I have been anxiously awaiting the release of Diablo 3 for a very long time now, and am as excited as ever that there is news coming out fairly frequently, and that the beta is supposed to start sometime in the third quarter of 2011. But the last bit of news, coming from the reporters who played the closed beta, started a bunch of controversies.
The first controversy is about not supporting offline play. They were pretty clear that you can still play by yourself online, but that you can’t play the game if you aren’t online. This upset a couple of hundred people, it seems, but they are all very vocal about it. I wholly support the online only decision though, and here is why: In the days of Diablo, Diablo II, and Diablo II:Lord of Destruction nearly every hack, cheat and dupe method was made possible by somehow getting offline characters into online games. Offering Diablo III as a server-based game instead of a client-based game makes it so that the actual files that run the game will never touch your computer. It is much more difficult to reverse engineer, and that means it will be much easier to control hacking, duping, and cheating. While it will still be possible for some talented programmers to recreate the server, it should be next to impossible to force any of this hacked data into Blizzard’s servers. And it is their game, so if they want to limit it that way, that’s their own choice. But I’m sure that the hacking, cheating, duping thing played a huge role in their decision.
The second controversy is about the removal of skill points. For anyone who played Diablo II, the way it goes is each level you get a skill point. You generally ignore those skill points until you get to level 30, then start dumping them into only your most powerful skills. Ultimately, you have a character that has 80 skill points dumped -20 a piece- into 3 powerful skills, with the other ones going one point a piece into pre-requisites to use the most powerful ones. Not everyone played that way, of course, but anyone who played much beyond level 80 in multiplayer pretty much had to do it that way or else you just couldn’t kill anything or survive. In the new system, you don’t have to dump 20 points into the skills, you just get the skills, then have to choose which ones you want to use. A simplified process that will take a lot of time out of looking up builds, looking up what skills work best in what situation, and lets you play the damn game already. I’m for it, but some hate it. It does take away from some of the personalization of the characters, but I’m all for getting to playing the game and not having to dick around choosing skills and then having to redistribute them all again later once I found out that I horribly fucked them up in the first place. Again, I am for the change.
By far the biggest controversy to come out of the closed beta though is not only an auction house, but also a real money auction house. The auction house was something that was being hotly debated prior to the announcement, but no one had ever really considered that not only would there be an auction house, but also one for real money. I think it is a great thing for the game, for a lot of reasons, listed here in no particular order (except the numbers to separate them -which in no way are by way of importance):
1) Blizzard will be charging a listing fee for items listed and taking a percentage of the sale price of all items that sell through the real money auction house (they did say there will be a couple of listing free items for each account each week, so you don’t have to pay to post your first couple of items). This means that, if successful, Blizzard should be able to generate enough revenue from the auction house that they won’t need to charge any fees to play -ever. This also means that they will have a vested interest in keeping patches coming to release new end-game content, thus adding new and better items to the economy, to keep the revenue coming in. That should mean way more time and attention spent to Diablo III after release than to Diablo II. Which would be great.
2) A real money auction house will stabilize the economy. Without having to go through the black market (illegal websites) to buy items, the prices will eventually stabilize. And with the listing fees and sales fees, it will be in people’s best interest to post only items that are worth real money, and to only post those items at fair (consistent with the current economy) prices. This means that if you choose to pay real money for items, you are going to be far less likely to get screwed. And also having it as a part of the game means that you won’t send money to some korean website and never know if you are going to actually get their item or not. Blizzard will be backing it, the sales will be instant (once the auction ends) and the items are yours.
3) I have thought a lot about this, and the way the economy should work is like this: Only the most valuable items will be selling for real money. Nothing in normal or nightmare will be worth real money, and really only the very best drops in hell will really be worth anything. This means that at least 2/3 of the items in the game will likely only be traded for gold. Because of that any of the dreaded “farmers” that everyone is worried about will be far more likely to sell any item that is not a guaranteed quick sale item for gold, then sell the gold for real money. It doesn’t make sound financial sense to post the items for real money and possibly not sell them for days -if ever- when they can quickly sell them for a little bit of gold, then sell the gold quickly. And the gold will sell quickly, because there will be 2/3 of the items in the game that will only be trading for gold. I would go so far as to theorize that, given the hatred from a lot of people about the idea of a real money auction house -and their staunch position that they will never use it-, it is probably more likely that anyone interested in making real money playing the auction house in Diablo III will be more likely to buy items from the real money auction house and sell it on the gold auction house. Why? Because a lot of people won’t use the real money auction house, be it because they are morally opposed to it, or because they aren’t old enough to have a credit card linked to their account, the gold auction house will have a much higher demand for the high-end items. So it is entirely possible that an item that is selling for (making up numbers) $10 on the real money auction house could be sold for $11 worth of gold on the currency auction house; much higher demand, much lower supply.
I’m sure that there will be people who try to buy all the mediocre legendary items for gold and then sell them for cash. That works great in theory. In practice, however, it is more than buying it for gold and listing it for real money: someone has to actually pay the real money or you just screwed yourself out of $X.XX worth of gold that you payed to buy the item in the first place. And as previously mentioned, since you pay a listing fee to post the items, if the item fails to sell enough times you could actually lose money overall on the transaction.
I could be dead wrong on this point, but I really think I have a good idea of how it is going to shake down, and I needed to vent it.
I apologize for the lack of relevant links, I just wanted to get this posted before the my burrito was done.