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Guest Article: The Political Economy of Diablo II

Discussion in 'Diablo 2 Community Forum' started by Flux, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. Flux

    Flux Administrator

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    Guest Article: The Political Economy of Diablo II

    http://diabloii.net/columnists/a-political-econ.shtml

    This semi-scholarly article discusses the sort of anarchaic society that D2 life on B.net is, and what sort of lessons that can teach us about real life, and how it would be lived with a similar lack of constraints on personal behavior.

    This article has very little to do with the game itself and it's got lots of words, some of them quite long, so rate how likely you are to read/enjoy it by your tolerance for such things, and proceed accordingly. (I.E. don't start on it, give up, and then advertise your short attention span by whining about how it was "boring." On second thought, what the hell, do so if you want, it'll give the rest of us something to talk about. It's not like anyone ever reads the intros I type on these guest article forum posts anyway.)
     
  2. Jak

    Jak IncGamers Member

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    Hey, I read them!

    Anyhow, I thought it was an interesting article. Political science and social theory are not my strong points either, and a certain measure of social control is necessary.

    Single solitary humans can function in a non-anarchistic manner, but introduce a community and people's ambitions begin to run rampant.
     
  3. Lord Chaos

    Lord Chaos IncGamers Member

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    I read them...good article too, he brings up some very good points about humans selfish nature.

    I completely agree with him that we need checks and balances, on ALL scales...you really gotta wonder how long its going to take before the US, which is less and less constrained by the international community (and is just discovering that), is going to act increasingly immoral.
     
  4. Kendu

    Kendu IncGamers Member

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    A good example of what your talking about is in Lord of the Flies as that is precisely what happens.

    Boys stranded on an island who work well together at first but then they start becoming more savage and immoral because of lack of authority.

    PS: in uswest the soj is no longer a market vakue indicator, everything is measured in runeworth (ie stormshield is worth less then an um rune)
     
  5. Bignerdmatt

    Bignerdmatt IncGamers Member

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    Execellent article.

    Everything you said was supprisingly true, I love the comparisions to real life.
    I found the part about standing around the boss so true, it still happens.

    I always seem to see some necro stop firing off teeth about 1/4 of the bosses health, only to come stand by the boss waiting for it to die :p
     
  6. Richie Daggers Crime

    Richie Daggers Crime IncGamers Member

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    Although I appreciate the break from the typical "1.100 is too hard" nonsense, the arguments presented in this guest article are flimsy at best.

    As with most anti-free market diatribes, the article completely dismisses the ability of the individual to empower himself in regards to resource management. The article claims that the system is inherently unequal; the "rich tend to get richer via item hunting with their high-level characters, while the poor remain poor". Anyone with a modicum of intelligence who's played this game knows that this isn't accurate. The vast majority of players who invest a reasonable amount of time playing fall fairly consistently into a striated middle class. The truth is anyone can make a high-level character and item hunt. The article seems to suggest that somehow the "rich" players are preventing the other players from achieving wealth. There's no limit to the items in the game... one person can't hog all of Pindleskin's items. It's a free-for-all. All it takes is time, energy and some planning (ie, you have to work for it).

    As for the actual trading, the author claims "the object is to try as hard as possible to screw over your fellow barterer; as traders, we are concerned with our wants and desires, not the other person’s". Well, of course. But,it goes both ways. The other player is trying to do the same thing. A natural balance occurs and both players then have to compromise to ensure that both get what they want, or move on to another trader. It's the individuals responsibility to be learn what items have value to make sure they don't get ripped off. Only a fool would ignorantly jump into business and have the expectation of doing well.

    The author is obviously a smart guy and he does have many valid points. But, he needs to keep in mind that libertarianism isn't anarchy and free-market theory isn't lawlessness. Under an ideal libertarian system, laws and fair business practice checks and balances exist and are enforced. It's absurd to suggest that fraud, theft and even murder would go unpunished in a libertarian system. For better or for worse, the DII economy leans towards anarchy... but have some perspective, it's a video game. It's not real life. In a world that's ever increasingly being dictated by rules and government (this year I'll have to pay almost 45% of my earnings to some sort of tax), it's refreshing to have an open road and unlimited possibilities that are solely dictated by my decisions and knowledge when I play a game for entertainment.
     
  7. TriggerHappy

    TriggerHappy IncGamers Member

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    Very true, but I think people have a bad idea about Ebaying. There are only a small number of people (compared to all those who play the game) that buy from Ebay. These people buy excessively. For example, search for a random item on diablo 2 on ebay, and look at the bidders. Check their past transactions and I bet 95% of them have baught atleast 10 other items off of ebay, for diablo. In general, it is only a very small percent (I'd say less then 1%) of people who play diablo buy from ebay.
     
  8. fluff

    fluff IncGamers Member

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    I don't have much to add except that I agree totally with Richie Daggers Crime. Especially the first point. Anybody can get rich quick.
     
  9. SnowDrake

    SnowDrake IncGamers Member

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    Well first off, I'd like to state this is clearly a rather left wing vs. right wing debate in terms of whether or not one agrees with this article. The author appears to have a rather left wing view of the economy and system, but it's not really true. I'll explain why in this rather long post I'm about to make that no one is probably going to wind up reading.... (Just FYI, I'm quite right wing in my political and economic beliefs.... on most issues) Also, while I disagree with the article's author, I'd still like to say it's well written *clap clap clap*

    The author does bring up a point that some people do indeed try their best to rip people off, and try to cheat others. This is not brought about by the fact there isn't a law system set up to prevent this (as no law system could really fairly prevent this, seeing as right now in real life if someone picked up a 24 carot gold ring, and didn't know what it was worth, and offered to sell it to someone for a quatre, it'd be a totally legal transaction, just to relate to your example of an SoJ for 3000 gold). This is brought about by one simple thing:
    a) The fact people out there really are dumb enough to allow themselves to be ripped off like this, the trade screen is there for a reason, someone can't just grab an item out of your inventory. You have to willingly accept the trade, and if you don't take a few minutes of your time to check up on what you have is worth and what the other guy's offer is worth, you've screwed yourself over, too bad. I've had this happen to me before when I first started playing, and instead of complaining that people were mean and ripped me off, I instead learned from that and now I always try to check up on the value of stuff before trading, and watch out for scams.

    I'm going to leave out the issue of trade hack, as that really doesn't apply in a comparison with the real world....

    I am not going to disagree that the Diablo 2 economic system is much more right wing than left wing, that much is true. However, what is not true is the way you portray the concept that Diablo 2's economy would be what a right wing capitolist system values and is supposed to be.

    True there is no government sort of law enforcement system, why is that bad? In a real-life capitolist sort of system, people can't hide behind screen names, and what people do will have consequences, even if there is no "authority" persay to do it, the victim and his or her family and friends would take vengeance on the offender, thus that is the incentive not to do such immoral acts.

    Using botting in order to get great items consitutes cheating, and really isn't comparable to real life. You can't use that as an example to show why diablo 2 is a prime example of a right wing system. For those who spend alot of time working on the game in order to get alot of good items, yes that doesn't compare, and it's a good thing IMO. You spend alot of time working for what you want, so you get it. Makes sense, no? Yes there's the element of luck, but that isn't all that common, most the time the rich people (going by legit players only here) are the ones that dedicate the most time to the game and are the most knowledgeable (what builds, what skills, where to MF, etc.) This makes sense, the best will do well, the worst won't.

    If you fall for a scam that's your own fault... as I've mentioned before. People should learn from their own mistakes. There should be no need for some sort of government or method of law enforcement to prevent scams. I do find it annoying when a scammer gets a easy tal armor or something off of a noob whereas I run the pit over and over again to no avail, but I simply to choose a more honest way to play the game, which is better IMO, but if there weren't people who were "weak" to prey on (weak meaning unknowledgeable of the game or naive in this context), then those scammers wouldn't be doing so good, in fact they best they'd be getting is a cracked short sword or something from other people laughing at their pathetic attempts to scam.

    Again, hacks are a totally different matter which is not comparable.

    As to the fourth point, you choose to play with those strangers in a public game. There are other options available, such as playing with friends (or even in this case, people from this forum perhaps), where the drops are likely to be shared. People who spam complaints about not getting the items over and over again are the immature stupid people that would not make it anywhere in a real life capitolist system, because there is no one there to give them a napkin to cry in. It is wrong to take these immature people and show them as examples of what humanity could be. There are many people out there (many on this very forum) who are not so immature. Also, what's the point in gloating? Really immature, serves no practical purpose unless you want people pissed at you.... Not a good example of the way a mature person would act.

    The very act of doing something immoral would make you feel guilty, if it does not, then clearly you do not hold that action as something immoral. Therefore, this means that the concept of guilt is purely internal and would change from person to person, and that you're saying we would need a set of morals that everyone must live by? (Or play by in the case of Diablo II). It is not true, as has been pointed out before many times, there are people who, despite the anonymity of the screen name and not having any consequences for cheating/stealing etc. still do not. I myself play completely legit and do not scam people, nor do I ebay items. Why? Because I find such play quite dishonorable and disgraceful, and see it to be a statement that "I am not good enough to play this game legit, I need to cheat in order to do well in it"

    As I said before, in a real life right wing system, this wouldn't happen, as there WOULD be consequences from the victim and his/her family/friends. Thus not comparable to Diablo II where you can't track down the guy and repeatedly PK him and/or otherwise make him regret what he did. That + people's innate sense of honor and desire to avoid disgrace is what would make a true capitolist society work (or anarchaic if you want to go to those extremes)

    As someone before me stated, it is quite possible for a low level character to build up those high level characters and start MFing... if they don't know where to go, it only takes a few minutes to look it up on the net.

    " So then, what do we have, after all this? An inefficient, uncontrolled, unfair community that at times functions more like a riot than a community of players. But what does this tell us about a real-life right wing, libertarian, and anarchist community? It would not be fair to dismiss it simply because it does not work among a community made up mostly of young, testosterone-filled preteen/teenaged males, but I think it tells us something about government and government regulation: that we need it, at least in some form or another. People, when left to their own devices, will cause more trouble than benefits; the competition of the market alone cannot adequately take care of everyone. There must be some sort of government regulation that will keep things ‘in order’ and that will make sure, or at least attempt to make sure, that everyone plays by the rules, because the last thing we need is a hostile PK attacking us on the way to work."

    As you said, it does not show a prime example of what a real life society like this would be like, but I think it is incorrect tto say that we need government regulation. What we need isn't government regulation, what we need is a more intelligent and mature population.

    And while I am no expert on political/economic or philisophical studies either, I do have quite an interest in such topics and often debate in quite detail and for quite a while with people on such topics.... (although I find often people tend to not know what they are talking about.... so just those few rare people who do)

    While I do not claim to be the most knowledgeable about politics and such, I do believe I know alot more about the subject than most other people my age. If you're curious, I am a 15 year old guy, so I didn't particularly like your comment about teenaged males screwing up the system either, which is really an unfair stereotype.

    Edit: Woah... 1554 word post...
     
  10. Nathan Danylczuk

    Nathan Danylczuk IncGamers Member

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    Well, I guess it's nice to get some criticism. Thanks for reading the article.

    As for Richie Daggers Crime's first argument (whose post I will address), that people who want to get rich can if they try, I must say that this is regarding one of the weaker aspects of my article. No, of course there isn't some huge disparity between the players. But take this quote:
    What is a reasonable amount of time? For Diablo 2, a reasonable amount can be quite a bit, and many people may not be willing to devote that much.

    This argument comes from my own pesonal experience. I would say I played Diablo 2 for more than a reasonable amount of time, and only near the end did I finally get into the trading market. I was reduced to doing other people's dirty work, collecting chipped gems and trading them, while the people that I traded those to would give me some insignificant symbol of their wealth, viz. a SoJ (which I understand no longer represent the currency of Diablo 2). But personal experience aside, I agree that this was a weaker part of my argument, but it is at least visible that there is a small group holds a large amount of wealth, while others run behind them, hoping they will drop something.

    About your second argument regarding the actual process of trading. Of course there will end up being a balance in trading; what I am trying to get across here is that humans have a natural propensity to maximize their own pleasure or well-being. The only reason a fair deal is struck in the vast majority of cases is because, in terms of real life, it's better to cooperate than starve. Having past experience in retail, you can see how this works. Many people will try to get a cashier to lower the price of a certain good by telling them "what? $19.99? The tag said $14.99!", and, after a price check, the person will usually settle for $19.99. The point is, buyers, sellers, and competitors are just that: competing, and they want to win.

    I'm not saying that they are; I'm simply saying that these ideologies can, and very well may, end up in 'anarchy' and 'lawlessness'. At least, complete anarchy is much more forseeable under a libertarian society than the existing ones in North America. But I will also admit that there may be some discrepancy between terms here. If you want to know exactly what I have in mind when I say 'libertarianism' or 'anarchism', go here: http://www.auburn.edu/~johnspm/gloss/index.html

    As for your final point, I will reiterate part of my final paragraph:

    "But what does this tell us about a real-life right wing, libertarian, and anarchist community? It would not be fair to dismiss it simply because it does not work among a community made up mostly of young, testosterone-filled preteen/teenaged males..."

    I agree, it is a video game, and my article was written solely to encourage some critical thinking, not to shun certain political beliefs.

    But the criticism is appreciated. Please, feel free to respond again.
     
  11. Ryan4Ever

    Ryan4Ever IncGamers Member

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    Excellent article. I especially liked how the author noted that he hadn't played in two years. That definitely removes any bias of the new system. Despite that the article could have been written years ago, it's entirely accurate, as far as the socio-political aspects are concerned. My only problem with the article is the brief Hollow Man analogy. The author was trying to say that if a man can act how he wants without fear of repercussion, then he'll act that way. However, the movie clearly stated it was the invisibility drug that was causing all of the psychological defects on Bacon.
     
  12. Lord Chaos

    Lord Chaos IncGamers Member

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    I agree with the article...the problem is that the system just keeps getting fiercer and fiercer adapting to whomever can do things the best and yes, even cheat the most...this raises the bar for the middle and lower people who will eventually get further and further behind, again living off pittance of the bigger players (thanks to Blizzard at least making things like gems useful and finally also making low to mid-low runes useful, as you can cube them all the way now)...this is essentially the problem with a free market system with very little control, and no safeguards for the lower classes.

    And before someone slams me, I am all for free market systems as an economic system, not a social system.
     
  13. Nathan Danylczuk

    Nathan Danylczuk IncGamers Member

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    In response to SnowDrake:

    This is hardly going to seem like an adequate reply, but I'll do the best I can with the time I have.

    I think the biggest problem you have with my article can be summed up thus: false analogy. False analogies are arguments that people use which do not really relate to the subject matter. The most obvious are really simple examples that are used to prove a point about a complicated topic, such as politics.

    Is my article a false analogy? Of course it is. The Diablo 2 community does not at all adequately represent the populations of a nation (and hence the "young, testosterone-filled preteen/teenaged males" comment, but more on this in a minute), and my article should therefore be taken as "thought-provoking entertainment, not philosophical canon". As for the details of your argument, I have some points to make, but they will be made a later point.

    Regarding the "unfair stereotype": This was not meant to be a stereotype of the typical Diablo 2 player. All of the people I know that used to play D2 did not fit this stereotype. But the fact about video games is that they are dominantly played by teenaged males. This does not mean, however, that everyone who plays video games fits into this category. You and I are obvious exceptions, and there is a slew of others. The point I was trying to make here is that obviously, the community of Diablo 2 is not going to properly represent the actual populace.

    No offense meant, and if it the comment offends you (or anyone) still, please let me know and I will remove the comment when I revise the article in a few weeks. I will respond in further detail in a day or so.
     
  14. Cloud_Walker

    Cloud_Walker Banned

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    LOL, the comparison of Blizzard mass banning CD-keys to freak natural disasters, LOL. Brilliant

    Not all people would become ruthless theives/killers/bad-used-car-salesmen if there were no government or authority. As you did, I shall use Battle.net as an example. Do not forget there are many kind people in the Diablo II online community; good samaritans. I believe I am one of them. I have been poor, and gave to people. I have been rich, and gave to people. I freely give advice and lend my knowledge. Unless, of course, someone is being rude, in which case I don't treat them so kindly. But there are people who kill the nk-er so the newb can get his body. There are people that join public Baal games to MF alone, and stop and help if the party is having trouble. There are people who respect who's kill it was. Most would say, "Why are you doing this? You're getting screwed." We do this because we simply don't care about those things as much. Those things being items/gold. I, for one, play this game to have a good time. I have a better time if everyone else is having a good time too. I like to see people happy.



    I must point out, however, that when it comes down to life and death, every organism will act only for itself, regardless of any effects it might have on others, excluding its own offspring.

    But such situations never arise in a computer game.




    Great article, btw.
     
  15. Richie Daggers Crime

    Richie Daggers Crime IncGamers Member

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    I would say that a reasonable amount of time is the amount of time an individual finds fun. It could be 8 hours a day, it would be 8 hours a week, it could be 3 hours a week. But, certainly you can't expect that a person who plays only occasionally should have, nor should they expect to have the same level of items and "wealth" as someone "not be willing to devote that much" time? Regardless, my point is that's it's really not that difficult or time-consuming to make a high level character and accumulate salable items. It's up to the individual what he wants to get out of the game. A person can't expect to have all the games items at their fingertips if they just play occasionally. It's just not reasonable and it's certainly not fair.

    I agree that there are "classes" of wealth in the SII market and I also agree that there are a small % of people that can be classified as "extremely wealthy".... what I question is your contention that this is somehow a bad or unfair thing or that the people that don't have wealth are somehow being oppressed and held down by forces beyond their control.

    I see. I would say that your experience isn't necessarily universal. It may be the same for some, but quite different for others. I suppose it has a lot to do with how you approach things.

    I completely disagree. I would venture to say that the vast majority of players couldn't care less what the very wealthiest players have or don't have. Your insistence on neatly dividing the population into haves and have-nots is, IMO, simplistic. Like I said, the vast majority of players fit into that grey middle class and make trades with others in similar circumstances. So what if you had to collect chips to get your foot into the market? What else can you expect but to start where everyone else started? Certainly, unlike in the real world, the people with nice items weren't born that way. I started ladder fresh, just like everyone else, and I was able to collect up a decent cache of stuff in a fairly short time simply playing casually with my friends.

    The same balance exists in the game as it does in real life. As opposed to "starving", the motivation behind striking a fair deal is the continuation of fun (the point of playing the game). Whether fun is derived from getting certain items, equipping certain chars, whatever... the impetus to come to a balance is there... and most of the time, this works just fine. I would venture to say that the vast majority of deals go down without incident. Of course, the temptation to cheat is certainly there, but I don't think anyone's suggesting that cheaters should be allowed to run rampant, it's just that the path of least resistance for most players is to simply give something to get something. A certain degree of lawlessness existed before the patch, with cheating players not having any deterrent to their actions, and I whole-heartedly agree that there needs to be enforced rules to ensure nobody is victimized by cheaters (just like in a libertarian type system, not in anarchy). Lately, Blizzard has been doing a better job of using the "invisible hand" of justice to ensure that cheating is deterred to the point of being a relative non-issue.

    Semantics aside, that's quite a stretch. I mean quite a stretch. I can't help but think you're making this tenuous connection more out of bias than anything else. Under a libertarian type system, the odds of the government collapsing and resulting in anarchy are no more or less than any other system of government... and that's the only way a libertarian government would devolve into anarchy, a full collapse.

    I see, but like I said, your insistence on lumping anarchism and libertarianism into the same group is short-sighted at best. It's like saying that a welfare state and Marxism are the same because they both exist on the left-side of the spectrum.
     
  16. 76ers

    76ers IncGamers Member

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    As a philosophy major, i'd say that this article has very unsound arguements. But, and that is a very big BUT, this is more or less what's been on my mind, and i agree very much w/ what was written in the article.

    Hobbes had stated, as in main theory of human morality, that the truly moral act is the act that an agent performs that will increase the total amount of pleasure for that acting agent. Though the truth value of this statement is still being argued, the observation quality holds pretty much true in societies that do not have a moral standard. In New Zealand, a person can walk into a store, grab whatever item they want, and then either run with it, or pay it at the cashier desk. The reason is, the cashier is usually not present; they entrust the customers to pay for whatever items they take. There is a moral standard in their society that tells them, snatch and run is wrong. Not that everyone doesn't steal, but the majority do not. In US society, quite the opposite is true. A study taken by standford has revealed that most people, 90%, who shoplift or snatch/run, and get caught, do it spontaneously. So they didn't have the intention of stealing at first, but when they saw a window of opportunity, they decided to go for it.

    So if D2 were to be the microcosm of the real world, then there are basically 3 types of people: those who do something for morality sake, those who do things in the real world for morality sake, but not for gaming, and those who do not do anything for morality sake, ie, whenever a chance to profit comes up, regardless of immorality, the agent acts upon it. In philosophy, there is a theory called "slide theory." This happens when one thing will lead to another so that even though in the beginning, the result weren't predicted, after a series of causes, this unpredicted result will occur. So if you think in Hobbes term of everyone wanting to act to have the most profit for the self, even those who do moral things in d2, will eventually end up doing immoral things because they lose out on the self profit. For example, a team works to kill baal. A moral agent thinks to himself, i didn't do most of the work, so i shouldn't get the best items when they drop. So that's good. But if the moral agent DOES in fact work the most, then at then end, when everything is out for grabs, the moral agent has at most 50% chance of being rewarded for his efforts. So his total profit percent would be 25% at most because 2 scenarios and only 1 has at most 50% = 1/2*1/2 = 1/4 = 25%.

    So if the agent wants to make profit, it is better for him not to be moral. That seems to be the case.
     
  17. joepublic

    joepublic IncGamers Member

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    Very well written and thought out response. I'd like to grab a piece of it because i find it so thought provoking. I raise the following questions to provoke more clarity.

    Don't need government regulation? Is it govenment regulation that supplies u with someone to put out the fire when ur next door neighbors house is ablaze and threatening to engulf urs? Is it govenment regulation that catchs a serial killer operating in ur neighborhood?

    We need a more intelligent and mature population? Where do we get them? We have to create them? How much does that cost? Do we split the cost evenly? What if we can't split the cost evenly? Will we make the wealthy pickup the remainder?

    What if an uneven distribution of govenmental costs actually maintains or improves a society/country/somesortofentity/somesortofenvironment/whateverulike?

    P.S. Food for thought, take a look at this http://www.auburn.edu/~johnspm/gloss/fascism.html and think about what's happening in the world today.
     
  18. joepublic

    joepublic IncGamers Member

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    Ah, numbers, now we're getting interesting. Do I smell a little game theory lesson? I sure could use it.
     
  19. HBeachBabe

    HBeachBabe IncGamers Member

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    the non-free-market, non-libertarian (i.e. the non-freedom, non individualist) version of D2 might look like this:

    All characters are the same level. No one can level up until everyone has leveled up.

    Everyone always finds the same amount of gold and items. No one is allowed to use + to GF or +to MF as those are unfair to the people who don't have them.

    No trades. All items must be bought and sold through vendors regulated by the game code (the D2 'government' as it were) for whatever amount the vendors offer.

    You don't get to choose your class. character class is randomly dictated by the game in order to preserve the balance between the 7 classes at all times.

    sounds like a pretty dull game. D2 like life, should be as free from freedom-restricting regulation as possible. If people are being 'exploited' it is because they allow themselves to be. I don't need game code (or government) to protect me from my own stupidity nor do I want to be penalized because of other's stupidity.
     
  20. TriggerHappy

    TriggerHappy IncGamers Member

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    These post are wayyyyyyyyyy too long.
     

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