Monday, May 21, 2012

Diablo 3's marketplace is pointless, stupid and makes the world a worse place to be

As the title doesn't suggest, I am all for innovation and new ways of experiencing games, but what the title does suggest, I don't approve of everything that passes as an innovation. The marketplace of the recently released Diablo III is one of them. I haven't played it and I never will, because supposedly your character can find items in the game and then you can sell it in a marketplace for real money. This, in my opinion, is utterly pointless to a level that I don't want to be any part of it. Why? Well...

Girls! I've come to devour your boyfriends!
Let me first point out what I DO approve of. I approve of a game being enhanced with new, different parts. I am happy to pay a bit extra for downloadable content, if that broadens my experience of a single game. A lot of people are negative of the so called DLC, but back in the 90's, when I started gaming, physical expansion packs were hot items you really had to search for. Making them downloadable is good for the customer, so s/he doesn't have to search, and more money goes to the studio instead of a greedy publisher. Granted, it's unfortunate sometimes DLC is already on the purchased medium, but this generally happens with publishers I never wanted to purchase from.

I wholly approve of a community making its own content for a game. I love how the fanbase of games like Trackmania, Team Fortress 2, Skyrim and many others make a lot of content for other fans to enjoy. This can be in the form of mods, extra levels or even some aesthetics to add to your already full game. These are usually free, but fans could just as well make money off of it. There have been fan made mods that went on for sale. Fans making money with their favourite game is more than awesome in my book.

Although it's a bit dubious, I still approve of people selling content they found in games to other people. A lot of clandestine setups have been made where players mined, fished or found a lot of in-game goods and sold them on E-bay. This might break a game with a big community and therefore game designers are generally against selling your in-game 'loot'.

Here is where the pointless part starts. In a game you get things by a counter going up over time, when mining for gold for example, or a randomized algorithm that drops an item for you, like in Diablo when weapons with certain damage stats are dropped. Wouldn't it be a lot faster if you could just fill in the height of the gold counter or the stats to that weapon? Why yes, it is. If you are playing to pass time, this timed counter and random drop are part of the experience, but when you are doing it for the money, it is just a very inefficient way of filling in an Excel sheet. Imagine you had to fill in your yearly income one euro/dollar/yen at a time. Pointless, right? So if you are selling your loot on E-bay, more power to you, but there are better ways of earning money. Like filing someone else's taxes!

Death and taxes, now also not avoidable in video games!
So Blizzard, the creator of Diablo, is just doing what the community is doing all along, but now the picture has changed completely. With other online games, the player can't hack into the server and treat him/herself to infinite golden pieces, but its creators can or it least they should be able to. Instead of the creator going to the marketplace, filling in some Excel stat sheets and making the resulting loot available for auction, (pause, here comes the important part:) they let the player run around in a multi million dollar hamster wheel and make them sell it. Let me rephrase that: Blizzard is making you fill in its annual income one dollar per click at a time. Another rephrase: They can make the most epic weapon in the world, but wait until a randomized algorithm creates it and let the finder sell. Even worse: they can sell it only once.

I have no idea where in the game this is...
Can I emphasize enough how pointless this is? This is not content generated by the players! With community made levels, the game mechanics can be pushed to their limits. Mods can add new features to games. New aesthetics can bring variation to a game. Of all the things Blizzard could choose to let the community make money with, why did they have to choose randomly generated content? This adds nothing to the game, except the genuinely frowned upon "pay to win" aspect.

There was an episode of Extra Credits, one of my favourite web series, philosophizing what it would be like if players could make a living playing Diablo 3. Although I like the idea, would you really want to make money off of a game knowing the creator can do the same as you by typing a bunch of numbers instead of crawling a dungeon for hours on end? This way, I really wouldn't. What's the point?

I could ramble on about how pointless it is making money off a game this way as a consumer. I could make unfunny jokes about the old Soviet Russia where streets were cleaned with groups of 50 men, just so they would have a job and it still makes more sense then earning money through Diablo 3. I could go into the subject of people laughing at "bitcoin", since it is a currency with no value other than what you want to pay for it, just like the loot in Diablo 3. I could make a joke about paying bankers huge bonusses is just as sane as paying Diablo 3 players for their loot. I will not go into any of this or similar subjects, since other people can probably do it way better than me.
So yeah, this exists... A human hamster wheel...

Blizzard, I will not run in your hamster wheel. It's not even a hamster wheel, since that eventually improves the physical fitness of its user and Diablo 3 probably doesn't. I don't care how evil the bad guy is. I will not waste my time trying to sell something your randomized algorithm just happened to spawn. I will not wait for my XP counter to slowly crawl up when I slay just another monster for the millionth time, just so I can sell my useless avatar. I will not make money for you in this way when you have the power to do the same in an instant.

I have better things to do and so do your 3.5 million customers. These things might not change the world and they might even be futile, like posting on this blog. But even if this post has no readers, at least I have some piece of mind.

I will not run in your hamster wheel.

You probably rigged it anyway...