Glad I’m not playing Diablo 3.

Diablo 3 launched today to the excitement of many. I mentioned over the weekend that I wasn’t interested in it but was expecting to feel left out. Well, I’d forgotten about the always online DRM that Blizzard was building into the game. Despite the fact that you can play Diablo 3 completely single-player, you can’t actually play it offline. In effect Blizzard launched a single-player MMO today (an SPO?) and had the usually MMO launch issues, namely overwhelmed servers.

So instead of there being a deafening silence on Twitter as everyone was engrossed in playing, or having to read tons of messages about how amazing the game is, instead I was reading complaints about lag, server timeouts, and error numbers. It really reminded me of the original launch of WoW more than seven years ago, and made me wonder why Blizzard wasn’t able to prepare better. After all, surely if any game developer has the experience and resources to handle a massive launch it should be Blizzard. Right?

Personally, even were I interested in the game, I still wouldn’t be playing it as I really dislike the trend DRM is taking at the moment. At least Valve has built Steam to allow for offline play, surely Blizzard could manage something similar if they cared to. Or maybe it’s Activision that doesn’t care?

Either way, I hope that things calm down soon for those of you who want to play, so you can get in and get some quality time in-game.

Ubisoft never disappoints me.

I love the Anno series of games. I love the art style and the game mechanics involved in city building. The combat systems are a bit rough, but I normally turn those off. The real challenge for me in those games are building a stable trade web between multiple islands.

Despite my love for the series, I haven’t and won’t be buying Anno 2070. I want to, I really do, but I think it’s asinine of Ubisoft to include their patented must-be-online-POS-DRM in a single player game that’s available through Steam. Why on earth I want to deal with two layers of DRM? Especially when the one layer that’s not needed and offers zero incentives isn’t even managed properly.

DRMless is Worth More

I usually don’t play old games. I admit that I ‘m a shallow gamer. Once I know there’s a better looking version of a game out, I just don’t enjoy playing the old one as much, even when the I prefer the style/mechanics of an older version.

As a result, I’ve never bought anything from Good Old Games until this week. I preordered Witcher 2 through GOG.com, even though I bought the original Witcher through Steam. I was planning to get the sequel through Steam when it went on sale eventually, but then I read that it wasn’t going to have any DRM on it through GOG. To me, that’s worth paying full price and not waiting on some crazy Steam sale.

Now I just need to actually finish the first one.

Kindled

I’m not a fan of DRM lock-in in any medium, but especially not with books because I like to keep and reread them, sometimes more than ten years later. With music, I didn’t start spending money on MP3s until Amazon came out with their DRM-free store.

That said, I ordered a Kindle.

Why a Kindle and not a Nook?

First, I tried out a Nook in the Barnes & Noble store a few weeks ago when they announced their price cut but the touch screen felt a little laggy to me. Second, I’ve tried out both the Kindle and Barnes & Noble software on my phone, using it to read some free samples, and I liked the Kindle version better.

So what changed my mind?

Well, I’ve been tempted to get one before out of sheer gadget lust, but always managed to make my saving throw. Until my wife asked me recently about what we would need to stream Netflix to the TV. My wife suggesting a gadget purchase is a rare event, so I was pretty excited. Thus, while I was on Amazon ordering a Roku box, I somehow ended up ordering a Kindle as well.

So I actually haven’t changed my mind, I do think that I’m taking a risk of having to buy some books multiple times because of DRM, but hopefully by being aware of that and making some decisions about what I buy in which format, I can avoid getting burned in the future.

I’m intending to be fairly choosy about what I buy electronically. If Amazon ever decides to get out of the ereader business, I’m at their mercy to remove the DRM from my purchases so I can transfer the files to text or to different hardware (assuming I don’t break the law and find away to do it myself). Honestly, that not something I see publishers ever allowing though.

Being choosy means that I will get Kindle editions for things like programming books, since they get outdated within a few years,  and any vacation reading, like the Burn Notice tie-in I read recently. Certain authors will continue to be hardback purchases: Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, and Patrick Rothfuss, to name a few. Basically, anything that I’m likely to reread or collect.

The big challenge for me will be the convenience and immediacy of getting Kindle editions. For instance, if I’m chatting on Twitter and someone mentions a book, I can order it from my phone and start reading it during my lunch break at work. Something I’ve actually done recently.

I still don’t like that you can’t use readers on planes during take offs and landings, but I very rarely travel so that’s always been a picked nit on my part.

I ordered the new Kindle 3 (wifi/3g) but they’re back-ordered right now, so I have to wait until mid September to see how much I actually like it. In the meantime, I’ve bought two BlackBerry development books and the Elemental game tie-in, Destiny’s Ember, and I’ve been reading them on my phone (which is great for downtime at work) and on my desktop PC.

Will E-books Kill Nostalgia?

My recent bout of nostalgia for gamebooks had me thinking about e-books again.

Even though I’ve been tempted by gadget lust several times, I don’t own a Kindle, a Nook, or an iPad. A few years ago, I bought a couple of ebooks from Fictionwise when I was experimenting with lunchtime reading on my PDA. Reading experience aside, my PDA reading experiment has a big similarity to using a Kindle, Nook, or iPad: if you lose the device or stop using it then all of the books you’ve purchased are gone.

This make me wonder if nostalgia experience like I recently enjoyed will vanish once e-books become more common. The switch from paper books is much different than the switch from film photos to digital photos, because digital photos are portable across different types of devices and can be copied. E-books are tied to a specific device by DRM software. If I read an e-book and I fall in love with it and want to be sure that I can pick it up and read it again in 5, 10, or 20 years, then I would either have to buy a paper version or I would have to store the e-book reader and hope that the battery and electronics still worked years later.

E-books have much more in common with digital music from several years ago, and it’s going to take a similar loosening of control before I’m ready to commit to it. Even once I started listening to MP3’s primarily, I continued to buy and rip CD’s. It wasn’t until Amazon opened their DRM free music store that I stopped buying physical media. I just did not want to commit myself to the walled-garden of iTunes or Play-for-sure. Unfortunately Amazon’s entry into the e-book market is just as locked down as anything Apple did in the music-space, so I don’t see the current e-book environment changing in the near future.

For now, I’m going to stick with paper.