So, like millions of computer gamers, I too plunked down $5 to reserve a copy of StarCraft II. SCII has been one of the most eagerly anticipated games as well as being delayed long enough to give Duke Nukem Forever a run for it’s title. However, based off the info I found on this article, the anticipation and the money are probably going to be wasted.
For the tl;dr crowd, Blizzard is continuing the trend of all companies once they have a dominate share in their respective markets; they’re convinced of their own superiority and think they can do whatever they want with no repercussions. To point out 3 items from the article:
1) No LAN capability. Blizzard has taken LAN functionality out of SCII, instead all multi-player gameplay will be through their (proprietary) BattleNet 2.0. This includes all tournament play, which BLizzard wants to ‘regulate’ (i.e. get a piece of the money). So all the local and college tournaments now have to pay Blizzard a portion of their already shoestring budget in order to run an SCII tournament.
2) All custom maps are stored on BattleNet and can be used and distributed freely by BattleNet members. That’s right, the awesome custom campaign map you made and spent days working on and planning out can be taken by some schmuck and passed off as his own work. It’s your word versus his as to who the creator is and if he’s got a bigger rep score, guess who most people are going to believe.
3) BattleNet2.0 accounts are linked to Facebook and RealID accounts. That’s right, you want to play multi-player SCII, you need to have a Facebook and a RealID account. The company line is that this is being done in order to crack down on multiple accounts and griefers that simply make a new account name when no-one wants to play with them any more. However, considering that we at Geek Tragedy just ran a news story about a French gamer that tracked down his Counter-Strike rival in real life and stabbed him in the chest, this is a rather chilling feature. What is Blizzard’s legal liability here if some person that’s been Zerg rushed one time too many decided to take out his frustrations in real life? In the French case, it took the person 6 months to track down his rival, normally plenty of time for common sense to hopefully set in. But in the heat of the moment, Mr. Internet Tough Guy can look at my BattleNet handle, check my Facebook page and find out approximately where I live? Assuming, of course, that I don’t create a fake Facebook page with bogus information, which would probably violate the terms of the SCII EULA, possibly causing Blizzard to invalidate any rankings I may have as a disciplinary action. It’s a no-win situation for gamers and puts Blizzard in a rather precarious legal position; if an SCII player gets harassed or physically harmed by a vengeful player that tracked them down through BattleNet/Facebook, couldn’t Blizzard be held as an accomplice after the fact for making such information so freely accessible? Probably not for any criminal proceeding, but in a civil case where millions of dollars in damages is at stake? You can bet that once they find out, there’s going to be a hefty number of ambulance chasers circling around just waiting for that kind of a scenario to play out. And let’s not even delve into the possibility that this feature may soon be required in World of Warcraft, the average player of which has all the emotional stability of nitrogen triiodite.
Like I said before, this is a case of Blizzard getting too big for it’s britches and thinking that the gaming community will just put up with whatever crap Blizzard heaps upon them and ask for more. And as the original article points out, the sad thing is that this kind of thinking is coming not just from Blizzard, but from their parent corporation Activision, a company that started out as a bunch of game programmers tired of the static corporate culture of Atari. EA is already firmly on the path to ruin with gamers, it’d be a shame for Blizzard to join them on that path as well.