Diablo III Item Drop and Auction House Issues

I was just coming here to post about this.

The answer is obvious, isn’t it? When you create a new character, there’s a checkbox that enables the auction house. If you don’t check that box, you can never use it. And of course, item drop rates are tuned differently.

And then the character can be played offline?

I kid, I kid; modern technology couldn’t handle that kind of madness.

Are you kidding me? The company that develops and operates World of Warcraft didn’t understand the details of how an AH system would be used by the playerbase? Really?

The Diablo team also didn’t understand how Diablo worked, so is it really very surprising?

A ladder sans AH would be wonderful but I’m not holding my breath here. This was the obvious solution months and months ago.

It’s one of those things, to me, that’s both unsurprising yet completely dumbfounding at the same time.

The problem isn’t that they have an auction house, it’s that the same auction house is shared by every player in the region. That has two effects. First, it’s an incredibly efficient market. Second, it has an extremely wide selection.

That leads to only near-perfectly itemized items being worth any real money, so you can outfit characters for very small costs.

And the result of that is the game needed to be tuned so monsters only extraordinarily rarely dropped anything good.

And the result of that is players not caring about drops and farming gold, which short-circuited the ARPG item bonanza gameplay mechanism and made the game much less addictive.

Ding, winner. Without the pavlovian reinforcement of finding something great sufficiently often, the interest level flattens out. Finding gold is a constant, and dull; finding a great item is exciting but, because of the AH, is far too uncommon.

Has Blizzard ever even acknowledged the opt out solution to the AH problem? It’s weird to see them go so far as to allow Diablo 3’s lead guy and public face to mea culpa at GDC, but still not do or say much of anything about the real, obvious fixes that have been suggested all over the place since release. But hey, more BoA crafting!!1!!1 At least they’re now admitting that they don’t know how many people like the AH. For a long time, it seemed like Blizzard was, maybe knowingly, conflating high usage of the AH with players liking the stupid thing.

Blizzard has talked a lot recently about how the AH has caused problems, even before this talk at GDC. The question is how to fix it; for that, they have a big list of future patch ideas, including many different changes to items.

That will be what ultimately fixes the issue. The AH exacerbated the problem, but only because it is so efficient providing items for gold. The underlying issue has been the poor itemization design. There was one revamp of all the legendary items already, and an even bigger overhaul is on the way. The fact that so many crappy Rares drop all the time, is something else that will be addressed.

Players need to feel good about getting upgrades themselves, especially during the leveling process; legendaries need to be truly interesting items, not just stat sticks. Those sort of changes will be far more effective at dealing with the itemization problems than splitting up the playerbase by making a “no AH” section.

Yes, they claim to be working on solutions, but won’t commit to anything before they’re sure that’s the right solution. Shrug. It’s not like I would have played D3 longterm anyway, I didn’t play D2 that way.

I’ve got to say, armchair game design is rarely so satisfying. Blizzard takes so much pride in their process and their polishing, so it’s fun to see them eat crow on an obviously bad idea.

It wasn’t a bad idea. I’m sure it did significantly reduce fraud and hacked accounts. They just dropped the ball on implementation.

And lets be clear-- I didn’t see anyone predicting that the gold auction house would be a problem at all. All the pre-release bitching was about the real-money auction house, and that turned out to be a total non-issue. Nobody thought it through and came up with the gameplay implications of a region-wide auction house.

(Nobody that I saw, anyway. I don’t read all the internet.)

That’s true, my ire was mostly directed at RMAH and the always online. I imagine that anyone with a grip on microeconomics (that I don’t have) probably saw this coming. But then again, maybe not. Which suggests that Blizzard should stop being so precious with their dev cycle and just launch games – if the big mistakes aren’t predictable, you might as well make your mistakes more quickly than every decade.

The real irony will be once the PS3 version launches without any AH at all, if a bunch of third-party websites once again make a killing off of facilitating item trades, just like back in Diablo II…

As far as the development goes, Diablo III spent a lot of time in beta, but Blizzard didn’t really test the Auction House during it. It was impossible to test fully, of course, since the beta stopped so early on in the game because they were worried about spoiling the plot. If they had let players create level 60 characters and have a go at Inferno during beta, they would have caught most of game-breaking bugs before release, and they might have gotten a better sense of how the AH would impact the game as well. (The fact that the AH was just down for about 1/3 of the beta time didn’t help much, either.)

In defense of Blizzard about the design of the AH, though, it’s impact would have been far more limited in scope if they had kept with the original design. For most of the D3 beta, there was a listing fee for every item, whether it sold or not. They iterated on how much this listing fee would be (a fixed amount, a percentage of the cost, etc.) before finally removing it entirely. If that fee had been left in, the AH would not have been used nearly as much, which is more in line with their initial design. It still wouldn’t have changed the massive itemization issues at game launch, but at least there wouldn’t have been quite as large a disparity between getting gear from drops, and getting it from the AH.

That wasn’t an obvious problem. It also not how AH worked in WoW - you would never see leveling-up characters religiously using AH to fine-tune the gear while questing or end-game character farming gold and gearing up via AH. It was only used occasionally. Why? BoP and inconvenience of having to travel to AH to use it.

I think Blizzard are pissed because the RMAH is not as popular as the Gold AH. That’s a huge chunk of transaction fees that they are missing out.

So, they have a game where good item drop rates are poor, legendary items are a joke, and they are not cashing in on the RMAH. All bad for blizzard.

It’s interesting how quickly Path of Exile learned this lesson. No currency, no auction house, and trading is a lot less efficient. They know that the challenge of finding good trades can be a bit of a fun game in itself.

Just a reminder that Jay Wilson has left the Diablo 3 team and is working on other Blizzard projects, though not a surprise that he only ever gets asked about D3 in current media.

AH should be like the vendors. No reserve, put it up on the AH and the bank immediately bids the value offered by in game vendor. If the public wants to bid beyond that , so be it. If no one bids, bank wins the item, player gets some gold and it is gone from the total item pool. Make the AH an item sink - you put it on the AH, one way or another that item is gone.

That’s incorrect. A lot of people wondered what impact a game wide AH would have, and wondered about the gold AH. Also, when Blizzard said pre-release that they adjusted drop rates to account for the AH that had a lot of people talking. Wilson is being revisionist when he says the predictions were all about the RMAH.

I whined and complained about it all. The great thing about fantasy games is adventuring to find your own items and your own gold. Cut out that dynamic and you’ve cut much of the thrill of the game.