Diablo III's controversial in-game gold and real-money auction house has been such a point of contention that even the game's former lead designer admitted that it "really hurt the game" . While it will remain for upcoming expansion Reaper of Souls, an updated loot system - which will go live for all players via a free patch just before the expansion launches - has been created specifically to draw players away from the trading post, and back towards the streets and corridors of gib-prone monsters.
When asked about the loot system changes, lead content designer Kevin Martens told us that, while trading is a perfectly legitimate way to get an item, playing the game should always be the most effective. "It is fun to go buy something instantly, the instant gratification feel, that sugar high," he said, "however it's not the core fantasy, it's not the most fun and by the endgame, for a variety of reasons, they tend to check the auction house first and play the game second."
"That's not what we intend, and we do want to address that, so the loot system and the enchanting and crafting systems are both intended to cut the legs out from the auction house; to make it unnecessary to go on it to some degree, where the most fun way to play the game becomes the best way to play the game."
'Loot 2.0' will add "smart drop" items, which are tuned to your character. More legendaries are also planned, with extra effects, such as a staff that can spawn hydras from dead bodies. A new artisan, the Mystic, will be introduced, letting players transmute items - transferring the stats of one over to another. In addition, the new Loot Run mode will randomly generate a new 15-20 minute dungeon, letting you go treasure hunting without repeating the same locations.
Martens explained how the new system will ensure that the most efficient method to get gear is also the most fun. "So we say 'Oh, you want efficiency? How about efficiency, like Loot Runs, how about you definitely get the best gear from there. Mathematically, that's the best.' Then they can stop doing that Alkaizer run in act three that everyone does."
Lead writer Brian Kindregan noted the benefit of keeping people away from Diablo 2's risky third-party trading sites, but clarifies that "we want the Auction House to be your last resort, right?"
"You play the game to have the fun, get the loot," Kindregan said. "If you can't find one particular thing, you craft it. If you can't craft it, okay, then you go to the auction house."
Despite its problems, Blizzard have no plans to simply cut the auction house. "Trading's not invalid," said Martens, "it's just that its been skewed so if you're a character who's spending money maybe you're getting eighty percent of your gear from the Auction House, and 20 percent in game. It should be the reverse at best. It's more fun to kill monsters. It's the same thing I said about Loot Runs. If you wan't the best gear, let's put it in a place in-game where you're killing monsters."
For more details, check out Tom's run-down of the expansion's new features .