Author Archive

Diablo 3 Auction House Shutdown: Why it’s Happening & the Elements of Good Economy Design

24 September 2013 | No Comments » | Heartbourne

Blizzard announced earlier this week that both the real money and gold auction houses for Diablo 3 would be shutting down soon, and the reactions have been mostly positive. Despite the groundbreaking features of the auction house, its negative effects on the game outweighed the benefits. Specifically, it made obtaining items useful for you pretty impossible and necessitated its use in order to play at any meaningful level.

But why? What about WoW and its auction house and microtransactions? What about Hearthstone; isn’t it also “pay-to-win”? I think the design flaw in Diablo 3’s auction house came down to not managing the following concepts correctly: “gameplay first” and “economy as gameplay”.

Gameplay first

In the email Blizzard sent out regarding the shutdown of the auction house, Blizzard gave this reason for removing the AH:

“When we initially designed and implemented the auction house system, the driving goal was to provide a convenient and secure system for trades. But after much review and player feedback, it became increasingly clear that despite the benefits of the AH system and the fact that many players around the world use it, it ultimately undermines Diablo’s core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot.”

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WoW: Is it Time to Open Wild Pet Trading?

5 April 2013 | No Comments » | Heartbourne

I’ve had a mixed relationship with pet battles. It’s a fun mini-game, but I’d rather not spend too much time grinding out battles to level my pets and progress in the system. Instead, I’d much rather pay for some pre-leveled pets to get to some of that end-game pet battle content. Much to my disappointment, I discovered that the level 25 Terrible Turnip that I dropped 10,000 gold on couldn’t be added to my journal because I didn’t have an existing level 25 pet in my journal. There was nothing in the UI to suggest that this was the case, just some big fat error text after the fact. The design intent is clear (don’t buy your way to victory), but the experience itself was pretty frustrating.

The question that immediately came to my mind after this epic failure was: “With this restriction in place, why can I trade a level 25 pet from most sources, but not from wild pet battles?” happened pretty late in the Mists of Pandaria beta because the developers felt that “the option to buy these pets on the AH would take away from the exploration/collection gameplay of the system.” The new Pandaren elemental spirits and raid pets being tradable kind of runs against that philosophy, so what is the right way forward? What risk is there in opening up the trading of wild pets?

For one thing, it seems that (currently) all pets that anybody might eventually trade start at level 1. It isn’t very difficult or time-consuming to catch wild pets, and you can imagine that trained pets from other sources that started at level 1 would be less expensive if you could get an equally effective pet for a hundred gold that took someone 3 minutes to produce instead of many hours to train. But is that really that big of a drawback? Do we really want people to only be able to sell their hard-trained pets? Continue Reading

WoW Patch 5.2: The Thunder King Trailer

27 February 2013 | 2 Comments » | Heartbourne

World of Warcraft’s latest patch is on the horizon (almost certainly to be released next Tuesday, March 5th) and Blizzard has just realized the trailer for the new patch. Narrated by Lore Walker Cho, it briefly tells the story of the Thunder King in a poem. Written by game designer Dave Kosak, the poem is said to play a key role in story development.

Read on for more.

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What I Want from a Desktop Client

4 February 2013 | 2 Comments » | Heartbourne

There have been some hints at a possible new client found by data-mining some strings in Diablo III’s 1.0.7 patch beta. A page on Blizzard’s career site also referenced the client in a job description.

  • “RegionSelectionTooltip_App – Region selection is disabled when Diablo III is launched from the Desktop app.” (Diablo patch notes)
  • App – developing the next-generation desktop client.” (Blizzard Career Site)

What is likely to be included in such a desktop application? What features do I hope make it in long term?


  • I think that chat is undoubtedly going to be in the app to interface with their games. Already, RealID/Battletag allow for cross-client chat, so naturally, it seems like it shouldn’t be difficult to implement in a desktop client. What better way to decide what game to play than to see what your friends are playing before you even login?
  • A unified downloader/launcher for all three games. Already, StarCraft II has moved to the same launcher used for WoW, and Diablo III launched with it. They all support game “streaming”, that is, playing a game before the game is finished downloading. Having one program to manage the installations for all three games allows for cross-promotion as well: a single click to get a trial edition of a game and download it in the background while playing your other games is a no-brainer.

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New AskMrRobot Features: How to Spend Valor, Elder Charms, and More!

2 February 2013 | 7 Comments » | Heartbourne

Ask Mr. Robot has been a great site for WoW character optimization for years. Many players have used it as their de facto gearing advise tool; every spec of every class has cutting-edge theorycrafting formulas built into an easy-to-use web interface. And if you disagree with some of their stat weights or caps, you can tweak away to your heart’s content. With the site in perfect working order since the launch of Mists of Pandaria, Mr. Robot (and his coder friends) has been hard at work on some features that have won my heart and made it as frequent a stop for me as WoWHead and WoWPedia.

My current favorite is the new “find upgrades” feature. It has multiple options: in one, you choose a currency from a dropdown menu (valor, justice, honor, conquest) and it tells you which items you can buy (or which items you have to upgrade) for the biggest improvement. Even better, you can sort by “most cost effective”, which weights the upgrades by their cost. It really helps squeeze out the best value of your hard-earned Valor (and other points) and takes a lot of guesswork out of choosing between multiple, hard-to-compare options (like upgrading an item, buying a cheap item, or saving up for a big upgrade).

A similar tool in “find upgrades” gives you recommendations on which bosses to spend your Elder Charms of Good Fortune on to get the biggest upgrades. Other menus advise which dungeons contain the most and best upgrades, as well as the BoE and crafted loot that will be the best upgrades for your character.

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The Guardian Cub Experiment, One Year Later

31 January 2013 | No Comments » | Heartbourne

The Guardian Cub’s release in November of 2011 was met with mixed reception – a pet that you could buy on the Blizzard Store with real world currency and sell to other players in-game for gold provided a unique opportunity for players. Forums and comment threads were ablaze: was it the gateway to real-money trade in WoW? Could it combat security concerns by decreasing black market gold buying? Would it change the pet store forever?

The answer to these questions seems to be “probably not”.

The experiment of the Guardian Cub was straightforward – Blizzard released the pet to test the water. Would players actually buy the pet in order to sell it for gold in game? Would this, in turn, decrease black market activity for gold buying and, by extension, security issues and botting?

While players don’t have access to the numbers, there doesn’t seem to be any fewer botters. If anything, the increased popularity of the game brought on by the expansion has heralded new waves of bots: people flying in Pandaria before level 90 while gathering, paladins farming Halls of Lightning, and persistent PvP bots. As for black market gold trade and security threats, there are plenty of spammers in trade chat still phishing for people to buy TCG mounts outside of the game and shady websites where you can buy gold.

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WoW: Advanced Pricing and Costing Strategies for Mists of Pandaria Inks to Maximize Inscription Profit

23 November 2012 | 6 Comments » | Heartbourne

Another expansion, another revamp to glyphs and inscription. Lots of things have changed between Cataclysm and Mists of Pandaria, but many have remained the same. Glyphs are still highly profitable and the ink trader can still trade down the highest level ink to any other. As well as convert 10 common ink to rare ink. However, there is a new twist in the mix.

There have always been certain floor price mechanisms in play, but this one is a doozy: Ink of Dreams should never be less than 6g 25s. You can make shoulder enchants with 3 inks and a 3 copper reagent that vendor for 18g 75s, so if you aren’t internally pricing your Ink of Dreams at this price or more, you are losing out, my friend.

Even for non-scribes, this is a big deal. Any glyph that uses Ink of Dreams (which a lot of the new ones do) won’t be sold by savvy scribes for less than the price of 3 Ink of Dreams, or 18g 75s. I am constantly surprised by people not knowing about this or the details of the ink trader. I took up someone on trade selling stacks of Ink of Dreams for 120g/stack (6g per), and I instantly told them I would buy their entire stock of 2,000. It’s certainly easier than milling my own, and worst case scenario, I make 700 shoulder enchants while AFK and make 500g.

As for the rare ink, Starlight Ink, we know that we can buy one for 10 Ink of Dreams. With herb prices on many realms plummeting, likely thanks to bots, everyone is swimming in a sea of ink. Should you cash in all your Ink of Dreams for Starlight Ink?

My answer is: probably not!

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Bethesda to Open New Software Studio in Austin, Texas: Battlecry Studios

3 October 2012 | 2 Comments » | Heartbourne

Bethesda Studios announced today a new software studio based in Austin, Texas. Headed by Rich Vogel, known for his leadership in MMOs including Ultima OnlineStar Wars: The Old Republic, and Star Wars: Galaxies, the new studio is already working on an “unannounced project”. There are job openings at Battlecry and the other ZeniMax studios, so seize the opportunity and head over to their jobs page!

The job page alludes to the possibility of a Playstation 3/Xbox title and MMO and FPS experience. With Vogel on the team, I think we are all hoping for some new MMO news from them in the near future in addition to Elder Scrolls Online from Bethesda.

We covered Vogel’s departure from Bioware in July. He had these remarks on joining Bethesda:

“I have always admired and respected Bethesda’s approach to making great, original games. It’s a belief and passion I share, and I’m looking forward to building a team of high quality developers who want to bring that same commitment and creative energy to the games we’ll be creating.”

Stay tuned for what ultimately comes from this new studio!