Of all the new additions to the Diablo franchise expected to appear in Diablo III, few have been as contentious as the real-money auction house.
Game Director Jay Wilson took to the stage this afternoon to reveal more details, primarily based on the desire to provide gamers with a safe trading option. Most of the information imparted has already been in the public domain for several months, however a short example of a Demon Hunter selling an unwanted Legendary Mace for USD $7.50 hinted at what kind of value items at a higher level may fetch.
In addition, Wilson confirmed that stackable items such as gold, gems, tomes and crafting items will also be valid auction items.
The search feature has again been optimized to locate more precisely the kinds of items each player will require, and each player will be able to participate in an unspecified number of free auction listings each week.
Other gameplay changes discussed included modifications made due to player feedback in the ongoing beta. Several classes have been revised, with minor modifications made to passive and active spells. The Barbarian will receive a new passive ability entitled "Nerves of Steel", which increases defence by 25 percent of the character's available vitality.
Characters have been further tuned to aid survivability, namely all Wizard and Witch Doctor spells will now utilize a damage model based on the weapon they carry. Survivability appears to be a contentious issue for Blizzard and beta participants – a short clip featuring Blizzard employees reinforced that the higher difficulty levels are extremely hard, and in no way represented by the "tutorial" elements found in the normal-difficulty beta.
Monsters will also receive additional skills and abilities in higher difficulty levels, and at least 70% of available items only appear past normal difficulty.
Blizzard stated their desire to reward players who build unorthodox characters by concentrating on viable combinations, rather than simply throwing together a number of different spells and skills in an attempt to provide overwhelming choice.
Followers will now accompany the player through all difficulty levels, making them a viable strategy at end-game.
Finally, Blizzard revealed that beta participants tend to hot-swap skills during combat, and that this will likely be stopped by requiring skills to be locked upon leaving town. This change is expected to occur during the next beta update.
Gameplanet will go hands-on with Diablo III at BlizzCon shortly.