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.