Musing on "Meaningfulness" in CRPG's - Part 2:

Shawn Delahunty's picture

Greetings all,

Last time, I carried on at some length about CRPGs versus MMORPGs, and how in Dungeons and Desktops author Matt Barton succeeded in, "...igniting my Nerd-Rage, burning with the fierceness and fury of a thousand suns." In my own roundabout, navel-contemplating way, I came to understand and grudgingly accept what he was saying about how MMORPGs have ursurped the title from CRPGs as "King of the Digital Hill" for, "fantasy-themed gameplay on a computer". (I can't bring myself to say that the MMORPG is "King of the Hill" as far as role-playing on a computer though. I'm sorry. I tried. But my fingers rebelled as I tried to type it out--I just can't do it. As evidenced from the stimulating back-and-forth in the comments, the classical "role-playing" aspect is minimal to non-existent in MMORPGs anyway.)

I know that last time, I stated that I would also discuss what would comprise "My Ultimate CRPG" here in Part 2. However there's just way too much material to cover in one blog post. So forgive me, but I shall have to save, "The FUN stuff!" for Part 3 of this blog-entry. Here in Part 2 of the blog-post, I'm going discuss two things, in (probably too much) detail:

Section I - I shall least try to provide some good answers to the questions I posed at the end of my last post. Those questions are listed below, along with a couple of related ones. There are an additional few points which I want to address too--these were brought up in the replies and comments to my last posting. "Thank You" to the folks who took the time to read and respond; these extra points are valid, so I feel I should address them.

Section II - I will attempt to explain what *I* find MEANINGFUL about CRPGs, and why I think MMORPGs can't be MEANINGFUL--to me--as they currently exist.

Here we go. Brace yourself... this one's a monster.

Section I:

Q#1: There was a comment posted by one of the forum members, in which he put forth an interesting implication about me personally: Am I "missing" the multiplayer aspect of play in the MMORPG?

To be fair, I'm not 100% certain if he was asking me, "Did I miss the point--that it's supposed to be multi-player?" or, "Did I miss out on the multi-player aspect, because of my negative past experiences in an MMORPG?" or even, "Did I misinterpret/dislike the style of multi-player play that an MMORPG like WoW offers?"

Q#1 - Variant 1:
The first variation of the question is stupid. He almost certainly wasn't asking that, thus I won't bother answering it. The other two variations are significantly more fun to consider.

Q#1 - Variant 2:
While the "griefing" and tedium I experienced in EverQuest did color my perceptions a little, they did not make me "hate the multi-player aspect" of the game. For a short time, it was indeed fun to hang out in a "new fantasy world" with some other newbs, to try out moves and spells and do some exploring. That I did not have to drive for 2 hours to get to a gaming session was a huge plus! I could play in my pajamas, sipping tea. Hooray for the Internet! I came to dislike the multi-player aspect of the MMORPG more gradually. The realization that it wasn't fulfulling, wasn't FUN, wasn't MEANINGFUL to me, took a while.

Q#1 - Variant 3:
This one feels like it's getting closer to the truth, to the dark, bitter heart of my dislike of MMORPGs.

It's obvious on it's face that people like... no, scratch that... that people love the form of multi-player interaction which the MMORPG provides them. As many others have pointed out (and as I figured out pretty quickly), it's all about, "...being the baddest of the BAD ASSES..." as Matt himself so neatly described it.

But I think I can honestly answer this variation of the question as follows: "No. I am most definitely not misinterpreting the style/flavor of the Multi-Player portion of the MMORPG. Yes, I dislike it. No, my opinion is not colored or skewed by my prior rough experiences with 'griefers', or 'player-killers'."

What I do miss is the Multi-player aspect of Role-Playing. I am convinced that the, 'camaraderie and social bonding' which I'm looking for, absolutely cannot be found in the current MMORPG model. I would argue that what I'm seeking is deeper, more fulfilling. It very much hearkens back to the excellent experiences and relationships I made during my tabletop RPG years. (Please note I'm not suggesting that the friendships made in a tabletop RPG are "better" than those made purely on-line in an MMORPG. However I am suggesting that they are significantly more MEANINGFUL; to me at least. I feel a closer personal connection to someone I've looked in the eye, someone who's shaken my hand, someone who's face cracks into a smile when they see me.) Perhaps this is generational in nature? There is much psychological and sociological evidence to support that. Perhaps it is a consequence of my specific personality type? Again, possibly. This is a key point which I'll explore further on.

Q#2: That same forum-member who posed Question #1, made a couple of other statements about MMORPGs, mirroring what I have read elsewhere. These statements stood out to me, and deserve some kind of answer. (I'm not picking on you Rob, honestly. You simply gave a clear summary of opinions which I've read and heard many times, in other forums and venues. So you get the dubious honor of being dangled on a string as, "the argument piñata". Sorry. Feel free to return the favor.)

To rephrase the statements as questions:

    Is there really "...little incentive to have MASSIVE worlds full of intrigue in the single-player experience if only a handful of players will ever explore it fully."??
      Is it really true that, '..there is little incentive to put obscure, "Easter Eggs" into single-player CRPGs.'?
        Further, does stating, "...WoW is reportedly full of them, because there's great incentive for exploration in such games." genuinely imply that there isn't a "..great incentive for exploration.." in single-player CRPGs?

To be blunt, I firmly believe that the answer to all of these is, "No." Actually, make that, "NO!"

To me, the thinking is entirely incorrect. (Yes, I am aware that I'm challenging the sentiment held by nearly the full majority of game-developers, publishers, portals, advertisers, other gamers, and probably even my own mother. No, this won't my first time tilting at the windmills--I'm getting pretty skilled at it actually. "Chaaarrrrrggeeee!" *clompety-clompety-clompety....* *WHAM!* "...ouch. Medic!...")

But consider my counter-arguments:
(a) I feel that there is actually more incentive to fully explore a massive game-world in a CRPG. You are, in a very real sense, "getting more value for your money." Every acre of virtual landscape I explore and battle through in a single-player, offline CRPG, works out to "more game-fun", without any ongoing cost. With the MMORPG, you are always 'racing the meter' as it were, since you pay for the on-going experience. Further, in a CRPG, I know that I won't spend hours traipsing through the devastated wasteland behind by others, wondering why there aren't any wandering monsters, only to finally discover a long line of other players camping; all waiting for their turn to "Slay the Pernicious FoobledyGroo and seize his Sceptre of Explosive Flatulence +10".
(b) Who says that "...only a handful of players will ever explore it fully"? From my own experience, and from comparing notes with friends who've played CRGPs, it's patently FALSE. CRPG content most certainly does get meticulously and lovingly explored.

(Interestingly, and more than a little disconcertingly, an article on this very subject popped up on CNN while I was writing this section of the blog. If I was the paranoid-delusional sort, I'd assume that The Universe was spying on me!!
Here's the link: CNN Article: Why most people don't finish video games.

For the record?
(1) I think the conclusions made by the folks interviewed in the article are unjustified hogwash. It seems to me that they're in it for, "maximizing short-term profit potential" via the MMORPG form.
(2) The article is awfully light on the details of where this supposed "10% Completion Rate" data is coming from.

Only 10% of avid gamers completed the final mission, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions.

I suppose I could use Google, and maybe dig up more information on Raptr, but I shouldn't have to--the article should provide that. What is their measuring method? How are they correlating the data to the various gamer-groups and demographics? What games did they "measure"? How did they choose which games to "measure"? What is the error-margins on the measurements? How are they proving causation--that is, how do they KNOW what they are claiming about the 'reasons people quit the games', is anywhere close to being accurate?

I do recommend reading through the 'Comments' section at the end of the article. There is a fair bit of trolling and whining, but there are also some excellent observations made about the "Real" reasons folks don't finish 'lengthier' single-player games.)

So what do I make of all this?

  • Regular subscriptions of an MMORPG means a steady flow of large amounts of $$$; hence there's an obvious appeal. This one is obvious, and I can't really argue against it. Some money is helpful, more money is better--if that's all you're after.
  • The developers can 'monitor' the game-world, and thus can 'measure' how many people find the 'wonderful hidden bits'. However, I gotta tell ya, "I smell a windmill hereabouts."

    Just because they can 'monitor' and 'measure' it in an MMORPG form, does NOT imply the inverse; that "most" players don't explore & experience all the content in a single-player, OFFLINE, CRPG. However, it does make it immensely easier to argue to the publisher that it's "worth" putting in the $$ and man-power to fill in the content to that level of detail.

  • Really, I can't get away from the creeping feeling that MMORPG vs. CRPG all comes down to a $$ argument. What gives the "highest return" for the investment, and what can be "proved" as giving the "best return at the end of the business quarter" will likely always get priority at a publicly held company.
  • Q#3: Why do I not find MMORPGs to be "Meaningful"? (i.e., Not fun, not memorable, and not enjoyable in any lasting sense.)
    Q#4: Why do I prefer single-player CPRGs so vehemently?

    I've kind of already answered both of these questions, in my responses here and via what I stated in Part 1 of this blog post. There are a couple of other factors though, which I do want to mention:

    (a) As I described in the first installment of this blog post, my experience with EverQuest was terribly disappointing. Frankly, it sucked, on many levels. I didn't enjoy the experience much at all. However I must point out that the exploration of such a "large world" did hold my interest for a time. (I think the exploration enjoyment came because EverCrack was the first CRPG-ish/fantasy thing I'd played in some time; I'd been hopelessly hooked on Thief: The Dark Project, Thief 2, and Half-Life 1.) So I don't irrationally or pathologically hate the things.

    (b) MMORPGs do not provide any opportunity for real "role-play". Indeed, as Matt Barton himself pointed out to me in the commentary on my prior blog-post, even other 'RPG old timers' who play WoW don't bother trying. It's a different game style apparently, and clearly a different social dynamic is at work. I'm not even sure why the "RPG" part of the name has stuck. Although I suppose if we tried calling it, a "Massively Multi-player Online Fantasy Adventure Game" (MMOFAG), the marketing folks would likely have a conniption-fit.

    (c) There are many times when I want to run a party of characters, MYSELF; without outside help, without intervention or spoilage. As is discussed elsewhere on this site, and in Dungeons and Desktops, CRPGs are somewhat unique in this regard. They are the one game genre which offers some level of overlap between, 'foot soldier Tactical' and 'theater commander Strategy' in the gameplay. Yes this brings on a unique set of challenges; you can't identify as closely with a group as with an individual character/avatar, it is a much less "Casual" game, and it necessitates compromises in the gameplay style--the need for "turn-based play" or "Active Time Battle" type of hybridization. But the uniqueness of play makes the design challenges easily worth the effort.

    (d) I prefer the OFFLINE nature of the CRPG. No, I am neither a paranoid schizophrenic nor a complete Luddite. (I'm sure that one of the voices in my head would have warned me, if that were the case. Joke, joke.) I value my privacy. I don't want my behavior 'tracked', 'categorized', 'analyzed', 'targeted', 'data-mined' or any other words which the marketers try to hijack. It all boils down to one thing: SPYING. It's nobody's beeswax when I play, how much I play, or even IF I play a given game. Also (I go into this in my book in great detail) having an "always ONLINE connection" creates a lazy mindset with developers and publishers--they assume that they can just "push out" the bug-fixes and updates because you will have to be connected to their servers all the damn time.

    (e) I am complete opposed to the notion that a 3rd party dictates when I can play a game. Power outage someplace? I don't get to play. Someone hacks their servers? I don't get to play. They have a server-farm upgrade? I don't get to play. My ISP has connection issues because some knuckle-draggging mono-brow chops through a fiber-cable? I dont' get to play.

    (f) I am completely opposed to the notion that a 3rd party dictates when I will no longer be allowed to play a game---EVER AGAIN. Think about it. At some point, I will simply be unable to play a given game. That may be in 10 years, or 6 years, or after next Christmas. But it will happen with an MMORPG. The developer/publisher feels they aren't bringing in enough subscription cash to, "justify it"? It's gone. If they think it might compete with a newer MMORPG? It's gone. If a publisher makes a bad business decision, nukes their company from within, are forced to sell out to another firm, and then the new owners scavenge the tech/IP/whatever and don't want to run the game servers any longer? Piffle, it's gone.

    Consider the ramifications of that for a second. Imagine if the same were true since CRPGs began. All of the lovely CRPG goodness which Armchair Arcade brings you, which Dungeons and Desktops brings you; GONE. Not a cheery thought.

    And one last one,

    (g) At least when I play a single-player CRPG, I can be assured of the quality of the immersion, my suspension of disbelief. It isn't ruined by my supposed comrades-in-arms. If I happen to mention the word, "hauberk", I can be pretty sure that everyone else in the room with me knows what the hell I mean. (Even the voices in my head 'get it'.)

    Section II: What is MEANINGFUL, to me, about CRPGs?

    This may sound odd, but after deep introspection I am nearly certain it is true. The most MEANINGFUL aspect of CRPGs is their ability to provide me something completely unique, in all the Universe: "A world which is entirely mine, not shared with any other living thing."

    Why is this so important? Because each CRPG world, governed 'realistically' by the magic of programming, populated with a fascinating array of different creatures, providing a different set of aesthetics, rules, and artwork, is a research vessel.

    And what is in this vessel? What is the great experiment? Me. Just me. No societal pressure, of any kind. No painful physical repercussions for any actions. No limits imposed by poor DNA, injury, age, disease, or the vagaries of boring physics. Each CRPG provides (or more accurately, has the potential to provide) the perfect, undiluted, unassailable, exploration of 'self'.

    CRPGs alone allow me to explore all facets of who I am, who I've been, what I like, what I hate. CRPGs also allow me to ask, and then truthfully answer, the single most important question I could ever ask myself: With no one watching, WHO OR WHAT MIGHT I BECOME?

    This is why I find the "role-playing" portion to be so critical, even if it's really only just me, talking to myself inside my head. This chance to explore facets of my personality, without criticism or external judgment of any sort, makes the experience of playing a CRPG heady, intoxicating, and addictive to me.

    To be clear here, the "role-playing" aspect of tabletop RPGs is a very different animal. In many ways it is much more enjoyable; it is certainly much easier. It's also hugely more entertaining and fun and enthralling, as the spontenaity and improvisation of the other human beings is something the computer cannot provide. There is an energy (the 'animus'), a "joyful exchange" which takes place in when we have fellowship with other human beings.

    So wouldn't a tabletop RPG actually be more MEANINGFUL than a CRPG then? Isn't the CRPG just a crude approximation of the "real world"? A digital simulacrum of a Dungeons and Dragons session?

    No, I don't believe so. Initially perhaps, in the early caveman days of CRPGs, this was the case. But not now. It's become it's own thing. Or to be precise, a CRPG has the capability of being it's own thing.

    Sure there are similarities between the two. In a tabletop RPG, just as in a CRPG, the gameplay is about exploration, of the game-world and of yourself. But the tabletop RPG session is simultaneously much more limited than a CRPG. You are still going to be judged by others, pressured, even if only at the most subliminal level.

    The "role-playing" in a tabletop RPG is about, "sharing an experience". The "role-playing" in a CRPG is about, "BE-ing the experience." It's the biggest ego-trip you can imagine. In fact, a CRPG offers an "imagination trip" which no other media can.

    Books can't do this, because you are at the mercy of the author and his or her story. Sure, having a good imagination makes a book much more enjoyable. If you're really gifted you can even "imagine your way" around the corners, behind the doors, or even into unwritten sub-plots of a book. You're really just using the book as a spring-board at that point, a starting-place. You're in the realm of "Pure Imagination" then. But it's a lot of work; you have to imagine EVERYTHING.

    Movies are even more limiting, for obvious reasons. You are stuck with someone else's story, someone else's concept of what the world and characters and costumes look like. You can try to "imagine your way" around the corners and off into pure dreamland, but it's hard--the movie keeps playing, the actors keep moving, the soundtrack keeps running. All that conspires to interrupt your imaginings. At least with a book you can drift out there in dreamland, then come right back to where you left off.

    What then about the MMORPG? Can the MMORPG, as it currently exists, provide some of "exploration of self" to me? Sure, I suppose it could. But for all the reasons discussed previously, the MMORPG falls too far short of the goal; it's too much bloody work and effort, for too little payoff. There are too many things which make me realize I'm surrounded by others.

    So then, we're back to the basic question which gets me so unbelievably jazzed when I start a new CRPG:

    "Within the constraints and systems and qualities of this new, untainted, unexplored world, What will I become?

    There are many other questions too, which can be asked and explored in CRPGs:

    What kinds of beings will I encounter? Will I help those 'beings' I come across? Is their cause 'worthy'? What happens if I ignore their pleas for help? What if I murder every single one of them in their sleep? What is it like to hunt down and kill every single NPC, every single monster, and even every single piece of neutral wildlife in the whole game? What does that feel like?

    You can take this line of thinking even further in a CRPG, to it's final, terrible conclusion:

    What does an entire continent, scraped clean of all 'life', look like when you spend virtualized days walking across it? What does that barrenness feel like? How does this make me view myself?

    In case any of you are staring at your screens right now in abject horror: No, I'm not sociopathic. There is no need to call the guys with the big net and the strait-jackets. How do I know? As those questions demonstrate, I've already explored that option in a CRPG. Once. It felt AWFUL. As in mind-bendingly, soul-wrenchingly HORRIFIC. I brought myself near to tears on a few occasions. I felt genuinely depressed for days as a result of that experiment.

    This I think demonstrates the power which a CRPG provides. This is one reason why I happen find CRPGs MEANINGFUL. There are a myriad of other reasons of course. CRPGs provide:

    • The opportunity to explore truly vast gameworlds, without having my suspension of disbelief shattered by others.
    • The opportunity to just knuckle down and do 'hack N slash'. At my own pace. For HOURS, if I so choose.
    • The opportunity to plan more "strategic-level" actions in preparing for battles, encounters, distribution of loot, the accepting of quests, and so on, compared to an FPS or MMORPG.
    • The opportunity to play either a single character, or a whole party, as I choose.

    So where does that leave us? Well it probably leaves anyone still reading this a little bit shell-shocked. As for me, I'm already mourning the decline of the single-player CRPG. I'm hoping though, that there will be a re-surgence of the "non-MMO" CRPG at some point. (Actually, truth be told, I'm secretly hoping that I can help lead that resurgence!) In the meantime, I doubt single-player CRPG's will disappear entirely. But Dr. Barton's conclusion in Dungeons and Desktops, is valid: CRPGs will get scarcer, MMORPGs will continue to grow and proliferate, and the Internet as a whole will get dumber.

    I suspect the single-player CRPG will likely follow the same "popularity arc" as the point-N-click Adventure Game genre: Moderately Successful, to Massively Dominating, to Market Swamping Excess, to Rapid Decline, to Steady 'N Slow. Several sub-variants of the CRPG are already hard to find, except in the "Indie Scene". Anything with: turn-based combat; 1-player control of multiple-character parties; "old school" appearance like isometric views or top-down views; 60 or 80 or 100+ hours of gameplay; heavy story-based/text-based games; all of these already appear to be consigned to a niche market.

    For now, there are a few studios which are going to continue producing CRPG's in the "styles" which I prefer:

    Besides, I can always go back and replay classics like Morrowind, Baldur's Gate, Ultima 7. So, things are not as bleak as they might seem.

    Wow. That was quite a heap of thinkin', wasn't it? (I think I pulled something in my frontal lobe.) Hope I didn't lose anybody back there. Next time in Part 3, I will finally leave the "Ponderously Philosophic Prattle" behind, and get to "The COOL Stuff"--what would make "My Ultimate CRPG!"

    Thank you all for reading, and may your LEWT be EVAR-PHATTER!



    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
    Joined: 01/16/2006
    Wow II
    clok1966 wrote:

    But that will never happen. I think all our sicussion just shows.. there is a market for somthing other than WOW part II.. but will anybody attempt it? I doubt it.. WoW's success has pretty much gaurantied non stop clones for a long time.

    Never is a long time. I have high hopes that Bioware's new Star Wars MMO might, if not topple it, at least provide a viable alternative. If nothing else, the option to play it on consoles will be HUGE, particularly if it's anywhere near as compelling as WOW. I assume they're going with an interface based on Dragon Age 2 and/or Mass Effect, probably leveraging voice chat or expressions to make up for not having a keyboard.

    I wish somebody would put me in charge of making a WOW slayer, though, because I could do it. I'd start with a simple maxim of being an ALTERNATIVE. If WOW does X this way, I'd do it another way--or not do it at all.

    Consider Subway. Subway didn't become the champion of fast food by making better burgers than McDonalds.

    Joined: 01/21/2009
    I dont the ANTI-WOW is the

    I dont the ANTI-WOW is the answer. Blizzard is so succesfull becuase they look at the hot game, copy it, but change the bad parts. Everquest was the insperation for WoW (MMOPRG), and of course WoW was inspired by Warhammer (stole is more like it.. but .. ). Tye looked at what made EQ a succes, and waht he player based complained about. And of course thy used prior ideas from thier other games (diablo loot system).

    EQ travel was horrible- Fixed in WOW
    EQ leveling took ages - Fixed in WoW
    EQ, not examining every mob, static and roaming ment death- WOW kamakazi works almost every time
    EQ- a monster one level over you was a HUGE gamble-WOW monsters 5 levels over you can be killed, heck as a hunter (and other classes) some kiting I can kill death itself...
    EQ a monster runs you wher in for some seroius hurt, Wow, let um run more kills, faster exp
    EQ death ment running to your body naked (if you could, some dungouns took hours to get into the bottom) Wow- eh.. die a 1000x who cares..few seconds running from a gravyard on every corner.
    Eq- Ever QUEST! but they kind forgot the quest part.. sure there where some, but you seldome where on one at all times. WoW you can have to many quests, you cant complete um all and get exp for them..

    so many other things.. WoW did what shoud be done. Thye found the crap and changed it.. better? In most cases yes.

    But i do agree with the Subway thing.. you dont copy to beat. I dont tehink anybody is going ti kill WoW but wow.. its going to just be OLD ... WoW's real problem right now is simply leveling (and how do oyu take that out?) you made you DK UBER he has it all... so you start a priest.. and do all that stuff you already did.. repeating all that content is no fun.. and that is the real problem..

    WoW will just die slowly, nobody is goign to show up in thenext few yers and make WoW go from 11 million to 2 million in a year or two..

    Butt here can be othere succesfull games, but I think the answer to that is not to do what WOW does, or even DONT DO WHAT WoW DOES.. you just gotta go in and make the best game you can.. dont worry about wow at all.

    And my last comment...Dont get your hopes up for that "new" game im in the beta.. sicne I have a NDA and will stick to it.. I wont say anything more than this..

    Age Of Conan did one thing Right, full speech on quest till level 20... why they stopped there i dont know, but it really sucked after level 20 to have to read text again.. Personally AoC right now is a pretty dang good game, but nobody will evel know.. A certian new game Has all Speech.. and it looks like its till end game.. that is one mark for it. It uses a slighlty cartoony look like WoW (never liked it in wow , dont like it here) but it does work..

    as for differnt play.. all i am saying is.. nothing new here. My prediction, 2-3 million to start, in less then a year maybe 1 still playing. that franchise is powerfull, that developer is good.. but MMOPRG is not somthing they have done before. They so far have done just fine, but it seems everybody thinks they are going to follow some "new" path... they arent.. This new game will succed but it wont kill wow, heck it wont do much to it all (as all that came before it), it will succed but more becuase everybody has done everyhtnig in WoW and even if this NEW game is the same, its differnt locations, and such..

    Shawn Delahunty
    Shawn Delahunty's picture
    Joined: 08/01/2011
    Shall give WoW a try

    Thanks to all for the responses and discussion points. I've read it all with great interest.

    @Matt: You raise a valid point Matt; I haven't physically played WoW for myself. I have watched a couple of acquaintances play the game for a few hours though, so I didn't make my statements about MMORPGs from a sight-unseen/wholly-ignorant point of view concerning the "WoW factor". (Yes, I watched people play the game. I have watched other friends play other games, mostly FPS stuff, for days. This probably seems completely whacked-out to some folks, but I approach all this from a game-designer and programmer perspective. In addition to observing the gameplay, I also study the human-machine interactions. Where do they have problems? WHY do they have problems? Where do they get frustrated? Also, since I'm not neck-deep in adrenaline, I can analyze what the game AI is doing, what the graphic shaders are doing, start mentally mapping how the level-design triggers are set, evaluate the effectiveness of the interfaces, and so on.)

    All that to say; I am downloading the WoW Starter-version as I write this, and shall give it a try. (If the thing ever finishes downloading. Holy Crap! 10+GIGABYTES? Yeah, I've got a meager 3Mbit connection here.) If nothing else, I can study the interface and the interaction capability, plus study the skill/spell/crafting tree stuff and the world-design. I will put up a Forum or Blog posting when I've either:
    (a) played until I got bored/gave-up.
    (b) played through to the level 20 cap on the Starter edition.
    Either way, I'll comment about my experience.

    If it, "..gets it's hooks into me..." that will be a pleasant surprise. I would say that I'm at the extreme skepticism phase right now. I wasn't particularly happy that in order to download the damn thing I had to provide my name/address and so on. Despite what their privacy policy currently claims, in the TOS they reserve the right to change ANY part of the agreement at ANY time. Plus the Sony PSnetwork hack didn't surprise me, and BattleNet is just as much of a target--especially with the real-money auction house thing coming for Diablo3.



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