Diablo III's End Game - PreviewCraig Snow, posted on 29 March 2012 / 6,234 Views
In the first Beta Impressions article I posted, I dealt with more general aspects of the game. This time around I want to focus on what, for me, will become the most important aspect of Diablo III, and that's 'the End Game'. The End Game covers the point in a game where you've completed all of the quest content available and you're no longer interested in playing the game as it was primarily intended. Instead, your focus might turn to PvP, or item hunting, or trading. As such, it's one of the most important aspect of Diablo for series veterans and online gamers.
If there’s one key aspect of Diablo II which gives it near-limitless replayability it’s the loot-drop system. Allow players to trade items with one another online in a relatively easy manner and an in-game economy soon evolves. What’s so compelling about playing Diablo II online is the ability not only to play the game with and against other users, but to find loot, trade it, take part in the online economy and start building up an empire of wealth to sink into whatever project you’re working on. My pet project was a PvP Kick Assassin - a niche but nonetheless deadly PvP character if built correctly, using some extremely expensive items. Most of my time wasn’t spent fighting with her, it was coming up with different builds, creating new characters to perfect those builds, acquiring in-game wealth, and then using that to trade for the items my ‘Kicker’ would need most to be successful.
All of this was somewhat unintentional on the part of Blizzard when it came to Diablo II. This time around, however, the End Game is a key part of the development process, and something Blizzard are clearly putting a lot of thought into, not least with the reveal of an Inferno difficulty level. For Diablo III to be successful online over the long term, the (in-game) economy has to thrive. In the Beta you’re given access to an up-and-running version of the Auction House. It’s clearly not functioning as it will when the game goes live, but there’s enough going on to tell broadly where it’s headed.
Blizzard want to have a unified currency in Diablo III, namely gold. For a Diablo II trader this might raise alarm bells – gold is less than worthless in Diablo II, the common currencies during my years with the game were Runes (consistently high value), Stones of Jordan (the value of which fluctuated wildly depending on the amount of ‘dupes’ flooding the system), and Perfect Gems (low value). It was a very organic, user-created economic system.
What will be interesting is how Blizzard will manage to ensure that gold retains any value – the rate and amount of gold being dropped by monsters doesn’t seem massively different from Diablo II in the early stages of the game, and if that carries on through the rest of the game then surely people are going to be asking pretty hefty prices for anything of real value, or not want to part with them at all. So how will gold hold its price when there’s a virtually endless supply of the stuff?
One change is a ‘universal stash’, of which gold is a part, so you’ll be able to draw on all of your gold reserves, which is something you could never do in Diablo II. That certainly makes gold more viable for trading. Another is the amount of money sinks in the game. You can blow your funds on a lot of different things, from ‘training’ Artisans (in the beta alone these constitute quite a hefty money sink), to upgrading your stash and items, to crafting, to potentially being charged for using the Auction House. These things all add up and it’s not so easy to claw all of those funds back by simply selling useless items. Firstly, because the prices offered for your equipment by NPCs are significantly lower than they are in Diablo II. And secondly, because you’ll be turning most of the magic items you loot into crafting materials.
There’s also, presumably, the possibility for Blizzard to quickly patch in changes to the economy, for example by drastically curtailing the money supply, raising prices, or adding more money sinks if hyper-inflation sets in. No doubt a lot of thought’s gone into the in-game economy at Blizzard, and having now played Diablo III I’m extremely excited by the prospect of having a unified currency in the form of gold. If they can make it work then Diablo III will be an even better prospect for a thriving trading community than Diablo II was thanks to the universal stash and the Auction House, not to mention an increased focus on anti-cheating.
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