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Plugged In

Blizzard unveils Diablo 3 beta and game details

Plugged In

First, the bad news: it's looking less and less likely that Diablo 3 will be on store shelves by the end of the year. But if it's any consolation, should the game slip to 2012, it looks like it won't be too far into the calendar year.

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Diablo 3

Blizzard has unveiled a slew of information about its hotly anticipated RPG clickfest - and while fans are enthusiastically embracing some of what the developer had to say, they're pretty upset about other parts.

While fans had hoped to learn when the game's beta test would kick off today, Blizzard wasn't quite ready to make that announcement. The developer did, however, reveal what players could experience when that open test of the game does arrive - and it's a pretty thorough list.

All five character classes will be playable and players will be able to play the early part of the game (up through the Skeleton King encounter, for those of you who have been following Diablo updates closely). Along the way, they'll also experience Diablo 3's new randomized elements and interact with several new and returning characters.

But in an effort to avoid repeating the mistake it made with Starcraft II (where it announced a release date, then missed it by nearly a year), Blizzard's not planning to give any detailed launch information for Diablo 3 at this time.

"Typically nowadays we only release dates when we know we can hit them, so like 3 or 4 months before the game comes out," Blizzard EVP Rob Pardo told MTV. "We are working hard to get to this year, but it's going to be tough. So either we make this year or it goes into next year."

Given the time that beta periods usually last, 2011 is looking like a long shot.

Fans are forgiving when it comes to long waits for Blizzard, though. They're a little less forgiving about some of the other news that came out today.

The game will require all players to be online whenever they play. That's not just for start-up authentication, either, like Steam does with Valve games. If you go offline, so does your game.

Blizzard says that's to support additions like cross-game chat, a persistent friends list and other benefits - as well as to increase security, but critics (and fans) aren't happy.

"By putting abhorrently inflexible restrictions on the customers who have thus far remained loyal to you, you risk pushing them ever closer to abandoning their custom in favor of 'the dark side' [i.e., piracy], or just ignoring your games entirely," wrote Wired editor Nate Lanxon.

One interesting upside to the benefits Blizzard is touting is an auction house that will let people sell in-game items for real world cash. Blizzard, in turn, will take a small cut of those sales, allowing it to keep the game's multiplayer modes free.

It's an if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em philosophy, but after gold farmers made a killing in World of Warcraft, despite the company's best efforts at shutting them down, you can't blame Blizzard for taking this sort of approach. At least this way, players and the company are the ones making money, rather than third parties trying to capitalize on the fun.

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