I posted this on the official forums, but the way things fly through there I don't expect to get good feedback, so I'm posting here as well.
I, like many of you, am super excited and thrilled for D3 to be out. However, I think there is a pretty big flaw that has been seemingly overlooked regarding zero ladder resets and a RMAH. While I hope I'm wrong about this, I'm fairly certain that won't be the case unless something is done to address this issue sooner than later. Forewarning, this is going to be epically long. I’m not writing this to complain, I’m writing this because I see a pretty big issue with the longevity of D3 as a whole. Please read the whole thing first and really think about the outcomes before commenting. I’d love to get feedback on this
Overall, there are three big issues I see that are going to kill the replayability / longevity of Diablo 3.
1 – Lack of ladder Resets.
Without ladder resets, items will become virtually "worthless" over time. Yes, there are rares and uniques that have "perfect" affixes/prefixes and will have a .0001% chance to drop/be crafted-- but inevitably with millions of people farming the same content daily, these "best" items will drop and eventually flood the market over a few months’ time. True, there also are "regions" which help to break up the potential (3-4 million eventually each region?) players; but still, even having a few million people linked in to each auction house will eventually flood it. It's not like people are limited to 10-20k players per server like in WoW. Not having any sort of item purge or reset is just a disaster waiting to happen.
Even more so, items can be resold over and over again. There is no "bind" on equip type items. Sure, there are going to be those "unidentified" pieces that can only be sold as such once, but that is only going to account for a small % of the market; especially a few months after release. Why would you want to buy an unidentified item for $1 (or say, 10k gold equivalent), when you can have perfect stats for $2? No ladder resets also means that characters never become outdated (baring that an expansion IS NOT released). Along these lines, unless a bnet account gets completely banned, or someone never wants to touch Diablo 3 again, a person could log in whenever they want and have those items be right back in the market or back on top. Items will essentially stay in circulation forever.
Furthermore, you have the inevitable botters. Anyone who has played D2 knows that bots are rampant everywhere in that game. The Diablo series is the perfect environment for a botter – having their own instanced version of the game where no one can report you is a godsend. Sure, you have Warden; but obviously, programmers can bypass this security relatively easily. Most botting players banned in WoW (given they were using a good bot) were direct results of player reports – something you won’t have in D3 unless someone is deliberately botting/hacking in a public game. Automated software that can sit and farm 24/7 is going to create a flood of items.
To make matters worse, you have the RMAH. I understand why Blizzard is doing it; to take a chunk of the hundreds of thousands of dollars being made by 3rd party sites each month via Diablo 2 still today (which will be millions in D3), and this was only a fraction of the D2 community. While I hate knowing someone can buy their way through the game or buy their way to an upper hand, I can live with this. What is going to ruin this concept is what I stated above with over-abundance and never expiring items.
I think it’s a fair assumption to say that most underestimate how much a “public” and “safe” way to purchase in game items will affect the economy. Obviously, there are 3rd party sites in D2 in which you can purchase items. The majority of D2 players think of them as nothing more as spam and probably wonder who in their right mind would spend money to purchase D2 items. As I mentioned, these sites make upwards of 100k a month still (I’ll find the source later), so obviously people are still using them. I have done so in the past myself. It comes down to the shift of time and wealth. When I was younger, I had tons of downtime to simply farm for and item hours on end; but not much spending cash. Fast forward to today – I have way less time but way more money to spend. What’s spending $20 bucks to save myself 10 hours of farming?
A big issue people have using these 3rd party sites is two-fold. 1) Due to spam bots, people do not realize these are legit sites that exist. They just think they are Trojan/virus filled URLs on the web. 2) They have a hard time trusting a shady site with their money in fear that they will get ripped off. Again, having a Blizzard backed, Paypal supported upfront auction house gives visibility to literally everyone in the game and enough trust to know they are actually getting the item they paid for. It’s a nice piece of mind.
From a selling perspective, this gives everyone a chance to make some money and thus further reinforces the probable crippled economy. Sure, a lot of the older crowd probably won’t bother selling items outside of the few first months because it’s simply not worth two hours to them to make $5 bucks. However, $5 bucks to a 14 year old is a different story. When D2 first launched, I sold quite a bit on Ebay; as did many others. Making $30 dollars in a week was drinking money, so I had no problem investing my time. However, eBay soon put a stop to this, cutting off a secure buyer-seller shop. This prevented most sellers at the time from perusing this revenue stream further. I, along with most, couldn’t be bothered to make a site and SEO it to the top of 100 other ones – not to mention set up those oh so awesome spam bots. With D3, it bridges this gap, allowing a super easy and little effort way to sell whatever you want. You will now not only have your typical farmers flooding the market, but you also have an additional group pushing items out and undercutting.
Many will argue that Hardcore mode will be an obvious solution here. Unfortunately, it is not. Yes, it helps greatly that when people die their corpses will not be lootable and they will lose items forever. Again however, people are still going to inevitably be able to purchase items from 3rd party sites or other various user trading forums. Without a ladder reset in hardcore, content will slowly become somewhat trivial due to “gear” curve. Notice I say somewhat, since apparently inferno will always be a challenge regardless of gear. Either way, Hardcore too, will be affected.
3- Lack of new content.
Blizzard has already stated outside of balancing, bug fixes, and a pvp patch there would be not content patches. Obviously, this does not include potential expansions, which at the very earliest is a year and a half away (this is probably being generous). That leaves us with at minimum a year and a half of items that will not change, and be the same for existing content. While there are decently big gaps in content with WoW, you have the BoP items and BoE items that help greatly. You want the best items in the game? You have to go do instances and earn them. You want to buy a top tier item? Great, equip it and it’s off the AH forever. This obviously is not the case in D3.
So where am I getting at with this?
The main issues outlined above will kill replayability for many people, including myself in a few ways.
1- Being able to create an ultimate character for pennies. Again, it sucks knowing that someone can buy their way through a game with very little effort. It’s hard to say when or how much, but I forsee in a few months of AH saturation, you will be able to purchase and make a new character for relatively cheap, that tears through PVE content. I remember when D2 used to take long delays between ladder resets, you could buy a full “hammerdin” kit off eBay for a mere $15-20 bucks, which included the best and most optimal items in the game.
As mentioned, while this will be much more prevalent in Softcore, it still will rear its ugly head in hardcore too as well. Thankfully, you will have items disappearing from the game when people die; which will help a little, but not entirely eliminate the problem. Granted, users will be forced to use 3rd party sites to purchase items, but you can guarantee that people are going to be doing this and pimping their characters out. People spend $100
dollars in a night of drinking, what’s to stop them from spending $20-$50 on a D3 character?
2- No racing, no “be the best” experiences. This more so ties to the lack of ladder resets. I think everyone can agree, a big rush is when ladders are reset. It was always fun to grab a few buddies and start out zeroed out with everyone else. Having a barb in rare leather gloves and boots and a weak rare sword until level 50 put the challenge back in the game – especially hardcore. You had to be careful with what you did, work together as a team and really be ready for anything. With D3, that will never happen outside of the May 15th launch and future expansions. The older the game becomes the more the AH will be saturated with epic items and the easier it will be to obtain those said items, with both money or in game gold. That initial rush will never be felt again for a long time.
3- From a selling standpoint, unless you are botting or selling hardcore items, in a few months it will be pointless for most to sell for cash on the AH. I know this somewhat contradicts what I said above; but I’m speaking more from a majority player base perspective. Why would I want to take the sword that took me 10 hours to farm and craft and make .25 cent profit (since there are 50 other of the same on the AH)? Margins for both the seller (and Blizzard for that matter), are going to become smaller and smaller especially with Blizzard/paypal fees – eventually not even being worth the time and effort.
AH under-cutting, ESPECIALLY by “Chinese” farmers/botters is going to run rampant because of this. It’s going to be a Walmart style system (unless they figure out a way to deal with bots), focusing on quantity instead of quality. This will force all “average Joe’s” out of the market, since they won’t/can’t compete with the rock bottom prices set.I know this isn’t an exact comparison, but take WoW for example. Players used to sell gold. Many players, used to sell gold. You could at one point get $100 bucks for 1k gold. Eventually, that price went down to $50 for 1k, then $20, then $10, until now where it’s literally .50 cents per 1k. Yes, it’s easier to obtain gold now, but it’s just not worth the time, effort, or risk anymore. The profit margins are just too small.
4- I’m sure many will argue that you could simply not use real money on the auction house, but you have to think of the big picture as well. Unless you decide to get a dedicated group together to party all the time, or fly solo, you most likely will run in to a good chunk of the community who will have done the above and purchase items. Having some barbarian running around one-shotting content while you tag along behind unable to get even a chance to attack will ruin anyone’s gameplay experience. So again, unless you manage to isolate yourself completely, you will most likely be effected by this whether you think so or not.
In conclusion, I still think Diablo 3 will be a great game, but I think that the longevity and replayability of is going to be nowhere near that of D2 and/or even WoW, due to those games actually having built in fallbacks to prevent a crippled economy. In D2, you have ladder resets every few months, resetting the economy. In WoW, you have BoP, BoE, and constant new content, making once epic items obsolete. From all that I’ve read thus far and seen, it doesn’t look like there is ANYTHING in place to prevent this from happening in D3.
So, how to fix this?
-Ladder resets. This, I think, is the best choice. Not only will it reset the economy (although it will never be the same as the weeks following May 15th), but it will add some excitement later down the road for creating new characters.
-Items can only be sold X times on AH
-Item sacrifices for new, not tradable items (kind of like SoJs in D2)