In the rushing crush of news since UnicorNDay expired/began at midnight on Sunday, I’ve been trying to post only the stuff really worth reading, to put some useful comments on all of the news instead of just a bland link/quote/comment naowkthx, and to never infrequently resort to a lazy “here’s a bunch of links please drive thru.” That standard is becoming harder to adhere to, as the new features keep coming, more interviews are posted, and Bashiok continues to make more forum posts in the 36 hours after the NDA ended than he’d made in the previous 36 weeks.

    (It’s weird that one time every 6 months when Blizzard actually pays some attention to Diablo 3. We go so long without any promotion that the feeling of not being ignored takes a while to sink in.)

    Crush of content and backed up news or not, I’m sticking to the “only post news worth posting” manifesto. However as Bashiok’s replied to about ten different forum threads about various DiabloWikiAuction House and DiabloWikiRMT issues, I’m going to stick them all into this post and make no effort to add individual comments. Here’s the start of one of the big threads; click through to read the rest of it, and quite a few others on Auction House stuff. There’s a bunch of bonus AH discussion questions at the end, too.

    Fair warning; get your scrolling finger warmed up now.

    One of the more amusing threads quotes Blizzard’s rationale for why they don’t allow RMT in World of Warcraft. Since all of the issues seem to relate to Diablo 3 as well, the OP probably thought he had a knock out. Bashiok rose to the occasion though, landing counter-punches on most of the main issues.

    …but it also has the potential to damage the game economy and overall experience for the many thousands of others who play World of Warcraft for fun
    Bashiok: We still think that’s true for a MMO in which thousands of players co-mingle in a persistent world and vie for supremacy in eSport competitions or ‘world first’ boss kills in raids. Neither of these are true though for a co-op action RPG.

    The worst that could happen is you open your game up to the public, someone jumps in wearing some awesome gear, and you don’t know if he found those items himself. But that’d be the case whether we offered an official way to buy items from other players or not.

    …we feel that players can find ample equipment and money for their characters within the game through their own adventuring and questing.
    Bashiok: The same is not true for Diablo in which all items are randomized in both affixes and drop chances from all enemies. We know that trading is necessary in Diablo games to build a solid character as you could play forever and still never see a specific item you’re after.

    Yes – but why oh why the 180? I always thought that Blizzard games were the last bastion of ‘no ingame advantage can be bought for real money’. Bashiok, I am a big fan of yours and generally agree with what you say. But I cannot express my dislike for this new development strongly enough.
    Bashiok: Bottom line is people are going to buy those in-game advantages whether we want them to or not. We have a subscription-based game in World of Warcraft and try as we might we still struggle to keep pace with those looking to turn a profit. Why not bring that in-house, make it secure, make it guaranteed, and provide a safe way for players to sell to other players?

    This is specifically only a decent idea in our minds for Diablo III because an in-game advantage doesn’t mean you steal a world first, or up your arena rating, or edge out in a competition. Diablo III is a co-op game. If you’re buying power it’s to jump into games and help your buddies kill demons faster, and guess what, they get more drops in less time. In our eyes that’s not buying an advantage as a selfish measure, it’s really just kicking more ass in co-op games with your friends. It’s apples and oranges, if you will, to something like an in-game advantage in a game like World of Warcraft.

    That post continued, and lots more…

    Okay…I see your point Bashy. But don’t you see why so many people are worried? The introduction of real money into the system means people wanting top tier stuff will pay a fair chunk of RL money. When the first guy pays 500$ for an item, things start to inflate. Suddenly, casual players or those not willing to buy with their real money are locked out of it. And the inflation will continue. If there was some way to strictly limit how much an item can be sold for and curb this effect…then maybe. But I can predict that this is going to go all kinds of pear shaped.
    Bashiok:We may have upper limits. We may have minimums. Listing fees are flat so it’s not in our best interest to let it get away from us. That said, it’s supply and demand, and we want this to be a market run by the players. Every rule we impose could upset that and suddenly it’s not players setting market values, but Blizzard deciding how it goes. I still think some limits are likely, though.

    I have no doubt that the gold auction house will by-far outweigh the real money auction house in scope and amount of items available. The good thing here is that being able to sell gold for real money will naturally keep the gold auction house economy in-check a bit. Not a lot, but it should be helpful.

    A thread asked about getting an account started without a credit card, got multiple replies from Bashiok.

    I hope, oh so much, that we won’t need a credit card/paypal account to get started. Like…we get a small balance when we buy the game and it’s all set up from there and we can earn cash on that balance if we need to.

    Else…this shuts out many people without credit cards, living abroad or just not willing to connect their real life finances to a virtual world.
    Bashiok: The system will allow for a certain number of free listings per week (or something like that) which allows you to post a few things risk free and see if they sell. If they don’t it’s no sweat for you, and maybe you wait until next week to do the same thing again, or maybe that was good enough, you got your feet wet, and you go back to the gold AH.

    If you do sell something you can use that to build up your Battle.net balance which can be put toward buying items yourself. If you’re putting up the right items for the right prices you could pretty easily never ‘buy in’.

    Thanks – but so…right off the bat I will need to attach an account? Permanently? But if it needs to be a permanent connection with a financial system I am sorry to say that I will not be able to participate in this game.
    Bashiok:You only need to attach your Battle.net account with a third party if you want to cash out.

    When you sell an item you have two choices. The money goes to your Battle.net balance where you can use it to buy more items, or buy stuff in the Blizzard store, or you can choose to send it to your third party payment provider account. Once the funds are in either they can’t be transferred between each other. It’s a question of keeping funds to keep playing in the auction house, or shifting out funds to get it as cash.

    The third party payment provider hasn’t been named yet since we’re still inking that contract, but it’s a reputable one, for sure.

    Anyway, you don’t have to unless you’re planning to cash out.

    Just out of curiosity, is there any advantage at all to keeping the money in the BNet account? Would you get more e-balance if you kept it in there or what?
    Bashiok: You can’t use funds sent to the third party to buy more items. I’d hazard a guess that people will want to keep some amount in the Battle.net balance toward purchasing future items, and if there’s some extra left over cash that out.

    I don’t know though, I don’t think anyone knows how it’s going to really shake out once a lot of people start using it.

    Well yeah, I get that part, but can’t you just get the cash and then put more cash back in whenever you wanted to? I suppose that’s inconvenient, but still.
    Bashiok: Yeah, of course.

    But how are you guys actually going to deal with the real problem that plagues D2. Are you really just hoping to TAX the cheaters or do you actually think you can stop them this go around. Keep in mind there are already dozens of maphacks and even two public disconnect hacks that have been released for Starcraft 2, and that’s a game that isn’t going to financially reward players.
    Bashiok: I really couldn’t speak to specific measures or intent, but I think we’ll certainly have a vested interest in ensuring the auction houses, gold and real money, are stable. That’s kind of a non-answer I realize, but I’m just not going to make a statement about specific actions before we even know what we’re going to be dealing with.

    This string of posts was helpful; I can see why you’re the CM (no sarcasm, it’s equally hard to convey sincerity over the intertubes.) Particularly the bit about X amount of free listings per week. After some amount, a listing fee is charged to… I guess… discourage listing spam? Or… halp.
    Bashiok: Yeah we want there to be some hurdle to the real money auction house so that the average quality of items on it (versus the gold auction house) are higher. No one’s going to be happy if they go to the real money auction house and see a bunch of junk. We think it just makes more sense to keep the quality level of items a bit higher. A few free listing a week (or whatever it ends up being) could cause some problems in this area, but probably nothing too extreme.

    A thread asked about account security, now that there would be something resembling real money attached to it.

    So if i have a balance on my battle.net account of say $100.25 and i never linked it to a third party to take it out, and some one hacks my battle.net account, will they just be able to link my account and take my money, or worse link my account, do nothing to my money but wait for it to rise then take it?

    Since were dealing with real money now, are accounts going to be more secure? Or is it up to us to insure their security?
    Bashiok: Of course we always hope everyone is doing the most to ensure the security of their account, but what you’re talking about is fraud, and it’s far more serious, and dealt with in far more serious ways, than someone simply hacking a video game character.

    Specifics are yet to come since they would mostly deal with the specific fraud policies of the third party payment company. Bottom line though is it’s a whole new level of account support, which is no small part of the reason for auction house fees.

    You can’t cash out the e-Balance, so the only thing they can do is purchase stuff from your account, which Customer Service can always reverse.
    Bashiok: Quite right! I sort of skimmed that I guess. It’s late…

    A fan points to the seemingly-lengthy auction times in the AH screenshots, and asks if that’s a final feature.

    In WoW most people prefer to just buy-out actions becuase waiting 20 hours to win a item is too long for most people. I prefer short times that actually promote bidding like 10 minute actions something i can sit and watch while I and others bid.

    From all the Auction House pictures I have seen they all seem to end in the letter M for minutes, so whats the post times like wow as low as 12 hours to 2 days, or is it shorter to promote bidding like 10 minutes to 1 hour.
    Bashiok:Those are just countdowns, I don’t think post times have been finalized but they’re likely not going to be much shorter than a day or so. Also keep in mind there’s automated bidding for you. If you want to bid on an item you can set a maximum you want to bid, and the system will automatically counter-bid against others up to your maximum. It’s quite a bit like features that eBay uses, if you’re familiar with it, and in my experience there’s a lot more bidding that buyouts in that type of system, and usually some last-minute bid excitement to try to snag an item.

    Are there legal issues with the DiabloWikiAuction House? Is buying/selling virtual goods allowed in all regions? Could it be considered gambling and thus be illegal? Bashiok says their sharks have vetted it, so not to worry your pretty little head.

    I buy $100 dollars of in-game items in hopes to turn profit by re-selling them in the auction house for profit. How is the $100 I spent not something I am putting up at risk?
    Bashiok: You’re confusing the inherent risk of reselling an item for an acceptable value in a free market with what is actual ‘gambling’. If what you proposed was gambling then retailers would be running illegal casinos.

    It’s all rather unnecessary for discussion. We’ve spent a very long time working with our legal departments around the globe researching regional laws and regulations, if not obtaining government approvals. We announced the feature because we know it to be sound from a legal perspective. If any local or country-specific laws do become an issue we’ll of course be sure to let people in those regions know.

    We’re not going to comment any further on legal speculation on what’s potentially ok or not, we’re simply not qualified to do so. Our legal departments have done their homework, we’ll leave that to them.

    In all of the contumely over the mere existence of the RMAH, lots of other issues aren’t even being discussed. A few I’m going to discuss on the next podcast, for which I’m recruiting an AH-hater.

    • How will gold will stay viable/valuable forever? And if it doesn’t will Bliz allow barter or gems/runes/etc to be used as currency?
    • What will top HC items trade for, if all top softcore items wind up selling for $?
    • What’s Blizzard going to do about the blackmarket RMT sales of HC items?
    • What will Blizzard do if people don’t use the AH much, and their projected revenue from it doesn’t pan out?
    • Will the incentive to item farm (for $ sales) break the economy with massive inflation, and will that break the game
    • Does Blizzard have a responsibility not to constantly devalue items people paid for by introducing much better items in every patch and expansion?

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