Rob Pardo Interview @ Wall Street Journal

DiabloWikiRob Pardo, Blizzard’s Senior VP of Game Design, has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. It’s not a financial interview, since even the WSJ runs an entertainment blog these days. The interview is apparently brand new; it references the controversy about the real money Auction House, but alas, doesn’t really dig into Blizzard’s reaction to the fan outrage. There are some useful questions about the AH though, plus other game feature changes from D2 to D3.

Here’s a quote, and thanks to fmulder for the tip.

You’ve talked about the auction house being unprecedented in gaming in terms of the way it’s implemented here, but it does seem comparable to social games like FarmVille or Tiny Tower that basically allow you to spend money when you lose patience with the waiting game, or in this case the meta-game of grinding for random drops. It allows players to accelerate their own pace. How much have those games informed this new system?
Rob Pardo: There have been microtransactions going for a while in games. What no one’s done is the player-to-player aspect of it. We’re taking it a step back and saying it’s up to the player base to decide. It’s not up to us. It’s a player-driven economy; if people find value and want to do this activity, then there have to be sellers and buyers. You don’t really have that sense that, like in some of these games, players feel they have to buy some of the items, or they have to buy gold from the company to even be able to advance in the game. That’s not how we’re designing Diablo III at all. I think the important thing for us is to make sure the game plays really well if you never trade an item.

Do you expect the meta-game to evolve in unexpected ways?
Rob Pardo: I would say that’s quite likely. Considering that we don’t have anyone to look at that’s done it like this, it’s going to be hard to predict exactly what will happen.

The player base is very vocal about any change perceived to threaten the integrity of the game. In your experience do the majority of these concerns die away after the games are released? Or in other cases do you learn that they did have a point?
Rob Pardo: You ignore the opinions of the fan base at your own peril. I think what’s really important to us is that when there is an uproar or a concern that we listen to it and think seriously about it. The thing that often happens is that players have imperfect knowledge of the situation. They imagine the game’s going to be like this, and here’s everything that’s going to happen. So there’s usually a lot of fear without a lot of knowledge going on. If we’re wrong, then we’re pretty unafraid to change things.

So for the scientifically-measured 51% of you guys who hate or dislike the RMT; do you feel your objections stem from your lack of complete knowledge of the situation?

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59 thoughts on “Rob Pardo Interview @ Wall Street Journal

  1. I love the idea :)…. To all those who “hate it” you have to remember D3 is not D2 and should be treated as such. This is not going to just be D2 with better graphics. There will be huge differences! Look at the difference between D1 and D2 im sure there was just as big of an upset between those two. duhhhh

    • Diablo2 was definitely more of a sequel to diablo, than diablo3 is to diablo2, that’s for sure. But to every pro-RMAH defender out there, you were all 100% content with a regular auction house. Blizzard came up with an idea that is virtually identical to prohibition in the US. They don’t want the responsibility of handling bots and dupe exploits, so instead they’re going to make money off of it. Not a single person asked to have a RMAH, it was “forced” upon us based on the assumption that a majority of gamers in diablo2 used item sites. Boy, blizzard definitely doesn’t know about the fanbase of diablo2.
      Remember in diablo2 when buying items was frowned upon because it gave people an unfair advantage in pvp? Yeah… those were the good ol days. 🙂

  2. I agree and disagree with Rob.  He says that they are listening to the player base, which I think is true to a point, but its obvious from some things that some of the designers have said, that they don’t have a clue about what the Diablo community is actually about.  Jay Wilson’s comment about “Hardcore players only wanting to play online to show off their e-peen” is a perfect example.  That’s total bullshit.

    The RMAH is definitely unprecedented, at least the way they are doing it in this type of game.  We can make predictions about how it will or won’t work, but I think it comes down to the fact that no one, not even Blizzard, knows how it will really work until several weeks or even months after the game is finally released and players are (or are not) actually using the RMAH.

    I know for myself that my own objections about the RMAH were based on false information.  in reality it works differently than I initially thought it did.  Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t like it.  But its not as much of a “serious problem” as I first thought.

    • I commented before I read this, but you got it spot-on.

      But my objections aren’t (or don’t appear to be?) based on false information.

  3. “Do you expect the meta-game to evolve in unexpected ways?”
    wall street journal, u so crazee

  4. He has a point. It really is all speculation at this point. I think there are just a lot of doomsayers. Especially since nothing like this has been done in a game before, there isn’t really anyway to know completely how it will play out.

    • Compeltely? No, but there’s logical guesses that could be made based on prior experience with RMT systems that are built into games.
      He makes it sound like this is brand new, but it isn’t. There’s plenty of games that have it. They just (usually) don’t have it player-to-player. Granted, that’s a massive difference, but there’s still examples and projections that can be made. Guesses that will probably hit a mark or fly wildly by. 

      A lot of what you are calling “doomsaying” is people who probably feel betrayed that Blizzard just completely and utterly buckled on an issue that’s been important to this community (and many others) for a very long time now. And they’ve been defending us on it for a long time, until this month, I guess, when they just gave up because they lack the talent and ambition to actually deal with it.

      • RMT will always be in games like this like it was really present in D2. I prefer to see it driven by Blizz and money spent to players like me to see it go in the pocket of chinese farmers ruining our in game experience.

  5. I’m so fucking over hearing about this RMAH QQ bullshit and flux’s 51% of you hate or dislike in every single news digest post.

    Give the new system a chance before you judge it with your lack of game design experience.

    • We ran a vote that got almost 5000 replies. What better metric do you have for judging the community’s opinion on the RMAH, that you’d like me to cite in news posts instead of that one?

      • Flux, I’m sorry but that poll was horribly skewed. You had 3 questions for ‘dislike’ in some way or another, one neutral/undecided, and one for ‘do you absolutely love it!!’ You really should balance your questions more carefully if you’re going to draw any inferences from the data.

      • lol.. no doubt heaps of people on these bloody forums are whinging. It wouldnt suprise me if the people who like it are sick of all the whinging and have stopped coming to the forums until this blows over. End result: Polls favour the whingers. And given that it favours the whingers is disputable, then I’d argue that the silent majority are in favour of RMT.

    • I agree Deadcell. I’m starting to realise why Flux was left out of the press event. He is clearly prioritising the fan uproar (which is no doubt the minority) over the information.

      • Newsflash: half of flux’s duty here is to get views, and what better way to do that then fanning the flames of a very controversial topic.

      • he was left out of the press event because he’s interviewing Path Of Exile this Wednesday; because he interviewed Runic Games last year; because he allows people to post on here and say they’re not going to buy D3 because  of all the changes

  6. I think a lot of the negative reaction to the RMT stuff is based on leeriness that it might suck, not absolute confidence that it will suck. (Or at least it should be. I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t tons of crazy people in the debate who have frenzied themselves into certainty about something that they don’t know much about.) I mean, I’m reasonably confidant that the RMAH won’t be problematic because Blizz generally does stuff right, but it’s uncharted territory, and there’s a lot of little quirks that could throw things for a loop. I mean, I’d hazard that the D2 devs didn’t shoot for an economy where gold was nearly valueless, but that’s what we got because that’s how the economy shook out. We might end up with an economy where your choice of a complete set of any items you could imagine costs less than a Taco Bell burrito. We might end up with an economy where any item worth anything to anyone cost more than the game itself did. We might end up with a really unstable economy, where the value of stuff rocks around sharply – and when the game is brand new, that’s almost going to be inevitable. We might end up where if you want to compete at PvP, yeah, you are going to have to drop some heavy cash. Those are pretty unlikely outcomes, but they’re certainly possible outcomes, and that’s a reasonable source or wariness for people. I might describe myself as a bit negative-feeling on the RMAH, not because I blindly hate it on principle, but because it’s uncharted territory with some pretty frown-faced consequences if things go wrong.

    • like it have been said every item you can buy in RMAH will be buyable in gold ah. it will also be possible to transfer gold into balance.
      The item is only in RMAH? no prob just sell a bunch of gold for cash for your balance and buy your item with your balance. seem quite good for me.

  7. While I am still on the fence about the RMT/RMAH, my bigger concerns are to do with the 10 character limit, The loss of Skill Points and the “online only” issue. Which I fear will be far bigger problems.

  8. What bothers me about the RMAH is the fact that we will be working for Blizzard under the guise of playing a fun game. The % in sales from money exchange will generate a hell of a lot more than say, a monthly subscription.

    • Except that its not exactly slave labor.  You’re making money too unless you choose not to use the auction house.  Either way, it’s surely preferable to paying a monthly subscription.

    • and if that money is used to improve the game and bring us patches and fix like in wow i’m 100% with that.

      • we cant say the money is going to improve the game, so u cant say that
        @ kar : actually u cant choose use RMAH because if you want to finish your character’s build with a certain gear, the best one, wth is actually wth u want in a game like this you must go in the RMAH to buy those items
        THAT IS A FACT
        blizzard destroyed GOLD as a currency AGAIN, there are very few gold sinks and only non-crap items will be available via RMAH

  9. I don’t particularly like the idea of the RMAH, and chances are I will never use it, but I have too many unanswered questions/concerns about it before I can truly form an opinion.

    Let’s say I find a godly item that could fetch me 5 bucks on the RMAH. Some poor sap buys said item. How exactly will the money transfer go down? The buyer gives the money to Blizzard via credit card/paypal etc. and they in turn take their cut and write a check and mail it to me at home? Credit it to my bank account?  Or does it become virtual credit that I must spend on the RMAH in game?

    Maybe I missed it somewhere but a detailed writeup of exactly how this RMAH is going to work would go a long way right now.

    • it was all explaned in the annoucement. you have an option to put that said cash in your e-balance that is used in the RMAH or to buy blizzard products or to transfert that cash to an external cash service like paypal but we dont know which service will be used yet.

      • Actually, they said you wouldn’t be able to cash out for any money earned by selling items. So you can transfer money in and buy things (and cash out money that you transferred in), or you can sell things and use that money to buy things (but you can’t cash out since you didn’t transfer money in).

        The fans that they supposedly listen to had many serious questions and concerns after Jay’s announcement, and naturally, there were a lot of negative reactions. Instead of answering the questions, Bashiok decided to dismiss the concerns as trolling and fan the flames by making fun of a few easy-target immature responses. Unfortunately, we have Jay (unknowledgeable and insulting) and Bashiok (rude and arrogant) as two of the primary sources of information.

        Here, Ron is accusing the fans of making opinions based on misinformation. But the only sources of information we have are from Blizzard. So either Blizzard has failed to provide sufficient and accurate information, or we stupid immature fans are incapable of understanding the clear and comprehensive information they’ve provided…

        • Correction: According to Bashiok, when you sell something at the RMAH, you can either get credit on your account (which you can use for Blizzard products or to buy from the RMAH) or you can get the deposit in your bank account (minus transaction fees from Blizzard and a third-party service provider). You can also transfer money from your bank account to your account. However, you can’t transfer from your account to a bank account.
          I was mistaken before, so now I’m trying to correct my accidental spreading of misinformation…

  10. While there probably is lack of information here, I can’t see how any new information could put the RMAH in a better light*.
    So no, the lack of information is annoying but hardly matters in this case.
    * Other than ‘It was a joke’ maybe.

  11. Pardo has a good, valid point. Yes, we have imperfect knowledge of this system, as do they, as he freely admitted one question prior.
    But they have very imperfect knowledge of the community. Don’t listen to us at your own peril my ass, when Bashiok made it explicitly clear that they have no intention of listening to us on any of these issues.

  12. Our uproar is caused by our lack of knowledge? That’s bullshit and it’s THEIR fault for NOT GIVING US SUBSTANTIAL INFO THAT COUNTS AS KNOWLEDGE. If they actually gave us something to digest more often than once every 6 months, then we’d have more time to think about it and come around, not right before the friggin beta starts. God they’re dickheads.

    I blame Kotick for this, he’s turned them into money-grabbing whores. That’s all they care about now.

  13. Calling that poll scientific has got to be a joke, right? I mean you combine 2 scores to leverage your own opinion of the RMT trading and its pretty pathetic that you do so. If you were just going to combine results so you could generalize and say “that’s the majority opinion” then why offer 2 separate responses at all? You should have just had 1 “nay” option, or had 2 “yay” options. The poll was very amateur to begin with and the way you report on the results are even worse.
    Fact is, the prevailing opinion is that, without arbitrarily combining results, the majority of visitors here actually like the RMT auction house and a lot of the anti-RMT sentiments are completely unfounded since no one has actually gotten to experience the system yet.

    • If the “anti-RMT sentiments” are unfounded because we haven’t gotten to use the RMAH yet, then how are the pro-RMT sentiments not unfounded?

      There is no “prevailing opinion”. You offer no numbers, no proof, no evidence at all, other than saying “the majority think ‘x'”. Uh, do they? Wanna show me?

      • > There is no “prevailing opinion”. You offer no numbers, no proof, no evidence at all, other than saying “the majority think ‘x’”. Uh, do they? Wanna show me? <
        You're misreading my statement I do believe. Here is why: Because I am basing my numbers on the poll itself. What I think is wrong is that 2 results in that poll are combined arbitrarily. If we stop combining 3 results, and look at each of the responses independently, then the prevailing opinion is in support of the real money AH @ 37% Instead what we get is a poorly constructed poll and poorly reported results of the poorly constructed poll. I question why there were 3 similar "nay" responses and only 1 "yay" response. I am obviously not alone in thinking that this poll is a complete joke. Would you like to explain to us why you think otherwise?

        EDIT: Just realized they actually combined 3 results, not 2. Fixed.

        • How do you my opinion on the RMAH? I haven’t disclosed my vote on the issue, and I’ve offered plenty of arguments supporting all or parts of the system in discussions. I thought trading was horrible in D2 and will be greatly improved in D3.

          If the vote had come out with 75% of people loving the AH, and hardly votes against the RMT aspects, then I’d be quoting that in relevant news posts.

          People sometimes confuse my bringing up counterpoints on issues with me agreeing with those counter points. If I quoted a news item in which someone said how horrible the the AH was and that everyone disliked it, I’d point to statistics to refute that. It’s just that (for obvious reasons) the news tends to quote Bliz employees talking up their game features.

          My goal here is to spread the info and stir conversation. How boring would it be if I said, “Yeah, Rob’s right. Once you know more you’ll love the AH! So everyone stop worrying and talking about this now.”

          • The issue here isn’t even really the opinions that people have – if that is what you think you’re missing the problem that I am really trying to vocalize – I have seen many people here raise the same issue with the poll in question and have yet to see you acknowledge that problem. To highlight the problem I will quote Jast since he eloquently describes the problem:
            “Flux, I’m sorry but that poll was horribly skewed. You had 3 questions for ‘dislike’ in some way or another, one neutral/undecided, and one for ‘do you absolutely love it!!’ You really should balance your questions more carefully if you’re going to draw any inferences from the data.”
            That is just one pertinent response of many. You know, the RMAH is really a topic worth revisiting, maybe a new, neutral poll would be appropriate. Who knows, maybe opinions have changed, maybe some who once supported the RMAH will now see it as a real threat to the game’s quality and integrity, maybe some who first reviled the concept have now warmed to it?
            I realize you’re attempting to vocalize the possible reactions to the RMAH in interesting ways, what with you needing to stir conversation and all, but maybe try a simple poll like “Based on the information we have about the Real Money Auction House (then link to AH FAQ) what do you think of the feature?”  Responses: A.) I like it, B.) I don’t like it, C.) Undecided.

    • I don’t see the poll options as bad, there are plenty of options for all opinions, even one to sit on the fence. If people liked it with no caveat there is an option for that and 37% of people do. So where is the problem?  27% like it but not the rmt.  Any other combination of answers and you’re probably just splitting hairs for the sake of it.

      I thought it was obvious the ‘scientific’ comment was a joke.  Maybe you’re new here.

  14. Blizzard is ruining the game with their bizarre decisions. And the are certainly not listening to the fan base. The items for cash decision is only one of the decisions that fans are in an uproar about and Blizzard has not really responded to anything other than to say we don’t know what we are talking about.

  15. The thing that gets me about this whole deal is that if Blizzard gave everyone what they wanted all those people would turn around and complain that the game is just D2 with better graphics.

    The Auction Halls in D3 won’t have the impact on the game that you guys expect it to.  Even in WoW if you take the AH out of the game it really wouldn’t change much.  Yeah there are people that spend most of their time playing the AH but there is absolutely zero requirement to use the AH in WoW.  Diablo 3 will be the same way.  

    Someone selling a Windforce for $50 on the RMAH doesn’t in anyway affect your ability to play the game. 

    If there was no AH you wouldn’t have access to that Windforce or if there was just a gold only AH the price of an item like that would be so high it would be out of reach.

    • I haven’t seen many people saying “Auction House sucks”. I hear them saying “RMAH sucks”.
      I think I’ve seen maybe one, two posts from people in the billion threads about it saying that they don’t even like the gold AH.

      • I wasn’t saying the AH sucks.  I was saying people trading items for real money doesn’t affect your ability to play the game.

        • No one (I believe) is arguing it affects peoples ability to play the game, just the quality of the game.

      • I guess you missed out on the whole ‘why an AH wouldn’t work in Diablo’ discussions prior to the AH reveal?
        I for one think that an AH doesn’t fit well into the Diablo world, and I would have much preferred to have a bazaar or something that requires us to ‘shop’ for items that other players are displaying. That way, some time and luck would have been needed to find good items to buy. It would also encourage player interaction – ‘yeah, i bought from that guy before, he usually has good stuff!’. Now it’s basically just a gigantic vendor, which doesn’t make much sense lore-wise.

  16. Guys.

    In Diablo II, crafted items were often potentially the best items. In Diablo III, every crafted item you make will cost gold. Effectively, gold will be like being able to purchase drops. Tier-specific drops with some pre-determined affixes, so the bottom floor of sucking will be way above what gambling gave us.

    If that pans out, gold will have a conversion rate with the $. You would some times be better off selling off all your Swords of Sucking for gold, then doing one net gold sell so you’re hit by Blizzard’s fees only once.

    Dropping single player so the game’s inferior to Hellgate London is a bigger deal.

  17. “So for the scientifically-measured 51% of you guys who hate or dislike the RMT; do you feel your objections stem from your lack of complete knowledge of the situation?”

    Well we haven’t seen the RMAH in action yet, so yeah, naturally everyone’s objections stem from incomplete knowledge. That’s just the way things will be until something actually happens.

    I hope your notion that an internet poll is scientific was meant sarcastically . . .

  18. A few things people seem to be misinformed about (unless there was an update that I missed).
    1: You CAN take money out of the game from selling items.  However, you must make a choice at the time of sale, either recycle the money back into the game (at which point it is impossible to withdraw it) or send it to the currently undisclosed 3rd party to turn into cash (after a cut is removed by Blizzard and/or the 3rd party).
    2: Gold still has value.  There is a gold to cash conversion rate in-game that allows you to turn your gold into cash for the RMAH, so gold will have a very definite value.  That value will apparently fluctuate in some way based on the RMAH but there has not been any other info disclosed yet.
    Anyway, I’m all for the RMAH.  It’s basically a way to turn un-needed junk into free cash.  Heck, give it a few months and maybe my game will have paid for itself.  Don’t need an upgrade?  Friends don’t need an upgrade?  Not going to make the right kind of crafting mats?  To the RMAH!

  19. Guys.

    In Diablo II, crafted items were often potentially the best items. In Diablo III, every crafted item you make will cost gold. Effectively, gold will be like being able to purchase drops. Tier-specific drops with some pre-determined affixes, so the bottom floor of sucking will be way above what gambling gave us.

    If that pans out, gold will have a conversion rate with the $. You would sometimes be better off selling off all your Swords of Sucking for gold, then doing one net gold sell so you’re hit by Blizzard’s fees only once. If you want to complain about the game becoming a part time job and putting its hooks into you even deeper, never letting you escape… well, that is a legitimate complaint.

    Dropping single player so the game’s inferior to Hellgate London is a bigger deal.

  20. “And now for something completely different…” (since I still don’t know what to think about RMAH)
    Rob has a big plus in my book for mentioning NetHack 🙂 Oops… I think I just carbon dated myself 😛

  21. “What we’re trying to emphasize so much more in this one is bringing in the co-op play—you can start playing a game by yourself, and [your network of] friends can see you’re online and can jump right into your game”

    Relatedly, i bet that is one of, if not *the* secret overarching reason for making it online-only.  They want literally everyone playing somewhere accessible to their friends for coop.  “Hey where’s Mike, i thought he plays Diablo.”  “He plays single player.”

  22. 1) Like it alot. (37%, 1,665 Votes)
    2) Like it except for the RMT. (27%, 1,241 Votes)
    5) Hate it. Especially the RMT. (17%, 763 Votes)
    3) Not sure/no opinion. (11%, 519 Votes)
    4) Don’t want, but it’s not a biggie. (8%, 330 Votes)

    How can that ever become ” scientifically-measured 51% of you guys who hate or dislike the RMT”

    44% sure. But the rest don’t care or more likely will make their mind up after they have tried it. I can say that 45% are okay with it, and 11% is undecided, and still have a more scientifically correct measurement among the less than 3k people that voted.

    “do you feel your objections stem from your lack of complete knowledge of the situation?”

    I feel that a lot of people should wait and see before they go ranting. Even without RMAH or gold base AH, as long as there is item trading and there will be some form of RM trading.

  23. I guess I’m still confused on the action house system they are implementing.  Who in the heck would pay real money for gear? I mean really? That really doesn’t make sense to me. i can understand MT’s to a point but paying another player real money for items? Silly when they can use development time for the actual game.
    know you don’t have to pay for gear. It’s your choice but who would use this Auction house system?
    personally I stay away from MT’s it’s stupid and IMO I don’t enjoy the game any better if I pay extra for an item because it will make my character powerful. Games like farmville was fun until I had to ask other people for items I need or pay real money to get the item I needed. It’s digging into players pockets.
    I know it’s the players choice. To me gaming is a hobby and I don’t think paying real money for extra items that make you more powerful that isn’t available in-game a good idea. Yeah it’s free to play but sadly this concept is going into subscription based games and it really irks the hell out me.

  24. Except that the items people have the option of buying, ARE available in game.  That is, if you find them.  It’s not as if there are super powerful magic items only available for real money purchase via the auction system.

    Also, online only sucks bawlz

  25. Because internet polls are VERY scientific… Not to mention the questions were not ideal for determining people’s true opinion. I guess I am missing why people are so bent out of shape about it… if you don’t like it, don’t use it.  Personally I think the whole AH concept for a game like diablo defeats the point of the game, which is playing the game and finding cool loot.  I will probably ditch my excess gold on the RMAH but I do not intend to purchase anything on either auction houses.

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