrive. While the soundtrack is unmemorable and the story is bland and generic, Diablo III delivers where it matters most, creating a riveting action experience that new players and die-hard fans shouldn’t miss.

PROS:

+ Diverse and unique classes to suit any player

+ Excellent graphics and sound direction

+ Online integration delivers a deep, rich experience

+ Come on – it’s Diablo!

CONS:

– Unmemorable story

– Soundtrack is somewhat generic

– Online nature is prone to technical problems

“Xbox 720” slated for November 2013 release?

A recent report from the Los Angeles Times states that Microsoft’s upcoming console is predicted to be released in November of next year, ahead of the holiday sales schedule. The report refers to a document between Activision Blizzard and Bungie with plans to develop a new MMO first-person shooter for the Xbox 360 and Microsoft’s next console, tentatively titled the “Xbox 720”. The document also states a planned release date of November 2013 – assuming the game is being released to different platforms at the same time. This is exciting news for anyone waiting for *any* details on the next Microsoft console. Stay tuned as we cover any information leaks, and tune in to our E3 live coverage coming soon.

Diablo III Open Beta – This Weekend Only!

Some big news for Diablo III fans – Blizzard is holding an open beta to help stress-test their servers for the game’s May 15 release. You can get in on the action by logging into your Battle.net account and downloading the client.

Have fun, and if you have any comments, please sound off below!

Diablo III Slated for a May 15 Release

Why does Leah Cain look so worried? Because it’s official! Blizzard has changed Diablo III’s release date from Soon™ to May 15th, 2012. Unfortunately, the Player versus Player component will be delayed, so expect the classic single-player and co-op experience if you pick your copy up on release day. Digital pre-orders are now open as well.

How psyched are you for Diablo III’s imminent release? Let us know in the comments below!