The Diablo 3 Journal: Day 22 – The End

Read Journals #1 and #2 first.

This is how my time with Diablo 3 ends, not with a ragequit, but with a whimper.

This will likely be the final journal installment chronicling my time with Diablo 3, at least for a good long while. After having a decent amount of fun initially, I learned many things about the game as I progressed in difficulty and level, and have come to realize that it’s fundamentally broken for anyone wishing to play it for a prolonged period of time the way we all did Diablo 2.

In short, unless some serious changes are made, this will not be the decade-long phenomenon that D2 was. Read on to see why.

I’ll start with one of the primary reasons my time with the game has ground to a halt: hacking. For those of you who hadn’t heard, my account was hacked last week, and I lost all my gold and items instantaneously. Now, that alone isn’t necessarily reason to quit. Blizzard has a (generally) excellent restoration system in place, and my character was “rolled backed” to the day before the hack, and I got everything back a mere hour after a phone call with customer support.

Hackers: More evil than Diablo himself.

The hacking issue sparked a raging debate on a pair of articles I posted over on Forbes. The first told how it feels like to be hacked, and how I was confused as to how it happened, suggesting Blizzard needed to examine its security practices a bit more. I was met with an downpour of comments suggesting that I was an idiot with an unsecure computer and account. According to them, account compromise is always on the user’s end, and as I wasn’t using Blizzard’s optional “authenticator” it was entirely my fault I was hacked, despite a clean PC and nary a phishing email or keylogger in sight. Pardon me if I roll my eyes at those telling me if I’ve ever watched a flash video, I’ve opened my PC up to seven hells worth of malware and my account being compromised is entirely my doing.

I don’t want to start this debate again over here, but even if my first account across email, banking or any other game to ever be compromised WAS Diablo 3 for some reason that was my fault, I maintain there needs to be additional security measures in place to prevent what happened to me. Was my account suddenly accessed from another country? Red flag. Was all my gear and gold liquidated in a matter of minutes? Red flag. Even if the problem IS on the user side, it seems there need to be additional measures in place to prevent what happened to me.

And it didn’t just happen to me, it’s happened to thousands of others, including my high level wizard friend the day before me. He too found his entire character stripped bare, and if you remember from past journals, we’ve been duo-ing the game from day 1. When he lost his gear and gold, we were in Act 3 Hell, only a few levels away from 60. His story is even more frustrating than mine. After submitting a rollback ticket, he got a message saying his account was restored. When he logged in to check (with a new, reset password), he found he had indeed lost a level of progress, he still had no items or gold. Blizzard got back to him and informed him that before he even had a chance to log in, his account had been hacked again, and they would only roll him back this time if he got an authenticator.

“It’s the only way to truly secure your account!” Then you should just be giving them out.

Now, my friend does not have a smart phone so he can’t get the free app, and really does not want to be forced to buy a $7 physical authenticator. As such, he maintains he’s quitting, and our quest will forever be left unfinished. I can’t blame him for taking a stand out of principle, and it’s hard to argue that being re-hacked before you can even log back in to your restored character is absolutely ridiculous.

So with him gone, that just leaves my poor Barbarian to face the wilds of Hell alone, and this game is far less fun by yourself than it is with friends. I got him to level 60, and leveled a Witch Doctor to level 35 and a Monk to 31 in my spare time. But I have no motivation to go further, as the endless grind of attempting to find gear is leagues less fruitful than it was in Diablo 2, and is the second primary reason why the game now feels like a chore.

Hacking aside, the number one issue breaking Diablo 3 is the Auction House. Whether intentionally or accidentally, Blizzard has taken a game whose joy was found in killing monsters for better loot, and turned it into a spreadsheet simulator where the correct answer to find the best gear is always, always buying it at the Auction House. And most players would agree with me that this is the opposite of fun, and negates the entire reason people play Diablo in the first place.

For lower levels, you’re stupid not to buy gear at the Auction House rather than waiting for it to drop naturally. Low level gear is so cheap, fifteen  minutes of questing to get a thousand or two gold will automatically afford you gear twice as good than whatever you’ve found randomly in the wild. However, the game is so easy at lower difficulties, you can avoid the temptation of the AH if you want to, simply because you can plow through Normal and Nightmare even with sub-par gear.

Well, this looks familiar.

Not so with Hell, and it’s straight up impossible to avoid the Auction House in Inferno when you’ve stopped leveling and the only way forward is better equipment. And the only way to get such gear? Spending hundreds of thousands and eventually millions of gold on top tier items in the Auction House. Farming for items is largely pointless, as Blizzard has explicitly stated that drop rates are now much, much lower for good gear as to not flood the Auction House. As such, the chance you’ll find something actually useful to you from drops is practically nonexistent, and the only, only way you can advance in Inferno is to spend millions on other people’s gear.

The Auction House is simply not fun. It’s not fun to sell, as even spending time running elaborate price cross comparisons of gear you’re trying to unload will often result in no sale 36 hours later. It’s often just a guessing game as you try to figure out if anyone would actually want what you have, and it takes a lot of research to know if you’re pricing something way too high or way too low.

It’s not fun to buy, as scrolling down an endless list of gear with the exact properties you’re looking for just feels…wrong. The joy of Diablo has always been in finding the best gear from drops, or at the very least, arranging a mutually beneficial trade where it feels like you’re getting a good deal. But here? Just trying to pounce on the person who has mispriced their good gear the lowest? There’s no satisfaction in it. And the same is true for farming, which is now borderline useless. In 66 hours of Barbarian play, I’ve found exactly one legendary item, which was only useful for a few levels, and worse than 1,000 other belts I could have bought at the Auction House. The vast majority of my rarely-dropped yellows have been completely useless, and it’s just annoying when blues are inexplicably better than the more rare gear you’re already wearing. The entire loot system is complete garbage right now, which is a problem considering it’s well…the entire point of the game.

All of this is obviously in service to push people toward the Real Money Auction House, set to launch sometime this summer. The idea is that if it takes a dozen hours to farm a million gold to buy something on the AH, the only place to actually find good gear, perhaps players will just plunk down $5 or $10 instead, 15% of which automatically goes to Blizzard. Who benefits in such a system? Blizzard, as they get a cut of it all, and the hackers who have already amassed hundreds of millions in gold and items at the expense of accounts like mine and my friends. The RMAH is essentially Blizzard employing hackers and gold farmers for their own purposes, as they will likely make up the majority of what’s offered. Blizzard doesn’t care, so long as they get their 15%.

The unbridled joy of sifting through menus!

And what do players get? I don’t understand why people would spend real money to buy virtual items when the entire POINT of Diablo 3 is to find and acquire the best gear and weapons. It’s bad enough that endless gold grinding is the only way to do it now, but when real money is in play? Why would someone shell out $50 for a set of awesome gear just so they can beat Inferno with ease? Then what? It’d be like paying someone to beat Skyrim or Mass Effect for you when the entire point is to do it yourself.

I understand that Diablo 3 is a work in progress, and I’m not swearing it off forever. Perhaps I’ll farm and level from time to time when I’m bored, but it’s all just so…empty right now. The AH has made the game feel soulless, and even if I did manage to deck out my character in the finest of gear, who’s to say I won’t log in tomorrow and find it all stripped away and resold by hackers?

Hack and slashing for a while is jolly good fun, and for as long as you can avoid relying on the Auction House, you’ll probably have a good time. But at high levels the game ceases to be amusing and is much more of a chore than actual entertainment. It’s nothing a mammoth series of patches couldn’t fix, but we’ll see how much Blizzard wants to cling to making everything about the game serve the Auction House.