Diablo III Item Drop and Auction House Issues

From Blizzard’s own dev blog.


When a Legendary drops, the question that goes through a player’s mind should never be “is this a good item?” It should be “how awesome is it?” For example, if you are playing a Demon Hunter wielding a Rare crossbow and a Legendary crossbow drops, we want your reaction to be “Holy crap, YES!” not “sigh another Hellrack.” It’s a problem if players don’t want to bother identifying their Legendaries, let alone pick them up. We want to change this.

We want players to feel like entire new builds can open up if they get their hand on the right items. Glimmers of this idea are already in the game with The Three Hundredth Spear and Thing of the Deep. The plan is to embrace the idea and push them to more extremes. Potential future Legendary item ideas include a Voodoo Mask that increases pet damage, a Barbarian set that makes Call of the Ancients last until they die (after we give them full pet survivability), a Wizard Orb that allowed for two Hydras to be active at once, or the “Ethereal” boots idea I posted here. While these specific ideas may not make it into the game, they are good examples of the kinds of game changing effects we want to introduce to items. It will take time, but our goal is to try to provide players with compelling alternatives to trifecta items when talking about what items they want to acquire.

If the “right” way for some people to play the game changes from killing monsters to camping the auction house, is the game better off for it? Ultimately we don’t think it is, but we also don’t want to take something away that has become such an enjoyable part of the game for others. So, the question instead becomes: how can we refocus the end game away from farming the auction house back to farming monsters? It’s a complicated issue, but one we are committed to addressing.

The first solution always presented when we discuss this problem is “Why don’t you just get rid of the auction house?” and while completely removing the feature would in fact fix the problem it created, it would also create a void that the auction house was originally designed to address. For example, we don’t want players to feel like the only way to trade with other people is by sitting in chat and spamming “WTS [item link]” and “WTB [awesome item]” all day. This is definitely not ideal.

There are a number of ideas for how to address this long term that don’t include removing the auction house outright, and most of the ideas are centered around giving players more ways to find items they are excited about

I swear to god, I don’t even understand blizzard anymore.

I have to admit, I don’t understand your reaction. Everything in the quotes from Telefrog seemed like good ideas to me. I don’t like (or use) the auction house, but I agree it’s better to use it for trading than spamming the chats (which wouldn’t really work - who the hell uses the chat system?). They want to provide more and more interesting legendary items? Fuck yeah! I wants me that Orb that lets me have two hydras for damn sure!

I would like to see the AH go away, but it’s existance doesn’t affect me much. I am playing a Hardcore (MP 10) game right now, just hit level 15, and I’ve never once used the auction house, relying only on drops and crafting, and I’m having a freaking blast! Further, I found MP0 Inferno difficulty to be totally doable if you ignore the AH, though I can’t speak for MP1 or higher. But then again if you are running that, the AH probably is more your friend than a hindrance.

Well, great, sounds like we’re inching back towards Diablo 2. Did everyone from the old Diablo team leave Blizzard? It is a little perplexing watching them struggle through the learning experience for a second time.

They just need to up the quality item drop frequency as if there was no AH mechanics, as if you were supposed to find awesome gear by yourself, but then leave the AH in. That way rare items will be much less rare and not all that valuable in the AH anymore. Sure you can go shopping, but you do not have to and when you do, the prices will not be so high because there will be so much competition.

Doing that and making much more interesting loot (that does neat things and is not just “stats”) would go a long way to revitalizing my interest in D3. As an example of interesting loot consider that a modifier on a melee weapon may be a 10% chance to cast an offensive spell when you hit. E.G: !0% chance to cast chain lighting or summon frogs. You would include ruined variants as well. Armor could have a chance to do defensive abilities as well. Imagine the possibilities. Diablo 2 had items like this and it is totally missing from D3. I would not want this kind of effect to be restricted to legendaries.

They think it’s the opposite problem. Too many rares drop now, but only a tiny amount are interesting.

Between Paragon levels, Nephalem Valor stacks, and all the other assorted buffs and bonuses, it’s possible to find a tremendous amount of Rare items during any given play session. But the quality of these Rare items just isn’t where it needs to be, so even though players see a lot of them, they no longer feel special. When you identify hundreds of Rares and only a small percentage are worth equipping or selling, those items become a burden rather than something to get excited about. “Great. Now I have to identify them all, read their stats, and I’m probably going to salvage all of them.” I feel your pain.

We want to make it fun and rewarding to hunt down new items through play, and really instill the feeling that your next awesome item could come from anywhere, and is just around the corner. We need to get rid of some of the clutter first, so we plan to reduce the frequency at which Rare items drop down the road.

I agree actually. Rares are too common and they’re mostly worthless.

I thought they “fixed” that by making rares really good? I have not played D3 in a long time, but I thought that was supposed to be one of their improvements. So they still suck?

Anyway the thing about making good loot drop far more often is general to all good loot, not just rare stuff. People should be able to find a set of very good gear without the need of the AH. Once we were at that point, leaving the AH in wouldn’t matter so much.

They have the potential to be really good, but that potential is infrequently realized. For a rare to roll well, it generally needs at least 4 traits that you value highly, and it needs them at high levels as well. That combination is, uh, rare. The blog post addresses this by saying that instead of using (as an example) a range of 1-100 for some stat roll, they may use 75-100 instead for top level rares. If they implement something like that, the odds of finding an item with multiple useful traits at high levels will skyrocket.

I loved, loved, loved d2. I really liked d3. Rather than sticking to the design they made with d3, they’ve been slowing backpeddling and turning d3 into some half assed hybrid of d2 and d3.

You want players to come back to your game? Guess what sell some new areas as DLC. Make some challenge modes with leaderboards (ie, take a fixed character through a set of areas, score based on kills or time). Rotate the challenges every week. Make a 30 level randomized dungeon with permadeath where you start with a new character each time.

Of all the things they could be doing with the Diablo III platform, they are doing the least interesting things.

Not addressed in that article: a way to funnel items out of the economy outside of hardcore mode. Liberally applying Bind on Equip to some categories of dropped items would take care of that, wouldn’t it? From that article, you’d think Blizzard has never encountered the idea. OTOH, what’s good at making the economy an interesting part of the game may conflict with what’s good for Activison Blizzard’s shareholders.

I like Diablo 3 more and more with each patch, in spite of the AH, but one facet of item drops that I love in other ARPGs has eluded me in Diablo 3. I call them anticipatory items. They’re the drops that are a level or three too high to equip right away, but you can’t wait to level up and use them. They’re another powerful incentive to keep playing in a genre that depends on just that. I’ve found a number of these items in Torchlight 2 and Borderlands 2, and I’m pretty sure I found some in WoW and even Diablo 2. Has anyone found any of these in Diablo 3? I can’t imagine why Blizzard would remove them from D3’s loot system.

Thing is, you are obviously coming from the position of someone who hit the level cap and has paragon levels and whatnot.
It’s a long trek until you even get there and things like Paragon levels start to play a role.
That said, I don’t feel rares are too rare - they are mostly unremarkable and too often useless for any of your chars, but the sheer amount is about right during the early to mid leveling up phase at the very least.
The problem of drop rates only affects legendaries and set items, which are far, FAR more rare than rare items.

There’s SO much stuff they could potentially do with item bonuses, both for legendaries and rares. A lot was already in D2. Or in D1.
They could make totally crazy stuff, like an item that allows you to take two of the mercs with you, or a djinni bottle that has a powerful summon you cannot get otherwise, items which give you skills from another class, items that break the rules (like a shield you can use together with a two handed item) … whatever. I’m not sure that, by itself, is enough to keep those players that have already “finished” the game completely entertained, though.


Put me in the camp that doesn’t get your reaction. Good itemization isn’t a D2 thing, it’s a hallmark of loot pinata/ARPGs. Having bad itemization shouldn’t be lumped into an immutable characteristic of D3.

I was playing last week with a level 40-ish wizard. I get lucky (or so I think) and see a legendary wizard hat pop from a champion. Legendary and intended for my class, jackpot! Turns out to be some horribly useless item that’s basically a rare with a preset, modest vitality stat. http://us.battle.net/d3/en/item/the-swami

Complete trash. With at least 150 hours put into the game, I’ve seen maybe 3-5 legendaries. None have been memorable in anyway. None were better than the rare gear I had already found. I like a lot of things about D3 (the skill system in particular) but the legendaries are crap.

Actually, I don’t have any characters over level 60. I’ve played through the game with each class (and some of them twice) with a sprinkling of multiplayer area runs and HC before I lost interest.

The two main issues for me are:

  1. The loot chase is uninteresting. Too many rares, bland properties, whatever. I’m not a designer, so I don’t know what’s wrong, but I’ll say that I didn’t have this issue with D2, Titan Quest, Torchlight 2, or Path of Exile.

  2. Areas suck. They’re tiny, cramped, and the overland portions are the same every time. (Mixing in a few random setpiece features aren’t enough.) I stopped on my second full playthrough with each character because I couldn’t bear the thought of pushing through the same boring areas again.

It seems like they’re still trying to recapture the genie in the bottle that was D2. Maybe that’s just not possible?

Although on the one hand you have to like that they’re still going at it, on the other hand you have to really be amazed by the long development process that gave us the original D3. As much as they change the loot and add cool legendaries, etc, I don’t know that the core design of the game can give them what they’re trying for.

They will most likely get it right in the end. What we’re hearing out of Blizzard now is a change in philosophy that I expect will be the foundation of the first expansion while they patch in what they can in the meantime.

I stand corrected then - the text you quoted made it look different.

Basically, I agree, though I wouldn’t say there are too many rares. There are too many rares which are obviously useless to any char I have, though, which is a bit sad.
Somehow, they tweaked each and every item class to be worse off in D3. Damaged items were always useless, but in D2 things like a Damaged Plate Mail could still be a decent cash generator, now they’re only worth a pittance.

Same for Normal items, they used to be good for selling, but now they only can be useful when you get a Superior or whatever which has better dps than the magic or even rare one you were using before - I had this acttually happen, oddly.

Magics can be useful for a while, but are much less distinct than they used to (Godly Plate of the Zodiac, I remember you to this very day!) and generally you’ll tend to try and have a complete rare gear before long.

Rares with their large variety of enchantments basically drive your chars, and due to the immense impect of stats it’s fairly unlikely you’ll ever replace one with a magic item again (with the exception quoted above).

Legendaries (and set items, I guess, I still haven’t seen a single one ingame) are far too rare and - considering that - far too ordinary. I’m sure there are some cool ones, but the wide variety is basically useless unless it drops exactly at the right time for you to make good use of it (which would be like winning the lottery twice in a row).

It’s hard to put my finger on it, but rares are somehow less “cool” than their equivalents in previous games. The entire interplay of everything has been steamlined a bit too much, I guess. Everything makes sense on paper and maybe - in theory - is even superior to how things were in D2, but for me, it all just blends and I’m having a hard time really judging whether or not an item is really useful for me. The game provides values to guide my choice (+x dmg, +x Armor etc), but I find myself hard pressed to see by myself how these things really come to pass. For example, it’s still odd to me hat INT can now determine the damage output of a sword because I’m playing a class which is focused on INT.
I just look at the “guiding” numbers and a few flagship things like +magic find or class specific boni and that’s about it.

I dunno. It’s like they made this highly idealized facsimile of a girl I fell in love with, and looked on each of her features in isolation and improved upon them. But in the result, beautiful as it may be, I find myself hard pressed to locate the things that made me fall in love in the first place - they’ve been steamlined away.

The loot pinata works definately much worse than in D2, where it worked worse than in D1 (at least for a single player unwilling to grind for a thousand hours). I’m not sure any amount of tweaking will be able to fix this.

Yeah, completely agree. I think it was discussed in the main D3 thread recently. D1 was small, but completely random. D2 was huge with more predetermination but still fairly random. D3 is mostly static with only a couple of setpieces swapped in or out on occasion. That’s an infinitely inferior approach.


This. They see all these complaints about the items and want to fix everything and seem to believe that somewhere in there they can just tweak it so that the balance of abilities is perfect and people will suddenly stop complaining about the items. It’s a fool’s errand. There’s no doubt they should improve the items, but a) they are going about it the wrong way (make really awesome item abilities, and then put them on rares don’t just beef up legendaries most people will never see), and b) people will always complain about the items. Complaining about the items is basically the point. You can’t have a good item hunt game where people are really happy with the items they are getting. What they should be doing is giving people fun things to do when they are farming that don’t rely 100% on the slot machine of item drops. It should be complement to engaging combat and fresh content. Where are all the randomized quests and events they said were a focus this time around?

They have created a class of items that’s bind on acquire to address this, but it’s still the wrong solution. Items leave the economy when get bored of the game, or salvage the items - the mechanism is already there, all they’d need to do is up the rewards for salvaging items. But here’s the problem, which I talk about more below: you can’t keep items fresh by giving them more power. If you want the item system to be interesting and people to actually destroy items instead of just infinitely passing them down on the AH, then you need to create the build-enabling items they are referring to, and make them available in sufficient quantities to actually make it possible to acquire them. More importantly, as I’ve been saying for a while, they need to make a way for people to direct their efforts towards finding particular abilities, instead of the whole item game being just a way to gain the cash to buy the thing they really want.

This is just a total misconception of how these games work. You can’t just up item power to the point where people are satisfied by the drops and the AH is irrelevant. The AH will always have better stuff than you can find, and people will always feel like they could be just that much more powerful if only blizzard would let an actual decent item drop once in a while. The problem isn’t the drop rate, or the power level of items, the problem is the boringness of items. Rares can’t be fixed by tweaking their power, only by making a wider variety of items actually viable. The more that the items you are looking for can change based on you changing your build, the less you will feel like the drops are shit, because more of them will seem like “oh, this would be awesome if I was doing x build…”, which will lead to more of them being held onto for the future, and more lateral purchases on the AH (buying an item that’s not necessarily better than what you have in some absolute sense).

The problem with the AH will still remain, though, until they give players a way to direct their item-gathering efforts towards a goal. If you are simply trying to get money in order to buy something awesome on the AH, then you will always feel like your drops suck, because you are constantly confronted with the vast power available to thousands of players-worth of drops. If they gave every rare one affix that was a “build-enabler” ability, and allowed you to put 3-4 items with the same build-enabler into the jeweller to create a jewel with that ability, then you’d really be able to piece together item builds to create more interesting character builds. Then legendaries could be items with powerful stats, set themes, visual effects, and lots of sockets.

Are you saying the drop rate on legendaries is too low now? Judging by the numbers that I’ve been picking up and the deluge of them on the AH, they definitely aren’t. In my last two sessions my level 30s guy got a manald heal and some legendary amulet. They were both terrible, which to me is the main problem. My level 60 mediocre MP2 farming monk averages about one legendary per session.

In my opinion, if they’d

  1. make legendaries more interesting, like they supposedly have planned (and yes, it’s mind-boggling how boring they were at release),
  2. make end-game rares less common but increase the low-end range of stats a bit (to avoid the problem of an inventory full of crap rares), and
  3. maybe make set items a bit more common (and more interesting while they’re at it),

they’d have a game that to me was pretty much superior to D2 in every way. Since that more or less sounds like what they’re thinking as well, I’m optimistic.

If legendaries were truly legendary they would be just as good on level 60 as they were on level 40. Unfortunately they are not.
The legendaries I got in LOTRO I had with me for 10+ levels; and they could have gone further with that idea.

Jay Wilson spoke at GDC and spent some more time discussing the auction house issue.

Wilson said that before Blizzard launched the game, the company had a few assumptions about how the Auction Houses would work: He thought they would help reduce fraud, that they’d provide a wanted service to players, that only a small percentage of players would use it and that the price of items would limit how many were listed and sold.

But he said that once the game went live, Blizzard realized it was completely wrong about those last two points. It turns out that nearly every one of the game’s players (of which there are still about 1 million per day, and about 3 million per month, according to Wilson) made use of either house, and that over 50 percent of players used it regularly. That, said Wilson, made money a much higher motivator than the game’s original motivation to simply kill Diablo, and “damaged item rewards” in the game. While a lot of the buzz around the game attacked the real money Auction House, “gold does much more damage than the other one does,” according to Wilson, because more players use it and prices fluctuate much more.

“I think we would turn it off if we could,” Wilson said during his talk. But the problem is “not as easy as that;” with all of Blizzard’s current players, he says the company “has no idea” how many players like the system or hate it. Blizzard, Wilson said, doesn’t want to remove a feature that lots of players will be unhappy to see go.