Tobold's Blog
Thursday, April 26, 2012
 
Twink, twink, little star

Azuriel discovered the magic of the Diablo 3 auction house. Which actually doesn't come to much of a surprise to anybody who ever used the auction house in World of Warcraft to equip a low-level alt. Basically the equipment you can buy on an AH in any of these games is significantly better than the equipment you are likely to find yourself, without being all that expensive. Thus you can make these games much easier for you by twinking your characters with AH-bought equipment instead of the equipment they find. Which then makes one of the major motivations of the game, collecting random equipment, completely obsolete.

The problem has three sources. One is the very nature of trade. Two people who trade with each other will both be better off afterwards than before the trade. This is because things are worth different amounts of money to different people, and if they trade some item for a price which is higher than what it is worth to the seller, but simultaneously lower than what it is worth to the buyer, both sides win. Thus in game terms, even the most balanced game with trade would make characters stronger than exactly the same game without trade. The larger the market, the stronger the effect, thus the region-wide Diablo 3 AH will have a huge effect.

The second source of the problem is a game design where a given item is worth a lot to one character, but very little to another. If you find an item your class can't wear, it is only worth as much as the materials into which you can disenchant it to for you. But it might be extremely valuable to a character of the class that can use it.

The third source is the fact that if you are level X and kill a monster of level X, you don't usually find items which have level X as their minimum requirement. Normally you find somewhat lower stuff. I don't know yet how extreme that is in Diablo 3, but in World of Warcraft your random drops while leveling tended to be much, much lower in minimum level, and thus power. So if you find an item of level X-5, that is probably not worth much to you, but quite valuable to somebody of 5 levels lower than you.

All this together means that if you find a bunch of items while playing Diablo 3, it is near certain that if you sell these items to other players and take the money and buy other items with it, you end up being more powerful than if you had only worn what you found for yourself.

There is a serious risk here that many players end up rarely wearing items they found themselves. At which point the nature of item collection changes: You just find stuff for sale, which isn't much more interesting than finding little bags of gold. Instead of wielding the legendary sword of uberness you received from killing the evil wizard in the mountain of doom, you wield the legendary sword of uberness with the price tag still dangling from its hilt. That simply doesn't feel quite as heroic.

Comments:
re "players end up rarely wearing items they found themselves" - that is the way I see MMOs now or at least WoW and SWTOR. Even before BOAs (WoW) and B2L (SWTOR) the overwhelming majority of my gear did not come from drops. I do not play a tank so I am able to figure out that level 36 follows level 35. :-) I.e., it is much cheaper if you accumulate, via the AH and crafting, in advance. Level 36 swords might be pricey or non existent on the AH today but with a little advance planning you can have the gear ready when you get to 36.

A host on the WoWInsider podcast said one time he needed to level a pally for his guild so he accumulated in advance a complete set of gear for every five levels in his bank. I have never gotten that systematic but clearly it is the efficient way to level.

OTOH, if a super epic item drops, I am probably going to sell it for the reason you mentioned. When I am 35 the level 31 epic is worth so much more to a 31 than to me.

Equivalent things are equivalent; when level 85s ask me the best place to mine copper I say go mine the upper end mineral that sells for 50 times the price of copper, sell it, and buy the copper.

I don't know what game people are remembering, but the chance that a random drop will simultaneously be something I can use, need, and of the right level is very small.

Note also with Bind-to-account items, you would probably be only mildly disadvantaged if you got *zero* new gear since the majority of your gear is BoAs and it autoscales.

Ofc, a lot of this is caused because leveling is devalued; get to max level so you can play the game. If you were to try to say how awesome your level 35 epic is, someone is bound to point out that you will vendor it in a couple of hours of play time.
 
"You just find stuff for sale, which isn't much more interesting than finding little bags of gold."

Couldn't agree more.

This is one of the many reasons why the AH was such a horrible mistake for Diablo 3.

It robs the game of one of the most crucial and vital parts of the game: constant gear upgrades that you have the joy of FINDING yourself, which also leads to a constant level of excitement as you HOPE for the next gear upgrade.

Blizzard hasn't made a misguided mistake this big since the Dungeon Finder.
 
Hagu: You are talking about WoW. This is about Diablo. Very different games. or at least, they used to be. :)
 
AH is necessary to keep solo players at least remotely competitive with players within some community.

Imagine that you can only directly trade items with friends. Then if you play alone, only 1/5 of the items are good for you, the rest is vendor trash. If I play in a team with my girlfriend, 2/5 of the drops are usable, so we have 2x more gear than you.

Trading allows strangers to help each other via mutually beneficial trades to catch up with friends helping each other.
 
Solution to all these woes: Do not use the AH.

Will other people have better gear than you? Yes. Would other people have had better gear than you if Blizzard hadn't implemented an AH? Yes. Will you be the Most Awesome D3 Player Evar? No. AH or not, your gear and how you got it means only slightly more than nothing.
 
Solution to all these woes: Do not use the AH.

Unfortunately, that is not an especially viable option, at least for me. In the linked post, I found a fairly ridiculous sword for 1000g, which is about half of the cost of a terrible vendor weapon. I can resist using cheat codes or dialing the difficulty down, but intentionally handicapping myself is not going to magically recapture the fun, especially in a game like Diablo.

Hopefully the problem will solve itself in the higher difficulties wherein optimized gear is expected.
 
I fully agree with this :P this is very wrong and I probably will not play Diablo 3 serious. Just as a single player game to do some campaigns now and then.

Btw this is what I love in Lotro. Crafting gear and gear with marks from skirmishes is the best and you can do it by yourself. I don't remember the last time I have visited the AH in the game and I always had the best equipment while leveling. Same goes to Aion also that I have played..It seems that this is only on Blizzard side so far as I know..
 
Well you cannot judge on the whole game by 13 levels. Non disposable gear will be hard to get and I suppose the later Nightmare, Inferno and Hell will be so hard that they will be able to soak all of the gear upgrades you can throw at them. Its no big deal than lets say stoking yellow items for my next toon in the shared stash in D2.
 
@giannis: Uh? LotRO works exactly in the same way as WoW. Trivial leveling content, gear upgrades from quests which are largely sufficient for leveling, useless mob drops which get trash-vendored. Crafting which provides items which are good, if you take the time to farm materials for them, and which will end up sold (for lack of disenchanting) 5 levels later. The only difference is that they added cash-shop-only items which are even better than the crafted ones, making low-level crafting completely irrelevant (or at least that was the hot topic on the forums when I stopped playing).

The only reason not to buy gear in LotRO is that the AH interface is so bad that just finding it would be harder than the leveling itself....
 
If the AH ruins the game for you, don't use it. You always have a choice and the existence of an AH doesn't make it necessary to use. I won't be using it, at least for my first character.
 
Most unfortunately, just about every game out there is Gear based rather than skill based. It happens in just about every MMO. Once people can find or craft BOE gear, they make thier living through the AH. This a natural tendancy to want the best. If MMO's were smart, they'd make rare items ALWAYS BoP and make the world/quest rewards worth wearing.
 
I'm not sure I agree with the last part of the article. Lets say I am a warrior that finds magic wand of uberness in the mountain of doom and I trade that for a sword of equal value. I would then still recognize the sword as my prize for completing that quest.

The nature of D3 is that it IS a market based game. D2 was too, except it had a very defunct marketplace.
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Ah, how it takes me back! The Twink Wars circa 1999 - 2004! Glory days.

The Twinks won, as we all know. Their world now, their rules.
 
As WoW was my first (and only) MMO starting about 4 years ago, I assumed that the gear drops were designed to foster a community based on interdependence and trade. If I have your gear and you have mine, we need each other.

And, when exactly did the Diablo RMT auction house go from "coolest thing ever, now I can quit my job" to "hey, they ruined my game!"?
 
@Bristal

On this blog, it was definately always the latter.
 
I think this is where Borderlands (Best. Diablo clone. Ever.) did their itemization right. I know my first playthroughs a LOT of time was spent looking at items on the ground with the very reasonable expectation that many of them would actually be upgrades.
 
The only reason Diablo 3 even has a RMAH is because people were already buying and selling D2 items on thir party websites. Blizzard hosting it brings some measure of security and safety to this.

That said, item trading has been a massive part of the broader D2 community since the day te game launched. All the auction house is doing is letting you post an item for the price you want and get back to playing, rather than sitting in a Battle.net chat channel hawking your wares in the vain hope someone will appear that wants the items you are selling.

If you did not participate in item trading at all in D2, I can't see how the existence of the AH will change how you play D3.

Diablo 2 on hell difficulty is very soloable for a character that has never once been used in multiplayer, I do not expect it will be any different in D3.
 
Ditto what Siaer said. I think the root of the real complaint here is that D3 is being made as a Multiplayer game that can be solo'd. Whereas it's predecessors were all Singleplayer games that could be played Co-op. Once a game has multiplayer, item trading will happen if items have any game play value. Putting in the auction house has just put item trading front and center for more people. Personally I've been in the Beta since November and I don't think I've ever used the auction house at all.
 
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