Max Schaefer on Real Money Trading in Diablo 2 and 3

When we got news of Diablo III’s Real Money DiabloWikiAuction House and Always-Online requirements, I fired a list of questions over to Diablo creator DiabloWikiMax Schaefer. I was curious about his thoughts on the new systems, and what his new company, Runic Games, was planning for Torchlight 2 in those areas. Max took the time to reply to all of my questions and the full exchange has now been posted on our parent site,

See the full interview there, with Max’s thoughts on D3’s RMAH, online-only requirement, Torchlight 2’s approach to those issues, and more. Below are some excerpts from the interview. What do you think of the Diablo 3 auction house and the Real Money Trading aspect of it?
Max Schaefer: It’s something we thought about back in the old Diablo days as a way for people to have a more-secure transaction for all the items they were selling on EBAY. I’m not sure how I feel about it today – there are pluses and minuses. I’m glad they are doing it, though, because it serves as another point of distinction between Diablo III and Torchlight II. How about in the early days of your Diablo 3 MMORPG plans?
Max Schaefer: Yes, but not firm plans. Did you consider any RMT aspects to Torchlight 2 trading or other features?
Max Schaefer: No. Instead we chose to give our players the most flexibility possible. Online, offline, LAN play, and development tools. We will stay a one-time low cost purchase. I think both approaches are legitimate, though, this is just the path we’re taking for Torchlight II. Is it acceptable/ethical for a developer to require online full time for a non-MMORPG?
Max Schaefer: Yes, provided it fits the requirements of what they want to do with the game. In this case, a fully secure economy MAY require it. Since we are not going down that road ourselves, I’m very hesitant to second-guess their approach. As a gamer, I’d be annoyed if I thought this were just a Kotick-inspired plan to soak the consumer, but knowing Blizzard and the guys over there, that’s NOT what’s happening here. I’m certain it’s to create a fair competitive environment for their players. If you are an offline or single-player type, that’s not going to appeal to you, but if you like to partake in the ladders, or sell your fancy loot, or play with the absolute knowledge that nobody has an unfair advantage, it makes sense.

By the way, I think that there really is no meaningful distinction between Diablo 3 (or Diablo 2) and an MMORPG. By my reckoning, it is one, but that’s been my position for a long, long time. Do you think an RPG like Torchlight or Diablo 3 and its community, benefits from player input, modding access, etc?
We think so for Torchlight, but we’re not trying to create that cheat-free environment, so we don’t suffer from the downsides of allowing modding. Like I said before, I understand why they are precluding mods in Diablo 3, and like any design decision of this magnitude, there are advantages and disadvantages to any approach.

Thanks to Sir Schaefer for his replies, and I can’t help but wonder what their original plans for D3 as an MMORPG might have yielded on this front, had most of the dev team not quit in 2003, before the studio was shut down and the whole project was rebooted in 2005.

Enabling official support of RMT trading in the D3 MMORPG in 2007ish would have been hugely-controversial, much more so than Blizzard doing it in D3 in 2011 or 2012. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t have happened; Max and his fellow devs at Blizzard North were never afraid to ruffle feathers or lead the market, instead of just following trends once they become more or less safely accepted. At the very least, it would have been entertaining to watch Max personally dive into the RMT debate, hammering home the argument as he did in the old days over D2’s PvP switch. (Which remained in the game largely due to Max’s support of it.)

Related to this article
You're not logged in. Register or login to post a comment.

24 thoughts on “Max Schaefer on Real Money Trading in Diablo 2 and 3

    • 🙂    I assure you, 99% of the stuff I do on the site requires a LOT more work than sending Max an email.

  1. Very interesting that TL2 is going to ship with essentially a built-in trainer. Maybe Max misses the old days of D1 where everyone on was running around with Godly Plate of the Whale and Obsidian Rings of the Zodiac.

    I guess it’s a smart approach for them to try to just take the opposite approach as d3 in their development decisions, appeal to the other side of gamers’ interests. But to have absolutely no economy, and have people either hunting endlessly for other legit players to play or trade with or stuck with a bunch of cheaters… That’s something I *don’t* miss about D1!

  2. The thing i dislike about the open world no economy route is that you cant really get a sense of achievement. “I beat inferno in hardcore mode” doesn’t hold the same amount of water if you know that the game is freely available to mod. But i suppose the main goal is to have fun is it not? 😀

    • Do you really think that it holds more water to say “I beat inferno in hardcore mode…. using the very best gear possible in the game because some guy was selling it on the cheap”?  How is using gear for which you have put forth no effort, just your wallet, not cheating?  Because diablo 3 charges you to cheat, it’s better?

      • @Sir Mister
        Duping items and modding is entirely different then being able to buy 1 item daily off a RMAH. Also keep in mind that Hardcore doesn’t feature RMT…. soooo…. Your argument is completely invalid. Cheating in Torchlight 2 will be common, and i mean actually cheating. God mode mods, duping mods, item modifiers etc. etc.

  3. Sounds like they are basically going with a near-sandbox approach for TL2.  If nothing else it will be really fun to mess around with.  Of course I’m going to have to actually find time when I’m not playing D3, whenever that will be.

  4. I’m glad they’re going down the opposite road with Torchlight 2. A little friendly competition between the two companies would be fun to watch, but there are going to be people out there that want an alternative to one or the other. Want single player, modding, or LAN? Go to Torchlight 2! Looking for a more solid multiplayer experience with a stable** economy and secure backend**? Diablo 3 gots that covered.
    ** Purely based on speculation of course, but most assume these will be major goals for the Dev Team.
    It’s interesting to see Max see eye to eye with Blizzard’s decision to go the RMAH route, though I expected the comment about the online-only requirement as most people working in this industry have similarly said the same thing.

  5. I wonder if Max basically saying Blizzard isn’t this super evil Kotick-inspired entity will actually convince people of anything. Oh, nah, people will still bash on Blizzard anyway for being greedy or something, but buy their stuff anyway.
    And anyway, TL2 and D3 being different games and pricepoints is someone anyone could have guessed, but it’s good to hear him reinforcing that.  It makes them pretty different games at that point, aside from the story/art/etc.

  6. Keep in mind that their next plan with Torchlight is to make an MMO, which would necessarily have to go the WoW/D3 style of tightly regulated, online-only. That’s got a lot of other expenses involved, with all the hosting hardware and a huge customer service department,. If they continue with that plan it’ll be interesting to see how they differ from Blizz’s approach with D3 and WoW.

    • I think this is one part where they get lucky, since they can just have Perfect World maintain the servers and service department and can focus on making a fun game instead. No need to make another Ping0 this time, right flux? 😉

  7. “We are proud of what we’ve made in the Diablo universe, and the overwhelming success and support of our customers vindicates our core decisions from a business standpoint as well. Sure we’ve made mistakes, after all, we’re just gamers who are fortunate enough to have built a successful game company. We spend each day doing what we love to do: make and play fun computer games. The sales and success are nice, but they are secondary to our goal of making the games that we want to play.”  
    I LOVE YOU MAX !!!!!!!!! :pray:  I miss that times, there game exp where > money.

  8. Well, its something that will hold your interest the first play through at least… 🙂

    It will get into my game library, eventually.

  9. Hmmm. In D3, someone finds a way to dupe items and then sells them for real money. They then get caught after they have taken the money from the sales out of What happens?

    Man I can see lawsuits coming out of this RMAH.

    edit: I guess Blizz would have no choice but to accept it and fix the hole asap. Because I guess the customers of the items aren’t ripped off or anything, just the economy as a whole.

    • He said there’s no meaningful distinction, which is different than saying they ARE an MMO.  I disagree with his assessment, but he certainly knows better than me so I don’t have a great leg to stand on, haha.

        • each game world in diablo could be conceived as a separate instance. So by that logic the same question could be asked about wow dungeons. Is 5 at a time massive? the potential AMM pool of people playing diablo will likely be “massive”.

  10. So if the original team was developing Diablo 3 it would have be online-only and possibly include a real money trading system…

    • That’s kinda what I took out of this too… not so much that it definitely would, but it’s not the crazy, groundbreaking and soul crushing idea that many people assume it is.

      • Haha, yes exactly. I honestly wish all the QQ’n peeps around here would either stop, or leave the forums. It’s getting old 😉

  11. I disagree, I don’t think games like Diablo 2, 3, or Guild Wars 1 for instance are MMORPG.  They may be MORPG, but not MMORPG.  The full acronym is for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game.  It’s obviously multiplayer, but Massively Multiplayer?  Games like WoW, you can form raids of 25-40 people, and as far as random un-grouped people standing in the same area, that’s only limited by what the server can handle.
    So while there’s an online connection in games like Diablo 3 to many other players, if you’re not actually playing WITH them except for 8 players at a time or so, I consider that only ‘multiplayer’ and not ‘MASSIVELY multiplayer’.  Yes, you can interact through the auction house with a massive amount of other players, and the total amount of people your character EVER plays with, could also be massive, but really, the main part of the game simply isn’t designed to support a massive amount of multiple players simultaneously.

Comments are closed.