Diabolical: Blizzard Details Diablo III Starter Edition

By Nathan Grayson on May 15th, 2012 at 8:00 am.

I also occasionally hunt wabbits.
About a month ago, Blizzard made a rather large boo-boo and ever-so-briefly released something called the Diablo III Starter Edition. Mere milliseconds (in Blizzard time) later, the traditionally cold, calculating powerhouse said “Uh, whoops,” pulled the plug, and told everyone who’d so much as laid eyes on the build that it was actually just a weather balloon. Humanity, evidently, wasn’t ready to know about the Starter Edition. But now I guess we are, for some reason.

For the first 30 days of Diablo III’s debatably eternal life, the Starter Edition will only be available to those who’ve looted a Guest Pass from that vile, pustule-ridden demon that is friendship. An unspecified number of Guest Passes are included with every boxed copy of Diablo III, and it’s up to you to hand them out as you please. After that, it’ll be freely available to everyone – so no more using precious, precious golden tickets to pay for groceries or bribe police officers.

The Starter Edition is, however, rather limited – far closer to WoW’s free trial than a truly free-to-play experience. Once you grind the Skeleton King’s bones to make your figurative bread/literal money, it’s time to either start over or fork over. Also, leveling comes to a halt at 13, and both auction houses are plastered with “No you allowed” signs. So it’s basically a 1-2 hour demo with a different name.

This, of course, is hardly unheard of. Blizzard included Guest Passes with StarCraft II as well – though admittedly with a limit on time instead of progress. I’m curious, though: do those of you who get these passes ever use them? Do you eagerly shove them into your friends’ hands and then skip away like some kind of demonic Easter bunny? Or do you let them languish in the ruins of your box, lost to the ravages of time like so many hastily discarded instruction manuals?

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70 Comments »

  1. Jerakal says:

    So you get access to essentially the closed Beta content.

    Huh.

  2. Crimsoneer says:

    I got two passes, and was about to give one to a friend of mine who was on the Diablo III fence, but he jumped the shark and bought it.

  3. Dana says:

    I accept guests passes, friendship included.

  4. MythArcana says:

    And, of course, nobody can log in at 12am PST. L O L ! !

    Watching the launch stream is incredibly funny! Nobody can play their $60 scam and I tooooooooooooooold ya’ so!

    • hellboy says:

      Clearly you were the only one on the internet to predict this. Congratulations!

    • f1x says:

      And you are really happy,…. is it some kind of ancient grudge against Blizzard?
      Maybe they stole some icecream from you when you were a child and today is payback day!

      ah…karma is a bitch!

      • Stevostin says:

        Come on. There is a pleasure to outsmart the crowd and say “told ya so”. Let the guy have his fun !

      • Phantoon says:

        It’s the always-on DRM, the poor company policies, the customer service somehow being worse than when Tseric bus shocked the Shaman forums, the real money auction house, the fact Blizzard is owned entirely by Activision which means they answer to “Bobby” Kotick, etc.

        The guy was far from the only person to predict the game would be unplayable for hours after launch. The real question is “what could they possibly do to make people disgusted with them at this point”.

        • f1x says:

          Thanks Captain Obvious!

          Its undeniable that the Always-online + crashing servers has made for a disastrous (spelling) launch of the game,
          but what I mean is: feeling joy from that? like omgz diablo3 will fail and then my life will be complete…really?

          On the other hand, everything you said (perhaps except the Tseric part), are pretty much foggy assumptions, but I won’t go deeper into that road

          • Emeraude says:

            Schadenfreude.

            Though childish, can’t really blame people who saw their D3 hopes wrecked by the way Blizzard handled the game get a modicum of joy from seeing the DRM-is-bad predictions come true (especially after the smug answers those prediction got).
            If anything it’s a bit sad, and I don’t see why one should begrudge them that satisfaction..

          • John Connor says:

            If it worked without a hitch then there’d be no bad PR and more people would be tempted to try this. The fact that it has catastrophically imploded on itself, proving the naysayers right, means that this is a perfect example we can use against future implementations of this idea.

          • f1x says:

            Getting joy or “hopes wrecked”, because the game was not playable or playable with connection errors for the first 3-4 hours of release…yeah surely publishers are gonna take us more seriously now!

            Just in case, I was being sarcastic….
            but still, my point stands: People getting malicious joy from a disastrous launch of a game that they have not even purchased and/or where not even interested in, is pitiful

            I fail to see how that kind of attitudes improve the community or are of any help at all, but I tried to take it with a pinch of humor, seems like I failed aswell

          • Emeraude says:

            Wrecked because of the DRM’s very existence. Because of the AH. Because of the game design. Not because of those 3-4 hours.
            I mean, personally after boycotting SC2, I’m just done caring about Blizzard. But I know some people who won’t be buying D3, and it’s killing them.

            Again, Schadenfreude is mean and petty, but it’s an understandable coping mechanism.

            As for being taken seriously by publishers, after being told that in case of being unable to connect to the D3 server one should just go and do something else, I can’t take them seriously myself. Bridges have been burned, and they are holding the torch.

          • El_Emmental says:

            When you’re fighting a rising tide (= step 1: you lose), when the majority is discarding your arguments (regarding the always-on DRM) by repeating what the publisher said, and when the DRM system shows its weaknesses, what are you supposed to do ?

            a) Ignore it. You spent the last few months debating about it, but now it doesn’t affect you at all. Like if the DRM issue is no longer bothering you.

            b) Pretend you’re sorry for all the poor customers who pre-ordered Diablo 3, even if they did not cared about the issues (DRM, AH, etc), not “listened”, or even fought you off when you raised your concerns (online).

            c) Walk back to them, look at their fallen ice-cream rapidly melting on the hot greasy pavement, look back at them, and shout “TOLD YA !” with smirky smile, and walk away, feeling there’s some sort of justice: people who refuse to fight DRM will be struck by DRM.

            nb: I couldn’t care less about Diablo III, apparently it’s not my type of game => played the beta/demo until the last boss, felt really grindy and repetitive, and it doesn’t have that dark medieval style I really like in music/games/books(remember the CYOA ?). I just find it sad (for the fans) that Blizzard can’t have an offline mode.

          • iucounu says:

            “Doesn’t have that dark medieval style?” It was so dark I had to adjust my monitor settings to see what was going on. It didn’t look appreciably more cuddly than D2. I was very amused to see the site someone linked to the other day which apparently did ‘hardcore’ pixel-shading, and which just made stuff almost imperceptibly greyer.

          • El_Emmental says:

            well, they might have turned down the gamma setting, but “dark medieval” is more than “medieval, with some dark on the side”.

            Having every single caves glowing a strong blue aura is not really “dark medieval”. When I saw that blue glow, I expected a circle of hooded-clerics doing some heavy magic inside (with some latin/unknown language chants), and I would have to either slaughter them, receive their blessing, or just let them do their business. But it was just a glow telling me “HEY GO THERE, THERE IS A CACHE CONTAINING 2 RATS AND 3 GOLD COINS”. Same with the glow on breakable pavement block containing gold coins.

            Same with the interior (the underground “temple”) in the beta/demo: there is no suffering, no mysteries in these places, there are no cries, no metal creaking: all I can see is “oh, skeletons – oh, torches” and that’s it. Where are the imprisoned humans ? Where are the tortured souls ? Why these skeletons appear out of nowhere, instead of getting out of tombs, of rotten bodies ? Why there’s so many so weak enemies, instead of a few meaningful and difficult to battle with ones ?

            Dark medieval is not “dark” as in “lack of brightness”, it’s the lack of a light source, with the word “light” having several meanings : light as in humanity, light as in peacefulness, light as in the age of Enlightenment (the 18th century cultural movement) rejecting popular beliefs (trolls, fairies, demons). By slaughtering these demons, these monsters, you’re being a light source, cleaning your world of all its darkness.

            Diablo III, from what I played and what I saw, doesn’t have a dark medieval setting. It’s labeled as a “dark fantasy”, but in my opinion it’s closer to the “fantasy” than to the “dark” (only retaining the gamma/contrast aspect of “dark”).

            This is why I’m not interested in Diablo III – this is also why millions of people will enjoy it, because that sort of fantasy can be what they personally like.

    • Everblue says:

      The servers have been fine for hours according to people I know who are currently playing. There were some problems at launch, but seemingly now resolved. It’s going to sell an obscene number of copies.

      I understand the urge to point and laugh, but really I think Blizzard will be pretty happy today, as will the people playing it (which includes me when I get home – copy arrived via post a couple of hours ago).

    • Skabooga says:

      All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked!

  5. JackShandy says:

    So it’s a demo, but only people who know someone who’s bought the game can play it?

    Why not just have a demo?

  6. Zanchito says:

    Can I have a starter edition invite thing? Is it safe to post my BattleNet tag thing here? I have no prior experience with such things.

  7. Turin Turambar says:

    So, like a demo.

  8. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    If anyone wants one of my guess passes, head over to the RPS kindness thread on the forums

    • Toberoth says:

      I created a forum account just so I could pester you for a pass :-D

  9. gorgonaut says:

    So… is it illegal/unethical to torrent a demo? (Especially when it comes with ifs and buts, like this)

    • Stevostin says:

      You really missed the talk, didn’t you ? ;P
      DIII is always on, meaning if you’re not logged, you can’t play. The value is in the account, not the installer.
      Now of course you may still want a torrent for DL rate… But if Blizzard installer still work the way it did, it indeed is torrent based.

      • gorgonaut says:

        I haven’t looked at torrent sites, but this, too, may well be cracked soon. I’m one to play solo anyway, and would not miss the online bits. (Were I to pirate it, which I won’t)
        Now- having really and truly missed the talk, I’m wondering if the online bits are so ingrained that the game wouldn’t be playable to offliners. Off do do some research:)
        But my question still intrigues me- would it be illegal to download what is essentially a commercial?

        • Zanchito says:

          Actually Blizzard uses the Bittorrent protocol to distribute their files. You can download the client via third parties if you are so inclined, but know that you won’t be able to play without an official invite.

      • f1x says:

        So far, what I’ve read is that a good clunch of the data (monster data mostly) is server side, so basically you will need a “pirate client” and a “pirate server”, just like in an MMORPG

        Myself I’ve purchased it (waiting for the box, I like boxes) but I’ve wondered a lot if it could actually be pirated, only out of curiosity,…hum… you do believe me don’t you?

        • gorgonaut says:

          Hmm. Cunning, they are. I’m still undecided as to whether I’ll buy this or not, but I’ll be damned if I’ll buy anything this costly before I try it out.
          If I could, I’d pirate the demo as fast as humanly possible. Seeing as how I’m not a wizard, I’ll just have to wait:)
          Thanks for clearing this up, people.

          You’re the greatest commenters on the internets. (Especially afther that epic EVE/Goonsquad/economic principles discussion!)

          • Suits says:

            I’d imagine they take any server side data and get it to work on your harddrive

        • Nethlem says:

          Outsourcing data to the server side of things is a way to make piracy more difficult but even that can be cracked. The original Assassins Creed “always on DRM” worked in a similar way, the client didn’t come with all the required files and had to download them from an Ubisoft server every time.

          It still got cracked….

          Comparing it with MMO games shows one thing: It’s not impossible
          Most MMO’s have illegal free shard servers, even WoW.

          But i guess one would lose a ton of the “nicer features” by playing on an illegal network. No battle.net support, no real money auction house, being separated from friends who play the “legit” version.

  10. bonjovi says:

    I knew it, and I said it! :P

  11. Cruyelo says:

    Note : The limitations are the same as the beta, but the full version of the game contains more content than the beta did during those 13 levels/until you reach the Skeleton King.

  12. MerseyMal says:

    My CE only came with 2 guest passes for WoW. Not a single one for D3.

  13. Nethlem says:

    Oh Blizzard what happened to you…
    I remember a time where Blizzard games had an LAN mode that came complete with an “multiplayer only installation” for the game. This allowed gamers to bring along a single copy of the game to a LAN and share it with everybody else there to have a fun time for the duration of the LAN.

    Fast forward to the year 2012 and everything looks shitty…
    Now they pack a limited ammount of “guest passes” with the game, those are basicaly very limited and very cheap demo versions of the game. Even better: The same “guest access” will be free for everybody after a certain point. So why even bother packing them with the game in the first place?

    Anybody who wanted to play that part of the game could just have played the open beta. And making the demo “free to access” for everyone regardless of guest pass would only make it easier for people to get into it.

    So blizzard is basicaly outsourcing part of their PR to the customers by doing this. Well i’m gonna sit on my passes i guess, everybody i know already bought the game.

    • Cruyelo says:

      “And making the demo “free to access” for everyone regardless of guest pass would only make it easier for people to get into it.”
      And this is exactly why they’re waiting 30 days before doing it.

      What would happen if you opened the servers, on day 1, to absolutely everyone?
      The servers would catch on fire.

      So instead, they give a limited amount of guess passes that you can give to your friends, so they can control the number of players accessing the game at once.
      Then after 30 days, when activity on the servers has calmed down, they give the Starter Edition to everyone.

    • gorgonaut says:

      I’d take a pass at it (heh heh), but I live in a large building with a lot of tenants, and my WiFi drops out often and unpredictably enough that it would be useless.
      I’ve jumped from frequency to frequency, without much help, and my setup is too far away from the router to run a cable to it.
      Sorry, Blizzard. I’ll stick with the last Diablo.

    • Emeraude says:

      Blizzard have changed strategy, I suppose.

      When they were a small company in need of market penetration, all those sharing and LAN and distributing Kali with their game was a good strategy.

      Now that they’re big and don’t really think about expanding, they’re trying to maximize profit per capita

  14. Zanchito says:

    The Internet tells me you DO NOT need a guest pass to play the demo:

    http://diablo.incgamers.com/forums/showthread.php?829449-There-is-No-Need-for-Guest-pass-!

    • SanguineAngel says:

      You are a hero thank you

    • fearian says:

      I can confirm – I had no idea what everyone was going on about guest passes… I just downloaded the eu client, installed it, and played a 5 hour shareware version of the game.

    • jaronimoe says:

      yeah, but unfortunately they seem to have fixed this in the meanwhile..
      sadface!!

  15. Zanpa says:

    To answer Mr Grayson’s question, yes, Starcraft II guest passes are sometimes used, albeit in a peculiar way.
    Since accounts are region-locked, a European and an American player cannot play against each other unless one of them buys the game a second time to create an account on the other player’s server.
    But guest passes allow a player to have an account on another server. A guest pass from a European player may allow an American player to play a few games on the Euro server.

    And I have witnessed people sharing their guest passes for international tournaments. Not professional tournaments, just a thing between members of a community.

  16. Dominic White says:

    So, clusterfuck of launch issues aside, did they at least drop region-locking? Can US and EU players play together?

    • Emeraude says:

      Why would you want to do that ?

      Those people are not like us, and best left to their own devices !

    • Zanchito says:

      Dominic: The latest news was that you could play in any realm BUT characters created in one realm could only play in that realm. Also, you can only use the RMAH in your home realm, no idea about the gold one.

      • Dominic White says:

        What a mess… I usually played D2 with friends stateside. It’s just so regressive that a decade later, Blizzard have actually made the process of international play more complicated, instead of less.

        I mean, we should have moved in the other direction – autotranslated common phrases, visual/symbol chat options and other things to tear down the language barriers!

        • Zanchito says:

          Thank the RMAH.

        • Fiatil says:

          Err, I guess his description is a little unclear, but this works exactly the same as Diablo 2 Battle.net did. You could never play your EU server characters on US servers, or hell even your US-East characters on US-West. You can play whatever server you want and switch between them freely, just like Diablo 2, and your characters are locked to whatever server you make them on, just like Diablo 2. It pretty much has nothing to do with the RMAH.

  17. dysphemism says:

    To answer Mr. Grayson’s question: I’m actually very pleased to hear they’re offering a trial version. You see, I’ve committed to a futile campaign of trying to get my wife to play computer games with me and, with this in hand, I may be able to convince her to play 5-10 minutes or so before she says “This is stupid” and loses a little more respect for me and how I spend my time.

  18. Gaff says:

    I’ve had the Starter Edition attached to my Battle.net account for the past couple of weeks; I assumed it was something to do with participating in the closed beta.

    Fine with me, since it let me play on release night until I was able to add in my retail key from Amazon today.

  19. kipue says:

    Not sure if mentionned,
    but I tried to buy the game, got the ol’ cred card accepted, only to get the payment rejected after a couple hours (can’t understand why, that s the second time it happens).
    Thing is I could start to play the game before that rejection, so the game turned into a Starter Edition, without the guest pass thingy.