This is in relation to the Power series I had a while back. This particular post will deal with the relationship between challenge, power and time.
In most games, there is some level of challenge to reach a goal. Beating a boss requires specific move set, typically a given set of power and a set amount of time. Older games (and some new ones) ignore the power portion and just make you memorize patterns. In those games, the challenge is 100% on the player’s end.
Newer games, specifically adventure games (MMOs included) give you power over time (gear, skills, levels) in order to defeat larger and larger challenges. WoW’s raids are initially very difficult but as time goes by, people get better gear and the challenge is gone. Some bosses (in Vanilla WoW certainly) were simply impossible without given power levels or skills. Today, the best of the best can beat a boss with little to no power while the rest of us need power upgrades to get to the same point. Those are multi-dimensional challenges where the more power you gain over time, the less skill you actually need. This is hard to balance and the expectations from the developers need to be clear.
Even in those games, the acquisition of power is typically linear. Rarely does any one person get a massive (10% or more) increase in power in a single event. This allows competition between players an no one person feeling like they absolutely must do something in particular to advance. This avoids the brick-wall effect from older games (EQ, WoW Vanilla/BC, etc…)
Now, in single player games this is a bit different as you’re competing against yourself. Devs can give you huge boosts (Ninja Gaiden, FF series) and you’re only looking at the mirror. When a dev takes a single player game and adds a multiplayer component (Diablo 3), the competition and scaling factor goes out the window. Those walls can be circumvented rather easily through mechanics external to the game (the auction house) and those single player brick walls become massive road blocks with a pay wall.
Diablo 3 Inferno mode is a great example of poor planning. If you played without the Auction House, you could reach Act 1 with a couple dozen runs for gear in Hell mode. Act 2 and Act 3/4 are completely impossible without the auction house or dozens of people farming for you.
The power increase from level 1 to level 60 is as thus:
- DPS : 1 to 5000
- Armor: 0 to 1500
- Resists: 0 to 0
The power increase to do Act 1 Inferno
- DPS: 10,000
- Armor: 4000
- Resists: 400
Act 2 and Act 3/4
- DPS: 25,0000 – 35,0000
- Armor: 6000-8000
- Resists: 600-800
These are exponential increases in power where a single item can add 10% or even 50% increase in power. This means that if players want to progress, they need those items in order to do so. Farming is simply inefficient as there is a less than 1 in 10,000 chance for any given item to be an upgrade and you need 5-6 new ones in order to move through the acts.
Instead, you play the game for money then use that money to buy power. Enter the RMAH, the exact tool to make real money off that process.
I am not trying to be cynical here since you can still acquire power through in-game means and just as much power as with cash. The difference is in the speed of acquisition of power. Real money you have, in-game money you don’t. This also means that any content the developers have put in goes 100% out the window once someone has enough power to beat the content. Which once you have enough cash, happens instantly. There is no long-term game to be had.
It is an interesting example of social gaming, marketing and profiteering that happened here and I plan to revisit it again in a few months once a major content patch hits D3.