Diablo® III

Game Designer's Take on Diablo3's loot system

05/30/2012 12:13 AMPosted by TonyIommi
I'm curious OP. How would you feel if they added items that were BoP? Say with a higher drop rate (not terribly higher but higher to give the feeling that people are getting gear) that couldn't be sold on the auction house? As well as keeping the current items around on the AH? That way people had some options.

I have mixed feelings about BoP in general. As a whole - they can work to prevent item inflation - however, I'm not sure if its something that can be added retroactively. The problem is BoP, in general, discourages player interaction - which is typically undesirable. It's also strange from a gameplay narrative point of view. BoE is a bit different (or BoA after equipped), as it doesn't remove the potential for player interaction - but does help with item inflation.

Item inflation will happen in this game, however as the game is so new it is incredibly hard to know how things will end up down the road. However, the higher end gear (and even top tier leveling items) will likely run through the ringer quite a few times. Salvaging and Vendoring are a good item sink - but I don't know if its quite enough. My prediction is that another Item Sink will be needed - or the AH pricing problem will become exacerbated.

If I'm taking the whole item system back, and pretending that I'm designing the game as a title I would release (if it had to have an AH at all...) - I think there's some design space utilizing BoP and BoE to get around AH shopping. One would be to tie something like BoP to a concept like Ethereal was in the original Diablo. Something that had a fairly nice power boost (50%), but couldn't be repaired. This way the theoretical BEST gear would eventually rot away, and couldn't be sold. I'm not saying this is a "ship it!" idea, its just something I would try out in an alpha or early beta setting. It rewards farming in a way that also requires you to go back in and farm again soon.

One of the ways I mulled around with to fix the AH, is to make all AH purchases BoA. This way they can't be recycled back into the system to be resold. This makes AH purchases inherently less valuable than loot you find on your own - but doesn't have the same problem as the BoP items do with respect to lack of interactivity (they've obviously already interacted once!). This would, however, remove some of the market speculation aspect of the AH, and so maybe a BoE would be more appropriate (depending on the level of support market speculation should be given in a game like this). This also creates an item sink and a gold sink (can't resell the item to recoup costs, and can only salvage it or vendor it when its no longer useful).

There is a simplicity and elegance to all loot being able to be transferred, traded, and interacted with in the same way however - and so any changes like this would be nearly impossible to make post ship. The game really would need to have been designed around these concepts in order for them to work well. And while it's certainly something a game could do to drastically plug up some holes - we'd need to see D3 in a far more drastic state than it is now for Blizzard to consider such a change (see Star War Galaxies style changes when that game started going under).
Really nice post. I agree that most of the game's point ought to be farming for loot, but loot farming just isn't rewarded or reinforced enough. Legendaries are mostly crap, the "good" items are just common blues. There's no positive reinforcement for finding something exceptional to keep you farming.

The path of least resistance IS just farming gold and going to the AH, and that's not fun because you don't feel lucky, you don't feel like you "won" the jackpot (rare, great loot), you just feel like you saved up enough e-nickels to go to the store and buy something. Saving up and buying things isn't as fun as whacking a loot pinata and getting a legendary drop.

The blacksmith is also really important. This game has a system to break items down into materials and craft with them, but... the crafted items are bad. This makes the materials near useless. Which means all you really want to do with your blues is take them to the vendor instead of crafting.

I'm sure Blizzard has stats on just how much people are crafting and combining gems. And I'm sure these numbers are abysmally low. I wouldn't be surprised if the average player had less than 20 gem combines in their entire career and probably less than 10 blacksmith crafts.


Loot = not motivating enough
Crafting = useless
AH = easiest way to gear up but not fun

It's sad because Blizzard basically invented this loot-crawler genre and they actually managed to miss the entire point of it. You want to push people toward running dungeons and grinding for rare drops. Instead, this game only encourages grinding for gold because the rare drops come from monsters that are too hard and even if you got them the rare drops probably wouldn't be very impressive.
Good post. What are your thoughts on the affix pool at the moment, Yamahako?
OP hits the nail directly on the head.

The thrill of going out there to find a nice weapon drop or a good upgrade just isn't there anymore. I farm champion packs and bosses mostly to get gear to sell so I can buy what I need on the AH.

That isn't fun at all.
Great article :) Solid analysis, sound suggestions, etc.

#3 has occurred to me as well. Would be a welcome feature.

Personally I avoid the auction house because the idea of shopping for all my gear doesn't thrill me, and instead I waste all my gold on the artisans. I'm probably the poorest, most under-powered witch doctor running around :) But it is satisfying when I do get an upgrade from the Blacksmith, and legendary items are useful to me.
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+1 for offering constructive criticism instead of whining like a baby like every other thread on the forums.
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OP hits the nail directly on the head.

The thrill of going out there to find a nice weapon drop or a good upgrade just isn't there anymore. I farm champion packs and bosses mostly to get gear to sell so I can buy what I need on the AH.

That isn't fun at all.

tl;dr. Loot is fine.
i agree with everything you said, its just unlikely that any of it will ever be implemented.

This is a MAJOR design flaw. The most fun thing in the game (getting loot), should be accomplished by most fun thing in the game to do (slaying monsters). This is Game Design 101

unfortunately this game is being designed by people who took business 101. and the most efficient way to extract money from the customer in this case is forcing them to use the rmah to acquire their gear.

if anything they want to encourage gold inflation because that way there will be more incentive to shell out real world cash to avoid potentially days of gold farming.

ill be surprised if theyre able/willing to turn it around, in fact a year from now i figure theyll be outright selling set items and 40% runspeed boots as "dlc" or something.

its pretty much all about monetization, who knows how far theyll take it.

unlocking lower cooldowns for .99 a day for instance, thats a possibility once the rmah is stable.

anyway i wish i had your optimism, that it was somehow poorly thought out game design, but im afraid it was extremely well thought out and deliberate.
good read. i agree with most of the points you made.

looking at how cheap items are becoming on the AH already, what's going to happen a month down the road? people are going to be able to buy 1600+ dps weapons for 100k.
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2 - change) Increase the drop quality rate, or the effect of magic find to increase the number of rares (not as needed), and legendary items (needed).

2a - alternate change) Increase the general drop rate of magic items in general (quantity of drops, as opposed to quality)

I dissagree with this. It needs to be challenging for replayability. Getting more stuff more often, removed the challenge of lots of game play to get good items. Rares and lengendary... SHOULD BE RARE. Rare does not mean often, or sometimes, it means RARE. That is less than sometimes. Perople should need to work to get around in inferno or hell. And expect to die a lot, unltil they have put in their dues. Not withing 1/2 month since the game game out. People are a bunch of complainers with no real base to stand on short of the connection issues. They have barely played the game.
Great post.
Didn't read all of it, but constructive criticism is always good. Also, I really don't understand why someone would report this topic.
Edited by Riddarn#2553 on 5/30/2012 4:06 AM PDT
Quality post with good level of detail.

It's really very basic psychological stuff that should have been obvious to Blizzard - and for some reason it's not.

Obviously, they want people to focus on the AH - regardless of what they're saying. It's 100% money in the pocket - and if they weren't interested in money they wouldn't take a RIDICULOUS 15% cut of every single RMAH trade. 5% would have been OK - but 15%?

Anyway, the thing they seem to have missed is that people need a game that's perpetually interesting to even bother doing RMAH trades in the long-term. So they're sure to buff items - and they've already stated that officially.

We'll NEVER see them making solo/group farming a viable way to upgrade in a reasonable amount of time. If that was the case, way too many players would just ignore the AH for the most part.

That's not in their interest either.
Awesome post. I think part of the loot problem is a result of Blizzard trying to push the AH on people by design - it's all down to business after all and RMAH would suffer if it was possible to gear up in a timely manner without using the AH.

I'm certainly not gonna use the RMAH. Not because I can't afford it, it's a matter of principle. I'm not paying real money for progress or items that affect gameplay. If the gold AH dies because of RMAH or if all prices become unreasonable (since you can buy gold in RMAH) i'll either move to HC mode permanently or quit the game for good, not a big deal either way.

For now I'm enjoying the game, lets wait and see what blizzard does.
Edited by MrPotatoHead#2253 on 5/30/2012 5:03 AM PDT
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I agree with the majority of the points the OP is making.

Earlier today, I was having a discussion with a friend of mine who also plays D3. He actively participates in the AH and has found several upgrades for himself there. I, however, don't use the AH much and have gotten the majority of my gear from the people I play with. Only one piece of gear I use I've actually found myself. After playing today, I saw some shoulder slot item on the AH that had nearly perfect stats for my tank-barb (is there any other barb beyond A2?). It was only 1 million gold so I decided to purchase it. After I bought it, I mentioned it to my friend, and he congratulated me on getting a "best-in-slot" piece. That comment really bothered me. Not because he was wrong, but because of how loot drops are directly lowered because of the AH and the expectation that people will use it.

That made me realize that since I have acquired this best in slot piece, I no longer need to hunt for one slot. Sure, it could be marginally better, but not by much (think going from 78 all resist to 80). And because of how rare a good roll item is and its small chance to drop, it's completely reasonable to assume that I will never find this piece of gear. Realizing that, I figured out with about 50 million gold, I would no longer need to play this game for the reason it was intended to be played. I would have acquired enough gear to be at the point where I could say, all new drops are nominal upgrades.

So, at this point, there is one goal in this game at the end-game - acquiring items to improve your character's ability to progress through content. However, you can buy all the best gear and put a gold/time quotient on how long you'll need to play the game to be fully best-in-slot. It's completely conceivable (and will more than likely turn out to be the case) to farm Act 2 enough to be able to buy the gear from Act 4 without stepping into it and have better gear than people who actually try and farm for it and "complete" your character. Gear is no longer a means to an end but has become the end in this game. And, it turns out that hunting for items is the means to that end for the purpose of sale value - not for the thrill of finding a great upgrade that enhances your character. This is such a drastic departure from the previous games that it completely turns me off to the idea of finding gear for myself. That's a pipe dream.

It just seems really bizarre to me that becoming a "gold farmer" is the way to succeed at improving my character and buying into what the developers intended as the point of this game - to find great loot for your character and improve it. It definitely is rewarding to find a genuine upgrade for myself, but the knowledge that my drops have been reduced in light of the AH mechanic just makes it seem ridiculously uphill. Especially when you consider that the majority of your loot can be redistributed throughout the player base for gold. Even more frustrating is people who say you don't have to use the AH. This is like Blizzard saying that I don't have to use the 20% health nerf on the bosses in DS. It's sophistry. It's definitely 100% true that I don't have to use either, but in practice, why wouldn't I? All I would be doing is impeding my own progress and making the game much more difficult for no added reward. If I choose to buy gear off the AH, that puts me closer to getting to the later acts quicker and farming more gear I can sell to buy that piece of loot that I want on the AH.

Because of the GAH, I have a feeling that when the RMAH comes out, a lot of people will be incredibly turned off by what this game is. The majority of the best pieces of gear will be sold on the RMAH and for relatively high prices. So, because you want to improve your gear, you'll continue to farm for hours and hours with the knowledge that it's incredibly unlikely that you'll find an upgrade for yourself. However, you will find small upgrades that you'll be able to sell for gold/real money that will then put you closer to buying that shiny piece of gear you do want. I'm not sure how that sounds to everyone else, but to me, that sounds like a job.

I thought this game would be more:

farm - > upgrade - > progress -> farm - > upgrade - > progress...farm - > BIS

instead of:

farm - > sell -> buy - > farm - > sell -> buy...BiS

At the end of the day, progressing through inferno will be easiest by finding a zone which you can breeze through and amass gold (for now) or obtain several mediocre drops to sell for small sums of money to acquire the gear that you are unlikely to obtain from a zone that you'll never have to do. I don't personally enjoy how this model turned out at all.
Edited by Item9#1926 on 5/30/2012 5:22 AM PDT
05/30/2012 01:36 AMPosted by Random
Good post. What are your thoughts on the affix pool at the moment, Yamahako?

I've been a bit reluctant to comment on that in general because I tend to be a fix one thing - see how it goes - and then move onto the next problem type of designer. But I'll share a few of my thoughts.

I find it interesting that they removed the ability to select your own stats for your characters, but then made those stats the most important stats in the game. It illuminates how important - and good - game design choices were made for the game. If Dex is the most powerful stat, then you would likely need to put most (all) your points in Dex to make an effective character. Giving a player a choice about stat allocation when certain stats can very literally make a character unable to progress, would have been a poor choice.

This is a serious departure from D2, where main stats were a far lower priority. D3 is not D2, and that's totally fine, but its important to note all criticism with the lens of the design intent. This is Blizzard's game - and they wanted your main stat (and to a slightly lesser degree, VIT) to be very important. But, you also need to look at something like item affixes in their context of D2 - and note the differences.

The affix pool in D3 begins with main stats, as they are required to get bigger as the game progresses. This is actually a limiting factor for gear diversity, as it invalidates a large section of gear from being usable. Does it not have main stat or VIT? It's likely an non-viable piece of progression gear. Keeping that in mind, what then makes up a good piece of gear after you've met those requirements? Looking at that pool is a lot more diverse.

Certain D2 affixes aren't viable in D3 because of game mechanics (FHR for example - no impact stuns or FCR - this is rolled into Attack speed). And some are reduced in broad ways (+ X stat/ level) that don't really affect end game builds in a significant way. But aside from cast on hit diversity and spell charges, there aren't actually a lot of D2 affixes that aren't in D3 that weren't obsoleted from a mechanics point of view. +Skills doesn't really translate well (outside of what +main stat already does), the +resource (mana) affixes are too general to work for all characters (and replacements are built onto class specific items), +quantity and replenishment don't translate to a game with no throwing weapons and no arrows, and rather than FBR and things we have -% to movement impairing effects - because we don't have block stun in this game either. And can you actually miss? Because attack rating is not a thing in D3.

So what I think is happening is that people aren't feeling like there is affix diversity - because they aren't seeing affixes they like to see - because certain affixes in D2 were more important to characters than they are in D3 - and that's because Mainstat trumps everything. +1 to Amazon skills was a lot of fun, another +50 to dex (which for non-utility spells amounts to the same thing give or take), not necessarily so much. It FEELS like gear does less cool things because the set of stats that are viable is much smaller even if the amount of things gear can do is unchanged.

In my opinion, this is a system that "works" but is less fun. In a lot of ways, especially given the loot problem in the game, it removes choice from gearing up. Does it have more Dex and Vit/Armor for my demon hunter? Yes. Ok its an upgrade. What about all these other stats? Generally the more the better - but if it doesn't have Dex and Vit/Armor I can't consider it as an option.

I mean, D3 has some really interesting affixes that D2 didn't have. Sure we don't have +light radius - which when you didn't have it, you really noticed it. But we do have Gold/Health Globe suck, which is interesting in the same way - and is really a survival stat. Life on hit is very interesting to play with and compare to life steal. So new stuff is there, but the importance of those other stats that just dominates the pool of affixes in too strong a way, I think. It's not the pool, its that after you've used up the affixes that are required, you just don't have much choice, or frequency, of other affixes to use. Oh, and +skills felt really rewarding, but the closest analogue (+Main stat) does not (even if it amounts to the same thing) - but that's a Character Diversity/Build thing - which is a whole other can of worms :-P

Edit: Forgot Crushing Blow! I miss that one :(
Edited by Yamahako#1338 on 5/30/2012 8:19 AM PDT
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