Have you ever planned a vacation and discovered days before taking your trip that the weather is supposed to be gloomy and cold – but upon arriving, you discover bright blue skies? You might have spent a lot of time worrying – but it ultimately turned out to be for nothing.
From what I’m seeing on the forums (and recent videos of the RoS beta), the same thing is happening around the discussion of BoA in Diablo 3. A recent poll showed about 70% of our site members are willing to accept some degree of binding (if it means finding better items). Still… that means around a third of people are uneasy about it or outright don’t like it.
Nobody knows what the expansion will actually be like when it arrives (unless they’re really, really good at reading tea leaves). Thankfully, that doesn’t stop us from speculating wildly! Based on what we’ve seen of the beta, I’d like to take a moment to gaze (in a crystal-ball-esque manner) at what the beta’s current item game may tell us about binding, and D3’s future.
Why BoE and BoT (Probably) Won’t Work
Those who gripe about the idea of BoA in D3 usually mention two alternatives: Bind on Equip, and Bind on Trade. The argument goes that by using these forms of binding, players would still be able to trade freely, but reselling of items would be cut greatly, which (they hope) would help solve the problem of gear being too easy to acquire through trading.
But both of those ideas ignore the influence of bots on the game (which are only too happy to sell you brand new, never-been-purchased gear). What’s worse, third-party sites will likely learn how to streamline the buying process by using Blizzard’s own AH as a template. Fleets of bots on third-party sites will be ready to sell you any item your heart desires. Result: We’re back to items being too easy to acquire.
And that would just be with legendary and set items. Currently, rares have no binding whatsoever. It was a nice concession to traders to not have binding on rares, but the result will be almost as bad as if we still had the AH. Power traders will have the best rare gear within days of the expansion going live. BoE and BoT on legs and sets would just make matters worse, essentially recreating the situation we have today with the AH.
All Signs Point to Trading Being Largely Unnecessary
It’s a good thing there’s a dearth of great gear dropping in the beta for RoS. Actually, the main problem with the beta right now seems to be that good gear is almost too easy to find; Flux’s HC monk was ready for Torment difficulty after only a few weeks of regular beta play.
Granted, the beta still has tons of tuning to go through before the expansion is ready for prime time. But if the current gear drop rates are anywhere close to what we see in Loot 2.0 and RoS, the urge to trade for an item won’t be nearly as strong. Since you won’t be able to buy every item immediately (like legs and set items), it’s important that item hunting yields cooler stuff more frequently.
I’m not sure how they’ll do it, but I’m betting Blizzard wants to get the game to a point where the first thing players think when an item drops isn’t how much gold or cash they’ll get for it in a trade, but how exciting it will be to equip it, share it with your other characters, or salvage it and run it through the crafting machine (in the hope of getting something better). They have their work cut out for them, but it’s a great goal to encourage that mindset among players.
Dealing With The “Veruca Salt” Mentality
Lately, I’ve come to believe SF players and power traders are not actually at war with each other, per se. After all, they’re both dealing with a frustrating item hunt and a “want it now” mentality. SF players have made peace with this “need it now” feeling by accepting that it’s not worth buying or trading something, if it’ll rob you of the joy of finding it later on.
But what about those who like to balance finding and trading? The urge to get it all now (or at least, sooner rather than later) by buying it on a third-party site or power trading can be hard to deal with. Like Veruca Salt in the tale of Willy Wonka, it’s hard to fight the desire to have it all now. And it’s even tougher when there’s always a bot willing to sell it to you.
It’s a shame there’s no pop-up, warning players: “Hey, you’re trading to the point that you’ll never find anything better on your own – so you’ll be entirely dependent upon trading to find anything better from now on.” Until there is, anyone who trades too much will be at risk of losing the ability to actually find their own upgrades while playing the game.
If you look at it that way… maybe binding is simply Blizzard’s way of helping players help themselves? Especially if said players want to feel any sense of joy in actually finding their own items.
Merging SF and Trade: A Tightrope Act
Several people on the official forums (a few SF buds among them) still seem confused as to why Blizzard created an almost-but-not-quite-Ironborn mode, instead of simply splitting the game into SF and trade modes. It would be a win-win, right?
My guess is that, although many players see playing SF and trading as an either/or choice, most players probably trade to various degrees – from only once or twice, to almost always. So while splitting the game into four modes (SF SC, SF HC, Trade SC, Trade HC) might seem like Blizzard would be giving players what they want, it would just polarize the community further.
Looking Back, Looking Forward
While watching RoS gameplay streams gives us an idea of how we’ll feel playing it, there are still patches, fixes and changes to be made. Until we can dive in and play the final version for ourselves, we’re left speculating and tea-leaf reading. In a sense, it’s a bit like trying to forecast the weather: it’s an imperfect science.
At this point, it’s worth keeping two things in mind: 1) if BoA really doesn’t work out, they can always remove it later, and 2) people were just as nervous about the AH at the launch of D3, as they are now about the planned arrival of BoA when RoS hits.
To the second point, there’s something to be said about being afraid of things we don’t know much about. True, people have tried (and apparently managed to live with) binding mechanics in games like WoW, but such broad-scale binding has never been done in a Diablo game before. In that sense, the anxiety traders feel is understandable.
Sympathy For Traders
At the same time, it’s worth noting that a lot of people ended up enjoying D3C in spite of its horrid drop rates. SF players felt left out in the cold, since the game treated them as though they were power traders – but at least traders could say they enjoyed using the AH.
It sucks when a company puts something in a game that people enjoy, and then rip it out (for whatever reason). And for that, I feel for traders. It’s never any fun when that happens.
For my own part, as frustrating as the drop rate were when D3 first came out, and despite later patches not doing much to help it, I still played the game. Call me crazy, but I’m willing to trust Blizzard once more as they try to fix the item game.
Even as much as SF players felt like D3C was made for trading, not playing, we’ve still stuck around. Right?… I hope traders will at least be willing to give RoS a shot before raising their pitchforks.
+Loot 2.0, -Binding?
There are still a lot of questions I have for the devs. For example, why not simply put Loot 2.0 in without any binding? If people want to ruin the economy and trade to the point where they can no longer find their own upgrades, why not let them? The risk would be on them.
I predict that the reason the devs want a more stabilized economy is because they want D3 to last a really long time. I’m not sure how long exactly, but I’d guess they are hoping the game is popular enough to warrant another three expansions after RoS.
What do you all think? Is this all crazy talk, or could Blizzard be preparing D3 for the (really) long haul?
If you have any thoughts or ideas on any of this stuff, I’d love to hear them. I may be a SF player, but I’m not ignorant to the fact that a lot of people like to trade. I just believe that the task Blizzard has before them (making everyone happy) is actually quite challenging.
Anyway – here’s to an expansion that (hopefully) makes all of us happy! *raises glass*
Ironborn is a column by Waterfiend that explores self-found play and related topics. Got an idea for a column? Share it in the comments or contact Waterfiend on his profile page.