RPS: OK, now the big one. The auction house is out, but the online requirement is still in. You’ve explained that it’s all about community and whatnot, but would adding in a simple option to play offline really hurt? I mean, the game’s already that way on console, and it’s not like your community would just up and disappear. Plus, if they did, I think that’d mean they never enjoyed being online with your game in the first place.
Martens: It’s interesting when you’re in the moment in gaming culture – when you’re playing the game right now – we see its flaws very well. When we look at the long history, it becomes sort of a rosy past. I don’t think people necessarily remember how mad they themselves were that they had an offline mode and online mode in Diablo II.
This will probably be controversial for me to say. People will be like, “I wasn’t mad!” But I was there at the time, and then I studied this for a living. It sucks when your friend or brother is online and he wants to join this game, but you realize you’re an offline character and he’s an online character, and there’s no way to transfer over because offline characters can be hacked and hex-edited to hell and back, right?
And then we had that split between expansion characters and normal ones as well [in Diablo II]. The community was inherently divided. And that’s what it boils down to. Long before any of this happened, we wanted to solve the trading problem. But before we even had the auction house, the always online thing was there.
The game is most fun when you can play with other people. To be ghetto-ed off to the side and not part of the real game, we didn’t want that to happen. This is an online game. We want people to play together. All of that predates the auction house. I can see how people would think otherwise, but the auction house was a salve we came up with in the last few months of the project. It was a six-year project.
RPS: Diablo III’s been out for a while, though. Don’t you think that changes the context a little? It’s not like people would be blindsided by this. They’d just have a new option, and so long as you explained the ramifications clearly – “This character won’t be able to go online, here is why” – I feel like most people would be OK. Better than them not being able to play the game at all, right?
Martens: Well, we have to remember that a lot of new players are still coming in regularly. You can have a solution that works really well for the most knowledgable people, but you can make it much worse for the people who want to join the community as well. We’re adding more community features as well. Clans and groups are coming too. You know, this is the game we made.
RPS: What if people don’t want to commit to a community? What if they just want to play the game?
Martens: We didn’t make that game. That’s the straight-up answer. We did not make that game, and we’re not going to turn this game into that game. We have the online mode because we learned a lot over the many, many years that Diablo II was in development.
That was the wrong choice to allow people to play offline, and we still stand by that. And we think Internet access is widespread. If someone has no Internet access, then yeah, Diablo III is not the game for them.