Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 26, 2012
Handicapping yourself

Follow-up on some comments of the previous thread, so as to not derail that comment thread. Several people remarked that if somebody thought that the AH was making Diablo 3 too easy, the simple solution would be to not use it. That is one of these phrases which at first look appear rather obvious, but then when you see what happens in reality isn't obvious at all. For example I said pretty much exactly the same when Blizzard added a dispellable buff that nerfed WoW raids, and some people were complaining about the nerf: If you don't like it, don't use it! But that simple solution was never accepted as viable. Everybody claimed that if the buff was there, you had to use it, because handicapping yourself wasn't acceptable. And of course now people say the same about the option to not use the AH in Diablo 3.

I think the question is one of your reference point for evaluating your own performance, and ultimately a question of maturity. Everybody operating under exactly the same rule set, using the maximum of all available means to succeed, makes the performance of everybody comparable. If everybody uses the nerf buffs in WoW raids, you can see how good everybody is by looking at the resulting epic gear. If some players play with the buff, and others without, those who dispelled the buff risk to look bad, because they end up with the same gear as people who played less good. And to some people that is not acceptable.

Other players don't care about how they look, or what people think about them. They have their own, internal reference point. To them beating a raid without buff is a greater success than beating it with the buff, thus has higher value, even if the epic reward is the same. Gevlon once organized the "undergeared" raid project. Other players organized Iron Man WoW with even more restrictive rules. As long as you only care about your own standards for performance, you can play under whatever set of rules, restriction, and handicaps you like.

I was considering playing Diablo 3 without using the AH long before people suggested it in today's thread, as I don't see Diablo 3 (nor MMORPGs) as a competitive endeavor. In the specific case of the Diablo 3 AH, I very much see the risk that using the feature destroys a lot of the item-collecting fun of the game. In general, if there are ways to modify the difficulty level of a game, I usually don't go for either extreme, but try to fine-tune difficulty to exactly the level where it is most fun, because it provides a good challenge without either being too easy nor too frustratingly difficult. That is obviously a lot easier in single-player games, but to me Diablo 3 is one. But I fully understand the other point of view, where players refuse to handicap themselves by not using features like the AH.

Auction houses have been around for a long time and in most games the ability to buy uber loot is balanced out by a shortage of in game gold.

Is there any reason why his won't apply in Diablo also? Surely once the game is out of Beta the price of good loot will rise to more sensible levels and the average player won't be able to afford twink gear.

The RMT auction house will re-enforce this because the best gear is likely to end up on sale for hard cash which will push the prices of the gold auction house up even higher.
the ability to buy uber loot is balanced out by a shortage of in game gold

I think in Diablo 3 that will only apply to best in slot items. Just look at WoW: Buying low level epics can be quite expensive, but blue gear of the same level is very cheap, and still a lot better than what you are likely to have found yourself.
The thing that makes some modern games so appealing is the different levels of competition presenting in one game. Some are spelled out so you can brag: gear, achievements, special mounts, titles, etc. Others are merely there for yourself.

Anyone remember the early Atari 2600 game cartridges that had "100" games in them? They were merely variations on the same game. Now the box doesn't brag the variations. It presents some of them, leaves others for you to find, and even more for you to invent.
I think it will be a lot easier to challenge yourself by not using the AH if you are playing the game like a singleplayer game. Humans (or most animals even) have a natural tendency to want to compete for dominance. We compare ourselves to others, if you are playing by yourself, you aren't comparing yourself to anyone else so everything seems just fine from your point of view.
I think the loot chances in D3 will be balanced around the fact that a LOT of trading happens. If you don't want to play one character of each class simultanously you might find the need to trade with other people directly or via AH essential gameplay.

Btw, I am looking forward to see if I have the same item-collecting fun in D3 as in D2. World of Warcraft has very much cured me from farming, I just don't do it anymore but buy all raw materials I need.
It's not like it's a one-time choice. You can choose not to use the AH, carry on not using it until you get fed up of not using it, start using it, carry on using it until you get fed up of using it, stop using it....

You can use it on one character and not on another. On one server and not on another. On one account and not on another.

You can make up any number of rulesets for yourself, keep the rules, break the rules, bend the rules, re-write the rules.

Every time you log into any MMO you decide how you want to play. How you play today doesn't have to be how you played yesterday or how you will play tomorrow. How you play can be the same all the time. It's up to you.

If you want to rank yourself against an external standard, set either by a peer group or a commercial producer then yes, you will have to conform to that set of standards, but the choice over whether to so rank yourself, and within that choice on how committed you are to achieving your highest possible ranking is your choice.

Play every MMO the way you want to play it. Use the tools you're given and if you aren't given the tools you need then create the tools.
@Bhagpuss: "Every time you log into any MMO you decide how you want to play."

That sounds nice, free will and all, but playing an MMO involves other players, and some social responsiblity. My choices affect other players. If I'm in a guild raid, or even a PuG, deciding that I'm going to try raiding with some interesting handicap is going to attracts some derision.

And Tobold's references to Gevlon's blue gear raiding project? That required significant advertising on a huge blog to gather like minded players, continuous tweaking of fairly involved rules, etc.

Hardly "today I choose to play in blue gear only."
I think there is a big difference in Diablo 3. In WoW you played with other people and the performance of everyone mattered (well, somehow). If you "cripple" yourself in WoW it has a direct impact on all other members of the raid/group. Maybe not on every encounter but most certainly on some. I think in Diablo 3 it does not make much of a difference if you dont use the top notch awesome equip available for your level and class. At least this is what i remember from Diablo 2.

Another point is that it was already possible to trade items in Diablo 2 via forums or other means. This took a lot more effort than using an auction house but nevertheless the result is the same.

I think it doesn't matter if there is an auction house in Diablo 3. Sure it's convenient and i will surely use it. But i don't think it will be "mandatory" to use it to have the best equipment at all times.
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Using a buff in an MMORPG and using the auction house in a multiplayer dungeon crawler simply aren't the same thing.

And there's no way to predict that the prices of rare items will stay so reasonable. This is a beta, and we're talking about low level items that will be replaced fairly quickly. Azuriel makes a good point, but we don't have enough information for summary judgment.
In Diablo 2 I limited myself to only selffound items (so no trading). The result was rather severe.. Many if not most characterbuilds where only possible with at least a certain level of items that was usually seen as modest by the inventor, but totally crazy if you had to find that stuff all on the one character you had (because Blizzard had again deleted everything not played in half a year or something..). More than one of my characters got stuck at the beginning of hell because suddenly I was dying so fast from ordinary mobs that no amount of reflexes could save me.

I kind of fear something similar happening because of the auction house in Diablo 3. At least I can totally imagine that the highest difficulty will be nearly impossible to do without an extended shopping tour.
This isn't about the Diablo 3 example in specific, but I feel that disliking handicapping yourself isn't just about feeling competitive. Tweaking my gameplay in small ways is fine, but if I have to make up rules upon rules of my own to make a game enjoyable for myself, then I think I'd simply prefer to buy something else that is fun to me right out of the box.
I don't see the opportunity cost of not using the AH in Diablo 3 as a handicap. I don't see it in WoW, either.

And I don't understand people who grumble because something like the AH is an option and it carries with it the possibility of making the game too easy. If you *really* feel that way, then *don't use the AH.* The AH being an option isn't what's making the game eaier. It's your use of it. Don't like it? Don't use it.

I think this is true for WoW too. For example, the reasoning, "I don't like heirlooms because they make the game too easy," to me is easily solved. Don't use heirlooms. Heirlooms by themselves don't make the game easier. Grinding for currency to purchase them doesn't the game easier. Even sending the item to an alt doesn't make the game easier. Equipping the item makes the game easier. Don't like it? Don't equip it.

You have a choice. What the masses do, what the trends show, what is popular, etc. etc. doesn't force you to do anything. You can be a terrible player if you want to be. I am not advocating this, of course, I do believe that in any community game its players should have a sense of social responsibility. But you still have a choice, even at the risk of being socially irresponsible to a group of people in game. To which I say, find a group of like minded individuals to play with.

In the end, the existence of a source of items doesn't make the game easier. Buying and empowering your character is what makes the game easier. Don't worry about what the masses do. I don't think this is a valid excuse for doing something and then hating yourself and/or the game for it.

You have a choice. Make your choices and take responsibility for your decisions.
I definitely see the AH speeding up gearing while leveling up, but it will slow down at level 60. The items will cost tons of gold. You won't have enough to buy everything. Plus there are many other things that you need gold for such as upgrading your caravan NPCs, buying crafting recipes (Legendaries can be crafted), extra stash slots, high level gems, probably more.

Basically, it's going to be a real grind at level cap. Most players probably will not do this I think. They will just level up to cap and move on to another character or quit the game. This could be disappointing for those players, but Blizzard is gambling that they become attached to the game and keep playing it like a MMO. More players, more auction sales, more money for Blizzard.

I plan to play each class solo to level 60. I will definitely buy items from AH if I get stuck at some point (monsters too strong), but I will avoid the AH as needed for my personal desired difficulty.
The AH will raise the bar for what is the standard "gear level" for the average person is. If you are not using the AH then, unless you got extremely lucky, you are going to be pretty undergeared.

This, in turn, will have an adverse effect on your ability to group with others because people will feel that you are just an anchor that is weighing down the group.

If you want to do this successfully you will need to group with people that don't AH as well, or are newer to the game, but have the same gear level as you because they used the AH to catch up.

Either way, you will likely be stuck in Hell games a lot longer than AH users. I think that playing in this fashion will be very possible if they tweaked the difficulty levels correctly. It may take you a little longer to get matched into random public hell games once much of the playerbase has moved into inferno however.
I'm not sure that most people have considered the full implications of the RMAH. Gold is going to reach a balance point after some time. While this will vary slightly over time it should be fairly possible to say, out of thin air example, that 100 GP = $2. Once this happens the metagame starts in comparing GAH costs to approximate value on the RMAH and deciding if it makes more sense to buy the gold for the item to sell for cash, or pay cash to buy an item to sell for gold to sell for cash. Likely with other permutations. This will be a realm for the real speculators. There is going to be an impact on item availability for players but I'm not willing to speculate whether it will ease or constrict supply.

Personally, I'll be happy if the only contact I have with the AH is pawning-off enough stuff that my D3 habit pays for WoW. I managed to get a martial assassin, not the most powerful build, to max in D2 without trading. This isn't a race and I don't have to be 'ready to raid' within X days of release. A relaxing hobby, what an odd thought.
As high level gear is not needed to experience the full story and there is no persistant world to show off your customised toon, I wonder whether it will only be a small subset of the total player base that continue into Hell/Inferno difficulties, thereby needing the use of the AH.

After playing through the campaign of SCII on normal difficulty, I was satisfied enough to the game to bed and go back to my MMOs. I wonder if this will be the same.
Where D3 differs to WoW is that the entire end game is built around collecting items and improving yourself, with a focus on small group co-op play. WoW is focused on large scale raiding which the leading guilds take to a competitive level.

There is no such thing here. First Inferno Diablo kill and first level 60 hardcore is the only competitive goals in D3 and most will not be trying to achieve them.

Using the AH in D3 strike at the heart of what the game is about and can destroy the experience. The WoW AH is more like a tool to assist raiding
I tend to agree with those who don't really care about the AH in Diablo 3 because for me it will basically be a single player game. The AH in a MMORPG is a different issue.

On the other hand, heirlooms in WoW are fine, because they are only really relevant when you are effectively playing in single-player mode. So "don't use them" is a valid argument (I never did.)
So you're saying that caring about competition is immature ?

"you can see how good everybody is by looking at the resulting epic gear."

Well yes, but most importantly, you can see how good they are by looking at their progress. Gear is just a byproduct of, and a mean to achieve progression.

The race between guilds, seeing who's killing bosses the fastest, that's how raiders measure their sucess.

Here's a good explanation why telling raiders "don't use the buff" is missing the point.
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