Economic / Linguistic Analysis of Diablo 3 Loot

Here is an in depth look at Diablo 3 loot written by Fichte.

I have been reading the bizarrely negative responses -- not bizarre in that they are negative, but bizarre in their extremity, their anger -- and most of the strongest criticisms can be boiled down to a few misconceptions about the item system.

People are mad about the low quality of Legendary weapons. People are mad about the high quality of well-rolled rares and blues. People are mad at the lack of diversity of weapon attributes. Most of this furor is unwarranted. Now, while I do agree some things are certainly missing, let me list a few mistakes that I've been hearing:

1. The Statistical Mistake: This is probably the most compelling rejoinder to the "Legendaries suck" argument. Say that rares drop 20x more than Legendaries do, and blues drop 200x more. These numbers are probably, almost certainly too low (legendaries are even rarer than all this) but for the sake of illustration, play along for a bit. Now say that 1,000,000 blues have dropped. (Again I know that this number is low). That would mean that 5,000 Legendaries have dropped and 100,000 rares have dropped. All of the weapons have randomly rolled properties.

We can assume that the chance of getting a "good roll" (ie no health globe abilities, high vit, etc) is pretty much constant across the rarities. The chance of bad properties in rarer weapons, with more abilities, is actually HIGHER. With a fixed probability of good abilities, let's say 1 in every 500 combinations is a "good" one, that means that 2000 good blues have dropped, 200 rares, and 10 good Legendaries. If it seems like "blues are better" its just that there hasn't been enough time, probabilistically speaking, for all the good Legendaries to drop.

We have seen more, absolutely, rares and blues so it seems as if all the good ones are rares and blues. On the other hand, we have seen what seems like a preponderance of bad legendaries simply because we pay more attention to a bad legendary than a bad rare or blue. It's observation bias.

2. The Economic Mistake: A lot of people complain that legendaries don't have fixed attributes, that they aren't flatter in their quality. But the auction house demands that this isn't the case, legendaries have to have a wide range of quality. If there are a fixed number of legendaries, which there are, they must have a high level of randomization. Otherwise, there would be fixed upper bounds for the quality of items for sale in the auction house. Say there was a best barb axe, for example.

It would cause tremendous inflation. If this barb axe had no superior, than there would be nothing to bound its price other than the amount of gold a person can possibly accumulate. With professional gold farmers and REAL money, it would go up and up and up, pulling the value of money out from the market. If an artificial upper bound were to be set, to avoid this from happening -- say Blizzard declares you can only bid 1000000 or something -- then every item would lose value. What's the point of having any axe if you can have the best at a fixed price that you just need to get to in order to afford. All lesser weapons would fall out.

3. The Second Economic Mistake: With a much more liquid economy, Blizzard has to either delay releasing awesome weapons or make them incredibly, incredibly rare (simulate a controlled release). People are saying they haven't found an amazing weapon in 5 days. That means Blizzard is doing it right, no small task. It would be like if the bank released tons of currency all at once. A predictable release of currency (item currency in d3, not coins which have no limited quantity) is necessary to stave off hyperinflation (yes, this is an overgeneralization but not one without merit).

There needs to be a period where they are a few good legendaries, mostly junk to stabilize the diablo economy. Otherwise it could go shooting into the ether and there would no reason to play in the auction house where nobody but the richest d3 moguls could have a chance at getting anything good. We are currently in the price fixing stage. Do not despair, there are either better legendaries lurking or a plan to release more.

4. The Psychological/Linguistic Mistake: The value of items, the value of gameplay and the value of a gaming experience is driven by a shared set of categories of item/play/experience. Take, for instance "baal run", "grief axe", "blizz sorc", etc.

The texture and joy of a game comes from getting to experience and achieve socially fixed things, events and stuff and that players have grouped under common terms. Part of the fun of going on a baal run is that you can talk about your "baal run" and everyone knows what you mean. Or, you can say "i finally made Grief" and everyone knows, instantly, the value of what you accomplished. However, it takes time for these patterns, vocabularies and memes to emerge.

To the people that haven't found the "old joy of D2" yet, keep playing until the community starts to come up with fun touchpoints. Maybe you will start hearing about sweet "Demontrops" bullds (demon hunters with gear that makes caltrops better and a skill set based around slowing enemies) or "fortune imp hunts" (where you go searching to the high spawn rate areas of fortune imps). These are silly but you can imagine. Just wait until everyone figures out what they wanna talk about.

On the other hand, maybe it's just a bad game and all your money was stolen and your childhood desecrated with George Lucasian, sadistic Jar-Jarring of the prime evils. Whatever.