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BlizzCon 2011: A Dynamic Economy From Diablo III's Auction House

At the Gamasutra-attended BlizzCon 2011, Blizzard detailed Diablo III's real money-powered "auction house," which the game's development team hopes will facilitate a player-driven, dynamic economy.

Zoran Iovanovici, Blogger

October 21, 2011

3 Min Read

With the long-awaited Diablo III finally closing in on its "early 2012" release date, it's no surprise that Blizzard would make the game a primary focus at this year's BlizzCon, taking place this week in Anaheim, CA. At a panel during the event on Friday, Blizzard paid particular attention to showing off the recently-announced "auction house" as well as all the many ways that players can gain, trade, enhance and acquire rare loot. This past summer, Blizzard revealed the Diablo III auction house, an eBay-like service where players can exchange real money for virtual items, with Blizzard taking a cut. The announcement was met with controversy among players, as some worried about out of control item speculation, and also feared that Blizzard is designing a game to cater to a business model. Many simply accused Blizzard of being greedy. But Blizzard is hoping that players give the company the benefit of the doubt. For a game is expected to have millions of players worldwide, Blizzard made a point of assuring BlizzCon attendees that the company is committed to refining the Auction House user interface, ensuring that finding a specific item as easy as possible. Players can tailor their auction house searches by a number of different parameters to the point that only items that are particularly relevant to their character build will appear. Blizzard explained that players can not only sell loot, but can salvage armor and weapons and sell the various components to other players in the auction house. Buyers in turn can use those salvaged components with discovered blueprints to build entirely unique weapons that they can then use or, even better, sell back on the auction house and turn a profit, or they can trade them with friends. Based on what Blizzard showed off at the event, the options for acquiring the best loot seem to be easier and better than ever. Blizzard also clarified that there would be two different versions of the auction house in Diablo III. One will be based on in-game gold players acquire through their adventures, while the other will be based on real-world currency. Players will be free to participate in whichever they choose, so there will be no limits to getting one's hands on a preciously sought after piece of loot. Along with using salvaged goods to create unique weapons and armor, players can also enhance weapons and armor via the Mystic NPC. But unlike similar games in the genre, the quality of the enhancements are random across a quality spectrum. This can lead to further unique builds, especially considering that players can stack enhancements on weapons and armor to create truly unique gear and what Blizzard itself calls overall "Aberrant Builds." In many ways, it's a natural evolution to the series that is considered the progenitor of "loot drop" gameplay and what Blizzard considers as a series full of "dynamic randomness." Continuing the series tradition, Diablo III will feature random environments where players will experience random scripted events and encounters throughout the game (in addition to the scripted events and campaign). What this means is that players never can tell just how good the loot drops might be on any given gameplay session. For most players this randomness offers a layer of genuine tension and excitement in the game, but even those who fear being besieged by high-level enemies in a random event, just after getting their hands on rare loot, can always use a newly announced Stone of Recall to warp back to a nearby town for restock on supplies and sell some newly-acquired loot. Adding these elements together could create a dynamic economy, one that Blizzard is putting a great deal of emphasis on. The dev team noted that they'll know they've succeeded if they see very few players hoarding money, choosing instead to constantly upgrade, trade, build and discover new loot.

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