Tuesday, March 20, 2012

About cheating, RMAH and gold find

I just read three articles from different Diablo blogs in quick succession and they raise some very interesting issues. I have decided to respond to each of them in one large post of my own.

Cheating in Diablo 3

Meldora brings up the controversial topic of cheating. Will it be possible to cheat in Diablo 3? Meldora makes some very good points in the article. You should really check it out.

My opinion is that, generally, it is very hard to cheat in server-side games like WoW and Diablo 3. The reason for this is that the important calculations take place on the server, which only tells the client what to do. In other words, the server is the one that feeds the client (the player's computer) with information.

This is how I imagine things work. When you kill a monster, the client sends a message to the server: "player hits monster", along with the player's coordinates. The monsters are generated on the server side so their coordinates are already known. When a monster moves, coordinates are sent to the client which updates the graphics based on that.

Next, the server looks at the player's coordinates, pulls up the character's and monster's stats, calculates if there's a hit, whether it is a killing blow, and so on. In the case of a killing blow, the server sends the message to the client: "monster dead", along with a list of items that drop. The client draws the death animation and displays the items. This system can't be fooled easily because the loot was determined on the server and it was also stored on it. The server merely sent a list of item names (with their stats), and not the item itself, to the client.

This is an overly simplified and likely flawed description of how the server-client architecture works in MMOs such as these. However, the point is that the client has no means of duping items simply because the client doesn't have the capability to generate items. It can only read what the server feeds it.

In Diablo 2 the situation was different. Diablo 2 was a standalone single-player game, with an online multiplayer component. The client definitely had the ability to generate items and perform calculations, and there's no disputing that. For that reason, people were able to manipulate certain flaws in the system such that they could dupe items locally and then transfer them to other players they met online.

So my thought is that it will be practically impossible to dupe items in Diablo 3. Some beta testers have reported being able to dupe items by mistake but it seems that it was an issue with the Auction House, meaning that the duping most likely occurred on the server side, something that can be instantly corrected by Blizzard.

However, there might be other forms of cheating that players can engage in. Meldora mentions one of the most notorious: teleport hacks. These hacks also happen in WoW and other MMOs and the reason they are possible is because they are done by manipulating the player coordinates which are generated by the client. In essence, this allows the character to "teleport" or instantly move to any location on the map

I'm sure Blizzard is taking steps to combat this but short of strongly encrypting the client, I don't see how they could do it. Someone is bound to find a way to exploit this. Now, while in WoW teleport hacks were useful for the quick farming of resource nodes, I'm not sure what use they'll be in Diablo 3, since the point of the game is to kill monsters and not to run as fast as possible through the content.

Finally, there's the issue of botting. Botting in online games has always been controversial. It allows a player to program a character to automatically go through a series of complex, pre-programmed motions, killing monsters, farming nodes, fishing and so on, over and over again. I believe botting is unethical because it allows someone to make large sums of virtual currency while they are away from their computer.

Botting can be very detrimental to Diablo 3, when we consider the Real Money Auction House. This would, potentially, allow unscrupulous individuals to essentially create money out of thin air. I really, really hope that Blizzard will make botting impossible, though I fail to see how. They haven't succeeded so far in WoW and there's nothing to suggest they have a secret weapon against it.

So there you have it: some of the ways in which people could cheat in Diablo 3. Make no mistake, Blizzard will take cheating very seriously, much more than they did in WoW, because when there's real money at stake, there must be no way to tamper with that, otherwise we'd all be able to dupe the money in our bank accounts.

Will You Spend Any Money on the RMAH?

The second article is written by Oligopoly where he discusses whether players will spend real money on the RMAH or not.

Essentially players fall in two groups: those who plan to profit off of the RMAH and those who are eager to spend tons of cash to equip their characters.

From what I've heard, there are still players of Diablo 2 who spend hundreds of dollars for virtual items. That's crazy man! But that's just my opinion, one that is not widely shared. It's their money and who am I to tell them how to spend it?

I find myself on the other side of the fence, the side that wants to profit from this. My goal is to have lots of fun and also make some pocket change on the side. I don't think I'll be sweating it too hard but if the opportunity arises, I won't hesitate to make a buck on the RMAH.

Will I buy items from the RMAH? Most certainly not. I'm a thrifty person in real life and this is one area where I won't be spending my hard-earned money (of which there isn't a lot to start with). On the other hand, if I can see a good deal and I know for sure that I'll be able to turn around and sell it back for a profit, I will do it. But I won't load money into my account for that purpose. Anything I will accrue will be through sales of my own stuff.

Will there be more sellers than buyers? That's a very interesting question and it will become clearer in the months which follow the release.

How to Get +2,324% Gold Find

The final article, and one of the most fascinating, is again by Meldora. In it, he (she?) corrects the previously estimated figure of 541% maximum Gold Find that a character can potentially equip, to an even more astounding figure of 2,324%!

Wow, I was truly speechless when I read that. Now, of course, some assumptions are made, and chief among them is that the numbers that were data-mined from the beta are accurate and will scale accordingly to higher difficulties.

Somehow, even though this number looks very juicy, I doubt that Blizzard will allow that. There must be something wrong with those numbers. Either they are not final or Blizzard is toying with us.

Just imagine what you could do with +2300% GF! You wouldn't even have to farm Inferno or Hell. That's because you would be gimped to such an extent by wearing only GF gear that you wouldn't be able to survive those higher difficulties.

Instead, how about going back all the way to Act 1 in Normal? Gold drops in the beta, currently, can reach 90G. with +2300% GF that would balloon to over 2100 gold per drop! That's insane! Now, imagine if you increased the difficulty to Nightmare. You'd end up getting thousands of gold per drop.

Is this scenario realistic? Depends. Perhaps gold costs at max level and Inferno are astronomical. Maybe gold really is needed in huge quantities at these difficulties. Maybe a death will cost 1 million gold in repairs. But I tend to doubt that. Dealing in huge amounts of currency is never a good thing. It's better to keep gold relatively scarce instead of having to deal in billions of gold.

My take on this is that something must be wrong with those numbers. It's not the data-miners' or the theorycrafters' fault. It's simply something that, at this point, hasn't been made entirely clear and isn't even in finished stage. Perhaps that amount is indeed possible, in theory. What if, in practice, it will be virtually impossible to acquire the perfect combination of items that will make it possible? We shall find out. And it will be an exciting journey of discovery.

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