Bungie has big plans for Destiny, their sci-fi first person shooter (FPS) extravaganza Activision is releasing in 2014. Yes, everyone always says their FPS will be the bestest with the mostest, but Destiny has a planned ten year life cycle and a design that will incorporate elements from massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, ideas that so far haven’t been successfully implemented in a FPS. Bungie’s track record with Halo is good enough that the promise of doing it right this time excites gamers.
On the other hand, Destiny also plans to be an online-only game, where you can only play when Bungie/Activision says you can play. The thought of another digital rights management (DRM) scheme messing up another game is certainly enough to fill a gamer with dread considering recent disasters, but things need to be put in perspective here.
Diablo III, for example, was a questionable choice for online-only. Yes, you can play Diablo III with other players, but I certainly hated doing so, and I’m sure I’m not the only player to log onto Battlenet and set up private games just for myself. It’s annoying that when the internet goes down, so does my game, but at least Blizzard’s servers are reliable, with glitches few and far between. My own ISP, however, does have problems. Theoretically, I could interact with other players, and I did multiplayer a few times, but it really should have been my choice to play online, instead of it being foisted upon me by a pirate-paranoid company. DRM here was a bad choice, but at least it didn’t ruin the game, there were minor inconveniences at best.
On the other hand, SimCity as online only is just plain stupid. Sim City was never a multiplayer franchise, and doesn’t really make sense as such a game. You’ve got a whole city to manage, you don’t have time to deal with other players’ shenanigans unless the city management is ridiculously simple (in which case nobody would play the game). Multiplayer should have been an option at best, instead of crammed down my throat. Toss in EA actually lying about the necessity of the game being online only (a hack that came out days after release allowed players to happily play offline), unreliable servers, and many programming/design problems and it’s no surprise John Riccitiello, the head of EA, stepped down shortly after launch. While the online-only aspect might catch the brunt of the blame for SimCity‘s failure, it’s clear there’s more to this disaster than just a (single) stupid idea.
Now back to Destiny, which hopes to be an MMO FPS. There’s simply no way to have an MMO that isn’t online, it’s the “O” in MMO, after all. Shooters certainly can be played offline, but the bread and butter of every FPS franchise has been the ability to go online and shoot other players. There are players who have logged hundreds of hours of Call of Duty, for example, and still haven’t played five minutes of the single-player campaign. Personally, I got bored after the first two solo missions. So, in this case, being online only is not a questionable choice like for Diablo III, or part of a series of stupid decisions like for SimCity…Destiny has to be at least 99% online anyway, so there’s no harm in making it 100% online.
While I can accept Destiny being online only, I do have my concerns about this form of piracy prevention. One of the sad facts of the modern gamer’s life is he no longer owns his games. Forty years from now, there will be no closets or garages opening up with playable EverQuest or Asheron’s Call inside, no way to share with my grandkids any of the good times I’ve had with many a game, and more and more games are becoming unplayable without the publisher’s continuous permission. While I can’t approve of piracy in general, it’s clear those guys (or at least their skills) will be needed in the future, to unlock the games that vanished when the publishers went bankrupt…or hopefully soon, a better solution will be invented so corporations can be less afraid of not making enough money.