Very recently, Blizzard dropped two big bombs on the Diablo 3 community and there’s a lot of noise about it.
They are, respectively, the closure of the Auction House (both in-game gold and real money) and the announcement of the first expansion (with more to come hopefully), Reaper of Souls.
These announcements have been awarded with a lot of comments (over 6000 so far about the AH situation alone) and it’s time for me to weigh in on my thoughts about both of these things, and how they affect my expectations for my experience with the expansion.
I’ve been fostering something of a love-hate relationship with Blizzard since pretty much the point Activision got involved with them. Note that this is a correlation and not necessarily a causation, but World of Warcraft lost its appeal to me in a big way, They made some decisions that I strongly disagreed with in regard to Diablo 3, the only thing they have done recently that I have really been on board with was the mod support for Starcraft 2–but that fell short of my personal expectations when I discovered that the tools they included were incredibly cumbersome in my opinion and they apparently prohibit the use of any third party tools to help with that.
Anyway, let’s get to specifics here instead of getting into detail about that. Here’s my take on the Auction House situation:
Let’s rewind back to pre-release. They announced the Auction House and people freaked out. Everyone was so worried about the game “turning into” World of Warcraft (by what logic, I don’t know) but I was in the vast minority that seemed to understand a big driving factor toward introducing a Blizzard-sanctioned Auction House in the first place:
People are going to buy and sell items and gold no matter what the EULA says. Rather than fight a losing battle, make a safe-haven for people to make these transactions that both is easy to use, and benefits the developer directly.
It’s capitalistic as hell, but it makes a ton of sense. I can’t imagine how much grief Blizzard went through during the Diablo 2 heyday when people were getting scammed constantly, spammers took over in droves, and duping everywhere. Cut that middleman out, use the cut to improve your own game, and everyone wins, right?
Well, no. Apparently Blizzard got a new flavor of grief, now people bitching about the Auction House ruining the game and claiming that people “had” to use it to perform well. Which may have some merit to it as an argument, I guess. But I have never not once had to buy items with real money for any reason. The only real-money transactions I have made were for gems and only due to the fact that I had no other use for the money held captive in my Battle Net Balance at the time which was mistakenly put there rather than my paypal account.
Long story short, the AH is going away and they aren’t listening to any arguments to the contrary. I see this affecting the game in three huge ways:
1) Advertisement Spam (already a huge problem) will increase significantly
2) People will now complain about not being able to trade effectively.
3) People will be driven to third-party online sales sites, which will: not prevent purchase and sale of items at all, will send money overseas to “goldfarm” operations and less for Blizzard themselves which could be allocated to more frequent and significant developments and improvements to the product.
The way I see it, if players don’t want the Auction House, there is a perfectly acceptable option in the console edition of the game. Furthermore, Hardcore/Softcore segregation is not difficult to do, so why shouldn’t a AH/No-AH segregation plausibly exist to allow both camps to exist in harmony?
They established a very well thought out system with a specific purpose and now are scrapping it for the wrong reasons. Their new plan for Loot 2.0 is going to help make the game a better experience, we’re told, but Loot 2.0 and an AH are mutually exclusive by nature, of course. Right?
I understand it is in their best interest as a business publicly to listen to the majority of their players (fine time to start, guys.) But this is really just a disappointment in a big way. Instead of fixing the broken turn signal in your car, you’re ripping out the steering column and throwing it in the garbage. Fixing the smaller issues with the balance, loot drops, and spam would make the market self-correct. Adding options to participate in a separate realm without the Auction house would make the game more acceptable to those who disagree with the existence of the Auction house, and yet allow it to exist for those who enjoy that experience.
But, if Blizzard is listening to my advice on this, I’ll eat my hat. So let’s move past that now that I have said my piece and share what my expectations are as a player given this new shift in player experience. I expect none of these to be fulfilled, but if I remain silent I’ll have no right to complain later.
Reaper of Souls Requests/Anticipations/Expectations/It’s-Only-Fair-Since-Everything-Else-Has-Been-F**ked-Up-Now-Anyway
1) Now that the Auction House and cash-transaction filter is going to be removed from the game, the plausibility of certain barriers which existed as a security measure need to come down. They are as follows:
– Always-connected Play, and
– No modding
After the Auction House is dismantled, the excuse of protection of the money that is flowing through the game is officially null. With that gone, now is a perfect opportunity to continue listing to the majority and allow people to play single-player without an internet connection (because Lord forbid someone’s internet should go out, or the Blizzard servers should suffer an outage, or that someone might live somewhere that internet access is spotty or absent completely), and it’s time to let people do what they wish with modded game modes. No, I am not asking you to allow people to make mods to use on Blizzard Servers nor do I expect any permissions granted for anything that could be described as a hack. I am talking about the game overhauls that still make Diablo 2 one of the best gaming experiences there is. Median XL, Nezeramontias, Eastern Sun…all amazing Diablo 2 Mods. You have a framework in Diablo 3 for these kinds of experiences and more. Let people use them and don’t threaten to ban them for doing something that is not only harmless but now won’t affect your bottom line negatively in any way since the incentive to lock people onto your own servers (the auction house) is going away.
2) More Diablo 2 flavor.
One of the bigger complaints about Diablo 3 was that it deviated so far from aspects that made the first two installments so enjoyable. Stat selection with no way to undo changes is outmoded, and a skillpoint-free system streamlines the game, okay, I get it, but I miss finding gear with +1 to all [class] skills. Give us some more of the things that we loved from Diablo 2 or something similar to them. Socketable Runes, Jewels, Charms things that made Lord of Destruction such a necessary and fantastic addition to D2 Vanilla need to make a comeback. Even if you don’t want to upset the balance of the Gems that exist already, then add new types of sockets (Gem Only, Rune Only, etc.). I thought you were on a really great path with the Nephalem Cube in beta, but that went away really fast. I’d like to see crafting more dependent on materials than gold. The Horadric Cube was such a brilliant and unique addition to Diablo 2 and the artisans are a great addition for Diablo 3, but something still feels hollow about it. Like I’m not crafting things myself.
3) A worthwhile Collector’s edition
This isn’t really a gameplay thing, I guess…but the Collector’s Edition for Mists of Pandaria, and Heart of the Swarm were, to put it nicely, disappointing. I’ve seen more importance placed on the in-game glitter lately than effort toward creating a tangible bonus to really make people want to pay that premium.
4) A reasonable venue to trade things (the hard way) since we’re not going to have any other choice (according to the EULA)
I don’t know what your plans are beyond the very specific “On March 18, 2014 the auction house will be shut down” statement, but I’m sure you realize people are still going to want to buy/sell/trade with one another for other in-game items and gold. It would be very nice if there was an elegant trading method available to players to exchange things within the game. A chat channel of some kind where items can be easily linked is a good start, but I think you can do better than that, even.
Whatever it is, please don’t just leave people to their own devices. Then all we’ll ever see is advertisement spam from both players and the goldfarms. This will make people hate you and this game, and as much as I don’t agree with a lot of the decisions you have collectively made recently, I really don’t want to see that happen. I want to enjoy this game, I want to see other people enjoy this game and I want to see it live in perpetuity the way Diablo 2 does to this day.
Help us help you. Seriously.