a review of Diablo 3
a videogame developed by Blizzard Entertainment
and published by Blizzard Entertainment
text by Samuel Kite
The Metro Last Light trailer has a powerful moment in it. Not the panic and the people being shut out of shelter. Not the holy lunatic smiling in satisfaction as judgment comes, and not the moment of kindness (or sinister inconsistency, depending on your perspective) of the soldier taking the baby.
It’s the sheer terror every person immediately feels as they see their own country launching weapons. Consider that. The act of offense is the signal that the world will end. Imagine people shrieking and crying at the sight of an American naval flotilla leaving port in the 70s, 80s, or 90s, due to the certain, pervasive knowledge that by doing so, it means that 9/11 is a subsequent certainty. If that is too controversial, or ugly, imagine Japanese citizens wringing their hands and frantically excavating fallout shelters under their homes as loudspeaker broadcasts announce the Imperial victory in the Hawaiian islands against the American navy, because that victory guarantees reprisals which will burn entire cities.
What an almost idyllic moment it is to see that immediate terror and realization connected with inevitable consequences, rather than direct threat.
The obvious, probably less offensive example is the person who is gripped by terror at the possibility of going to hell for having done some selfish or cruel thing. The only drawback to that otherwise great example is that people are never afraid of shit that makes any sense. Their son goes to war and kills people for the state, but then comes home and suggests that he might be gay, and suddenly everyone is worried about his otherwise supposedly saved soul. Priests commit sex crimes, and are shuffled around church stations. The followers of the religion, afraid of dismantling the organization that allows them to be saved, would rather just not hear about it. To be fair, pointing out that the purveyors of a spiritual narrative are corrupt is an attack on the followers of the narrative. I suppose the question is ‘why would you believe these people’?
Anyway, I have a pretty fullproof method for getting pubic hair on your ipad or android tablet. Take it with you to the bathroom, and then hold it one handed while trying to sort out your business. Personally, I find that, to avoid an awkward grip that might obscure the screen or create an unintended input, I kind of have to cradle-pinch the device in one hand, and then, when things are arranged appropriately, use the other hand to pan, zoom, or swish. Inevitably, a pubic hair makes the harrowing journey from the crotch to the modern touch capable device. Don’t worry, it’s dry, clean and pressed; just a curly offcut no different than what you unknowingly eat in your spaghetti sauce or oatmeal every day.
This relationship makes these devices more real somehow. Until computers could start getting covered in our excretions, they were pedestals of complicated unknowable technology. Now they’re rapidly approaching books. How many stains are in or on your favorite novel. Coffee… tea…. occasionally saliva.
Perhaps some pus.
Certainly some nonspecific people-grease has softened the pages from their initially abrasive almost wooden texture. Sometimes you can feel how many people have read a book by how moist and tender it is.
A personal relationship with a book is extraordinary. Making that kind of contact with an electronic device is problematic. For one thing, it will be gone in five seconds. For another it’s probably not waterproof. For a third, it doesn’t absorb you, it is fettered by you. My wife and I were babysitting a couple well behaved young boys. They are 9 and 10. I thought ‘children of this era and generation are so intimately familiar with simple electronic devices, it should be straightforward that I can hand them all the ones I own and let them play with them while we cook’ (read: order pizza over the phone for them and cook for us (my wife told me it wasn’t our job to correct their dietary problems for the 18 hours they’d be at our house)). This was more or less true; I was pleased with the fact that they did not take it upon themselves to use any of the pay options in the free to play games I had on my Asus Eee. After they had gone, I was slightly less pleased with the fact that they had entombed the device in a layer of greasy mucous.
Termites are an interesting, though not entirely unique species. Their primary, apparent, function, that of eating wood and turning it into more termites, isn’t even their thing, per se. In the scheme of evolution, they are a pair of grinding pincers on the front end of a tube that contains several other organisms. One of these organisms digests cellulose.
If not for this apparently autonomous organism that just happens to live in all termites, this wondrous creature would be about as effective at digesting wood as you or I (note: ineffective (despite the ample calorie value of wood pulp, human consumers of sawdust continue to lose weight (apparently biochemistry is complicated? Keep reading packaging for calorie values, though, it matters and you are in no way being deceived))).
It’s actually better than that. The organism that does the important secretion of wood-pulp-to-something-else chemical is kind of a limbless ball of an organism. It’s not self-propelled. It’s not even self-guiding. The cilia like appendages that push it around are yet another creature. Those creatures attach, take sustenance from the central digestor-organism, and somehow cooperate with each other (each hair is a separate creature) to produce meaningful movement.
Diablo 3 has a real money auction house. You also buy it in the box from the store shelf or a digital copy. If it gets released on XBox LIVE, which has been strongly hinted in the past, you would presumably pay for a copy of the game, then for an XBox LIVE Gold subscription, and then you would have access to the real money auction house. You would need an internet subscription for XBox LIVE and Diablo 3, because they both rely on being connected. You’d need electricity and a television because there is no stand alone analog ‘disk only’ mode. There are additional steps in a glorious chain of capitalism and progress that terminates in an Iowan corn field.
Capitalism or economy is the kind of cultural picture of how we understand our biology. Termites arranged of separate organisms are working in concert to keep the termite market going. They frustrate some of our building attempts, but they are abundantly important in helping us clear the land where we want to build. Mulching reabsorbs the biomass wasted in dead trees as liquid (economically) resource for some other part of organic life. Chimps could eat those termites, just as an example. Then we’d have more chimps (anthropically). If we want to restrict termite infestation, we can spray or treat, or use alternate building materials outside their termite wood market, and still avail ourselves of their helpful forest decommissioning properties. This is chemical communication with termites; do not eat this (eat that instead). We’re cooperating.
We apply that chain of events on a large scale and the end point is fantastic, far reaching cooperation. Unbelievable, amazing, cooperation.
If I had to recommend two books, it would be Good Calories, Bad Calories, and Sex At Dawn. Like any book, there’s parts of each that might mean one or another thing to different people, and challenge uncertain assumptions–resulting in a perverse backlash of unfounded certitude going in the other direction. That’s not important compared to the basic premises at work. In GC,BC, there is a clear picture painted of how the perception of fact is affected by economy. In SaD, you see how the game theory proposition of resources in a given environment radically affects the level of cooperation.
If you try to read up on science, especially health science, you see a world in which a cooperative endeavor, exploration of knowledge (an uncertain, unknowable quantity of resources) is constantly partitioned into a hierarchical, competitive endeavor: the application of knowledge. It’s about work, not play. Even though, presumably, since children play, and children must learn, and children learn through play, playing is key to learning. That’s logically consistent, but vacuous. What is play?
How much does society want us to play?
As social animals, we probably should play a lot. More than we do. Though maybe we play more than we think. We play to learn and then we compete with the knowledge for which we’ve played. Playing doesn’t necessarily mean having fun; I play with my dog. He’s a nice guy, no question, but I’m not super-into going to town on a stuffed duck, or helping to pretend that duck is somehow alive by shaking it and throwing it for hours. Nor am I fascinated by playing keep-away and dodging around the yard trying to corner him in order to get the duck away, and then letting him chase me and get it back. Honestly, when it comes to plush ducks, I’m fairly indifferent. I guess I like that they’re soft and they have that toy inside that makes a ‘quack’ noise when you squeeze them. But I wouldn’t devote more than 15 minutes to that joy a day. At most. Maybe 20.
I play with my dog because my dog is awesome and he shouldn’t have to be bored all the day watching me do things that are obviously boring and stupid–like stare at the window-on-the-table-that-makes-noise-and-sometimes-makes-me-angry, or the window-in-the-living-room-that-sometimes(rarely)-shows-animals. He doesn’t even get to keep a lookout and warn me about stuff–every time he tries to raise the alarm because he can hear a garbage truck or somebody is walking on the sidewalk outside, I tell him to shut up. There’s hiking and the dog park–we both like those ok, but let’s face it. Going nowhere… actually, specifically…. walking or driving to the same place every day to go nowhere for no reason is pretty weird and non-useful. How often is our play for the sake of someone else?
Play is at the end point of some kind of chain of capital. Partly an inborn biological function, it’s an evolved behavior favoring experimentation, as near as we can figure; it also appears to serve several corollary social and physical hormesis-related purposes.
Since games typically have internal economies, the ultimate end result for the player-termite is to translate a long chain of events, starting in a cornfield in Iowa, past the pubic-hair and mucous coating their tablet device, to the destruction of digital life. The game could catchily be called ‘accelerated cleanup of nonexistent tasks’.
This generates a situation of ambiguous resources.
There’s a lot of animosity toward The Fed and the removal of the Gold standard as well as the neocon talking point that surfaced during George W Bushes’ first term surrounding the idea that infinite, eternal debt should be the norm (or at least wasn’t something to eradicate). Allegedly, as long as money is tied to known resources (like gold), then there is an incentive for the world economy to balkanize. After all, if you know that there is only a finite amount of something, and you possess more than a neighbor, it is vital that you make sure they do not try to possess it, because it would tangibly reduce the well being of your population. It is also important that you do not allow too many people to immigrate. In addition, it’s somewhat important that there isn’t too much emigration, either, as it potentially weakens you to the point of becoming a puppet state, whose only function is to feed some larger empire, and enjoy none of the benefits of your own wealth. Biology has a similar situation: the reaction of your immune system to colonies of bacteria and foreign substances. You have a finite set of internal energy resources. Having too many colonies of competing organisms would make you vulnerable to a starvation of vital parts required to maintain the system, and the long-term reproduction of this human shaped thing we’re all so fond of. Every cell faces a similar proposition at some level. It does not want to merge with other cells. It is concerned with the intake and export of proteins, hormones, and a variety of other substances. Ultimately, a cell is jealously guarding its dna and mitochondria. At the same time, to continue existing in the long term, it must lose its identity in some sense, in relationship to other cells. It must be willing to respond to communication from the rest of the body, and participate in that communication–even to the point of undergoing programmed cell death if it transgresses a larger system of regulation.
Every cell in the human body is a samurai warrior that will fall on its own RNA sword to avoid dishonoring its organs.
In this metaphor, cancer is a band of badass ronin who’ve lost their lord, and follow no orders or code of honor. They live off the land, intimidating the peasantry to provide them food and shelter, but without the noblesse oblige that would curtail their gyoza exploitation of your metabolic peasantry.
So, we’re termite like shells playing games by chewing up media, and there are various internal organisms–memes or behaviors or subcultural technology that we utilize (and accede to) imposed by a capital-seeking larger organ or organization (SONY, EA, Zynga, Nintendo, Blizzard).
I brought up the Fed. See, in the long term, as a species, we have no idea how much ‘resource’ there really is to go around. There’s money to be made out there. How much money? At some level how can we really compare a back-rub to a potato to a Mars Rover? How many energy drinks is a pop song worth? How about live recital of a pop song? The ambiguity in that trade is the ambiguity in the value of a ‘dollar’ (or euro or rupee). Since we are expanding the amount of accessible resource through cooperation and technology at all times, we must also expand the width, breadth, and depth of the economy as we go. It is not as important that we say a sandwich is some fraction of a superbowl as it is that we make sure that the people who need sandwiches and the people who need superbowls have access to both, and all the links in the chains required to produce those things get enough ‘energy’ out of the system to sustain their own needs.
Back in Iowa, the idea is that the corn will have to be fertilized, watered, and protected from parasites and what-have-you. The fact that it is GMO corn, and the fertilizer is a petroleum byproduct at present is kind of irrelevant to the corn, itself. The corn needs to know; will you be there for it? Will you make it possible for there to be corn? Corn stands at the head of a big table in a monocultural boardroom and says ‘How do we make that happen’.
Well some husk can timidly raise a leaf and suggest that there’s good reasons to have corn–that’s certainly part of it. Top Men have figured out how to pull a substance effectively identical to table-sugar out of corn called high fructose corn syrup, and comprehensively incorporate it in the diet. That’s an economical tool. That makes demand for corn, and provides an incentive. Now there is a kind of gravitational effect on corn–corn will tend to slide through these cooperative apparati until it terminates in a soft drink that someone consumes. Now corn does at least two things. You can also propose corn-fermented ethanol as a fuel source for cars. Now corn does at least 3 things–it’s diversified. This helps establish a drive to make more corn. When harvests are better than expected, the excess of corn puts pressures on the cooperative system to find new ways to use it–to expand the economy to maintain the chain of cooperation that keeps corn being grown.
Games. We play them. We fill our spare moments with entertainment. When we do not have sufficient time to invest in the former forms of play, for example, reading a long, complicated book, and sharing your thoughts about it with a book club, or studying sculpting for years and producing an ambiguous piece of art using alabaster which causes people you’ll never meet to think unpredictable subtle thoughts (possibly spawning more art (woohoo!)), we need an expansion of our play related market. We need to find ways to play and socialize that work within the structure of cooperation we are currently engaging.
For example, we found that computers were extremely useful. For one thing, they minimize the amount of education we need to perform some tasks, which in turn, makes fabulous new tasks available. But those tasks are on a different rhythm than our ancestors developed to accomplish. Long intense labor with occasional breaks was a technique we could adapt from endurance hunting and gathering to farming. However inert boredom with the occasional input that a computer requires isn’t something we accomplish well (if spiders invented computers, they’d be ready to go (4×2 on the floor)). Human beings seek stimulation, and that’s a market force. The gravitational force of that desire creates first video games (no need for the training period of sports, the mastery period of art and hobbies, or the long term concentration, even, of a book).
Those video games then become portable and flexible. The 2 minute arcade experience of 1989 becomes the 2 to 20 minute experience of the casual browser game or portable experience. Our increasing inundation of human presence (via population growth) and its competing isolationist urge that enables cooperative economies around socializing (myspace, facebook, etc) makes even this adaptation insufficient. The urge to entertain and be entertained gets more flexible. Social games are invented, capable of requiring anywhere from 10 seconds to 3 months of attention. They stack with each other easily and are totally asynchronous. They encourage players to cooperate through preexisting social ties to generate resources.
The resource is play.
When I reviewed Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (** – ABDN), I was charmed by how you could kind of incorporate your friends in your play without anyone actually having to be there and then post hoc create a social experience out of that fact. When Tim Rogers reviewed Sims Social (1/2* – ABDN) he was half appalled and half nonplussed by the fact that the game kills your friends, populates your world with their ghosts, and constantly demands you find more victims for it. In some sense, as game players, we’re crossing the threshold from when American Cattle Herders made cattle the dominant herd beast on the continent with massive ranches and methodical care and breeding techniques (“Shit yes! Check out our population growth number for Q4–it’s astounding. 2 hooves up, would serve as food source again.” – American Cattle Monthly), to the subsequent more unpleasant CAFO setup (“This is everything wrong with sequels. My guts are on fire and I openly seek death.” – American Cattle Monthly (a more recent issue)).
The Fed exists to take money, which is fundamentally elastic and slightly imaginary, and manage the degree of unpayable debt that should be eternally maintained, as a means of generating economic gravitational force toward the creation of more wealth. They are trying to generate more biomass by causing a constant removal of biomass, which pushes the organisms in the economy to find ways to generate *more*. Luckily, since biomass can be summoned more or less at will by metabolism, the only real issue is throughput.
Replace biomass with wealth.
Big picture: the society is forever under pressure to repay debt. Smaller picture: the ambiguous availability of resources at any given moment makes markets highly cooperative–you never know who’s going to generate more temporary wealth this year, so you permit cooperative trade and the presence of foreign entities to encourage sharing of whatever wealth is generated. Smaller picture: the tremendous amount of risk at large in the system pushes for regional markets to develop methods of staying separate and discrete, they lobby for personal interests that might influence the flow of the economy in their favor. Smaller picture: corporations have no idea what will work next, so they cooperate so closely they merge into large monolithic entities that unite means of distribution with successful products or services. Smaller picture: startup businesses with viable ideas desperately try to maintain individuality so that they can capitalize on their successes. Smaller picture: people working in startups sacrifice for the company to try to make sure the products they create have a chance to persist in the economic jungle. Smaller picture: Dude plays Sims Social at work because it is flexible enough to meet the urge for self-maintenance and social interaction outside restrictions and pressures of the workplace. Smaller picture: That person’s organs (brain is an organ) capitalize on the experience of the game, convincing the person that they are having fun and socializing, as well as releasing some limited quantity of hormonal happiness signals, which work on the rest of the cells in the body to combat the combination of inertia, bad diet, and stress which are ultimately in the interests of the whole animal. Smaller picture: The individual cells, not giving a shit about how many Simoleons you have, respond with insulin resistance in an attempt to avoid a local excess of oxidative stress from all those sodas. Big picture again: Corn wins.
What the fuck is my point?
The pressures of this environment create intersectionality. This is a term developed in the context of feminist-related acceptance nomenclature (along with kyrirachy! (you have to hand it to the acceptance movement–its language is inclusive (while simultaneously being almost impenetrable (there is an awesome joke that goes here, and I am a jerk for thinking of it))).
Intersectionality in the context of its original coinage is saying, basically, if you’re a white man, then there may be cases when being a man is to your advantage but being white is not, and visa versa (this is actually the worst example possible, because that rarely happens, currently, but picture an example like an american GI who’s a prisoner of war in male dominated society like Afghanistan on the one hand, and a man on a sinking luxury liner with a limited amount of lifeboats in the 20s on the other–case one, being white sucks, even if being male would be good otherwise, case two, being white is nice–you’re probably in first class and close to the front of the line when things go wrong, but being male isn’t so hot when it’s women and children first (a more canon example is a black woman who is oppressed by white women and black men in different contexts (To put it in the context of pokemon, when a grass type and a dark type have a child, the child may experience vulnerability to fire and holy (for the record, I’ve never played pokemon)))). The ultimate thrust of this thinking is just to say no single fight can really demand all your attention at all times, and the temporary expediency of various alliances is fluid. Just because whites are doing something, all together, doesn’t mean that it solves all the problems of the other affixes to your random drop of Human. People with low dexterity may still resent the high fire resistance types after the immediate goal has been accomplished (landing a critical hit).
In this case, entertainment, socializing, personal well being, and variable financial flexibility present several modes of interaction for a human and their entertainment. Diablo 3 is essentially saying ‘you guys figure all this shit out yourselves. We’re going to be upstream, generating sprites for you to kill.’
Tim Roger’s economic analysis of game motivation in the Sims Social review applies to Diablo 3 in terms of damage as currency. Even if you could never be killed in Diablo 3, if you did no damage, you would not experience the game. In fact, you might not be able to make it past 8 minutes, since there is a very early task which involves destroying a specific monster. Your damage buys dead monsters. Dead monsters buys progress in the forms of better equipment, money, experience, and the sequential acts of the game. Eventually, progress through the acts of the game is fully achieved, and progress buys experience and drops. After that, experience stops as well (though, with the recent patch, this period has been significantly lengthened, and a feedback cycle of increased payout of equipment and money as that experience accrues was added)). Eventually, you will reach, first, an experience cap, then a personal equipment cap (as you eventually obtain equipment sufficient to buy dead monsters at a rate close to your finite movement speed, internet connection, and reaction time)). Intriguingly, Blizzard has learned a lesson from the long unsavored behavior of ‘gold farmers’ and item trading on their battle.net service, and stepped in to progress the industry from free-to-play microtransactions models, to entertainment brokering.
When a new player enters Diablo 3, they, initially, can progress almost unconsciously through the first difficulty level. They may be satisfied with this, though, so to accrue more things and play with their friends whose inevitable arc culminates in the final stages of the game, they will probably move up through the difficulty levels. Though it is not impossible to play through the normal track without outside help, it is more expedient to use the Auction house. So they might pay real money for fake gold, and use the fake gold to buy better equipment. Blizzard and paypal obtain a transaction fee. This is different than microtransaction f2p models. This currency has been generated by the perpetual debt cycle. Blizzard is the Fed in their entertainment economy.
Players are encouraged to cooperate. No one knows who will get the next great item, so mediocre items are sold for low prices. Blizzard can also destroy, fluctuate, or derange the economy at any time with an adjustment to value (maybe swinging swords faster doesn’t matter as much anymore, or maybe some special skill doesn’t work the same way and some other special skill works better–the changes and additions of new methods of play investment in buying dead monsters guarantee an eternally changing answer to the question of how many dead monsters the players can afford with their best efforts). Players trade and play in public multiplayer games to help each other and help themselves buy more dead monsters with damage. But when they get that resource, they are encouraged to make the tough choice to balance their own improved ability to buy dead monsters against the potential value of returned time.
By incorporating a real money auction house, Blizzard has simulated angel investors as an economic phenomenon in human play behavior. The mechanism is somewhat backwards. It’s more like asking for tips. But ultimately, Blizzard has become a black hole of player debt. Players will play. They will be incentivized to transact between one another for the entertainment value of the product and satisfaction of potentially managing a personal monetary break-even point. In reality, they will not break even, because a full-time trader can barely justify the time they might spend working in the economy; it is a low wage for a highly technical and very challenging skill. It’s like being a consumer advocate lawyer or an emergency room physician in a 3rd world country. But whether it’s the person who spends 5 dollars once to get a really great sword, or the guy who turns over 100s of dollars a day to an eventual profit of 1000s, Blizzard culls a fee.
They succeed brilliantly, too. Because, whereas the free 2 play mechanics are impossibly hamstrung by their need to step out of the way of other, more important tasks (they have to keep someone invested for a long period of time, while having relatively few chances to get money out of the player), Blizzard can both dominate someone’s schedule, or be a casual. The purchase of the game, itself is a buy-in. The player goes into the hole at the beginning. The entertainment and social parts are like ambient needs they’re serving while they participate in the cooperative economy.
If there isn’t a whiteboard somewhere that says something along the lines of ‘Q3 2013, add paragon ilvl 64 gear and Apocalypse difficulty–only open to paragon 75+’, I will shit myself.
The key to the free 2 play hook is that it gets you to invest time and interest in something. The superficial appearance is that they’ve offered you something for ‘free’ and in exchange you will only have to play within certain rules. In reality, what they’ve done is made you pay attention to a marketing pitch (in a more primitive time, this would be called pan handling) which culminates in a request for spare change. If you are particularly touched by the plight of poor Zynga or whoever, you might go so far as to buy them dinner and get them a new suit while you’re at it. It is creepy to compare these corporations to homeless people, because homeless people are often nonviable examples of our race who are caught up in a society which can be vicious and terrifying at the bottom rungs. What is somewhat hilarious in this case is that these corporations are in exactly the same kind of society among their economic peers. The metaphor between Zynga and customer isn’t a person begging a person, it’s a rancher pushing his cattle to put out more meat.
What’s funny about the Zynga model is that it’s very CAFOesque. The environment in which they derive their post-pitch profit is deleterious to the farmed organism (soylent gaming is people). It’s not sustainable. Eventually, people will be armored against these weird hooks, at least in part by similar time-wasting experiences produced at cheaper and cheaper rates, until someone realizes that there is some kind of meaningful profit to be made in completely undercutting the model with a free to play, free to upgrade, free to everything social game with regular updates and support (oddly, they already existed before Zynga, this is a Guns Germs and Steel issue of habitat expansion at it’s core (a specific technique developed in a harsh environment temporarily gives a tremendous advantage somewhere else)). Because, after all, people do like this stuff, and it’s conceivable that ad banners and someone who just likes the attention and miniscule amount of power available to the creator and moderator of a free 2 play experience will put something as formal as a corporation out of the game (so to speak). The efficiency curve translates the corporation into the smallest possible footprint; one dude making sprite art for a game about building a house and filling it with stuff (or whatever).
Moore’s law is a son of a bitch.
But Blizzard has established a kind of return to efficient (somewhat more humane) pastoral ranching techniques. In my The Old Republic (*** – ABDN) review, I mentioned how the game resembled nothing so much as a suite of techniques for keeping a player engaged in what were seemingly social single-player experiences–at the time, just a combination of simple pvp games, a rail shooter, and 3 or 4 experiences-worth of slightly dated RPG. But here, Blizzard has a crucial nuance to their investment.
The cattle do most of the work. They pay damage to destroy monsters, and engage in transactions in the interests of getting more currency to kill monsters, some of which Blizzard directly capitalizes on. In the meantime, Blizzard runs Warcraft and Starcraft. Those games have a number of items available for pay within them, not the least of which are subscriptions and expansions. These players are chickens coming in behind the cattle to sift through their feces, eat insects, stray bits of grass the cattle didn’t get, and add their own extra layer of processing to the output, fertilizing the field so more grass grows.
The way you avoid paying Blizzard a transaction fee is to store the money from the transaction as ‘blizzard bucks’. In other words, the appearance of the choice is:
1) Pay blizzard 15%.
2) Pay blizzard 0%*
The small asterisk indicates that you are actually paying Blizzard 100%. Except you aren’t paying Blizzard, you just got someone else to pay Blizzard.
Blizzard has figured out how to get you to ask complete strangers to buy you your next sword, pony, Wow expansion, or whatever for them. If you buy Diablo 3, you could potentially continue to pay for and play other Blizzard products forever without another investment of personal funds–just a personal investment of time (with some wide ranging influence of luck, that is nevertheless completely manageable by Blizzards design updates and expansions of the economy).
To be fair, CCCP figured out how to do this, somewhat, in EVE. Their method was slightly backwards and confusing, though, and they mistook what they’d developed for a form of ‘stickiness’–in their mind, this extended subscriptions of active players, and kept long time players–on whom they rely for content (in the form of being in the game world and playing, making the game world interesting for other, newer players)–playing longer. Even now, to hear the superficial description of their intentions behind the new Dust 514 game, the scheme seems to be the NCSoft or SOE technique of having a stable of games to maintain a subscription from the player. A subscription model is not the same as free to play in the same way that the web’s ‘free’ ad driven content (CAFO gaming) is not the same as cable tv (old fashioned ranching).
But that’s icelanders for you. Unconsciously brilliant.
The underpinning to a successful new transformation of agriculture will be diversification, and a return to relying on the robustness of the organism, in the same way that the mitochondria powering nearly every animal cell on earth are self-managing tag alongs to our more complicated speciation. Corn, wheat, whatever, are overly simplistic, though temporarily compelling ways to exploit land. But the power of adaptation inherent in permitting self-regulating complexes of cooperation to exploit resources that works so powerfully at upper levels of the economy (and lower levels of the food chain), is the reason that capitalism, as defined by a quest to seek more wealth (hopefully a representation of value, though, in the moment, it must be somewhat disassociated from value in order for experimentation and risk to take place), is the aspirational quasi-religion of our time. Eventually we will seek out and cultivate creatures who can consume, thrive, and develop on simpler, more diverse diets and ecosystems, in the interest of minimizing our risk (through diversification in the root of our entertainment supply), and those creatures will be happier, because they will have to cooperate, internally, to equitably distribute stress and seek opportunity, since cooperation, at the bottom, is as important as cooperation is in the whole grand scheme. Blizzard is a major industry player taking our entertainment economy back from the brink of unsustainable hyper-focused one dimensional demi-entertainment and toward sustainable somewhat autonomous herder-gamer culture, with the benefits of modern mechanization. The ultimate permutation of this amazing revelation will be a kind of 4 way tie between Steam, XBox Indie Games, Diablo 3’s real money auction house, and Kickstarter.
When this day arrives, we will probably see the Hardcore gamer tea party declare that big-gaming is squelching gamer freedom by taxing transactions between players, and that games should be stand alone experiences, rather than a sustained ecosystem of cooperating gamers and artists, playing together while using money as a functional and uninteresting footnote in maintaining the chain of cooperation that allows us all to keep playing.
That all said…
Fast, Fire Chains, Desecrator, Jailer Phase Beast? Fuck you, Blizzard. Worst game ever.