The Diablo 3 design philosophy

Posted by Daeity On Friday, August 5, 2011

"We really tried to design the features of these games to leverage the needs of the games. And so Diablo III is -- and previous Diablo games as well we're very item-centric games with the a lot of item trading, without a good mechanism really for doing that." -- Michael Morhaime from the 2nd Quarter Earnings call [LINK]
I'm surprised that this didn't receive any media attention. This was during the QA period when the C-levels weren't prepared with scripts. According to Blizzard, Diablo 3 is a "VERY ITEM-CENTRIC" game.

During that same QA session, Michael Morhaime also went on to compare this to the SC2 Map Marketplace revenue generator; "I think that some of the things we're doing on the back end to support the Diablo III (RMT) actually can be leveraged in StarCraft II to support that system which is great."

From everything else I've read about Blizzard and Diablo 3, here's how I see everything connected together;

* the current state of Blizzard games is seeing a "dumbing down" of their games to make them more "accessible" for more people
* simplified gameplay where anyone can jump in
* the games are getting less fun and are more interested in building up a player base, creating more microtransactions, and finding new ways to generate revenue through services
* the Diablo 3 game is built around items. Even Blizzard said it's a "very item-centric game."
* you can cube deconstruct items on the spot or wherever you are in-game
* there's a shared stash that is accessible by all of your characters
* items can be sold or auctioned wherever you are, you don't need to be at a vendor
* salvaging and scrolls of wealth
* there are gold sales values attached to all items which are visible even when you're not at a vendor so that you can immediately see it's gold value
* banks/stashes are really large for all of the loot you'll be collecting
* the interface is designed around item management
* the AH allows for auto-bidding, instant buyouts, secure item transfers
* Blizzard wants to give players "more options for the items they don't want"
* Jay Wilson said that a mailing system for giving items is not high priority for them. The selling of items is more important apparently.
* also according to Jay Wilson, the high end items in Diablo 3 will be BOE
"We do have bind-on-equip for the highest end items in the game."
"The reason for this is that we want people to be able to trade them, but we also want to remove the high-end items from the economy."
Do you see a pattern developing here? Everything about the game is about the ITEMS.. and what happens to those items? They're sold and Blizzard profits.

The skill system has been completely revamped with all skills removed. Where do this skills come from now? Well, ITEMS of course. Instead of traits or skills, everything can be customized through the items you wear now; life or energy stealing, knockbacks, random effects, improving skills, distances, or cooldowns, you name it. Instead of having a talents interface for example, you can do all of the same but through items.. making them more important for gameplay.

Blizzard said that this is what the players want too. Rob Pardo said; "Players want this.. we could take a harder stance, but with Diablo, we think (the Auction House) will end up being a good thing." How can they know so little about what players want? This sounds like just a smoke screen.

Here's what the game has become;

* the game has been simplified so that anyone can play it
* the game was designed from the ground up with item trading and sales in mind like an addiction card collection game
* the game is all about the items, it does not require skill
* player growth is all about the items
* skills and talents were all removed, it's all based on items now
* questing and raiding is all about the items.. it takes items to do it, and you do it for more items to sell
* game enjoyment can only be accomplished by having the right items
* in order to get items, you have to pay for them

There's also a domino effect taking place here. Because the entire game was built from the ground up to be based on RMT, many of Diablos features were changed to accommodate the design philosophy. They're not permitting mods so that the RMT system can't be exploited or users can't automated sales. A persistent online connection is required. They have heavy social integration to bring in more players and get them addicted to item farming.

And then there are the players who have been fooled by this. They imagine themselves being able to play Diablo 3 as a job that will be able to support them financially.

Gold sales is a very niche activity, and the very few people who do it can make a lot of money. One person playing all day might be able to walk away with $50-100 per day, but that's only because there are so little players doing it. By legitimizing RMT, suddenly that $100 for 1 person becomes that same $100 for 100 people.

Not only that but because everyone will be doing it, and everyone is going to be extremely frugal about buying but not selling, it will completely devalue all items within the economy.

If you want to make some real profit, sell items during the stupidity period.. the first couple months of the release. Item farming is much more dangerous for Hardcore Players too, so those items will be worth more if you want to take the risk. Blizzard thought ahead for this too, apparently there will be restrictions on the buying and selling of goods for those who play in Hardcore mode. They put a lot of thought into this RMT system, and it just seems that Diablo 3 was built FROM an earlier RMT game prototype.

I wonder when Blizzard will be launching they're in-game Casino service so that players can gamble real money with other players.