A bidding feature in the Diablo III auction house allows players to place bids and walk away. And while I understand it, it's frustrating as hell.
My monk finally hit level 60 working his way through Hell difficulty in Diablo III. While having five stacks of Nephalem Valor makes it easier to farm for better gear drops from bosses and elite mob groups, the randomness and vast array of stats makes it exceedingly difficult to find upgrades to prepare for Inferno. So I have found myself spending more time in the auction house and the early experience was as useful as the items I've been vendoring and as exasperating as a group of molten arcane desecrator jailer elites.
I'm not a power auction house user. I usually go in looking for upgrades and leave. Occasionally, I will put things that I find on the AH, but I have not spent a lot of time there, as the experience can become a mini-game unto itself. But with the launch of the real money auction house, the prices of items selling for gold have seemed to skyrocket. Prior to launch, I'd occasionally see quality rare level 60 items selling for a few million gold. Two days ago, I counted hundreds of items selling for more than 50 million, with several selling for 2 billion! Unless you are a gold farmer or have no life, there is little chance most players will be able to afford those prices. Yes, bargains can still be found on some lesser quality items can be found, but on average, the things I need (item level 60+) are way out of sync price-wise to how much gold I can afford. And while the real-money AH is a nice idea, I sure as hell am not going to spend $250 (the top selling price allowed on the RMAH) on a single item for my gear-hungry monk. I'm adventurous, not rich (or stupid).
It was this realization that forced me to start up a new character. I created a demon hunter and decided to use my monk's shared gold reserves to buy some quality rare items. The good news is that lower level rare items are a lot more affordable, but the bad news is that most sellers don't post a buyout, preferring instead to let bidding wars drive up the price of the items they are selling. It was here that I became educated about one of the more frustrating aspects of the AH system: The ability for players to keep bidding on an item without even being in the AH.
Here's how it works: An item is selling in the AH for 245 gold bid, with say a 50,000 gold buyout. I don't want to pay the buyout, but I know the standard 5 percent incremental bid the auction house requires will not get me the item because I will surely be outbid on this really nice piece of gear. So I bid 10,000 gold as a maximum bid. Here's where it gets interesting: The auction house will not show the bid as 10,000 gold. It shows the bid as the next increment up. However, any time someone places an incremental bid, they are immediately outbid by my 10,000 bid's next 5 percent increment. This will keep happening until someone bids MORE than my 10,000 gold. If no one outbids me, I win the auction with my top incremental bid, and not the 10,000 gold max bid. The system is similar to the one that eBay uses.
The auction house prices are a bit out of control
I had not been educated about this system, even though an explanation was available (but relatively hidden) in an AH FAQ on the official Battle.net support site. So here's what I saw BEFORE I became enlightened: I find a cool piece of gear at a more than reasonable bid. I place an incremental bid on the item, not knowing someone has placed a max bid. My incremental bid is NOT accepted because it is too low. Every attempt I make to increase the bid is met with the same "too low" rejection. I wait a few minutes to see if I just happen to be bidding against someone who is really quick on the bid button. I see no changes, so I bid again, but again I'm too low.
Welcome to the beauty (and frustration) of the max bid system. You can keep outbidding people on an item WITHOUT being in the auction house and babysitting your item. But for those unfamiliar with this feature, it can be confusing and discouraging. The Diablo III forums have numerous threads from players wondering why their bids are being instantly rejected as too low. It also is radically different from the World of Warcraft auction house experience, so you can't assume both work the same way. This also becomes a great way for sellers with more than one account to drive up the price of their own items, or buyers to make sure they are in the bidding until the bitter end, without going too high.
I can't say I'm a fan of the system, especially since it took a bit of research to find out what was happening. People who don't frequent the forums or read FAQ's will get frustrated. But I can see its merits.
Now I'll just have to wait for the novelty of the RMAH to wear off so that items being sold for gold come down to a more reasonable price. Hopefully the 1.0.3 patch changes that hit today will help.
John Keefer is a curmudgeon that has been in journalism for 35 years, the last 16 in the video games industry. He loves real-time strategy games and prefers old-school Total Annihilation to StarCraft. He also loves isometric RPGs, and has been addicted to World of Warcraft for more than 10 years. He sucks at shooters and multiplayer and is purely a PC guy. And being a former member of Shack, he also likes Chatty. Go figure.
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