It’s a real sign of the times that a large company like Blizzard can react to feedback on the controversial Auction House feature in Diablo III, and ostensibly compromise the original vision of the game and its business model going forward. It certainly seemed like the kind of thing that was here to stay, given that it resolved the grey-market sale of in-game goods, and gave Blizzard a cut as well, so it’s worth applauding the wardens of the series for pushing to simply make the actual playing of the game that much better.
I should mention that I didn’t play the original Diablo, or Diablo II, but I have played other similar games, such as Torchlight, enough that I feel like I know something about the legacy of those games. I played Diablo III around launch and had a pretty good time with it, starting the game with several of the available classes before settling on the Wizard and playing through the content about 1 and a half times. I can’t say I felt too much like the loot in Diablo III wasn’t good enough often enough, or that the scaling of loot felt unbalanced – I was keeping up with the difficulty of the content, and that’s what mattered. However, I would say that the very existence of the Auction House changed my thinking about loot I wasn’t going to use for myself. This meant knowing what was important to all classes – what stats to look out for on item drops – and holding onto those items; after all, I wouldn’t be taking advantage of a major feature of the game if I didn’t. As you might expect, this made the process of loot sorting that much more tedious, because none of the comparison features in place were there to help you decide what’s good for other classes. The fun was sapped out of the game, and it became more and more about the money. I’m sure that aspect was fun for some, but it fundamentally changed how I played the game in a way that would eventually lead to something resembling workflow optimization. Gross.
I’m happy to say that with the advent of Blizzard’s “Loot 2.0,” the game has returned to feeling like a game. The first few hours of time with this update were filled with finding loot that was so much better than what I had, it felt like some big apology, and now that the Auction House is removed, if I find anything that’s not better, it gets immediately trashed. It is as though I am the center of my Diablo experience again, never sparing a thought for the real-world ramifications of that axe I found, or this Crossbow of the Bear’s Lamenting Tide – it’s all about what I need so I can get to slaying more demons, and in the end, isn’t that all any of us wants?