Diablo 3's auction houses 'really hurt the game,' former game director says

Diablo 3's game director Jay Wilson admitted today that both the real money and gold-based auction houses have "really hurt the game," but Blizzard hopes to fix the problems it has caused in minimizing item values instead of shutting them down completely.

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Diablo 3's former game director Jay Wilson admitted yesterday that both the real money and gold-based auction houses have "really hurt the game," but Blizzard hopes to fix the problems it has caused in minimizing item values instead of shutting them down completely.

"It's not good for a game like Diablo," he said. "It doesn't feel good to get items for money. You want to get items from killing monsters."

Wilson, in a GDC talk on the making of the game, said that the original concept was to cut down on account fraud and offer a safe place for players to trade items, instead of going to third-party sites that could steal account or credit card information. However, they severely underestimated the number of players that would use it. Of the approximately one million players daily and three million monthly unique users, more than half use the auction house, he said. And while the auction houses were successful in cutting down on account fraud, they was the "wrong solution" for what they were trying to do.

He acknowledged that shutting down the auction houses was not as simple as it sounded, saying they did not know how many people actually enjoyed using them, and the company did not want to shut down a feature where players would be unhappy if it went away. He said Blizzard is working on a solution, but didn't elaborate.

Wilson recently stepped down as head of the Diablo 3 team, moving on to another unannounced position in the company.

Contributing Editor

From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 29, 2013 5:00 AM

    John Keefer posted a new article, Diablo 3's auction houses 'really hurt the game,' former game director says.

    Diablo 3's game director Jay Wilson admitted today that both the real money and gold-based auction houses have "really hurt the game," but Blizzard hopes to fix the problems it has caused in minimizing item values instead of shutting them down completely.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 5:14 AM

      Blizzard have to fix the mess left by Jay. F that loser! :)

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      March 29, 2013 5:19 AM

      Didn't Garnett Lee call this back in a Weekend Confirmed when the RMAH was first announced? I didn't hear about how good Diablo 3 was; I heard about how much money friends were making off of selling gear through the auction house.

      I can empathize with Jay Wilson on how long it took for a message of change of direction like this to go public far after the release, but plenty of loyal Diablo franchise fans were angry, to the point of not considering another Blizzard game.

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        March 29, 2013 10:44 PM

        Jay Wilson said it was mostly the gold auction house (because that gets used far more than the RMAH). I think the issue is twofold. One, the items sucked and there weren't any neat and powerful affixes. Two, the AH made it too easy to trade, which meant it was easy to buy even a small upgrade and sell your old gear. And since there were only a few useful stats on items, upgrades boiled down to "these stats, with slightly higher values" and because it was so easy to trade, there were plenty available.

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      March 29, 2013 5:36 AM

      I certainly stopped playing in part due to the auction house.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 5:54 AM

      You think, dipshit money mongols! I want the real D3 damn it.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 6:09 AM

      I used to hold Blizzard on some untouchable pedestal, they could do no wrong. I never played Diablo 3 and don't plan on purchasing anything Blizzard in the future.

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        March 29, 2013 6:13 AM

        I blame WoW for the downfall.

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          March 29, 2013 6:33 AM

          blame activision, who now own them.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 6:37 AM

            Acti-blizzard. Actolizzard. None of the original people are there. It is like if someone bought Pepsi and everyone who knew the recipe left.

            • reply
              March 29, 2013 8:43 AM

              an apt description.
              Blizzard as we all knew it. is dead.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 12:04 PM

            Not exactly. "Vivendi was the majority shareholder, with a 52% stake in the company." AND "Activision and Blizzard Entertainment still exist as separate entities."
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Activision_Blizzard#History (2nd and 3rd paragraphs)

            • reply
              March 29, 2013 12:37 PM

              Plus, Blizzard still has a lot of the same people at the top who made Warcraft and Starcraft.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 12:08 PM

            *sigh*

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 12:09 PM

            Blizzard was owned by Vivendi before the merger. They are still owned by Vivendi. All that happened is that Vivendi owns Activision.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 6:35 AM

        I kinda feel the same way, although I won't rule out future purchases..... I still like blizzard and I personally enjoyed D3, but there is no doubt that it is a mere shadow of their older games.

        I don't like the new direction that Blizzard is heading, at all. Seems like they're increasingly focused on maximum profits and accessibility rather than making the best games possible.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 6:37 AM

        What if their next game is good?

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 6:38 AM

          What if the sky got bluer?

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 6:40 AM

            What if God was one of us?

            • reply
              March 29, 2013 7:33 AM

              I try and refrain from speaking to strangers on the bus.

              Last time I did that, the guy was all "reptilian aliens - they are are already here!"*
              *I'm actually not joking about that occurrence.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 7:41 AM

            Are you saying you don't buy sky because it's not blue enough?

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 9:10 AM

          The free to play card game based on WoW?

          If they they add hooks like free mounts or pets for WoW in it, then it will sell no matter how good or bad it is.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 9:13 AM

          The important thing is that beef2187 punishes Blizzard for their perceived failure.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 6:18 AM

      At least they figured it out eventually I guess. Except that basically everybody knew it that that the AH was going to be a liability from the get-go, and the only people who didn't mind it were the ones who enjoyed the meta-analysis of the AH as a sub-game and managed to make out well with it.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 6:23 AM

      I think what ruined it was that it didn't feel like diablo. In particular, The story elements were complete shit.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 6:29 AM

        Yes, D1 and D2 had some dark, mysterious shit going down. D3 is a bad Saturday morning cartoon.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 6:33 AM

          Pretty good description there, now you mention it.

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          March 29, 2013 12:05 PM

          I would say the mystery disappeared after D1. Once you could venture out into the world, it lost the creepiness factor.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 12:15 PM

            The mood of D1 is much better than D2.

            • reply
              March 29, 2013 1:01 PM

              agreed. D1 had amazing atmosphere. D2 is great too, but D1 is something special.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 4:23 PM

            absolutely. D2 was such a letdown for me. I didn't even bother with D3.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 1:10 PM

          TEAR-ROAR.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 7:39 AM

        Yeah, all of that was completely awful as well. COMPLETELY.

        But the combat was still pretty fun, and if not for the item grind being ruined by the AH I probably would still load it up from time to time.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 7:49 AM

          I thought the skill/rune/whatever tree design just felt so fucking meticulous and creative. Blizzard really do design the shit out of their games, but sometimes I feel more recently they're just trying to make them accessible to everyone which makes them more easy/generic than they used to be. :/

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            March 29, 2013 7:58 AM

            I thought it was really lazy. I'm far more impressed with PoE's design.

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              March 29, 2013 4:32 PM

              PoE's design feels far more lazy to me. It feels like just a whole fuckton of incremental things that aren't interesting (which Blizzard learned years ago) punctuated by occasional meaningful choices.

              PoE's skill tree would be much better if it were about 90% smaller and only featured the interesting choices.

              • reply
                March 29, 2013 5:53 PM

                You if you think that, you haven't played it or you haven't played enough.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 4:26 PM

            I liked the skill rune and health orb systems, but was not impressed with the rest of the game at all.

            • reply
              March 29, 2013 4:29 PM

              My pet peeve is how they talked up the random level generation and how much better it was going to be than the previous games.

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        March 29, 2013 1:08 PM

        the complete lack of any meaningful choice or customization or anticipation ruins it, among other things. its a great game to play through normal once, but it has no soul whatsoever. i am confident to say I will never play D3 again, after completing it twice. if an expansion pack adds some meat to the game, maybe, but i dont think they can really fix it, for me at least. the AH will never be removed, there will never be meaningful choice or risk or customization because those were very deliberately removed in the core design of D3 and I expect any expansions will just mainly be more content rather than mechanics changes.

        I still have D2 installed, and I periodically will put diablo 1 on a machine, though its quiet a bitch to make run these days.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 6:32 AM

      Someone needs to write the book "How to Destroy a Franchise and Alienate a Fan-base".

      I nominate Jay Wilson.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 8:02 AM

      wait they are talking about MINIMIZING item values? that's... completely wrong. due to rampant gold farming and endless gold creation, item values went to the MAXIMUM in a short period of time.

      I think the AH/RMAH was almost a necessary evil to allow folks to get good loot at a good pace since the game inherently was royally fucked up. Crafting all random? Drops all random? As a wizard getting your 9 billionth piece of demon hunter loot gets FUCKING ANNOYING, so you turn to the auction house to sooth your loot gaining needs. Because you have gained 20 levels and might have one piece to show for it. Very dumb.

      I got back in to D3 to check it out... and now there's guaranteed crafting plans available for 1.5 million. You can choose one stat that it will roll and then add 5 random ones. Where the fuck was that when the game launched? Crafting is abysmally useless. In beta they had fixed stats and a few random ones. Only now does it make a return, and now it's super expensive.

      Anyway, I will play some more D3 because I don't have faceroll gear yet, and I see the top folks have 550,000 DPS capability. so there's a good long way to go until I feel like I can blast through diablo and feel super awesome like ye olde days.

      But admittedly part of that will certainly be using the AH... as you endlessly grind and get shit drops, you gotta have a resource to improve your character. the AH is really the only conduit for that.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 8:58 AM

        They made shit loot because of the auction house. They took into account that players were able to buy stuff from the AH and millions of ppl would sell stuff on the AH so to keep good items "rare" they had to lower the drop rate/lower the good roll rate.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 9:19 AM

          Well in beta the crafting was somewhat controllable, to mitigate the deluge of absolutely useless equipment to you - but could be worth a FORTUNE to another class. Enter the AH... so good items can go somewhere and you can get some money for it. Or you can roll the dice and try to craft... which was dumb. Remember how expensive it was to level up the artisans? For NOTHING? People were saying to never upgrade the blacksmith! Holy shit what a disaster.

          And regarding the good stuff, they've only been upping it. Item value has been astronomically inflated mostly because of DEMAND. people want meaningful loot upgrades in a reasonable amount of time. I agree the game natively did not provide that at launch.

          Mainly I think they underestimated the pace of gameplay. People BLAZED through diablo 3, compounding the loot problem. Then the infamous "brick wall" issue, forcing people to hit the AH to get resist gear... and it's pretty clear that stuff wasn't exactly minimized in value.

          Same with gold find gear. Remember gold find flipping on the AH? People would farm gold 24/7. Leading to the limitations on instance creation... yet another unplanned situation where they did not forsee how eager peopel were to farm the FUCK out of the game. Demon Hunters breaking pots for hours on end... and then that was nerfed...

          Heck of a debacle, so I'm not going to pin it all on the AH/RMAH. It goes well beyond that.

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 6:27 PM

            You're very charitable. The company who made WoW should have known very well how intensely their player base can attack a game.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 4:37 PM

        Look at the gear you can buy for 10k-1m today and compare that to 7 months ago, that's what he's talking about. Alternately, look at the HC AH and compare what you can buy there for 100k.

        Yeah, the uberest of uber gear is sky high, but that's how it should be? I don't know how many SOJs a Zod rune in D2 went for, but I doubt I ever had enough to trade for one.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 8:51 AM

      It was an experiment and it kinda failed. As long as they're willing to correct it, I don't fault them for trying. I've still had dozens of hours of fun with the game, and I'll certainly go back when they've fixed it.

      • Ebu
        reply
        March 29, 2013 9:21 AM

        I do, because I wasted $60 on that shit.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 8:57 AM

      I found it strange that they implement such a system without a bind-on-equip function.

      Without it, no matter how rare you make an item, they will all be widely available on the AH and degrade value over time.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 9:07 AM

        The BIS shoulders/gloves/amulet/bracers are all bind-on-account, so you can trade it between your own characters but not to anyone else and especially not sellable on the AH. One small step to fixing the game at a time.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 9:04 AM

      Mr. Wilson reading a statement prepared by Activision marketing. If you want to play the better version of Diablo 3, go buy it again for console.

      This is not a team of developers with a passion for making a fun game that they truly want to play anymore. This is a team of marketing executives guiding the ship to the land of endless revenue. I don't blame them, it's a business. It really sucks though.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 9:05 AM

        I'm not following, they didn't make a dime from the AH ?

        • Ebu
          reply
          March 29, 2013 9:22 AM

          Fuck yes they did.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 11:50 AM

          The console version has different item drop rates, less quantity, more quality. The pc version drops are revolved around the auction houses.

          Why would Mr. Wilson come out and say this now? Because he finally realized it and wanted to be honest with the playerbase? I highly doubt this.

          They admit this now because they already have the "improved" console version ready to fix some of these issues with no rmah, less focus on GAH (and offline play).

          Go buy the game a second time on console to play the "better version" without the rmah. This is the only reason this scripted statement was read by Mr. Wilson in my opinion.

          Over a decade of development and you think this dev team didn't realize this stuff until just recently?

          • reply
            March 29, 2013 1:15 PM

            this is something that would really irk me but i choose not to let it. i basically have just completely given Diablo as a franchise up. if I allowed the thought that a fucking port to console of..... DIABLO 3.... will probably be the superior version, for all the reasons that it will probably be the case, i would be tempted to make a rage post that would break the shack in its intensity and red tags.

            • reply
              March 29, 2013 1:19 PM

              Not like they've stopped refining D3's systems.

              Here's the developer journal on possible Itemization changes in 1.0.8 : http://eu.battle.net/d3/en/blog/7534957/developer-journal-itemization-update-05-03-2013

              Blizzard supports this stuff for years after release. They always have.

              • reply
                March 30, 2013 4:43 PM

                10+ years development for d3....how many more years before it gets refined to be on par with d2 classic? At the rate this team works, and has their meetings to discuss the memos about how to make sure all the TPS reports are filed...we should start seeing a decent game in about 5 more years.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 5:12 PM

          Hello Frush, Welcome to the club! Here is your card and badge. Enjoy your stay.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 5:57 PM

          RMAH fees: $1 per item transaction, 15% cut of commodity transations.

          https://us.battle.net/support/en/article/diablo-iii-auction-house-general-information#q5

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 9:08 AM

        The console version will still have the AH, just not the RMAH

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 5:24 PM

        You realize the games will be exactly the same, right? They PC version is being updated to fix item drop rates/quality.

        • reply
          March 30, 2013 4:38 PM

          I do not think you are correct. There will be differences.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 6:05 PM

        If the console version doesn't have the AH, but has the recent patches I would pick it up w/o a second thought. Diablo 3 is awesome, but the AH just constantly kicks it in the nuts non-stop.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 12:54 PM

      I agree with this 100%

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 1:21 PM

        sir you need to be finishing those papers. PAPERS PLEASE

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 1:13 PM

      the problem with D3 was the everything

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 1:20 PM

        bingo. so many tears spilled over the AH/RMAH and that's just... a convenient scapegoat. the problems are much broader than having an AH/RMAH.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 6:16 PM

          The skill limitation does hurt, but IMO the AH/RMAH was much, much more damaging. Others complain about the lack of named drops from bosses, but I was OK with that with a more random approach. Kind of reminded me of Asheron's Call. However the combination of shear volume of stats and AH/RMAH worked something awful against the random drop system.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 4:37 PM

      i just want to know if people who bought items for a ridiculous amount think it's still worth it now

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 5:16 PM

      one to three million active players after a year is still pretty good. I wonder how much of server cost is taking a chunk out of those sales.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 5:20 PM

      The way you people talk about this game you'd think it failed miserably and wasn't the best selling pc game that still has 3 million active players.

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 5:26 PM

        It's pretty funny, actually. The game wasn't the D2 phenomenon, but it was still very good, and by far the best action rpg/dungeon crawler in years. And we still haven't seen the expansion pack or the extent of the changes and fixes. D2 only became what it was after the expansion.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 5:29 PM

      Wasnt this just to combat what would have happened outside of the game anyway?

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 5:54 PM

        It was for the $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $$$ $$ 4$$$$$$ $$$$$ $$$$$$$$$$

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 6:25 PM

        That's the rationale, but they could easily have introduced bind-on-pickup mechanics. There were good reasons why they introduced that in WoW, which was a game that was heavily influenced by D2.

        • reply
          March 29, 2013 9:27 PM

          Very true, not sure why I didn't think of that, that's be better, though it is fun finding sweet gear for a friends class and giving it to them

          • reply
            March 30, 2013 9:32 AM

            Well, I think it's the case where you have to pick your poison: either you allow free trading of everything and enable an atrocious "economy" that saps the will of normal players to even try to compete, or you disallow it and diminish some of the "friendliness". Honestly, I think making items BoA but tradeable to anybody in the game when the item dropped encourages people to play with friends.

    • reply
      March 29, 2013 9:24 PM

      I never really liked any of the diablo series :/

      • reply
        March 29, 2013 10:57 PM

        Me neither, they're not for me.

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      March 29, 2013 9:48 PM

      HURRR DUHRRR The community told them this one year ago. Morons.

    • reply
      March 30, 2013 5:05 AM

      Well duh. Everyone could see that quite the moment they announced further info about the game way before launch.

    • reply
      March 30, 2013 5:33 AM

      Id seriously say to any D3 player, check out Path Of Exile.. its what D3 should have been in terms of customisation.
      Best of all its Free To Play.
      www.pathofexile.com

    • reply
      April 4, 2013 11:38 AM

      And to think when D3's biggest problem was rainbows. Oh, to return back thy innocence!

    • reply
      April 4, 2013 12:46 PM

      I said that (and thousands of others) like a year ago. Same goes for playing Diablo with a gamepad.

      Wtf are these devs smoking?