/* Code Musings */

The Customer is Sometimes Right

Time comes, in a man’s life, when he must settle down and play a bit of video games. In my case, the game is Diablo III. I pre-ordered the game nearly two years ago, when it was fist announced. It was thrilling to do so because it has been twelve years since the previous Diablo game hit the shelves, and it was worth the wait. The graphics are nice, the story line is epic, and the gameplay is just as fun as the originals.

Blizzard, the maker of the game, did their research and asked the fans of Diablo II what they liked about the game and what they would change. They crunched numbers and cataloged their demands and determined what players were doing online and how the economy worked. Years went by and they finally came up with features worthy of Diablo III.

The die-hard players of Diablo II wanted a system to manage the economy. A centralized place of trade. In previous installments of the game, characters became absurdly rich with gold from selling newly found loot. It was a useless currency because it only paid for repairs of damaged gear. Vendors offered gear and items but of little value or quality.

Stones of Jordan (a ring of rarity) became the new currency, as well as hard-to-find set items. The exchange itself was rather clunky, forcing players to broadcast their trade in chat, then join privately hosted games for the exchange. Players complained and Blizzard listened.

Now comes Diablo III, with its new (and buggy) auction house, a concept that was borrowed from World of Warcraft (and probably other games before it). Players can buy and sell items of great value, min-maxing their characters performance on the battlefield. I took advantage of this, quite frequently, to transform my Barbarian into a juggernaut of the battlefield. It became too easy.

But was this a smart move on Blizzard’s part? Should they have implemented such a feature?

I’ve discussed this with several of my friends and we are in agreement that it crippled the itemization that made this game unique. The fact that you could buy an item off the auction house, for very little gold, made nearly all items dropped by enemies inferior.

The so-called “white items”, items that have no special power or magical content, have become useless. These items are avoided and not worth the space they took up in your inventory. The “blue items”, items with some magical power and slightly more worth, are primarily sought as vendor trash – items only used to sell. Rarely are they used as gear upgrades. The “gold items”, are rare, but plentiful on the auction house. An oxymoron, if you ask me. Lastly, “legendary items” are the pinnacle of uniqueness, yet thousands of them litter the auction house.

Gold is finally useful, as it can buy items from the auction house. Due to the over-saturation of rare items on the auction house, a few thousand gold can buy items of great power. Furthermore, live currency will be used to purchase gold (at an estimated rate of $10 for 1 million gold pieces) in the future, further inflating prices.

Eventually the prices of items will stabilize and gold, again, will be inflated; rare items will be common. I believe that introducing an auction house was a poor idea which detracted from the original flavour of the game. Gone are the days of buying a good weapon from Griswald the Blacksmith or looting your enemies for good gear. With the auction house, why bother picking up most of the items that you find.

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