Loot 2.0

The big news of the week has been Blizzard’s rather unprecedented decision to shut down the Diablo 3 AH in March of next year. While I suppose that the start of a new expansion is as good a time as any, I still find it interesting that they are bothering at all – a bit late to close those barn doors, yeah? Then again, I suppose with all the other changes they have made in the time since I stopped playing (a whole year ago?!), the “economy” has become more warped and functionally useless than before. Making it five feet in Act 2 Inferno used to require Resistance scores out the ass, but between the general elite nerfs, the player-decided mob-levels, and the Paragon system, you can probably make it through the game without buying anything.

You would still want to, of course. Even a child should be able to understand that a 5% chance at something good is worth less than buying exactly what you want from someone who was going to vendor the thing anyway. Or anyone playing the game for more than an hour during the open beta weekend, for that matter.

The question though, is what system will replace it? Apparently Blizzard feels it is Loot 2.0:

  • New game modes including Loot Runs with guaranteed special item drops when successfully completed.
  • Smart drops where a dropped item is guaranteed to roll the appropriate mainstat for the class that finds it.
  • Fewer but better item drops, where players will see far fewer items, but the items (especially the rares) will have better stats.
  • A new NPC Artisan, the Mystic who has the abiilty to reroll one selected affix on an item.
  • Legendary (including Set Items) will get an across the board quality buff.
    • Legendary items will drop more often, especially for lower level characters with guaranteed legendary drops from the first kill of many story/quest bosses.
    • Legendary items will roll with less low-end variability, to reduce the likelihood that they are complete junk.
    • Legendary items will gain variable item levels with stats scaling appropriately — current high level items legendaries will drop on lower difficulties and low level Legendaries will drop in the end game. All stats on these items will scale up or down to be appropriate for the level of the monster that drops them.

Item binding is going to be a key feature of Loot 2.0, with some of the found items, and most or all of the crafted items or items upgraded with the Mystic gaining BoA or BoE to restrict them from being traded or sold. Full details are not yet finalized.

I counted three instances of the word “guaranteed” in there. Not something I usually associate with Diablo games, but hey.

While the above is not an exhaustive list of the Loot 2.0 paradigm – I’m pretty sure that not even Blizzard knows what else they’ll toss against the wall before March – we can see the sort of trajectory taking shape. What is a huge unknown to me though, is what exactly Blizzard plans to do with all the gold left in the economy when the AH doors close. Will the Mystic be an expensive gold sink? That might work… but what about the people who haven’t stockpiled? Will the feature not be for them? Between that and the possible stockpiling of crafting materials, I almost have to assume that Blizzard plans a “currency reset” with the expansion, to go with the inevitable gear reset that comes with an increased level cap.

In any case, watching things play out this week has been interesting while playing Path of Exile on the side. I mentioned before that PoE has something more akin to a lore-based barter economy, but I am finding it even more interesting than before. Effectively, I find myself rolling my own loot back in town when I go to vendor things. Useful Magic/Rare/Unique items do drop out in the wild, but I am finding that the addition of colored gem slots adds another depressing layer of randomness to everything; a given item might be awesome for your class/build, but if it is replacing an item with a good spell-gem configuration, you might end up banking it instead. While there are “currency” items that can add/change sockets, I am finding it almost easier to hold onto normal items with good sockets and then spend my “money” turning that into a Magic/Rare item instead.

That can sort of happen in Diablo 3′s crafting system, but it lacks the granularity and impressive nuance that PoE brings to the table. Scrapping four items to get another shot at getting a useful fifth isn’t the same as being able to choose to reroll an item’s magic properties, adding a new property, adding sockets, adding connections between sockets, changing a socket’s color, and/or stripping the item clean and then possibly rerolling it into a Rare/Unique.

Can I also just mention how addicting just leveling in Path of Exile can be? It’s the standard sort of hack-n-slash, but since your gems can level up too, it feels like I “level” a half-dozen times every 30-40 minutes. “Getting kinda sleepy and I still have 8 bars before level 24. Oh, wait, there’s like a centimeter left on my Raise Zombie gem XP bar. Hmm… let’s go clear out the NW corner.”

But, yeah, loot systems. Borderlands 2 is feeling pretty archaic right now in comparison.

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Posted on September 20, 2013, in Commentary and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. It’s funny because POE really feels like what D3 should have been. The game is much less flashy or polished but at the end of the day they really seem to understand what makes these games tick better. I wonder how much removing the auction house in D3 will actually help. It removes the feeling that you could just grind gold to get an item appropriate for you level, but I wonder if their problem is more that their upgrade system is boring.

    I didn’t play to high levels in D3 but from what I could tell when you finished the campaign on easy you had all your skills unlocked and the loot that was dropping appeared to mostly just be stat sticks with a relatively obvious goal based on what type of build you were using. Contrast with POE where every ability and modifier is tied to gems plus their rather large skill tree that really locks you in and you can really see what a different direction they could have gone in.

    • It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure you still had to make it through most of the next difficulty in order to unlock all of your skills in D3. or maybe it was unlocking glyphs. Or runes. Or whatever.

      But, yeah, I agree that D3 “capped-out” relatively quickly as far as getting new, exciting things is concerned. I’m still enjoying PoE, although I have a bit further to go before I have played a comparable number of hours to D3′s normal campaign.

    • I got hooked on D3 again recently, although PoE is probably the game I should be playing. I can tell you that all runes don’t get unlocked until level 60, which gives you some incentive at least keep playing after you finish the campaign on normal. I am on Hell level now (3rd difficulty, just below Inferno which is the last), and just dinged 58 and a bunch of Runes unlocked for me (the things that modify your basic abilities).

      Honestly if the game wasn’t just fun to play – the abilities look good and there is a solidness to hitting monsters – it would be pretty much unplayable. But it just looks great, and has enough of a hook with the crafting grind and unlocking of Runes as well as the great difference between the way the different classes play, that D3 could still its head out of it ass. Loot 2.0 is a start.

  2. Loot 2.0. We should all use this term from here on out to describe every change Blizz makes to a non-WoW game in their repertoire which is a feature of WoW. Because it basically means they’re taking the philosophy currently guiding WoW and applying it to games like Diablo. Reading about Loot 2.0 just instantly reminds me of WoW.

    BoE and BoA? Dungeon runs designed for high loot drops (WoW dungeons)? In Diablo? They REALLY don’t understand their success. It’s baffling that they learn so little, but I think right now they are becoming the most prominent example of what it looks like when your company is packed with drones. Stagnation. No new ideas, no understanding of how to *develop* ideas. They’re damn good at *building* games, but they really ought to be a bit bolder and hire on some good devs who don’t like anything Blizzard does.

    Overall, PoE doesn’t stick to me. I think their loot/economy system is phenomenal, easily the most brilliant and creative spin on Loot Hunting since Diablo 2. They REALLY understand this kind of gameplay. However, the actual gameplay is lacking for me. I still like it but I think they pretty much only understand Loot Hunting. And nothing else.