So what will happen when Diablo III is deemed too insignificant to be worth server maintenance? The game was built from the ground up for always-online play. Once those servers power down for the final time, will there ever be a way to play the game again? The same question should be asked for Destiny, or any of the other multitudes of games out there requiring a server for confirmation.
I could make a big deal atop a podium and shout “Well, if you paid for it, you should be able to keep playing it!” But that’s not what this is about. It’s about the preservation of our games, and to keep them playable for others to enjoy down the line. Nobody wanted to burn all of the books written before the 1960’s, and we didn’t scrap all the movies released before Citizen Kane. Video games are unique in this problem. Cartridges age. Arcade machines deteriorate. Hardware changes, but software doesn’t always catch up.
I’m not saying online games are bad. They allow developers to design around the concept of multiple people playing them: the very essence of co-operative gaming. They can use persistent worlds that grow when a certain player is offline, and that exist for us all to come together. I am saying that we are presented with some challenges we need to address if we are going to keep the games we cherish playable for years to come.
There are forces at work preventing the loss of these games. Hamachi, a free connectivity tool, allows us to rope any machine connected to the internet into one big ol’ LAN party, addressing the earlier Local Network-only requirements. The folks at GOG.com are in the business of making older titles playable for modern machines. Recently, Game Ranger has stepped in to mend the titles affected by GameSpy’s closure. Even developers themselves come to the aid of preservation, porting their older games to new consoles. Some folks might get uppity at seeing a PSX title available for purchase on their PS3, but it gives younger players the capability to experience games from years back.