Diablo and Diablo 2’s lead designer says auction house “had detrimental effects on gameplay throughout”

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Lead designer of the first two Diablo games, Stieg Hedlund, has spoken out against the inclusion of the auction house in Diablo 3, saying “it had detrimental effects on gameplay throughout.” But, he also explains the reasoning for why it made it into the game.

He’s also said what he’d have done differently if he’d been involved with the project.

Speaking about the auction house, Hedlund told PC Gamer “ I think it had detrimental effects on gameplay throughout. They did want to reserve a certain tier of loot for the auction house, and therefore it wasn’t dropping in the game with the kind of frequency that people were looking for it.

“But at the same time, I get… I don’t think it’s a matter of being greedy. Game developers, we work hard, and we want to be rewarded for what we do. The fact that Diablo II was still on shelves and still being played, in Korea particularly, 10 years after the fact of its release was something that I think Blizzard was kind of like… “Hey, we got the price of the box and not much else out of that.” That doesn’t respect the amount of gameplay that people were clearly getting from it.

“So I can definitely see that point of view, where they say, “Hey, we should be rewarded for what we’re giving the audience,” and then think about ways to do that. That’s the world that we live in, too, particularly in free-to-play games. You have to think about how you… We’re still a business. We need to make money. But we need to do it in a way that feels natural and doesn’t feel bolted on and forced on the player, but that actually makes sense to them. The value proposition has to be there.”

Hedlund’s criticism isn’t new. A number of the devs have come out to criticise the feature and the effect it’s had on the game, saying that it’s changed how players get loot, farming the auction block instead of playing the game. Even former game director Jay Wilson said that they’d “turn it off if we could”. But Hedlund’s perspective is rounded to explain the motivations that had the feature included, previously the long-term monetary motivations for the auction house have largely gone unsaid.

As to what he would change with the game’s design, it’s a fairly key area: “The dungeons didn’t feel random enough to me,” Hedlund said. “They felt a little bit been-there-done-that very quickly. I think the way that people played in multiplayer games, they were pretty much just running for the exits and trying to figure out the quickest way to get there, rather than engaging with the minute-to-minute exploration of the world.”