A few years ago I spoke with a fellow noobtoober at PAX about the upcoming Diablo III game.  He looked at me with shock and a certain degree of incredulity when I said that I was more interested in seeing Torchlight 2 than Diablo III.

At the time, I based that decision solely on what I saw of the games themselves.  I had the opportunity to see Diablo III and Torchlight II at PAX, and I felt that Torchlight demonstrated much more innovation.  From the pets to the more colorful environment to the open modification platform, I felt that Torchlight was better.

Now that I am hearing about all of the problems in Diablo III, I have a few more reasons to prefer Torchlight.  Apparently, the network had some problems on launch night.  Further, the game started booting players for combining certain characters with certain weapons.  Finally, Blizzard has determined that cheaters in the game will face a permanent ban.

This last point is one that really bothers me, even though it’s a small part of the larger problem.  If I pay full price for a game, I should be able to access the game however I want.  Even if they want to ban players from their servers, those players should not lose the ability to play the game on their own.  That’s similar to Wizards of the Coast banning pro-tour cheaters from ever playing in a local game shop again; it’s just too excessive.

Of course, I get that there are going to be some online-only games.  Competitive games like TF2 and most MMOs are only available online.  But the Diablo games have always revolved around a single storyline, and it’s always been possible to just enjoy the game by yourself.  Blizzard has chosen to take that ability away, and they have done it in one of the worst ways possible.

As a point of comparison let’s compare this approach to Runic’s approach with Torchlight.  The same friend that I mentioned above spoke with the Runic developers at PAX, and he specifically asked them about how they will deal with cheaters.  Their answer was “We won’t.  If you want to change the game, change it.  If you don’t want to play with cheaters, then don’t play with cheaters.  It’s up to you.”

I really think this is the best approach to take.  If players want to create their own experience, why not let them?

UPDATE:  Torchlight actually will have a system for detecting cheaters.  It detects certain characteristics of cheating players, and lets other players know if it suspects that a character has cheated.  Then, it lets players decide whether they want to play with the  cheaters.  Ultimately, the banning is dolled out by the players, not the developers. What a novel concept.