I have been meaning to write about my abandonment of Diablo III for a couple weeks now, but have been so irritated by the state of the game, that even the opportunity to whinge about it has been a turn-off.
I’ve complained previously about how D3 has a bit too much of a World of Warcraft feeling, and while that IS unfortunate, that isn’t what ruined it for me. What ruined the game for me is the purposely crippled “carrot-on-a-stick” gameplay mechanic that the franchise is known for. A Diablo game has always been about finding better loot so you can fight better opponents. It’s that acquisition of great loot (not the great loot itself) that feeds your desire to venture onwards, often repeatedly through the game, for many months or even years to come. If you invested a bit of time in Diablo or its sequel, you knew that you would regularly be rewarded with some gear that would help you advance. In Diablo III — especially after patch 1.0.3 — it’s clear that Blizzard has left the stick in place, but has hidden the carrot behind their Real Money Auction House (aka, “RMAH”) “feature”. In fact, you can totally bypass the game proper and acquire great loot without ever killing a single minion of Hell. All one need to do is open their wallet.
I’ve put more time into the game than I care to admit, and while I’ve found a great many magical items, I’ve never found anything that was very useful to my character at the level in which I found it. No matter how much time I invest in Blizzard’s Chinese gold-farming trainer, the loot never makes for anything more than “vendor trash”.
I bring this up, because I called bullshite on Blizzard’s “RMAH” as soon as I heard about it, and had intended to ignore it altogether. But what one finds out as they plow through D3, is that the game is designed to force you into the Auction House in order for you to advance past a certain point. The drop rates on decent loot seems to be extremely low, and in a nutshell, you either spend an absolutely ridiculous amount of time farming the same area over-and-over in attempt to raise millions of gold to buy decent Auction House gear, or you skip the boring and life-consuming grind by paying REAL money in the “RMAH” for your pixelated 1’s and 0’s. To me, the game is deserving of neither option, so I choose to tell it…and Blizzard/Activision…to piss off.
Of course, there is no mystery as to Acti-Blizzard’s motivation for the whole Auction House scheme… At a charge of $1 per transaction plus an additional 15%, they clearly have it designed to print an absurd amount of money, for what they assumed would be a long-running proposition like Diablo II (a game still played to this day; 11 years after it’s release). But what Blizzard apparently failed to consider, is that unlike Diablo III, Diablo II was a game solidly built around FUN. You were rewarded for playing, and you could certainly find “phat lewts” for a little investment of time. And also unlike D3, D2 got better with each update, as at that time, Blizzard was concerned with merely making the best game they could. With D3, each update only proves the point that Blizzard wants to force you even harder into their “RMAH” money pit. (The removal of special drops from destructibles like barrels and the astronomically increasing repair rates that wipe out hours of earned gold all point to this.) Clearly, this is a company that is no longer concerned with making a great game that exists primarily to entertain the paying customer, but is instead solely concerned with creating a device that extends income past the $60 retail price of the core game.
In short, Diablo III was designed, and is continuing to be designed, around the “Real Money Auction House”, not the idea of fun for the player.
This is all so very unfortunate, because just like the success of World of Warcraft has seemingly ruined the MMO genre, that game’s success seems to have also ruined one of the absolute greatest game developers of all-time. I fear that Blizzard is no longer the master of the art that they once were, and have simply devolved into a whorish studio, willing to increase the shareholders profit by any means necessary — even at the cost of the quality of their games. (I believe their upcoming MMO project, codenamed Titan, will prove this point even further, as it will surely be even more focused on an “RMAH” type of mechanic than Diablo III is.)
I had originally recommended Diablo III, and I still do, but only if you could get it at $20 or less. At $60, D3 has proven to be one of most regrettable video game purchases I’ve made in a while.