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An introduction to the Diablo 3 economy for WoW players

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Are you a WoW economy titan, or do you simply dabble? Either way, you'll be in for a treat in Diablo III. Blizzard has created a virtual economy that mirrors WoW's in many ways, giving you the ability to gain (or lose!) a fortune. Before you dive in and lose your virtual shirt, though, it wouldn't hurt to review some of the basics.
Gold is king

As in WoW, the primary resource that makes the world go 'round is gold. There's no silver or copper here, though; it's gold all the way down, and lots of it. If you're still in the WoW mindset of "Gee, a couple of thousand gold is a lot of money," then you'll want to recalibrate. You can expect to have several thousand gold by the end of the first Act. Your primary source for gold will be drops. Monsters, chests, objects -- most everything drops gold, and the amount increases as you progress through the game.

Of course, if you're not finding enough gold to suit, there's also Gold Find. This attribute (known as an "affix"), found randomly on magic weapons and armor as you progress through the game, increases the amount of gold that drops by a percentage. A full set of Gold Find gear could increase the amount of money dropped by several hundred percent; of course, your character won't be as strong, so there's a trade-off to be made.

This gold can be spent in one of three ways. First and most obviously, there are vendor NPCs that sell items. There isn't much of a selection, but occasionally you might find something useful if you've been unlucky with random drops. Second, you can spend gold on leveling your artisans and increasing your stash. Finally, you can visit Diablo III's auction house and go shopping. I'll cover these last two in detail.

Before I do, however, a short discussion of items is in order. The vast majority of Diablo III's items are random drops, similar to WoW's world drops. Diablo III bosses and champions (upgraded regular enemies similar to WoW's elites) do not have a fixed loot table; instead, they simply have a higher chance to drop magical items. This means you can kill what you want, when you want, and still have a chance to find something good. Of course, you'll also find a lot you can't use, and that's where the artisans and auction house come into play.

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The Artisans: Blacksmithing and jewelcrafting

To put things in WoW terms, every Diablo III character you create will have access to the blacksmithing and jewelcrafting professions. These professions, once unlocked via story progression in game, are not leveled by crafting items. Instead, you simply invest gold to advance in skill and learn how to make more things. The vast majority of craftable items are learned automatically, but several items (most notably the ones at level cap) can only be learned via plans, which are random, rare drops. All unlocks are done at the account level, thankfully, so all your characters can contribute to leveling your crafter of choice.

The blacksmith, much like WoW's crafting professionals, allows you to make weapons and armor. Leveling the blacksmith is a step-wise process; instead of paying a flat fee, you play a smaller amount to increase his XP by 20% and unlock a few additional recipes at a similar level to the other items. This repeats four times; then a fifth payment jumps you to the next level and makes available a new tier of items to craft. For example, the blacksmith starts with five apprentice-level crafts available; each investment of 2,000 gold adds two more apprentice-level recipes and 20% to your XP bar. Once you've invested 10,000 gold, you reach level 2 and can start creating journeyman-level items, which require a higher level to wield.

The blacksmith can be leveled to 10, but the costs become very high around level 5. At this level, each 20% gain begins requiring several Pages of Blacksmithing, which are, you guessed it, random, rare drops.

Of course, once you've leveled the blacksmith and learned the appropriate recipe, you still need to gather the materials to craft the item you want. All crafting materials are found by salvaging (read: disenchanting) other magical items. This essentially gives you another chance at good gear. Even if you don't get a good weapon drop, simply salvage all the bad weapons and have the blacksmith craft you one! Of course, some of the magical bonuses on the crafted weapons are random as well, so it may takes several crafts to come up with a good combo.

The jewelcrafter is a simpler fellow. Instead of creating new items for you, he simply enhances. He can add gem sockets to your armor, combine your gems to make them stronger, or remove gems from sockets so they can be reused. Leveling him is much easier and cheaper than the blacksmith, as no step-wise function exists here. A simple flat fee (and later, some Pages of Jewelcrafting) will step your JC to the next level and unlock the next level of gem combinations.

Finally, you can spend gold on upgrading your stash. This works just like WoW's bank slots -- spend your money, get more space to hold stuff! Just like WoW, however, if you don't want to spend the cash to upgrade your storage, you can create one or several additional characters (aka mules), whose sole purpose in life is to hold your extra items.

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The AH of Champions

Let's face it, nobody has perfect luck. At some point in your Diablo III career, you're going to be missing something you need to advance. Perhaps your wizard got lots of shields and greathammers. Perhaps you have 20 Pages of Jewelcrafting when you're trying to level your blacksmith. Maybe you just need a better sword. In any case, Diablo III's massive auction house is there to help you out.

The first thing you'll realize is how enormous it is. Unlike WoW, where Auction Houses are split by server and faction, everybody in a region shares one here. That means you can expect almost everything to be on sale, as long as you have the cash to buy it. Of course, that's where Blizzard's controversial new real-money auction house (RMAH) comes into play.

Some quick AH/RMAH facts and warnings:
  • The auction house doesn't go live until a week after launch, so scrap any plans for playing nonstop for three days, selling all your stuff, and retiring a rich man. Actually, I'd scrap any plans about making lots of money off the AH in general. The large AH means lots of sellers driving down demand, and the marked adjusting quickly to price inequities.
  • Items and commodities (gold, crafting mats, etc) are the two categories of sales on both the gold AH and RMAH. On the gold AH, 15% is deducted from each sale as Blizzard's cut (which is significantly higher than WoW's 5%, though there are no listing fees here). On the RMAH, commodities keep the 15% fee, but items now have a per-item fee ($1 in the United States; for other regions, check here).
  • Whenever you sell an item on the RMAH, you must select whether the proceeds go into your Battle.net balance or a third-party payment provider (PayPal). If you choose PayPal, they will charge an additional 15% on top of Blizzard's 15% or per-item fee.
  • Currently, Battle.net balance can not be used to pay for WoW game time or anything sold in the Blizzard Store. It can be used to pay for WoW services (faction change, etc.) and licenses/upgrades for other Blizzard games. It will likely be able to be used to pay for a Mists of Pandaria upgrade, but that has not been officially confirmed. For exact details on what the B.Net balance can be used for, check the FAQ.
Bottom line: If you want to play the RMAH, read up first so you know what you're getting into. If not, just enjoy Diablo III and have a good time smashing things -- I know I will!

Evil has returned! 1.2 million WoW players are getting Diablo III for free thanks to the Annual Pass. You can get prepared for the evil with WoW Insider's launch coverage. From the lore of Diablo, to the important blue posts and the basics of Diablo gameplay, we'll get you on the inside track for the return of evil.

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