The game changed when I dipped into Diablo 3's auction house for the first time recently. I was staunchly determined to make it through to Inferno on my own loot finds alone, but the challenge was proving too high in the latter stages of Hell. I needed a one handed weapon with massive DPS and perhaps a little bit of bonus life steal. The chances of a decent rare item with those stats dropping seemed near to nil, and I was being regularly mauled by the deadly hero mobs that start popping up in Hell. I caved.
After just a few minutes of searching, I found a holy spear that was better than anything I'd seen. It cost 40,000 gold. Not unreasonable. The damage per second rating on my character sheet sprang up by thousands of points. Oh, so this is how you gear up in Diablo 3, I thought. I don't need drops, I need money .
Soon the entire game was about cash. Fortune shrines became more valuable, I started auctioning off my own items for bonus wads of gold and I smashed every urn for every hidden cent within. Instead of scanning drops for items I could use, I hoarded rares and high level magic items that could be useful to anyone, and flogged them.
Within an hour or two, my Barbarian had an entirely new wardrobe. He was spikier than ever, and was clubbing his way through demon champions with relative ease. The shopping spree provided a satisfying turnaround for my character just as things were starting to get frustrating, but it made crafting entirely redundant. Why pay 15,000 to craft an item that could easily be entirely useless to me when I could get exactly what my character needs from the shop? The more I play, the more I realise how central the shop is to the way Diablo 3 works at higher levels. I wouldn't have been able to survive Hell without it.
Blizzard are addressing some of those crafting issues issue with patch 1.03, slashing crafting prices for gems and items enormously. Until then, they're releasing a few small patches to improve performance, reduce server load, make Auction house transactions a little easier, and fix a few infinite loop crashes that can occur when a few choice Barbarian skills are combined. For a few builds that won't crash your game, check out this collection of our favourite Diablo 3 builds . Here are the latest patch notes for patch 1.0.2b.