Diablo’s Quiet Steam Launch, Indie MTX Principles and AMD Gets Players Banned?

Diablo’s Quiet Steam Launch, Indie MTX Principles and AMD Gets Players Banned?

Diablo has launched on Steam, AMD got players banned from CS2, an Indie is taking a stand on MTX and more in today’s roundup!

Conor Caulfield

D4 Launch - Large Numbers, Quiet Audience

  • Diablo 4 came out on Steam!
  • After a slight delay to the seasonal launch for unspecified reasons - Season of Blood launched to an awaiting Steam audience.
  • And the results are…. fascinating.
  • 338 reviews after the first evening, 2,362 concurrent players.
    • Which is not the numbers you might expect for a massive title like Diablo.

https://steamdb.info/app/2344520/charts/ - taken at 09:00am 18/10

  • But it’s worth considering that this was never going to match quite the same heights of engagement as Overwatch 2.
  • Whether that was in frustration, player count or reviews.
  • If only because Diablo 4 being a paid game means that folks can’t simply install, play a few hours and then launch complaints.
    • That doesn’t diminish any of the complaints, or the praise!
    • But it does suggest that a lot of the people who would care enough to review or comment have already gotten a copy on Battle.net.
  • Steam is effectively opening up the game to people who don’t leave that ecosystem.
    • It’s working - and has been for the first 14 hours of release, topping the Steam Global Sellers.

Taken 5 Hours After Launch

14 Hours after launch

  • Pretty much only beaten by Counter Strike and Apex Legends (which launched a new revenue boosting cosmetic event at the same time).
    • Note from Michael: this is why game cosmetics are a thing!
  • It’s clearly done well - enough that the Steam homepage is still boasting a banner for the launch.
    • That only happens when there’s genuine sales momentum and interest behind a title on the platform.
  • Obviously Blizzard were hoping that the direction of Season 2’s improvements would help smooth over the Steam launch.
    • Considering the general play time of most reviews (200+) is under one hour, there’s likely a lot of held over resentment from the launch version or season one.
  • But equally - it’s not negative.
    • Which is already a step in the right direction.
  • Obviously though, because this is Blizzard - before we can leave any story about Diablo, we have to talk about something really silly they did too.

ARPG Players Don’t Care About Maths, Right?

  • Cutting trailers can be tricky - as you need to convey a whole lot of information and tone very quickly to the audience, while trying to get them on board to buy the product.
    • Detail can sometimes have to take a backseat to vibes - so it’s a delicate balance.
  • Blizzard seem to have gone too far the other way with the teaser for Season 2 - and after someone checked their maths, they’ve had to delete a teaser video on Twitter.
  • Diablo Content Creator Ryan ‘Raxxanterax’ S watched the teaser - and something didn’t quite sit right, among the things he pointed out:
    1. The Nightmare Dungeon layout comparison section has erron transposed the two examples. The Season 1 layout is the after, the Season 2 layout is the before.
    2. Experience gains have been incorrectly calculated on the section that explain them.
      1. The Season 1 (before) example is 1000XP with a 40% bonus - showing 1,040 (should be 1400)
      2. then the Season 2 example is two separate decimal bonuses - showing 1000 x 1.2 (Elixir Bonus) and then that being multiplied by 1.2 for the seasonal blessing.
      3. The result is shown to be 1400XP when it should be 1440XP with those figures.
    3. The mount problem - the footage shows the new mount speed in relation to the character in the centre of the screen, so you can’t actually identify any speed increase from the footage.
  • All of these feel like clear oversights, where someone on the marketing team has had to cut the trailer together based on notes from the dev team, and not getting it quite right.
  • But this is a situation and game where the devil really is in the details, and for the dedicated Diablo players, it just feels sloppy that no one caught this before release.

Valve Say AMD Card Tech Will Get You Banned - AMD Respond By Pulling Tech

  • AMD’s latest driver 23.10.1 recently came out for AMD RDNA™ 3 products, adding an improved quality of life feature for users.
    • The pitch was Anti-Lag+, which would “apply frame alignment within the game code itself, allowing for better frame syncing”, compared to the regular Anti Lag tech which controls the CPU pace to ensure parity with the GPU.
    • You could turn on Anti-Lag+ and you’d get a better latency performance for your games - especially important when you look at the competitive scene.


  • Except it turns out that the specific way that this tech work might cause some problems with Anti Cheat systems.
    • Because applying frame alignment within the game code itself means that the tech is intercepting and redirecting DLL functions.
    • Which is something that Valve Anti Cheat in particular looks for when identifying cheating players.
  • The end result?
Warning: Recent AMD GPU Driver Update (23.10.1) May Trigger VAC Bans in Counter-Strike 2
by u/laughingman911ao in GlobalOffensive
  • Enough players have now reported this that Valve and AMD have both issued statements - hopefully offering a way back for players erroneously banned for just trying to improve their tech.
  • In both cases though - they explicitly say that the best option for the next while is make sure the tech is turned off.
  • It’s an unfortunate scenario -
    • Valve’s security and tech systems are working as intended.
    • AMD’s performance improvement tech is working as intended.
    • The interaction of the two is at odds.
  • But considering there’s initial reports that this might also be happening in “Supported” titles like Apex Legends - this might be a case where taking the pragmatic approach and simply disabling the technology entirely on your machine might be safer.
  • Of course - AMD have now made things much simpler by simply removing the Driver from availability on their site.
  • So you can no longer risk bans, as long as you’ve not already updated.
    • If you’ve not? Time to go roll back those drivers

Indie Dev Cuts In Game Monetisation

  • In 2020, Shiny Shoe released the massive hit Monster Train - one of a swathe of card based roguelikes in the vein of Slay the Spire, but with the additional twist of multiple combat channels and the option for multiplayer.
  • It did Very Well!
  • Their Next Title was Inkbound. Releasing in March of 2023, self published this time.
    • So more on their own terms than being under a publisher, but with more risk.
  • Ditching the cards, it’s a turn based tactical action roguelike - launching in Early Access so it was expected to have a smaller starting audience than Monster Train.
  • At launch, the indie team thought they could support this model with the best iteration of monetisation they could build.
  • A levelling pass and Cosmetic shop, where the rules were:
100% optional, cosmetic-only, with no impact on gameplay, and with no FOMO
  • Now that’s changing - they’ve decided they want to take a stand in support of the industry trend.
However, it’s clear that industry and player sentiment is trending against the presence of these features. For that reason we are removing in-game monetization completely. Content from the existing Leveling Passes will be turned into cosmetic-only optional “supporter pack” DLCs sold on Steam. The rest of the cosmetic content will continue to be available in-game and earned via playing.
  • It’s a strong pitch, and for an indie dev whose bottom line will likely be much thinner than a AAA - significantly more meaningful as closing a revenue stream goes.
    • They do want to try to be fair though - anyone who paid for anything in game will be refunded in in game currency, and going forwards they’re going to make their levelling rewards from each season appear in an ever growing vault.
  • Inkbound isn’t out yet - so this isn’t necessarily some marketing beat to tie in with the launch out of Early Access.
    • Instead it seems to be mostly a principle driven decision that’s doing something fair for their audience, despite the potential financial risk.
    • In an era where companies with significantly more resources don’t feel the need to take these actions - this should probably be applauded.
  • Even if it’s so novel that one of the first responses on Steam is people asking what the catch is.

Pete Hines Retirement

  • Another exec is leaving gaming - but this one is potentially more of a community event than a Kotick or Ryan.
  • After 24 Years at Bethesda Softworks in some form or another, long time marketing man and community face Pete Hines is retiring from his position as Head of Publishing at Bethesda - as announced this week.
  • The official Bethesda response is very cute - taking their previous form of giving players doctors notes and making one for Hine’s retirement
  • In this case, Hines seems to actually be retiring from Games altogether from this framing - rather than taking up a position somewhere else or starting up his own studio.
    • Following the release of Starfield and what is effectively the start of a new era for Bethesda - this makes sense!
  • But especially in the year where we’ve seen so many layoffs and involuntary departures from the industry from Staff who have never had a chance to last 24 years - Hines is standing out as an exception.