Diablo 3, AH, Accessibility

The ongoing debate about who will use the Diablo 3 auction house and why seems very odd to me. D3 won’t be an MMO, it certainly won’t be persistent, and the main activity for the game is bashing monsters/barrels to collect loot. Why in such a game one would feel the need to ‘skip ahead’ and gear up by buying something from someone else is beyond me. Double that when we are talking spending real money to do so. But then millions still play Farmville, so to each his own I guess.

Tobold’s post today about this topic circles back to the age-old “why is raiding hard?” question, and why ‘dumbing down’ that content hurts a game more than it helps.

In short, I believe that average players let themselves get dragged into raiding even if they aren’t very good at it or enjoy it very much not because they are offered shiny epics, but because they are offered new, and very different content.

As Tobold notes, hard content for the sake of being hard is a fairly weak motivator, and when you need to get 10/25/40 people motivated to wipe time after time to progress, doing it just to do it doesn’t work for most. Doing it to see more content, especially if said content is “highlight” stuff like Nef, Illidan, or Arthas, is pretty solid motivation. Shiny power ranger loot that makes those around the mailbox stop and stare helps too.

When you take away the “new content” aspect by making a Normal (easy) mode, and that mode gets one-shotted by all but the biggest PUG droolbuckets, you are seriously undercutting the lifetime expectancy of that content. You make leaving due to a lack of new content very ‘accessible’, and I don’t think that’s a great goal for a sub-based game.

14 Responses to Diablo 3, AH, Accessibility

  1. My theory is that the D3 AH is completely a reaction to a couple of sites that were successful in selling gear to Diablo II players. It really happened.

    Buying and selling gear in D2 was even dumber than in D3, but there was no IQ test required to buy the game, so you get what you get.

    Anyway, Blizz wants control of that sort of thing and they want any monies that might be made. Remember, they have to report to king Bobby.

    • SynCaine says:

      Oh from a business standpoint I totally get it. If you can get cash from dummies, by all means get cash from dummies. After all, more cash (theoretically) equals more/better games.

      I just don’t get why anyone would do it from a players perspective.

      • Stabs says:

        Why ever spend when you don’t have to?

        People like buying stuff. It feels powerful. It’s a way to exert control.

        In D3 specifically trading is one of the most powerful things you can do. Unlike WoW you have very little chance of getting a best in slot loadout through play no matter how good you are. You get your best in slots by somehow obtaining them from other players.

        • SynCaine says:

          But if D3 is anything like D2, best-in-slot = game over. It’s not like once you have BiS for everything, you can THEN play the ‘real’ game like in an MMO.

          It’s like turning on god-mode in a single player game. Sure it’s fun for 10min, but it ‘ruins’ the game long-term.

        • saucelah says:

          I know someone who is still playing D2 and has the best item for every slot on his main character. He seems to spend more time on the forums than he does in game, setting up trades like a digital Tom Sawyer, helping others get their best-in-slot items. I’m not sure what he gets out of it. Perhaps in-game currency or cyber-sexual favors.

          Then again, I’ve only met one other person that I thought was dumber than this guy who didn’t have some sort of developmental disability. Take that as you will.

        • bhagpuss says:

          I was going to say it but Stabs beat me to it. People like buying stuff.

          If you make it easy for them and make them think they’re getting a bargain, people will buy literally anything. They don’t want the stuff, they want the pleasure of buying it. They are buying the experience of buying.

        • coppertopper says:

          I still play Titans Quest and if I could buy the 4th piece in the set to complete my mid-level armor set (for 1-2$) I would. Its not endgame, just a levelling set that I will outgrow in 3-4 levels and just want to enjoy the look and slight edge from the set bonus. I can see trades like this happening all day long with D3.

  2. MMOCrunch says:

    For me in D2, my goal was to be able to solo nightmare all the way through. To do that you basically have to be near or at the level cap with the best gear possible. I was never able to make it, but I was able to completely the first 3 out of 5 acts solo.

    Some people also like joining games and fighting others in PvP, so there’s definitely reasons as to why people will want the best gear.

  3. Rynnik says:

    The second part of this post made me think (yet again) about the difference between end game, grind, and PvE vs PvP. As I get older and crotchety and my perspective evolves I keep coming back to what I consider to be a dilemma around MMOs.

    The thing with PvP is that the end game content changes as the players change. That on its own is enough to ensure player interest and retention. You don’t need ‘new content’ or another expansion to keep games designed around this fresh or interesting. (This is the part Darkfall and EVE got right, imo). Alternatively grind or gateways to extend content before access to endgame PvP always comes out as a bad choice. There is a reason that FPS etc are a model for successful PvP games. Everyone needs to be viable (which means equal for the majority of player types) NOW. (Or in Darkfall: soon. You need a little ‘gated’ time to build up some real player skills which the grind forces you to do. Their balance of this time was way off the mark though and imo this is something they got wrong.)

    For PvE the content is and in the near future will continue to be developer limited for ‘end game’. (Until such time as AI becomes much more impressive then it is now and a model such as the ‘pve sandbox mmo design’ you wrote about can become a reality). New raids, content, whatever you are featuring NEEDs to be grind, skill or otherwise gated or to steal the phrase, you are seriously undercutting the lifetime expectancy of that content.

    So what happens when you do PvP and PvE at the same time?

    My rose tinted glasses see Darkfall as something that should have a (perhaps greatly?) reduced grind to be ‘PvP viable’. This could be a model more like EVE, an equipment based system like AV is intending, or some other innovative new way. At the same time in order to preserve character progression and advancement and all the fun and ‘mmo-ness’ that those things bring, the grind should be moved over to the PvE side of the game. Or more specifically anything that ISN’T related to PvP viability. Crafting, PvE success (something like the old D&D favoured enemy where you gain advantage against a mob after you farm it?), and perhaps even clan and holdings (although I always thought the EVE corporation skills were just a stupid waste of time as bad example of that) could be used to leverage the grind and progression that MMO players still want even in their PvP title.

    Or something like that…

  4. Bronte says:

    “When you take away the “new content” aspect by making a Normal (easy) mode, and that mode gets one-shotted by all but the biggest PUG droolbuckets, you are seriously undercutting the lifetime expectancy of that content. You make leaving due to a lack of new content very ‘accessible’, and I don’t think that’s a great goal for a sub-based game.”

    Well said my friend. But this practice is seen with increasing frequency. Blizzard just announced that Firelands, raid content released by 3-4 months ago, will be dumbed down starting mid-September. They will continue to dumb it down to ensure more and more people have seen the end-content. I understand this from a business perspective, because if the bulk of your player base cannot get to the endgame content because it is past their skill level, then you will start facing consequences in the form of lowers subscription numbers. However, if only 1% of the top guilds manage to kill the final boss in any released content, MAYBE YOU ARE DESIGNING IT WRONG!

    • SynCaine says:

      Whenever people talk about % of players who have seen or completed content, I don’t think people really understand what that % means.

      Say ‘only’ 15% of your playerbase has killed Arthas, is that bad? At first glance, that means 85% of your playerbase is ‘excluded’, but are they really? We know that at least 15% was interested-enough in raiding to see the content, but out of that 85%, how many wanted to raid? Half? Less? If another 15% is raiding but can’t finish the current content, is that really a problem? Because just from experience, I know that when you have NOT finished the content, you still have content to see, and that keeps people playing.

      That said, TBC was tuned pretty hard. Illidan was a monster. At the same time, if every raiding guild that puts 25 randoms together is downing the final boss, that’s not good either. It’s a balance, and it’s one that I think Blizzard has been getting wrong for a while now.

      • Bronte says:

        Illidan? try Kael’Thas. That encounter was just hell. You felt accomplished every single time you fought him (except for when you out-geared it with the next tier of instances).

        I understand what you mean by the 15-85 analogy, but if we are going to speak about numbers, then the original Naxxaramas instance was seen by a mere 1% of the player base saw the instance (which was part of the reason they re-introduced it, notching another hole in their ever-sinking lore boat). When such a small number of the player base sees the content, the fault cannot be attributed to the end-game player, clearly there have been some design issues.

        • SynCaine says:

          Haha, can’t believe I forgot NAX40, especially since our guild banged our head against that place for a time with little success. Yea, that place is a great example of horrible tuning (thought it was very interesting to read about the top guilds attempting 4H, and only getting them after a month+ of attempts. You don’t see stuff like that anymore).

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