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    Discuss & Debate Debate: The Diablo 3 Auction House Adds Long Term Content?

    The following article was created by an exchange of emails between Flux and Katniss, a forum and podcast regular. In it we debate the merits of the Diablo 3 Auction House and its impact on the game economy, with special focus on whether the AH creates a long term "item game" that adds a content and fun to Diablo 3. (Plus various related topics.)

    Katniss has been playing the Diablo 3 console since launch, and given that that version of the game does not have an Auction House (or any other sort of in-game trading or communication mechanism), and its economy benefits from the much-buffed drop rate of Loot 1.5, he's an excellent source of information and opinion on how Diablo 3 will play out, post-Auction House. Will we miss the trading and "slow path to riches" provided by the Auction House once it's gone? Or are we just thinking from a D3V point of view, and come improved drop rates and other new features, our current mindset will prove irrelevant?

    Here's the debate:

    Flux:
    Blizzard recently confirmed that they're going to add additional content to the Diablo 3 Console, as a way to make happier the fans who are getting bored already. They didn't give details and I assumed they were talking about patching in Loot 2.0 or Paragon 2.0 or Nephalem Trials or some of the other upcoming stuff that's going to be patched into D3V before RoS. We'll find out about that at some point, but what I found interesting was the console boredom, which I've heard from a number of people playing it. You included, Katniss.

    In comments to that console news item I threw out a slightly trolling thought experiment. Is the console getting boring in part since there's no Auction House and no secure economy or trading system?

    So here's the logic. Console is much more fun to self find and you get much better gear much more quickly than on the PC. Which is great and most people love "Loot 1.5" console style... but there's a down side. Once you've got a high level character on the console, the items you find are 1) amazing and useful, or 2) not upgrades = junk. And since there's no secure economy or trading system or Auction House, players have very little use for anything they find that's not an upgrade for their current character. since there's no practical way to trade or sell it.

    This differs a lot from the PC, where you hardly ever find upgrades for well-geared chars, but you find a constant array of gear that's good enough to sell and add to your gold balance. Here's my analogy: the great items you find and want and use are "dollar-quality" items. You almost never find those on the PC, but you can find a glittering array of penny and nickle and dime and sometimes even quarter-quality items, which the Auction House allows you to easily convert into gold. Which you can save up for the dollar-quality items you really want.

    That's a play style and long term enjoyment that doesn't exist at all on the console. Do you miss it?

    Katniss:
    I agree that because trading is thwarted a bit by there being no AH in console and lackluster community engagement, therefore your hypothesis of people only caring about finding items for themselves holds true. I don't believe that the "economy" of the console is one of thinking of, "What can I get or trade for this item?" but more, "Can any of my characters use this as an upgrade?"

    And that leads me to my first point:
    There are essentially two types of players when you break it down: 1) Those who are driven to have one ultimately powerful character and don't care about the other classes because they've made their choice and that's all they're now interested in. 2) And the type of player who likes playing multiple classes and could have a main but doesn't consider that to be the end all be all. For type two, their "main" IS an Auction House and whenever they find anything, it can be hoarded and used on another character.

    I think for either type of player, after you surpass a certain gear level, lower quality gear becomes superfluous anyway. The only time it really works is if you have some mechanic taking items and characters out of endgame, such as hardcore mode.
    Flux:
    It sounds like you agree that the lack of an AH kills the long term item game and "getting rich is my objective" style, but that you don't miss it. That's just now, though. how about in some months, when all your chars are geared to the point they can't find upgrades anymore? Will it be annoying when all you want are upgrades with a .01% chance to drop, and don't have any AH to sell all the other stuff you find, or to potentially buy your upgrades from?


    Katniss:
    I think the item game is partly influenced by how the player plays and how they view their character slots. The item game enlarges the more classes you have when there is no AH, and the item game also enlarges depending on how many friends you want to support with item finds, and how active you plan to be about using other mediums to get in touch with players.

    The console's community structures are essentially non-existent. There is no typing and no in-game headset support, so trading amounts to, "throw something on the ground and hope someone needs it" or else you just salvage it and play for yourself.

    Lastly, it's up to the developers to really make us want to value and retain some of the lower quality gear; come Reaper of Souls, if there are certain affixes or passive benefits only available on ilevel 67 gear for instance, maybe that's something someone might be hard pressed to give up for a pure main stat upgrade or something with a ilevel 70 replacement piece.

    Flux:
    Slightly OT, but don't the console type Smart Drops hurt twinking and finding gear for other chars/classes? It's not identical to the "smart drops" Blizzard says we'll see in Loot 2.0, but for instance if you're playing a Monk, almost every good item you find will have +Dexterity, and you'll hardly ever find anything with big bonuses to STR or INT.

    Is that an issue you've noticed? Can you effectively item hunt for other classes, especially classes with different mainstats? Or do you get enough legendaries of use for other classes? Say you're playing a Barb; if you find a legendary wand or source or mojo or xbow, it's not going to have +400 strength on it, right?


    Katniss:
    Well, there are tradeoffs to any system, right? The smart drops system does not have the goal of twinking in mind. It is a reaction to people crying out for a chance to self-find their own upgrades. If more items roll with stats customized toward the character you‚€™re currently playing, then the odds of that item being an upgrade are already at least 2/3 better than if they were to roll with one of the other two main stats. Twinking is hurt (that is if you aren‚€™t planning your next character to be one of the same main stat as what you‚€™re currently playing) in that respect, but what this ‚€œproblem‚€Ě actually opens up is replayability. It now asks the player to go and explore the game with a new class in order to find gear for that specific class. In the same way that finding gear for other classes to use is exciting, it‚€™s probably even more exciting and rewarding to find the gear for that new character as you progress with that character, rather than holding a bunch of stuff in escrow and feeling like you‚€™re just waiting to unlock level 30 or 50 or 70 so that you can equip all of it.

    In my specific experience, I‚€™ve found offhands for other classes that are specific to that class and they roll perfectly well for that other class with no ‚€œwasted‚€Ě stats. I think that‚€™s smart drops at work. One of my first set item drops when I got into farming on console was a Chantodo‚€™s Force (and the Wizard was the last class I finally leveled to 60). It had everything a CM Wizard would need. I think, however, that a twink item found this way only gives you a starting point for that class because when you do then get on your Wizard and are finally able to use that item, odds are that if the same item were to drop again, it will be an upgrade due to the likelihood of a higher Intelligence roll.

    Flux:
    So where are you on the "it's getting boring not finding more upgrades" curve on the console? Still finding new gear and getting self found joy? Do you see that state holding long term? Will you still want to play once you've got a char super geared and the upgrade hose has slowed to a trickle?

    Can you imagine how the console would work if there was item security and an AH for easy trading? Would that change how you play? Would self found be less fun with shopping as an option? Also, would the hypothetical console Auction House be useful? Would you buy and/or sell in it? Or do you think it would it be so choked with fantastic gear for minimal prices that it would totally short circuit the proper game progression and selfie fun?

    I'd ask that as a preview for Diablo 3 PC's future, but it seems likely Loot 2.0 will come in with the shutdown of the Auction House in March, so we'll never have an AH when players are finding far more quality gear.

    Katniss:
    It depends on what class I play. There are certain items that I want to find for certain classes to specifically upgrade them (with the knowledge that some of them have very unique affixes such as a Sledge Fist for the Monk or all of the EHP provided by a well-rolled Vile Wards).

    I will be the first to admit that my time on the console has definitely trickled off. Now that I have leveled all classes to the end game and beaten Inferno with them all, that "...what‚€™s next?‚€Ě feeling has begun to creep in. I think the item hunt and the paragon leveling would still be fun on the console if certain elements like the density changes were included and there was just generally more content. Right now on console once you have well-geared characters, your only goals are to get more paragon levels (which really don‚€™t provide much since the rate of finding Legendaries is pretty steady) and to advance to a higher Master (Monster Power) level. Both of these things don‚€™t exactly change what you do in the game though. So, I‚€™d say the boredom is less from the item hunt, but how you go about the item hunt.

    When you say shopping, do you mean actually buying items with real-life money micro-transactions or do you mean using the in-game currency? I guess it‚€™s not that big of a difference when it comes down to it, but I‚€™d say that if the Auction House in any form existed on the console, it would completely undermine what makes the console version have that reaction from the fan base of, ‚€œWow, this is so much fun. Look at all of the ridiculous items I‚€™ve found.‚€Ě

    Because it‚€™s so easy to get upgrades, that means that really good items quickly become trash and if everyone was putting them up on the AH, their prices would be low and make the item very obtainable and you‚€™d wreck the hunt for yourself in the same way that many people who have hacked the game have already done and found out for themselves. The fun of the console would absolutely be compromised.
    Flux:
    I meant using gold you get from item sales to buy other items. I guess the same principle works for $ you get from item sales that you use to buy other items, but I've never done it that way. On the larger issue though, it sounds like you slightly miss the item/economy game that the Auction House allows, but that not really since self finding is so viable on the console. I think it's interesting that you don't think "BOTH!!1!" would be an improvement. So I guess the self finding is good so long as that's the only way to play? If an AH was there, you think it would undermine, rather than enhance.

    Any thoughts on what sort of trading system might come in for the PC once the AH is gone? Most PC players think that's essential, but we're thinking in terms of the current economy. As you point out, there's literally no trading system on the console, and you don't seem to really miss it since self finding is so viable.

    How about a trading system for gems or materials or the like? I can't imagine playing the game now without the ability to buy those since I do way more crafting than I find commodities for. Or is that just a PC mindset, and I only need to craft so much since I can't self find the way you do on the console?

    Katniss:
    I think it‚€™s important that any of the future changes promised with Loot 2.0 for PC occur in a world where this is no Auction House to promote efficient trade. Like I‚€™ve mentioned previously, people will always take the easiest route to gain the most power, so if you have the handout system that is the Auction House, you‚€™re going to experience likely what I‚€™ve predicted above if the console had an AH, but perhaps at a slower rate since it seems the shelf life of the PC version is meant to go far beyond the shelf life of the console in its current form.

    That said, you need a system that encourages community, socialization, and the exchange of ideas, builds, and possibly items. This seems to be what Blizzard wants to accomplish with guilds/clans. These features have a lot of potential to take the ease of the blow from what many feel the AH represented in access to trading. If they implement a bank or repository, then everyone will want to be part of a clan or guild (but hopefully they will have size limits so that there‚€™s some selectivity) and this way, there will be what we used to see where people named games ‚€œFreeEE ITEMZ n0w‚€Ě and just dumped stuff on the ground. Maybe you do a loot run or Nephalem Trial, get a bunch of stuff, but none of it is an upgrade or only slight sidegrade; you throw it in the clan bank and hope that someone else will find something they can use, go on a loot run of their own, and return the favor.

    Now, I used the word ‚€œneed‚€Ě before because I see the state of items on console and ‚€œneed‚€Ě feels appropriate. I‚€™ve salvaged countless items that I know would be awesome for other players simply because my characters have surpassed that gear level. Now, if everyone is self-finding the same items and the same relative quality, then no one is really harmed by that salvage, but if there IS a little more randomization and specification introduced (i.e. many of these new passive effects), then even items that aren‚€™t necessarily statistical upgrades will become useful because someone might want to take a hit to their DPS or EHP to gain a certain passive effect. And that means means keeping items around that might work in quirky builds will be essential... as would a way to disseminate these items quickly to friends and strangers alike.
    Flux:
    That sounds like a point *for* my initial argument. That you do miss some kind of trading system (if not the actual Auction House) since you're finding lots of items that would be useful for most other players... but since they're 1% worse than your high end gear they are junk. You wish there was a way to "disseminate these items quickly to friends and strangers alike."

    I can think of one... and it's an anagram of HA! But if that process is too quick and easy, then there goes the fun of finding upgrades on your own, when your rich friends can hook you up. Or rich strangers can sell to you...

    It sounds like a total cop-out, but I think we'll really have to see how the system goes once it's live. We can only speculate now, with no idea just how good the drop rate will be in Loot 2.0. At any rate, it sounds like starting a new char of a class your friend has been playing is a wise strategy, since smart drops means your friend will find great gear that's not quite great enough for them.


    Katniss:
    What I would ask you is whether you believe that there is a replacement system that can balance both maintaining the integrity of a loot system that is supposed to provide the enjoyment of slaying monsters for upgrades and power increases while still enabling robust social features and the possibility of lucrative trading, albeit in a limited fashion. What if you were only allowed to trade one item per week?
    Flux:
    I don't think that would work, since it's just too limited. Might as well not have the system at all. Five items a week? Three items listed at once? Or what if you flip it, and you can list all you want but you can only *buy* one item a week?

    I am not against the concept of limiting trading, but I'd do it more with individual items. I pitched this to Wyatt during an interview, but what if there was a self found bonus, and all items had say, 5% higher stats when first found, and that bonus vanished if the item was ever traded. Wyatt didn't like the idea of limiting trades and thought the concept would confuse players (which it probably would), but I think it's got potential.


    Katniss:
    I know Blizzard is less likely to institute things that feel like limitations, but it seems when it comes to trading, we had the extreme example of ‚€œHave everything you want whenever you want it!‚€Ě Everyone wanted it yesterday so they utilized that system. If trading becomes frustrated by the lack of a centralized location for doing so, will people be more inclined to play the game and find enjoyment, or will they be grumpy having to grind for items BECAUSE they have already lived in a Diablo world that knew the ease of an Auction House?
    Flux:
    Or will they just hit up third party trading sites? I have never bothered with that in D3 since the AH is so efficient, but if there was no AH I'd have been using trading forums and other less-savory options all along. But of course that's in the current D3V, which is far from designed for successful high end self finding.

    The related issue is crafting. I mentioned earlier that crafting seems impossible in D3 without an AH, at least for some players. I certainly craft a vast amount more mats than I have ever found myself, and I like the ease of buying more mats and I like that poor or new players can bootstrap themselves up by finding and selling them. Dealing Tomes of Secret was the main source of all my early Hardcore gold, and I have no idea how I would have built up gold to buy equip without the AH. Or where I'd have bought the items I did. But again, I'm speaking from a D3V mindset. Loot 2.0 will probably change that.

    Katniss:
    Crafting sits at an interesting place in Diablo currently. There is no denying the potency of the BOA plans on PC, but with the scaling up of low level legendaries on the console, there are potentially some items that STILL beat out those crafted items in their slots. As a result my high end chars are really are on a Legendary-Only hunt. I think that‚€™s bad. I think you need to be able to put together the Best in Slot pieces from different quality tiers. There should be some slots that rares really are the top and best in, and there should be other slots where only the most perfect crafts will beat out anything else.

    We will need reasons to utilize the many systems and features they add in, but if they make one any more important than the other, then that‚€™s what we‚€™ll all funnel into. It‚€™s going to be a hard balancing game. If the Mystic is too OP, you can guarantee there will be an outcry for a boost to whatever materials it takes to use her because everyone will constantly be seeking her services. So, I‚€™d say it‚€™s less about needing an Auction House for the materials than it is about balancing how those materials make it into the game and how needed they are.

    Maybe you just play normally and you get a nice stockpile of resources from doing the several various end game systems and by the time you really need an upgrade in a slot where a crafted item would make sense, you can do it in a nice big batch and the end result is something that pleases you. Then you go back to whatever activity it would take you to find a new slot upgrade whether that be gambling gold for a chance at a randomly awesome Rare, or loot hunting for that specific Legendary with a specific passive. We just need more diversity and a reason to maintain diversity, and I think many of the other problems will answer themselves that way.

    These emails were written for this purpose (we traded some IMs on the topic, realized it was a good one to debate, and fleshed out our original points for this ultimate purpose) and I hope to present more such email exchange/debates in the future. (I wanted to do Azzure and my Gold Value debate in this format, but didn't think of it until too late.)

    If you've got a topic to suggest or you want to take part in a similar conversation, feel free to flux@incgamers.com your idea. Thanks to Katniss for his insights and finger-music.

  2. #2
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    Re: Debate: The Diablo 3 Auction House Adds Long Term Content?

    Interesting debate.
    I'm very much against the AH , but I think the biggest issue here is the whole concept of 'items being 1% better or worse than what I currently have".
    The fact you can even ask that question points to the flaw in itemization.

    Stats are so streamlined, so universal to everyone, that the question is sadly valid.

    Now, if itemization was any good, you would find an item that has a value of 100 for your current Barbarian spec (arbitrary number, keep on reading...). Now next drop would only he half as good for your current spec, giving it a value of 50 for your spec.
    On the other hand, it would be awesome for another barbarian spec, giving it a value of 100 for that spec.
    All in all, any item drop with high stat rolls would at one and the same time, be awesome for some builds and bad for other builds - both within and outside all classes.

    Found a chest with high rolls of Str, Int, Frost resist, Life on Kill and life regen? Best chest ever for Barb build X and Monk build Y!!

    Which in turn means that even if you have found gear in all slots that is valued at 100 for your current spec, and the chance of finding 101 value-items are 0,001% then, you will continue to have a decent chance of finding good items for other specs for your character. Incentivizing you to try something new one day.
    That imo, would help a lot for longevity.

    As Katniss points out, there are different types of players, those who just weant to play 1 character and 1 spec ever. Of course they might not be happy with the above scenario, unless they adjust. It is more interesting for people who want to play multiple characters, or at least multiple specs within same character.
    Tbh, there is absolutely nothing wrong with designing the game for the second group however.

    Playing multiple characters/specs is such a fundamental thing in A-RPGs.

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    I am not sure I desire ladder at all. Maybe if they do indeed do ladder only gear and content. And if they let us keep those ladder chars afterwards in the non-ladder. At least then its pretty much the normal game.

    Trying to become world first? please...most of us have real lives with crazy schedules. Trying to be top of ladder is impossible. We can\'t beat all those that play 14 hours a day. Nor can we beat those that team up and play the chars 24/7. That is what really turns me off of being excited at all for ladder.

    What I really want is for them to add content every other month. I would even be willing to pay for it via DLC. The biggest problem for this is the loot design and large numbers. It just gets out of control. They\'d have to do something else to work around that.

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    sorry but that is only ONE part of making the ARPG fun. And that is only for SOME people. I never ever had a desire to come up with crazy builds. I only ever had one paladin, one druid, etc.

    For some of us, the loot is the funnest part of the game. Lack of end game content is also an important issue. This is 2013. Adding new content for a company the size of blizzard should be freaking easy. (it doesn\'t even need to have story or cut scenes...just new **** for us to do. UBERS was a really great addition to the game. But they never followed up on it. Some of us will get bored of the game without these kinds of solutions.

    Hitting the things that are fun for everybody truly is a serious challenge. I would love to see them add more customization and character permanence though. Something that starts at lvl 60 and can\'t be changed. (permanent skill points that you earn starting at 60) Ya paragon sort of does this but thats just for stats. They could do a lot better.

  5. #5
    IncGamers Member Clavdivs's Avatar
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    Re: Debate: The Diablo 3 Auction House Adds Long Term Content?

    Divine answer is 'depends'.

    How scarce will be "game-changing" legendaries?

    How effective in build creations will be "game-changing" legendaries?

    Some mortals, apparently, still play the game for nothing but plain, barbaric numbers. Arabic! [The God turns head away in disgust]. The upgrade looks and feels exactly the same, only numbers are different. Yet, the game satisfies them.

    On the other hand, if everyone with their belonging family members found "game-changing" legendary in first two months, than it is hardly so legendary, and indeed doesn't give much to replayability (utterly destroyed in D3 and probably improved in RoS to some extent - please don't mix up 'repeatability' with 'replayability').

    Slaves are apparently driven to work (and, worse for them - to think *rationally*), by unnamed patrician 'Josh', so The God expects additional content (apart from expansion) through patches in the future - remember tavern heroes in WC3 patches? Tremendous content, yet made in several day work - and The God knows exactly how long it takes to make new WC3 unit, with a team involved.

    D3X2 would probably be crown of the game, shifting all the wrong paradigms of vanilla, allowing things unimaginable to initial team and removing many game-corrupting 'core features'. The God bestows a major 'job invulnerability' bless, and giving 'silence management' spell on unnamed patrician 'Josh'.

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    Re: Debate: The Diablo 3 Auction House Adds Long Term Content?

    I think you need to look at the goal/audience of the console. The console game is not made to have "PC level" of re-playability. It's like comparing a drive-thru fast food spot to a nice, long dinner out at an exclusive restaurant. I have both the PC and console game and it's clear the console's goal is to have you really enjoy getting to 60 and then switch over and try a different class and build him/her up from scratch. There's really no reason for you to grind 100 paragon levels given the lack of MP options and the level of gear you will have by 60.

    Right now, I enjoy the 1-60 process on the console significantly more than on the PC (which basically amounts to finding useless gear through Hell and shopping on the auction house for what you really use). However, post 60, I would much prefer the PC as the community is better and there is more trading/MP play as you get to a point of looking for one specific item that could be hard to find.

    My hope in ROS is that the console process for 1-60 can be paired with the PC options for paragon re-playability. To be honest, I don't think an auction house is needed for that. The idea of using self-found gear all the way through the early paragon levels and then using some kind of guild/trade/community for item trading at that point seems more in the spirit of Diablo. Having an AH where you basically go out and buy the "max rolls" on the gear you want every 30, 50, 60 and 70 level point seems kind of boring to me.
    Last edited by Arles; 28-10-2013 at 18:06.

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    Re: Debate: The Diablo 3 Auction House Adds Long Term Content?

    The item progress is very linear right now because it is essentially about getting higher numbers in trifecta stats, main stat and AR. When RoS hits however, the item progression will not be so linear. The new legendary passives leaked so far certainly lead to many new build variations. meaning it will be a much broader and not linear spectrum of itemization which means you won't suddenly gear up in the 99th percentile like you do in the console. So it is much easier to climb the item ladder right now in 1.5 with console drop rates tuned where they're practically dropping like candy.

  8. #8
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    Re: Debate: The Diablo 3 Auction House Adds Long Term Content?

    Trading Wisely
    Not everything sells on the Gold and Real Money Auction House. Some items are not worth investing in as they prove to be real money sinks. Flipping gems is also pointless since their price barely covers the production costs. There are a few online calculators that can help the player estimate the cost of crafting gems and the profit margin based on the price of the materials and in 99% of the cases, it is impossible to make any gold out of this.
    There is one category of items that have been selling for decent amounts of gold and cash for some time with almost no variations in terms of pricing and value. All the pieces of gear with minus level requirement still sell well. The prices of these items on the RMAH depend on the value of the stat and the other bonuses of the item. It is highly unlikely to sell one for more than five US dollars but they are in high demand which helps selling large volumes for a constant profit. Even with this high demand, some items sell more than others. It seems that weapons are a popular choice for the ones that are willing to pay real money for a virtual item.
    To get a piece of the pie from this Diablo III Auction House niche, two methods can be used. Players can either farm for the items or buy them for gold and sell them for real dollars.


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