There’s a new interview on PC Gamer with Diablo 3 / Reaper of souls developers. Lead Content Designer Kevin Martens and Level Designer Laura Paolilli field questions cover D3’s rough launch, Loot 2.0 changes, Reaper of Souls features, the shutdown of the Auction House, and lessons learned from D3 that led to the many improvements we see in D3v2 and will see many more of in Reaper of Souls.
Martens: I think the randomness thing. We should have made everything random from the start. So the reason we didn’t have random exterior zones was because we wanted the game to have more of that real RPG feel; that the world was real and had a sense of place. And like the loot problem, until Loot 2.0 was really dialing in, it was hard for us to figure out what to do with the auction house; it was the same with the randomness. Until the other aspects that made the game more RPG and more connected to the world were dialed in… you know, we’ve gotten better at storytelling since Diablo III; the world map that comes with Adventure Mode makes Sanctuary feel a lot more real just because you have a map of it, if nothing else, and that’s a relatively simple solution to the problem. All of that made us comfortable with introducing randomized exterior zones as well.
Paolilli: Yeah, and that’s actually one of my favorite things that we’ve done. With the map you have that sense of place, whereas before I think the environments looked great, but you didn’t really have that sense of how everything is connected. And I think the map and the ability to go anywhere and do anything helps.
Martens: Dynamic Difficulty is another great example of that. We had our old-school linear difficulty that was inherited from the past, where you had to play through normal, nightmare, and so on. Dynamic Difficulty, which we made for Adventure Mode, allowed us to break that dichotomy for the game as well because otherwise we would have had to have a version of a monster for every possible level. So if you played Act II, we would have to have a Level 31, 32, 33… all the way up to 70 version of every monster for it to be fun. The overall Dynamic Difficulty system removed that burden and let us focus on a grander vision for our gameplay.
The randomization is a good point, and it was something I really noticed during the Reaper beta test. You saw it most clearly in Nephalem Rifts, with levels all shuffled up in order, and usually redesigned and resized as well. Some of the outdoor areas were identical, if they were towns or all designed (like Wortham) but many others were very randomized. In Rifts I saw dozens of totally different sizes and layouts for the Dhalgur Oasis, and that was fun for itself, and also as a surprising change after seeing the one same layout so many times previously in Diablo 3.
The question about the Auction House and Loot 2.0 is a good starting point for debate as well, so check out the interview and share your thoughts in comments.
Martens: It did what it was intended to do in one way, which was to make trading a safe place to happen without trading scams and other ripoffs. However, it had a very bad unintended consequence of making trading the best way to get items in the game. The fact is that the most fun way for the vast majority of people is to kill monsters and take gears from their cold, dead claws. Trading became very easy. The auction house lowered the barrier of entry so much that it became the best way to get items, and ultimately players will do whatever is smartest. They will find the golden path and do what is most efficient.
You should play the game to get gear to kill the monsters. You shouldn’t get gear to kill monsters because you will get bored too quickly. It stole people’s reward curve is essentially what it did; it made it very easy for them to do it. So trading isn’t a bad way to get items, but if it negates playing the game, then we’ve made a huge mistake. And we did, which is why we’re shutting down the auction house.
Kevin’s not here to argue with, but I’d follow up on that if I were doing the interview. The issue with Diablo 3 wasn’t the AH, it was the item system that made it much too hard to find good gear, compounded by the fact that there were so few useful affixes, that the classes wanted almost all the same affixes, that everything proc from crit change, that there weren’t any interesting legendary properties, that there were no bonuses for self finding, that nothing (until crafting) was account bound, etc. (Many/most of those issues are fixed or at least greatly-improved in Reaper of Souls.)
Sure, it all goes hand in hand, but it’s not like D3 had this ideal item system and then the AH somehow ruined that. On the contrary, the AH was what made D3 viable for very many players, since trading was really the only way to accumulate high quality gear, and the AH was a spectacular trading system, if you’re grading success by how easy is a free flow of items. So yeah, blame the Auction House, but that particular tool is being made a scapegoat for larger systemic issues.
In fact, with the D3v2 economy and item system and the evolution of it in Reaper of Souls, I don’t really see why they need to remove the AH. All the big gems, crafting mats, and the best gear is BoA. The AH would do nothing but facilitate trading Rare items, which are never end game quality gear except maybe in jewelry. (And only there until you get a really good legendary roll.) I think the shutdown of the AH is basically a political/PR tool at this point, as Kevin’s reply stresses.