Monday, August 1, 2011

Thoughts on Diablo III

Several Diablo III news items have been making the rounds today. The two big ones are that (1) DIII is launching with an online for real-life-cash auction house (Blizzard will take a small cut of all transactions) and (2) DIII will require a live internet connection to play, even solo.

I'm not sure how I feel about either. Certainly online enabled characters should be hosted on Blizzard's servers, not locally. Otherwise you get fiascoes like Phantasy Star Online back in the Dreamcast days, where everyone you met online was running around with ultra rare weapons that were best-in-slot. However, not providing some option for players to create locally hosted strictly-solo characters that are unable to interact with any of the online elements at all (multiplayer, the auction house, ect.) seems like a pretty baldfaced way of forcing players to come into contact with the new RMT auction house.

I expect both Blizzard and players with too much spare time are going to make a lot of money on this new system. I personally don't think legitimizing the sale of items for cash bodes well for the genre. This is very much going to be a pay-to-win system. Of course in any game as big as DIII is bound to be, there will be a market for items; if not legit then black. It will be a lot easier for Blizzard to control a legitimate market than one trying to stay off their radar. Everquest II has also been doing something similar for years with Station Exchange, and it has yet to trigger the apocalypse.

Regardless, I can't help but think the RMT AH is primarily motivated by profit. If you can release a product and make a-hell-of-a-lot-of-money, or a-hell-of-a-lot-of-money x3 ...what do you do? I also think that, for better or worse, Heartlessgamer has the right of it on this issue for most potential customers.

Another less commented on tidbit comes from Eurogamer, which has a glowing preview of the beta up. One item that really stuck out to me when I read it:

"Each character now has just six active skill slots (and three powerful passives, replacing the more complex traits from last year). Skills simply unlock as you level up, as do the slots - you start with two. Skill points and character respecs have followed attribute points into the bin, and skills can be swapped in and out of slots completely at will."

All I can say is "Thank goodness!" One of my major gripes with Diablo II was that it was far too easy to gimp yourself. You pretty much had to max out a skill to see whether it bit or not, and all too often the answer was "Yes, yes absolutely this skill sucks no mater how much you invest." Having skills do what they are supposed to from the get go and making them swappable on the fly sounds like a lot of fun. I also think it's interesting that Borderlands is mentioned in the article by one of the developers as an influence. Borderlands is probably my favorite Rogue-like of the modern generation.

I will almost certainly not be playing DIII on launch day. I'm not going to pay $60 for a game that jams RMT down my throat when there are similar, and less expensive, products that don't available. However, it does look like it's going to be a lot of fun, and I will likely get it whenever the price gets down to the $30-$40 range.


  1. I will some day play Diablo III. It may be at launch or it may be long after. I'm going to play it solo, so the RMT should not have an effect on me. And I do like what I'm reading about how the game has been changed up.

    But if there is a schedule conflict between Diablo III and Torchlight II, I will absolutely be playing Runic's game first.

  2. The cash shop does not surprise me one bit. There have been numerous websites that sell in-game items for Diablo II so I don't begrudge Blizz for trying to get in on some of that action.

    The constant onlinconnectivityty is something that Blizz did for Starcraft 2 so again not a surprise.

  3. I suspect I'll be buying it on launch day, powering up and selling items just to see how well I can do.

    It's kind of my turbo turbine points barb strategy from 2 years ago in reverse.

  4. @Anjin: I have to say the game mechanics that I'm reading about sound like a lot of fun. I never really got very far with DII (though I loved the original Diablo), but I'm fairly excited about DIII.

    @Jaydub: In retrospect neither is very surprising. I don't begrudge Blizzard taking a fair cut and trying to control the market a bit. The lack of any ability to play offline does irk me for a number of reasons, however.

    @Stabs: I'll be looking forward to see how well it pans out for you. I suspect that you could make some decent money in the first week if you power level and get out in front of the bell curve. Items that are merely uncommon at level X+Y might be tempting purchases at level X.

  5. I can see bot clients coming out for this very, very quickly.

  6. @Anton: honestly, I'll be amazed if it doesn't come to pass in some form.