Tobold's Blog
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
 
Why different audiences see the Diablo 3 AH in a different light

Different people want different things from their games. For online roleplaying games there have been quite a lot of attempts to classify the different groups, from Bartle's Players who suit MUDs to the endless "hardcore vs. casual" discussions on blogs. The overall effect is that the same feature which might appear great to one group of players can appear very bad to another group. And the Diablo 3 auction house certainly is such a feature.

I think it is undisputed that your character will be stronger with the use of the auction house than without it. The dispute is more whether that is a good or a bad thing, and how "necessary" the AH boost is. One problem, as so often, is that your performance in any online roleplaying game depends on both your gear and your skill. Thus one player who is better at playing Diablo 3 will feel that the boost given by the auction house is not really necessary, or only a lot later in the game, while another player who is less skilled will feel the need a lot earlier.

Whether the AH is good or bad for you also depends on which part of the game you are interested in. The more hardcore players are interested in the highest difficulty levels, and welcome the AH for getting them there faster. The more casual players don't really want to play through the game more than once or twice, but would like to use as many of the features of the game as possible; if some of those features, e.g. the AH and the crafting system, aren't working well together in the first or second playthrough, these players get annoyed.

Another important difference is that some players play Diablo 3 "for the challenge". While the AH can postpone the point at which you feel challenged, you will get there sooner or later. Other players play Diablo 3 "for fun", and it has been showed by psychologists that random loot drops are most fun on a neuro-chemical level. An auction house which makes that the "best strategy" is the one that minimizes the random loot fun is counterproductive for these players.

Overall the effect of the AH is pyramidal: Huge at the lower levels, much less so at the highest level. Best-in-slot items for the highest character level aren't available for cheap (yet?), while the situation for lower levels looks a lot different. So depending on which part of the game a player was targeting in the first place, the effect of the AH on his game will differ a lot.

Thus it is perfectly possible that some advanced players will consider the auction house as either not so bad, or even as a positive addition to the game. But I would argue that the negative effects of the auction house at the base touch a lot more players. And if those feel that the auction house spoiled their enjoyment of Diablo 3, they will be wary of games with that feature in the future. Or they might simply not analyze so deeply the reason for getting bored with Diablo 3 quickly, and just decide not to buy Diablo 4. In any case, there might be hidden dangers for Blizzard in the future from this feature.

Comments:
Tobold,

The more casual players don't really want to play through the game more than once or twice, but would like to use as many of the features of the game as possible; if some of those features, e.g. the AH and the crafting system, aren't working well together in the first or second playthrough, these players get annoyed.

Sorry for quoting at length, but I think you are extrapolating a bit too ambitiously here. Insert "Some of" before "The" at the beginning of that quote and you'd be spot on.

You and several other observers have very carefully pointed out why the AH implementation ruined DIII for you. However, I don't believe it is fair to bundle all "the more casual players" together in a single group. As you have seen in many replies to your earlier posts, many people have explained that the AH has no role at all in their game.

In fact, from my own observations I'd argue that most casual players simply don't factor in the AH at all into their game.

I believe your objections mainly ring true to a much narrower demographic. One clue here is your sentence about the auction house being the "best strategy". This is something you have mentioned in the past as well. But do you really think that "the more casual players", or even the majority of that group, are really interested in a single best strategy? I don't.

Sorry for ranting. I think the point I'm trying to make is this. You often emphasise that this is (among other things) a blog about game design. Your argument is that the AH implementation in DIII is poor game design. Obviously, defining "good game design" is like defining "common sense", so I won't go there. However, I think that Blizzard implemented it in a very well-balanced way. It seems to me that its main use is for those hard core people you describe that will actually find a good use for it. Many of the rest of us will live well without it. I think that is as it should be. To me, poor game design would have been to implement the AH in a way so that it would have been necessary to use it from the beginning. That way, all the players who just wanted to play Diablo (first timers or repeat customers) would have been put off. Surely, that's a worse result?
 
I agree with a lot of the things you've said, but I still do think though, at least for players near the top, the AH provides service that creates a decent balance between random rewards and workification. I disagree with your assessment that the AH minimizes random loot rewards.

The AH may be the only place where I can get upgrades, but you're forgetting that the AH is also the main place where you make gold for the majority of people. Items that you can sell for actually decent money don't come all that often. You'd be lucky if you found 1 or 2 an hour. The rarity of items that can sell means that even at the end of the line, I'll still have a reward feedback loop that spaces rewards out just far enough so that it's not necessarily work or a grind, but not too far apart that I'll lose interest.

Without such an AH, there would be little use for some 4/5ths of the items that drop, so although I might be lower on the power curve such that an upgrade itself may drop for me, I lose any feelings of rewards I get for seeing phat loots for other classes drop. And that would only apply while I was lower on the power curve. When I get to a point on the power curve where it takes 8 hours for an upgrade to drop, there aren't any of the inbetween loots to keep the reward feedback going.
 
The AH reduces randomness in the rewards, and that dilutes the operant conditioning effect of the game.

Your rewards, mainly in the form of gold, are directly proportional to the time you play. Kinda like an hourly wage.

Yes, you can ignore the AH. But that's also like saying you should turn the gamma down low to make the game more 'challenging'. Or playing with an Apple Magic Mouse.

Join the club: https://www.facebook.com/SickOfDiablo3
 
Other players play Diablo 3 "for fun", and it has been showed by psychologists that random loot drops are most fun on a neuro-chemical level.

And this only works in higher D3 levels, if you enjoy putting nails into sensible parts of your body. Their item progression is totally fubared channelling you into the AH. Inferno dropping gear for lvl 51s? What the hell. To push you even further, they now trying to prevent people from farming the usual suspects, by limiting the numbers of games you can create within a certain time frame. Evil brilliance indeed.

I'm pretty much stop playing my main who finished Act 1 Inferno, cause what follows now is the most untuned content i've played in decades. You can master patterns, by that random force is plain stupid and mean sometimes. I'd really like to see one of their designers master the content right now without using the AH. It's just not one enjoying experience.
 
It isn't only skill as some classes require equipment and are unable to kite as well due to the skills they use.

I don't mind the AH in the sense that I would rather go to the AH when stuck, then go meet someone and trade gold for his weapon, or have to farm a zone for 4 hours hoping for a drop.
I've only used the AH a couple times but i have been stuck in areas on Hell level until I got a new drop. Since I don't buy much off the AH, it isn't hard to find an upgrade att
 
Strangely enough the AH does have a loot pinata mode. Finding great deals. A few times I've found an upgrade at half the normal cost. Other times I win a low bid for an item I can flip for 4x the cost (okay 12k to 60k whoopee! :)

Something for everyone.
 
...or they could just reroll a new character and not use the AH. Problem solved.

The AH gives you access to the best gear in the game for any level. Using it then complaining that you feel overpowered does not make much sense really.

One thing I do agree with is that the crafting system could have been done a lot better and was made way too expensive at lower levels. Although they said that this change was being put into patch 1.03
 
Tobold, I seem to remember you arguing that there was no real money to be made on the AH. I couldn't help agreeing with you at the time I read the post. Turns out we were both wrong. I thought I'd share my experience.


I've played the game for a little over 100 hours now. I think I played about 60 hours in the week of release (took time off work) but since then have been playing much more casually.

Last night I sold two rare items I found for $20 each. I also put up a pair of boots for $40 dollars. There were similar cheaper boots for $30 that undercut me, but as of this morning they had sold. My boots are now the lowest priced on the RMAH with those stats, the next cheapest being $80. I'm optimistic my boots will sell.

I don't suspect these prices to be sustainable. Once Blizzard adds the ability to cancel and re-list items prices will plummet towards equalibrium.

But I think it's resonable to expect many players to pay for an annual sub to wow with AH winnings.
 
@Vims: The AH reduces randomness in the rewards, and that dilutes the operant conditioning effect of the game. Your rewards, mainly in the form of gold, are directly proportional to the time you play. Kinda like an hourly wage.

That's exactly what I'm arguing against. For lots of people, gold is made by selling the items you've found on the AH. It's not an hourly wage so much as being paid in scratch lottery tickets. The only way it would be working for an hourly wage is if you grinded with gold find%, and even in that case, you would still get (much rarer) random drops on the side.

I don't understand this insistence on personal gear upgrades being the only reward that can be considered fun. It's the exact opposite in the real world. Casinos are entirely based on money. Lotteries are based on money. Lots of raffles would be based on money if the government didn't have rules against it. Why is money so undervalued as a reward in game when it is valued just fine in the real world?
 
Ah this seems like an even more interesting discussion than the common "AH reduces fun for some." D3 is so successful I suspect there are at least a million players who love the AH or hate it or don't know it exists. And many think it is their future income and perhaps a sizable fraction of a million very erroneously think they can pay for the game/wow with it. (Some will but not the masses. Besides even lottery tickets are a great investment for the person who gets extremely lucky.)

The first point, is that is this something that players dislike, but it is inevitable? E.g., licensed
software that can not be loaned or traded in is disliked by most everyone. My guess is future AAA titles that don't do that will be few.

I submit many objections to D3 is that it is an update to D2 from an earlier time. Say D4 comes out in 5 years; I think that people's expectations will be adjusted (or ground down) from D2 days. For example, in a world where F2P, cash shops, DLC, turbine points, etc are normative, i.e. when a decreasing % of your in game items will come from "in game" actions, will the AH seem as objectionable? Last year your CoD experience was affected by your MtDew/Doritos codes. Can you imagine stepping out of a time machine and telling a D2 player of a dozen years ago that your snack food changed your leveling and cash shops abound? In five years will these even raise any eyebrows?

A majority of the customers disliking a feature does not mean it is a bad thing for the developer to implement. If the net dissatisfaction is low relative to the benefits to the other side, then it makes sense. (If D3 were subscription or F2P funded, the calculations change)

Besides, the AH does obviate a different player objection: a great piece of gear that is useless to them being vendored.



My predictions are:
AB is again setting the pace and while future indie titles will resemble D2, AAA titles will resemble D3. And they will receive less pushback because of D3.

P.S.: Generic rant: fair is for everyone to have the same in game gear. Once players have different gear, then arguing about acquisition via grinding, boss kills, pvp, gold, RL$ are just about being unfair in ways that benefits the poster.

P.P.S: cynical? http://www.youhaventlived.com/qblog/2012/QBlog120612B.html
"life isn't fair; why are games?"
 
D2 had trading, it also had a lot of scamming, it was hard to establish a value on items and generally not worth it except for the rarest of items.

On its own the AH, good idea.

Then everything is boe, and upgrades are a lot more accessible then finding some random who has what you want, so they made it harder to get upgrades or the content harder(not sure which).

Now we could wait for self upgrades but when their is something 20 levels and 3x better on the AH for the price of 5 deaths your a fool not to upgrade.

Degrin its not a case of feeling OP if you shop on the AH, its feeling underpowered if you don't shop.
 
"[RMAH success story]"

Congratulations! That is just one example though, one experience from one individual. Also, in the beginning prices are high due to hype and high demand. I'd go as far as calling them insane.

"But I think it's resonable to expect many players to pay for an annual sub to wow with AH winnings."

I don't think that is reasonable to expect:

Taken from http://eu.battle.net/support/en/article/battle-net-balance-faq

"What can I purchase with my Battle.net Balance?
[Big list, not including WoW subscription]

Can I use my Battle.net Balance as the automatic payment method for my recurring World of Warcraft subscription?
No."
 
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