Blizzard Selling Bots Now!

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, September 29, 2011

Well, not really.

But they do own all of the GLIDER trademarks now. :)

This one must have flew under the radar. It appears that the exchange took place about a couple weeks ago.

The (MMO) GLIDER trademark was previously owned by MDY INDUSTRIES LLC (remember the one they sued?) and they're all still LIVE:

http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77301195
http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77301191
http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77301198
http://tarr.uspto.gov/servlet/tarr?regser=serial&entry=77301201

I never really followed the case, but maybe this was part of the judgement?

Pretty cool anyways. :)

  • I found an interesting resume of a Blizzard employee who has been working there for the past 2.5 months.

    His name is Robert "Robby" Duncan, and here's the interesting part from his resume:
    2011 – Unannounced Game Title (Blizzard Entertainment - 2.5 months)

    Designed and implemented a series of single-player missions, developed new features, participated in key design decisions, and provided a thorough design-analysis of the entire product.
    As soon as I read the "participated in key design decisions", I immediately thought "this guy must be an intern!". As I scrolled down towards the bottom of the resume, it was confirmed. :)

    Blizzard has a 12 week paid internship program by the way.

    Here are the points that stood out:

    * This does not appear to be Titan, it's the other "unannounced" game that Blizzard has been working on.
    * Due to his early involvement in the project ("key design decision", "thorough design-analysis of the entire product"), this indicates that it's in very early stages of development. Titan is supposed to be much farther along.
    * Based on his expertise, it's a PC platform game. (He also has SC2 Editor experience.)
    * "Single-player missions" is RTS/MOBA language.

    Based on Blizzards franchise release trends, I've always assumed with 99% certainty that the other unannounced game was going to be WarCraft IV/SC2 Phoenix related. This looks to be a pretty good confirmation (coincidentally, even his email address was rduncanIV@gmaildotcom).

    Either that, he's slow, or he's trolling and it has nothing to do with a RTS franchise, even though he uses RTS language.

  • * UPDATE:

  • I found a very interesting blog post that was made a few months ago by a Blizzard employee named Shay Pierce. In this post, he describes working on a prototype game within the Blizzard workplace:
    The idea started to come to me as I worked on card game and board game design prototypes - this, I realized, was a very pure form of game design. Though "table game" design gives you a limited set of tools compared to those you have on electronic games, it can really open your eyes as to what the core of game design really is.
    This could be very big news indeed. His mention of card games makes me think back to the Product Slate Leak, where WOW TCG was mentioned. This seems to be related to that online World of Warcraft trading card game. Perhaps this is what Robert is working on if it's not a RTS or MOBA title. "Team 4" would be the unannounced MMO and "Team 5" is this upcoming trading card game? A game like that would be very successful on PC and mobile.

  • In other news, I caught a very interesting B.Net post about wagering within Diablo 3. It was written by Sixen, one of the Community MVPs on the official message boards.
    Date: 9/22/2011
    "It's something Force and I brought up at the Press Event back in July... Gambling, Replays, and Observer Mode to PvP. Jay Wilson said they're all cool ideas they want to do at some point in time... Just... Later on down the road."
    So, right now most of the focus is on PVE, but later on down the road Blizzard is really keen on implementing an observer mode and an in-game wagering/betting system for PVP arena matches. This totally fits in with the high stakes arena gambling system I mentioned in that old mock Diablo 3 X1 post. :)

    Not only that, but apparently Micah Whipple (aka Bashiok) is ALL FOR turning Diablo 3 into a whole PVP / E-Sports system with wagering and arena gambling for players. Very interesting indeed.. it might not be called gambling though, I've noticed that Blizzard has been very careful in how they use that word (for obvious reasons) and get rather nervous when it's mentioned.

  • Because Diablo 3 is online only, it opens up some really cool features like what they have in World of Warcraft. Nothing has been announced yet, but I'm 100% certain that there will be holiday events and special activities during certain times of the year. Specific details about these events will most likely be exposed when people finally hack apart the retail code and patch updates. There will probably be Halloween stuff around town, Christmas presents, unique items that are only available on certain days, and even random events or encounters with a Holiday-based boss. 4-teaming a demonic Santa Claus for example. Since there's a server timer involved, I wonder if D3 will be implementing daily quests for players.. an extra way to level up, or earn gold for selling?

  • Constance Wang apparently left Blizzard last month, and now she's developing content for the new Wildstar MMORPG. :) Constance, by the way, was a PA on the Titan team. She wasn't directly involved in development, but assisted with the research for them (ie, lore related stuff, library book diving, etc.)

  • If you were curious if there were any Titan goodies in Kim Sellentin's tweets.. there aren't. I managed to find out. She's always been pretty careful about what she writes, though, especially after she started working at Blizzard.

A few updates..

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, September 28, 2011

  • Rockstar has officially announced the release dates of LA Noire PC. No one cares. Everyone just wants to know when Red Dead Redemption PC is coming out.

  • Apparently, LA Noire also turned out exactly as Daeity had predicted. High sales in the beginning, will never be able to match RDR sales, novel type game, linear, and with very little re-playability. That's the biggest complaint that most users have now.. once you beat it, there's no point in playing it again. With the death of the main character, what's really the point in DLC now?

  • Here's a really good video embedded below about the future of AAA MMO's, operating costs of MMOs, and gamer psychology regarding subscription fees. I pretty much agree with everything he said.

If Diablo III had mods..

Posted by Daeity On

  • There would be an option to switch back and forth between a D3/WOW stylized graphics option, and a Classic Diablo look.
  • Players would create Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 conversion packs, also with randomly generated maps.
  • Players could sell these self developed maps on the D3 MapMarketplace.
  • If Blizzard created a Diablo 1 mod, it would be called "D1 Phoenix". :)
  • A player would create a "World of Diablo" mod, but they would be forced by Blizzard to change its name to "Diablo Universe".
  • Players could swap fonts or select new color schemes for their resource bars. For example, Monk's Spirit could be green slime instead of white spooge.
  • Even faster quest pickups. The player would just need to run within 20 yards of a NPC, the quest is auto accepted, and the menu closed.
  • Yards are converted into meters for the confused in other countries.
  • Diablo 3 Auctioneer for much easier management of sales, and tons of undercuts. Meaning more profit for Blizzard and the powerhouses of profit would be making undercuts and reposts constantly.
  • Enchantrix like mods. Mousing over on items would bring up tooltips showing disenchant results as well as converting gold value into current market value cash conversion.
  • More skill keys and the ability to swap in and out of pre-programmed builds quickly.
  • New unit frames, and customizable party frames for easier management.
  • Floating combat text that shows XP, Gold, or Cash wins upon finishing off an opponent.
  • Larger combat text with customizable fonts ("explosive fonts" like out of an arcade fighting game).
  • Recount mods. For threat meters and tracking all statistics that Diablo 3 doesn't. For example, mob kills, highest swing damage, largest heal, pots drank, cash spent, etc.
  • Lore book UI integration with "D3 Recount" showing interesting statistics about each monster. Total kills per act, average level, most amount of damage done, most damage received, value of loot drops, cash value of loot drops, etc.
  • PVP Support mods, for monitoring DPS meters, cool downs, quick build selections, debuffs, onscreen timers and countdowns, etc.
  • Automated in-game gambling systems like trivia bots, card games, or roulette tables for real money.
  • Better stash management and better Auction House UIs
  • Financial management mod for showing gold/cash per hour, or will lock you out from buying items (only selling.)
Of course, some of these mods would be considered unauthorized (eg. swapping media content) but I'm just lumping everything together because it's all just fun wishful thinking.

Reduction in WOW Character Names

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Here's something interesting. In the 4.3 patch, Blizzard is actually restricting the naming policy again and changing it back to pre-2008 days in North America.

North American realms (excluding Brazilian, Latin American, and Oceanic realms) no longer permit letters with accents in character or guild names. Existing character and guild names with special characters will be unaffected by this change.
If you were around in the "Golden Days", World of Warcraft used to have very strict naming policies on all realms. No special characters, no famous names, no real world references, no partial or complete sentences, no "leet" or "dudespeak", no immersion breaking titles, etc. Everything had to be a true "fantasy name" (yes, even on normal realms) otherwise you would get a warning and a forced name change. Spam or Chuck, or example, would get reported.

I used to have the names "Bob", "Bruce", and "David" for example, and they were all taken away. I was forced to give them "fantasy names" instead. This was on a normal PVE server.

As the subscriber base grew, though, players started running out of names. So, in May 2005, it was relaxed allowing new naming conventions.

In April 2008, it was relaxed even further and they allowed special characters to accomodate the further growth of subscribers.

Officially though, Blizzard just said that the reason for the changes were because players wanted it. Just like the Real Money Auction House.. they "only did it because players asked for it". Character restrictions? Players wanted it. Removal of restrictions? Players wanted it. Reimplementation of those restrictions again? Players wanted it. D3 Online Only Requirement? Players wanted it. You know how it goes..

I just find it very interesting that they're putting these restrictions back in place. Having too many Character Names must not be a problem anymore if you see where I'm going. :)

Can't wait for the next Shareholders Meeting.. I wonder, too, if they'll be adjusting their definition of "Subscribers" again to accomodate the WOW Starter Edition.

A Scary Read..

Posted by Daeity On

Very interesting read, but completely unsurprising.

Reddit post here, followed up with a confirmation from the CEO of Lewt.com (a major D2 item seller).

tl;dr version for these posts; Duping exploits in Diablo 2 are still very common, Blizzard knows about it, ignores it for years without patching, hacks@blizzard.com is useless, Blizzard programmers have been intentionally adding new duping exploits, and the Blizzard employees involved with this are suspected to be profiting significantly from it.

The solution to fixing exploits and hacks is really just posting it on as many different sites as possible, and try to get as many players using the exploit as possible. Destroying an economy and ruining everyones game playing experience is one really good way to finally get Blizzard to act.

The Problem With Listing Fees

Posted by Daeity On Monday, September 26, 2011

While discussing the monetary risks involved in the RMAH, I just realized another new facet of the non-refundable Listing Fee.

  • Blizzard will be crediting players with a certain number of free auctions per week (or month.)
  • It's much like casinos comping players, or giving them weekly coupons for a couple free slot machine pulls. It's free, there's no risk, it's not really gambling, but it gets them comfortable and hopefully addicted to the thrill.
  • Even if the item sold, you're still paying for the Transaction Fee and Cash Out fee.
  • Diablo 3 is a VERY "item centric" game, meaning that even if you sold 5 free items per week, your chances of getting even more items that week are very high. If you were to wait and sell the following week, your stash would just keep growing and growing.
  • Compound that with the item selling in the first place. I mean, what's even the point of having Free Listing Fees if the item doesn't sell? You could use up all 5 Free Lists per week all on the same item. It will keep being undercut by other players (with free listings too) to the point where your single item never sells and you're all out of Free Listings.
  • Compound that even further with player psychology! How many of you have experienced "auction house fervor" or "competition rage" when someone keeps undercutting you? Once your free listings are used up, you'll be on such a streak that you'll start spending money in order to beat your competitor.
So really, what is the point of Free Listing fees if there's a high probability you'll burn through them before even being able to sell an item?

Also, on a related note; it was stated that "Blizzard does not plan to post items that affect gameplay, such as gear or character-enhancing runestones, for sale in the auction house."

The system is anonymous and in no way transparent. Blizzard has "no plans" to post items right now. And, they're only prohibiting "item sales".. they didn't say anything about not selling characters or gold. :)

D3 Gambling Confirmed

Posted by Daeity On Sunday, September 25, 2011

Well well well..

So, the opinion that the Diablo 3 RMAH would be illegal was not received well by many. Everyone is claiming that it's perfectly legitimate and it's no where near the definition of gambling. Many forum users are even calling the notion ridiculous, paranoid, and even retarded.

Apparently, the country of South Korea disagrees with you.

In fact, Michael Morhaime, Robert Bridenbecker, and Blizzard Korea Sr. Mgmt had to meet with the Game Ratings Board this past Thursday to defend the use of their in-game auction house which is being called gambling. A similar in-game auction house system within the game "Emperor Online" was also rejected for its similar item trading, which was also considered gambling.

Without a rating, the game cannot be sold in SK. For now, though, Morhaime has called it "premature" to speculate on the outcome.

South Korea practically invented RMT and microtransactions, and their population makes up a huge stake of Blizzard gamers. So, if they believe something has gone too far (e.g. virtual gambling), then it probably has.

Here's a very interesting section from the news article:

The country’s attitude toward gaming involving cash transactions has irked Blizzard’s local staff who are reluctant to deal with the controversy expected with the introduction of the auction house but are forced by headquarters to launch the feature, an industry source familiar with the matter said.

Before the as-yet-undecided date of the official launch of Diablo III, the U.S. games subsidiary of Vivendi invited journalists Thursday to rebut the accusation that its auction house feature is a virtual casino.

“We’ve heard speculation comparing item trading...to some form of gambling, but in gambling you’re putting something at risk to win,” said Morhaime.

“Items” are won by individual players during the game when they complete a mission. Critics say they come through a randomized selection process, which is based on uncertainty like a card game, but Blizzard says it is a product of the player’s efforts.

“(In Diablo III), you’re not risking anything. You’re just investing your time (to win items to sell). It is an important distinction.”
* Apparently, either Blizzard is being forced by Activision to move ahead with the real money auction house system, or they mean Blizzard Korea is being forced by Blizzard US. It's possible that the Blizzard Korea office is trying to avoid using the RMAH in Korea due to its gambling nature and related laws, but HQ is forcing them to implement it regardless.

* Morhaime stated that in D3, "you're not risking anything". However, when you're trying to sell items on the Auction House to make money, you ARE risking your own money. If you don't sell the item, or someone undercuts you, you lose your Listing Fee for each of your auction posts.

* Robert Bridenbecker also mentioned that there are 3 tiers of money: in-game gold, cash, and the a Blizzard proprietary unit called "battle coins". Battle Coins is a term used by many other online games, so this might be in reference to the Battle.net credit system.

* And, just remember, when Bashiok was first asked about illegal gambling in D3, he claimed that their lawyers had already worked it out, but there was a caveat. His forum post went something like this, "our lawyers worked hard on this, it's sound from a legal perspective, don't worry.. BUT, if any local or country-specific laws do become an issue we'll of course be sure to let people in those regions know." Meaning, they're not really sure and they won't allow it in certain regions if they do find out it's illegal. (You can pretty much ignore anything someone says before the "but".)

And this is just the beginning.. wait until it's released and it starts getting questioned in other countries and even certain US states.

This Is Not A Titan Update

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, September 24, 2011

So, something has happened between now and 3 weeks ago. It was after I had made that "Titan Details Spotted" post. (Disappointed that TitanGuru took credit for my little find.. even though I asked nicely. No worries though, it's happened many times with this blog I've seen.)

Cameron Dayton has deleted all of his tweets regarding Titan and his work comments about his team at the time; it was a very targetted clean up of his public posts.

I guess this confirms that Stan Sakai really is involved with the Titan project (lore side of things), and his tweet about Atlantis and Teotihuacan might have some real relevance now.

So, Titan might be involving ancient civilizations in Mexico and Japan, as well as mythical ones. There will be historical locations to visit, as well as present and future.

He also revised his LinkedIn profile (after like a year of no activity.)

Old One:

Imagining, creating, and writing the universe for Blizzard's new MMO (working title: Titan) from the ground up -- the history, philosophy, heroes, and villains. In addition to the core construction of the game's story, I wrote flavor pieces for the main characters and important events to lend depth and immersion for our team. Much of my time involved meeting with the art and animation team to ensure their work wove into the narrative.
New one:
Imagining, creating, and writing the universe for Blizzard's new MMO (working title: Titan) from the ground up. In addition to the core construction of the game's story, I wrote flavor pieces for the main characters and important events to lend depth and immersion for our team. Much of my time involved meeting with the art and animation team to ensure their work wove into the narrative.
So, he cut out this very specific piece about Titan:
the history, philosophy, heroes, and villains.
I wonder what he means by philosophy. Is that the philosophy of the game, the Titan universe, or each culture within Titan?

Mynsc.. funny how both KimSellentin and CameronDayton are both official followers of the Titan Focus tweets hey? :)

Interplays IP Hostage

Posted by Daeity On Friday, September 23, 2011

Ah, cool.. more news about the continued battle between Interplay and Bethesda.

It seems like Bethesda is getting pretty desperate now. Unfortunately, their lawyers waited way too long (7 months knowing full well it was being developed) to file their restraining order, which is what undid them in the end.

I think they're getting really desperate because they want to start working on Fallout 5 soon. It's a highly successful IP after all, and they don't have much else planned. In the original Fallout IP sales contract, as soon as Fallout 5 is developed by Bethesda, the IP is reverted back to it's original owner: Interplay.

They have Fallout 3, which has 5 DLC packages. And Fallout 4: New Vegas (which I suspect they didn't call FO4 in the hopes that it might help them in court when the time comes) now has 6 DLC packages. The DLC is being used to buy them some more time, but they can only keep shoveling out crap so far.

Now, I suppose they could create a "new type" of "expansion pack" that completely rebuilds the graphics and gaming engine. Fallout 5 could in fact just be an "expansion pack" to Fallout 4 for example. :) But then there would probably be more legal fights about what exactly constitutes a PC game and an expansion pack.

I think Interplay is just playing the long game. They might not have any money, but they're thinking ahead and they just need to hold out longer then Take Two Interactive can in facing their investors Zenimax can in facing their private investors.

There's probably no real development happening, and Interplay has no serious plans to produce a Fallout MMO, so they're just waiting for Bethesda to fold and finally purchase the Fallout IP unconditionally with an outrageous price tag. This recent legal game is just demonstrating how desperate and unplanned Bethesda is in dealing with the situation. I think, in the end, Bethesda will completely own the Fallout IP but they'll pay an arm and a leg for it. Would be funny though if Interplay got the IP back, and sold it to their competitors.

* Correction: Take-Two published some of the Elder Scrolls, but not Fallout. Fallout was self-published by their Bethesda Softworks division. Although, Namco Bandai published FO4 New Vegas in EU, AU & NZ.

DCUO Going F2P - Nailed It!

Posted by Daeity On Monday, September 19, 2011

Guess we all knew this was coming.

At the beginning of this year, Daeity got the feeling that DCUO would be merging servers, lowering prices, and then converting into a F2P game.

Everything has happened just like he predicted.

Funny note too; back in January Sony also said that F2P was very unlikely. That was around the time they also promised major content releases every month too.. :)

Diablo 3 and Illegal Online Gambling

Posted by Daeity On Friday, September 16, 2011

I've touched on this subject a couple of times and you could say that I have a fixation on the subject. I'm not a lawyer, so I really don't know what or if certain online games can be classified as gambling. What I do know is that lawyers aren't perfect, sometimes they make mistakes and sometimes they don't realize or comprehend all of the variables. I also know that there hasn't been enough questions, or even answers, about this very grey area subject.

Here's what I do know though;

In 2006, a guild on Lightbringer held a virtual raffle for the AQ War Effort with prizes consisting of virtual items like Guild Gold or Gear. Blizzard promptly shut it down and they called it "ILLEGAL GAMBLING."

In 2007, the FBI launched a probe into online gambling taking place within Second Life. As a precautionary measure, Linden Labs shutdown all gambling activity within Second Life and prohibited all forms of gambling. It was left as a grey area, and never deemed illegal, but Linden Labs didn't want to take the risk of potential prosecution. Most lawyers agreed however, that it was illegal gambling; you buy the game, play a game of chance within the virtual world, receive Linden dollars, cash out the Linden dollars into real money. In this situation, however, it was a player run economy and not gambling games created by Linden Labs. (However, they provided the means of facilitating the gambling.)

In 2007, the UK Gambling Act 2005 was revised to include MMOs. They redefined the definition of "gambling" as any and all games which involves the use of both chance and skill to win a prize (the definition of a "game of chance"). Prizes can be cash prizes, products, or virtual objects that can be exchanged for money. A similar change was made in US law in 2006.

Online Gambling

Online gambling is illegal in most countries, but I'm going to focus specifically on the USA. Every country (or region) has different regulations of course, and they go about different ways of trying to control online gambling. It's very convoluted from what I understand and a very unclear legal area, which is why they created the UIGEA.

It's not just for gambling sites, but also anyone or anything related to the gambling service (installation, maintenance, facilitation, etc.) The reason why online gambling was made illegal in the US is because it's difficult to license, regulate, and internet gamblers don't know who is operating the gambling site, if the games are honest, if winnings will be paid, or if the money wagered is used for criminal purposes. Players also have no recourse if they are not paid or cheated, they're put at risk to identity fraud, and internet gambling is an uncontrolled environment for problem gamblers and minors.

As you read through each of those examples, you could see how this already relates to Blizzard in the case of the supported gold and item selling; accounts can be banned with no recourse, money or gold can be seized and not returned, minors can play the game, there's no regulation, it's an addictive environment that is uncontrolled, there's no oversight, it's impossible to tell if the games are honest, and RMAH users don't know if any of the money is used for criminal activities. Blizzard has made posts (but no strong regulations and monitoring) regarding identity theft, so we also know for sure that it happens.

Blizzard has also stated that the Diablo 3 Real Money Auction House will be completely anonymous. So, players will never know who're they're playing against, who they are buying and selling from, if the sales are honest, if sales are being used in criminal situations, or if Blizzard or Blizzard employees are selling items. It's impossible to know and there's no third party oversight.

The generally accepted definition of gambling has 3 components:

* consideration (you have to pay to play the game)
* chance (a random game of chance in which skill can play a minor part)
* compensation (cash, something of value, or a reward)

Consideration and Compensation

Both of these can come in many forms, and it doesn't necessarily have to be in the form of cash. Basically, it's "value in" and "value out".

For example, you could cash in to play a game, but win a car. Or, gamble your car for another car. Value in and value out can be representative of chips, tokens, or virtual gold. Technically, you could apply value to almost anything, but online gambling laws are only interested in something that is cash or can be converted into cash (e.g. "it's liquid").

Gold in Diablo 3 is just a token representing cash value, in the exact same manner as casino chips. Your gold "chips" can be cashed out into real money, or used to play other games inside the virtual "casino" game world. Blizzard owns the virtual property and when you pay for items or sell items, you collect money, but the items ("tokens") are still owned by Blizzard. It's much like a casino owning their own proprietary chips.

Real world value of gold can also change, depending on the virtual economy. Some days it might be worth more than others. Just like in the real world, there are dynamic economies and variables that can adjust the value of money.

So, how does Diablo 3 exhibit these 3 components?

1. The most obvious one that everyone immediately thinks of is loot drops.

Blizzard has repeatedly stated that Diablo 3 is an "item centric game" but they have also stressed a major difference between WOW and D3. Whereas WOW had fixed loot tables and drops in an "Achiever Economy", Diablo 3 random wins are "indeterministic" and everything has a random chance of dropping varying levels of value. There is no skill required in WHAT drops.. you can't control it, it's like a roulette wheel. So, the "loot generation" is purely a game of chance with no skill. However, there is another game of chance (and skill required) to get TO the loot generation components.. and that's by killing a virtual monster. The gambling part is what the monster might drop when you roll that dice.

In regards to loot drops, there's consideration ($60 to play the game and/or gold "chips" to equip armor and play the game), there's a game of chance (loot drops are randomized and have real world value), and there's compensation (items have real value and can be sold.)

But this is where it gets interesting. You see, even though World of Warcraft already falls under this same example, Blizzard is free from legal prosecution because the compensation component is not maintained by Blizzard nor is it supported in any way. Blizzard has called gold sales illegal, and compensation can only occur in the black market. Most MMORPGs are free from prosecution, because gold selling (cashing out) is a violation of their rules, not supported, and there are preventative measures in place to prevent it. Without the "cashing out" component, it's not considered gambling.. even though a form of virtual gambling does take place.

In Diablo 3, it seems as though they're getting around this loophole by calling it a "Player Run Economy". The current beta client also has old references to actual "gambling" systems within the game, but I strongly suspect that the word "gambling" will be removed from all Blizzard announcements and communications and probably stricken even from the game itself. :)

In a "Player Run Economy", Blizzard is implying that any activities or gambling within the system will take place between the users and which they won't directly profit from. But, they still get a cut of all the action, they create the games and prizes, they collect consideration, they control the odds, and they can influence or change the economy. It's not really a "Player Run Economy" either if they can control and change the economy on a whim directly or indirectly. This is what Linden Labs tried with Second Life, and it didn't work out for them.

2. Player Gambling and Betting

The impression that Blizzard is trying to give is that the "Player Run Economy" will all take place between the players and they're completely hands off. We know that's not exactly true though. But, let's say for arguments sake that it truly was a player-run economy and that they profited in no way from gold or item sales.

What if players started gambling in game? What if they create virtual casinos like they did in World of Warcraft? (Which Blizzard had already banned and called "illegal.")

What if players engaged in gambling and placing wages in Arena PVP matches?

There are already some great communication systems in place to facilitate and support these exact activities.

The players might be doing something illegal, but Blizzard is supporting the activity, facilitating it, and maintaining it. And, as stated by Blizzard previously, since they don't view it as "gambling" in the first place, then that would mean it's not regulated, there's no oversight, minors can participate, and they're not stopping or preventing the activity from taking place.

Arena PVP would be an awesome betting and gambling system with very high stakes and risks. (And undetectable cheating.)

It might also encourage the development of virtual bookies, escrow services, and loan sharks. Don't have enough money? Just put your high level players up for collateral, if you lose, they're sold off. Gaming is becoming a professional sport, and it wouldn't be a professional sport without gambling and cheating.

3. "Gheed" Gambling and Artisans

As mentioned previously, there are references to gambling and a Gambling Vendor in the Diablo 3 beta files. They're right along side the General, Weapon and Armor vendors.

It appears that there was, at one point, a "Gheed" gambling vendor available in the game. I'm uncertain if it will be in retail or not, but I suspect that all references to "gambling" will be removed.

"Gheed" gambling is a gambling system within the game where you can wage gold, and there's a small chance to win a highly valuable item. That item can be, in turn, converted into real money.

Artisans also have a gambling feature. When you craft certain items, by inputting gold and materials, the item crafted has random statistics.. this means that you can gamble your money (gold) for a chance at winning an item of less, equal, or higher value. Salvaging of items is also gained through a randomized gambling system.. so you can gamble an item, to create random materials, which can be used for more gambling to increase overall value and win more cash.

You shake the dice when getting loot, you shake the dice when converting the loot into mats, you shake the dice when turning the mats into a random item, and you shake the dice when selling the item.

As you can see, there are layers upon layers of gambling systems within this virtual world.. and everything can be cashed out into the real world.

4. The Auction House Metagame

This is one of the activities that Blizzard lawyers might not have considered to be gambling. Blizzard has already boasted at great lengths about the new Auction House metagame within Diablo 3. They're completely right about the AH being a metagame.. it's a game of chance within a game of chance.

However, when you see how the system works, it's evident that "playing the Auction House" is actually a type of gambling.

Whenever you put an item up for sale on the Auction House, you must pay a mandatory Listing Fee. So, every time you post an item, you're taking a risk or a gamble that your item may or may not sell. If you don't win the AH gamble, you lose money. If you do win the AH gamble, Blizzard takes their cut and you get a cash prize.

There are inherent risks involved in every listing. And don't be fooled, there are a significant number of random variables that can alter your odds of winning or losing the AH gambling game; number of players buying or selling, when farmers are banned or allowed to play, when new patches are implemented, hotfixes, hacks and cheats, Blizzard changes listing fees or AH cuts, when certain regions have network access or others can't access the AH, Blizzard changes random loot, changes loot value, decreases loot drop chances, increases treasure drop amounts, changes skills or items that affect MF%, creates new items or loot, creates new bosses, changes number of monsters per zone, etc. All of these examples can drastically alter the economy and your chances of winning with just the simple flip of a number.

The RMAH metagame is like taking all of your winnings from various casino games, and then gambling with the casino to see if you can exit the building with your prizes. You also gamble to see how much they cut into your profits and how much you get to keep.

Bidding and Posting

Keep in mind that the RMAH "metagame" does involve chance and risk due to the non-refundable Listing Fee. But, there's very minimal case law when it comes to gambling and auction systems. There are a lot of websites or online games right now that are operating in murky legal waters because gambling commissions have not pushed the issue.. yet.

When you're posting items, you're playing a game against other players where very little skill is involved and it's mostly random chance. Bidding for items, on the other hand, is something different and more strategic.

So, forget auction listings.. what about just bidding in an auction?

When you examine the Unique Bid Auction system for example, it's considered gambling but not always enforced in most countries. The reason it's considered gambling is because BIDS are NON-REFUNDABLE.

(a) Paying a non-refundable fee
If no fee of any kind is required to bid, as with traditional auction models like EBay, the scheme is not a lottery because participants are not losing money or kind.
In Diablo 3, bids are refundable.. but posting items is not.

Last year, the Italian government shut down a number of online auction sites because they were charging non-refundable fees for bids. So, in Italy, unique bid auction sites are considered games of chance and they are illegal to operate without a gaming license.

And this was just for BIDDING on an auction, not even the POSTING aspect that I've been writing about.

There is also the Bidding Fee auction system (aka Penny Auctions) where players must pay a non-refundable fee to place on a small incremental bid. Some lawyers claim it's illegal and others say it is legal because bidding on the items is strategic. But, once again, it's very ambiguous because government regulators haven't pushed the issue.

In South Africa, however, this type of auction/gambling system is considered illegal. And, here's the interesting bit as to why:
(7) No fee may be charged for participation in an auction, but this does not apply to refundable deposits.
In other countries, though, they don't have any clear legislation about this type of auctioning system. Because of the advances in technology, gaming regulators just can't keep up and there are a lot of legal loopholes being exploited.

Swoopo is a good example in the US. They've gone bankrupt now, but it was under heavy criticism because of its gambling nature. This NY Times article was a funny read, the gambling industry consultant basically said: 'Well.. it's not really permitted in some states and most of Europe, but it's also not explicitly prohibited either." Brilliant. :)

I liked this part too from the sources in the Wikipedia entry: "the non-determinism comes directly from the actions of other users." That sounds very similar to the D3 RMAH, however Blizzard also has the ability to alter the non-determinism of LISTINGS by changing loot flow and random chance within the game.

If Blizzard and PayPal want to avoid any possible legal complications, they should remove the Listing (Non-Refundable) Fee to remove the definition of gambling from its auction system.

But, that would mean EBay is also gambling!

There are huge differences between EBay and the RMAH. Anyone who uses this as an example shows just how little they understand about the situation. It would be the only possible "auction" system they could think of, for example, and they wouldn't be aware that there are forms of online auctions that are in fact illegal.

Here are some of the reasons why EBay is not considered gambling, and how the RMAH is different:
  • EBay does not create all of the items that are sold in the auction.
  • EBay cannot control of the odds and random chance of user auctions.
  • EBay does not sell any products or services that they own themselves.
  • Users do not sell items that they received through gambling with EBay.
  • Users do not play games of random chance with EBay directly to sell items or to receive items to sell.
  • EBay does not create virtual auction items that have no real value.
  • Users sell physical items that have real value and depreciate.
  • Users sell something they own, and are transferring ownership. They are not selling something that EBay owns and continues to own after sale.
  • Users buy items for less or equal to what they are worth. They do not pay increasingly high prices for zero value items in which EBay profits.
  • In EBay, users compete with other users. There is transparency and rules. In the RMAH, you are playing against the House.
  • Users do not use a proprietary currency created by EBay.
  • EBay users know who they are selling to, financials are traceable, and monetary transactions are refundable or recoverable.
  • EBay users sell highly unique items. Not millions of the same item.
If EBay were to be run like the RMAH, here's how it would work:

EBay would have their own proprietary currency. Users would buy a license in order to use EBay, and told that they don't own anything. EBay would create virtual items themselves (that are worthless), and users could win these items through games of random chance. Users could then attempt to sell these items on the EBay Auction House, but selling the item would be completely random chance and based on odds that EBay controls. You would be competing against "the House" to sell your item and EBay can make it easier or harder to sell your item. You have to pay for the Insertion Fee every time you lose an auction. All transactions would be anonymous, and you have no idea if you're playing against a real person, a minor, a criminal organization, or an automated system.

But it's only pennies!

I think a lot of people don't see the gambling nature of the game because the transactions are just so small. But, I see it as an entire world (or virtual casino) full of microgambling transactions in different forms. All of the little games are presented in different ways, there are different rules and players, and they have flashy graphics and colorful disguises.. but at their core, it's still gambling and everyone knows it.

Making $0.10 per day by gambling items on the RMAH doesn't sound like a lot, but multiply that by millions of transactions per day or per hour.

Like Blizzard said, it's an item centric game. The entire game is about items and gold (basically, casino chips), managing them, organizing them, buying and selling them, and gambling even further with them.

In a typical gaming session, an average player might participate in thousands or tens-of-thousands of microgambling related interactions and not even realize it. NPCs drop tons of treasure (from 1-10 objects like gold or loot). Say you kill 500 monsters in one session (which is probably very low); that's potentially 1000-2000 random dice rolls at a game of chance. Salvage the items for their mats and that's another 1-2k in attempts at gambling for higher valued items. Craft items from those mats or sell on the Auction House; that's another gambling metagame.

PayPal is also part of and supporting this new infrastructure. For the past several months, they have been eliminating the "illegal" black market gold sales competition and clearing a path for Blizzard to be the only authorized gold seller for Blizzard games.

What's even more funny is that gambling is strictly against PayPals own policy.
PayPal Acceptable Use Policy

You may not use the PayPal service for activities that:

- involve gambling, gaming and/or any other activity with an entry fee and a prize, including, but not limited to casino games, sports betting, horse or greyhound racing, lottery tickets, other ventures that facilitate gambling, games of skill (whether or not it is legally defined as a lottery) and sweepstakes unless the operator has obtained prior approval from PayPal and the operator and customers are located exclusively in jurisdictions where such activities are permitted by law.
Other Impacts

I imagine that when the RMAH launches it will be a rather frightening time for Vivendi, Activision, Blizzard, and PayPal. But, let's say the RMAH is highly successful, and either the governments of the world don't consider it gambling or they win court cases proving that it's not considered gambling.

The problem up until now is that online gambling is illegal, but the lack of prosecution has made it an unwritten rule that indirect online gambling (or within video games) is legitimate. No one has ever pushed the boundaries (take Linden Labs for example), but once an entity pushes the boundaries, everyone else can learn from it or abuse it.

* Blizzard, for example, could push the boundaries even further. They can start introducing more game features that look a lot more like obvious gambling; for example a real "Gheed" gambling vendor in the game, minigames where players can compete against each other, or a UI and payment system for Arena PVP gambling and betting. If it becomes a popular spectator sport (like Starcraft), there might be a fee system for watching or participating in the fights.

* Setting a legal precedent will allow gambling sites in many countries to create a legal loophole for their own games. Here's a video game example; players buy the MMO game from a retail store or online, players meet together as avatars in a virtual world with casino games and can compete to win virtual gold, this virtual gold can be sold on an auction house to other players for real money. New players must buy virtual gold from the auction house in order to participate in the casino games.

* Don't want it to look like real gambling? Change the name "Horse Racing" to "Bunny Chase" and swap their textures. "Dog fighting? No no.. that's just the players demon pets engaged in PVP". Gambling sites could seriously exploit this same approach by just changing names around, or make it indirect gambling. Kill a monster by tapping the space bar a few times.. oh wow, he just dropped a deck of cards. Let's use this deck of magic cards (that looks just like a poker deck) with some other players in my zone. "The casino isn't running this virtual economy.. it's a PLAYER RUN ECONOMY! See, there's a difference! This is legal!"

* Other than the new waves of gambling addictions, how about the other real world economical or sociological effects? Blizzard has condemned Gold Selling due to the detrimental effects that it has on players. It's a well known fact that RMT is an effective business in developing countries and it encourages exploitation, forced labor, creation of sweat shops, and other what we would call inhumane conditions.

Whether it's a black market or legitimate RMT business, it makes no difference. Sweat shops will still be created no matter who is running the RMT business. By "legitimizing" RMT, however, it makes it easier for more people to participate, potential buyers feel more safe, it creates a system for them to use that guarantees trust and certified sales, and if anything, it makes it much more easy to profit from the exploitation of workers. I wonder what human rights groups would say to a business that first condemns exploitation of workers, and then turns around and supports the activity because they profit from it?

Players from any country can farm on whatever D3 regional server they select, and players would have no idea of what their money is supporting or what was involved in farming that anonymous item that was purchased.

Don't get me wrong..

I'm not anti-RMAH or really pro-RMAH either. What I like about the RMAH is that it's new, exciting, thought provoking, and untested for such a popular franchise. But, I also have no illusions about Blizzards new direction.

I'm most excited about the concept of "illegal online gambling" and if it can be legally applied to Diablo 3. Online gambling is very ambiguous at the moment, and no one has taken the risk of going to court over the issue. Because of this big push into virtual world gambling, we should see some interested things come out of it.

From a morality standpoint, we all know it's gambling, but that doesn't matter because it comes down to what you can prove in court. If it's made legal, so be it; it will open a door to new opportunities for online casino owners. I wonder if they're tracking this new direction at all and understand how it affects them..

The first few months should be really fun, but it probably won't happen the way most players are expecting.

Everyone is talking about selling items, but no one is talking about buying items. Every forum message I see is, "Oh man, I can't wait.. I'll be farming for hours and selling this stuff for cash baby!" like they're truly expecting everything they post will sell. I haven't heard anyone say, "I can't wait to spend all my money to help level up my character!" or "The first thing I'm going to do is buy a new character!"

During the beginning phases, there's going to be an explosion of people selling every item imaginable with impossibly expensive price tags. All of the rookies think they've discovered the holy grail and foolishly believe that no one else will be doing the same thing. The market will be flooded, and no one will be buying because everyone just wants to sell. Blizzard is going to clean up on all of those Listing Fees. Investors will be very happy.

The sad truth is that eventually the casual player isn't going to care as much about making money on the RMAH, they'll give up, and fall in line like everyone else. The RMAH will become a place to visit occasionally and spend money on a couple microtransactions every once in a while. More time will be spent enjoying the game, but it's the select group of professionals who will know how to drive RMAH revenue and they'll be the ones making all the sales.

Problem is, content will be desperately needed to continue driving players to collect loot. What's the point in getting better and better gear, if you already have adequate gear to beat the final difficulty level solo? Players need new content where gear is more valuable, especially in cases like PVP battlegrounds. Introducing more PVP features will increase the need for the better items on the RMAH. And we all know that's where the best gear will come from.

Blizzard should have a very good understanding of their players, especially from all of the lessons learned through World of Warcraft. Increasing PVP features (1v1, 2v2, 10v10 arenas and huge battlegrounds) will significantly increase RMAH sales and also drive up their revenue. Because of the importance of driving revenue, and how directly related PVP is, you should see a TON of PVP features implemented in the future through both patches and expansion packs. Right out of the gate, though, it will be limited.

I do know that large scale battleground combat will eventually be made available. It's their destiny.

Related Posts

Here's a summarized list of the other various Diablo 3 Gambling related posts that I have written. I think they're a very important read, and more people should be aware of what's going on.

How the RMAH can be considered online gambling: [LINK]
Comparison of D3 to other forms of gambling: [LINK]
Another follow up on illegal gambling: [LINK]
How players are forced into using the RMAH: [LINK]

On a related note to that last link, the Listing Fee for the gold auction is currently 15% of the final price. That's a HUGE amount, and definitely a turn off for players who could save a ton of money by paying the Cash Auction House flat fee. Not only will players only be able to obtain the best gear on the RMAH, but the current state of the Gold Auction House is further pushing players into the RMAH.

So far, there's really nothing out there on the net that discusses this important topic. But if I find any thought provoking articles, I'll be sure to post them here.

* Here's an old article from 2005 about gambling in emerging MMORPGs that is relevant today.

[Sept. 24, 2011] Update:

* Here's an interesting read about the South Korean GRB (Game Rating Board) questioning multiple large MMO developers about types of gambling within their games.

Blizzard is not one of them (since they don't have any current in-game cash systems), however NCSoft, Mgame, and Nexon are included in their investigation. Their concern is about "jackpot items", or basically players who have certain or little chance of winning high value items. I wonder if this could be applied to selling high value items with little chance?

* And, here's an older post from the same Korean site about the MCST (Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism) considering regulation about Random Items. It's a very grey area there too, but it's still recognized by many as gambling.

Even the UK Government has been drafting legislation in which auction site owners would need to obtain a gambling license to operate. Certain auction sites would be exempt, but this is for the substantial changes in online auction and gambling systems and still years away from completion.

* Here's a case where two players were charged for buying and selling virtual items in Lineage II. Apparently, they bought a large quantity of items through an online trading site, sold the items in-game, and then resold the virtual gold for a much higher profit. Both users were acquitted as the SK Supreme Court ruled that the money was not gained through random chance or coincidence, but rather that it was strategically bought and sold. This is a very good example proving that Auction Houses can be used to buy and sell items in-game, and it's not gambling as long as there's no random chance or risk involved (in getting the items or buying/selling the items.)

* Imagine a penny auction system within a virtual world for buying items. Many geographies would consider that gambling. Or when you try to sell items, it's through luck, coincidence or random chance.. and each attempt costs you money (risk based.)

* A blog that discusses Korean legislation. Interesting read that's related to the gambling issue.

PayPal Blizzard Relationship CONFIRMED!

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Blizzard has just announced that PayPal is their third party vendor for managing the Diablo 3 payment service.

We're pleased to announce that in most regions, PayPal will be our payment-service partner for the Diablo III auction house, allowing players who trade with real-world currency the ability to cash out the spoils of their battle-torn adventures via a PayPal account.

PayPal will also soon be added in several regions as a payment option on Battle.net, providing another convenient and secure payment method for digital purchases of Blizzard products and services.

We’ll share region-related specifics, as well as further details on everything mentioned above, in the near future. Stay tuned!
Let me put on my shocked face.

I had thought it was pretty obvious when the two got into bed together to put other PayPal gold sellers and potential Blizzard competitors out of business. Now you why PayPal was so eager to help out Blizzard.. they must have been in negotiations. :)

This also means that PayPal might be unintentionally engaging in potentially illegal gambling once the Real Money Auction House is live. Should be interesting if the FBI launches a probe like they did in Second Life. I would love to see the matter finally settled on gambling within virtual worlds and Activision Blizzard is just the type of company to create the legal precedent.

I guess this also means that the RMAH will have at minimum 4 cuts now: the Listing Fee cut, the Transaction Fee, the Cash Out cut, and the PayPal Cash Out cut and other miscellaneous fees. There's also the government's cut. All I know is that when the Auction House fees are announced, there are going to be a lot of pissed off users. I suspect that $1 in revenue is quickly going to become a 50 cent profit.

MMR Exploit

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Funny how people are completely convinced that since World of Warcraft has been around for 7 years, that there isn't anything left to exploit and all of the holes have been plugged. :)

What's even scarier, though, are the people who believe that "hacks" and "duping" have never happened in WOW. I see these arguments on forums all the time.. and it's very depressing each and very time. (Duping is still a common problem in WOW, and it's going to happen in Diablo 3 too.)

Anyways.. apparently, MMR exploits in World of Warcraft are still around. I don't really follow WOW anymore and I just learned about this by accident. I thought it was worth mentioning..

In fact, I can't remember a time when there HASN'T been a Match Making exploit available in WOW. These types of exploits have been around since Arenas were first launched. More details here on Reddit, and here's a link to the exploit. Users are trying to get as many people to know about the exploit as possible, so that Blizzard will do something about it.

The GCD hack was always my favorite though.

Weak-ly Update

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, September 10, 2011

* The big news is that the Beta Opt In rules have suddenly been changed. Previously, it was anyone who owned an Active Battle.net account which required any Blizzard game. Now, it's only anyone with an active World of Warcraft or Starcraft 2 account.

So, for those veteran accounts who have been playing Diablo 2 for 10 years.. they have no chance of getting into the Diablo 3 beta. Starcraft 2 players do, though.

The claim was later refuted, reconfirmed, refuted, reconfirmed, and then refuted again. These were all done by CMs or GMs.. so who really knows what internal rules are really being followed.

I've been told that there are other unofficial rules too.. like unsupported video cards won't make the beta, certain system specs, and "flagged accounts".

What's really interesting about this sudden change in the beta rules, is that it comes 1 week after I wrote about this exact same strategy. I've always known that the blog was monitored by Blizzard, and thankfully Daeity had hooked me up with some tools to track that sort of thing. There's a Blizzard system, for example, that has been "pinging" the blog twice a day at pre programmed intervals for quite a while now. It "watches" front page and new posts only. Just a very strange coincidence that after that blogspot about B.Net accounts, they changed the rules exactly for that situation. :)

* If you're interested in a Diablo 3 Beta "Offline Crack", there's a server emulator in the works. You can get all the information you want here. It's very early stages and something marginally playable is still several weeks away.

* More news from Rockstar, as expected. The release date for Max Payne 3 has been announced.. once that's out of the way, should free up some room for a RDR PC port announcement.

* Blizzard announced 6 games within the next 3 years at the recent Citigroup conference. These games are: Diablo 3, D3 X1, SC2 X2, SC2, X3, WOW X4, and WOW X5. This is all very very old news though and practically everyone already knew all about this. Not sure why this was suddenly "news" on so many gaming sites.

* I was going to add a bunch of stuff about illegal online gambling in this post, but it got so huge that I had to create a brand new post for it. I'll put it up later when it's done.

* I was thinking about writing an article on the "New" Diablo 3 Blackmarket that will emerge. You know, potential changes to the blackmarket now that Blizzard is running their own ingame Cash Auction House.

For example; because RMAH will not be available to Hardcore players, that's one market where items will be available. Because of the rarity and risk involved for farmers, the value of items will be substantially more expensive than Blizzard's RMAH. The size of the Hardcore community is a factor at play here too.

Third party websites will also sell the cheaper items (but in larger volume) with no listing fees. The big seller here won't necessarily be high end gear, but probably items or mats instead.

But, what other kind of stuff? Maybe Hardcore character sales? Maybe even the same stuff sold on the RMAH, but without the listing fee. It all depends on the listing fee, but I'll be pretty disappointed if it's more than $0.20 per item.

I really like the new RMAH, mostly because it's new and different for such a popular franchise, and it creates new forms of competition and tactics in the industry. I'm looking forwards to seeing how the market will evolve, and how Blizzard will combat competitors.

The Beta Is Upon Us

Posted by Daeity On Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Looks like I'll be busy for the next little while. :) If I spot anything unusual or interesting, I'll make another update.. but for now there are a lot of D3 videos and streams available for your viewing pleasure:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiCwATxb0a0 (Demonhunter Gameplay)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI4ya75Gig8 (Barbarian Gameplay)
http://www.twitch.tv/day9tv
http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nomsayin
http://www.diablounderground.com/diablo-underground-live-stream
http://www.twitch.tv/wigens/b/294468076
http://www.justin.tv/orbitzun4/#/w/1730301568
http://www.twitch.tv/wigens#/w/1730431056
http://www.twitch.tv/crypto137
http://www.justin.tv/fluddastud#/w/1730241232
http://www.livestream.com/pushbuttan

You'd assume that many of them were D2 fans, but judging by their gameplay it's like they've never played an Action RPG before (some, not all). I also haven't seen any "Beta Feedback" menu systems, confirming previous beliefs about it's true purpose. :)

I've also updated a few items on the previous post (Unofficial Diablo 3 Features).

** Okay, so it looks like I won't be as busy as I thought.

I've seen a full play through of the D3 Beta on 3 classes now and it's become very repetitive.

Funny how everything about the beta is now old news to me. People will still be talking about it for the rest of the day and the week.. but if it's over 30 minutes old, then it's old news. :)

Take the D3 DOTA discovery I had made for example. It took at least 4-6 hours before it was even discussed on forums by anyone else (and was still not posted on any gaming news sites), and when I saw it, I thought to myself; wow, that's really old news. A lot of the other stuff in that same "Unofficial Features" post still hasn't made it to the web surprisingly.

This is what the internet has done to me.. if it's 1 hour old, it's really old news, and might as well be from a couple weeks ago.

Anyways, I really have no interest in watching any more videos or streams. I've seen it all now. The beta was a lot shorter than I had imagined and the bosses a little too easy, but overall it looks pretty awesome (I especially enjoyed the voice acting, lore, and audio) and I'm looking forwards to the live retail.

Unofficial Diablo 3 Features

Posted by Daeity On Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I'm going to create a running list of all of the interesting leaked tidbits extracted from the latest Diablo 3 MPQ. More details here and here if you're not already aware of the latest leak.

A lot of the extracted data is development related too, so you can see a brief view of potential future projects. Most of it will show you monster and boss names, zone names, and all of the player skills and abilities. I'm more interested in neat little things (like what you'll see below).

PVP Game Types

* Cooperative
* "Diablo 3" / Normal
* DotA
* Arena
* Team Deathmatch

It's interesting that they're bringing a DotA style game into Diablo 3. You should see this hitting gaming news sites later today.

Random Features

* Looks like there's a targeting mechanism (toggle key) for selecting the more injured monsters first.
* You can drop your banner for people to see (like an emote) and show off.
* Speaking of /emotes, here's what is available so far: Help, Follow, Give, Thanks, Sorry, Bye, Die, Run, Wait, Go.
* There's a gambling Gheed-like vendor available. This was one thing a lot of people were asking about that Blizzard never confirmed (probably because of the "gambling" and real money implication). Any bets on whether this will be available in the final version?
* You carry a Bestiary and a Lore Book built from all of the random book drops that you can collect throughout the game.
* You can receive notifications when someone is inspecting you. Very useful for World of Warcraft, so don't be surprised if you see that feature added.
* Easy quest selection, just click on the NPC and you can walk away. If you chose to listen, you can stick around though. No more walls of text, and you can jump right into the action. You can also listen (yes, listen not read) to quests or lore items while you're on the go.. a nice little feature borrowed from other FPS/RPGs.
* It appears that leveling up causes a nice little "explosion" effect around you, and for added effect it also causes AOE damage to mobs around you.
* NPCs talk WAY too much when they accompany you (hirelings, quest NPCs, escorts, etc). There is probably an option to turn it off.. or at least, I hope there is.
* When you exit your Campaign Game, you can save your progress and return to it later. In D2, if you started a new game, everything was reset. Would be very cool if you could invite people to your saved game (say you came across a very rare random event.)

Items

* Item Reforging: "Transmutes all properties of a single magic, rare, set or legendary item into an entirely new set of properties. This process permanently reduces the maximum durability of the item by 10% and cannot be used on items with required level 50 or above."
* Your gear can be dyed. Very nice.
* Gear can also be "Undyed" and "Vanished" which apparently makes gear invisible.
* Players can purchase Stash Expansions for extra storage. You can purchase "Slots" and "Tabs".
* Crafting Plans are random drops for making weapons or armor, but there are also a ton that are basically Enchanting Recipes. Many of them look like they're named right out of World of Warcraft, for example "Enhance Gloves: Superior Brawn".
* There are a lot of Crafting Plans for Gemcrafting ("Design: Radiant Round Emerald") as well.
* When loot drops, you can set timers on how long you want the item text to appear. That way, you're not always alt clicking to see loot.
* Quivers can also come with special abilities for your bow (e.g. fire damage arrows, snaring effects, etc.) Will be the same for secondary weapons, like shields too.

Special Events

* There's a spiral event (which most likely takes place in the Hell Spire in Act 4) where you can keeping moving from one level to another, in either a timed event or a difficulty progression. The more you progress, the better reward you receive. Reminds me of some jRPGs.
* Each zone can have random dungeons or timed events that popup. There are randomly appearing caves, ruins, temples, towers, scavenger dens, mines, cellars within structures, puzzles, and NPC vendors. There's also the Pony Carnival event and the "Secret Bovine Wundercave".
* There's a timed "Gateway to Hell" event. Also, one where Diablo is trying to corrupt the Crystal Arch (Act 4). Speaking of which, I see a lot of references to Black Soulstones (aka Worldstone Shards) that have been cut or added to the game frequently.. maybe they have more expansion pack plans for them.

Character Naming

* 1-32 max. characters in size.
* Spaces and no special characters permitted.
* The banned character names list is a good read.

Future Stuff

* Act I, II, III, and IV are mentioned. As well as Act V and Act VI. (Which we already knew they had planned to release within 3 years.)
* Player titles go up to level 100, in 10 level increments. I suppose they could be PVP titles.. but why the specific character levels? There are also "Corruption" titles for those with evil karma.
* The beta client has a Verisign expiration date of 12/05/11, identifying a retail release prior to Christmas 2011. Of course, all of this was already released by Daeity a long time ago. :)

Hirelings and Pets

* Hirelings can learn skills as they level.
* You can summon a friendly creature and roams around and collects gold for you as you travel.

Shrines

* Pretty much any kind of shrine you can imagine is there; the typical elemental resistance, health, and regeneration.
* Also a Luck Shrine, a socketing shrine, even unsocketing, item augmentation, Identify shrines, Remove Curses, +25% Magic and Gold Find, +25% experience, etc.

Blizzcon

* A lot of references to Blizzcon since this was (and will be) the build that players used during Blizzcon.
* There's a hidden "BlizzconPrize" that players can randomly loot with the message: "Congratulations! You just found something so awesome it grants you fame outside the game! Show this item to any Diablo 3 attendant to claim your prize."

Diablo 3 End Game Content

Posted by Daeity On

Remember when Blizzard said that they were surprised players were so upset about the online only requirement for Diablo 3? The reason they were surprised is because they compared D3 to World of Warcraft and it's "roots are in Battle.net and now with Diablo 3". Diablo 3 was built just like WOW; it was stylized artistically after WOW, borrowed most of it's features and content from WOW, Stories and Quests borrowed from WOW, monster and NPC designs from WOW, boss fights from WOW, etc.

Blizzard thought that players would expect Diablo 3 to be like WOW. (Even though Diablo 1 and 2 could be played offline.)

But then, they were surprised again at the fan rage about Mods not being permitted in Diablo 3. Their reason? "Well, Diablo 2 didn't have mods."

Do you see the broken logic here?

They implement major features from WOW, stylize the game after WOW, COMPARE IT TO WOW and then, when they leave out other WOW features, they "get confused" when users are angry.

World of Warcraft has spoiled many players when it comes to end game content as well. There are just so many options available.. dozens of instances, dozens of raid content and end game bosses, metagames, professions, exploration, achievements, competition, and PVP. It's a massively awesome game with many possibilities.

When it comes to Diablo 3, though, players are in for a bit of surprise. Blizzard has changed the definition of "end game content" for Diablo 3.

When asked about End Game content, Blizzard says that Inferno difficulty is the End Game content.

Jay Wilson: "One of the things we wanted to do was really create an environment for the player at the end of the game. So, what we've decided to do is create a 4th difficulty we call Inferno." [Source]

@Diablo: “Depends on your definition of end game. Max level happens at end of Normal, so probably Hell, if that's what you mean.” [Source]
Basically, you play Normal difficulty, then Nightmare difficulty, and then Hell difficulty to be level capped. Then the "end game content" is just the next difficulty level.

So, from a World of Warcraft perspective, here's a rough example of what your gameplay experience will be like:

* Here are the different regions you can visit, at the end of each region or "instance" there's a major boss fight. (Based on current Beta Client details, I'll update Act list if there are changes in retail.)
Act 1
New Tristram
The Cathedral
Cemetery of the Forsaken
Fields of Misery
Festering Woods
The Highlands
Halls of Agony (Boss)

Act 2
Caldeum Sewers & Palace
Stinging Winds (Alcarunus, Black Canyon Mines, Khasim)
Dahlgur Oasis
Boneyards
Desolute Sands
Archives of Zoltun Kulle (Boss)

Act 3
Bastion Dungeon (Depths of the Keep)
Bastion's Keep
Fields of Slaughter
Arreat Crater (Boss)

Act 4
Gardens of Hope
Hell Portal
Silver Spire
The Crystal Arch (Diablo Boss Fight)
* From Level 1-20, you run 4 instances.
* From 20-40, you run the same 4 instances again.
* From 40-60, you run the same 4 instances all over again.
* When you level cap at 60, you can go back and run those same 4 instances again but the bosses are colored differently (originally red, then purple, then black, and now radioactive green!) and they are harder to kill..
* All of the best loot only comes from the last instance though. So, your end game is running the same boss over and over and over and over.
* You can personally run all end game yourself, a team is not needed to defeat Inferno difficulty and it's completely soloable.
* But wait, there's also another option available at the end game! It's an item selling meta game.

End game content should not be compared to WOW; they're not similar at all. Since Diablo 3 is targeting spoiled (in it's most positive sense, since WOW is such an amazing game) WOW players, I'm wondering if they'll be upset when they realize the lack of options in D3 re playability.. maybe they'll find it extremely boring since there are no options available? And everything can be done solo?

Maybe D3 should have taken the WOW approach, and unlocked multiple new "instances" and "zones" when the user hits the level cap.

For Diablo players, this won't be a problem. They're already used to the Pokemon "Gotta Collect 'Em All" item game. But for WOW vets, it will be an odd gaming experience to jump back into.

Difficulty levels also should never be used to artificially increase the length of a game. It should only be reserved for more difficult and challenging adventures, with better rewards because of the risk involved, but that's it.

If Deus Ex: Human Revolution takes 30 hours for a full play through, it shouldn't be advertised as a "90 hour RPG" because there are 3 difficulty levels available.

Beta Invites; Increasing Your Odds

Posted by Daeity On Saturday, September 3, 2011

This might be a little late with the Diablo 3 beta starting soon, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

If you're not a Blizzard Employee, a Friend & Family member, or have any inside connections, but you desperately want to increase your chances of winning a Diablo 3 Beta invite, I have couple suggestions.

Most of the guides out there suggest that you join a top end guild, have a high end gaming PC, or get in good with a Blizzard employee. If you're a past beta tester, chances are also higher for you to be invited back too.

Now, in order to opt-in to the Beta Invite, you need an active Battle.net account with any Blizzard game title attached to it. Then, "Beta testers are chosen according to their system specifications and other factors, including an element of luck."

You can't just create hundreds of B.Net accounts and create Free Starter packs to opt-in, unfortunately, it has to be a full version game attached.

Here are my suggestions;

* Use your classic games. If you're lucky and still have Diablo 2, WC3, or Starcraft CD keys (or any expansion packs) lying around that haven't been registered to your main B.Net account, simply create new B.Net account names (register them to your family members if you want) and use each of those CD-Keys individually for each B.Net account. If you have WoW, D2, D2:LOD, WC3, SC, and SC:BW you can have 6 Active B.Net accounts that are all eligible for the beta.

* If you're more desperate, and have the cash, all of the classic games can be obtained from pawnshops, EBay, Amazon, etc. for $3-10 per game.

* Check with friends or family members with old CD-Keys that they don't use anymore. All you need is the CD-Key to register it to your B.Net account. You never know who out there hasn't played the game for years, but still have the CD case or box lying around.

* Even if you only have 3 CD-Keys.. at least you're 3 times closer to win than before. :)

* Blizzard can replace a lost CD-Key, if you turn in your CD case or manual as a replacement. However, there's a fee of $10 which is typically more expensive than what you can buy it for elsewhere.

* If you don't have the money, but have the time, you could attempt random CD-Key generators. This is rather insidious, but it is possible to generate random CD-Keys that can be authenticated on B.Net. They're extremely rare and will take a lot of time, but if you don't mind the risk, it's a viable option. This link, for example, generates Starcraft CD-Keys which are the most simple to create and authenticate. I'm not sure if it's randomly generated on the backend though, or displayed from a pre-made list. I tried a couple dozen, and ended up with 3 that were legit however they were claimed and in use by other users. Diablo 2 CD-Key generators also work, but are more difficult to get a real B.Net key. Just make sure you create a new B.Net account, a new email address, and do this through an anonymous VPN service.

* You don't want a high end gaming PC, if anything, submit system specifications for an average gaming PC. Blizzard wants to reach the widest audience possible, and the most invitations will be sent for average PC builds.

* Network and make friends with players with B.Net accounts (e.g. your guild mates). Convince them to opt-in. Many beta winners won't have time to play (too busy with school) and will offer the beta key (no "keys" for D3 Beta AFAIK, instead the account is flagged) or share their B.Net account.

It's called a beta, but it isn't so much a beta as it is a demo. There will be very little change between the D3 "beta" and the retail release. Just like WOTLK and Cataclysm. It's more of a stress test on their new servers and authentication systems. The D3 beta is supposed to be much shorter than previous Blizzard betas as well.. so, just hang on there and I hope this information helps out some of you that forget about your classic games and unregistered expansion packs. :)

The "Optional" Cash Auction House

Posted by Daeity On Friday, September 2, 2011

Yes, the cash auction house is optional. But it's not a very good option.

Rob Pardo's Diablo 3 presentation during the Activision Blizzard Analyst Day event shared some insight into their philosophy surrounding the Real Money Auction House.

Here's what he said (jump to the 2h 15min mark) during his presentation:

"We really thought carefully about how we were going to design this."

"..the reason we're doing a listing fee in the first place is because we don't want every item possible to end up on the Auction House."

"..there's going to be lots and lots of items in the game that players aren't just going to find or going to be valuable enough to spend real world money on. We really feel that it's important that the (Cash) Auction House is the place you go for valuable items."

"The things up on the (Cash) Auction house are the things players should be willing to spend money on. We feel that the listing fee really achieves that."
Earlier in his presentation, he also talked about how the Real Money Auction House is a trading game where players can obtain really hard to get items. He said that there's a difference between World of Warcraft (an "Achiever Economy" where all bosses drop the same items and can be obtained by any player) and Diablo 3 (where it's instead "Merchant Item" based and no amount of skill or time can give you the random rolls you want.) So in contrast to WoW, the really hard to get items will only be available on the Auction House.

And then they have the free listings per week. They want players to use the Cash Auction House, and Rob said that the free listing is a great way to get players interested in the real money service. Paraphrased: "They're unsure about using it.. then BOOM, you get a really powerful item. I know this is a valuable item, so I'll try and put it on the (cash) auction house for the first time. If that item sells, it's a great way to get people introduced to the (cash) auction house." You can hear his exact example at the approximate 2:15:51 mark.

Both Gold and Cash is shared amongst all of your characters. That's right; your shared stash isn't needed to share Gold, all of the Gold you're carrying is automatically shared with all of your characters. Their intention is clear when it comes to trading and item sales.

Basically;

* Blizzard really wants you to use the Cash Auction House. There are incentives in place to get you using it regularly.
* There are so many items out there and random drops from bosses, that the items you want will be practically impossible to get on your own. You HAVE to rely on the Cash Auction House to obtain it.
* The Cash Auction House is where you go for valuable items. The Garbage.. I mean, Gold Auction House is where you go for everything else.
* You have to use Real Money to get the really powerful Diablo 3 items. (That's the plan.)

If you're happy with the minimum, then you'll be very be very pleased using the Gold Auction House. But if you want valuable items and the best gear, then you'll have to use the Cash Auction House.

The game is all about character development and improving upon yourself, and human nature drives us to create uber powerful characters and compete. So, this system is practically forcing players into the Cash Auction House. It's the only way to advance.

I don't feel one way or another about this system, I just think it will be interesting to see how players will react to it when it's live.. but I just don't want you surprised when you find out the items you need to advance will only be available for real money.

More Diablo 3 Leaks..

Posted by Daeity On

A former Blizzard employee (kidr3volver on Reddit) has posted screenshots (and now a video) of the Diablo 3 beta.

Source of the information can be found here.

His IMGUR album is located here. And you can watch the Beta Player Character Screen video here.
ForceStrategy Gaming called it all fake photoshop work, but it looks pretty real to me. :)

According to his IAMA, "the majority of my life in blizzard was under the account and billing/tech department but have some general GM experience as well".

I don't think kidr3volver was too serious about protecting his identity though. According to previous Reddit posts, he publicly revealed his name and date of birth: Joshua Shields, 1986 (jshields1986). According to his public Google+ profile, he worked for Blizzard Entertainment in the Account and Tech Services department from 2010-2011.

Here's his LinkedIn Profile and a screenshot and here's my favorite part:

Learn and review departmental policies and procedures.
Maintain security and confidentiality of Blizzard Entertainment internal information and customer/account.
He probably received an earlier beta invite through the "Friends & Family Members" closed beta invite, considering that he's not currently employed by Blizzard.

His jshields1986 unique alias is all over the internet as well, and there are plenty of pictures of both him and his cat.

http://cheezburger.com/jshields1986/
http://www.quickmeme.com/user/jshields1986/oldest/
http://s634.photobucket.com/albums/uu64/jshields1986/
http://imgur.com/user/jshields1986
http://www.resumebucket.com/jshields
jshields1986@gmail.com, jshields1986@yahoo.com, etc. etc.

This is a really good example (and a warning) of how important it is to protect your identity and "internet footprint". Information about you is all over the web, and it just takes one slip up to link all of your aliases to one identity.

Unless this is all an elaborate conspiracy where someone borrowed this persons alias in an attempt to frame them. For example, he worked with Joshua at Blizzard, didn't like him, and now it's payback time. :)

** Update:

Kidr3volver has been going through and deleting all of his Reddit posts. I wouldn't be surprised if he pulled the images and YouTube video too. (It's already been reposted though.)

And, Blizzard has just deleted one of the Diablo 3 discussions on Battle.net. Never had a chance to read the entire thing and it was up for about 5-6 hours.

Here's the one that was deleted: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/3118271920

Interestingly enough, they still kept the original older posting (7 hours old now) that contains all of the personal information about the leaker: http://us.battle.net/d3/en/forum/topic/3118161991

I had thought it was against B.Net forum rules to post that sort of stuff there. I wonder why they deleted the newer post, but not the original?

It might have had something to do with the comments made by Sixen on the forum (he's a Community MVP.) They were talking about favoritism (i.e. friends that hooked them up with invites) for Beta selection: [Image 1] [Image 2] [Image 3]

Sixen was also originally telling everyone that there was no Diablo 3 Friends and Family "F&F" Alpha/Beta, then changed his tune when corrected by forum users:
"There will not be a Friends and Family Alpha or Beta. The game is going right from Internal Alpha to Public Beta."
"Nevermind, apparently I'm wrong, there will be an F&F."
"Nope, the info I had changed."
** Update:

Confirmed; he just pulled his YouTube video.

There's another copy here for your viewing pleasure.

Activision Blizzard News and Updates

Posted by Daeity On Thursday, September 1, 2011

Notes taken from the Activision Blizzard Analyst Day [Source]:

* Introductory music for Kotick was hilarious. "PLEASE WELCOME.. *intense energizing action music*.. BOB-BY KOOOO-TICK!!!!"

* Kotick used the term "game changer" which was a pun that wasn't supposed to be a pun. I am disappoint.

* Apparently, Battle.net only has "15 Million (+) Monthly Active Users". Doesn't anyone else find that very low? This includes all Diablo players, StarCraft 1 + 2 players, WoW Starter Accounts, and World of Warcraft (including WoW China) active players. The ones that have B.Net accounts anyways (which is required for SC2, WoW and Starter Accounts).. but 15 million? That's it? Based on their vanity figures, I had thought it would be closer to 25-30 million at least. Since Starcraft 2 has 4-5 million active B.Net accounts right now, that only leaves 10-11 million players for the rest of their franchises. Guess that confirms Daeity's previous estimates regarding REAL PLAYERS versus "Subscriptions". :)

In September of 2002, B.Net had 11 million active users. And in September of 2004, they had 12 million active users. [Source]

So, B.Net Monthly Active Users has only increased about 3 million in the past 7 years. Wow.

* Activision boldly claimed that COD has more players (30 million unique players) than any Facebook game, and higher engagement than all top Facebook games. Once again, these are vanity figures and don't reflect actual active players and could have just been registered users.

But they're wrong. As of Feb. 1, 2011 CityVille had ~98.5 million MAU and Farmville had ~53 million MAU. Those are ACTIVE USERS, not just registered users.

What statistics did they even compare to?

* Activision claimed that their preorders for COD: MW3 are significantly higher than previous games and all other competitors. This is old news though. Based on their statements, MW3 preorders should be at least 7 million.

* The Skylanders transmedia MMO is targeting the "37 million online and gaming households with children aged 6-12". They received this statistics from the "2011 Gamer Census Data" but I couldn't locate this anywhere online. Maybe an internally researched census?

Skylanders is basically Pokemon candy cigarettes intended to get children hooked before being introduced to "adult cigarettes".. that is, Call of Duty. Gotta get them when they're young.

* There are about 100 developers working on the new Halo MMO right now. They're also building their own gaming service portal for the game (a "Battle.net" for Halo).

* Mike Morhaime was up next. Mentioned that they have 4,500 employees across 10 global offices. 800 of those employees are developers. The rest, as you know, are Customer Service.

* Mike detailed some other Blizzard vanity figures:

Warcraft franchise had 20.5 million sales, Starcraft had 16 million sales, Diablo had 20.5 million sales.

Blizzcon 2010 had over 25,000 attendees and over 500,000 viewers paid for the virtual ticket. Their Facebook page has over 1 million users following it.

* They're working on "Blizzard DOTA" and still working on the Marketplace for B.Net.

* Made some very interesting remarks about "nonlinear subscriber growth" and "erosion of player base." Nonlinear growth meaning negative growth but stated in a positive light. He mentioned that subscriber numbers are impacted by seasonality and new content, but that they're working on increasing retention initiatives and new regions to expand their service. It just sort of came out of the blue too, he didn't talk about subscription changes. These comments worried a lot of the attendees.. it's like he's preparing them for low subscriber counts at their next quarterly meeting.

* Continuing with the low subscriber number, he mentioned that NetEase is working on penetrating their Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities in China. But there's risk involved, and their computer systems and IGR (Internet Game Rooms) are built for less performance heavy games like WoW. :)

* They've seen a 60% increase in new account creation due to the new World of Warcraft Starter Edition. Can't wait to see if they modify their "Subscriber" definition.

* The Diablo 3 Beta will be going into beta later this month. It will be starting during the last week or so, with beta invites going out at least 1-2 weeks in advance. So, Mid-Sept beta invites..

* Rob Pardo said that "Loot = BIG PART OF DIABLO". WOW has an "Achiever Economy" where players need to work for their items or have the best skill, whereas Diablo has a "Merchant Item Economy". The gameplay focus on items concerns me; I hope it doesn't sacrifice other important aspects of the game.

* Blizzard is expecting users to be able to sell items for $5, $10, and $50 on the Cash Auction House. The Gold Auction House will be for normal sales and most common items. The Cash Auction House will be for the best items and hardest to get.

* They seem to be aware that there's a clear segregation between the Gold AH and Cash AH in that the Gold AH will be used for low level items and the Cash AH will be used for high level items. For those who are complaining about the Cash AH, supporters will say "The real money auction house is optional." Well.. yes, optional for cheap items. All of the best items will be sold for cash and they'll also cycle through the system. Rob Pardo said that the "really powerful items will be bought and sold all the time."

* Rob Pardo is hoping people will use the Battle.net Account Balance (RMAH) to support their World of Warcraft subscription, buy B.Net games, and virtual items.

* The 3rd party payment provider partner has still not been announced yet because they don't technically have one yet. What concerns me is that they haven't finalized any deals yet, but that they're "getting close to a deal right now." The beta is starting soon, but they still haven't finalized the Cash Auction and Player Banking systems. Without a partner, what kind of shape is the technology and infrastructure? This can seriously push back the retail release date of the game and should have been finalized a long time ago. It sounds very last minute.

* Rob Pardo reiterated that the Cash Auction House is in place because players wanted it. "Why? PLAYERS WANT IT!" He also said, "Players really want this, and if we don't do it, someone else will."

* Thomas Tippl mentioned that the following investments will be out within the next 2-3 years: Diablo 3, D3 Expansion Pack, StarCraft X2 and X3, World of Warcraft X4 and X5. Titan MMO will incorporate mobile and social elements and will not be out in 2-3 years (i.e. 2014).

* Thomas Tippl said that the Map Marketplace will launch at the same time as the first SC2 Expansion Pack.

* Other than the World of Warcraft expansion packs, Blizzard also has new "Value Added Services" in the pipeline to enhance player experience.

* The Bungie MMO will be multiplatform. Since it trailed Skylanders information, it seemed to be that Thomas was indicating the Bungie MMO would be multiplatform like Skylanders. So, all consoles, plus PC, plus a "Web World" (or a web based method to access your account and possibly play elements of the game.)

* During the QA Period, the "nonlinear growth" question came up again. Mike Morhaime stated that the 12M to 11.1M drop was across the board but that "We don't break down regionally." They have done so in the past though.

* Regarding "continuing content", there will be a major update coming later this year. Meaning the X4 announcement at Blizzcon.

And, that's all folks. Some interesting stuff though.. especially that B.Net figure.