There's the announcement everyone thought would never come. My friends who are new-ish to Diablo 3 have said things like "people must be abusing the system" or "too many bot accounts making money off the Real Money Auction House." The truth is in the announcement and I've been saying it all along.
it ultimately undermines Diablo's core game play: kill monsters to get cool loot.
The auction house is a cancer. It creeps into your head every time you restart your game without finding anything of consequence. It's there every time your freshly found legendary rolls lousy stats. It's there every time you simply can't get something done the way you want to do it.
The basic dungeon crawler goes: Kill stuff, get new things from the stuff you killed, use these new things to kill even more stuff, repeat.
When you break that chain with a non core gameplay related means of upgrading your stuff it messes with your motivation. My first thought is "what isn't dropping to make room for these other means of acquiring loot?" That's quickly followed up with "I bet I'm not finding anything because of the auction house." Eventually I get to the point where I am unsure I can ever upgrade any of my stuff my killing monsters (core gameplay) so I go to the auction house. If I can't upgrade there either then why play the game at all? The world is full of junk and I can't afford the stuff in the auction house. What's the use?
Then I'll kill some boss mob somewhere and he'll drop nothing (hi, Butcher... you ass) and I'll sit back and go "I bet he isn't dropping anything because they have to balance the drops vs the auction house."
Even if it's not true... it's in my head. I am all messed up and the core gameplay is unclear. Am I supposed to be killing stuff or following Randy Pitchford on twitter? Should I be spamming zombie bears or should I be refreshing the auction house? It sounds like I'm exaggerating to make it sound worse, but I'm being 100% serious when I say there were many days in Diablo 3 where I'd just log in to screw with the auction house because I didn't believe it was possible to find any upgrades. Then, after a couple sessions like that I'd stop playing for a while because it would sink in that I can't do any better for myself by playing... that's why I'm in the auction house all night... what do I think I'm going to do when I get that upgrade off the auction house?
Borderlands 2 and SHiFT codes
This is a very similar problem to Diablo 3's auction house. This is a way that's not only there, but encouraged, to replace killing things in the loot chain. If you're unfamiliar, you can follow people like Gearbox Software's Randy Pitchford on twitter and he'll occasionally post what are known as SHiFT codes. These codes give you keys. These keys unlock a chest (in the center of town near the most used portal in the game) that drops gear.
So what is core gameplay in Borderlands 2? You load a game, kill a boss, end the game, load it back up, kill the boss again. Why? Because unlike Diablo 3, legendary items (that are pretty damn awesome) only drop from specific bosses and random loot midgets. It's hard to get the items that are recommended for high level play and even harder to get them with the proper affixes that make them truly powerful. The fact that there's a box in the middle of Sanctuary where you can spend currency you earned by being on Facebook or Twitter and upgrade your stuff is such a punch in the guts that it makes me feel like this is going to be my last Gearbox software game for a long time.
That stupid chest right by the main teleporter and New-U station stares me in the face every time I log in and mocks me with the potential stuff that DOES NOT DROP because they want twitter followers and social media interaction so they had to build a non-shoot-assholes-in-the-face method to upgrade gear into their game. Now, I've never used a key on that box, but I can't imagine that it will be full of junk. They want that social media hotness!
THIS POST WAS WRITTEN DOWN THE NIGHT THEY ANNOUNCED THE D3 AUCTION HOUSE WAS CLOSING. EVERYTHING BELOW THIS CAPLOCK'D TEXT IS NEW
So, it's been a few months and life goes on in the Diablo 3 world. I still haven't logged back into Borderlands 2 but that might be because I've been enjoying so many other games so much recently. Or, it could be because I've never even hit max level and have no interest in the "farming style" of the game yet they keep selling level cap increases... I don't know. I do have a negative feeling in my gut about Borderlands 2... but that might be because I'm the kind of player who is bothered by the "meta game" instead of just playing the actual game. This only comes with games I absolutely love. I really like Defiance... but I don't play it enough to care about any of the currencies or what I can get with shabloobie bucks or whatever the hell they are. But, in Guild Wars 2 I'm bothered by the fact that bag space is held behind a pay wall so much that it makes me dislike the game. Planetside 2 is one of my favorite games of the last decade yet I haven't logged into the game at all in months because I started to see the "core gameplay" as something I wasn't digging. I enjoy the tactical land grab but the best way to play as defined by the motivator (xp/certs) is to dig in at one base and play team death match all night.
In the end, game developers and publishers need to sit down and realize how they are motivating players. If people are moving away from PLAYING the game because there are better paths to in game rewards then there's something wrong. The only exception to this is Defiance because its content is in tune with a TV show and the two play off each other. They want you to play the game AND watch the show... and I'm somewhat okay with this because it's handled properly. I'll go into that another time... EVERYONE ELSE... stop with the out of game solutions to in game motivation.