Diablo 3 Auction House Shill Bidding Hotfixed

A fan asked about a semi-recent change to the Auction House and got an informative reply from Wyatt Cheng.

The AH was hotfixed a few weeks ago to do this. Instead of raising the current bid 5% over your attempted bid it just brings it up to yours. Blizzard changed it to help prevent other players from finding out your max bid.
Wyatt Cheng: This is correct. Preserving your max bid as a secret is important in allowing players to bid according to their true valuations as well as mitigating shill bids. (Bids with ill intent to artificially inflate the price)

Others in this thread have said it better than I but in essence if your desire is that you simply want to know what it is that you need to beat (so you can bid a bit higher) flip your thinking over and let the system work in your favor instead. Suppose the current winner is Bob with a visible (public) bid of 50,000 gold. Bob’s true max bid (which is hidden from you), is 75,000 gold.

In this case one of the following will apply:

Scenario 1: You are willing to bid between 52,500 and 75,000 gold. In this case, you’re not willing to pay as much as Bob, so Bob will win. The system will automatically increase Bob’s bid to your max bid. Since he entered his bid first (and is also willing to pay more), the system considers Bob the winner.

Scenario 2: You are willing to bid 75,001 or more gold. In this case, you are willing to spend more than Bob, so the system makes you the winner. Suppose you enter a value of 150,000 gold. Well now the hidden bid is working to your advantage. The public bid is 75,000, the maximum amount Bob was willing to pay. But now you’re the one who is willing to pay more, and entered a higher number, so the system considers you to be the winner instead. Even though you entered 150,000 – if the auction were to end right now you only pay 75,000, the maximum of the second place bidder (Bob). Of course somebody else may come along and bid that up, but the system will automatically increment your bid upwards for you to the maximum (150,000) you had specified.

For the academically interested, you can read more about this auction approach on wikipedia, it’s called a Vickrey auction or “Second Price Auction”. One very nice property is it gives bidders incentive to bid their true value. a.k.a “Truthful bidding”. For the Diablo Auction House it enables players to make a truthful bid, leave the game, come back 24 hours later and see if they won. No need to babysit a bid and make sure you don’t get “sniped”. As long as you bid the maximum amount you were willing to pay you either win and get a refund for the difference between you and second place, or you lose the auction to somebody who was willing to pay more.

I’ve seen this scenario and it can be confusing if you’re not used to using the AH. Here’s an example: the item you want has no buyout and the current bid shows at 3.1m. The buyout DiabloWikicomps for that item are around 6.5 million, and you don’t want it badly enough to buyout one of the others, but you’d be happy to get the bid one for 4 or 4.5m. The beauty of the Vickrey system is that you just figure how much you’re willing to pay for the item, say 5m in this instance, and you bid that amount. If yours is the highest bid, the system will tell you so and you’ll be winning and will get the item if no one bids higher. If someone else has already bid higher then your 5m bid will be rejected… and you can decide if you’re willing to bid more or not.

That’s what you should do. Make your max bid and walk away, hoping for the best. What you should *not* do is try to bid just slightly higher than the displayed high bid, since your bid will be rejected if someone else bid much higher hours ago. The Diablo 3 Auction House doesn’t work Ebay style, where the winner is not whoever clicks the “bid one penny higher” button the last time in the seconds before the auction ends.

One of the more enjoyable things about winning such a bid (rather than just using the Buyout option) is that you get the item plus all the gold you bid above the next highest bid. This can be substantial; I’ve bought a few items for 1 or 1.5m that had comps at 4 or 5m. In those cases I bid my max for the item, say 4.5m for an item that showed a high bid of 1m. Ultimately I got the item for about 1.5m, since a few other people came along, saw the item, bid the minimum increment and got their bid rejected since I had the 4.5m bid already sitting there. Frustrated, they didn’t keep bidding to the minimum increment, or throw in a 3m bid just for the hell of it, thus the displayed price never increased much and I ultimately got the item for 1.5m, plus a 3m refund of the balance of my maximum price bid.

Related to this article
  • Diablo 3 Hotfixes
  • Diablo 3 PTR Hotfixes 15 September
  • Diablo 3 v2.4.3 Hotfixes

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    17 thoughts on “Diablo 3 Auction House Shill Bidding Hotfixed

      • Yeah, the change is just that 5% bump added to the second highest bid (greater than the displayed current bid) has been removed. I don’t think this really keeps people from inflating prices.

        I would rather it only increase the current bid when the new maximum bid is higher than what the current winner is willing to pay, rather than any bid higher than the currently displayed bid. This way, any new accepted bid will be set at the previous winner’s maximum.

        They could also hold declined bids until the auction ends, but that would be extremely annoying. It would tie up a lot of gold to deter bumping up the bids and increase the difficulty in investing in multiple auctions.

        • This wont work , imagine someone put 1M on the item starting bid
          the item should be around 3M, and i bid 500M

          what happened with your scenario are either :
          a. I won, and pay only 1M
          b. I lose, and pay nothing…

          what happened with blizzard scenario are either :
          a. I won, and I MIGHT pay 1M to 500M , even though I am willing to pay ONLY 5M for it, if someone is bidding 10M, I would have to pay 10M instead :(( … so I cant abuse the system like this, lest I pay more then I am willing to pay
          b. I lose, and pay nothing

          • Yeah, you’re right. I just kind of had it in my mind at the time that whomever had the most cash to bid should win it regardless. If the runner up didn’t place a maximum that matched what the item was actually worth it wouldn’t work.

    1. Flux, ebay uses a Vickrey type of auction too, has done so for a long time. Regarding what Wyatt’s talking about, the shill bidding was an exploit that they hotfixed, that’s all that happened.

      The exploit was on the forums 8 months ago, so I’m glad to see it fixed.: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/5870127068.

      I do remember it getting brought up in a reddit thread 5 months ago where I was shot down for explaining that this is an exploit that should be fixed in a thread full of very clueless and confused people: http://www.reddit.com/r/Diablo/comments/zjvcm/max_bid_exploit_made_public_beware_of_placing/.

    2. Wow I remember making a long topic ranting about this problem on the official forums like 4 months ago when I first started encountering shill auto bidders that would always “magically” drive me up to my max bid on the dot.

      I remember being pretty pissed off about it and posting in detail how a auction bot program (something people didn’t believe in either for awhile) could easily determine your max bid using the maths since it was a fixed 5% increase every time. The auto bidder just stops bidding against you when the listed amount raised is no longer a 5% increment. Not exactly brain surgery to figure out how to do that with minimal effort using a bot.

      I also remember people for the most part telling me to “take off my tinfoil hat”. Obviously they didn’t understand the math or how auctions work. Not doing me any good now but glad they finally agreed and fixed it.

    3. I’m not quite sure i understand what happens here. maybe it’s too early to think this through. what was the problem exactly??

      • It was a way of forcing someone to make their max bid. Instead of doing the bid as its supposed to. Which what its supposed to do is you put in the most amount of money you’d pay. Then assuming you have the highest ‘max bid’ it then sets your actual bid at the lowest winning total. Each time someone else bids..if you can still beat it with your max bid…it’ll just raise your actual bid to have you beat it.

        The idea is you bid the most you’d pay for the item..walk away, then come back once the auction is over, with you paying the least amount possible and still win.

        The ‘exploit’ is that thanks to how it used to bid…there was a way to figure out when someone’s max bid had been reached. And a friend of the seller could come in, and artificially raise the actual bid..until someone’s limit had been reached. And basically force them to pay more than they actually would normally. They changed it so its pretty much impossible to tell until you’ve actually bid more than someone’s max bid (and therefore have taken over the bidding yourself).

    4. I too have had several instances where I bid what I valued it at, a few others did the same and got rejected and I still ended up with a few million that were sent with the item.

    5. This is merely re-inventing the wheel which has existed since man’s invention of auctions. Given that D3 was in development for more than six years, What is amazing is that it took more than 7 months after release of the RMAH to implement something as basic as this.

    6. I think I remember reading your post Aug. I done a search after that to find out more about AH bots, and there were a LOT of people using them and talking about them. I believed it was possible anyway, but I wanted a little more info. There is no doubt in my mind that I lost a few auctions because of this or had my bid maxed. I like anything that will make it harder for somebody to bot, but I am still gonna wait till 5 seconds left to bid on something that I really want. If my bid is high enough to get it, so be it.

      • Yes it took awhile for Blizzard and the fanboy community to acknowledge the AH bot problem as being more than just “tinfoil hat” posts. I had several items get knocked up to exactly my max bid even when I made it a very odd and ridiculous number. It had me suspicious enough to start investigating and it didn’t take me long to locate the seedy underbelly of the D3 AH.

        It’s odd that in my time on the forums I never saw them officially acknowledge this as a problem then suddenly BAM it gets the rare emergency hotfix treatment months after being brought to their attention. The inner workings of this team keep me in a constant state of confusion. Better late than never anyway I suppose.

    7. Ebay is exactly the same as your highest bid is never displayed until it is reached by a counter bidder.

      Surprised Flux didn’t know this. He Never bought anything on ebay I suppose.

      Also the so called old system was not really a problem. You just put up YOUR amount that you are willing to pay and not a penny more. If you got burnt by using fake max bids, i would call that a perfect own goal.


    8. They only fixed the 5% bid bug that could forced the price to the max bidder. Sniping is still working and is still happening.

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