Friday, March 21, 2014

The Auction House, Blizzard's biggest brainfart ever

When Diablo III was released back in 2012, it contained a feature named "The Auctionhouse", in which you could sell your in-game loot for game money and, later, for real money. The idea seems to have been to capitalize on the in-game items trade that went over ebay and similar traders up to this point. What Blizzard seems to have totally forgotten is that such a feature, built in the game, would have massive consequences for gameplay. And those consequences really aren't placable in the "fun" column of gaming experiences. 
Unpracticable armor is a hallmark of Diablo III opponents.

For those of you who spent the last 17 years under a rock, Diablo is a massively succesful series of the Hack&Slay Genre, which means that you get an avatar that uses a combination of gear and skills to slay hecatombs of monsters. Said monsters reward you with experience points when slain, unlocking new and powerful abilities, and also with randomly generated loot, 99,9% of which is utterly worthless. Imagine it as the Trading Card Game from Hell. Of course, the gameplay proved to be highly entertaining and addictive in 1997 and 2000, when Diablo and Diablo II came out, and a series of knock-offs by different publishers also capitalized on the genre, most of the times missing the goal in terms of quality. 
Exception to the rule.
But when Blizzard introduced Diablo III, there were some serious changes to earlier installements that lets one doubt the wisdom of the guys in the studio (just in case the StarCraft II storyline and expansion left any doubts). They scaled down the possibilities for your character to develop, aka they slashed the skill tree and made progression towards maximum level pretty much a one-way-road. The emphasis shifted onto the gear, which is not a bad change in and of itself but became one through the auction house. 
It looks intiving, doesn't it?
Since 99,9% of the loot you gain is worthless, you have so play really long in order to get good stuff. That's what motivates about the whole genre. Unfortunately, with the auction house, you could simply buy this stuff. For in-game money if you're a normal guy, for real money if you're desperate. That's a serious shortcut  to gaining powerful loot - the reason to play the game in the first place. Seriously, the gameplay is moronically monotonous (alliterations for the win), so there has to be another factor at play. Just like so many pay-to-win-games on Facebook and mobile devices, the designers totally misplaced incentives. 
Like this travesty.
I can't get my head around how such an essential mechanic could get through quality control, especially in a company taking their sweet time as Blizzard. It's only right that with the upcoming expansion, the Auction House will be removed for good. How Blizzard managed to take almost two years to reach that conclusion is beyond me.

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