Friday, 5 April 2013

Thoughts on the Infamous Diablo 3 Auction House

The root of all evil, or just another branch on the tree?

Practically ever since it was announced, the auction house of Diablo 3 has drawn a lot of fire. Even now, months after the games initial release and numerous patches it's still drawing ire. What's somewhat surprising is that the ire that it's drawn most recently is coming from one of Blizzard's own.

Jay Wilson, the one time director of Diablo 3 went on the record last week, coming down hard on the auction house. Wilson alluded to the idea that he, at least, thought that not many players would actually take advantage of the auction house feature. He went on to say that he believes that the auction houses "really hurt the game" and that "I think we would turn it off if we could," but that it wasn't that simple.

While a lot of people are probably cheering over the sentiment, I'm wondering just how truthful the accusations being leveled at these services are. They've been seen by many as one of the main roots of the sickness that brought down Diablo 3. However, could it be that rather than a cause, they were merely just another symptom?

A lot of the blame leveled at the auction houses is that they make items far too easy to get. Rather than farm for certain gear, items or what have you, you instead just turn in whatever you get for a quick buck (real or virtual), and wait for the items you need to appear so that you can advance. It shifted the gameplay from "get to a place where you can get good gear" to "get enough money to get the gear whenever it pops up for sale."

This complaint is certainly understandable, but I'm beginning to think that at least some of the blame on the auction house itself is misplaced. If the game has devolved into people waiting for good items, or rather the "right" items to show up in the auction house, then isn't the problem within the item system itself? If it becomes so infeasible to grind for one particular item, then why not just take the simpler route and get what you want directly?

It's somewhat naive at best to think that if you create a system where people can get access to potentially anything they need that they won't hesitate to use the system if the alternative is too much pointless grinding and frustration at not being able to get what they need. Certainly things like trading have been around since Diablo 2, but in that game even if you wished to stay out of the economy you wouldn't have much trouble pressing forward.

Now, whether or not I'm off the mark is something that, like this whole incident in general, can be endlessly debated. It's still just one factor that seemed to result in Diablo 3 being less than it could have been. It's a shame, but perhaps it's something that was simply inevitable.

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