Friday, 26 August 2011

Diablo 3: Treasure finding

Treasure hunting Bah!.. Treasure finding...
(The Necromancer on defeating the Countess in Act 1 of Diablo 2)

I've been thinking about item farming in Diablo 3 and I've come to realise that a lot of the stereotypical gold farmer traits are quite the opposite of how it's best to go about this.

In games like WoW gold farmers work in shifts. They have a quota of gold to make each shift so they will often strip the character of any decent items or stored wealth during their shift and tend to be a bit desperate towards the end of the shift. They farm specific areas thought to be high yield for this sort of activity. (At one stage it was the owlbears in Winterspring). They tend to be loners although they did sometimes cooperate in self defence when we were persecuting them on a pvp server.

I've realised this is pretty much the diametrical opposite of how we will need to play in D3 to be successful item farmers. (for as PC Gamer's delightfully witty podcast said in Diablo 3 Blizzard has solved the problem of gold farmers by making everyone a gold farmer).

First off that kind of shared account is really unsuitable because items are not bound. You can't progress to the most challenging content if people who share your account sell your items and gold. Next farming high yield areas is likely to be less effective. And lastly lone wolf seems significantly inferior to group play.

Let's address these in turn.


Diablo 3 is at least as much a gear progression as a level game and once you hit 60 it's wholly a gear progression. And Inferno difficulty, which is where virtually all of the decent loot will be is intended to be challenging.

So if you sell too early you're trading progress for quick cash. In a game where almost all the money is made deep in end game. That's not smart.

Challenge in D3 is up in the air at the moment because we don't know how hard players will struggle with the difficulty. Diablo has a tradition of insane challenges. Just reaching max level was an epic story in itself in D2, with a team of players from Germany racing a team of Russians for the honour that many at the time believed not humanly possible. Drop rates on some items were insanely low, I played pretty solidly for 4 years without seeing one of the top 5 runes drop. Even if we look to WoW to see how current Blizzard philosophy is a lot of WoW is brutally hard. Hard mode raids especially, very few people have completed the content. As for the Starcraft series, it's an e-sport to “maximise” your SC2 status you have to be the best player in the world.

I think many people will hit a wall at Inferno difficulty where they just can't get started.

And that will be great for anyone who can cope because how are those players going to get past that wall? - they're going to buy gear.

In fact I'm planning to buy gear too.

Now that may seem odd for someone who wants to turn a profit playing Diablo 3 but my reasoning is this. 1) The real money items are in Inferno. 2) They will sell particularly well while most of the player base is struggling to get to grips with Inferno. 3) It's worth investing some gold and cash to get to Inferno farmer status as quickly as possible because that's an investment that will pay for itself.

I aim to have two sets of gear, both of which I'm prepared to spend some gold and/or pounds on. One is my most effective killing gear, a balance of damage and survival. The second set is my magic find set. I'm reasonably confident Blizzard won't let the economy collapse, either because of duping or because they've made it too easy so I really do think a little early investment will amply pay for itself once I'm zerging through hundreds of Inferno level monsters. And it's possible that I'll make enough gold and money through arbitrage that I won't need to put any additional real world funds in but I don't mind either way.

Farming areas

Blizzard recently announced the Inferno difficulty levels and explained that every monster would be level 61 and drop more or less the same loot so as to discourage path of least resistance farming. Of course it won't do that, it will just channel players to areas with high density of easy monsters. Certain monsters are quite tricky for many builds. In D2 there are imps in act 5 that teleport to safety when you damage them. They can be tedious to hunt down and kill if you're melee. Conversely the Bloody Foothills is an insanely easy area of high density mobs. It became the most farmed area for a while just after D2's expansion came out.

One twist though – Blizzard also explained that they would be monitoring playing patterns and if areas are being heavily farmed they would tweak the loot tables. We don't know at this time whether this will be announced or done via undocumented hotfixes. If they do clandestinely fix over-farmed areas then you could spend days or weeks farming sub-optimally without realising it. For this reason I'd recommend farming areas that still meet the desired criteria of high monster density and easy monsters but aren't the focus of public games. There were lots of areas of Act 5 that suited – at a time when most people were doing foothills runs I was running Nilathak's temple for example.


We don't quite know how grouping affects drop rate. For example if I'm playing with 3 afk leeches and I kill 10 mobs do I get 10 drops like I was soloing? Or do I get 10/4?

Other than that grouping has everything to recommend it. If you're high level early on pugs generally are really good. I've been a fast leveler in a number of games including WoW and Rift and the early pugs are awesome, brilliant fun, very competent and determined. A lot of abilities are group abilities so if the Barb buffs defence for the group that's pretty useful. Why solo when you can have a Barb buffing you and a Monk healing you?

Tactically groups handle difficult content much better. 4 of you can do things against one boss that one soloer couldn't like have 3 people in a safe spot nuking while one tanks and so on. Or swapping tanking/kiting duty.

Another aspect that's up in the air is the role of magic find in groups. There's speculation that playing a magic find leech will be possible, it's hard to see quite how Blizzard could design around it at this stage. Personally I'll go for some compromise between magic find and being able to cut the mustard, no point running zones while being completely useless and just leeching, people will not want to play with you. Also generosity, although counter-intuitive to a magic item farmer, serves you very well. Hand a Windforce to a Demon Hunter and she might become a lot more open to you coming along on runs decked out in magic find gear.


  1. While reading this something inside me cries out: "Why don't you just try to have fun??"

    You seem determined to optimize the fun out of it.

  2. Do we know if magic find is going to exist as a stat in D3?

  3. @Nils Ah we're getting back to the question, what is fun? All I can say is, for myself, I'm hyped that I'll be able to play D3 for money, it was a game I'd have played heavily anyway, I've always loved theorycraft and numbercrunching, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of arcane D2 mechanics and I believe I'll have an utter blast doing this.

    I can't really defend optimisation to someone who considers it not fun. I do suspect that you're swimming against the tide.

    If you listen to the PC Gamer podcast I linked you'll hear them argue very persuasively that D3 is a game where everyone is a gold farmer but then go on to talk about how much fun it is to play. They're not mutually exclusive.

    I think the only fun I'll intentionally sacrifice for optimisation is alting. I usually mess around with lots of different classes and builds when I get a new game. With this game I'll be rushing to the end.

    @ Spinks. Yes we do and it will be there. (As much as anything in beta is certain).

    Here's a wiki article on magic find that considers the MF Leech issue. It argues that it won't be such a problem because the game will be hard but it's not very convincing.

  4. The more I read about real-money and the more I am worried that there will be only one winner: Blizzard :)

    Very few players will be actually able to "make some money". If the game was able to offer a constant flux of dollars to (almost) everyone, of course there would be something wrong somewhere.

    There is also another factor here: Money Making Blogs. Everyone will be reading them and everyone will be applying the "tricks" provided every day. Problem is... there are no servers/realms here. We all play on the SAME server.

    That means everyone will be applaying the same trick (the only one who will really benefit will be the blogger, who will apply the trick before anyone else ;)

    I don't know. I for myself can't wait to play the game and have fun with achievements (I love them) and gear-grinding. I will be playin GOLD only and will cash-out some real money from time to time, If I have gold in excess.

    Rate conversion will be horrible in my opinion, it's not like we will be making hundreds of dollars per day, at all.

    Very few and selected (expert) players will be able to cash a lot of money, maybe, but they will be an exception.

  5. I think it will roughly correlate to a third world economy. It will create a few super-rich and a load of poor. But at the end of the day it doesn't matter since the comparator is games where everyone makes nothing outside the game. (Unless you do it outside the Eula which many of us have never felt comfortable doing).

    To us achiever types it's exciting but also dangerous at the same time. We may get all excited then discover we completely suck at it. But it's an extra dimension that really appeals to some of us.

  6. Well, Stabs. I'm usully smarter than my last comment, I want to believe :). I'm going to repeat what I just commented at Azuriel's blog:

    With Stab’s I was just a bit .. well, he seemed to talk so much about the metagame and didn’t even spend a thought on the .. game: “You are a babarian, you explore a dungeon.”
    This doesn’t seem to be true for Stabs anymore. I understand it if somebody explores the meta game after he played the game. I certainly did so in WoW. But to start the meta game already before the game has been released ?

  7. I've written at length in response Nils but ultimately my defence is this:

    I find it fun.

  8. Stabs, I don't actually disagree. My first comment was just what crossed my mind when I saw somebody meta-gaming before the game was even released.

    Personally, I try to play a game before I start meta gaming. And usually I lose interest soon, because gathering statistics is really a poor 'game', in my opinion. But different people, different tastes.

    It makes perfect sense that you have fun doing this. It's an interesting goal and the journey is one of curiosity.

    You don't need to defend yourself ;)

  9. Good post, I have been thinking about many of the same factors with respect to treasure finding in D3. Especially as it relates to farming easy mobs in highly dense areas. I read a post about MF on a forum somewhere (forgot which one) that I thought was an interesting idea....

    In an effort to keep players in the same game rather than constantly switching games (aka doing "runs") blizzard could implement an item drop that is Bind to character, bound to instance, 1x1 inventory space,and infinitely stackable. One would drop every X mobs and the more you accumulate in that game the higher your MF would get. This would provide an incentive for players to stay in the same game for an extended period of time rather than switch games constantly. Once you join a different game your MF item(s) would disappear and you would start from scratch again in the next game. This would be an inferno exclusive mechanic as it makes less sense in lower difficulties. What do you think?

  10. @ Degrin I think I'd make a game and full clear the entire thing. I'd leave my PC on over night to sleep.

    Oh and I wouldn't let anyone else join because I'd want every mob in the game to myself.

    I don't think this fits in with other stated design goals.

  11. Well both of those are easy to get around...

    Kick players from games for being idle. And by idle I mean you haven't killed a mob in x number of minutes. Only way to circumvent that is to bot, which is against TOS anyway. That would take care of squatters, plus it would free up server resources. As for the second point, you could program it in a way where the number of the MF items that drop depends on the number of people in the room which would eliminate the incentive to fight alone. That too would be easy to program in since monster difficulty depends on the number of people in the room as it is.