This is a short list of what I identify to be the key areas of concern for D3. Some of them are a bit broad, and I will try to give some suggestions for each. Not really looking for agreement here, just what I think.
1. Why do people play D3?
- To play with friends? - A short-lived reason; plenty of games out there that have longer lifespans for social play. (See my newest obsession Chivalry in youtube).
- To gain a sense of achievement? - This comes down to the player...once they have achieved their subjective benchmarks they are likely to stop playing. Whether it's getting your first Hellfire ring or your 100th - no one cares! (Account-bound anything has always been a mistake for Diablo).
- <Insert other generic explanation> In a saturated gaming market, there will be other games that do a similar if not better job.
So asking why people play D3 is equivalent to asking:
1.1 What makes Diablo...Diablo?
- Gambling - No I do not mean that Gheed business...When a player fires up Diablo they go in with an anticipation, that the time they invest is like putting coins in the slot, with a hope that something valuable or at least useful will drop. Every aspect of the game is one RNG after the other - from killing a monster to identifying an item. The brain chemistry behind what is essentially "harmless" gambling is what keeps people coming back.
- Trading - What is it that the player wants to do with his valuable finds? To show it off and trade it of course! It is this social aspect, the "playing the market" metagame, that attracts people. With today's generation we are desperate to show others what we get up to. This is an ongoing, engaging, player-driven and systems-driven activity that has longetivity far beyond what comes in the box. Blizzard has really failed to capitalise on their playerbase and their Bnet infrastructure in that regard (more on this later).
2. What went wrong?
Blizzard should really have known better - that the current crop of gamers have been largely influenced by their previously successful titles (WoW in particular). There is now an overwhelming crowd of gamers who are obsessive goal-setters and power gamers. Even if they do not have the faculty to figure out the optimal way of playing, someone else would and they will be just one step behind with just the same determination. This helps us reach the following few conclusions:
2.1 Content and goal-driven gameplay merely delay the inevitable - Paragon and Account-Bound items are not engaging - sure they give players something new to do for a few days after the patch, it will all be consumed in a matter of days (even Paragon 100 didn't take that long)...
2.2 Adherence to "balance" is counterproductive - The moment players step into D3 they will notice Blizzard tippy-toeing around the awkward issue of "balance". This is apparent in their Skill-design, Monster Design and blatantly obvious in their itemisation...using the RNG is one thing, using it on bland stats on items is hard to forgive.
2.3 Homogenising items for the sake of Auction House devastates player motivation - Itemisation deserves a closer look because it is what Diablo is all about. Blizzard designed its items so that there is a smooth upgrade curve that is readily reflected on the Auction House. The reality after a few months is that only the very best items retain any value. While this seems like good news to players who just reached inferno...soon they will realise upgrading to the next level of gear, or even farming something which enables them to, becomes enough of a chore to suggest using real money, but not enough of a boost to really shell out that money. I'm sure there are players who reside on the tip of that upgrade curve, but the majority of players are staring at a wide chasm of unaffordable gear.
2.4 The auction house itself - coming from a quantitative analysis background myself, I feel that the AH is too efficient (in an economic sense). When there are enough flippers, botters and bargain-hunters sitting staring at the AH for days on end, the market will shape itself too quickly to a state I mentioned in 2.3. The way that the AH is designed is so that any price discrepancies are picked up almost immediately, leaving a market that is saturated with very similar items at very similar prices, at which point it becomes an exercise in volume undercutting which individual players aren't going to have much interest in. The AH is mechanical, impersonal and ultimately boring.
3. Next steps...
This is the part where I fantasize on being the new game director, and list some of the things I would focus on.
3.1 - Introduce an alternative to the Auction House.
3.1.1 - Establish specialised ingame "trade environments" with capacity for sizable numbers of players, with real face-to-face auctions and tools to display and make and receive offers on your listings. These environments can be categorised based on classes or reserves for example.
3.1.2 - Increase AH fees to encourage use of this system
The point here is to make trading a more social and tangible exercise, but without the painful lack of features that D2 had.
3.2 - Remove Account-Bound
Everything deserves a market in a Diablo game.
Account-bound is Blizzard's reaction to an overly efficient auction house. It's like saying "we cannot stop the immediate saturation of our shiny new content so we are too afraid to put it on the AH".
Given my suggestion in 3.1 - make these items at least tradable on a more direct basis.
Do not listen to the players who claim they need this "sense of achievement". They will not be there to play your game when they finish their "achieving".
3.3 - More interesting items - items which characters will build around
This will encourage build diversity without trivialising game difficulty, which is pretty much what Blizzard has done so far - made the game easier so more builds are "viable"...yet everyone still plays the same skills and even the same class because it is the path of least resistance.
If you've read this far, I thank you for your time and feedback. I've written this because Diablo still does something which no other franchise can do.
If you are a Blizzard recruiter, feel free to contact via PM and we can work something out ^__^
Edited by MarshBoxer, 18 January 2013 - 06:12 AM.