Friday, April 5, 2013

D3 Auction Hall failure

Diablo 3's Auction Hall has been controversial its entire existence.  No one can deny it has totally reshaped the game but there are real questions as to what exactly those effects were.  Blizzard recently talked about it, saying that they feel like they screwed up when making the AH.  They claim that their goals were good (reduce fraud and account theft by getting rid of third parties, for example) but that the AH was used far more than they anticipated and had more sweeping effects than anyone thought possible.

Some of what is said against the AH is entirely true of course.  By far the best way to progress in D3 is to play the AH buying and selling.  Beating up monsters is a terrible way to get better because it takes so long to accumulate wealth.  Additionally there is the problem that items are so incredibly variable that finding the item with the perfect stat spread for a build is completely impossible while going solo but it can be bought instantly on the AH.  Simply put you can beat the game solo but you will progress at double to ten times the speed by using the AH.

You can't just look at this in a vacuum though.  Imagine the AH was gone.  Instead people would wander into games and yell at each other in an attempt to trade items directly.  This would take forever and be incredibly irritating but would still allow the trading pros to accumulate immense wealth while new players would get scammed out of their stuff in record time.  No difference there except that it is more annoying.  It would feel more reasonable to simply play solo because the trading interface was such a pain in the ass but that wouldn't change the fact that traders would be obscenely wealthy and players would be broke.  We saw this in D2 so this isn't even remotely speculative - that is exactly what happened.  Just like in D2 there would be tons of third party sites selling stuff, stealing accounts, and scamming people.  I know those exist in D3 but they would be ten times as large if the Real Money Auction Hall didn't exist.  People would buy gear from these sites and people would complain about the noobs who buy gear just like always.  The difference is that the money would be going to instead of Blizzard and a bunch of people would get scammed.

So how would we get away from this?  We could remove trading completely which would certainly get rid of the possibility of buying your way to the top and would make playing the game the best way to advance.  Although this would definitely piss some people off I think it would end up being a far better game in the long run.  The second thing that could be done is to normalize gear.  The fact that the best weapon I found ever in D3 was 33% worse than a weapon I bought on the AH for a trivial sum is insane.  Weapons in particular are incredibly variable and if the stat spreads on gear were really tightened up trading would be less important because you could depend on having an item that is 80% as good as the Best In Slot item just on your own.  Right now your guarantee is more like 40% and that makes the AH required.  If both of these ideas were implemented the game would still be fun to play with friends but you could play alone quite reasonably.  They aren't possible to put into the game without a total overhaul though so I don't think they will happen.

When you make a game about trading you have to accept that the traders will be the rich ones.  Just like in real life where the bankers make insane money the traders in D3 make insane money.  If you don't want that then you either have to make trading impossible or pointless.  No other solution will suffice.


  1. They are actually moving towards both of your goals without a total overhaul.

    Shoulders, gloves, wrists, chest, ring, and neck all have BoA crafted gear with very competitive stats. In many cases the best in slot gear is crafted. I think most people still run with a set chest piece, you can only wear one unique ring, and the odds of crafting a good neck are astronomical, but the other slots are pretty accepted to have crafting be the best for most specs.

    They're changing the way drops happen in the next patch to try to fix the second issue. They're drastically nerfing the drop rate of rare items (25% was the number I last saw) but they're also modifying the affixes they can roll to keep terrible items from spawning. Instead of getting 1-100 int on your item when it rolls int you'll get more like 75-100 int. Right now drops are so hit and miss because even if you happen to get lucky and get the int, int+vit, all resist, armour, pickup radius roll it can still be a terrible item when all those mods roll low numbers. Narrowing all the ranges should be awesome.

  2. I don't think D2 was nearly as bad as D3 in terms of trading. Trading has a cost - spending time looking for the item you want is time you could have spent playing. If you have to spend a long time looking for people to trade then you can't get substantially rich trading. Sure, if you are really good at it you will end up being richer than a lot of people, but the vast majority of people with the best gear in D2 were people who played the game a lot.

    In D3 trading is so effective that playing the game is for suckers (and, I guess, people who like the play the game?). As time goes on gear (except for the very best gear) just gets cheaper and cheaper. By just having a million gold sitting around and never playing I'm probably progressing my character must faster than I would be by playing a couple hours a day and never using the AH. I a few months I could just log in and buy stuff and it would be better than what I would have collected by then by actually playing.

    D2 was never anything like this. You couldn't wait for deflation to make you rich - where "rich" means able to massacre the enemies - while you were logged off.

    In real life bankers make insane money because we structured our society to make them rich, not because there is anything inherent in banking that is good at making you rich. The D3 Auction House (combined with the level cap) was the economic structure that made trading better than playing.

  3. While sitting on cash and not playing may be better than never using the AH (although I'm not convinced; you will absolutely murder things with just the 4 new crafted pieces and playing a couple hours a day will give you tons of mats for crafting) it's way, way worse than playing the game a couple hours a day and using the AH. Especially when you consider that someone playing a couple hours a day is going to gain 40 or 50 paragon levels while you gain nothing at all by not playing.

    I also feel like deflation is probably tailing off. The fact that each account only gets 10 slots in which to sell things coupled with an actual use for crafting materials makes it so there's a real floor for how much prices can fall. I don't think your two million bucks is going to buy you all that much better stuff in a few months than it would right now.

    The excellent but not perfect stuff may well drop in price, but those things are going to be way out of your price range at a couple million bucks.

  4. I dunno about D2 lacking deflation. A few years ago I logged back in and played D2 for awhile and I put together an absolutely absurd set of gear in no time at all. The truly top items like high end runewords and +1 skill charms were still extremely pricey but a new player could walk in and be decked out in superb gear in no time after the market had been out some years. There wasn't a currency in the same way of course but deflation in terms of the time cost to get an item was occurring pretty hard. The drops I got personally were pretty pointless compared to the things I could buy with my chipped gems and random charms and such.

  5. A couple of years ago is more than ten years after D2 came out. When I logged out for a month and a half I came back on and with the 400k I had sitting around I increased my weapon's dps number by almost 200 and increased my overall toughness by about 100%. I replaced the best shield I had gotten my hands on in the entire time I played with one that was 50% better in every stat for 20k.

    I understand they are making changes that make playing the game better (including - very importantly - getting rid of the absurdly low level cap), but the AH had a very severe impact on the game and isn't comparable to D2 trading.