I bought and played D3 shortly after it came out. Long enough afterwards to not have to deal with the crazy login issues, but I did learn real quick about the joys of the D3 auction house. The AH, which will soon be gone as we know it, was where everyone went to dump all the useful items they found that they had no use for. It was full of stuff, and because there are not too many gold sinks in the game, inflation was nasty. On the face of things, this might not have been so bad. If there is no other real use for large sums of the gold you get, why not spend it on items other players found?
The problem was that the RNG loot tables were set in such a way that a player was very unlikely to get anything useful. The only real way to advance, even while leveling, was to go look for items that matched your class and build on the AH an buy it. Almost everything you found had to evaluated in very annoying way:
- Is this a good item?
- Can I use it? (Probably not).
- Can someone else use it? (Maybe)
- What is the market price for this sort of item?
I haven't even touched on the real-money AH, and I'm not going to. Let's just file it away under the "Kotick's Follies" heading and ignore it.
This all ended up making the game a skinner-box without the reward feedback. I stopped playing after getting a barbarian to 60, because it wasn't much fun to play for 30 minutes, then spend another 30 minutes dealing with the AH. Hack-n-slash games generally do not follow the Eve model for good reason.
Loot 2.0 killed a lot of this tedium. Very briefly, the new system adjusted the loot tables to roll preferentially based on the class you are playing with, and tweaked all the stats and drops to give items that are quite often useful for you in the moment. The joy of looting is back. There skinner box is functioning again. Since playing yesterday, I can say I have replaced almost all of my gear on a 60 barbarian and a wizard I am leveling completely through in game drops, and the game feels good again. Legendary items are now pretty much bind on account, which removes them from the AH and creates incentive to go grind. All is good!
Simply put, this is a bit late. I have no hard numbers, but I do not think many people are playing right now, at least not compared to last summer. Anecdotal evidence: Last summer, opening a game up to public multiplayer usually got a few people into the game, increased the number of monsters, and made it a bit more interesting. Since yesterday, on a Friday and Saturday night, none of my public games had anyone join. The train left the station, and it may never come back.
I really hope that the new expansion, Reaper of Souls, helps fix this. It might. But then again, how many people are going to plop down another $40 for a game that burned a heck of a lot of people the first time?